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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

MHS highlights Total Force Fitness

July was the Military Health System’s “Total Fitness Month.” HPRC offers lots of resources to follow up on their recommendations for healthy living.

This past July, the Military Health System focused on promoting Total Force Fitness, giving priority to seven top areas: tobacco-free living, drug-abuse prevention, healthy eating, active living, injury-free and violence-free living, reproductive and sexual health, and mental and emotional well-being. They suggest managing your own health and wellness by making healthy choices between doctor’s visits. For inspirations and ideas that can help, check out HPRC’s ways to:

Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has now been launched to answer many of your questions about Dietary Supplements. Visit the OPSS section of HPRC’s website now to learn more!

Caffeine and performance—limit your intake for best performance.

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Caffeine shouldn't be a replacement for sleep, and too much degrades your physical performance.

Caffeine in moderate doses can boost both physical and cognitive performance. It can help maintain alertness when you are doing long boring activities such as highway driving. It is especially effective for enhancing alertness and mental performance when individuals are sleep deprived. However, if you can, it is better to get the sleep your body needs. The suggested level of intake for enhancing cognitive performance is relatively low—one or two cups of coffee or one or two energy drinks (about 80-200 mg of caffeine). Larger doses can cause side effects (e.g. nervousness, irritability, shakiness, and trouble sleeping). It is very important not to consume large amounts of caffeine before trying to sleep. Blood levels of caffeine peak at about 60 minutes and are maintained for approximately two to three hours. Thus, although each person is different, another dose after four hours may confer additional benefits for activities of long duration or when alertness must be maintained.

The bottom line is, more caffeine will not improve performance—and may actually degrade it due to various negative side effects at higher doses.

Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has now been launched to answer many of your questions about Dietary Supplements. Visit the OPSS section of HPRC’s website now to learn more!

FDA investigating adverse events linked to energy drinks

Reports of adverse events —including five deaths—possibly linked to Monster Energy drinks are under investigation by the FDA.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating five deaths and a non-fatal heart attack that may be linked to Monster Energy drinks. The FDA has pointed out that while the investigation is going on, it does not mean that Monster Energy drinks caused these adverse events, which were reported to the FDA over a span of eight years. Other adverse event reports have been associated with consuming the energy drinks. Read the New York Times article here, as well as this one from NBC News.

Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has now been launched to answer many of your questions about Dietary Supplements. Visit the OPSS section of HPRC’s website now to learn more!

When it comes to performance—you booze, you lose

Going out for a drink to celebrate after a long race or a tough workout may be good for the soul, but it’s bad for performance.

Before you reach for a cold one, consider that drinking alcohol before, during, or after exercise can be detrimental to your performance, especially when consumed in excess. The effect of alcohol on skeletal muscles has been found to decrease strength output and can cause muscle cramps, pain, and loss of proprioception. Alcohol can also negatively affect your metabolism during exercise and contribute to dehydration. There is a shortage of data on the effects of alcohol on a recovering athlete, but some studies have shown that alcohol slows the recovery process by impacting muscle growth and repair systems. While current research has shown that alcohol in moderation can have other health benefits, it may be better to save that drink for when your physical performance is not on the line. There is also a growing body of research investigating the effects of combining alcohol with energy drinks. Many energy drinks contain substances and supplements that can interfere with normal alcohol metabolism and impair judgment. Be a conscious consumer and know what kinds of ingredients may be risky for your health.

Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has now been launched to answer many of your questions about Dietary Supplements. Visit the OPSS section of HPRC’s website now to learn more!

Eat protein-rich foods to save money

If you want to save money while looking for performance nutrition, choose real food over supplements.

Did you know that protein sources such as chicken breast, tuna, and chocolate milk—even at the highest quality and price—cost less than $6 per pound? In contrast, protein supplements (Muscle Milk, whey, soy or casein protein powders, Myoplex, etc.) are usually over $10 a pound. The smart choice seems obvious.

Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has now been launched to answer many of your questions about Dietary Supplements. Visit the OPSS section of HPRC’s website now to learn more!

Energy drinks and adolescents

Energy drink use by adolescents is on the rise, and misuse of these beverages may stem from confusion about using energy drinks for rehydration.

Energy drinks are marketed to improve physical and mental performance, mainly to “boost energy.” Adolescents are getting hold of energy drinks more often, in part due to heavy marketing of sports drinks with athletic superstars, causing adolescents to confuse energy drinks for sports drinks. Energy drinks contain large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants, while sports drinks contain carbohydrates and electrolytes and are intended for use when athletes (including adolescents) are engaged in prolonged, vigorous exercise. Adolescents have already had problems combining energy drinks and alcohol, which has led to risky behavior. The American Academy of Pediatrics has guidelines for the use of energy drinks and sports drinks by adolescents.

Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has now been launched to answer many of your questions about Dietary Supplements. Visit the OPSS section of HPRC’s website now to learn more!

Don’t just listen – show you are listening.

Some tips for "active" and "constructive" listening will improve your communication skills.

Being able to communicate effectively with those around us is a great way not only to enhance our relationships but also to ward off unnecessary stress. When having a conversation with a partner, friend, or coworker, most of us forget to communicate that we’re listening and that we understand what the other person is saying, which, can lead to arguments and/or misunderstandings. Show the other person that you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say— asking questions and showing supportive reactions will help the other person feel understood. The Kansas National Guard has a video that demonstrates four ways of responding, including one that is both active and constructive (the best way!).

U.S. Army reinstates basic fitness requirement to take PME courses

If you want to earn credit for PME courses, first you must pass the APFT and meet weight requirements.

Beginning on November 1st the U.S. Army will bring back the requirement to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test, including weight standards, in order to enroll in professional military education courses. Initially this requirement was waived due to the great demand for soldiers during OIF and OEF. Sgt. Todd McCaffrey states, "Reestablishing the Army physical fitness test and height/weight standards into our professional military education programs reinforces the efforts the Army's senior leaders have been emphasizing on standards based training and education." For information on how to meet these requirements, visit HPRC’s Fighting Weight Strategies, service-specific Physical Fitness Guides, and Policies, Standards, Reports, and Guidelines.

Breathe out stress; breathe in relaxation or energy

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Check out HPRC’s instructional videos on breathing tactics you can use to relax or energize you mind and body!

HPRC shows you how to perform three basic breathing exercises in the HPRC Breathing Exercises for Optimized Performance video. Three basic techniques are covered:

  1. Deep Breathing. Use this method whenever you need to release tension and relax. This is a very effective strategy to de-stress quickly.
  2. Alternate Nostril Breathing can help stimulate both sides of your brain, which encourages optimal cognitive performance. So if you are feeling mentally fatigued, try this technique.
  3. Breath of Fire. Commonly used in some yoga practices, fast-paced breathing encourages increased brain activity and can confer feelings of energy in mind and body. Also known as “bellows breath, this is a powerful method to be used carefully according to instructions.

Using any of these strategies in the right situation can provide you with the edge you need to reach optimal performance. Instructions for these techniques are also available in an annotated transcript of the video.

Keep fit to reduce your risk of breast cancer

Exercise is beneficial for women in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. A new study finds that it’s never too late to start exercising to reduce your risk.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month and Military Health’s Women’s Health Awareness Month. The international pink ribbon symbol represents a community dedicated to awareness and prevention of breast cancer, a disease that mostly affects women. According the National Cancer Institute, there were over 220,000 new diagnoses of breast cancer in 2012 and more than 39,000 related deaths in the U.S. This puts breast cancer as the nation’s second leading cause of death among women (after heart disease).

What can you do to reduce your risk? A new study of more than 3,000 women found that those who exercised 10-19 hours a week during their reproductive years lowered their risk of getting breast cancer after menopause by one third. Women who started exercising after the onset of menopause also lowered their risk by about 30% with 9-17 hours of exercise per week. Researchers concluded that women can reduce their risk for breast cancer through a physically active lifestyle. The link between exercise and breast cancer is not fully understood, and research continues, but if ever you needed a good reason to start exercising or keep exercising, this is a good one. You can learn more about breast cancer and other women’s issues on the Women’s Health page of health.mil.

In conjunction with the DoD campaign, Operation Live Well, HPRC will be highlighting important issues related to both military and family health.

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