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Welcome to the HPRC Blog. We've got lots of information here, from quick tips to in-depth posts about detailed human performance optimization topics.

Running form 101

Filed under: Exercise, Running
How’s your form? Make sure you’re ready to hit the ground—running!

Proper running form can help improve your overall efficiency and reduce your risk for injury. We’ve all seen awkward running forms—you can’t help but wince because it looks challenging and sometimes painful to run that way. Following a few simple reminders can keep you injury-free as you reach peak performance.

Running infographic

Duty to country and family

Need your family to be more supportive of your role as a service member? Learn how to get on the same page with your loved ones.

When there’s consensus among family members about your military service, life is much easier. It’s normal for loved ones to have differing views about service and/or levels of commitment over time. But when there’s a big difference, some families might feel an extra burden of stress or sadness. Here are some tips to help build a bridge to family harmony. Read more here.

Find your best eating plan

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
You might have recently seen an athlete’s or movie star’s eating plan. Could following their diet make you a star?

Want to eat healthy and perform as well as the rich and famous? Often an elite athlete or entertainer has a dietitian or chef to plan meals and even do their grocery shopping. But is following someone else’s eating plan a wise idea?

  • Some superstars eat mostly organic vegetables and less fruit. A diet rich in vegetables is healthy, but can be taken to extremes. Eating entirely organic foods isn’t essential. Fruit contains numerous vitamins and minerals plus fiber. The current daily recommendation is 2–3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit. It’s also unnecessary to avoid nightshades (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and mushrooms), as it’s not proven that they cause inflammation.
  • A lot of performers pick proteins. Their pattern might include only specialty proteins such as grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon, free-range chicken, and duck. These are good sources of protein but duck and beef should be eaten a few times per week, as they can be very fatty. Other good protein sources include eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds. Nuts and seeds are higher in fat but contain healthy oils and other key nutrients.
  • Many icons avoid sugar and white flour. U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting sugar and refined grains but it’s unnecessary to completely avoid these foods. It’s best to eat at least 3 whole grains each day: whole-wheat products, brown rice, oatmeal, or popcorn are good choices.
  • Some celebrities only eat foods cooked with coconut oil. It’s better to include a variety of unsaturated fats in your nutrition plan.
  • Several VIPs dodge dairy. This isn’t recommended unless you have an allergy or intolerance. Dairy contains valuable nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, protein, and potassium.

Want to be ready for the locker room or the red carpet? Follow a balanced plan and eat what works best for you.

What’s a “new dietary ingredient”?

Some dietary supplements can contain at least one “new dietary ingredient.” If you haven’t heard this term before, you’re not alone.

If a dietary supplement product contains something called a “new dietary ingredient,” manufacturers or distributors must notify the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before marketing any product that contains the ingredient. Aside from this, FDA doesn’t review or approve dietary supplements before they’re marketed. So what’s a “new dietary ingredient,” what makes it different from other ingredients, and what has to be done before one can be used in dietary supplements? Find out in the OPSS FAQ about new dietary ingredients.

Do you have more questions about other dietary supplement terms, regulations, or policies? Check out the other OPSS FAQs for some answers. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, send us a question using our Ask the Expert feature.

Alcohol: How much is too much?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Alcohol, Mind-body
Warnings abound about limiting alcohol intake to moderate amounts. But what does that mean? What are the consequences of drinking more?

When it comes to alcohol, the dose makes the poison. The common (and informed) advice says that if you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. What’s considered “moderation”? For women that means up to one drink a day, and for men, up to two drinks a day. Drinking excessively can increase your short- and long-term health risks—including injuries, cancer, and other chronic diseases—and affect your sexual and mental health. Don’t know what’s a “drink” or what’s “excessive” drinking? Do you want to know more about what alcohol can do to you? Find out what you need to know about alcohol and your health in this infographic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Mirror therapy for phantom limb pain

Phantom limb pain commonly occurs after an arm and/or leg amputation. Learn how mirror therapy helps heal service members.

The brain can “feel” pain even after an arm and/or leg amputation, but a new treatment using mirrors can provide some relief. This common phenomenon, known as phantom limb pain (PLP), occurs in at least 75% of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) veteran amputees. Although its causes aren’t fully understood, one theory is that there’s a mismatch between what your brain sees and what it feels.

Mirror therapy offers a promising treatment for those suffering from PLP. A long mirror is placed between the patient’s legs and set to face the intact limb. As the patient moves and watches the intact limb in the mirror’s reflection, the brain is “tricked” into seeing the missing limb. The brain “sees” the phantom limb moving in the mirror and quiets busy activity or bad memories. The mirror positively stimulates the brain, causing reorganization or rewiring; this helps relieve PLP.

Healthcare providers have successfully used mirror therapy to help single-limb amputees. They’ve also adjusted the approach for double-limb amputees. Using an adapted method, a physical therapist (PT) acts as the mirror. The PT sits beside the patient and then mimics or “mirrors” the amputee’s phantom limbs with his/her intact limbs. For example, if a patient complains of calf cramps, the PT can stretch his/her own calves while the patient observes and feels relief in their phantom limbs. They’re currently working on using virtual reality to take the approach a step further.

Omega-3s and brain health

Filed under: Diet, Nutrition, Omega-3
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain health, but beware of products marketed for concussions or traumatic brain injuries.

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain development and function, but they also may help protect against damage from concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Several animal studies have shown that omega-3 supplements given before or after a traumatic event not only reduce the severity of damage in certain parts of the brain but also improve mental performance during recovery. Similar studies haven’t been conducted with humans yet, and although the results of these animal studies are promising, there isn’t enough current evidence to recommend taking omega-3 or fish oil supplements to reduce the risk of or assist in the recovery from concussions or TBIs. In addition, FDA has warned consumers to avoid using products marketed for these purposes. For more information, please read FDA’s Consumer Update.

Although omega-3 supplements haven’t been proven to help with TBIs, omega-3s are still important for your brain, heart, and overall health. It’s best to get your omega-3s from food, but if you choose to take supplements, do so under the supervision of your doctor. For more information on omega-3 supplements, please visit “Omega-3 Supplements: In Depth” from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

New Dietary Guidelines for Americans

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Diet, Nutrition, USDA
The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were recently released. They offer the government’s best advice on healthy eating. How can they help you?

The U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) just released the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines help shape policies for school lunch and breakfast programs, Woman, Infants, and Children (WIC), and nourishment programs for the elderly and military. The skinny is that they’re based on evolving nutrition science. They offer practical guidance on how to develop a nutrition plan too. Remember you can also seek a dietitian’s help to meet your goals towards healthy eating and performing well. Read more here

Not your grandma’s wheelchair

The National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) will be held from June 27–July 2, 2016. Learn more about the games and how you can get involved.

This summer marks the 36th annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG). The events, co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Paralyzed Veterans of America, begin on June 27, 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Registration deadline is April 15, 2016. Register early as events fill up fast. Any veteran who uses a wheelchair for sport and is eligible for care in the VA system (due to spinal cord injury, Multiple Sclerosis, amputation, or neurological condition) can participate. Need some motivation? Check out this video from last year’s games.

We’re always looking for sponsors and volunteers to help with NVWG activities—come on out and support our vets!

Chill out and keep moving!

You don’t have to hibernate during the colder months. Exercising in the cold takes a little extra planning to stay safe and comfortable.

Don’t let cold weather freeze your exercise routine. Use these tips to stay motivated, safe, and warm.

  • Dress in layers. Choose synthetic materials such as polyester or polypropylene that stay close to the skin. Avoid cotton since it soaks up sweat! You can always remove layers as you get warmer.
  • Protect your extremities—especially your fingers, toes, and ears. Circulation to these areas decreases in cold weather.
  • Check the forecast. Wind chill, snow, and rain can make your body more vulnerable to the outside temperatures. Plan an indoor workout when the wind chill is extreme or the temperature drops below 0°F.
  • Apply sunblock. You can still get sunburned in the winter so don’t forget the sunscreen!
  • Stay hydrated. When exercising in cold climates, don’t rely on thirst to indicate hydration since you usually don’t feel as thirsty in cold temperatures. You need to stay just as hydrated in cold weather as you do when it’s hot outside.
  • Ask your doctor. Certain symptoms might worsen in cold weather if you have asthma, heart issues, or Raynaud’s disease (when specific body parts feel numb due to to cold temperatures or stress). Talk to a healthcare professional about your concerns before heading outside for your cold-weather workout.
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