How to eat like a warrior

By Will Lawhorn, Strength & Conditioning Coach, 123rd Special Tactics Squadron

Guardsmen, including the 2112th Mess Team serve as culinary specialists in the field to help Soldiers and Airmen eat properly. There is a lot more individuals can do to improve their nutrition.

Do you want to improve your overall health through nutrition? Here’s some helpful tips for eating right as Soldiers and Airmen.

The first step is to evaluate what you are currently eating. There are many apps like MyFitnessPal that can help you, find one that works. Ask yourself, ‘Did you feel energized after eating or did you feel sluggish? Did you eat just enough to feel satisfied or did you eat so much that you can’t stand up after?’ Track for a few days so you have a better idea of what you are eating and how your food intake could be impacting your performance positively or negatively.

Diet is extremely important in order to lose weight. I get asked often what I think about the latest ‘diet craze’. KETO, Low Carb, If It Fits Your Macros(IIFYM), Intermittent Fasting, Paleo, and the Vegan diet to name a few. These diets can be effective, but the reason is the same for each one. Every diet works in the short term because it forces you into a caloric deficit. That means you are using more calories for your daily activity than you are consuming. The best diet for you is the one you can maintain long term. 2000 calories a day is for the average person. If you are heavier and/or more active than average you are going to need more.

Eating to Lose Weight: If you want to gain weight, add 500 calories a day. If you want to lose weight subtract 500 calories a day. A good rate of fat loss or muscle gain is 0.5-1% of your bodyweight a week. Don’t get discouraged because the contestants on The Biggest Loser are losing 16 lbs. a week. That is not normal or healthy, and it is not sustainable. Make little changes at a time and stick to them. Do not be discouraged if you slip and eat something you shouldn’t. Start back at the next meal. Aim to eat healthy 80% of the time and it will show.

Next determine your macronutrient intake. Macronutrients consist of protein (1 gram=4 calories), carbohydrates (1 gram=4 calories), and fats (1 grams=9 calories). Protein is necessary to build and repair muscle as well as maintaining your immune system. Look for grilled over fried, skinless over skin. Excellent sources are fish, chicken or turkey breast, lean red meat, low fat dairy, and eggs. One serving should be about the size of a deck of cards. Carbohydrates are the fuel that give the body energy to complete high intensity activities. Good sources of carbohydrates are oatmeal, brown rice, high fiber cereals, quinoa, and 100% Whole wheat bread. One serving should be equal to the size of your fist. Fats are necessary for nutrient absorption, to decrease inflammation, and to improve satiety and mental clarity. Choose unsaturated fats and omega 3 fats and avoid trans fats. Sources of healthy fats include pecans, almonds, walnuts, seeds (flax, chia, pumpkin), avocados, and fatty fish. A serving size should be equal to the tip of your thumb. Fats should be adjusted based on activity levels and can be the remainder of calories that you have available after you have accounted for your protein and carbohydrate intake.

Fruit and Vegetables: Eat a rainbow. Fruit and vegetables provide natural vitamins and minerals that contribute to the heath of the entire body. Aim to 3+ colors at every meal. A serving size is ½ a cup or the size of both palms together.

Tips going through the supermarket: Stay on the outside of the grocery store. Buy foods with expiration dates. Avoid shopping in the center aisles as these foods will be more processed and less healthy for you. Try to avoid foods that have ingredients that you can’t pronounce. Have a shopping list of healthy foods going in. Eat before you go grocery shopping. Everything looks good when you’re hungry. Your wallet and waistline will thank you if you eat first.

Supplementation: Supplements are something to fill in the cracks in your diet. Not something to make up for a poor diet. Avoid pre-workout supplements. They may make you feel like you can run through a wall but that effect is coming almost entirely from the caffeine in each serving. Caffeine can absolutely improve performance, but save it before a big event to maximize the benefits. I do recommend fish oil, Vitamin D3, creatine, beta alanine, and a good protein supplement (whey, casein, soy).

TDY eating: If fast food is your only option, be smart. Choose the grilled foods instead of the fried alternatives. Eat a salad with dressing on the side. Drink water rather than soda. Choose a vegetable for your side instead of fries. If there is a grocery store nearby, stock up on healthy food to hold you over on your trip.

Pre-Workout Nutrition sets you up for success during your training. If you are going in hungry you won’t perform well and if you are going in just having eaten fast food you won’t perform your best. Eat a meal, 3-4 hours before you work out, and then a smaller snack one hour before training. Something that won’t upset your stomach and has a 1:1 to 2:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein.

Post workout nutrition is just as important as your pre -workout nutrition. It helps you to refuel and recover from your hard training session. Depending on the intensity of your workout you want to consume a 1:1, 2:1, or 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. This can be in the form of whole foods like Greek yogurt, berries, and granola or in shake form like 100% whey protein with a carbohydrate source in the shake like maltodextrin. In order to maximize your recovery, it is important to refuel as soon as you can.

Drink water. Being fully hydrated will improve your energy, performance, and mental clarity. Sports drinks are acceptable if you are training or in a hot environment. Being just a little dehydrated can decrease your aerobic capacity, muscular endurance, muscular strength, fine motor skills, and puts you at risk for heat related illnesses. You should get 0.5-1 fluid ounce of water per pound of bodyweight a day.

 

Will Lawhorn is currently the Head ATC and Strength and Conditioning coach with the 123d Special Tactics Squadron in Louisville, Ky. Since graduating from Pennsylvania State University, Will has worked as a Certified Athletic Trainer(ATC) with a variety of athlete populations. He was the Head Athletic Trainer for Jeannette Senior High School in Jeannette, PA from 2009-2011. He was an ATC with the Baltimore Orioles organization from 2009-2012 and with the Chicago White Sox in 2013.