Staying healthy on planet Earth is hard enough, but imagine keeping that same energy in space. That’s the reality for Shane Kimbrough, NASA astronaut and retired army colonel. Currently, he’s on the International Space Station (ISS) and is set to return to Earth around late October or early November. For Men’s Health, Kimbrough gave us a tour of the ISS gym and fridge.
In the galley pre-packaged foods are stored whenever astronauts are ready to eat them. Two things to know about eating in space: it’s all healthy, and it can’t be messy.
Tortillas, for example, are perfect for keeping food from floating around. “A tortilla is a nice way to capture all your items so they get to your mouth and not all over the space station,” Kimbrough says.
Eating is fairly structured on the station. They follow Greenwich Mean Time since there’s no day or night cycle up in space. Wake up is at 6 a.m., and breakfast is around 6:30 or 7 a.m. Lunch is around 12 to 2 p.m., and dinner is around 7:30 p.m.
If there’s one meal Kimbrough misses, it’s salad. They don’t get a lot of fresh food up in the station, but every once in a while their families can send care packages with food. “Last week we had pizzas on board. It had crust, and a nice sauce and real cheese. Pepperonis, sun dried tomatoes that you could add to it,” Kimbrough says. “We had a great time as a whole crew having pizza night last Saturday.”
Although he’s spent four months in the International Space Station, Kimbrough says he hasn’t gotten sick of the food yet. It helps his crew members are from all over the world. “We get to share in all those other countries’ cuisines as well. So that keeps it fresh and keeps the variety pretty nice for us.”
Other items in their “fridge” are peanut butter and a meal of chicken, corn, and black beans.
Unfortunately, there’s no cheat days in space. “All of the food is meant to be healthy, meaning there’s not a lot of salt in it,” Kimbrough says.
When they’re looking for a little more seasoning on their food, Kimbrough says they have to use liquid salt and pepper. It’s not a good idea to have small particles floating around all that high-tec equipment. Another source of extra flavor? Russian food.
“It’s full of salt and fat, things that the U.S. food doesn’t generally have,” Kimbrough says. They tend to have a Russian meal once a week.
Now, onto the gym. They can’t have standard weights in the space station, so the astronauts use an all-in-one device called the Advance Resistance Exercise Device (ARED). It simulates weight resistance with vacuum cylinders so they can bench press, squat, and more. Kimbrough works out for an hour on ARED every day, and then does an hour of cardio. They have both a treadmill and a bike. All that exercise helps a lot when outside the station. You know, in space. Spacewalks generally can go for around 6 hours. So they need all the mental and physical strength they can muster.
“You’re wearing the big white space suit you’ve probably seen pictures of. They generally weigh about 300 pounds. Now in space, they don’t weigh anything of course, but it’s still a mass you have to control,” he says.
With such a stressful gig, Kimbrough has a constant motivation to stay fit. Plus, he has his own reasons for working out and eating as he does. “Ever since I was 20, when I went to college, I really got into fitness. And so for me, it’s just a personal thing. I want to keep my body in the best shape it can be so I can live a long and healthy, productive life.”
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