Health experts discuss optimizing human performance through nutrition during SXSW

By Jenna Maxfield, Army Futures CommandMarch 15, 2024

Army and private-sector nutrition and fitness professionals discussed optimizing human performance through nutrition during a March 13 panel at SXSW in Austin, Texas.
Leaders from the U.S. Army Office of the Surgeon General (OSG), U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM) and San Antonio Spurs spoke on optimizing human performance through nutrition during a March 13 panel at SXSW in Austin, Texas. Pictured from left to right: USARIEM Nutritional Physiologist Jess Gwin; San Antonio Spurs Dietician Mandy Tyler; and U.S. Army OSG Chief of Nutrition Performance and Readiness Lt. Col. Brenda Bustillos. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Patrick Hunter, Army Futures Command) VIEW ORIGINAL

AUSTIN, Texas — Leaders from the military medical community convened with experts from the sports and entertainment industry for a panel led by the Medical Research and Development Command during South by Southwest in March 2024.

“Optimizing Human Performance Through Nutrition” provided a platform to discuss nutrition research and readiness in the Army and professional sports and highlighted solutions to optimize performance in high-stress, high-stakes environments.

Panel participants included Lt. Col. Brenda Bustillos, chief of nutrition performance and readiness at the U.S. Army Office of the Surgeon General; Jess Gwin, nutritional physiologist at the U.S Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine; and Mandy Tyler, dietician for the San Antonio Spurs.

Panelists discussed the importance of nutrition and how there is a connection between the physical challenges Soldiers and professional athletes experience. Within both groups, “extreme energy expenditures result in muscle losses and an associated decline in performance,” Gwin said.

Professional athletes and Soldiers also face similar nutritional challenges, with a common issue being a lack of sleep due to training and travel schedules. Tyler highlighted the importance of “translating the science” to ensure research is more easily digestible and relatable and stressed that sports nutrition aims for an individualized approach.

Bustillos emphasized the importance of holistic health, both inside and outside the Army. She explained that the Army’s holistic health program, which focuses on mental, spiritual, physical and nutritional health, in addition to sleep, represents a fundamental shift in military culture.

Panelists asserted that nutritional professionals must meet Soldiers and professional athletes halfway and treat each Soldier and athlete as an individual case, ensuring a self-evaluation is completed and basic “nutrition on the go” concepts are explained.

The speakers concluded the panel by emphasizing the changes and progression they are seeing in nutrition. Bustillos stated that building upon Soldiers’ nutritional knowledge has decreased musculoskeletal injuries and preoccupation with body composition, while increasing focus on how optimal nutrition can be attained.