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.
Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has a new infographic about caffeine and performance. Caffeine, which is a stimulant, is found in various beverages, dietary supplements, and even your ration items. While it can help boost your mental and physical performance, it’s important to use it strategically. Otherwise, you could experience some unwanted side effects. So if you choose to use caffeine, check out our new infographic with information about how and when to use it and where you’ll find it. And for more information about caffeine, please visit the OPSS FAQs about caffeine and hidden sources of caffeine.
Team goals matter—whether you’re serving your unit, making decisions as a family, or coaching sports. There are a lot of factors that can lead to your group’s success or failure too. Your group’s cohesiveness—or ability to remain united while pursuing your objectives—can make all the difference as your team works to achieve its goals.
Cohesiveness has other advantages too: Those who get along socially or work well together benefit from improved job satisfaction and overall well-being. Here are some tips to help build and maintain team/unit cohesion.
- When you’re in charge, be sure to set clear, achievable goals for the whole group. And encourage teammates to set their own goals too.
- Communicate clearly: Give clear expectations for roles, performance, and deadlines—and offer praise.
- Minimize conflict and build trust by showing interest and concern for each other.
- Value connections within the team as well as between units and organizations.
- Focus on your group’s strengths, not just its problems and challenges.
- Build resilience at individual and group levels.
Sometimes personal goals interfere with the group’s success, causing its performance to suffer. When individuals set goals that contribute to the group’s overall purpose, bigger successes follow. Make sure your personal goals fit into the “bigger picture” of your team’s success.
Setting team goals is even more important for leaders. Teammates often take cues from their leader, whether he or she is a commanding officer, parent, or coach. Effective leaders—especially those who focus on the group’s mission—help their groups define clear aims and set important personal goals as well.
Set your own goals to help your team succeed. And when you’re in charge, share your “big picture” goals with the group!
Feeling low in energy? Underperforming at work, in the gym, or at home? What you’re eating might be slowing you down. Use Go for Green® (G4G) to make nutritious choices that fuel your body and mind, optimizing your energy and performance. Newly updated, DoD’s G4G program promotes nutritious foods and beverages to boost your fitness, strength, and health.
G4G labels foods and beverages with a stoplight system—Green, Yellow, and Red—to identify your best choices for peak performance. Foods are labeled with Low, Moderate, or High sodium symbols to point out sodium content too. Remember: Use these tips to build your energy-boosting plate!
- Aim to fill half your plate with Green-coded foods. You can find healthy, Green-coded choices in every food group: grains, fats, proteins, fruits and vegetables, and dairy.
- Eat consistently to keep your energy up. For best results, include Green-coded foods and drinks with every meal and snack—and stick to a schedule when possible.
- Make nutrient-rich foods the easy choice at home and work. You’re more likely to eat what’s easily available, so choose foods that make you want to get up and go. Stock your fridge with Green-coded items, fill your kitchen cabinets with minimally processed foods, and keep a stash of healthy snacks in your desk drawer.
The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine can effectively prevent some sexually-transmitted infections that cause genital warts and certain cancers in men and women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routine HPV vaccinations for kids ages 11–12, but those as young as 9 also can be vaccinated. The vaccine is most effective for those who receive the full 3-dose series.
HPV, the most common sexually-transmitted infection in the U.S., can develop into certain forms of cancer. It’s estimated there are 79 million HPV-infected individuals and another 14 million new HPV infections annually. In most cases, the symptom-free virus goes away on its own. However, for unknown reasons, HPV infection can persist, causing cervical cancer and other vaginal, vulvar, and anal cancers. It’s also linked to cancers of the tonsils and tongue.
In 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a vaccine that protects against the 4 most harmful strains of HPV. Studies show the HPV vaccine works. It prevents genital warts, some precancers, and cervical and other cancers associated with these harmful strains. Mandatory HPV-cancer prevention vaccination programs have resulted in lower rates of HPV-related diseases and cancers in other countries too.
While many teens and adults are open to their health care providers’ recommendations for getting vaccinated, low immunization rates still exist. As more kids and adults get vaccinated, the rate of HPV-related cancers is expected to drop. Since the HPV vaccine is relatively new, it’s also recommended that females (ages 13–26) and males (ages 13–21) who haven’t been previously vaccinated “catch up” and get protected.
Since TriCare coverage includes most types of the HPV vaccine, contact your kids’ health care provider (or your own, if you’re considering getting vaccinated) to discuss options. For more information, read the CDC’s recommendations for vaccinating your teen or pre-teen. And visit the National Cancer Institute’s HPV Vaccines page.
The best time of day to exercise is the time when you can maintain a consistent exercise routine—not necessarily the same time for everyone. You also might experience better training adaptations when you exercise consistently at a regular time. For example, if you work out at noon every day, your body will adapt to perform at its best at noon.
Above all, exercise should be enjoyable. After all, if you don’t enjoy it, you’re less likely to keep up with it. So here are a few things to keep in mind about making exercise fit into your schedule.
Morning. It might be easiest to maintain a consistent exercise regimen by starting your day with a workout. Other things that come up during the day can affect your plans to work out later in the day, and motivation often fades as the day progresses. However, since your body and muscle temperatures are lower in the morning, it’s especially important in the morning to warm up properly before exercise.
Afternoon. Optimal adaptations to weight training seem to occur in late afternoon. Levels of hormones such as testosterone (important for muscle growth in men and women) and cortisol (important for regulating metabolism and controlling blood pressure) seem to be at optimal ratio later in the day. For some people—because hormone levels vary from person to person—lifting later also might be more beneficial because their testosterone can respond better to resistance exercises.
Evening. The biggest caveat about exercising in the evening is how it will affect your sleep. Everyone is a little different. Some people can exercise right before bed and have no trouble sleeping. For others, it can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. There are lots of factors that can affect your sleep. Experiment to see what works for you.
Remember that other factors such as your work schedule, fitness goals, current diet, and sleep habits also affect your workout routine and physical performance. But whether at the end of the day (or in the morning or afternoon), a consistent exercise routine is the best routine.
If you’re aware that you tend to procrastinate, you probably already know it’s a good idea to take care of tasks right away rather than wait, but somehow you keep “putting things off.” Still, procrastinating is attractive for many reasons.
- You can’t find the “right place” to start. If so, start anywhere because somewhere is better than nowhere.
- Perfectionism is holding you back. This is because you’re waiting to no longer feel anxious about the outcome.
- Sustained effort can be hard! Remember: Waiting can make things even harder.
- It’s difficult to get started unless you feel pressured to finish on time. But there are other ways to get “amped up” enough to start performing.
- You think you’ll have more time “later.” But an “ideal time” seldom arrives. If you play these mind games with yourself, check out the mind-body ABCs.
- You feel overwhelmed by your specific task. Can you look at this “threat” as more of a “challenge” instead? Doing so can help you feel excited rather than anxious.
Does procrastinating help—or hurt—your efforts to get things done? Ignoring problems typically makes things worse. So, step up and tackle your to-do list. Use some of the tips laid out here, and consider the obstacles to engaging a new approach. Then develop action plans to overcome those obstacles. It’s helpful to use all of these strategies, but remember that even using some strategies can be useful too.
“Explosive workouts.” “Extreme pumps.” “Enhanced endurance.” These are just some of the marketing claims used to promote nitric oxide (NO) supplements. Interestingly though, NO supplements don’t actually contain any nitric oxide, which is a gas. Instead, these types of supplements usually contain amino acids plus various other ingredients. So will these supplements fulfill their promises of improving your performance or are they just “full of hot air”? Read the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ on nitric oxide supplements to find out.
Adaptive sport programs for wounded, injured, and ill service members are an important part of the rehabilitation process. And the Paralympic Military Program provides Paralympic sport opportunities—including camps, clinics, and competitions—to over 2,000 athletes each year. The program also promotes mentorship, teamwork, and fellowship for its athletes, especially those starting their roads to recovery. The results are impressive too: 5 military athletes won medals at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia!
The Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also offer many adaptive sport programs and clinics throughout the country. Whether you’re looking for a new challenge or going for the Gold, the first step is getting out there and being active!
Check out the Paralympic Military Program page to learn more about adaptive sport opportunities in your community. And be sure to cheer on service members, veterans, and other Paralympians at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, beginning September 7.
Go team USA!
Take note: Your sunscreen—important for protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays—has an expiration date! Just as you wouldn’t expect to feel well after eating expired food, don’t rely on expired sunscreen to protect you from the sun.
Sunscreen can be effective for up to 3 years. After that, its active ingredients start to deteriorate, leaving you vulnerable to sunburn and sun damage. Ideally, you should use sunscreen often enough that your bottle doesn’t last through the summer. If that’s not the case, check the bottle you’re currently using. If it’s old, throw it out.
If you buy sunscreen with the expiration printed only on the box or wrapper, use a permanent marker to write the date somewhere on the bottle. And store it in a cool, dry place. Practice safe sun this summer to keep your family healthy and happy!
Sex and other intimate behaviors are natural parts of life and important to maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner. Learn about the health benefits of sex and how to build intimacy—in and out of the bedroom—and much more in HPRC’s new Sex, Sexuality & Intimacy section. And find answers to frequently asked questions about common sexual problems, how to spice up your sex life, and other sex and intimacy issues affecting service members. You’ll find links to other helpful resources about sexual health and intimacy too.