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J Nutr. 2013 Nov;143(11):1815S-1819S. doi: 10.3945/jn.113.175968. Epub 2013 Sep 11.

Protein supplementation in U.S. military personnel.

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  • 1Military Nutrition Division, U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Natick, MA.


Protein supplements (PSs) are, after multivitamins, the most frequently consumed dietary supplement by U.S. military personnel. Warfighters believe that PSs will improve health, promote muscle strength, and enhance physical performance. The estimated prevalence of regular PS use by military personnel is nearly 20% or more in active-duty personnel, which is comparable to collegiate athletes and recreationally active adults, but higher than that for average U.S. civilians. Although the acute metabolic effects of PS ingestion are well described, little is known regarding the benefits of PS use by warfighters in response to the metabolic demands of military operations. When dietary protein intake approaches 1.5 g · kg(-1) · d(-1), and energy intake matches energy expenditure, the use of PSs by most physically active military personnel may not be necessary. However, dismounted infantry often perform operations consisting of long periods of strenuous physical activity coupled with inadequate dietary energy and protein intake. In these situations, the use of PSs may have efficacy for preserving fat-free mass. This article reviews the available literature regarding the prevalence of PS use among military personnel. Furthermore, it highlights the unique metabolic stressors affecting U.S. military personnel and discusses potential conditions during which protein supplementation might be beneficial.

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