Should You Eat Protein or Carbs the Day Before the Army APFT?

The Army Physical Fitness Test, or APFT, is an assessment of general health and athleticism that a soldier must pass before he graduates from basic training and twice a year while he is an active service member. While nutrition won't take the place of physical conditioning for several months prior to the APFT, a well-balanced meal before the test may give you the energy you need to perform to the best of your ability.

Soldiers must pass the APFT to graduate from basic training. (Image: Matt Antonino/Hemera/Getty Images)

The Test

Army soldier. (Image: Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

The APFT consists of three, timed athletic events -- situps, pushups and a two-mile run. Soldiers must perform a prescribed number of situps and pushups, determined by their age and gender, within a given time frame to pass the test. If a soldier fails the APFT, he must retake the test within 3 months during which time he is not eligible for promotions or reenlistment.

Protein or Carbohydrates

Protein and carbohydrate meal. (Image: ITkach/iStock/Getty Images)

Marathon runners often load up on carbohydrates before races and body builders generally opt for a high-protein diet. Since the APFT involves short stints of aerobic exercise and strength training, you should incorporate both proteins and carbohydrates into your pre-test meal to protect and repair your muscles and to keep your blood sugar from crashing.


Sandwich and fruit. (Image: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Go Ask Alice, a service of Columbia University, recommends eating a large meal 3 to 4 hours before strenuous exercise, and a small meal or snack 1 to 2 hours before you exercise. In the months preceding your test, experiment with timing. Individual metabolic rates vary, so you may feel better eating a container of yogurt before the APFT while another soldier may need a sandwich and some fruit. Food you eat several days before your APFT may also affect your performance. According to the Department of the Army Fitness Training manual, "Because foods eaten one to three days before an activity provide part of the fuel for that activity, it is important to eat foods every day that are rich in complex carbohydrates."


Fruit smoothies. (Image: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images)

Choose a variety of healthy proteins and carbohydrates for your pre-test meal. Some good options include eggs, cheese, yogurt, nuts, fruits and vegetables, whole-grain bread or cereal, granola bars, protein bars, smoothies and crackers. If exercise causes your blood sugar to crash, bring a small snack such as a granola bar or crackers and peanut butter to the test site and eat it just before you begin.

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