Resources and highlights from the webinar: Performance Nutrition Considerations for Service Members & Veterans

by Robin Allen

As a member of Art Club, a local social club, we host speakers to provide information on whatever is going on around the community. We recently hosted the very successful University of Illinois baseball coach and 2 of his players.  Obviously we do not always talk about art.  Being a Dietitian I asked about nutrition and working with the Sports Dietitian.  The athletes were effusive in their praise as was their couch.  They relayed how they met individually with the Dietitian to discuss nutrition and their nutrition goals for optimal performance.  The Dietitian develops meal plans for the athletes  for when they are on the road.  She is present at the Training Table during meals to reinforce their goals and meal plan. The coach said their training program has been greatly enhanced by having a dedicated Sports Dietitian on staff.

We learned from the webinar that the duties for Sports and Performance Dietitians are vast and varied.  Below are some highlight and resources from the webinar. If you missed Performance Nutrition Considerations for Service Members & Veterans, Tuesday, October 17, 2017 you can listen to the recording here.

A case study (see) slide above, was discussed. This scenario really resonated with our participants! This was a typical scenario of supplement stacking when working with active duty military.

Question asked by the presenter: What issues are Dietitians facing when dealing with athletes and the young active duty population?

  • Eating disorders
  • Female athlete triads
  • Fad diets and supplements
  • High usage of energy drinks
  • Ketosis
  • Vegan and vegetarian diets
  • Supplement stacking
  • Fad diets, for example, Ketogenic diet, Paleo diet, gluten- free, dairy free;
  • Misinformation: Patients changing habits due to unnecessary fear (misleading “documentaries”, headlines, biased messages or misinterpreted science that causes patients to fear foods/food groups/ingredients)
  • Testosterone boosters” – lots of male patients coming in saying they think their testosterone levels are low and they believe that’s what is preventing them from losing fat/building lean body mass

Dietary Trends with Athletes:


  • Diet modeled after foods available for Paleolithic humans
    • Include grass-fed meat/organs, seafood, most fresh fruits/veggies, eggs, nuts/seeds, certain oils
    • Exclude grains, legumes, dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, processed food, refined vegetable oils, salt
    • Hard to find consistent definition/rules
  • Many health claims
    • Short-term may have health benefits;
      risk of deficiency long-term
  • Expensive
  • Lack of research in athletes
  • Often encourages exceptions for athletes 

If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM)

  • Freedom to eat whatever fits into your daily macronutrient needs
  • Can be high-effort
  • Risk of nutrient deficiency
  • Ensure appropriate macronutrient distribution

Intermittent Fasting (IF)

  • Limit intake or fasting for a period (16-24+ hours) with refeed periods
    • Ramadan most frequently studied
  • Does result in energy restriction for most
  • May require strategic fueling for some athletes 


  • Diet focused on fueling from fats rather than carbs
    • High fat, adequate protein, low carb (4:1 fat to protein+carb)
  • Many health claims
    • Short-term changes in arteries, lipid panel
  • Requires time commitment to “adapt”; cannot cheat
  • Drastic weight fluctuations when starting/stopping
  • No performance benefit/performance decrements
    • May make calorie intake easier for some athletes
    • Inadequate protein for strength athletes
  • Future research: gut flora 

Train Low

  • Exercising in a glycogen-depleted state to enhance fat oxidation
    • 2-a-days, training fasted, training without exogenous CHO
  • Perform glycogen-reducing activity followed by higher intensity activity
  • Designed for endurance training (<70%VO2 max) – not high intensity or resistance exercise
  • Results in metabolic changes but limited performance changes

What participants are seeing as trends:

  • Paleo Popular with triathlon and cycling community
  • Macros
  • Intermittent Fasting
  • Ketogenic
  • An influx of people asking about vegetarian diets since the “What the Health” doc on Netflix
  • FODMAP for some athletes with GI issues
  • “If it Fits Your Macros” IIFYM
  • Flexible Dieting
  • Renaissance Periodization (RP) diet is popular with CrossFit
  • Garcinia Cambogia  for weight loss
  • Green tea leaf
  • Caffeine
  • Casein
  • Bod Pod

Supplements Use:

Up to 61% of military men and 76% of military women use supplements

  • Vitamins/minerals, sports drinks, protein, energy drinks, creatine
  • General health, performance enhancement

Participants shared experiences of active duty abuse of supplements:

  • Several young marines this year have gone into cardiac arrest using pre-workout supplements such as C4. C4 has been reformulated recently.
  • Have at least 1 soldier admitted each week with acute kidney injury (AKI) suspected to be caused by multiple supplements usage. They generally have no idea what is actually in the supplements.
  • Benefit level of supplements is entirely dependent on the individual.  A vegetarian athlete might get more benefit from creatine versus the non-vegetarian athlete.

Additional Resources: 

Sport-specific certification for supplements:

General certification


Knapik JJ, Steelman RA, Hoedebecke SS, Farina EK, Austin KG, Lieberman HR. A systematic review and meta-analysis on the prevalence of dietary supplement use by military personnel. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2014;14(1).

Individualized Nutrition Support Is Critical to Athletic Performance: Revised Position Paper from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

For more in-depth information please view the webinar recording of Performance Nutrition Considerations for Service Members and Veterans.  Dietitians earn 1 CPEU.  However, this information is great for anyone who works with active duty military, athletes or personal knowledge.

What are issues you have seen when working with athletes?

This blog was posted by Robin Allen, a member of OneOp (MFLN) Nutrition and Wellness team that aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Find out more about the OneOp Nutrition and Wellness concentration on our website on Facebook, on Twitter, and LinkedIn.


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