Bodybuilding and Proper Nutrition in the Military

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Bodybuilding and Proper Nutrition in the Military. 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. 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. Are there any gym facilities that 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, and 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.

Bodybuilding and Proper Nutrition in the Military – Overcoming!

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. They use deployment as an excuse. They eat whatever they want and don’t worry about the gym (more gym space for me).

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


Before I begin, military field/deployment food is pre cooked. It’s made to just heat up and eat. Therefore it has an ultra high sodium/preservative content.

How do you 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 chow halls should have readily available. There are situations in which being placed on a remote Joint Service Station, Combat Outpost, or Patrol Base where MRE’S are it. In the case of MRE’S, stick to the chicken/tuna based meals most of the week. Alternate 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. Don’t have to play the guessing game!

Bodybuilding and Proper Nutrition in the Military – What About Supplements?

No matter what the case, a multivitamin is going to be of the essence. Also 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. Fill the gaps with canned tuna, meal replacements, peanut butter and oatmeal.

Bodybuilding and Proper Nutrition in the Military – Training While Deployed

A lot depends 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 may be stuck finding a hollow metal pole and putting cinder blocks on the end. You have to hope 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. You can garner the focus and energy to train and keep 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. This 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. This is broken down by muscle group.

Bodybuilding and Proper Nutrition in the Military – Chest

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. These all work, in my case, I used cinder blocks and sandbags. Put it all together. Now you have yourself a decent bench for your flat bench chest workout. You can just use your imagination to make a decline/incline bench. Pec Flies 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. Specifically, two chairs, in between 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. It 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, and grab some 550 cord, or an extra uniform belt. You can strap some weight on these 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.

Bodybuilding and Proper Nutrition in the Military – Biceps

The same goes for biceps. I can 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. Also 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. Of course, take into consideration how you are going to strap the weight to your feet. That’s half the fun.


You can alter a cot into a pretty awesome decline bench. Take out either one pair of legs or just stack blocks on one end. 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.

Bodybuilding and Proper Nutrition in the Military – 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 multivitamin 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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