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HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition
About half of all military personnel use some dietary supplements, and military women most commonly use weight-loss supplements. But is there a place for dietary supplements in enhancing women’s health? Dietary supplements, by definition, are intended to “supplement the diet” and can contain a dietary ingredient such as a vitamin, mineral, herb or other botanical, amino acid, or combinations of these and/or other substances or constituents intended to be consumed by mouth.
Active women may require more nutrients, but vitamin and mineral needs normally can be met by eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans focus largely on the recommendation that nutrient-dense foods and beverages—such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats and poultry, eggs, nuts and seeds—can provide all the nutrients needed by most everyone. These recommendations are based on research that shows a varied, healthy diet lowers the risk of most diseases.
Some dietary supplements have been found to be beneficial for women’s health, such as folic acid, iron, and calcium. Folic acid, a B vitamin involved in the production of new cells in the body, has been shown to help prevent birth defects. Women who are thinking of becoming pregnant or are pregnant should take a supplement that includes 400 micrograms of folic acid per day. Fortified foods such as green, leafy vegetables, enriched whole grain breads, flour, pasta, rice, and most ready-to-eat cereals also contain folic acid. Adolescent girls, women of childbearing age, and especially pregnant women also need more iron, which is a mineral involved in the transport of oxygen in the body. Women in these groups should choose iron-rich foods, particularly red meat, fish, and poultry, as well as iron-fortified foods. When iron levels are low, symptoms may include feeling extra tired and weak, along with a decrease in immune function. A healthcare provider or dietitian can determine the need for supplementation if diet alone cannot maintain iron levels or for those who have iron-deficiency anemia. Calcium is an important mineral that helps maintain strong bones, healthy teeth, and proper functioning of the heart, muscles, and nerves. All women should strive to get their calcium from foods such as low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, dark-green, leafy vegetables, and foods such as orange juice and soy milk that have been calcium-fortified. Those who may need more should discuss calcium supplement options with a dietitian, since there are many forms available and it is important to determine how much and which kind is suitable for your particular needs.
Some dietary supplement products marketed for weight loss are targeted toward women. Do they work? According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some weight-loss supplements contain hidden prescription drug ingredients. For additional information, see Operation Supplement Safety’s (OPSS) “Are there any safe supplements to help me lose weight?” Furthermore, women looking to enhance their performance may turn to dietary supplement products. OPSS has additional resources for competitive athletes to search for particular products that are certified, as well as helpful red flags on what to avoid.
Some women’s nutrient needs differ from those of men, and they can vary over the course of a lifetime. From adolescent girls, to women of childbearing age, to women over 50, these needs change based on the demands of the physiological changes that occur in the body. One thing is certain: A variety of nutritious food is really the spice of life and should be the basis for fueling all of life’s stages.
Are you looking for ways to promote your health or the health of your family? Operation Live Well, a DoD initiative, provides a wealth of information each month on a targeted topic. September is National Cholesterol Education Month and National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. High blood cholesterol puts you at risk for heart disease, the number one killer of men and women in the United States. Encouraging family physical fitness can instill a lifetime of healthy habits and decrease risks for problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Check back often to see new topics and explore methods to improve and sustain your well-being!
People take dietary supplements for lots of different reasons, and some may take them because they believe they are “natural” and therefore safe. A new article from ConsumerReports.org lists 10 hazards of taking dietary supplement products, pointing out that supplements are not risk-free.
Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) is about to launch this summer and will answer many of your questions about Dietary Supplements. Watch for HPRC’s announcement coming soon.
The first anniversary of the MyPlate food icon is being celebrated during the month of June, hoping to remind consumers to make healthy food choices. Users can download these one-page printable sheets, each with 10 tips to help get started with and maintain a healthy diet. To access these tips, go to this page of MyPlate, and then post them on your refrigerator or locker.
Federal food safety information from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now provided on HPRC’s Nutrition domain page via a new “widget” (app) from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Recent food safety alerts and recalls are automatically displayed and updated as new recalls, etc., are added. Please see this new feature by visiting HPRC’s nutrition section.
Good cholesterol, or high-density lipoprotein (HDL), helps prevent fat and cholesterol from clogging your arteries. A higher HDL number (> 60 mg/dl of blood) is better. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is considered bad cholesterol. It carries cholesterol to your arteries and can cause them to become blocked. A lower LDL number (< 100 mg/dl) is better. High-LDL or low-HDL cholesterol levels are major risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Visit this American Hearth Association web page for more information.
An interesting program for optimizing children’s health focuses on four specific behaviors that parents and children can use for health and wellness: Let’s Go!’s "5-2-1-0".
5—Eat at least five fruits and vegetables today – more is better!
2—Cut screen time down to two hours or less a day (no screen time for under age of two).
1—Participate in at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.
0—Zero sugar-sweetened sodas, sports drinks, and fruit drinks. Instead drink water and three or four servings a day of fat-free or one-percent milk.
For ideas about how to incorporate fruits and vegetables into daily meals, visit the MyPlate.gov KidsHealth website.
Do you buy dietary supplements when you want to lose weight, improve your performance, or give yourself a boost to get through a long day or hard workout? Then watch for this soon-to-be-released service-wide educational campaign by the Department of Defense in collaboration with the Human Performance Resource Center. Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) will help Warfighters and their families make informed decisions when choosing dietary supplements. See HPRC’s new OPSS link for an introductory article on supplement safety.
One Shot One Kill: Want to learn how the elite warrior accomplishes optimal performance time after time, under the most challenging conditions? The HPRC now has new program materials for the One Shot One Kill (OSOK) performance enhancement program online for you to use and download—by yourself or with your unit! One Shot One Kill (Integrative Platform version) is a “warrior-centric” performance enhancement program that warriors can set up and manage on their own. OSOK-IP is designed to enhance performance, hardiness, and resilience. By building on the skills that Warfighters already possess, OSOK aims to translate good Warfighter qualities to outstanding ones. OSOK-IP comes in two versions:
OSOK-IP Solo is a step-by-step integrative training plan, with supplemental materials, that enables the individual Warfighter to pursue this method of Total Fitness on his or her own and reach the optimal level of performance in almost all areas of life.
OSOK-IP Train the Trainer enables your unit to train as a group by selecting one member to learn and present OSOK-IP to the rest of the unit. This section of the website has the full curriculum available to download and even customize OSOK-IP content for your own military culture and unit.
We look forward to your feedback, too. Check out OSOK and let us know what you think!
What do you put in your body to boost your performance, increase your energy, shed pounds, build muscle, or otherwise supplement your diet? What’s in that drink, pill, or powder? What will it do for you? What will it do to you? Is it worth the risk?
More and more Warfighters are taking dietary supplements, most without being fully informed that some of the ingredients could have harmful side effects. HPRC has just unveiled its Dietary Supplement Classification System to provide this kind of information and help you make informed decisions about a particular supplement. To start exploring this new resource, visit HPRC’s new web pages. If you have a question, contact us via “Ask the Expert.”