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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.

The best routines aren’t

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Routines help athletes and service members achieve their best, but rigid routines can get in the way. Flexibility and adaptation are keys to success.

Routines often can help your performance, but you need to be flexible too. Some of the world’s best athletes have scripted routines that begin with what time they wake up. Top performers find that routines can help shift them from stressful anticipation of how things are going to turn out to focus instead on what’s most important in that moment. In other words, routines can help you reduce anxiety.

But while rigid routines can be useful when the events are predictable, overly rigid routines can morph a helpful tool into a superstitious or obsessive ritual. The best athletes regard flexibility and adaptation as crucial to their own, often finely honed, routines. With service members for whom crises are part of the job, the best teams are able to go “off-script” when needed in order to work together most effectively.

For more information on mental aspects of performance, visit HPRC’s Mind Tactics domain.

Nitric oxide supplements for performance?

Nitric oxide supplements are popular pre-workout supplements, but do they deliver on their promises to boost performance?

Nitric oxide (NO) supplements are marketed to maximize your performance by giving you extra energy and enhancing your focus during workouts so you can train longer and harder. But these supplements don’t contain any nitric oxide, which is a gas. So what’s really in them, and do they work? More important, are they safe to use? Find out in our OPSS FAQ on nitric oxide supplements.

Do you still have questions about dietary supplements? Explore our other Operation Supplement Safety FAQs. If you can’t find the answer there, you can use our “Ask the Expert” button.

Free summer meals for kids

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Children, Diet, Nutrition
Kids can get free, nutritious meals even when school is out. Read more to learn how.

Children and teens are vulnerable to hunger and poor nutrition, especially during the summer months when school is out. This can lead to lower academic performance once school begins again. Poor nutrition also makes kids more prone to illness and other health issues.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) aims to fill this nutrition gap by providing summer meals for children up to age 18. What’s more, it’s free, and children don’t have to enroll to be eligible. They just have to show up and enjoy a healthy meal. (In fact, more than one meal may be available.)

Summer meal sites are located in many communities across the country at places such as schools, community centers, libraries, parks, playgrounds, and faith-based centers. To find a summer meal site in your community, check out USDA’s Summer Meal Site Finder.

Tips to practice safe sun

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Exposure, Heat, Safety, Sun
Protect yourself from the dangers of too much sun this summer and year ‘round.

Skin cancer is a major public health issue, but with proper precautions you can decrease your risk considerably. Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is the most important risk factor for both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. Exposure to these rays also can result in deeper facial wrinkles, skin discoloration, burn, and skin aging.

Athletes who practice outdoor sports are especially at risk for skin cancer. Sweating increases the skin’s sensitivity to the sun’s rays, magnifying the risk of sunburn and skin damage.

Remember: The weather does not have to be sunny and hot for you to get sun damage! Whether you’re training for the PRT, patrolling, road marching, or participating in a summer league softball game, follow these tips to stay safe during all outdoor activities. [[Christy – Use the text to this point for the home page BLUF, then add the words “Read more...” and hyperlink to full article, with all text, above and below.]]

  • Avoid burning
    • As little as a single sunburn can increase your risk for developing skin cancer. Getting burned 5 or more times doubles the risk over your lifetime.
  • Apply sunscreen
    • Use water-resistant, broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen, with SPF 15 or higher, every day. Apply it 15–30 minutes before you’re exposed to the sun to give it time to absorb. Also, reapply sunscreen after swimming, sweating, or toweling off. Be sure to check out the FDA regulations regarding sunscreens and their effectiveness.
  • Seek shade
    • Whenever possible, stay in the shade under a tree or tent. Especially try to avoid sun exposure during midday (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), when the rays are strongest.
  • Cover up
    • Wear protective clothing—including hats, long-sleeved shirts, and pants—when you go outdoors. Keep in mind, though, that protection decreases when clothes are wet.
  • Use extra caution…
    • …near water, snow, and sand. Ultraviolet rays can reflect off these and other surfaces, increasing your chance of sun exposure and skin damage.
  • Wear sunglasses
    • Protect your eyes when you work, drive, participate in sports, take a walk, or run an errand. Solar ultraviolet B radiation can increased your risk of cataracts and cancer of the skin around eyes without proper cover.

Trapped by your thoughts?

The way we think often impacts what we do. This is particularly true in relationships.

How we interpret experiences has a big impact on how we react to them. Your personal relationships are especially prone to “thinking traps” that can lead you to draw false conclusions. For example, let’s say you’ve been married for some time now. But recently you find yourself thinking your partner doesn’t love you any more because she or he no longer says so.

One way to address this kind of thinking trap is to ask yourself—or have a friend ask you—questions that make you think about the reasoning or evidence behind what you’re thinking:

  • What specifically makes you think your spouse doesn’t love you any more?
  • What did he or she do in the past that made you feel loved?
  • Are there any other possible explanations that might explain your partner’s behavior, such as job stress, an ailing parent, children acting out, or recent return from deployment?
  • When you think back to the beginning of your relationship, how could you tell he or she loved you? Was it something said? Or done?
  • Has your behavior toward your spouse changed recently?

Questions such as these can help you gain perspective. Once you’ve gone through this self-questioning process, it’s possible you’ll interpret your partner’s behavior in a different way. Maybe you were just caught up in a thinking trap.

Choose a better granola bar

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
There are hundreds of granola bars on the market, but not all are created equal. “Raise the bar” on yours for better nutrition and satisfaction.

Granola bars are great for a quick, convenient snack, but some are more like candy bars in disguise. They can be high in sugar, fat, and calories. There are plenty of healthy variations of granola bars, though. You just have to know what to look for. Next time you’re in a store or in the commissary, compare Nutrition Facts labels and follow these tips:

  • Look for a granola bar that has at least 4 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and less than 200 calories. This will help you stay full longer while keeping your nutrition in check.
  • Find a granola bar with less than 10 grams of sugar. Most of it is added sugar. And watch out for hidden sources of sugar such as brown rice syrup and honey.
  • When it comes to ingredients, look for ones you recognize or can pronounce. Remember, a granola bar with fewer ingredients is often better.

For information on how to read Nutrition Facts labels, check out this guide from the Food and Drug Administration.

“Tainted” dietary supplement products

Dietary supplements sometimes contain ingredients that are not listed on the label. Find out which products can put your health and career at risk.

Service members should be careful about taking dietary supplements because many of these products contain hidden active ingredients that can result in harmful effects.

The most common types of dietary supplements found to contain “undeclared” ingredients (that is, substances not listed on the label) are those marketed for weight loss, sexual enhancement, and bodybuilding. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified over 600 tainted dietary supplements. FDA specifically warns against the use of products that claim to be “alternatives” to FDA-approved drugs or “legal” alternatives to anabolic steroids.

Dietary supplements don’t require approval by FDA before being put on the market, and without laboratory testing there is no way to know the contents of a product. If you’re considering a dietary supplement, be sure to check the label to see if the product has been evaluated by an independent third-party organization.

For more information, please visit Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS), including the OPSS High-Risk Supplement List.

Why forgiveness helps the forgiver

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Forgiveness, Mind, Mood
Forgiveness helps both the forgiven and the forgiver. Learn more about how to forgive.

When you forgive others, you let go of feelings that can haunt you, such as anger, hurt, bitterness, and vengefulness. Through forgiveness you also can experience positive emotions toward the wrongdoer, such as wanting the best for that person despite whatever he or she has done.

It’s natural to resist to letting go, so why should you let someone off the hook? When you don’t forgive, you suffer negative feelings too. And what you feel after the fact doesn’t change what has already happened.

Forgiveness is letting go of hurt feelings. It isn’t forgetting, overlooking, or approving of what was done. And it doesn’t necessarily mean restoring a trusting relationship. But it’s hard to let go of feelings. Here are some tips to start the forgiving process:

1)    Remember the hurt. This doesn’t mean you dwell on it, but allow yourself to tune into how you really feel.

2)    Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This is a tough one. But think about the wrongdoer as a human being capable of making mistakes just like anyone else. This doesn’t excuse his or her mistake, but maybe something contributed to being misguided.

3)    Consider your own past mistakes. Picture times when you made mistakes. You don’t need to compare your mistakes, but remember how it felt and how you benefitted or could have benefitted from forgiveness.

4)    Once you forgive, commit to it. You may feel tempted to give in to the negative emotions again, letting them rule your thinking and behavior. Instead, revisit all the ways in which forgiveness makes sense, and let your emotions catch up later.

Forgiveness probably won’t happen overnight, but if you commit to the process, you may find relief from your own pain.

Are you dependable?

Filed under: Relationships, Trust
Being dependable is key for teamwork and group performance. Learn how to be someone others can depend on.

One key ingredient of trust is dependability—being able to depend on those around you. And trust is essential in all your close relationships, whether with your commanding officer, your spouse, or your coworker. You can strengthen your own dependability through the following:

  • Be there for others consistently. This can be as simple as returning calls or emails in a timely manner. Or it can be, for example, having your buddy’s back in a training exercise, “saving” his life.
  • Always act out of concern for another. For example, if a coworker is being badmouthed would you speak up to clear his or her name?
  • Share common interests or missions. If someone feels that you have similar goals and values, he or she is more likely to rely on you. For example, are you more likely to accept your supervisor’s influence if you know he or she values the same mission you do? The same goes at home: If your spouse feels that you both put the needs of your family over your individual interests, he or she is more likely to listen to you and trust you.

When you build trust by being dependable, you may find that those around you become more trustworthy and dependable too.” 

Have you had an adverse event?

Know the signs of an adverse event and how to report this important information.

An “adverse event” can occur as a result of taking some dietary supplements. Learn how to identify an adverse event from the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ, and find out where you can go to report one. And for healthcare providers, HPRC has a helpful video, “How to probe for dietary supplement use and report adverse events.” (Click on the “Video” tab to access the link.) Documenting adverse events is an essential part of how the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) evaluates potentially dangerous dietary supplements, so it’s very important to report potential problems.

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