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Energy Drink Lowers Heart Rate and Increases Intelligence in USAF Airmen

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Nutritional beverage supplement plus HIIT improves physical and mental performance.

Looking to develop a performance advantage? Here’s the latest on a new study that showed how a nutritional beverage supplement supplied to USAF Airmen test subjects, markedly improved their performance both physically and mentally.

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A University of Illinois News release reports that in just 12 weeks under a specialized exercise regimen that included a twice-daily nutrient beverage, researchers found that regular consuming of the beverage coupled with strength training and high-intensity interval aerobic fitness challenges, yielded some impressive performance enhancement in tested airmen compared to placebo-drinking test subjects performing the same exercise routine.

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The study was an investigation of establishing the efficacy of a multimodal intervention that incorporates aerobic fitness and strength training with a novel nutritional supplement to enhance the performance of the modern warfighter.

The nutritional supplement used is a novel beverage comprised of β-hydroxy β-methylbutyrate (HMB), lutein, phospholipids, DHA and selected micronutrients including B12 and folic acid. The choice of components used are based on elements of those found in a Mediterranean diet, determined to have beneficial properties—especially those believed to enhance brain function and cognition.

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According to the news release, “…Participants were randomly assigned to the two groups. The exercise regimen combined strength training and high-intensity interval aerobic fitness challenges. One group received the nutritional beverage and the other consumed a placebo beverage that lacked the added nutrients. Neither the researchers nor the participants knew who received the nutrient-enriched beverage or placebo.”

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While the exercise component of the training led to marked improvements in performance both physically and mentally for all of the test subjects, those who were given the beverage supplement preformed even better on all points measured.

“The exercise intervention alone improved strength and endurance, mobility and stability, and participants also saw increases in several measures of cognitive function. They had better episodic memory and processed information more efficiently at the end of the 12 weeks. And they did better on tests that required them to solve problems they had never encountered before, an aptitude called fluid intelligence,” said Aron Barbey, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who led the study with postdoctoral researcher Christopher Zwilling.

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“Those who also consumed the nutritional supplement saw all of these improvements and more. For example, they were better able to retain new information in their working memory and had quicker responses on tests of fluid intelligence than those taking the placebo,” Barbey said.

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While physical exercise is expected to improve physical health such as lowering of body fat and improving oxygen-uptake efficiency (VO2 max), what was less-expected was a difference between the two groups with respect to a lowered heart rate and gains in mental improvement seen only with those who drank the supplement beverage.

“…we also wanted to know whether taking the supplement conferred an advantage above and beyond the effect of exercise,” Zwilling said. “We saw that it did, for example in relationship to resting heart rate, which went down more in those who took the supplement than in those who didn’t.”

With respect to mental performance, the study found that participants who consumed the nutritional beverage supplement were better able to retain and process information, with improved reaction time on tests of fluid intelligence. Fluid intelligence is the ability to use inductive and deductive reasoning with novel material or situations, whereas crystalized intelligence is the more general reflection of schooling and acculturated learning.

“Our work motivates the design of novel multimodal interventions that incorporate both aerobic fitness training and nutritional supplementation, and illustrates that their benefits extend beyond improvements in physical fitness to enhance multiple measures of cognitive function,” Barbey said.

The researchers concluded that, “…the current study supports the efficacy of a multimodal fitness and nutritional intervention…compared to unimodal fitness training alone. While the findings are based on a large sample of Air Force Airmen and demonstrate that physical fitness and cognitive enhancement is achievable, the multimodal lifestyle intervention documented in this study could easily be implemented in other real-world contexts to optimize human performance.

Timothy Boyer has a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. For 20+ years he has been employed as a freelance health and science writer. Today, with an eye on the latest news, Timothy continues writing about science with a focus on what you need to know for healthier living. For continual updates about health, you can also follow Timothy on Twitter at TimBoyerWrites.

Image Source: Courtesy of Skeeze from Pixabay

References:

Exercise and nutrition regimen benefits physical, cognitive health” University of Illinois News Bureau, 19 Oct. 2020.

Enhanced physical and cognitive performance in active duty Airmen: evidence from a randomized multimodal physical fitness and nutritional intervention” Zwilling, C.E., Strang, A., Anderson, E. et al. Sci. Rep. 10, 17826 (2020).

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