The U.S. military wants to know how nutritional supplements such as protein shakes can speed up the rate at which a soldier can heal from a wound or spot an enemy on the battlefield.
The U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, or USARIEM, in Natick, Mass., is leading a study that seeks to measure how physical stress such as sleep deprivation affects a soldier's immune system in various environments, according to an official news release.
The first phase of the main study seeks to measure how long it will take a group of sleep-deprived soldiers to recover from so-called suction blisters on their arms. The next phase will analyze how unspecified "nutrition interventions" boost immune recovery.
A separate but related study will measure how quickly and accurately sleep-deprived marksmen can spot an friend or foe.
"This model may provide a way to more effectively study effects of stress on wound healing, and a means to test prototype countermeasures, like nutrition interventions, to stress-related effects on healing," Tracey Smith, a research dietitian with the institute, told the service, according to the release.
But exactly what qualifies as a "nutrition intervention" remains unclear.
The release doesn't specify whether that means Red Bull or Monster energy drinks, Boost or Ensure protein shakes, or Hooah! or Clif bars. Volunteers, it simply states, will consume "a specially prepared nutrition beverage" or "food item."
It probably doesn't mean caffeinated energy drinks, which despite their immense popularity in the military, aren't recommended for athletic performance due to the risk of dehydration and other potentially harmful side effects.