Monday, April 17, 2017

Joint Class Day: Nutrition Taking A Frontline Role in the Military

The Walter Reed National Medical Center is one of the nation’s largest military medical centers, and it’s located right in Bethesda, MD! Earlier this spring, our class was able to attend a joint class day to gain a deeper insight on the role RDs play in nourishing the country’s military. Many dietitians influence the success of the US Military, whether they deal directly with the civilian or military population. The nutritional health of civilians determines how many civilians are eligible to become a part of the military. Once enlisted, soldiers are expected to maximize their health and performance, but this isn’t always happening. Currently, 5% of active duty soldiers are prescribed sleep medications, 5% fail their Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) and 13% are clinically obese. The Performance Triad has been designed to address these issues.

The Performance Triad is a strategic initiative aimed at improving soldier performance by targeting the areas of sleep, physical activity and nutrition. Each of these categories have targets and goals that soldiers work toward in order to maximize their performance:

Sleep
  • Get 8 hours of quality sleep per 24 hour period
  • Go caffeine free 6 hours before bedtime
Physical Activity
  • Aim for at least 10,000 steps per day, with the ideal goal of getting an additional 5,000 steps throughout the day
  • Include at least 2 days of resistance training per week, plus one day of agility training
  • Incorporate at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, plus 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise per week
Nutrition
  • Eat at least 8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day
  • Re-fuel 30-60 minutes after strenuous exercise

Nutrition is now on the frontlines of improving military effectiveness. Accomplishing these nutritional targets and goals requires teamwork. It starts with meal planning so that the right nutrients are available. The diet developed to support the Performance Triad consists of 4,875 kcal and 155 g pro, strategically timed as follows:

Breakfast (06:00)
Hot Line and Beverages
1,000 kcal/40 g protein

Morning Snack (09:00)
Complex carb, produce, protein source
500 kcal/10 g protein

Lunch (12:00)
Meal Ready-to- Eat (MRE)
1,345 kcal/45 g pro

Afternoon Snack (15:00)
Complex carb, produce, protein source
500 kcal/10 g protein

Dinner (18:00)
Hot Line with Beverages, Salad Bar and Dessert
1,200 kcal/45 g protein

Midnight Snack (23:00)
Complex carb, produce
350 kcal, 5 g pro

I am surprised to see how much higher, the recommendations are for the active duty military compared to those for the civilian population, but providing all those calories helps support the increased physical activity of active duty military members. This meal pattern is coupled with nutrition education that teaches the importance of different nutrients and promotes increased fruit and vegetable intake. To make it easier green, yellow and red labels are used to make healthier choices immediately identifiable with one glance. Green foods should be eaten often, yellow occasionally and red avoided.




The Performance Triad has shown to increase fruit and vegetable intake by 1.5 servings/day, as well as increase the frequency of refueling after exercise. Food is fuel and this program is the perfect example of the impact food choices have on overall health and performance!

Learning how the military is shifting its focus to nutrition was very encouraging to hear as a dietetic intern. Research has proven that proper nutrition improves performance and the military is listening! As the focus on nutrition continues, RDs will need to continue their advocacy and research to support and empower our country’s military.

1 comment:

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