LBEB & The Tactical Athlete: Part #3

In this continuation of the “LIFT BIG EAT BIG & The Tactical Athlete” Series, Dave “Knuckles” Libbey walks us through the guidelines of eating big while deployed in a military situation.

Article written by Dave Libbey for

One of the hardest parts of gaining or even maintaining size while deployed is getting in enough calories. More often than not your decisions are based on what the chow hall or DFAC offers and what supplements you have available to you. Fear not, Knuckles is here to help you make some positive choices and show you that it is possible to put up big numbers at the training table. You just have to decide to make a few adjustments. Remember, your requirements are higher as a tactical athlete, even more so if you want to Lift Big Eat Big. One of the major differences is in the amount of carbohydrates you will need to consume, you are more active than your civilian LBEB counterparts so your need for complex and simple carbs is much higher. I recommend you get your complex carbs prior to and after missions while you consume the bulk of your simple carbs during operations. This will keep your energy levels consistent.

One of the hardest things for some people to do is Eat Big in the heat. I hear people say “it’s too hot out to eat a big meal” all the time. My response, “do you want a straw or a ladder?” Because you need to suck it up or get over it. Summer in the ‘Big Dirty’ does not mean it is time to turn into an herbivore. Summer is when I turn to things like steak, tuna, and chicken salads. Using cold, high calorie condiments can help ease that uncomfortable hot feeling, I like sour cream. My chicken salad consists of 5 chicken breasts, salsa, and sour cream. Conducting combat operations in the heat is hard enough, while you are out doing the job and when you get back the last thing you feel like doing is eating. If you can, order a blender. Sure cleaning it is a pain but you can snag some cut up fruit from the chow hall, a couple of cold milks, protein powder, and bam, a grand worth of liquid calories.

While you are out on operations in the heat mix up the shake from a strike ration with water, its calories and hydration. When it is 110 degrees out wrap your main meal from your MRE in your shemag and pour water on it, as the water evaporates it will cool your meal making it slightly more tolerable. As a Tactical Athlete it is most important you eat in the heat. If nothing else try to smash down a couple of sandwiches or main meals from an MRE. A Spoonful of peanut butter (or six) is great too. If you have not tried Power Butter you are missing out. The reality for most deployed LBEB followers is that you have a slight advantage in that you have a chow hall or DFAC that is free and has a ton of food, get creative. For my brother grunts out there and those of you who don’t spend much time in FOBBIT land you have a whole different requirement. When you are running long missions that last days on end or you are sitting in a hide waiting on your target you are going to get depleted and lose muscle. You can only combat this but so much. Keep in mind, this isn’t Ranger School or Scout Sniper Basic Course. Eat when you can and as much as you can. Your standard MRE contains up to 2000 calories. The new Strike Rations can contain up to 2900 calories. The keys to keeping your weight up in the field are protein and carbs. You are also going to need to consume fat. To stay healthy and mission capable you might want to increase your intake of potassium and sodium. The great thing about it is that everything you need is in that brown or clear ration pack. You need to be consuming a much higher level of carbohydrates while conducting combat operations. For those of you in Afghanistan you know that cold weather operations can burn upwards of 5000 calories a day, if you are moving on foot in the mountains in the snow, you could even be closer to 10,000.

Face it; you’re going to lose some of your hard earned gains from your Lift Big Eat Big lifestyle. The only suggestion I can give you here is to eat as many warm foods as you can. The less energy your body has to waste warming it up, the better. Whatever you do don’t try to eat lean in the cold. Your body needs more fat in a cold weather environment than anywhere else.

Extended field operations, even in training, are a bitch. You have to eat as much as you can. You can still make positive gains and increase muscle while deployed. It will require discipline and dedication to your choice to consume mass calories. If you have room in your ruck, do yourself a favor and throw in a good multi-vitamin as well. Stay hydrated my friends.

For more information on proper nutrition for long term field operations see the link below.

This is a typical day at the training table for my team of Tactical Athletes:

Breakfast, time to fill your tray. Most DFACs offer some form of eggs to order. Where I am they have egg whites or egg beaters, I don’t really care which you use but try to get as many as you can. Add some oatmeal as well (note to self, steel Marshal White’s idea on Cherry Pie filling), oh yeah, and Bacon. This is also when I take my Animal Pak, Multi-vitamin, and fish oil.

Meal two: We tend to roll our missions in the morning through mid-day so we try to eat around that. My go to calorie sources are jerky and protein bars. A lot of the Forward Operating Bases we have been on have these for free in the chow halls. The Tactical Athlete is more than likely going to burn more calories on mission than in the gym.

Lunch: This is where we try to reload some complex carbs but we are still stacking protein. I try to force down some more oat meal along with as much of what ever protein is available. People that know me, even casually, know that I hate two foods like I hate my enemy: Tuna and Chicken. So how do I get around this dilemma? I don’t, I suck it up and eat them.

Pre workout: Right now I drink a protein shake about 45mins prior to going to the gym. When I was deployed to a more remote location and was relying more on local Afghan foods I would often eat about half a slab of local foot bread smothered in Nutella or peanut butter. I am not saying it was the healthiest but when you are out in the hinterlands of the big dirty you get your calories where you can. Eating before you lift is crucial. There are varying opinions on pre-workout supplements and I see both sides of the argument, I use one. I take them because being an operator is draining and if I can get that edge I am going to use it. I will recommend you find one that keeps your levels up throughout your entire workout. If you are on active duty ensure that what you are taking is approved as some supplements can give a false positive for amphetamines.

Post workout: We are usually conducting mission planning after our workouts so I go with another shake.

Dinner: Most DFACs are pretty good about dinner, stuff your face with as much protein as you can. I live for Steak Night; I tend to go with three steaks if they will let me. Keep your carbs to a minimum.

Before bed: This is where a lot of operators hurt themselves. A lot of warriors either snack on crap at night or don’t eat at all. You can’t afford for your body to starve even if you are only getting four hours of sleep. I suggest a casein protein before bed. It digests slower and you won’t go into a catabolic state in your sleep.

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