We live in extremely demanding times. Let’s face it, most days there are just not enough hours in the day to get everything done. Finding the time to hit the gym or running track often gets pushed to the side as we deal with work deadlines, our children’s soccer game or any other number of things. As leaders and Soldiers, we must maintain the Army standard…this means passing your APFT and your Height and Weight standard. As time becomes a precious commodity, we often load our bodies full of sugary drinks, fast food and other indulgences that make us feel rewarded for our hard work. As we step up to take the challenge to do PT every day, here are my Top 5 Nutrition tips to ensure that you remain a lean, mean, fighting machine.
#5. Skip the Alcohol: We all enjoy a drink, especially after a long, hard day. However, drinking alcohol significantly impairs your performance. Alcohol is bad because it decreases growth hormone and Testosterone production, (these are hormones critical for muscle growth and development), increase storage of body fat, increases cravings for fatty foods, increases protein breakdown and dehydrates your body. Now, I am not of any illusion that this is difficult for some so if you must drink: Drink a glass of water between drinks to stay hydrated, avoid mixing liquor with juice, soda, or tonic water to avoid extra calories (Stick with clear liquors (i.e. Vodka) and mix with diet sodas or Club Soda), choose light beers instead of regular or dark beers.
#4. Stop Drinking Sugary Drinks and DRINK WATER!: Soda (yes, even DIET), juices, coffees and our Soldier’s favorite ENERGY drinks are LOADED with sugars and high fructose corn syrup. This type of simple sugar is metabolized by the body and almost instantly transformed into fat. Diet sodas are full of sugar “alternatives” which seem healthy, but in reality, are chemicals that are not natural. The best thing you can do for your body and waistline is cut out these drinks. Drink water! Even mild dehydration can reduce your physical and mental performance. Water is your body’s principal chemical component and makes up about 60 percent of your body weight. Every system in your body depends on water. Water flushes toxins out of vital organs and carries nutrients to your cells. Drink at least 2 liters a day!
#3. To boost energy, consume complex carbohydrates such as fruits and whole grains: We all feel the effects of a decrease in energy. Typically we reach for that “5 Hour Energy” or cup of coffee, but we all know that doesn’t last and often make us feel worse than before. No, the answer to long lasting energy lies in what foods you are putting into your body. Complex carbohydrates are the best sources of energy for our bodies. Our bodies take longer to metabolize these complex carbs and as a result, they are there for us to burn. Try simple things like eating a hearty whole grain bread rather than the white Wonder Bread. Eat a sweet potato rather than a standard one. Reaching for a candy bar? Grab an apple or mango instead.
#2. Respect Your Body After Exercise: After exercise your body is working hard to rehydrate, to store carbohydrates for your next workout, to repair fatigued muscles and to reduce inflammation to promote recovery from exercise. Make sure that you eat a solid meal after your work our that focuses on unprocessed and colorful foods to make a balanced recovery. Ensure that your post-workout meal contains plenty of protein, complex carbohydrates, vitamins/minerals and of course, fluids!
#1. Take Twice as Long to Eat Half as Much: an old saying that I ran across that actually makes some sense. Quite often we are rushed when we eat. We do not properly chew our food and therefore, our bodies do not properly digest that food. When rushed we also often eat until we feel full (and by that point we have over eaten). You would be surprised how many calories you can consume in the time it takes you to “feel” full. Display some discipline and reduce your portion sizes. Try eating 4-6 small meals throughout the day rather than 3 huge meals. Slow down and actually enjoy the food you are eating.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Because a Soldier’s level of physical fitness has a direct impact on his or her readiness, a Soldier in the Army must be mentally and physically fit. It is important that Soldier-athletes eat well-balanced meals and remain hydrated in order to achieve optimal health and performance. Following these 5 simple tips can help improve our physical readiness and performance. As a leader, I urge you do research on nutrition and become familiar with all the nutritional information and resources the Army offers. Educate your Soldiers and help them make good choices! And, make a few yourself…
Do you have any added advice? Any questions? Please post them below. Thank you.
Former Army Major (resigned)
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