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Raspberry ketone—the latest weight-loss craze

Raspberry ketone is a food additive and aromatic compound now being sold as a dietary supplement/ingredient touted to reduce fat and weight. Find out the facts and the science behind it all.

Raspberry ketone, touted to be an effective fat-loss and weight-loss supplement, occurs naturally in various red raspberries. The raspberry ketone in supplements is probably produced in the laboratory, as it would be too expensive to extract it from real raspberries. FDA recognizes that raspberry ketone as a food additive is “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) to consume in small amounts. However, the long-term effects in humans who consume it as a supplement are unknown. For more information, read HPRC’s InfoReveal on “Raspberry ketone.”

What’s the story with deer velvet and IGF-1?

Questions about deer velvet and IGF-1? Are they banned in the military? Read the OPSS FAQs to find out.

Both deer velvet and IGF-1 have been in the news lately, and HPRC has received many questions about what these are and whether they improve athletic performance. Does deer velvet contain IGF-1? Read this OPSS FAQ about deer velvet to find out. To learn what IGF-1 is and whether it is banned in the military, read more in the OPSS FAQ about IGF-1. Be sure to check back often, as we add answers to other questions about ingredients in performance and weight-loss supplements and how to choose supplements safely.

Crazy for coconut oil

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Count on coconut oil for flavor and quick energy, not performance. And consume it in moderation.

Coconut oil has a sweet taste that lends distinct flavor to foods, and it contains several saturated fats—something the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest we eat less of. That is because eating saturated fats has been linked to atherosclerosis (“hardening of the arteries”) and increased risk of heart disease.

Although coconut oil is highly saturated, it has different types of saturated fats. One of these—lauric acid—is regularly touted as having performance benefits. Lauric acid is referred to as a “medium chain fatty acid” (MCFA), and the body processes MCFAs differently than it does “long chain” fatty acids (LCFAs). Importantly, MCFAs are digested more rapidly than long chain fatty acids, so they are quickly absorbed and available as an energy source. Some research suggests MCFAs might help to optimize and maintain glycogen stores, thus extending endurance performance. Not only that, MCFAs are less likely than other fats to be stored as fat—a plus if you’re concerned about weight control. The performance claims surrounding MCFAs and coconut oil have not held up, and claims about their weight loss benefits need more research.

The American College of Sports Medicine and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics joint guidelines for Nutrition and Athletic Performance indicate that MCFAs do not provide any performance benefit. To date, only two studies have shown improvements in performance. On the other hand, MCFAs have been shown to increase the body’s use of “fats” as fuels, reducing food intake, so such products may promote weight loss. There just isn’t enough information available to make any scientific conclusions.

If you choose to eat coconut oil, do so in moderation for its unique flavor and texture, because its health and performance benefits are still open for consideration.

Solid fats vs. oils

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Solid fats vs. oils can make a difference in the overall makeup of a healthy diet, and choosing unsaturated oils can help lower blood cholesterol.

Solid fats are solid at room temperature, come mainly from animal products, and are high in saturated or trans fats. Examples are butter, milk fat, cream, stick margarine, shortening, and beef, chicken, and pork fat. Some saturated fats increase blood cholesterol levels in the body. Oils are liquid at room temperature, and come from many different plants, and are good sources of heart healthy unsaturated fats. Examples are olive oil, canola oil, safflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil, and peanut oil. Coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil are high in saturated fats and are considered solid fats. When using fats, replacing solid fats with unsaturated oils will provide essential nutrients to the diet and help lower blood cholesterol levels. Read about food preparation to promote health for more information.

Caffeine in supplements – how much?

Some of the most popular dietary supplements sold on military bases may give inaccurate—or no—information about caffeine content on their labels.

A Military Times article reports on a recent study of more than 30 of the most popular dietary supplements (in capsule form) sold on military bases analyzed to determine their caffeine content. Of the 20 supplements that listed caffeine as an ingredient on their labels, six did not specify the amount. These same six contained high amounts of caffeine (210-310 mg per serving)—three or more times the amount permitted by law in soft drinks. Five others revealed significantly different amounts—some more, some less—than the quantity stated on the product label.

Consuming too much caffeine can result in health issues. And if you don’t know how much is in the supplement you’re taking, it could be easy to overdo it if you also drink coffee or energy drinks. Visit the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ on caffeine for additional information.

Recovery after exercise—it does a body good

Your workout doesn’t end with the last rep or quarter-mile sprint. Proper recovery after exercise is just as important as the exercise itself to stay fit, healthy, and injury-free.

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.

The cost of eating well

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Be careful how you spend your food dollars. The best “meal deal” can actually be healthy whole foods!

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.

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!

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!

Still too fat to fight

Retired military leaders are taking a stand against childhood obesity as a matter of national security and military readiness.

In the war against childhood obesity, senior military leaders are taking a stand in the name of national security. The retired generals and admirals of “Mission: Readiness” are doing their part to combat childhood obesity by calling on Congress to remove junk food and high-calorie drinks from schools by adopting the Institute of Medicine standards for what can be served in schools, increasing funding for more nutritious meals, and supporting the development of public health interventions. The group is concerned that current school policies and lack of high nutritional standards are leading to unhealthy food choices in the form of vending machine snacks and sugary drinks. As much as 40% of children’s caloric intake occurs at school, so clearly schools have an important role to play. Retired U.S. Army General Johnnie E. Wilson points out that “We need America’s service members to be in excellent physical condition because they have such an important job to do.” The most recent report by the Mission: Readiness organization estimates that 27% of young Americans are still too fat to fight and not healthy enough to serve their country. In an analysis of military standards, being overweight was the leading medical reason for being rejected from the military between 1995 and 2008. While these military leaders may be fighting for your kids, the real battle begins at home. Encourage healthy eating and lifestyle behaviors by staying fit as a family.

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