It’s no surprise that exercise is good for the body. And more recently we’ve learned of the benefits of exercise on the brain.
New research indicates the effects are further improved when there is a nutritional shake included with the training.
A study out of the University of Illinois looked at the effects of exercise and nutrition on the body and the brain. The study ran 12 weeks and included 148 active Air Force servicemen.
The study participants were divided into two groups. Half of the 148 did the exercise program as well as a twice a day nutritional supplement. The nutritional supplement was a mixture of omega-3 (DHA), lutein, phospholipds, vitamins B and D and HMB. The control group took a caloric controlled placebo beverage lacking the nutrients listed above.
In terms of the exercise this included strength and high intensity intervals made up of aerobic challenges.
So what did they find?
Exercise is good for the body apparently. Serviceman got stronger, fitter, more powerful and more mobile. What was interesting is that mobility and stability improved the most, i.e. 22%, of all physical qualities measured.
The group that took the nutritional supplement saw enhanced improvements in their cognitive function. Compared to the placebo group there was increase in working memory (+ 9.0%), fluid intelligence reaction time (− 7.7%), and processing efficiency (+ 1.8%). The supplement group also lowered their resting rate more (− 2.4%) and and added more muscle i.e. lean muscle mass (+ 1.5%).
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It would have been interesting to see what the improvements would have been had there been a group that only took the supplements and did not do the exercise. We know exercise improves circulation which facilitates digestion, assimilation, transport and uptake of nutrients. But to what degree?
As well, the nutritional shake had quite a few ingredients. Which ones conferred the most benefit? We’re well aware of the benefits of omega-3 on brain function. But what about taking vitamin B and D? And HMB is an interesting supplement that was more popular about 20 years ago. It seemed to work for some and not others.
Lastly, the shake was taken twice per day. What would the results be with one dose and the same daily amount of ingredients? Or three shakes?
Although there a number of questions yet to be answered it is interesting that the physical and the mental can improve so much more when exercise is accompanied by a nutritional intervention.
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So the take home message going forward to have a plan for both exercise and nutritional. Your body and your brain will thank you.
Zwilling, C. E., Strang, A., Anderson, E., Jurcsisn, J., Johnson, E., Das, T., … & Barbey, A. K. (2020). Enhanced physical and cognitive performance in active duty Airmen: evidence from a randomized multimodal physical fitness and nutritional intervention. Scientific reports, 10(1), 1-13.