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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.

Tattoos in uniform

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Tattoos
Considering getting a tattoo? Learn military guidelines and safety tips.

Tattoos are a point of pride with many—civilians and service members alike—but the military has specific guidelines on this form of body art. The following general guidelines apply:

  • Tattoos or brandings that might be considered gang-related, extremist, sexist (including nudity), racist, or supremacist are not allowed.
  • Tattoos may not appear to endorse the use of illegal drugs.
  • Other obscene, offensive, or discriminatory tattoos are also not tolerated.
  • Tattoos cannot show above the neck, that is, on the head, neck, or face.

Other regulations vary by branch and are usually more restrictive. For example, in the Army, soldiers may have one ring tattoo on each hand, but no other tattoos on the wrists or hands. The Air Force limits tattoos to less than 25% of the body visible when in uniform. In the Navy, only tattoos that endorse good order, discipline, and morale are allowed, and they may not be larger than the wearer’s hand with fingers extended. Marine Corps regulations are complex and include “grandfathering in” of some tattoos obtained prior to enlisting; see USMC’s “Are you grandfathered?” poster. The Coast Guard has similar limitations, with more details on permitted body art in the U.S. Coast Guard’s Uniform Regulations. Please visit these links for details for your service branch.

And buyer beware! The U.S. government does not regulate tattoo inks. More than 10% of tattooed people recently surveyed reported unwanted side effects such as pain, itching, infections requiring antibiotics, and scabbing. A significant number of these involved red and black inks. Given these possible drawbacks, choose your tattoo parlor carefully. These FDA tips can put you on the right path:

  • Use a hygienic tattoo parlor.
  • Avoid do-it-yourself tattoo inking and removal methods.
  • Consult a healthcare provider about tattoo removal or any complications arising from body art.

Are supplements the “whey” to protein?

Whey protein is often referred to as the “king of proteins.” But are whey protein supplements the best option for muscle growth and recovery?

Whole foods, not dietary supplements, should be your first choice for protein. Protein supports muscle growth and repair. People often turn to protein supplements (such as whey, casein, and soy) to optimize those effects, especially after a workout. Whole food protein sources such as lean meats, fish, dairy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds are just as effective (in some cases more effective) than protein supplements. Whey protein products can be an acceptable, convenient, and efficient way to deliver protein when your needs are greater or when normal dietary sources are not available. If you are using protein supplements, be sure to choose a product that has been third-party evaluated for its quality. Read more here.

Transitioning to a civilian job

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Changing to a new job is difficult, especially your first job after leaving the military. Here are some tips to help you make an easier transition.

Using skills learned before and during military service, along with a positive attitude, can help make your transition from the military to a civilian job a bit easier. One reason you may find this career change so difficult is that your professional life makes up a significant part of your identity. Therefore when you transition from military to civilian life, you may need to learn how to overcome some career challenges.

Finding a successful career path is easier if you’re aware of the skill sets you already have and have some idea what sorts of jobs would give you fulfillment and meaning. Read on to learn some tips you might find useful in transitioning from your military service to finding a job as a civilian. Read more here.

Healthy eating for healthy joints

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Is what you eat keeping your joints healthy? Find out how nutrition can help your joints carry on.

You can take control of how your daily eating habits help or hurt your body’s joints. The physical demands of training and missions—along with day-to-day exercise, overuse, injury, and aging—can take their toll on your joints over time. There are certain eating habits you can practice to help keep your joints happy and healthy for the long run.

  • Aim for a healthy weight. Extra weight means extra stress on your joints – walking alone can cause your knees to take on 3–6 times your body weight. Maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if you need to. Visit HPRC’s Fighting Weight Strategies for ideas.
  • Fight inflammation. Include omega-3 fatty acids on your plate to reduce your body’s inflammation. Salmon isn’t your only source; foods such as English walnuts, flaxseeds and their oil, canola oil, and other fish contribute omega-3s to your eating plan. See HPRC’s omega-3 table for more foods rich in omega-3s.
  • Fill up on fruits and veggies. Fruits and vegetables, all of which are nutrient-heavy, have been linked to a lower incidence of joint diseases such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at meals, and build snacks around them too.
  • Revive with vitamin C. Because of its role in forming collagen (the main component of connective tissue) and as an antioxidant, foods high in vitamin C are important for joint health. Oranges, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, red peppers, and kiwi are excellent sources.

Focusing on a healthy weight and filling up on nutrient-rich foods, along with regular exercise and stretching, can help optimize the long-term health and performance of your joints. 

Find your Target Heart Rate

Filed under: Cardio, Heart, Heart rate
Tracking your heart rate is a great way to keep track of your exercise intensity.

Monitoring your heart rate is a useful tool you can learn to use to guide your training and make sure you’re getting the most out of your workouts. It can help make sure you’re pushing hard on interval days (vigorous exercise) and taking it easy on recovery days (light exercise). But what do words such as “light,” “moderate,” and “vigorous” mean when it comes to exercise?

You can determine your exercise intensity using your maximum and resting heart rates. Then you can use the Heart Rate Reserve (HRR) method to calculate your Target Heart Rate (THR) to determine what range your heart rate should be in for your desired exercise intensity. We provide a step-by-step process you can follow. Read more here.

FDA warns again about powdered caffeine

FDA issued warning letters to 5 distributors of powdered pure caffeine and continues to warn consumers against using these products.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is again warning about the dangers of powdered pure caffeine. At least 2 deaths (both teenagers) were associated with it in 2014, yet it continues to be sold, primarily in bulk online. FDA recently sent warning letters to 5 distributors of pure powdered caffeine, warning about potential serious health effects. FDA notes that it’s difficult to determine the difference between a safe amount and a toxic amount but that one teaspoon is roughly equivalent to 28 cups of coffee. For more information, read FDA’s update and HPRC’s 2014 article.

Practicing optimism

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Optimism brings with it a number of health benefits. The good news is you can learn to increase your level of optimism and start enjoying these benefits today.

There are exercises you can do to improve your mindset and your optimism, the belief that things will go well for you in a given situation. This is important because optimism is associated with health benefits such as:

  • less risk of death from heart attack;
  • lower risk of depression following events such as the death or illness of someone close; and
  • better personal relationships.

Military training for contingency planning can help you identify what can or did go wrong as part of your important risk-assessment skills. However, when you transfer these strategies to noncombat life you may find focusing on potential problems hurts more than it helps. Balancing optimism and contingency planning can be difficult, but the good news is that you can learn optimism too. Here are some strategies to get you started.

Eat whole grains your way

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Diet, Grains, Nutrition
September is National Whole Grains Month! Try to eat more whole grains every day using these helpful tips.

Make at least half of your grain choices whole grains. Unlike refined grains, whole grains contain all parts of the grain and are good sources of fiber and other nutrients that are essential for good health. Try these tips so you can enjoy more whole grains in every meal and snack:

  • Breakfast: Start with a hearty breakfast that features whole-grain cereals such as steel-cut oats or shredded wheat. Have to eat breakfast on the run? Try switching to whole-wheat toast or whole-grain bagels instead of plain bagels.
  • Lunch: Sandwiches using whole-grain breads or rolls are full of flavor and fiber. Swap out white-flour tortillas with whole-grain corn tortillas.
  • Dinner: Sides can really shine when you replace white rice with exotic black, brown, or red rice, quinoa, or bulgur. Add wild rice or whole-grain barley to soups, stews, and casseroles. In the mood for noodles? Try whole-wheat pastas for added texture.
  • Snacks: Snacks can feature whole grains too. Air-popped popcorn, whole-grain crackers, and granola bars are tasty and healthy options to keep you going throughout the day.

Can’t tell if some of your grain products are whole? Look at the ingredients list and make sure the first ingredient says “whole wheat” or “whole grain.” HPRC also has a grains table that points out nutritious grains (with and without gluten). And keep in mind that words such as “100% wheat” and “multigrain” don’t necessarily mean whole grain. For more information, visit the Whole Grains Council

Breathe better, run better!

Learn how to improve your breathing technique while running.

There’s no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to how to breathe when you’re running, but there are a couple points to consider. During light to moderate exercise, people tend to inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Breathing through your nose helps minimize the number of allergens that get into your airway, warm the air before it gets to your lungs (which can be helpful in cold temperatures), and increase the concentration of oxygen in your blood. However, as exercise intensity increases, most people switch to breathing through the mouth because they can inhale more air per breath with less resistance.

Running experts suggest practicing diaphragmatic breathing (“belly breathing”) rather than shallower chest breathing (where you raise your chest and shoulders when you inhale). In the former, your diaphragm (an important muscle in the breathing process) is pushed downward when you inhale, creating space in your chest cavity. You should feel your belly expand as you inhale. It promotes greater expansion of your rib cage and lungs, giving you a fuller, deeper breath. It takes a little practice to learn how to breathe like this while you’re running, but if you lie on your back and breathe, practice yoga, or even play a wind instrument, you’ll know what it feels and looks like.

Finally, remember not to slouch when you run. Lift your torso and chest and lean forward slightly. Form also can affect how you breathe.

A “natural” way to recover

If you’re in any stage of a recovery process (physical, mental, or spiritual) it may be helpful to get outside and spend some time in nature.

Exposure to a natural green environment can help reduce your stress levels and improve your health and well-being. So, feeling blue? Go green! Some of nature’s restorative benefits include improved positive mood, energy, and vitality; decreased anxiety, depressive thoughts, perceived stress, and hostility; as well as improved recovery times after surgery and less need for pain meds.

Exposure to nature can also reduce your heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, and stress hormones, as well as improve your sleep, immune function, and brain activity. Interestingly, people who live in neighborhoods where streets have more trees report feeling healthier, with fewer symptoms of poor health such as heart attack, stroke, obesity, and diabetes. Neighborhood greenness has also been tied to longer life expectancy.

Depending on where you live, finding a natural environment can be tricky. You can find state and national parks online or look for local parks and gardens in your area. Even walking along a neighborhood street with lots of trees, spending more time viewing nature (through a window), or having indoor plants within view can make you feel better. You may want to experience nature on your own, with a buddy, or with a group of fellow service members or veterans. For group outdoor recreational activities, check out the Sierra Club Outdoors program (or, specifically, their Military Outdoors program). So if you’re feeling stressed, down, or not your usual self, get outside and go green!

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