Proper nutrition, exercise is essential to mission success

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Scott Saldukas
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Like an aircraft needs jet fuel, your body needs proper nutrition to replenish itself and function at peak performance.

In today's military environment with increased deployments and new physical testing requirements, it even more imperative that Airmen know the importance nutrition can play in overall health, and it's potential impact on mission success.

"You need adequate nutrition to sustain life, you need an appropriate nutrition life to sustain a healthy life and prevent the onset of aging diseases," said 1st Lt. Lindzi Howder, Ramstein Health and Wellness Center nutrition program manager. "You are what you eat. If you choose to eat unhealthy, most likely, you will subsequently be unhealthy. Ultimately, health begins from the inside out and this is accomplished through sound nutrition."

Making wise decisions when it comes to food is important so that a person consumes the needed vitamins and minerals to replenish the body.

"Food is the fuel for your body," Lieutenant Howder said. "Your body requires specific vitamins and nutrients. It is important to optimize the intake of necessary nutrients through wholesome and varied foods to optimize one's health."

Staying healthy also helps create a positive attitude, which is key in today's expeditionary Air Force.

"Your body is your ultimate weapon against the enemy," Lieutenant Howder said. "A properly fueled and conditioned Airman will be ready to fly, fight and win."

Lieutenant Howder also noted some simple tips to help get on track to a healthier lifestyle.

"Portion control," she said. "In order to gain weight you have to eat more calories than you expend. In order to lose weight you have to create a calorie deficit. By controlling portion sizes you are able to better control your calorie intake, to avoid overeating."

She explained that weight loss should not to be drastic. A person's goal should be no greater than one to two pounds per week. She also suggested keeping a food diary to track daily dietary intake and expressed the importance of eating breakfast.

"It is the most important meal of the day," she said. "You spend, on average five to eight hours fasting, so when you wake up you need to refuel your body. It is like driving a car without gas, it's eventually going to break down."

An although being proactive with one's health at an early age will help prevent the onset of aging diseases such as osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes, hyperlipidemia and atherosclerosis, it's never too late to start a healthy eating lifestyle.

"As the body ages, certain bodily functions begin to deteriorate," said Lt. Col. Peggy Ann Cain, Ramstein HAWC flight commander. "With optimal nutrition and exercise you can prolong the onset of many age related diseases."

While nutrition is the key factor in weight loss and healthy living, physical activity should not be overlooked.

"Regular activity is pivotal to maintaining war fighter status and ultimately health," Colonel Cain said. "Exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular events such as stroke, heart attack, as well as heart disease. Physical activity can reduce stress and anxiety. With deployments, exercises, and a career in the military it is important to always be mentally and physically fit, to meet all obstacles."

For more information or tips on ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle, contact the Ramstein HAWC at 06371-47-4292.

According to the Ramstein HAWC, these are some common nutrition myths that may help with a person's weight loss.

· MYTH 1: Fruits and vegetables are high in carbohydrates and sugars. Carbohydrates are bad.
     o Fruits and vegetables are a great source of good carbohydrates.
     o Your body needs 130 grams at minimum to function. Of the diet 50 to 65 percent of energy intake should come from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the body's storage form of energy.

· MYTH 2: You have to go on a diet to lose weight.
     o Weight loss and maintenance are best achieved and maintained by modifying lifestyle changes. Eating in moderation, monitoring portion sizes, decreasing occurrence of eating out, planning meals, etc.

· MYTH 3: You don't need to diet if you exercise.
     o While exercise is important to losing weight and improving cardiovascular health, it can be ineffective if paired with poor nutrition.

· MYTH 4: Skipping meals aids weight loss.
     o Skipping meals leads the body to think it is starving and subsequently the body decreases it's metabolism to compensate.