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Military members often face unique mental and physical demands that require optimal performance under challenging conditions.
A recent study demonstrated that exercise and a nutritional supplement providing components present in the Mediterranean diet optimize performance in a group of active duty military members.
The Mediterranean dietary pattern is;
- rich in fruits,
- olive oil,
- and poultry.
Nutrients provided in the diet include phospholipids, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, carotenoids, polyphenols, and vitamins B, C, D, and E.
An abundance of evidence indicates that these nutrients improve cardiovascular and metabolic health and support cognitive function.
The randomized, placebo-controlled intervention study involved 148 active duty military members between the ages of 18 and 45 years.
About half of the participants engaged in a supervised fitness program and took a nutritional supplement; the remainder engaged in the fitness program but took a placebo.
The fitness program included;
- core strength exercises,
- and lasted 45 minutes per session, five times per week, for 12 weeks.
The nutritional supplement, which was provided in the form of a beverage, contained beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate, lutein, phospholipids, DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid), and vitamins.
Participants consumed two 8-ounce servings of the beverage every day for the duration of the study. The authors of the study measured the participants’ nutritional biomarkers (in blood) and assessed their physical and cognitive performance before and after the study.
At the end of the study, the participants who consumed the nutritional supplement showed greater improvements in physical and cognitive performance than those who consumed the placebo.
The participants demonstrated marked physical performance improvements in;
- heart rate,
- and lean muscle mass.
They demonstrated notable cognitive improvements in;
- episodic memory,
- fluid intelligence accuracy,
- executive function reaction time,
- and processing efficiency.
These findings suggest that targeted fitness programs that incorporate nutritional support enhance physical and cognitive performance.