New understanding of physiology underpins protocols for supporting soldiers with nutrition, expert says

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Supplementation can play a role in preparing soldiers for modern warfare, an expert says.  Copyright: Getty Images
Supplementation can play a role in preparing soldiers for modern warfare, an expert says. Copyright: Getty Images
The importance of adequate nutrition and targeted supplementation for war fighters is a rapidly evolving field, according to an expert who has counseled sailors on the subject.

“An army marches on its stomach.” ​ This famous quote is variously attributed to Napoleon or Frederick the Great, who were the leading tacticians of their respective eras in the military history of Europe.  What was true then is true today.  But while this issue is as old as warfare itself, the modern understanding of physiology has added new variables to this old equation.

Joshua Hockett, who is director of food & fitness engagement at Bayer Crop Science, will expound on the subject at NutraIngredient-USA’s upcoming Sports Nutrition Summit​ in San Diego, January 23-24. 

Hockett has significant experience in counseling war fighters on the subject of nutrition and fitness.  He has a fitness trainer certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition, and was an ‘afloat fitness director’ for the US Navy.

It was during his multi-year stint with the Navy that Hockett came up against the wall of resistance that still can characterize the formulation of fitness and nutrition policy at various official levels.  Hockett was a fitness director aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, one of the Navy’s nuclear powered aircraft carriers during a deployment to the Persian Gulf. 

In the blazing heat of the gulf, temperatures on the flight deck and in the reactor spaces soared, sending sailors to sick bay on every shift with heat illness. The old admonition of ‘just suck it up’ wasn’t working.

Lessening the incidence of heat stroke

Hockett said by implementing some common sense and proven practices, such as periodic breaks, mandated hydration, weigh ins and the like, he was able to reduce that incidence to just the odd case of heat exhaustion. 

“There wasn’t a good protocol in place. I took some of the protocols for what they have done for football teams in places like Mississippi,”​ he told NutraIngredients-USA. 

The issue of adequate hydration and nutrition could be even more acute for infantrymen, Hockett said.  Over the evolution of modern warfare, he said the amount the average trooper is expected to carry has steadily grown.

Evolving burdens

Joshua Hockett, director of food & fitness engagement at Bayer Crop Science

In the Civil War era, this might have been about 30 lbs. During the opening stages of the First World War, German soldiers advancing through Belgium carried packs of about 60 lbs. Today, with body armor, advanced weaponry, the ammunition for it and the like, the average load has increased to as much as 110 lbs, Hockett said. What’s different is that today’s soldier is not expected to march as far, but a typical day in the field might still see a warfighter put in a 10k while hauling that load.

So training for today’s war fighters emphasizes power and size, Hockett said. Those are needs that are in common with many sports, but with the added burden of stress that combat brings.

“This isn’t a sport where it’s win or lose; this could be the difference between life and death,” ​Hockett said.

“There is an emphasis on tactical strength conditioning to help operators perform optimally in the field,” ​he said. “That includes not just strength, size and flexibility, but also being prepared for the environment in terms of temperatures.  And we have to prepare them in terms of mental resiliency, too.”

How supplements can help

Hockett said that in terms of dietary supplementation, it’s important to remember that the Department of Defense does not advocate for the use of any of these products.  Nevertheless, it’s known that operators use and request these, and supplements are sold on military bases.

“I focus on what can’t be gotten through the diet.  One of the things I’ll talk on is the strategic use of caffeine.  I try to give them just enough for mental acuity, but not so much that the levels will go up fast and then they’ll crash and burn,”​ he said.

“There is already an issue with the overuse of energy drinks.  To me, this can become something of a crutch,” ​he said.

“Among other ingredients, we’ re interested in adequate high quality protein intake.  And we’re interested in fish oils, because operators don’t get enough omega-3s through the diet. And I’m interested in probiotics to help support the immune system when operators are in the field,” ​he said.

Register now!

Joshua Hockett will present at the upcoming NutraIngredients-USA Sports Nutrition Summit​ in San Diego, January 23-24, 2019.

The event, which is run in association with the International Society of Sports Nutrition, will bring together leading scientists, brands and retailers, market analysts, and innovators in a unique, market-leading face-to-face event. 

The key themes of this event include: 

- The “size of the prize”
- The power and importance of social media
- Opportunities with female athletes
- Sports nutrition and the military - product use survey data and enhancing the performance of Warfighters
- The State of the Science: Sports, fitness and exercise Nutrition
- Sports Nutrition products and Elite Athletes 
- Alphabet soup: Everything brands need to know about GMPs, NDIs, AERs, DASCA, SARMs…
- Bacterial boosts – The microbiome and sports
- Personalization and the digital revolution
- Nootropics & sports nutrition

Register now to make sure you are there!

Related news

Show more

Related products

show more

Attract a new generation of omega-3 consumers

Attract a new generation of omega-3 consumers

DSM Nutritional Products | 15-Sep-2022 | Infographic

Want to bring your next omega-3 innovation to market quickly and sustainably? DSM's algal-sourced life's™OMEGA, enables you to get consumer-driven,...

DurOmega® Algal DHA 20% water dispersible powder

DurOmega® Algal DHA 20% water dispersible powder

INNOBIO Corporation Limited | 30-May-2022 | Technical / White Paper

INNOBIO most recently launched a new product DurOmega® Algal DHA 20% water dispersible powder with significantly reduced fishy odor and taste, which optimizes...

Related suppliers

Follow us


View more