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recommendations such as the Recommended Dietary Allowances (NRC, 1980) and those of other recognized bodies of nutrition scientists. Ideally, rations should be designed to meet not only the minimum nutritional requirements, but the requirements for optimal nutrition. In practice, however, the requirements for optimal nutrition have yet to be determined, and may differ among individuals. During World War II, recommendations of the first Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) (NRC, 1941, 1945) were used as a metric for determining adequacy of the rations. Since 1947, standards have been specifically established for the military, based on the FNB Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs), and adapted for emerging physical requirements.

Food intake by military personnel has been monitored periodically over several decades to determine whether changes in consumption of various nutrients have occurred. Because of recent public interest in strength training and body building, which has been associated with increased intake of various protein and amine acid supplements by individuals who have the expectation that their muscle strength, size, and performance will improve, the Army has recently surveyed military personnel to determine the extent of supplement use.

What has not been determined is whether protein intake recommendations established during World War II and still used remain appropriate for military personnel today. A related question is what was the general range of protein intake by soldiers during that time, and how has it changed since those guidelines were initially established.

This chapter presents an overview of ration studies that were conducted during World War II and compares them with more recent studies on energy and protein intake and requirements of military personnel in garrison and operational settings. Reported consumption of amine acid and protein supplements will also be addressed, with frequency of consumption identified by gender, age, and military specialty.


Operational rations have been divided into those prepared in field kitchens for groups of military personnel and those the individual soldier must carry, prepare, and consume. By design, they provide an excess of calories and protein, when possible, to allow for some food choice by the individual and still allow for adequate nutrient intake (Samuels et al., 1947). Former and current rations most widely used for tactical consumption are compared in Table 4-1.

The individual ration most widely used during World War H was the C Ration, which provided a combination of canned foods and packaged dehydrated or dried foods. Nutritional composition was 2,794 kcal and 121 g protein. To provide a ration with the greatest caloric density in the smallest weight and space, the K Ration was developed in 1941; it provided 2,842 kcal and 79 g protein.

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