NOTICE: We are experiencing technical issues with Academy members trying to log into the JAND site using Academy member login credentials. We are working to resolve the issue as soon as possible. Alternatively, if you are an Academy member, you can access the JAND site by registering for an Elsevier account and claiming access using the links at the top of the JAND site. Email us at [email protected] for assistance. Thanks for your patience!

The Influence of Training on New Army Recruits’ Energy and Macronutrient Intakes and Performance: A Systematic Literature Review

Published:August 19, 2020DOI:



      New army recruits undertake initial training to develop their skillset and physical and mental preparedness for military service. Recruits experience a range of stressors both physical and psychological, often at extremes, and in combination. These stressors place recruits at risk of suboptimal energy and macronutrient intakes, which may negatively influence their performance.


      The objectives of this systematic literature review are to examine, against the Military Recommended Dietary Intakes (MRDIs), the energy, carbohydrate, protein, and fat intakes of army recruits and trainees undertaking initial training internationally, and identify any associated influence on their performance.


      A systematic literature review was conducted in accordance with the preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses guidelines. Information sources were searched from their inception until May 2019.

      Main outcome measures

      Outcome data included dietary intakes of energy, carbohydrate, protein, and fat before, during, and/or after army initial training, as well as measures of physical fitness and performance. A custom tool was used to assess the quality of included studies.


      The results of 14 studies were synthesized. Six were conducted in the United States and four in each of Australia and Israel. Average energy intake represented 69% to 120% of the MRDIs before training commencement, 69% to 106% of the MRDIs in the early weeks of training and 56% to 77% of the MRDIs in the later weeks of training. Average carbohydrate and protein intakes represented 49% to 121% and 64% to 143% of the MRDIs, respectively, across the various time points. Three studies measured physical fitness and/or performance outcomes, with one showing a significant improvement in push-up performance when extra protein was provided.


      The novel findings of this systematic literature review are that army recruits, internationally, are likely to be underconsuming energy for extended periods of their initial training, with greater deficits in carbohydrate intake compared with other macronutrients. Only a handful of studies investigated the subsequent influents on performance, with no definitive conclusions drawn in most instances. Further research is needed to understand the influence of suboptimal dietary intake on military relevant performance indicators to help better inform key stakeholders when devising nutrition guidance and strategies for army recruits in the future.


      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Adler A.
        • Williams J.
        • McGurk D.
        • Moss A.
        • Bliese P.
        Resilience training with soldiers during basic combat training: Randomisation by platoon.
        Appl Psychol Health Well Being. 2015; 7: 85-107
        • Skiller B.
        • Booth C.
        • Coad R.
        • Forbes-Ewan C.
        Assessment of nutritional status and fatigue among Army recruits during the Army Common Recruit Training Course. Part A: Catering services and diet.
        • Skiller B.
        • Booth C.
        • Coad R.
        • Forbes-Ewan C.
        Assessment of nutritional status and fatigue among Army recruits during the Army Common Recruit Training Course. Part B: Psychological and health aspects.
        • McAdam J.
        • McGinnis K.
        • Ory R.
        • et al.
        Estimation of energy balance and training volume during Army Initial Entry Training.
        J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018; 15: e1-e9
        • McAdam J.
        • McGinnis K.
        • Sefton J.
        • et al.
        Effect of whey protein supplementation on physical performance and body composition in Army initial entry training soldiers.
        Nutrients. 2018; 10: e1248
        • Moran D.
        • Heled Y.
        • Arbel Y.
        • et al.
        Dietary intake and stress fractures among elite male combat recruits.
        J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012; 9: e1-e7
        • Etzion-Daniel Y.
        • Constantini N.
        • Finestone A.
        • et al.
        Nutrition consumption of female combat recruits in army basic training.
        Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008; 40: S677-S684
      1. Departments of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force. Nutrition and menu standards for human performance.
        (AR 40-25)
        • Mountjoy M.
        • Sundgot-Borgen J.
        • Burke L.
        • et al.
        IOC consensus statement on relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S): 2018 update.
        Br J Sports Med. 2018; 52: 687-697
        • Drew M.
        • Vlahovich N.
        • Hughes D.
        • et al.
        Prevalence of illness, poor mental health and sleep quality and low energy availability prior to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
        Br J Sports Med. 2018; 52: 47-53
        • Murphy N.E.
        • Carrigan C.T.
        • Karl J.P.
        • Pasiakos S.M.
        • Margolis L.M.
        Threshold of energy deficit and lower-body performance declines in military personnel: A meta-regression.
        Sports Med. 2018; 48: 2169-2178
        • Forbes-Ewan C.
        Australian defence force nutritional requirements in the 21st century (version 1) DSTO-GD-0578.
        • Collins R.A.
        • Baker B.
        • Coyle D.H.
        • Rollo M.E.
        • Burrows T.L.
        Dietary assessment methods in military and veteran populations: A scoping review.
        Nutrients. 2020; 12: 769
        • Gaffney-Stomberg E.
        • Lutz L.
        • Rood J.C.
        • et al.
        Calcium and vitamin D supplementation maintains parathyroid hormone and improves bone density during initial military training: A randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial.
        Bone. 2014; 68: 46-56
        • Margolis L.
        • Pasiakos S.
        • Philip Karl J.
        • et al.
        Differential effects of military training on fat-free mass and plasma amino acid adaptations in men and women.
        Nutrients. 2012; 4: 2035-2046
        • King N.
        • Arsenault J.
        • Mutter S.
        • et al.
        Nutritional Intake of Female Soldiers during the US Army Basic Combat Training.
        US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Natick, MA1994 (Report T94-17)
        • Rose R.
        • Baker C.
        • Salter C.
        • Wisnaskas W.
        • Edwards J.
        Dietary Assessment of US Army Basic Trainees at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
        US Army Research Institute of Environmental Research, Natick, MA1988 (Report T6-89)
        • Booth C.
        • Coad R.
        Army recruit health and diet survey.
        • Morrissey B.
        Interim Report on Food Intake and Energy Expenditure of Army Recruits.
        Materials Research Laboratory, Scottsdale, Tasmania, Australia1988
        • Forbes-Ewan C.
        • Probert B.
        • Booth C.
        • Coad R.
        Assessment of Adequacy of Rationing during Infantry Initial Employment Training.
        Defence Science and Technology Group (formerly Defence Science and Technology Organisation), Fishermans Bend, Vic2008 (DSTO-TR-2181)
        • Herzman-Harari S.
        • Constantini N.
        • Mann G.
        • Lencovsky Z.
        • Stark A.
        Nutrition knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of Israeli female combat recruits participating in a nutrition education program.
        Mil Med. 2013; 178: 517-522
        • Israeli E.
        • Merkel D.
        • Constantini N.
        • et al.
        Iron deficiency and the role of nutrition among female military recruits.
        Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008; 40: S685-S690
        • US National Heart Lung and Blood Institute
        Quality assessment tool for before-after studies with no control group.
      2. Evidence Analaysis Manual. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Chicago, IL2016
        • Williamson D.A.
        • Martin P.D.
        • Allen H.R.
        • et al.
        Changes in food intake and body weight associated with basic combat training.
        Mil Med. 2002; 167: 248-253
        • Burke L.
        • Lundy B.
        • Fahrenholtz I.
        • Melin A.
        Pitfalls of conducting and interpreting estimates of energy availability in free-living athletes.
        Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2018; 28: 350-363
        • Burke L.M.
        • Close G.L.
        • Lundy B.
        • Mooses M.
        • Morton J.P.
        • Tenforde A.S.
        Relative energy deficiency in sport in male athletes: A commentary on its presentation among selected groups of male athletes.
        Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2018; 28: 364-374
        • Heikura I.
        • Uusitalo A.
        • Stellingwerff T.
        • Bergland D.
        • Mero A.
        • Burke L.
        Low energy availability is difficult to assess but outcomes have large impact on bone injury rates in elite distance athletes.
        Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2018; 28: 403-411
        • Burke L.
        • Hawley J.
        • Wong S.
        • Jeukendrup A.
        Carbohydrates for training and competition.
        J Sports Sci. 2011; 29: S17-S27
        • Burke L.
        • Kiens B.
        • Ivy J.
        Carbohydrates and fat for training and recovery.
        J Sports Sci. 2004; 22: 15-30
        • Thomas D.
        • Erdman K.
        • Burke L.
        Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance.
        J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016; 116: 501-528
        • Schram B.
        • Pope R.
        • Orr R.
        Injuries in Australian Army full-time and part-time personnel undertaking basic training.
        BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2019; 20: 6
        • Pasiakos S.
        • Austin K.
        • Lieberman H.
        • Askew E.
        Efficacy and safety of protein supplements for US Armed Forces personnel: Consensus statement.
        J Nutr. 2013; 143: S1811-S1814
        • Church D.D.
        • Gwin J.A.
        • Wolfe R.R.
        • Pasiakos S.M.
        • Ferrando A.A.
        Mitigation of muscle loss in stressed physiology: Military relevance.
        Nutrients. 2019; 11: 1703
        • Elliott-Sale K.
        • Tenforde A.
        • Parziale A.
        • Holtzman B.
        • Ackerman K.
        Endocrine effects of relative energy deficiency in sport.
        Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2018; 28: 335-349
        • de Oliveira E.
        • Burini R.
        • Jeukendrup A.
        Gastrointestinal complaints during exercise: Prevalence, etiology, and nutritional recommendations.
        Sports Med. 2014; 44: 79-85
        • Jeukendrup A.
        Periodized nutrition for athletes.
        Sports Med. 2017; 47: 51-63
        • Tassone E.C.
        • Baker B.A.
        Body weight and body composition changes during military training and deployment involving the use of combat rations: A systematic literature review.
        Br J Nutr. 2017; 117: 897-910
        • King N.
        • Horner K.
        • Hills A.
        • et al.
        Exercise, appetite and weight management: Understanding the compensatory responses in eating behaviour and how they contribute to variability in exercise-induced weight loss.
        Br J Sports Med. 2012; 46: 315-322
        • Long S.J.
        • Hart K.
        • Morgan L.M.
        The ability of habitual exercise to influence appetite and food intake in response to high-and low-energy preloads in man.
        Br J Nutr. 2002; 87: 517-523
        • Imbeault P.
        • Saint-Pierre S.
        • AlméRas N.
        • Tremblay A.
        Acute effects of exercise on energy intake and feeding behaviour.
        Br J Nutr. 1997; 77: 511-521
        • Finlayson G.
        • Bryant E.
        • King N.
        • Blundell J.
        Variability in the acute effect of exercise on appetite, energy intake, liking and wanting for food.
        Appetite. 2008; 50: 558
        • Department of the Army
        Enlisted initial entry training policies and administration.
        (TRADOC Regulation 350-6)
        • Booth C.
        ADF educators guide to healthy eating (ADF EDGE).
        • Bentley R.N.M.
        • Mitchel N.
        • Blackhouse S.H.
        Sports nutrition interventions: A systematic review of behavioural strategies used to promote dietary behaviour change in athletes.
        Appetite. 2020; 150


      B. A. Baker is a military dietitian-nutritionist and a doctoral degree candidate, Defence Science and Technology Group, Swinburne University, Scottsdale, Tasmania, Australia.


      M. B. Cooke is a senior lecturer, Swinburne University, Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia.


      R. Belski is a dietetics course director, Swinburne University, Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia.


      J. E. Carins is a senior research fellow and discipline leader-Defence Feeding Systems, Defence Science and Technology, Griffith University, Scottsdale, Tasmania, Australia.