When we talk about preparing for Selection, we generally look at how we are preparing physically. We preach exercises, and of course, running and rucksack marching as the way to prepare our bodies for the rigors of the Selection courses and then life in the Special Operations community. But in reality, that is just part of the equation.

To fully reach your potential physically you must develop a disciplined approach to eating, as well as exercise, and to get enough rest. How disciplined are you in the area of nutrition? If you are like I was, the answer is probably not very.

Years ago, I met a former professional athlete and we began to talk about the strength and conditioning programs that the athletes prepare for the rigors of their seasons. He shared it with me and one of the things he said at the time was prophetic. “There’s nothing in here that is a magic elixir but you should pay attention to the nutrition guidelines…which you probably won’t.” And he was right.

I never paid proper attention to nutrition and now I wish I had done a better job of it. Luckily, I kept the papers he gave me and a few years ago, I was able to transcribe them to a disk. Again, nothing over the top here, but all good solid rules of thumb to follow.

So in the nutrition side of the house, you need to ask yourself a few questions. In your preparation for Selection, which of these following are true:

  • Eat breakfast daily and at breakfast consume approximately 25% of your daily caloric needs?
  • Eat at least three meals/day?
  • Consume a nutritious snack between meals?
  • Eat from all food groups?
  • Consume 55% of your calories from carbohydrates?
  • Restrict your intake of fat calories to 25%?
  • Read the labels of everything you eat or take?
  • Eat five servings of fruit daily?
  • Eat at least one vegetable a day?
  • Consume at least 25 grams of fiber/day?
  • Drink at least eight (8 ounces) glasses of water each day in addition to replacing water lost through sweat?
  • Avoid low-calorie diets and fasting?
  • When losing weight find out how much food you can eat (not how little) and continue to lose fat?
  • Pay attention to body composition instead of bodyweight?
  • Avoid random supplementation and testimony?
  • Rely upon a Registered Dietitian and the academic community for sound nutrition advice?
  • Know when something sounds too good to be true and ignore the noise?

If you were like me and many of the I guys I served with when I was in SF, we paid little attention to what foods, and how much, we ate. Most of us drank/drink too much and didn’t exercise properly enough. I underlined properly because, although we worked out and hard. We didn’t have the workouts that the guys had today…which sounds weird because my generation of SF guys is probably the worst when it comes to talking bad about the current crop of men in the Regiment. I once asked my best friend, “when did we turn into the grumpy old men, WE used to complain about?” Nuff said.

Those things, especially in the exercise realm are now a thing of the past. The operators in today’s Special Operations community are, IMO much better physically fit than the guys in earlier generations.

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We now know that poor health, a lower quality of life, and premature death can result from long-term unsound eating habits. There are no magic pills or potions available that will give you more energy, make you run faster, or improve your skills. Having the discipline to eat a balanced diet of normal foods each day is the only “secret formula.” The term “balanced diet” is often misinterpreted. It is not a computer-generated menu of organically grown beans and sprouts. It is the proper amount of normal foods purchased in the grocery store.

Scientists and the educational community have provided us with an abundance of research and facts in the area of nutrition. This information has been available for many years. Unfortunately, some of us haven’t paid attention to the facts that are right in front of us and don’t follow the guidelines we know we should.

Supplements/Health Foods Suspect:  Today the health food industry is a multi-million dollar business. Why? Money. More fraud and half-truths exist in the area of nutrition than in any other segment of the fitness industry. We are a gullible public. Every day we’re saturated with claims of every conceivable type that will fix what ails you, help you lose weight etc. And the sad fact is, most of them are bunk.

For years we’ve been told to take a pill or potion for any ailment that we have. We want a quick fix. Enthusiasts have discarded the basic food groups for amino acids, vitamins, fat burners, and energy bars. Athletes and tactical athletes are the most gullible. Often they have little or no knowledge of what they’re taking. Some will try anything if they think it might give them an edge. Unfortunately, many people taking supplements are less inclined to eat a balanced diet, and often choose pills and potions instead of eating meals.

The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t control food supplements. Laws don’t exist to protect the consumer. There’s no guarantee that what’s on the label is actually in the bottle. Several years ago, a Dr. Bob Goldman, in his book, Death In The Locker Room, asked a group of Olympic athletes a simple question. “Would you be willing to take a pill that would eventually kill you, if it guaranteed you would win a gold medal?” More than fifty percent of the athletes responded, “Yes.” The same thing is no doubt true for those wanting to be Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Rangers and AF Commandos.  

Eating a healthy diet for someone in training, say a 2500 or 4000 calorie a day diet, will not need to take mega-doses of vitamins or supplements. All they’re really doing is pumping their bodies full of chemicals and creating imbalances that interfere with their bodies working at optimal capacity.

Besides, by eating properly they are also getting things in food, like fiber and other health-protective compounds, that supplements don’t provide. So, if you have any questions use your available resources and ask. Do not be duped into using any supplement or drug not prescribed by a registered dietician or doctor.


  1. More fraud exists in the area of nutrition than in any other segment of the
    fitness industry.
    2. In most cases, other soldiers are not reliable sources for nutrition information.
    3. Supplements are not more effective than the food you buy at the grocery store.
    4. Carbohydrates are the best source of energy.
    5. Only 25% of your daily calories should come from fat.
    6. Vitamins do not provide energy.
    7. A 1% – 2% drop in body weight due to water loss can cause a 15% decrease
    8. There are 3500 calories in one pound of fat.
    9. A sauna and a rubber sweat suit cause you to sweat and lose water, not fat.
    10. Spot reducing is impossible.
    11. There are nine calories in one gram of fat and only four calories in one gram
    of carbohydrate.
    12. The body can eat most foods in moderation…BALANCE is the key.

Eat healthy and get in the habit now and the road will be much smoother when you get to try the course. Treat your body like a well-oiled machine. An Aston-Martin perhaps, not a Lada. Good luck and bon appétit. DOL

Photo: US Army