Is There any Benefit to Combining Exercise and Nutritional Supplements?

Is There any Benefit to Combining Exercise and Nutritional Supplements?

By Jim Windell

           Which is better: An exercise regimen or nutritional supplements?

           We all know that exercise is good for us. No one questions the value of aerobic exercise.

           However, we get conflicting messages about nutritional supplements and nutrient-rich beverages. Should we be taking those or should we be relying on a balanced diet? Is there any benefit to exercise plus nutrient-rich pills or drinks?

           That’s a question that a new study, just published in the journal Scientific Reports, tries to answer.

           A University of Illinois team conducted a study with Adam Strang, a scientist in the Applied Neuroscience Branch of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio and his colleagues in the Air Force Research Laboratory. The University of Illinois team also worked with research fellow and study co-author Tapas Das and his colleagues at Abbott Nutrition. Das and his associates led the design of a nutritional beverage, which was a mixture of nutrients targeting both muscle and brain. The specially designed beverage provided ingredients that previous studies have shown are associated with improved physical and cognitive functioning.

           The researchers studied the effects of a 12-week exercise regimen on 148 active-duty Air Force airmen. Half of the airmen received a twice-daily nutrient beverage that included protein; the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA; lutein; phospholipids; vitamin D; B vitamins and other micronutrients; along with a muscle-promoting compound known as HMB.

           The results?

           Both groups improved in physical and cognitive function, with added gains among those who regularly consumed the nutritional beverage.

           With participants 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.

           "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. Barbey led the study with postdoctoral researcher Christopher Zwilling.

           "Those who also consumed the nutritional supplement saw all of these improvements and more,” Barbey says. “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."

           Physical power increased in both groups as a result of the physical training, Zwilling adds.

           "Power is a measure of physical fitness that is based on several factors, such as how fast a participant can pull a heavy sled over a set distance, how far they can toss a weighted ball, and how many pushups, pullups or situps they can perform in a set time period," Zwilling says.

           The physical training reduced participants' body fat percentage and increased their oxygen-uptake efficiency, or VO2 max. The airmen also performed better than they had initially on several measures of cognitive function. The most notable of these was an increase in the accuracy of their responses to problems designed to measure fluid intelligence.

           "But we also wanted to know whether taking the supplement conferred an advantage above and beyond the effect of exercise," Zwilling points out. Zwilling and the other researchers saw that there was an advantage to taking the supplement. For instance, the resting heart rate went down more in those who took the supplement than in those who did not take it.

           Those airmen who consumed the nutritional beverage also saw greater improvements in their ability to retain and process information. And their reaction time on tests of fluid intelligence improved more than their peers who took the placebo.

           The researchers indicate that this study suggests that when both aerobic fitness training and nutritional supplementation are combined, the benefits extend beyond improvements in physical fitness to bring about enhancements of cognitive functioning.

           To see the original source of this article, click here.


           To read the journal article, go to:

Christopher E. Zwilling, Adam Strang, Evan Anderson, Jennifer Jurcsisn, Erica Johnson, Tapas Das, Matthew J. Kuchan, Aron K. Barbey. Enhanced physical and cognitive performance in active duty Airmen: evidence from a randomized multimodal physical fitness and nutritional interventionScientific Reports, 2020; 10 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-74140-7


Share this post:

Comments on "Is There any Benefit to Combining Exercise and Nutritional Supplements?"

Comments 0-5 of 0

Please login to comment