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
Lately, HPRC has been receiving a lot of questions about banned supplements in the military, but the fact is, there isn’t a list of banned dietary supplements currently available. It isn’t always easy to determine whether a dietary supplement product is safe or not, so the Department of Defense (DoD) is working on an educational campaign to inform Warfighters and their families about potential health risks involved with taking dietary supplements and steps to take before choosing/using a dietary supplement. And although DoD currently has no formal policy on the use of dietary supplements, a committee is working to establish such a policy.
Some dietary supplements, including ones sold on military installations, may contain potentially harmful and problematic ingredients. HPRC has put together the resource Red Flags: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe and Avoid Fraud. Of particular note are problematic, potentially dangerous ingredients that could be red flags, including approved prescription drug ingredients and their analogs, drugs banned by the FDA for safety reasons, controlled substances (such as anabolic steroids), and untested/unstudied new active drug ingredients.
You can also learn more on how to make informed decisions about dietary supplements and natural products from the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCD). HPRC has made this available to all active-duty personnel; a “.mil” email address is required to create an account. We encourage consumers of dietary supplements to consider only using products rated eight or above on their rating scale. These are in the green area of the scale and have evidence of safety. Items in the yellow range mean data are lacking, and the red area indicates well-known safety concerns and/or proven ineffectiveness. HPRC makes this user-friendly database readily available through links on its website for both Warfighters and healthcare professionals. Choose the appropriate version and follow the instructions to create an account.
Generally, if a supplement is not banned or recalled by the FDA, FTC, or DEA, then it is not banned by DoD. One way to ensure that a dietary supplement product is safe is to see if it is third-party verified. Third-party certification organizations have developed criteria for evaluating and authenticating the quality of a supplement—the ingredients, the dosage levels, the level of contaminants, the label claims, and whether the manufacturing facilities follow Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). Currently, United States Pharmacopeia (USP) and NSF International conduct safety reviews, and NSF screens for substances banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) or United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Multiple professional sport/athletic organizations—including MLB, NHL, NBA, NFL, and NCAA—currently have policies requesting the use of NSF-certified products only. Shop for products with seals from USP and NSF International.
We encourage you to talk with your healthcare provider or dietitian before using dietary supplements to avoid potential problems. Also, see FDA’s list of tainted body building products, which includes important public notifications.
Optimized performance and mission readiness are compromised by smoking. The list of adverse effects includes increased fatigue, diminished respiratory capacity, poorer night vision, slower wound healing, and even slower reaction times. It’s hard enough trying to optimize performance without adding the other health issues that smoking brings. Try using the resources offered by Quit Tobacco—Make Everyone Proud to get you on a smoke-free path to optimum performance—or to help someone else. Remember, if you can’t do it for yourself, do it for the others who are counting on you to perform at your best.
One Shot One Kill: Want to learn how the elite warrior accomplishes optimal performance time after time, under the most challenging conditions? The HPRC now has new program materials for the One Shot One Kill (OSOK) performance enhancement program online for you to use and download—by yourself or with your unit! One Shot One Kill (Integrative Platform version) is a “warrior-centric” performance enhancement program that warriors can set up and manage on their own. OSOK-IP is designed to enhance performance, hardiness, and resilience. By building on the skills that Warfighters already possess, OSOK aims to translate good Warfighter qualities to outstanding ones. OSOK-IP comes in two versions:
OSOK-IP Solo is a step-by-step integrative training plan, with supplemental materials, that enables the individual Warfighter to pursue this method of Total Fitness on his or her own and reach the optimal level of performance in almost all areas of life.
OSOK-IP Train the Trainer enables your unit to train as a group by selecting one member to learn and present OSOK-IP to the rest of the unit. This section of the website has the full curriculum available to download and even customize OSOK-IP content for your own military culture and unit.
We look forward to your feedback, too. Check out OSOK and let us know what you think!
Recognizing the expanding use of acupuncture within military medicine, the December 2011 issue of Medical Acupuncture is dedicated to exploring the uses of acupuncture in military medical care. Often used as a treatment for pain, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and mild traumatic brain injury, the practice of acupuncture is growing as a medical treatment for a broad range of ailments in the military, even in war zones. Featured articles include a roundtable discussion on challenges and opportunities for using acupuncture, an account of a U.S. Navy doctor’s use of acupuncture downrange, and future directions and applications of acupuncture.
The Military Health System (MHS) has developed a new obesity and nutrition awareness campaign for the Department of Defense (DoD). This campaign will reach all the services to help improve the health and well-being of Warfighters. Menu standards at military dining facilities will be updated, the environment of military facilities will be assessed, and healthier foods will be available in dining facilities and DoD schools. For more detailed information, see the news article and the MHS blog.
Military Pathways presents an “infographic” (a graphic fact sheet) that highlights basic information on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The sheet includes are statistics on PTSD in both the general population and military to help put this syndrome in perspective, as well as possible causes and outcomes of not getting help for PTSD, and identifies prevention and treatment methods that you can use to help avoid or minimize the occurrence and effects of PTSD.
Kettlebells have been used in Europe for years in strength training, and now they’ve become a popular workout tool here in the United States too. The benefit of kettlebells is that they provide the user a wider range of motion than dumbbells do. Kettlebell workouts engage multiple muscle groups at once, making them a great option for getting a whole-body workout in a short time.
Interestingly, the January 26 edition of the New York Times Health Section reported on a Danish study that suggests kettlebell exercises are a promising musculoskeletal therapy for low-grade back and neck pain.
The study involved middle-aged women with low-grade back, shoulder, and neck pain who were randomly assigned to either a regular kettlebell workout or a general-exercise control group. The study did not include those with chronic pain.
According to the Times article, at the end of the study, the group that did the kettlebell exercises reported less pain, as well as improved strength in the trunk and core muscles, compared with the control group. Overall, the study showed exercising with kettlebells reduced lower-back pain by 57% and neck and shoulder pain by 46%.
For those with core-muscle instability or weak core muscles, kettlebells can be a great way to strengthen those muscles (back, abdominal, glutes, quads, hamstrings) and improve posture. However, along with exercise it is imperative to stretch the hamstrings, since this tends to be a major contributor to lower back pain or discomfort.
It’s important to start slow when using kettlebells and seek professional guidance. Like any other exercise equipment, if used improperly, kettlebells can cause serious injury, and their swinging motion can be difficult to control.
Getting in the best shape of your life requires you to push your training regime to the limit. However, without appropriate rest periods and diet, this can lead to serious conditions known as “non-functional overreaching” (NFO) and “overtraining syndrome” (OTS). What occurs is that your performance begins to decline, even though you are training as hard as ever, and you start to feel tired and “stale.” Read HPRC’s Overview “Overtraining—what happens when you do too much” to learn about the serious implications of these conditions for Warfighters.
At the U.S. Army Garrison in Kaiserslautern (Germany), the base is trying to find more ways to include families in physical fitness. They are providing classes— called “Binkies and Babes” —that spouses can do with their babies. These classes are great ways for spouses to workout with their young children, socialize with other military families, and get a great individual workout!
Overseas military families can sometimes find it difficult to both exercise and manage child care. This is one way overseas bases are moving towards Total Family Fitness. Renee Champagne, the Fitness Coordinator for the Army bases in Germany (and a military spouse herself), sees how “working out and staying physically fit may help a spouse cope during a deployment… which in turn could provide peace of mind to the military member downrange.”
For more information, see the article and video on Stars and Stripes.
The scientific jury is still out on whether stretching prior to vigorous activity really helps prevent training-related injuries, but the scales tip in favor of doing some as part of your warm-up, just in case. HPRC has just added an in-depth review of the research literature and now offers information to help you decide the best way for you to incorporate stretching into your own fitness program. Check our our new Question from the Field, “Stretching during warm-up,” which also offers a link to even more detailed information.