U.S. Department of Defense


Date of this Version



Published in Appetite 40 (2003) 255–267.


This paper provides a historical summary of military nutrition research into the role of diet for sustaining soldier physical performance. Studies of underfeeding document that physical performance is preserved during several days of underfeeding provided sufficient carbohydrate and minerals are consumed to minimize the diuresis associated with semi-starvation diets and serial intake of carbohydrate is available to support metabolism during prolonged work. The Military Recommended Dietary Allowances, AR 40-25, currently recommends that when restricted rations are required, that the ration contain at least 1100–1500 kcal, 50–70 g of protein, and a minimum of 100 g of carbohydrate on a daily basis. This low energy diet, however, is not recommended for subsistence for longer than 10 consecutive days. Dietary carbohydrate intakes of approximately 300–400 g will more closely match the quantity of carbohydrate oxidized to meet daily energy requirements during field operations. Research into the potential advantages of dietary supplements has generally not proved advantageous when compared to eating a well balanced diet. Future investigations of the role of diet for sustaining soldier health and performance should be directed toward a better understanding of the influence of energy intake and macro-nutrient composition for preserving lean body mass, reducing susceptibility to illness and injury and enhancing recovery during and after sustained operations.