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HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition
Olympic athletes follow a rigorous training schedule with their eyes on the Gold, and what they eat and drink can make a winning difference! Most of them work with sports dietitians to help reach their nutrition goals. However, others can learn from their examples as well:
- Food fuels and nourishes your body to help you perform well. Olympic athletes teach the importance of nutritious fueling every day by including the right balance of foods and beverages for each workout and event.
- Successful Olympians jump-start their days with breakfasts that include protein and carbohydrate-rich foods. This keeps them energized and ready for the next challenge.
- It’s important to keep a healthy relationship with food. Food is more than fuel. Even after eating to meet a specific goal, sometimes it’s still healthy to eat a favorite food just because you’re in the mood. However, some Olympians are at greater risk of eating disorders, especially those who become too focused on body image and develop an unhealthy relationship with food.
- There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to calorie needs. Some endurance athletes take in over 5,000 calories daily. The United States Olympic Committee provides helpful eating guidelines for its athletes.
Remember that the goal for a healthy lifestyle is something greater than Gold: your wellness!
Fun facts: Did you know that the Armed Forces Sports (AFS) program paves the way for service members to compete in national, Olympic, and international athletic competitions?
Let’s cheer on the 16 Armed Forces members participating in Rio’s Olympic Games and those who will compete in the Paralympics next month.
Go team USA!
School still might be out for some, but many teen athletes are already busy with fall sports practices. And knowing what and when to eat and drink can help them be on top of their game. Your teen’s schedule might seem more like a pro athlete’s workout schedule with two-a-days, strength-training programs, and speed training. However, these are often building blocks of teen athletes’ training for sports. Fueling the Adolescent Athlete contains useful information on how they can fuel their bodies before, during, and after practice.
Fueling comes in two forms: what teen athletes eat to provide energy and what they drink to help stay hydrated. Eating nutrient-packed meals and snacks before, after, and even during practices and games is essential for optimal performance. The right balance of carbohydrates and protein work together to fuel and build muscles.
Staying hydrated goes hand in hand with peak performance. It’s often difficult for adolescent athletes to stay hydrated in heat and humidity, but drinking regularly and keeping an eye on their urine color can be helpful.
For more adolescent and family nutrition information, check out HPRC’s Family Nutrition section.
Caffeinated gum is a quick and efficient way for Warfighters to consume caffeine in order to improve physical performance and maintain cognitive capabilities temporarily during situations that demand vigilance. Because the caffeine is absorbed through tissues in the mouth, it enters the bloodstream faster than foods, beverages, and supplements do. In addition to the rapid absorption of caffeine, caffeinated gum offers other benefits such as being lightweight, compact, and providing caffeine in an appropriate amount when needed. However, caffeinated gum might not always be the best choice depending on your situation, needs, and preferences.
On World Hepatitis Day, millions of people help raise awareness about preventing and treating viral hepatitis. The disease—inflammation of the liver caused by virus—results in 1.4 million deaths worldwide each year. Over 5 million Americans are infected with the most common forms: Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. And an estimated 4–17% of veterans don’t know they’re infected. However, unless you or someone you know has the virus, you’re a healthcare provider, or travel internationally, you probably know little about this disease.
Left untreated, hepatitis can damage your liver, a vital organ that filters blood and produces important proteins. Jaundice—yellowing of the skin and eyes—is a major symptom. Other symptoms can include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal issues. It’s harder to diagnose hepatitis because many of these symptoms are common to other ailments too. The good news is that vaccination, early testing, diagnosis, and treatment can help save lives.
Take the necessary steps to prevent hepatitis. Practice safe food handling. Wash your hands well or use an alcohol-based gel sanitizer. Avoid blood-to-blood contact: Don’t share razors or needles. If you decide to get a tattoo or body piercing, make sure the facility uses sterile needles. Check with your doctor about available vaccines too.
If you’ve been diagnosed with hepatitis, then follow a healthy-eating plan to boost your liver health. Work towards achieving and maintaining an ideal body weight. Being overweight is linked to fatty liver, which can put you at higher risk of cirrhosis. Limit alcohol because it also can lead to serious liver disease. Eat a nutritious diet, including plenty of fruits and vegetables. Coffee consumption can lower the risk of liver disease progression and cirrhosis. And it can help improve your response to hepatitis treatment. So, drink it if you like it. And check with your healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplements because some can further damage your liver.
Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) page to learn more about viral hepatitis. Remember to help raise awareness about World Hepatitis Day too. And ask your healthcare provider about getting tested if you suspect you might be infected. Seek treatment early.
Some children go hungry during the summer months, especially those who receive free meals during the school year. Poor nutrition makes them prone to illness and other health issues too. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) aims to fill this nutrition gap—by providing free meals to eligible kids and teens (up to age 18) at summer meal sites—through its Summer Meals Program.
Sites include schools, community centers, libraries, parks, playgrounds, and faith-based centers. Some also offer activities, games, music, and crafts to help kids learn about the benefits of healthy nutrition and physical fitness. Check out USDA’s Summer Meal Site Finder or call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-348-6479 to learn more. Follow the USDA’s Eat Smart to Play Hard recommendations and take the “Family Challenge” to stay healthy too.
- Drink smart to play hard. Avoid sugary drinks and drink water often.
- Try more fruits and vegetables. On “Try-day Fridays,” eat a new fruit or vegetable, or enjoy one prepared in a new way.
- Limit screen time to 2 hours each day. Read books, play board games, or work on art projects instead.
- Move more—at least 60 minutes each day. Go outside for a family walk or hike. Or cool off at a public swimming pool.
Reward your family’s healthy moves with a picnic or visit to a local park. And have fun experiencing new ways to feel your best this summer.
Packing up and heading to a new location can be stressful, even for service members who move often. Get a jump on your planning and use these “food resource” tips to ensure a smooth transition.
- Plan meals. A few weeks before you move, inventory your food. Create weekly meal plans (and choose recipes) to use up what’s on hand, especially those foods you can’t take along.
- Gift excess food. Give condiments and opened foods to a favorite neighbor. Although most unopened foods can go with your household goods, you can donate any excess to a food pantry if you want to save on weight. Some moving companies even offer this as a free service!
- Pack a food box. Choose a clear plastic box and add basics—such as cereal, nut butter, jelly, coffee, and teas—for the first few days in your new home. Include an easy microwave meal such as red beans and instant rice too. And add a coffee pot, utensils, bowls, plates, plastic zip-type bags (in assorted sizes), dish soap, sponge, and a towel for cleanup. Send it in the moving truck or take it with you. Either way, plan accordingly.
- Pack a cooler. Driving to your new location? Bring water, baby carrots, apples, or dried fruit for the car ride.
- Manage overseas or regional moves. Contact your installation's family support office and ask about borrowing kitchenware essentials, especially if you don’t own any or expect them to arrive late. Remember to stock up on your favorite non-perishables—either hard-to-find or unavailable in your new location—and send them along with your household goods.
- Unload and unpack. Make sure you’re properly fueled and hydrated if you’re doing any heavy lifting on move-in day. And forgo any alcohol.
Be prepared for your next hiking or camping trip whether you’re heading out for a few hours or days. A proper plan includes drinking water and safe food practices, guiding your journey to the great outdoors. Remember that your energy and water needs generally will be higher than usual too. So, you’ll want to stay hydrated and fuel up to perform well.
- Hiking. Make sure to hydrate before you take off. Bring water! And drink 1 cup for every hour you’re out throughout the day. Go light with energy-rich foods that can be transported easily and safely. Perishable foods, such as a sandwich or cheese sticks, should be kept cold. Non-perishable favorites include trail mix, nuts, nut butters with wheat tortillas, dried fruits and vegetables, granola bars, and jerkies. Go lighter on multi-day hikes: Bring instant pasta or freeze-dried meals, ready-pouches of fish or meat, apples, and oatmeal.
- Camping. Your meal options increase if you keep perishables cold. For example, prepare and freeze a favorite meal that also can be used as an ice block to help chill meat and dairy items. Bring “hiker foods” along with fresh carrots and potatoes, instant pasta or rice, and canned meats or fish. Breakfast ideas include pancakes or oatmeal and dried fruit. Make sure you have all the camping essentials, including matches, cooking stove or pans, trash bags, and cleaning products for your hands and equipment.
- Food safety. Wash your hands often. Toss any perishable food that sits out longer than one hour in the heat (90°F or higher). If possible, use two coolers: one for perishables (opened less often) and the other for drinks. And bring a food thermometer to test burgers and hot dogs for doneness.
Don’t forget the marshmallows, the perfect ending to a delightful day out!
Many raw fruits and vegetables are tasty, low in calories and fat, and high in fiber. And eating them might help you feel fuller and consume less, which is especially helpful if you’re trying to lose weight. However, some cooked produce can be just as delicious—and even more nutritious.
Many cooked fruits and vegetables (such as tomatoes, corn, spinach, carrots, and asparagus) provide more antioxidants, which protect cells and help your body function properly. For example, cooked tomatoes and asparagus release vitamin-rich lycopene, which can help lower your risk of heart disease and cancer. And cooked spinach provides greater amounts of calcium, iron, and fiber.
However, broccoli is best eaten raw because myrosinase, a valuable enzyme, is damaged during the cooking process. Vitamin C can be lost during cooking too. But you can find it in citrus and other foods. In the warmer months, eating raw produce can save time as well as keep your kitchen cooler since you won’t be cooking! Still, raw fruits and vegetables might be hard to find when you’re on a mission or in a smaller dining facility. So instead, choose from what’s offered—whether it’s dried, canned, frozen, or dehydrated.
Try to include a variety of produce in your meal plan, aiming for 2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups of veggies each day. Choose fruits and vegetables from the rainbow of colors (red, blue/purple, green, yellow, orange, and white) to maximize nutrient intake. Eat both cooked and raw varieties to make sure you’re getting nutrients, antioxidants, and more. For example, eat raw carrot sticks one day and cook them on a different day. And enjoy the benefit of obtaining all that nature intended to provide!
What role does a smoothie play in your meal plan: meal, snack, or post-workout fuel? If it’s a meal-replacement, then choose one that includes dairy, some fruit, and maybe vegetables. Is it a snack? Then go lighter and pick one with fruits, vegetables, and ice. And if you’re replenishing fuel after your workout, then make sure your smoothie includes protein—and choose the protein source wisely.
Make them quickly: Just dump your ingredients into a blender, hit start, and blend to desired consistency. That’s it! They can include any combination of fruits—such as berries, cherries, apples, melons, bananas, and grapes—and vegetables (such as kale, spinach, and cucumbers). Try freezing some ingredients for an icier drink. You also can use frozen bags of smoothie ingredients, saving time and decision-making. But avoid adding juice because it contains little (or no) fiber and extra calories.
There are many protein options too. Milk (dairy or nondairy) and plain (or Greek) yogurt also provide calcium. Nut butters can be flavorful as well. But remember 2 tablespoons add an extra 200 calories.
Choosing ready-to-drink dairy or juice smoothies? Some contain added sugar, and others with mostly apple juice aren’t as nutrient-dense as ones made with other fruits and vegetables. And check the because some bottles contain two (or more) servings. This is especially important because you’ll want to get the proper nutrients without going over your daily calorie needs.
Tip: Try a refreshing blend that includes 1 cup watermelon, ½ cup strawberries, 4 ice cubes, and ½ tsp lemon juice. Make sure to experiment with multiple combinations and flavors, and include more fruits and vegetables! And read HPRC’s FAQ about juicing to learn more.
This Father’s Day, HPRC salutes the many fathers who serve their country, families, and children. Dads play an essential role in families because they teach their kids about being healthy, smart, and kind. And it makes a difference.
So how do fathers teach their kids to become good people? Some dads help their children tune in to their own emotions as well as what others are thinking and feeling. Empathic kids are able to tolerate some degree of anger and guilt. And they use these emotions to look out for themselves and others.
School-age children with involved fathers are more likely to earn better grades and enjoy school. Dads can get more involved by helping their kids with homework and attending school events. Ask your kids about what they’re learning and help foster that curiosity.
Try to volunteer when your schedule allows it too. Coach your child’s sports team or serve as a scout leader. Pick whatever activity he or she enjoys—and your athlete or “mathlete” will shine.
Dads also can help put the fun in family fitness. Organize a bike ride, challenging hike, or fun day at the pool. Fathers with healthy-exercise habits help motivate their kids to be physically fit and active.
Remember to teach your children how to fuel their bodies. Set a good example for your kids to follow. Choose healthy snacks and drinks often because your kids are likely to eat and drink “what Dad’s having.” And ask them to help create your favorite salsa, pancakes, and chili in the kitchen. Make sure to involve the entire family during cleanup too.
Fathers near and far: Thanks for all you do!