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HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition

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Control portions to eat fast food healthfully

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Portion control is even more important when it comes to fast food.

It may be hard to avoid the convenience of fast food since it’s inexpensive, tasty, and well...convenient. But with that convenience often comes an overload of calories, fat, and sodium. To avoid these pitfalls, be mindful of your portion sizes.  For more tips on how to make healthier fast food choices, view this guide by Helpguide.org.

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What you eat affects how you sleep.

HPRC Fitness Arena:
If you have trouble sleeping, think about tweaking your diet for a better night's sleep.

Sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, but in general, most healthy adults need at least eight hours of sleep each night to function at their best. Food fuels our way through the day (can give you the necessary energy to pull you through the day), but did you know that food also has an effect on how we sleep? Watch what you eat in the course of a day – particularly in the hours before you go to bed – if you want to optimize your sleep at night. We give you some tips below on the best foods to eat to help you sleep soundly, and those to avoid if you have trouble resting at night.

Foods to avoid before bed:

  • Caffeine: Caffeine can cause sleep disturbances even many hours after drinking it. Some people find there’s a cut-off time for their bodies – caffeine before that time won’t affect their sleep, but anything after, say, 2:00 p.m. can cause problems with their sleep. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, and chocolate, among other foods.
  • Alcohol: Some people think of alcohol as a nightcap to help you sleep better. While it may help you get to sleep faster, it also reduces sleep quality by waking you up later, in the middle of the night. A glass of wine before bed should be fine; several stiff drinks are not.
  • Big or heavy meals: Fatty food takes time to digest and may keep you from getting to sleep. Spicy and acidic foods at night often cause stomach problems and/or heartburn. Try having an earlier dinner and avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of when you’ll be going to bed.
  • Liquids: Caffeinated drinks act as diuretics, resulting in frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom, and drinking too much water or other liquids close to bedtime also increases your trips to the bathroom in the night.
  • Sugar: Anything too sugary, like many desserts or nighttime snacks are, can interfere with your sleep.

    Best foods before bed:

    • Bananas: Bananas contain large amounts of tryptophan, which triggers the release of melatonin and serotonin in our brains, helping us relax.
    • Dairy: Dairy is also a good source of tryptophan, especially combined with some carbohydrates, like oatmeal. A warm glass of milk or a small bowl of oatmeal should help you sleep.
    • Turkey: Another good source of tryptophan. Think of the post-Thanksgiving turkey slump many of us experience! Combined with whole-wheat bread in a small sandwich, this is a recipe for a deep, relaxing sleep.

    Quality sleep is essential to our health. To start sleeping soundly, try some simple modifications to your diet and see if it helps you.

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    Eat well to help get a good night’s sleep!

    HPRC Fitness Arena:
    If you have trouble falling asleep, look at what you're eating to make a difference.

    Did you know that eating right not only helps you stay healthy, but may also help you sleep better? The type of food that you eat has a significant impact on many aspects of health.

    Click here to read more about foods that may help you fight insomnia and get a good night’s sleep.

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    Confused about supplements?

    HPRC Fitness Arena:
    Wandering down the aisle of a store looking for a dietary supplement can be overwhelming and intimidating. The Natural Medicines Database can help.

    Wandering down the aisle of a store looking for a dietary supplement can be overwhelming and intimidating. There are so many to choose from, and we often have to make our choices based on advertising claims and rely on the manufacturers for ingredient information. Does the supplement actually have the ingredients claimed on the label? Will it have the reported effect on our health?

    The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database is the “scientific gold standard” for evidence-based information on dietary supplements and natural medicines, including drug interactions, effectiveness, safety and use, and more. HPRC has partnered with Natural Medicines Database to allow healthcare providers, Warfighters, and military families to search this comprehensive database in order to make informed decisions about dietary supplement use. The Natural Medicines Database also has “Natural MedWATCH,” which allows users to report an adverse event associated with the use of dietary supplements or natural medicines so that they can then forward the report on to the appropriate regulatory agency.

    By going to the HPRC homepage, users can access any of the three database choices provided: Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database for Health Professionals, Consumers, or Natural MedWATCH. After choosing one of the sites, first-time users should sign up for an account, which is done with an active DoD email address. Once inside this vast database, a user can search for an individual natural medicine ingredient of interest or a brand name product.

    The professional version of the database includes:

    • Evidence-based monographs available for individual natural ingredients.
    • Scientific names of ingredients
    • Information on safety, effectiveness, mechanism of action, adverse reactions, interactions, and dosage/administration (which are not necessarily recommended or safe doses) of ingredients
    • Patient handouts
    • Brand-name product searches by ingredient
    • “Natural Product Effectiveness Checker” for medical conditions
    • “Natural Product Drug Interaction Checker” for a list of drugs/natural products interactions
    • Comprehensive information on brand-name products, including ingredient lists and summary reports on effectiveness, interactions, and adverse effects.
    • Up-to-date information for over 60,000 brand name products

    The consumer version, for military families and Warfighters, contains the same research-based information on herbal remedies, dietary supplements and other natural products, but in an easier-to-understand version. An important point consumers should be aware of is that it may be necessary to research each individual ingredient in a product before making a decision to use it for health benefits.

    So, if you want to find credible, evidence-based information on dietary supplements and/or natural products, search the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Evaluating natural health products can be daunting and there is no other comprehensive, reliable site like it to guide you in making your decision.

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    Herbal supplements face new scrutiny

    HPRC Fitness Arena:
    There is a growing trend in the U.S. of consumers using a variety of dietary supplements in hopes of getting healthier, warding off disease and easing symptoms of various conditions. A recent Wall Street Journal article reports that the federal government is stepping up research into the safety and effectiveness of a wide range of products to help consumers make more informed choices about supplements.

    There is a growing trend in the U.S. of consumers using a variety of dietary supplements in hopes of getting healthier, warding off disease and easing symptoms of various conditions.

    In a September 14, 2010 article, The Wall Street Journal reports that the federal government is stepping up research into the safety and effectiveness of a wide range of products to help consumers make more informed choices about supplements. The article in full-text can be accessed here.

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    Check out "Life’s Simple 7"™

    HPRC Fitness Arena:
    An online resource by the American Heart Association lists steps that are crucial to our health.

    The Simple 7™ is an easy way to figure out how to achieve good health. This online resource, provided by the American Heart Association, lists seven steps that are crucial to our health. We list their steps for you below:

    1. Don’t smoke.
    2. Maintain a healthy weight.
    3. Engage in physical activity.
    4. Eat a healthy diet.
    5. Manage your blood pressure.
    6. Take charge of your cholesterol.
    7. Keep your blood glucose at healthy levels.

    With Life’s Simple 7™, you'll find out where you stand, how you're doing, and also get you your own personal heart score and health plan.

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    Make the next potluck a healthy one!

    HPRC Fitness Arena:
    Potlucks can be healthy gatherings, too.

    Instead of asking your friends to bring their usual comfort foods to dinner at your house, suggest that everyone bring a healthy option instead. Place caloric restrictions or assign different people to fruit, vegetable, or meat dishes. This will help get everyone involved in healthier eating habits.

    How do you find reliable health information online?

    HPRC Fitness Arena:
    Searching the internet for reliable health information.

    Despite widespread access to internet-based healthcare information, there’s almost a complete lack of evidence showing any effects all this information may have on health outcomes. According to a study published in Health Expectations, this indicates that there’s a disparity between the health information we find online and our ability to use it properly.

    So, with as much information as there is on the internet, how can we, as consumers, find reputable sources for our health questions? The internet can be a great resource when you want to learn about a specific disease or health condition. You can also find tips on staying healthy. But among the millions of websites that offer health-related information, many present myths and half-truths as if they are facts.

    To avoid unreliable health information when you’re surfing the internet, use these tips to find reliable information:

    1. Keep in mind that anyone can publish anything they want on the internet, regardless of the facts. Ultimately, it’s up to the consumer to determine which information source is credible.
    2. In order to determine a trusted, verified source for credible and objective information, stick with well-respected health websites. A good starting point is healthfinder.gov, which provides a “Health A to Z” topic listing (http://www.healthfinder.gov/HealthAtoZ/ ) of over 1,600 health topics from the most trusted sources.
    3. Newspapers always use more than one source for verifying factual information. The same should hold true for health information. When searching a topic, it’s important to find at least a second reference to confirm your findings. Find a third reference, too, if possible. When several sources report similar information on a topic, it’s more likely to be accurate and up-to-date. In general, if you can't find the information duplicated in more than two or three references, then the information is questionable at best.
    4. Become skilled at separating facts from opinions. This can sometimes be difficult, as the evidence that exists may be minimal. It's important that you know the difference between fact and opinion, especially when you're researching treatment alternatives.
    5. Testimonials and personal stories tend to focus on a patient’s subjective point of view. If you find a website that quotes patients about the effectiveness of a treatment or therapy, this information is biased and cannot be trusted as a reliable source. However, there is information to be learned from the experiences of patients by using other sources (for example, through blogs and wikis, and support group message board forums). In those situations, refer back to point 1 (above) as your first line of review.
    6. Make sure the information you find is the most current available. Often, you will find that research and studies conflict with one another, or that newer information trumps older information.

    Finally, information that you find on a website does not replace your doctor's advice. Your doctor is the best person to answer questions about your personal health. If you read something on the internet that doesn't concur with what your doctor has told you, make a point to speak with him or her about it.

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    New report on protein drinks

    HPRC Fitness Arena:
    Recent surveys of dietary supplement use indicate that about 20 percent of active duty personnel are using some type of protein powder. The percentage of users is likely higher among special operations personnel, and this is of concern, given the July 2010 Consumer Reports® alert on protein drinks.

    Recent surveys of dietary supplement use indicate that about 20 percent of active duty personnel are using some type of protein powder. The percentage of users is likely higher among special operations personnel, and this is of concern, given the July 2010 Consumer Reports® alert on protein drinks. These powder products are typically mixed with milk, water, or another liquid to make a shake and promoted as a sure way to increase muscle mass. The products often come in different flavors, with strawberry and chocolate the mainstays.

    The Consumer Reports® Alert indicated that most of the 15 protein drink products analyzed contained miniscule to concerning amounts of selected contaminants – arsenic, cadmium, lead, and/or mercury – each of which is toxic to various organs in the body. Military personnel commonly use several of the products noted in the report. These include EAS Myoplex Original Rich Dark Chocolate Shakes; Muscle Milk chocolate, vanilla crème, and nutritional shake beverages; MuscleTech Nitro-Tech Hardcore Pro-Series Vanilla Milkshake; selected GNC products, and BSN and Optimum Nutrition whey protein products.

    It is important to note that if three servings of these products were taken per day, consumers could be ingesting amounts of these contaminants in excess of the maximum limits proposed by the United States Pharmacopeia, the authoritative standard for health products. Importantly, toxic effects have been reported from using these products and are of concern because the Food and Drug Administration does not require such products to be tested to confirm the absence of contaminants and other potentially dangerous products before they are sold.

    Take Home Message: A chicken breast, three 8-oz glasses of milk, and three eggs are inexpensive sources of high quality protein, whereas protein powders are expensive sources of uncertain quality, and potentially contaminated, protein. It is both better and cheaper to eat real foods.


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    Supplements alone will not reduce your disease risk

    HPRC Fitness Arena:
    There's no replacement for a healthy lifestyle–a sound diet and regular physical activity.

    Remember, taking dietary supplements alone will not reduce your disease risk. You must engage in complementary behaviors such as healthy eating and regular physical activity. Visit the "Dietary Guidelines for Americans" publication for more information.

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