How This US Army RD Optimizes Physical Performance Through Personalized Nutrition
We all know nutrition and physical fitness go hand in hand, but what if staying fit was part of your job description? For the U.S. military, optimizing nutrition is not just important; it's critical for Soldiers' readiness and performance.
To share more about her personal approach to nutrition and delve into this year's National Nutrition Month theme, I chatted with Maj. Lori W. Maggioni, M.S., RDN, CSP, L.D., a registered dietitian in the U.S. Army.
Maj. Maggioni currently serves as the program manager for Army Dental Corps recruiting and Army Medical Specialist Corps recruiting at the U.S. Army Recruiting Command Headquarters in Fort Knox, Kentucky. Lori is a graduate of the U.S. Military-Baylor University Graduate Program in nutrition. She is committed to improving the nation's health and advancing the dietetics profession through research, education, and advocacy.
Check out these insights from Lori:
1. What does this year's National Nutrition Month theme "Personalize Your Plate" mean to you?
Eating healthy doesn't look the same for all people, especially if you have a job that focuses on intense training, as I do with military service members. As an Army dietitian, I help Soldiers focus on what to eat and drink to maximize their health.
Whether it's recovering from a tough workout or fueling up for the next mission, personalizing your plate with the right mix of carbs, protein, and fluids at the right time helps your body refuel and rehydrate for whatever comes next. When you eat is just as important as what you eat for optimal performance. I view nutrient timing as three distinct phases:
- Pre-exercise: The focus here is to fuel your body to optimize the workout. Aim for a carbohydrate-rich snack of 200 to 300 calories, 30 to 60 minutes before your workout. The goal is simple, easy-to-digest carbs to give muscles an energy boost and maintain your blood sugar.
- Fueling during your workout: Fluids and electrolytes are important to maintain energy and sustain performance. Consider a sports beverage or gel to replenish carbs and electrolytes for strenuous workouts over 60 to 90 minutes.
- Post-exercise refueling: A recovery meal within two hours of your workout is key to help rebuild and repair muscle, a process known as anabolism. I recommend at least 50 grams of carbs and 15 to 30 grams of protein post-exercise. When you work out, your glycogen stores are depleted from your muscles. Under-fueling leads to fatigue—aka "burnout"—and prohibits you from getting the best results from your workouts.
Ultimately, good (and strategic) nutrition equals mission success.
2. Do you follow a specific dietary pattern?
Good nutrition is a lifestyle. My philosophy when it comes to eating healthy is to focus on whole foods, with ingredients you can pronounce. People often look for a quick fix when it comes to losing weight or bulking up. But eating a recovery snack after a workout won't optimize your results if you don't eat balanced meals throughout the day.
While nutrition is an integral part of warfighter performance—getting enough sleep and physical activity along with prioritizing good mental/spiritual health are just as essential for holistic health and fitness.
3. What's your go-to nutrient-dense meal right now (breakfast, lunch, or dinner)?
Greek yogurt with fresh or frozen berries, topped with granola or sliced almonds. It's quick and easy, plus it's full of protein, healthy fats, complex carbs, and antioxidants.
4. Is there one "MVP" healthy food or meal addition you're personally loving right now?
Curry powder! There are so many flavor variations since curry powder is actually a mix of a number of spices (think turmeric, chili powder, coriander, cumin, ginger, and pepper). With curry, you get the benefits of unique plant phytochemicals like curcumin.
I find that curry powder brings out a wonderful taste and aroma to foods and is incredibly versatile. I use it as a rub for meats or seafood, as a base in soups and stews, and sprinkled on one of my favorite easy-to-make snacks: oven-roasted chickpeas.
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