(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – As families navigate uncharted challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, from virtual work and school environments to health and safety precautions, it’s more challenging than ever to manage stress and maintain a healthy lifestyle. But new research from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Abbott, and U.S. Air Force published in Scientific Reports found nutrition is directly linked to physical and cognitive performance. That means keeping up your exercise routine while supplementing it with the right nutrition can actually help you better manage these chaotic times.
Researchers at Abbott developed a nutritional drink with specific ingredients to target muscle development and cognitive function and examined the effects of the supplement on those who truly rely on staying sharp and clear-headed in stressful situations while also needing to stay in top physical shape: U.S. Air Force personnel.
“There are a lot of different occupations in the Air Force and many of them require long hours, intense focus and quick and accurate decision-making skills,” said Adam Strang, PhD, human performance research scientist at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. “Exercise is well-documented to improve both the body and the brain and this study shows that we can boost those benefits even further by combining workouts with the right nutrients.”
The Air Force personnel who participated in the study completed high-intensity workouts five times per week. But the study found those who also drank the specially-formulated nutritional drink twice a day added more muscle mass, had lower resting heart rates and improved their working memory.
“This study is important because working memory did not increase with exercise alone, and it’s something that is useful for everyone to manage stressful situations in their daily lives,” said Matt Kuchan, a research fellow and brain health scientist at Abbott and co-author of the study. “It’s what allows us to store and process different pieces of information and then access that information when we need it to make decisions.”
All of the ingredients in the drink can be found in whole foods that can easily be added to a healthy diet, like leafy greens, eggs and fatty fish like salmon or tuna. And while the supplement improved performance for those in the Air Force, researchers will now use these findings to potentially develop new products to make it easier for people to get the right amount of the right nutrients to reap the full benefits of exercise.