The saying “an army marches on its stomach” was first recorded in English in the early 20th Century. Although modern warfare is no longer as heavily dependent on the foot soldier per se, this saying remains relevant today with respect to fuelling our ‘Combat Athletes’.
Alongside promoting the maintenance of optimal health, good nutrition enhances the operational readiness of military personnel by improving their physical and cognitive performance. This is achieved through its effects on energy stores, hydration status, body composition, recovery, injury prevention, immune function and sustaining morale.
We have come a long way from the monotonous, energy- and nutrient-deficient rations New Zealand soldiers received during World War I, where many of their meals consisted of canned meat (bully beef), jam, hard biscuits and a hot brew.
More than ever, mission success requires today’s Combat Athlete to optimise a multi-factorial skill set, including endurance, strength, speed, agility, accuracy and decision-making.
This presentation will focus on turning military nutrition research into practice within the New Zealand Defence Force. It will primarily look at projects within the NZ Army to support Combat Athletes – past, present and future.
Past – Projects focused on delivering nutrition education to both soldiers and commanders; modifying the food environment for garrison, exercises and deployments.
Present – Ongoing refinement of the food environment; modification of operational rations to meet current training and deployment needs; an investigation into the iron and vitamin D status of female recruits.
Future – An increased focus on the multi-disciplinary approach to delivering Performance Health(care) to Combat Athletes; optimising resilience, both physical and mental, will be a key driver.