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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.

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness

Jump-start your day with breakfast

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Nutrition, Recipes
Eating a healthy breakfast breaks your overnight fast and provides too many benefits to skip—again. Beat the morning rush with these quick meal tips!

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Eating cereal with milk, for example, nourishes your body with potassium, calcium, and vitamin D. Since 50% of all milk is consumed during breakfast, you might fall behind nutritionally if you skip your morning serving.

Studies show that breakfast eaters often weigh less and feel less hungry later in the day than those who skip breakfast. They often have improved concentration, problem-solving abilities, and hand-eye coordination too. If you’re an endurance athlete, fuel up at breakfast for peak performance.

Aim for a well-balanced meal by including any 3 of the following: grains, dairy, protein, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. Read more...

What’s in your supplement safety tool belt?

Filed under: OPSS, Supplements
Not all supplements are dangerous, but are you equipped with the tools to help you determine which ones are?

In the sea of dietary supplements, can you tell which ones are safe to take and which to avoid? Do you often find yourself confused, wondering what you should be looking for in a product? Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has you covered. Here are just some of the tools that OPSS provides to help you choose supplements wisely:

  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). HPRC receives hundreds of questions every year, and we’ve put answers to the most frequently asked questions in this section of OPSS. You’ll find information about banned substances in the military, hot-topic dietary supplement ingredients, and more.
  • OPSS Scorecard. The scorecard consists of just 7 questions to show you what to look for on a product label and help you determine if a product is okay or a “no-go.”
  • OPSS High-Risk Supplement List. With HRSL, you can see if a certain dietary supplement product might pose a health or sport anti-doping risk.
  • Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. NMCD, a partner of HPRC, provides information about the safety and effectiveness of thousands of dietary supplement products and ingredients. And best of all, it’s free to all DoD personnel with a “.mil” email address.

The goal of OPSS is to provide you with the most reliable and relevant information about dietary supplements, but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, send us a question using our Ask the Expert feature.

Military children with special needs

Learning that your child has exceptional needs can be overwhelming at first. Find resources and support to help you along the way.

If you have a child with special needs, the good news is that military families have access to special support and services. When you first learn that your child has exceptional needs, it’s a challenge to sort through: You have to adjust your expectations and lifestyle.

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed, shocked, and perhaps denial initially. Parents of children with special needs often grieve the loss of their initial hopes and dreams for their child too. Physical reactions to the news—such as crying or lack of appetite—are also common.

What can you learn from parents who have “been there”?

  • Support between spouses is essential, especially early in the process. Support from other family members and friends also can help you adapt.
  • Learning about your child’s disability or medical condition and what it means for his or her future health and abilities is important. Stay positive about your child’s future while also being realistic and accepting of his or her possible limitations.
  • Anticipate some changes to your social life. It’s important to maintain old routines, especially if you have other children. But time with your own friends may initially decrease as you focus on your child’s needs. However, be careful not to isolate yourself.

Be aware of your own coping strategies during this stressful time. Coping effectively with this news will enable you be attentive to your child.

Look for support groups and tap into resources with local and national organizations. Explore your Family-to-Family Health Information Center and get connected to other families and support groups. Enroll in the military’s own Exceptional Family Member Program, which will connect you to a coordinator who can help you figure out what programs and services are available to you.

Many parents of children with special needs feel highly satisfied in their parenting role. With the right support and resources in place, you can feel the same way.

Spring allergies? Or just a cold?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
If you have a cold, you need to avoid infecting others. If you have allergies brought on by spring pollen, there are other things you can do to help.

Sneezing, runny nose, watery and/or itchy eyes, and fatigue? Both colds and seasonal allergies make you feel miserable, but you can take steps to avoid or at least take the edge off them. To do so, though, you need to understand which is which. The causes are distinctly different: Colds are caused by viruses, which means they’re contagious. Allergies come from sensitivity to “allergens” such as seasonal pollen, and they’re not contagious.

You can avoid colds through hygiene such as washing your hands thoroughly, especially after touching public surfaces such as handrails. You can avoid “sharing” a cold by covering your mouth or nose when you cough or sneeze or simply by staying home when you’re sick.

To avert seasonal allergies, on the other hand, you must avoid the allergens (mostly airborne) that cause your symptoms. Common allergens in spring include grass and tree pollen. It can be a challenge to exercise and enjoy the outdoors if you have allergies, but it’s not impossible. Here are some tips to help you manage your allergies:

  • Know and avoid your allergy triggers. If you aren’t sure what you’re allergic to, have tests done by a healthcare specialist to help you narrow it down. Your doctor also might suggest an antihistamine, inhaler, or medication to help prevent flare-ups.
  • Check the air quality in your area every day. If the pollen count (app available!) is high, avoid spending too much time outside, mowing the grass, or exercising outdoors.
  • If you must be outside during high-pollen/pollutant times, wear a filter mask to keep particles out of your nose and mouth. If you have to go somewhere, keep your car windows shut.
  • Shower when you come back indoors to wash pollen off your skin, hair, and eyelashes.
  • Rinse out your nose with a saline spray or solution to help wash away allergens after you’ve been outside.

Pull-up: Train above the bar

HPRC recently designed a training program to help you achieve your first pull-up. Check it out!

Since pull-ups are tough and require a lot of strength, HPRC just created a training program to help you meet the challenge. Achieving a pull-up might be easier for some, but more difficult for others, especially women. Other factors such as body fat, arm length, and height can affect your ability to achieve a pull-up too.

But what that means is—with the right training—you can do it! Check out HPRC’s Pull-up Progression Program for exercises aimed at increasing your strength and helping you achieve your first pull-up.

Imported supplement scams

Filed under: OPSS, Supplements
Products labeled as “natural” aren’t always what they seem.

If you buy dietary supplements at international stores, gas stations, or online, watch out. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns consumers about imported dietary supplements and nonprescription drug products, specifically those marketed as “natural.” Just because a product is labeled as “natural” does not necessarily make it safe or effective. In fact, many “natural” products have been found to contain undisclosed chemicals or drugs that can be harmful, and it’s possible that some products contain hidden ingredients that could make you pop hot on a drug test. To learn more, please read FDA’s “Some Imported Dietary Supplements…” Only have a minute? Watch their 60-second video below.

The only way to know if a product actually contains the ingredients listed on the label (and nothing else) is by testing it in a laboratory. Before you buy a dietary supplement, check the label to see if it’s been tested by a third-party organization.

Eat to succeed in your training envIRONment

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Diet, Iron
Want to perform at your best? When you’re not pumping iron in the gym, make sure you’re eating iron-rich foods at mealtime.

Are you including plenty of iron-rich foods in your eating plan? If you tire easily, have trouble concentrating, or experience shortness of breath, you might not be getting enough iron. It’s an essential nutrient that helps carry oxygen throughout your body, and it’s especially important if you engage in daily exercise.

Anyone’s at risk for iron deficiency, so be sure to eat a variety of iron-rich foods. Otherwise, your physical and mental performance could suffer. Check out HPRC’s new postcard on how to eat to succeed in your training envIRONment for more information. If you’re eating well, but still lacking energy, be sure to talk with your doctor.

Can virtual reality relieve post-traumatic stress?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Learn how video-game technology could help veterans overcome post-traumatic stress.

There’s a promising therapy that uses virtual-reality simulation to help treat service members with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to the National Center for PTSD, 10–18% of returning Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) veterans experience PTSD. The good news is that treatments such as virtual-reality exposure therapy (VRET) might help them work through their challenges.

Trained therapists use VRET to re-create stressful events or situations such as combat scenarios in a virtual-reality environment. The patient wears a headset and interactively reacts to possible sights, smells, sounds, and vibrations that have been visually re-created. This makes the experience realistic for the patient as it provides a strong sense of “being there.” Veterans learn to work through emotions such as fear, tension, and anxiety in a safe environment.

Healthcare providers have successfully used virtual-reality simulation as a resilience-training tool too. It helps builds service members’ confidence and coping skills so they feel stronger and ready for what comes next.

Visit the National Center for PTSD to learn more about post-traumatic stress. Here’s what VRET looks like in action.

Add years to your life with strong relationships

Good friends and family do more than make life worth living. These relationships also might help you live longer!

People with good friendships and strong family relationships are likely to live longer than those without social ties. This is true regardless of gender, age, or how healthy you are. Strong relationships matter for your health, just as much as losing weight, getting active, and stopping smoking. To increase your chances of living longer, strengthen your social relationships. How? A good conversation with a friend, taking your mom out to lunch, or getting involved in your community are all ways to improve your connections with those around you. Doing so also can lessen feelings of loneliness and improve your health in the long run. The reverse is also true: People who don’t feel supported by those around them report more health problems. People with weak relationships are at risk for earlier death.

Take an inventory of all of your relationships and consider where improvements can be made. Are you putting in the effort needed to keep these ties strong? Doing so will not only enhance your connections to those around you, it also has the potential to add years to your life. 

What’s your cholesterol score?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Learn how to keep your cholesterol numbers in check and lower your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Since the number one killer of men and women in the U.S. is heart disease, it’s important to know your cholesterol numbers. Cholesterol, an important substance made by your liver, forms cell structures, produces hormones, and helps with digestion. Here are the cholesterol numbers to know:

  • Good, or high-density lipoprotein (HDL), cholesterol helps prevent fat and cholesterol from clogging your arteries. Know your HDL: Think H for healthy! A healthy number is greater than 60 mg/dL.
  • Bad, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL), cholesterol can cause cholesterol buildup and block your arteries. Know your LDL: Think L for lousy! A healthy number is less than 100 mg/dL.
  • Your total cholesterol score should be less than 200 mg/dL.

Starting at age 20, get your cholesterol checked every 5 years. Doctors use these numbers along with your age, blood pressure, and weight to help you manage your cardiac health. Smoking, diabetes, and heredity play important roles too.

There are ways to manage your cholesterol and heart health! Regular physical activity can lower LDL and raise HDL. A diet low in saturated fats can help as well, so make sure to check out the New Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

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