Tactical Sports Nutrition

Ready to get tactical with sports nutrition?

This guest blog by Sean Vander Veer provides a meal plan for supporting the physical demands of military and first-responder careers.

As a police officer, firefighter, or a member of active Military, the physical demands on your body can be tremendous. At any moment you can be placed in a dangerous or life threatening situation that challenges your strength, agility and stamina. Nutrition is a vital and often overlooked component that can often make the difference between success and failure. What most people fail to realize when it comes to nutrition is just how big of an impact it has on our ability to function and function at a high level on a day to day basis.

The Basics

Most people will gravitate towards the need for more carbohydrates due to the intensity and frequency of the exercises associated with Military training, but it goes deeper than that. One of the main goals of tactical sports nutrition is an individualized plan which will help the athlete maintain effectiveness throughout their mission, whether it be combat, fighting fires, or apprehending criminals.

The Power of Two–Protein and Carbohydrates

Tactical Sports Nutrition - Elite Nutrition and Performance
In most cases, protein and carbohydrates are the two dominating factors when it comes to the overall nutrition plan for the athlete. This is because tactical athletes are constantly put in a high stress and or extreme circumstances consisting of resistance and endurance type activities which stress the body.  These obstacles must be overcome in order to complete the mission. Protein consumption is critical to ensure muscles are repaired and new muscle tissue is built and ready for the next training session or mission.
Tactical athletes are also susceptible to high levels of cortisol which is a stress response hormone that typically increases muscle protein breakdown to help regulate energy or blood sugar levels (this response can cause weakness in the athlete), lowers the athlete’s immune system, and increases the athlete’s susceptibility to storing the food they eat as body fat. Carbohydrates are used by the body as a quick source of fuel so it’s important for the athlete to get the proper amounts and types of carbohydrates throughout the day. This is extremely important when these athletes have 2 training sessions in one day.
Tactical Sports Nutrition - Elite Nutrition and Performance

Military Performance Triad

What Are My Calorie, Protein, and Carbohydrate Needs?

So how would one determine how many carbohydrates and or grams of protein you should consume each day? First, you need to find out how many calories per day are needed based on your age, height, weight, type of activity, and overall physical fitness goal. A registered dietitian is able to help any individual find the correct ratio of protein and carbs per day along with the correct range of calories that should be consumed. Below is a sample meal plan that describes some of the parameters listed above in greater detail.

Sample Meal Plan

Here is a sample meal plan for a tactical athlete who is looking to consume 2500 calories per day. This athlete has a resistance training session in the morning followed by an endurance or training mission in the afternoon.

Training Day (Monday–Saturday)

  • Calories 2500
  • Carbohydrate (55%) – 340 grams = 1375 calories
  • Protein (25%), 155 grams = 620 calories
  • Fat (20%), 55 grams = 500 calories

Recovery Day (Sunday)

  • Calories 2300
  • Carbohydrate (55%), 315 grams = 1260 calories
  • Protein (30%), 170 grams = 680 calories
  • Fat (15%), 40 grams = 360 calories


  • 6 AM-1 cup of Special K cereal with 1 cup of 1% milk, this could be considered your pre-workout meal, the carbohydrates from the milk and cereal will provide energy for the workout.
  • 7 AM-workout
  • 9 AM-Large eggs, 2 pieces of whole wheat toast with jelly, and 1 cup of low fat chocolate milk, the protein and carbohydrate combination from the milk, eggs, and toast will help to refuel and rebuild your energy stores and muscles, making sure the tactical athlete is ready for the next task.
  • 11 AM–Protein bar/shake
  • 1 PM–Lunch, 1 cup pasta with 4 large shrimp, salad with 2 tsp of olive oil, 4-6 oz. grilled chicken, and 1 cup juice
  • 3 PM–Gel pack, graham crackers with 1 tbs peanut butter, or 8-10 oz. of a sports drink such as Gatorade. This would be considered a pre-workout meal (taken 30-60 min prior to the afternoon training session).
  • 4 PM–Training session
  • 6 PM–Dinner, 6 oz. steak, 1 baked potato with 1 tbs butter, 2 cups vegetables and 1 cup 1% milk.
  • 9 PM–Late night snack consisting of low fat chocolate milk and popcorn, or ½ to 1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt with 1 cup fresh berries.
Outside of the sample meal listed above, here are some healthy carbohydrate and
protein concentrated breakfast, lunch, and dinner options for training days.


  • *½ cup oatmeal with ½ cup fresh fruit, ¼ cup granola or maple syrup or 2 tbs honey with 2 turkey sausage links and 2 large eggs
  • *2 cups rice/flake cereal such as special K, Honey nut cheerios, cheerios and 2 cups reduced fat milk with 2 large eggs
  • *¾ cup oatmeal with ½ cup fresh fruit and 2 tbs honey or ¼ cup maple syrup, with 2 egg whites, 1 whole egg and 1 piece of toast with 2 tbs peanut butter
  • *2 cups rice/flake cereal such as special K, cheerios, honey nut cheerios and 2 cups reduced fat milk, 2 turkey sausage links


  • *Grilled chicken breast salad with low fat dressing
  • *Lean protein with grilled vegetables
  • *Open face burger–ask for a side of vegetables instead of the fries
  • *Turkey sandwich
  • Soup and salad combinations
  • *Grilled/baked salmon with rice or potatoes


  • *Pot Roast with carrots and potatoes, whole wheat roll and a piece of fruit
  • *6-8 oz. Pork Tenderloin with 2 cups brown rice, 4-6 asparagus, squash, and 1 cup reduced fat milk and or juice.
  • *6-8 oz. grilled chicken breast with 1 cup quinoa or 2 cups whole wheat pasta, 1 piece of fruit, green beans and carrots, and 1 cup milk or juice
  • *Turkey burgers (2) open face (use 1 bun and split it for both patties), 1 sweet potato, 1 cup corn, 1 piece of fruit, and 1 cup reduced fat milk or juice
There is much more to understand regarding nutrition, but don’t let that scare you into reaching your goals!
Sean Vander Veer Elite Nutrition and Performance RD

Sean Vander Veer





Sean Vander Veer RD, LD, CPT

I highly recommend you check out The Sustainable Sports Nutrition Academy …which is based on science! Not fads. You’ll learn how to put together the correct diet and fueling plan for YOU, based on your needs and goals. This program is a compilation of Kristen’s 10+ years of experience that has helped many people enhance their health and performance, and make lasting changes- plus it includes a workout plan… Check out everything that’s included!

Contact Kristen any time to schedule a free 15-minute consultation, so we can discuss your particular situation and goals.


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