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Event-day nutrition strategies to excel

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Get nutrition guidance for a successful endurance event or competition. Learn how to fuel before, during, and after an event for optimal performance.

Whether you’re training for a ruck, doing mission-specific training, or competing in a marathon, you should be confident you have done everything you possibly could to prepare for this day. Hopefully, you have followed good basic guidelines for eating well-balanced meals, and you’ve consumed enough carbohydrates and protein during training, as discussed in “Daily nutrition strategies for endurance.” This second article looks at event-day nutritional strategies and event-specific preparation and follow-up to give you a performance edge. Read more...

The scoop on probiotic and prebiotic foods

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Learn how foods with probiotics and prebiotics might boost your digestive health.

Eating foods with probiotics and prebiotics might aid your digestion, so try to include them in your healthy-eating plan. Probiotics are live microorganisms (such as bacteria) similar to the healthy bacteria that live in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Prebiotics are natural, non-digestible food ingredients that promote the growth of “good” bacteria in your GI tract. Eating foods with prebiotics might improve your digestive health and enhance calcium absorption too.

Some research shows two strains—Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium—seem to offer the greatest benefits. Both can be found in probiotic foods such as kefir, buttermilk, sauerkraut, olives, pickles, miso (a soybean product), kimchi, and some yogurts and cheeses. Eating these foods might help prevent diarrhea caused by antibiotics and infections. They also might provide relief from symptoms associated with constipation, colds, allergies, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Prebiotic foods include bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, and whole grains. Top your yogurt with bananas or add asparagus to your miso soup to boost the mutual benefits of prebiotics and probiotics.

Probiotics can be found in certain dietary supplements and some skin creams too. However, the jury’s still out on whether they’re safe for long-term use, especially for people who have been diagnosed with weakened immune systems. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also hasn’t approved any health claims for probiotics, so check with your healthcare provider about possible risks and side effects.

The greatest benefits from eating foods with probiotics and prebiotics occur when they’re part of a diet that includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat sources of dairy and protein. For more information about probiotics, visit the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health's web page.

Posted 01 May 2017

Daily nutrition strategies for endurance

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Get endurance-athlete nutrition tips to feel more energized and recovered daily; ways to adjust your nutrition for easy verse hard training days.

Many people only think about performance nutrition in terms of what to eat just before or after a competition. However, the effect of nutrition on your training and performance starts long before. Performance nutrition really begins during training, when you consistently fuel your body with the proper amounts and kinds of calories and nutrients. The nutrition information in this article is meant to provide a solid foundation to help you train for sporting events, military operations, training events, or rucks lasting longer than 60 minutes. Read more...

To salt or not to salt?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Diet, Nutrition, Sodium
Learn how to reduce your sodium intake for better health and wellness.

Sodium—found in table salt, kosher salt, and most sea salts—is an essential mineral your body uses to control blood pressure, help your muscles and nerves work properly, and balance fluids. However, it’s important to watch your sodium intake because it can increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.

On average, Americans (ages 1 and older) consume more than 3,400 mg of sodium every day, mostly in the form of salt. But the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults limit their sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day—roughly the amount in one teaspoon of table salt. The Guidelines also recommend that those who are “salt-sensitive”—older adults, African Americans, and people with obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease—limit their sodium intake to about 1,500 mg per day.

Most Americans get more than 75% of their sodium from prepared and processed foods, including tomato sauce, soups, gravies, canned foods, bread, frozen pizzas, snack foods, and salad dressings. Sodium adds flavor and helps preserve prepared foods. It enhances food color and gives it a firmer texture too. Many restaurant foods also are high in sodium, but you can choose low-sodium items when they’re available.

What’s the best way to reduce your sodium intake?

  • Eat whole foods such as fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, lean meats, poultry, fish, unsalted nuts and seeds, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Check the Nutrition Facts panel on all packaged-food labels to compare sodium amounts in foods and drinks.
  • Choose low-sodium, reduced-sodium, or no-salt-added products whenever possible.

Check with your healthcare provider or registered dietitian about whether you need to reduce your salt intake. To learn more about how to reduce sodium in your diet, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web page.

Posted 17 April 2017

Understanding nutrition’s “alphabet soup”

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Getting good nutrition is complicated enough without all the abbreviations you see on labels and in articles. Learn about a few key nutrition-related acronyms and their meanings.

If you’re trying to understand the labels on food packaging or articles about nutrition, you might wonder about some of the terms and abbreviations you come across. The “alphabet soup” of acronyms can be confusing, but this article might help.

Nutrition experts at the Institute of Medicine—or IOM—of the National Academies of Sciences developed the Dietary Reference Intakes, or DRI, based on extensive statistics. The following terms and acronyms are from these guidelines.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of a nutrient is the daily amount that essentially all healthy people need, depending on life stage and gender. For example, the RDAs of some nutrients (such as vitamin C) for a 13-year-old boy are very different from those for a 25-year-old pregnant woman. It isn’t always the same as the Daily Value (DV) you see on food labels, but it’s usually close.

The Adequate Intake (AI) is the adequate daily amounts of a nutrient that healthy people of a particular life stage or gender need. AIs are given when there isn’t enough scientific evidence for a stronger recommendation, that is, an RDA. For example, IOM suggests an AI for one type of omega-3 fatty acids—alpha linoleic acid—of 1.6 grams per day for men and 1.1 grams per day for women because scientists don’t know yet how much is optimal.

Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) are the highest daily amounts of nutrients that you can consume without risk of toxicity. Many vitamins and minerals—even essential ones—can be toxic when consumed in excess. For example, because too much vitamin A can cause liver damage, a UL has been established for this essential nutrient.

You generally can meet all your daily nutrient intake goals (RDAs and AIs) by following a healthy diet that includes lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. So try to remember to get your RDAs and AIs every day, but don’t exceed the ULs!

Updated 10 April 2017

How to gauge food portion sizes

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Keeping portion sizes in check is key to managing your weight. Learn how to use your hand as a guide.

One of the most important things you can do to achieve and maintain a healthy weight is to become aware of “portion sizes.” That refers to the actual amount of food you eat at a single time. It isn’t necessarily the same as the “serving size” that you see on a food label, but especially if you’re trying to lose weight, you might want to compare. In any case, it isn’t always practical to use a measuring cup when you’re dishing up a plate of food or spreading peanut butter on your toast.

A more realistic way to gauge your portion sizes is to “eyeball” them—that is, to visually compare your food portions to a familiar frame of reference. The graphic below uses your hand as your guide to keep portion sizes in check. Of course, your hand might be larger or smaller than someone else’s, but your hand size generally equates to your body size and, as a result, your portion needs. What’s more, it’s one measuring device you’ll always have on hand.

Your handy guide to portion sizes: Your fist about equals a one-cup serving of milk or raw vegetables. Your thumb about equals one 2-tablespoon serving of peanut butter or salad dressing. Your cupped palm about equals one half-cup serving of cooked fruit, vegetables, beans, or starch. Your thumbnail about equals a one-teaspoon serving of butter or margarine. And your open palm about equals one 3-ounce serving of cooked meat, fish, or poultry.

Try the African Heritage Diet

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Diet, Nutrition
The African Heritage Diet pyramid is an eating guide based on the healthy food traditions of Americans and Caribbean people with African roots. Learn more.

Enjoy a flavorful diet, feel healthier, boost your performance, and lower health risks with the “African Heritage Diet.” The ancestors of African Americans brought wonderful food traditions to America, but many of these traditions have been lost over time. And health has suffered as ways of eating have changed.

African Americans struggle with high rates of obesity, putting them at a disproportionally higher risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and certain cancers. The good news is you can improve your health and performance by including the African Heritage Diet principles in your healthy eating plan—whether or not you’re African American. Keep reading to learn more about this diet. Read more...

Perk up your day with oatmeal

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Oatmeal is a heart-healthy food that can be enjoyed any time of day. Try these deliciously easy recipes.

Oatmeal is a comfort food that can be prepared in a variety of ways. It contains soluble fiber, which can help lower your blood cholesterol, keep you fuller longer, and boost your performance.

Choose steel-cut oats (regular or quick-cooking), which provide a nutty texture, or rolled oats, which are available in a variety of thicknesses: regular or old-fashioned (thickest), quick-cooking (thinner), and instant (thinnest). There really isn’t much of a difference in cooking times, so choose whichever texture you prefer. And limit instant varieties, which can pack large amounts of sodium and sugar. Read more...

SuperTrack nutrition for fitness

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Learn how keeping an online food diary can help you stay motivated and on track to getting in shape.

One of the best ways to start losing weight or just improve your nutrition overall is to keep track of what you eat and drink every day. You probably have seen all the advice about eating well-balanced meals—from the amounts you should put on your plate at meals to the recommended amounts of essential nutrients you need every day. But how do you raise your awareness about what you eat and drink? And how can you keep track of whether you’re meeting your nutrition goals?

Try keeping a food diary. There are lots of online resources and apps to help you do this, but one worth exploring is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) SuperTracker. It actually offers several tools to help you track your diet, get nutritional information on more than 8,000 foods, manage your weight, track your physical activities, access a “virtual coach” to meet your goals, and more. You can create a personal profile to save your information and develop a personal plan, or you can use the “general plan” for one-time use.

If you’re looking for more detail about the nutritional content of what you eat and drink, check out the USDA Food Composition Databases. This website contains detailed nutrient information for more than 180,000 branded and generic food products. Need to get more of certain nutrients in your diet? More vitamin B-12? Or more protein? There’s a search engine to help you find what foods provide the ones you’re looking for. You can even specify what type food or which meals you’d like information about.

Help your partner lose weight

Learn how to help your loved one lose weight as he or she goes through the “Stages of Change.”

If you’re concerned about your partner’s weight but she or he doesn’t seem worried, there are things you can do to create a healthy eating environment at home. Pushing or pressuring your loved one won’t work and might make things worse.

Instead, consider where your partner is in the “Stages of Change.” These are the stages one goes through on his or her journey to making a behavior change. Keep in mind that he or she has to be the one to initiate the change. Read more...

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