Ask Stew: Earn Your Food

Lance Cpl. Alex Bosma, a helicopter mechanic with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 24 and native of Seattle, grabs a plate of fruit during breakfast (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James A. Sauter)
Lance Cpl. Alex Bosma, a helicopter mechanic with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 24 and native of Seattle, grabs a plate of fruit during breakfast (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James A. Sauter)

When in the military, the days (and nights) can be long and the hours make it difficult to get time to train and eat well. But, if you try to add some basic ideas, you may find that you can still move more and eat less and feel better about your training even when working all day. Here is an email from an active duty member who is busy all day and needs to fit fitness and eating better into his day – like we all do:

Stew - I have a question about diet. I go to breakfast for an omelet and bacon. I go to lunch for chicken or fish and a small ration of carbs. Dinner is random depending on galley food. I also have a red bull during school to stay awake and two when I have my watch every 4 days. Is there a plan I should be focusing on? I know the red bulls aren't good and I'm cutting them out by just drinking one black coffee. Do you have a recommendation on how much or what I'm eating sir?

I am working on and personally testing out a way to focus on eating and training - Earn Your Food: It goes back to my Move More Eat Less motto.

I work out first thing in the morning and then eat breakfast. I earned a full meal breakfast. I personally like something light (maybe some eggs - boiled or scrambled), carbs from fruit, source of protein (usually left over steak, fish or chicken from previous evening) and / or protein powder (Ascent Protein) shake.

Then I tend to drink unsweet tea and water in the morning while I work until lunch. It is enough caffeine and better for you than energy drinks.

Then I find a place to do something for 20-30 minutes during lunch. I live close to a pool so most of the time I swim 1000-1500m in that time, or run, or bike just to break a sweat and burn some calories. Somedays it is only a walk for 10-15 minutes during the lunch break. THEN I eat lunch. Usually some form of protein (meat, chicken, fish) along with brown rice or quinoa for highly nutritious grains, vegetables. Salad works well for mixing it all together if in a rush.

Then I get back to work invigorated vs. tired and do not need an afternoon energy drink. But I like unsweet tea and will drink that with some water in the afternoon.

Then it is getting close to dinner time. Sometimes, I do yard work, walk the dogs, play sports with my kids then eat dinner which is usually a big salad (spinach / green leafy lettuce with a wide array of veges / strawberries / nuts) with a fish or chicken on top. I like the ABDs of Nutrition for food lists but also the Lean Down Plan.

So, when I say, "I earn my food". This is just a description of a motto to eating and training I have - Move More - Eat Less - Sleep Better - Less Stress.

One days, when I do not have time to add in quick 20-30 minutes of activity, I do not eat as much. If you do not earn your food, you eat like a bird. Eat nuts, berries, fruit, yogurt, and water. So consider this a sort of hunter - gather eating plan. If you exert yourself, you can eat a bigger meal. If not, you have to eat less - but do not skip eating.

It is also find to have a mid-day or mid-morning snack similar to the bird menu if you need some extra calories. But I think you will find that you will be surprised how much extra food we eat as Americans. If the goal is to lose some weight, you have to either burn more calories each day to have a caloric deficit, or eat less - just do not starve yourself doing it.

If you keep track of your calories, the goal is to try to have about a 400-500 caloric deficit each day. So you can eat 2500 calories a day as long as you are burning 3000 calories per day. Find a level that works for you, but if you decide you want to go below 1500 calories of food a day discuss with a nutritionist as you maybe missing out of essential nutrients.

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