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
In the military, physical activity is probably part of your daily routine, but do you also have a post-workout strategy? Good recovery is just as important as the workout itself. “Recovery” can mean what you do—or don’t do—right after exercise. It also can mean taking a day off from working out altogether. Either way, it’s a critical component of your overall fitness program that can help prevent injuries.
First, it’s important to rehydrate and refuel after exercise to replace the fluids and nutrients lost during exercise, heal damaged muscles, and build more muscle. A combination of protein and carbs are the key for recovery. Some suggestions for post-exercise snacks are:
- Low-fat yogurt with fruit
- Trail mix
- Turkey wrap
- PB&J sandwich
- Chocolate milk (For more information about chocolate milk as a recovery snack, see HPRC’s Healthy Tip.)
Sometimes, after a particularly hard workout, you need a day of rest with no exercise. Listen to your body. If you have some lingering aches and pains that could worsen with exercise, take a day off. Sleep and rest are also important for proper recovery, staying fit and healthy, and achieving overall readiness and resilience. Make sure you get all the important components of your exercise routine in order to achieve peak fitness and keep injuries at bay.
What’s a top health complaint by service members and their beneficiaries? Pain. Pain has a huge impact on performance and can lead to loss of workdays, function, and quality of life. Pain affects not only the individual experiencing it, but also his or her family. In August 2012 the Navy Comprehensive Pain Management Program (NCPMP) had a brainstorming meeting to discuss the best ways to treat pain and improve access to various pain treatments for Sailors, Marines, and their beneficiaries. The results?
- Both Warfighters and beneficiaries will have access to pain treatments.
- The Navy will use alternative methods to treat pain, including non-medication treatments.
- Individuals will see multiple healthcare providers as needed to treat pain effectively.
- The focus will be to improve quality of life and reduce pain as much as possible.
For more information, read "Chronic Pain Management to Benefit the Beneficiary" as well as NCPMP's 2011 summary presentation.
And stay tuned for more—HPRC will be adding a new website section on pain management.
The Air Force is conducting a study on the use of energy drinks among active-duty Air Force personnel and civilians. According to the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), Monster Energy was the top-selling cold beverage last year in the AAFES worldwide, and due to continuing concerns about the effects of energy drink consumption, the Air Force has started its own survey that targets 12 bases in Europe and the U.S. For the complete story, read the article in Stars and Stripes.
Do you think nutritious foods are expensive? Think again. A cost-per-calorie comparison of the prices of fat- and sugar-laden convenience foods to the prices of nutritious whole foods showed the convenience foods coming up short.
A study conducted in a low-income area of Baltimore, Maryland, revealed that a diet based primarily on convenience foods from fast-food restaurants cost 24% more than a diet based on whole foods purchased in a grocery store. Of course, prices vary between seasons and geographic locations, but the message was clear: Don’t be fooled by “dollar menus” and “meal deals.”
Here are some more tips to stretch your food dollars:
- Meats: Buy lean cuts of meat, poultry, and fish on sale and freeze for later use. (Use freezer wrap for long-term storage.)
- Fruits and vegetables: Not only are fruits and vegetables less expensive when they are in season, the ones in season are freshest and have the best flavor. Take advantage of lower prices on apples in autumn, kale in winter, peas in spring, and strawberries in summer, for example.
- Processed foods: Cereal, low-fat pasta sauces, and other slightly processed foods can be healthful choices, but name brands can be expensive. Store brands are often excellent quality and typically cost less.
- Snacks and beverages: Opt for inexpensive (and healthy) snack choices such as popcorn, dried fruit, or peanuts. Milk and juice provide needed nutrients without the “empty” calories found in sodas and beer.
- Coupons, coupons, coupons: They’re like free money.
With a little time and planning you can provide your family with healthy, nutritious meals and save money.
Fort Drum recently opened a “Mountain Functional Fitness Facility.” In keeping with the goal of overall combat fitness, the facility’s purpose is to help soldiers become strong and agile for combat while deployed in both cold conditions and rough terrain such as rugged mountainous environments.
“Functional fitness” focuses on developing specific muscle movements and overall athleticism rather than building up specific muscles. This new center features state-of-the-art equipment and the mission of helping soldiers become conditioned to operate in realistic situations where both strength and agility training are mission critical. Check out this report in Business Insider for additional photos.
A number of relaxation beverages have been introduced into the market and are now available to consumers of any age from convenience stores, college campuses, and online vendors. There are recent reports of negative side effects in children and teens from the consumption of these drinks. There are two significant issues with relaxation drinks: First, some of their ingredients, particularly melatonin, have not gone through the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) process required for all food ingredients to be designated as safe or “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). Second, other ingredients such as valerian and caffeine do not have established serving sizes or doses for this type of use. An additional concern is that it is unknown how ingredients might interact. Parents should be concerned about this.
It also may be hard to tell the difference between these drinks and those that have been recognized as safe because their bottles and labels are sometimes similar. A typical consumer may not realize which drinks contain ingredients that might have negative effects. Therefore it’s important to be aware what is in these drinks and to read all labels carefully. Many of these drinks have warnings on their labels that they are not intended for children. For more information about relaxation drinks, their ingredients, and their effects, check out HPRC’s article. Also, visit OPSS (Operation Supplement Safety) for more information about dietary supplement safety and specific ingredients.
Remember, there’s no magic beverage for relaxing or reducing stress. Instead, address those issues in order to get to the bottom of the stress you or your teen might be experiencing. There are strategies that you or your child can use to relax and de-stress in a healthy way. For even more ideas, visit the stress control section of HPRC’s website.
When you’re in pain, any relief is welcome. The good news is that researchers have found pain can be managed and alleviated, to a degree, by employing strategies that have you put your focus elsewhere. Meditation is one such strategy. A recent small study examined the experience of pain from fourteen experienced meditators and fourteen inexperienced participants. It turns out that the old adage is true: Practice makes perfect. The experienced meditators experienced pain to a lesser degree and got used to the pain more quickly. They also registered less anxiety than the unpracticed participants. The message? Practicing meditation regularly may improve how your brain handles pain.
And tune in again later for HPRC’s new section in Total Force Fitness on pain management—coming soon.
With the holidays upon us, the number of problems that you have to solve might be kicking up a notch or two. A Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs initiative, Moving Forward, has a website that gives you tools for “overcoming life’s challenges.” As you encounter challenges this holiday season, give their module a test run—it takes you through a step-by-step process for solving problems. They suggest:
- Define the problem and set goals
- Come up with alternative solutions.
- Pick one solution
- Put your solution into action and analyze the outcome.
HPRC’s website also has useful information on stress management.
As winter approaches here in the northern hemisphere, staying active requires more planning to be safe and comfortable. Here are some tips for exercising in cold weather conditions:
- Since medical conditions such as Raynaud’s, cardiovascular disease, and asthma can be exacerbated by climate changes, be sure to check with your doctor before exercising in the cold.
- Check out these tips from the Mayo Clinic, which include dressing in layers that include a synthetic material such as polyester or polypropylene close to the skin (avoid cotton, since it soaks up the sweat!) and paying close attention to your extremities, especially your fingers and toes, since the circulation to these areas decreases in cold weather.
- The American College of Sports Medicine also has a Position Stand on preventing cold-weather injuries during exercise that emphasizes being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite, as well as monitoring wind-chill temperature. The signs and symptoms of hypothermia can vary, but in general watch for feeling cold, shivering, apathy, and social withdrawal. Also watch for the early stages of frostbite (which precede the deep frostbite that can cause major tissue damage) in which you’ll feel burning, numbness, tingling, itching, or cold sensations.
If you pay attention to these guidelines, you can continue to stay fit all winter long.
Love may be the most important part of choosing a partner—but do you also think about friendship? Couples who both love AND cultivate a friendship with each other have happier and more stable relationships over the long run—and people in happier relationships tend to be healthier. That makes friendship with your significant other one more factor in a Warfighter’s total fitness package.
If you’re wondering how to cultivate a friendship with your partner, try starting up a conversation around topics like these that will bring you closer:
- What is it about yourself that you’re most proud of?
- What would you like to see happen for us in the next five years?
- Who are your best friends at this point in your life?
- What attracted you to me when we first met?
In other words, you can build a friendship together by talking about your experiences, wants, and dreams. For more tips on building or maintaining a strong relationship, check out HPRC's Answer on how to optimize your relationships.