Sharlene Holladay, MS, RD, CSSD and Lauren Allen, MS, RD, CSSD have teamed up to answer your questions on all things nutrition. Check out the responses and make selections that will heighten your performance level!
Q: How much water should you intake daily?
A: The general recommendation is six to eight glasses (eight ounces per glass) of water a day. However, as directed by the Consortium for Health and Military Performance getting enough fluids and balancing electrolytes are also essential for peak performance. Military guidelines recommend three to four and a half quarts (96–144 fl oz) of fluid per day for men and two to three quarts (64–96 fl oz) for women.
Military service members need to replace fluids to cover daily water loss as well as sweat losses—especially when they’re active for a long time or at high intensity. Fluid loss of more than two percent body weight can decrease attention, mood, and athletic performance and increase risk for heat-related injuries. Drinking water with meals and snacks, and paying attention to fluid intake during and after exercise can help maintain hydration.
To monitor fluid loss, military service members can weigh themselves before and after exercise—and rehydrate accordingly. Another way to monitor hydration is by checking urine color. Generally, the lighter the urine color, the better.
Check out this resource on Hydration Beverages: How to choose your drink
Q: Is the Keto diet healthy?
A: The literature and advertisements can get confusing or even taken out of context. A ketogenic diet is defined as one that is very high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbohydrates. This type of diet has the science behind it in treating children with seizure disorders, but at this time, the scientific evidence does not support that this type of diet is advantageous to the athletic or military community. Additionally, what is important to note is this type of eating style is difficult to support and/or maintain during operations in the field or in a deployed setting.
Want more info? Check out https://www.hprc-online.org/nutrition/performance-nutrition/ketogenic-diet-depth
Q: For losing weight, what type of workouts are best?
A: Regular cardiovascular workouts as recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) will aid in the reduction of body fat in tandem with a healthy, nutrient dense meal plan. It’s important to design a workout program you enjoy and will help reach muscular endurance goals. If resistance training is new to you, be sure to talk with a strength and conditioning professional, USMC Force Fitness Instructor, or Nutritionist for guidance on how to develop a routine that works for you. It is also important to include strength training to maintain/build muscle as this is predominantly where calories are burned.
Want help getting a jump on your weight loss training plan? Check out https://www.hprc-online.org/physical-fitness/training-performance for resources and articles to help you achieve your goals.
Q: How to count macros and is it worth it?
A: Counting macros (macronutrients) assists in helping an individual keep track of what they’re eating, but there isn’t any evidence that tracking macros can offer a greater weight loss advantage than other calorie-counting meal plans. Like with any eating plan, food quality matters as do the types of foods selected which are rich in fresh produce, healthy fats, complex/high fiber carbohydrates, and quality animal and plant protein sources. As opposed to counting your macros, try keeping a food log. This allows you to see habits, triggers, “junk” food intake, amounts, and times you eat. This may be a better place to start to get a gauge on eating styles if looking to get leaner, eliminate empty calories, and get a true picture of what optimal foods are being consumed.
Q: Is it better to eat before or after you exercise for performance and/or losing weight?
A: Yes to both! Timing is everything in the types of foods and beverages consumed prior to exercise, as well as, refueling in preparation for the next training event. The more constructive a workout is the better contributions it will have to building lean mass and reducing unnecessary body fat.
“Guide to Nutrient Timing: Basics” is a great reference for trying to achieve optimal performance.
Q: What do you recommend for someone that wants to achieve “thin but toned”?
A: There are many resources you can look into for achieving the “thin but toned” body image. Check out https://www.fitness.marines.mil/ or https://www.hprc-online.org/physical-fitness/training-performance to name a few. You’ll find articles, tips, workout routines, and much more that will fit in with any lifestyle.
Q: Is there a benefit to mixing your protein sources and utilizing plant based options like vegan protein shakes?
A: There is tremendous benefit in incorporating both lean animal protein and lean plant proteins in your daily meal plan, however the whole food variation is recommended. The default is always to resort to whole foods to gain optimal nutrient density to maximum absorption of naturally occurring substances. Supplements may not provide an even balance of all nutrients, may be considerably more expensive, or even contain less than desirable ingredients. Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) is a great resource for taking a deeper dive into supplements you’re interested in taking.
It is important to note that the preparation method is part of the consideration as well, meaning deep-fat frying plant based option, will defeat the purpose of following an optimal meal plan for performance. Animal proteins and plant proteins (such as soy and quinoa) naturally contain all amino acids needed for growth and development. Many combinations of plant proteins provide not only necessary amino acids, but also fiber and additional vitamins and minerals, which animal proteins do not, along with a plethora of phytochemicals (non-nutrients which aid in staving off various types of cancers and heart diseases).
Q: I'm a nursing mom, what kind of things should I add to my diet to keep up my macros so that my son and I are getting all the nutrients we need? Any snacks ideas?
A: When breastfeeding, the need for all three nutrients increases as well as the need for micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and water). In general, the recommendations are to increase daily calorie intake by 400-600 calories per day from a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, dairy, and healthy fats such a nuts and seeds. Snacks are a great way to get in those extra calories. Try an apple or banana with nut butter, Greek yogurt with whole grain cereal and dried fruit, trail mixes, fruit smoothies, or raw veggies dipped in guacamole or hummus.
When breastfeeding, the body needs extra water, so you should increase your daily fluid intake with water, milk, 100 percent fruit juices, but limit caffeine and high sugar beverages.
For more on active, breastfeeding moms please see the article written by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The USDA provides a daily food checklist for breastfeeding moms which has great information on nutrition for breastfeeding moms.
Q: Will creatine monohydrate cause water retention and weight gain even if I have a healthy diet and a healthy balance of cardio?
A: One of the well-known side effects of creatine monohydrate supplementation is an increase in body mass (weight gain) in total body water (TBW), which may not make it a suitable addition if the goal is weight loss. If you are following a healthy diet, the inclusion of creatine monohydrate may not be necessary. OPSS has some great information on creatine for those looking to incorporate it into your active lifestyle.
Q: What’s the benefits of a no-meat/plant based diet?
A: Following a dietary pattern high in plant based foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans/legumes, and healthy fats is certainly a healthy choice that is beneficial. Plant forward diets that limit animal food sources, such as the Mediterranean diet, have been around for decades with many research studies showing their link in the reduction of the risk of cardiovascular disease and various types of cancer. Some research suggests that it may also help with longevity and brain health. The newly released 2020-2025 USDA Dietary Guidelines support plant-based diets, such as the Mediterranean diet.
A well-planned vegetarian diet which includes dairy and/or eggs where no meat is consumed can also be healthful and promote readiness and resilience. There are many different types of vegetarian practices, diet concerns and key nutrients to pay attention.
Q: How do I maintain a good workout schedule and healthy diet? It’s hard to plan enough meals so that I don’t have to run to the commissary twice a week and not end up spending half of my paycheck on food.
A: The key to a healthy, budget friendly diet is planning. Planning ahead allows avoiding last minute decision making and turning to the typical fast and convenience foods which many times are less than healthy and expensive. Grocery shopping once a week with a list based on meals and snacks should be enough to sustain a healthy intake. Some budget friendly and healthy food options include bananas, broccoli, potatoes, oats, eggs, milk, beans, canned fish, and peanut butter. Stretch the food dollar by buying produce in season or choosing frozen options. Buying food in bulk and portioning into smaller sizes at home for items such as cottage cheese and yogurt help set up easy snacks. Preparing bulk meals over the weekend when there is more time also helps with packing lunches and preparing quick dinners. Use a crock pot for a quick and healthy meal that can be set up in the morning and dinner is waiting for you at the end of the day. Decrease meat portion sizes to the proper, absorbable amount per meal which is the roughly the size of the palm of your hand or choose vegetarian forms of protein such as eggs, beans and/or legumes to save money. The Commissary has a new program which helps shoppers find healthy items easily. Just look for the Dietitian Approved Thumb while shopping.
To begin your healthy eating journey, visit your local Health Promotion Office.
*The information provided is for educational purposes only. Please consult a professional health advisor before adjusting your health and wellness routine.
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