Dietary Intake, Hydration Status, and Body Composition of Three Belgian Military Groups

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INTRODUCTION: Malnutrition, suboptimal hydration, and inadequate body composition can have negative consequences on soldiers' performance and health. A recent consensus statement concerning "soldiers' physical performance" points to the scarcity of data in specific military populations. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to assess and compare dietary intake, hydration status, and body composition of three military groups during their specific military training.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Eighty-five soldiers (ie, 21 in a qualification course to join the Special Forces [SF], 22 Infantrymen [Chasseurs Ardennais, CA], and 42 Recruits [REs]) participated in this 3- to 4-day study. Body mass was assessed before and after each study period. All soldiers self-reported their dietary intakes, from which energy and macronutrient intakes were calculated. In addition, their morning urine samples were collected daily to assess urine specific gravity (USG) as a measure of hydration status. Fat mass was estimated at the end of the study using bioelectrical impedance analysis.

RESULTS: All groups lost significant amounts of body mass (ie, mean losses ranging between 1.3 and 1.7 kg). Macronutrient intakes were not fully met in respect to the recommendations. Most notably, REs' fat intake was high (ie, 42.3 [±1.6] energy percent [E%]), while their carbohydrate intake was low (ie, 44.5 [±2.1] E%). Furthermore, saturated fat intakes were high among all groups (ie, group means ranging between 13.6 and 21.4 E%). USG values indicated suboptimal hydration status was prevalent in all groups. Most noteworthy, for SF, only 5.4% of the USG values indicated optimal hydration. The average fat mass (%) for SF, CA, and RE was 11.2 (±3.1), 18.8 (±5.1), and 19.4 (±5.0), respectively.

CONCLUSION: The present study showed that military men are not always adequately fed nor hydrated. These issues should be resolved by creating nutritional packages, and individual dietary and hydration strategies, all in function of military planning and weather conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e1175-e1182
Number of pages8
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number7-8
Early online date24 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020

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