Marines are considered to be tactical athletes. They endure rigorous training programs and need to be in prime physical condition in order to succeed at their jobs. Nutrition and diet are the keys to maintaining the body and keeping it healthy. Additionally, essential macronutrients like carbohydrates, protein and fat need to be consumed for optimal health, as well as micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. Timing meals in accordance with training sessions will ensure optimal training status.
In the body, carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars, like glucose, which is the main source of fuel for muscles and the brain. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy consumed during high intensity exercise. Registered dietician Dr. Dan Benardot recommends that, in preparation for high-intensity training sessions, Marines should consume five to 10 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight daily. To determine your weight in kilograms, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2.
Protein is broken down in the body into amino acids, which are responsible for muscle and tissue development. One misunderstanding about protein is that more is better, especially by Marines, for whom strength and performance is emphasized. In reality, the ideal amount of protein to consume daily for tactical athletes like Marines is 1.5 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. For example, a 200-pound male would be 91 kilograms. So that male would need to consume 136 to 182 grams of protein per day.
High amounts of saturated animal fats and low-density lipoproteins, or LDL cholesterol, are linked with heart disease. Monounsaturated fats account for 70 percent of energy at rest, cushion vital organs, insulate the body, and are an essential component of cell membranes. High-density lipoproteins, or HDL cholesterol, is important in reducing LDL cholesterol levels and preventing heart disease. Examples of good fats are fish, nuts and olive oils. The American Council on Exercise recommends consuming between 30 and 65 grams per day of healthy fats, but keeping the amount of saturated fats as limited as possible.
Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients because they are necessary for life but are only needed in small quantities. They are responsible for promoting chemical reactions in the body, enabling enzymes to function and making up hormones, and are a part of bone and nerve impulses. Vitamins like C and E have high antioxidant properties, which help prevent cellular damage from free radicals after strenuous exercise sessions. A diet high in fruits and vegetables tends to satisfy vitamin requirements.
One technique of preparing for strenuous activities, such as the physical fitness test and the combat fitness test in the Marine Corps, is called carbohydrate loading. About a week before the activity, cut your intake of carbs and deplete your muscles. Two days before the activity, consume a lot of simple carbohydrates, like pasta and rice, which will flood those muscles with glycogen, giving you plenty of energy for the strenuous activity. In terms of timing meals, it's best for active Marines to eat every three to four hours to ensure that a constant supply of energy is supplied to the body and working muscles.
- “Tactical Strength and Conditioning”; Training the Tactical Athlete; National Strength and Conditioning Association; Dr. Jay Hoffman, Dr. Doug Kleiner; 2010
- “Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist Manual;” American Council on Exercise; 2009
- "Advanced Sport Nutrition"; Dan Benardot, Ph.D., RD, FACSM