Can You Lose Weight In Basic Training?

Marines and sailors participate in an outdoor gas exercise in full protective gear.
Soldiers are in basic training in California. (Image: Stocktrek Images/Stocktrek Images/Getty Images)

Basic training, or boot camp, can provide the ideal setting for weight loss because recruits will perform regular, vigorous physical activity and have healthy meal options from which to choose. Because basic training consists of two of the basic tenets of weight loss -- a healthy diet and regular exercise -- recruits can lose weight if they make diet-conscious choices. On the flip side, recruits who overeat or make poor food choices while at boot camp, or who are underweight to begin with, may gain rather than lose weight.

High Physical Activity Demands

Recruits will participate in regular, rigorous physical activity six or seven days per week during basic training. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends bouts of vigorous 60-minute or longer sessions most days of the week in order to control body weight, a feature which basic training provides. Exercise during boot camp consists of a mix of cardiovascular training, strength training, core workouts, flexibly exercises and mobility drills. The military also utilizes professional trainers, physical therapists and strength and conditioning coaches in basic training, which can further assist recruits in weight loss, according to the AP report “Army Fighting Fat, Embracing Health Foods, Fitness.”

Healthy Meal Options

The military is far more health-conscious than it once was and now encourages good nutritional habits and weight maintenance, according to the AP report. Recruits now have a plethora of healthy food options from which to choose during their basic training stint, including fruit, sunflower seeds, cottage cheese, yogurt and granola bars. Some mess halls feature foods with color-coded food labels to help recruits differentiate options, and drill sergeants now encourage recruits to select high-nutrient, protein-laden foods. Due to the health-conscious environment and availability of quality foods, weight loss is possible at boot camp if recruits consume fewer calories than they burn each day. During mealtime, recruits will need to control portion size, because overconsumption might lead to weight gain.

Controlled Dietary Habits

In basic training, habits that could lead to weight gain are discouraged. Recruits are not permitted to snack or bring food into their barracks, and they have very limited opportunity to eat junk foods. The military serves meals at three regular daily intervals, according to the Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System. This may promote weight loss because a regular pattern of eating has a metabolic edge and may support more weight loss than irregular patterns, according to the IDEA Health & Fitness Association.

Mental Training Skills

Exercising self-control and learning mental skills that help you obtain desired results largely affect weight-loss success, according to mental health counselor William Anderson, MA, LMHC. Boot camp teaches recruits self-control, discipline, mental focus, courage and the art of digging deep, characteristics that foster permanent weight loss.

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