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Bodybuilding and Proper Nutrition in the MilitaryLeave a Reply

Chances are that if you are reading this article, you are currently deployed, have deployed, or have a deployment in your near future.

The catalyst to a deployment is a series of field training exercises in which you are severely limited in nutrition and weight training equipment. I have experienced the trials and tribulations of adapting my nutrition and training to a field/deployment environment, and this article is the outcome.There are a few things you must take into consideration if you plan on continuing bodybuilding while deployed.

  1. The environment (burning oil fields, generator fumes, dust/sand, etc…)
  2. Your mission (Do you roll out every day/night, How will this limit your training?)
  3. What kind of nutrition do you have at your disposal?
  4. What if any gym facilities are present for use?
  5. What kind of nutritional value does the chow hall offer?

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The last time I was deployed we had two gym tents with the crappiest equipment I have ever used, not to mention, no air conditioning, (South Iraq) but we made it work. The considerations listed above are just what it states, considerations. For example: inhaling generator(pictured on the right) fumes and byproducts of burning oil fields, no bueno for the lungs, which means less efficient oxygenation in the diffusion process, yada yada, so figure out a way to limit your exposure. You could wear a mask all day like Michael Jackson or a citizen of Tokyo but the main issue here is to maintain your program and try to keep your nutrition in check.

There are certain ways to overcome military chow and substandard equipment, you have to adapt. I have witnessed a lot of soldiers just give up and use deployment as an excuse to eat whatever they want and not worry about the gym at all (more gym space for me).

"About a third of the guys get AMPED UP AND GO BALLS TO THE WALL!"


Before I begin, as most of you already know, military field/deployment food is pre cooked, made to just heat up and eat; therefore it has an ultra high sodium/preservative content.

To avoid acid reflux and weight and other adverse effects of military chow, there is a strategy I employ during deployment. In your chow hall you need to focus on the basics, for example: chicken breast, tuna, salads, and peanut butter. These are the foods that I know through experience; chow halls should have readily available. There are situations in which being placed on a remote Joint Service Station, Combat Outpost, or Patrol Base in which MRE'S are your livelihood for a few months. In the case of MRE'S, stick to the chicken/tuna based meals most of the week, alternating with a beef based meal no more than twice a week. Find the peanut butter!!! Here is a website that gives the exact contents of MRE menus so you don't have to play the guessing game.

No matter what the case, a multi vitamin is going to be of the essence, as well as meal replacement shakes. Sticking to the basics on nutrition is going to be crucial, you should try to limit chow hall visits to twice a day for dinner and/or lunch, and filling the gaps with canned tuna, meal replacements, peanut butter and oatmeal.

Bodybuilding while deployed

Depending on what you are dealing with in terms of equipment, you may be able to have every bar, bench, dumbbell known to man, or you can be stuck finding a hollow metal pole and putting cinder blocks on the end, hoping that you don't drop something on your foot. I have been at both ends of the spectrum.

The benefit of bodybuilding to beat stress while deployed is great, and garnering the focus and energy to train keeps things on an even keel. Being in a remote location with no gym should not stop you from training, a lapse in training means the water gets cold, which means you are going to one hell of a mess when you get back and try to compensate. Here are a few things I have done to maintain, and grow a little…Broken down by muscle group:


Find a cot, litter, or spine board that is not in use, your medics should have one of these three available. Next, you can find a tent pole or an object resembling one for your bar. As far as weight is concerned, water cans, ammo cans, sand bags etc… all work, in my case, I used cinder blocks and sandbags. Put it all together and you have yourself a decent bench to maintain your flat bench chest workout. You can just use your imagination to make a decline/incline bench. Pec Fly's are also an easy thing to pull off in a no gym scenario.


Sandbags, and water cans are going to be your best friends on this day. I prefer to just use a straight water can and do single arm extensions. You can also utilize your bench and bar set from the chest day and do skull crushers. We also cannot forget that you can do dips on many things such as two chairs, desks, etc… add weight and you are in business. The options are fairly limitless, just keep safety in mind.


Ahh, the good old pull up, which can be pulled off almost anywhere, find two solid points and throw a bar, 2*4, a private, w/e and you're good to go. Now add some weight, grab some 550 cord, or an extra uniform belt and you can strap some weight on for weighted pull ups. There are a few examples to run with, as far as shoulders, lateral raises, front raises, etc… just roll with it.


The same goes for biceps, I could throw out a few ideas though such as weighted chin ups, concentration curls with ammo cans, etc… but I will leave some of the fun up to you.


You can goblet squat with just about anything, as well as weighted lunges, which are great to include into your bodybuilding session. As far as extensions or curls, sitting in a chair and weighing down your feet will work. For curls, lying down on your stomach and doing and bringing your legs up will work as well, but of course, take into consideration how you are going to strap the weight to your feet, its half the fun.


You can alter a cot into a pretty awesome decline bench by either taking out one pair of legs or just stacking blocks on one side. Stability might be an issue but we will leave that to your better judgment. This of course would facilitate sit ups with a decline aspect, increasing effectiveness. Adding weight to this would be highly encouraged. As far as the rest, just holding water can with your desired weight and doing side bends works great.

Other options to consider:

If you have the money, you can also buy mobile equipment, but who wants to spend money when you can have fun making this stuff for free. The same does not go for the nutrition aspect, you can go high end with meal replacements and other supplements or low end, in either case, some kind of multi vitamin and meal replacement supplement is highly encouraged.

Hopefully this information has shed some light on my fellow military comrades, good luck and try to stay safe while accomplishing this stuff.

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