Considerations for Protein Supplementation in Warfighters
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Ingestion of dietary protein stimulates the synthesis of numerous body proteins. This effect is manifest via hyperaminoacidemia with insulin as a permissive factor. In a sedentary person in energy balance, it is possible to maintain nitrogen balance while consuming protein at an intake of 0.8 g protein · kg(-1) · d(-1). What is unclear is whether being in nitrogen balance is optimal for protein synthesis and not merely adequate and representative of adaptive strategies that could lead to accommodation in "stressed" physiological states. It is clear that being in negative energy balance results in reductions in lean mass and reduced rates of protein synthesis, which can be mitigated by consumption of higher (i.e., 2-3 times the RDA) dietary protein. That long-term practice of inadequate protein intake leads to reduced metabolic, physiological, and physical function provides the basic rationale for the consumption of more than merely adequate protein to prevent not only adaptation but accommodation. Warfighters engaged in combat have been shown to have high daily physical activity energy expenditure, engage in voluntary energy restriction, and are under high metabolic and mental stress. Thus, as a group warfighters would be at risk of consuming suboptimal protein intakes and therefore may benefit from higher amounts of dietary protein intake. Balanced against the potential risk of consuming higher protein, the scientific documentation for which is lacking, there is a strong rationale for the recommendation of higher protein intakes in warfighters who are engaged in field operations.
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