What Happens to Energy Balance & Body Composition during US Army SF Training?

Research Paper Title

Energy Balance and Body Composition during US Army Special Forces Training.


Small Unit Tactics (SUT) is a 64-day phase of the Special Forces Qualification Course designed to simulate real-world combat operations. Assessing the metabolic and physiological responses of such intense training allows greater insights into nutritional requirements of soldiers during combat. The purpose of this study was to examine energy balance around specific training events, as well as changes in body mass and composition.


Data were collected from 4 groups of soldiers (n = 36) across 10-day periods. Participants were 28 ± 5 years old, 177 ± 6 cm tall, and weighed 83 ± 7 kg. Doubly labeled water (D2(18)O) was used to assess energy expenditure. Energy intake was calculated by subtracting energy in uneaten foods from known energy in distributed foods in individually packaged combat rations or in the dining facility. Body composition was estimated from skinfold thickness measurements on days 0 and 64 of the course.


Simulated urban combat elicited that largest energy deficit (11.3 ± 2.3 MJ·day(-1) (2700 ± 550 kcal·day(-1)); p < 0.05), and reduction in body mass (3.3 ± 1.9 kg; p < 0.05), during SUT, while energy balance was maintained during weapons familiarisation training and platoon size raids. Over the entire course body mass decreased by 4.2 ± 3.7 kg (p < 0.01), with fat mass decreasing by 2.8 ± 2.0 kg (p < 0.01) and fat-free mass decreasing by 1.4 ± 2.8 kg (p < 0.05).


The overall reduction in body mass suggests that soldiers were in a negative energy balance during SUT, with high energy deficit being observed during strenuous field training.


margolis, L.M., Rood, J., Champagne, C., Young, A.J. & Castellani, J.W. (2013) Energy Balance and Body Composition during US Army Special Forces Training. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 38(4), pp.396-400.


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