Performance Readiness Bars prevent stress fractures

By Nicole Topakas, 165th H2F Nutrition Health Educator

As many as 5% of male and 20% of female basic trainees develop a stress fracture during military training. Many factors contribute to these numbers, including poor physical condition upon entering the military, being underweight or overweight, and consuming a nutrient-poor diet. Not only do these injuries threaten a trainee’s ability to serve, but they also impact overall military readiness.

Enter the Performance Readiness Bar. Developed to help decrease the risk of stress fractures, Performance Readiness Bars are fortified with calcium and Vitamin D and have been available to trainees since 2018. Ideally, nutrients are obtained from food, and in the case of vitamin D, sunshine, but since many trainees arrive with already insufficient levels of these nutrients, PRBs may help to bring those levels up more quickly and in turn, prevent stress fractures.

Calcium, a mineral that is essential for building and maintaining strong bones, is present in various foods, including dairy products, leafy greens, and almonds. Vitamin D helps the body to effectively absorb calcium.

Therefore, consuming the two nutrients together produces optimal results. In a previous study, recruits who were given calcium and vitamin D supplements had a 20% lower incidence of stress fractures compared to the control group.

Since inception, the bars have only been available in one flavor – chocolate. But two new flavors, Salted Caramel and Tart Cherry Berry, have recently been developed and are now available to trainees. The new flavors will have wider appeal and may lead to higher consumption rates.

Each trainee is required to receive one bar per day. Although the bars do provide other nutrients and additional calories (200-250 per bar), their primary purpose is to provide calcium and Vitamin D to increase bone strength. They are not candy bars.

“PRBs shouldn’t be viewed as a reward or ‘treat,’” said Capt. Wesley Mayeux, H2F Dietitian for the 165th Brigade. “These bars are daily supplements that provide necessary nutrients that can help prevent injuries.”

While stress fractures and other injuries will continue to be a reality for some trainees, we can work to prevent as many of these situations as possible by issuing and encouraging the consumption of PRBs, as well as by promoting healthy, well-balanced eating plans.