Life onboard a Navy submarine is a unique experience and it can be a challenging environment to preserve your long term health.
Most of those serving are young studs who believe their bodies can handle a lot of abuse, which often they do in various professional, environmental, and creative ways. But take a little advice from the nutrition doc for the long haul.
It’s generally acknowledged that the meals onboard submarines are better compared to our surface ship counterparts, thanks to the attention given to preparation by our fine submariner messcooks.
I figure there were times when somehow we happen to get a few more boxes of lobster tails or steaks to supplement our load outs for deployments.
But being on a submarine, sometimes you’re out for a long time. A really long time. The longest I spent underwater in one shot was over 70 days. No daylight. No fresh air. The smell of atmosphere purifying chemicals permeating everything until you don’t notice any more.
By that time, fresh produce is ancient history and the canned meat tasted what you might imagine dog food would be like. The guys would opt for peanut butter on saltine crackers.
We’d hope that maybe the cooks were hiding some of those steaks or lobster tails for a surprise dinner.
Between the sodas (sabotaging your calcium), the coffee (stringing out your cortisol), the powdered hot chocolate (which one of my chiefs used to eat straight out of the pouch) and the “bug juice” (that funny liquid that was probably better used as a toilet deodorizer), a serious nutrition-minded submariner ought to stow a few months of supplements in their rack.
I hate to tell you guys, but now I could not recommend drinking any of that stuff to anyone in good conscience. It’s best to drink plain water.
Back in the 1980’s when I spent a lot of time underwater, the doc on the boat used to give us these little bottles of prenatal vitamins to supplement our diets. They probably did more harm than good given they were some cheap, lowest bidder formulation.
You can do a hell of a lot better if you are willing to fund your own supplementation. If you plan on living over 50 and you are going to reenlist a few times for sea duty, these supplements just might save your health by easing the abuse your body will go through.
As your retired submariner nutrition counselor, here is my recommended load out (if you can find equivalent supplements, go for it).
Up to 3 boxes of Nutrilite Perfect Pack for an extended run. This is a complete food supplement system that includes concentrated vegetables, highly refined fish oil, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Most of these good things you will not be getting after the fresh food runs out during an extended deployment. You’ll need something substantial to balance out those peanut butter and cracker dinners.
Cal Mag D Advanced. Underwater on nuclear power there is no Sun (no moon and no stars) so you would benefit from the additional quality Vitamin D to boost your immunity, the calcium will aid in maintaining bone mass, plus the formula is balanced with other key minerals.
Natural B Complex. This will aid in keeping your liver healthy while helping in the management of mental stress. Yes, and you’ve got some stress.
By the way, take a few after you go out for a few (cases of) beers to save part of your liver for the next time.
Vitamin C Plus. This is a C complex from whole food sources plus bioflavinoids that is time released. Great for additional immunity support and additional antioxidant support after a toxic meal. If you are a nuclear engineer, consider this a must have.
I just want to end this article on a personal note to say, you submariners know how serious your job is and how tough it is. Thanks to all of you volunteers in the Silent Service, especially all the sonar technicians, operators, and divers I had the privilege of serving and being friends with.
Here’s to your health.
My boat was the U.S.S Bremerton (SSN-698), commanded by Captain Douglas S. Wright followed by Captain Alan R. Beam.
Bremerton is currently the oldest active duty submarine in the fleet.