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Compression garments: Do they work?

Compression socks, sleeves, and other garments are popular among athletes, but do they actually increase performance and decrease recovery times?

Compression garments come in a variety of sleeves, socks, shorts, and full-body suits. The amount of pressure, or compression, they provide depends on the type and size of the garment. Compression garments help push blood toward your heart and prevent it from “pooling” or collecting in the compressed areas. Compression sleeves also are used in clinical settings for those with lymphedema, where blood circulation is poor, or to prevent blood clots.

But can they increase your performance and decrease your recovery times? Compression garments have been shown to help blood flow to working muscles during exercise, but that necessarily doesn’t translate to better performance. Most studies look at compression socks during running, and most evidence suggests no difference in athletes’ performance levels during runs when compared to those not wearing compression socks. In addition, there’s no decrease in recovery time or blood-lactate levels.

Still, those wearing compression socks report “feeling better” and “less tiredness” in their legs during their runs. They also feel less sore following the exercise bout. And while there might not be an actual benefit of wearing compression gear, if you feel better wearing it—either during or after exercise—then keep doing what works!

Creatine supplements

Can creatine help you perform better?

Creatine supplements are popular among athletes and Warfighters trying to enhance their strength and muscle size. Unlike many other supplements, there is considerable evidence that taking creatine supplements might result in greater gains in body mass and strength when combined with resistance training. However, not all athletes or Warfighters will experience the same benefits from consuming creatine supplements, especially those focused on endurance training. And although there are few safety concerns associated with creatine, it’s still important to use it under the guidance of a healthcare provider. Read more...

EPOC-alypse, now!

Some exercise programs claim their workouts give you “afterburn.” But does your body continue to burn calories after exercise?

Have you ever raced to the top of a long flight of stairs and found yourself gasping for breath just minutes later? Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), also known as “afterburn,” occurs after strenuous exercise as a way to bring your body back to its normal metabolic rate. It takes time for your body to replenish the oxygen used up during exercise, and during this time you continue to burn calories as a result of your elevated metabolism.

You might have experienced EPOC after completing a tough workout, remaining hot and sweaty even 20–30 minutes later. The good news is that it doesn’t take a long workout to achieve that afterburn. Still, it means your workouts need to be more intense. Rounds of short bursts of high-intensity exercise—such as cardio or resistance training—followed by a period of low-intensity exercise or rest is the best way to achieve afterburn. This style of intermittent high-intensity exercise can burn more fat, improve glucose tolerance, and even increase your aerobic fitness. Many commercial programs and gyms claim their workouts will increase EPOC, but this isn’t “new science.” And you don’t have to pay extra money to achieve the same results.

Split your cardio workout into two shorter sessions of higher intensity to accomplish a longer afterburn. For example, if you usually cycle for 50 minutes after work, do two 25-minute rides instead: one before work and one after work. Or replace your normal resistance training with supersets: Pair 2 exercises of opposing muscle groups and complete them back-to-back with minimal rest. For example, combine pull-ups with pushups into one superset, completing 8–12 repetitions of each exercise for 3–5 sets. You also can do a full-body workout by combining 3–4 different supersets. Remember to maintain proper form because it reduces your risk of injury too.

Set and attain team goals

Warfighters know it’s important that their units/groups stick together. Find out how cooperating with others and setting team goals help achieve team success.

Team goals matter—whether you’re serving your unit, making decisions as a family, or coaching sports. There are a lot of factors that can lead to your group’s success or failure too. Your group’s cohesiveness—or ability to remain united while pursuing your objectives—can make all the difference as your team works to achieve its goals.

Cohesiveness has other advantages too: Those who get along socially or work well together benefit from improved job satisfaction and overall well-being. Here are some tips to help build and maintain team/unit cohesion.

  • When you’re in charge, be sure to set clear, achievable goals for the whole group. And encourage teammates to set their own goals too.
  • Communicate clearly: Give clear expectations for roles, performance, and deadlines—and offer praise.
  • Minimize conflict and build trust by showing interest and concern for each other.
  • Value connections within the team as well as between units and organizations.
  • Focus on your group’s strengths, not just its problems and challenges.
  • Build resilience at individual and group levels.

Sometimes personal goals interfere with the group’s success, causing its performance to suffer. When individuals set goals that contribute to the group’s overall purpose, bigger successes follow. Make sure your personal goals fit into the “bigger picture” of your team’s success.

Setting team goals is even more important for leaders. Teammates often take cues from their leader, whether he or she is a commanding officer, parent, or coach. Effective leaders—especially those who focus on the group’s mission—help their groups define clear aims and set important personal goals as well.

Set your own goals to help your team succeed. And when you’re in charge, share your “big picture” goals with the group! 

Can Olympians motivate your eating?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Many of us will be glued to our TVs, watching the Olympic Games over the next several days. What can we learn about nourishing our bodies from these elite athletes?

Olympic athletes follow a rigorous training schedule with their eyes on the Gold, and what they eat and drink can make a winning difference! Most of them work with sports dietitians to help reach their nutrition goals. However, others can learn from their examples as well:

  • Food fuels and nourishes your body to help you perform well. Olympic athletes teach the importance of nutritious fueling every day by including the right balance of foods and beverages for each workout and event.
  • Successful Olympians jump-start their days with breakfasts that include protein and carbohydrate-rich foods. This keeps them energized and ready for the next challenge.
  • It’s important to keep a healthy relationship with food. Food is more than fuel. Even after eating to meet a specific goal, sometimes it’s still healthy to eat a favorite food just because you’re in the mood. However, some Olympians are at greater risk of eating disorders, especially those who become too focused on body image and develop an unhealthy relationship with food.
  • There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to calorie needs. Some endurance athletes take in over 5,000 calories daily. The United States Olympic Committee provides helpful eating guidelines for its athletes.

Remember that the goal for a healthy lifestyle is something greater than Gold: your wellness!

Fun facts: Did you know that the Armed Forces Sports (AFS) program paves the way for service members to compete in national, Olympic, and international athletic competitions?

Let’s cheer on the 16 Armed Forces members participating in Rio’s Olympic Games and those who will compete in the Paralympics next month.

Go team USA!

Fueling your adolescent athlete

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Heat, humidity, and tough workouts can all be a part of your adolescent’s sports training program. Learn how proper nutrition and hydration help them play well.

School still might be out for some, but many teen athletes are already busy with fall sports practices. And knowing what and when to eat and drink can help them be on top of their game. Your teen’s schedule might seem more like a pro athlete’s workout schedule with two-a-days, strength-training programs, and speed training. However, these are often building blocks of teen athletes’ training for sports. Fueling the Adolescent Athlete contains useful information on how they can fuel their bodies before, during, and after practice.

Fueling comes in two forms: what teen athletes eat to provide energy and what they drink to help stay hydrated. Eating nutrient-packed meals and snacks before, after, and even during practices and games is essential for optimal performance. The right balance of carbohydrates and protein work together to fuel and build muscles.

Staying hydrated goes hand in hand with peak performance. It’s often difficult for adolescent athletes to stay hydrated in heat and humidity, but drinking regularly and keeping an eye on their urine color can be helpful.

For more adolescent and family nutrition information, check out HPRC’s Family Nutrition section.

CHAMP hosts workshop on steroids

A recent workshop on appearance- and performance-enhancing substances emphasizes that anabolic steroid use is a major health problem.

The Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP) hosted a workshop last week (July 21, 2016) on appearance- and performance-enhancing substances. Subject-matter experts from Harvard University, the University of Missouri, and the Department of Defense spoke about androgenic anabolic steroids (AAS) and how the use of AAS has emerged as a major public-health problem, particularly among young male weightlifters. The exact number of military members using AAS is not known, but there is known use, and it might be higher than expected. The panel discussed the impact of AAS on military readiness—potential risks and potential benefits—and the need for more research in this area.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has some good resources on AAS, particularly their short- and long-term effects. And for information about other performance-enhancing substances, please visit Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS)

PFT/PRT prep—Part 3: Mobility

Mobility, stability, and flexibility go hand in hand when translating your PFT/PRT training into performance. Training for each requires different but complementary approaches.

This is the third and final article in HPRC’s series about training for Physical Fitness (PFT) and Physical Readiness Tests (PRT). The last basic component involves keeping your body fit for movement, especially your joints and the surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments. For coordinated and efficient movements, you need give-and-take between the mobility and stability of these parts.

Preventing injuries also requires mobility and stability of your musculoskeletal system. To improve and maintain your mobility, you need to incorporate stretching into your regular training regimen, along with your aerobic and muscular-strength exercises. The addition of muscular-strength exercises to flexibility exercises addresses your joint-stability needs. Read more...

Ketogenic diet and performance enhancement

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
What’s a ketogenic diet? Can it really help you perform better?

A ketogenic diet (KD) is one that’s very high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbohydrates. Traditionally, KDs have been used to help treat children with epilepsy (seizure disorder), but over the past few years they have gained popularity in the athletic community for purported performance-enhancing effects. At this time, the scientific evidence does not support the use of KDs to improve performance; in some cases, it can even decrease performance. It also can be difficult to maintain a ketogenic diet due to its extreme dietary constrictions, which come with potential negative side effects. Read more...

The need for speed workouts

Looking to improve your 2-mile time or set a new 5K personal record (PR)? Learn how to train smarter and faster.

“Long slow-distance runs,” the coaching phrase goes, “make long slow-distance runners.” A leisurely long run isn’t bad for you—it just means that if you want to run faster, you have to train faster. Mix it up instead and incorporate speed workouts into your runs: interval, tempo, and fartlek.

Always include a warm-up and cooldown with your workout. Limit speed workouts to twice a week and get enough rest and recovery in between. Actively rest by going on a lighter run or bike ride, or even doing some yoga. Learn more about how speed workouts can ramp up your performance. Read more...

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