US Military Dietary Protein Recommendations: A Simple But Often Confused Topic

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Pasiakos SM, Sepowitz JJ, Deuster PA 15(4). 89 - 95 (Journal Article)

Military recommendations for dietary protein are based on the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of 0.8g of protein per kilogram of body mass (BM) established by the Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies. The RDA is likely adequate for most military personnel, particularly when activity levels are low and energy intake is sufficient to maintain a healthy body weight. However, military recommendations account for periods of increased metabolic demand during training and real-world operations, especially those that produce an energy deficit. Under those conditions, protein requirements are higher (1.5-2.0g/kg BM) in an attempt to attenuate the unavoidable loss of muscle mass that occurs during prolonged or repeated exposure to energy deficits. Whole foods are recommended as the primary method to consume more protein, although there are likely operational scenarios where whole foods are not available and consuming supplemental protein at effective, not excessive, doses (20-25g or 0.25-0.3g/kg BM per meal) is recommended. Despite these evidence-based, condition-specific recommendations, the necessity of protein supplements and the requirements and rationale for consuming higher-protein diets are often misunderstood, resulting in an overconsumption of dietary protein and unsubstantiated health-related concerns. This review will provide the basis of the US military dietary protein requirements and highlight common misconceptions associated with the amount and safety of protein in military diets.

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