Filed under: Performance
Before you reach for a cold one, consider that drinking alcohol before, during, or after exercise can be detrimental to your performance, especially when consumed in excess. The effect of alcohol on skeletal muscles has been found to decrease strength output and can cause muscle cramps, pain, and loss of proprioception. Alcohol can also negatively affect your metabolism during exercise and contribute to dehydration. There is a shortage of data on the effects of alcohol on a recovering athlete, but some studies have shown that alcohol slows the recovery process by impacting muscle growth and repair systems. While current research has shown that alcohol in moderation can have other health benefits, it may be better to save that drink for when your physical performance is not on the line. There is also a growing body of research investigating the effects of combining alcohol with energy drinks. Many energy drinks contain substances and supplements that can interfere with normal alcohol metabolism and impair judgment. Be a conscious consumer and know what kinds of ingredients may be risky for your health.
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!
Beginning on November 1st the U.S. Army will bring back the requirement to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test, including weight standards, in order to enroll in professional military education courses. Initially this requirement was waived due to the great demand for soldiers during OIF and OEF. Sgt. Todd McCaffrey states, "Reestablishing the Army physical fitness test and height/weight standards into our professional military education programs reinforces the efforts the Army's senior leaders have been emphasizing on standards based training and education." For information on how to meet these requirements, visit HPRC’s Fighting Weight Strategies, service-specific Physical Fitness Guides, and Policies, Standards, Reports, and Guidelines.
HPRC shows you how to perform three basic breathing exercises in the HPRC Breathing Exercises for Optimized Performance video. Three basic techniques are covered:
- Deep Breathing. Use this method whenever you need to release tension and relax. This is a very effective strategy to de-stress quickly.
- Alternate Nostril Breathing can help stimulate both sides of your brain, which encourages optimal cognitive performance. So if you are feeling mentally fatigued, try this technique.
- Breath of Fire. Commonly used in some yoga practices, fast-paced breathing encourages increased brain activity and can confer feelings of energy in mind and body. Also known as “bellows breath, this is a powerful method to be used carefully according to instructions.
Using any of these strategies in the right situation can provide you with the edge you need to reach optimal performance. Instructions for these techniques are also available in an annotated transcript of the video.
Talking to yourself (called “self-talk”) is a commonly used sports practice that can boost performance by training you to pay attention to the details of an activity or encourage yourself to keep going.
There are two types of self-talk that can help boost performance: instructional and motivational. Visit HPRC’s Performance Strategies on optimizing self-talk to learn more about these types and how they can benefit your performance.
When your body simply refuses to perform a well-learned skill, it’s called “choking.” For Warfighters, the results could be disastrous. Recent research focused on the theory that it involves a disconnection—or loss of focus—between the muscles and the part of the brain responsible for motor skills (for most people, the right side of the brain).
The study tested a small group of athletes to see if better physical performance would result from stimulating the right brain. They found that those who did so—by squeezing a ball with the left hand to stimulate the right brain before a high-pressure situation—performed better than those who squeezed a ball with the right hand or not at all and almost as well as in a low-pressure situation. Although more work is needed to verify the concept, it is something you can try on your own.
Body armor, in addition to necessary equipment and supplies, well exceeds the recommended carrying maximum of 50 pounds. The DoD was asked by Congress to conduct a research project to explore the possibility of lightening body armor without sacrificing protection. Currently, the research shows it does not seem possible to make body armor out of a lighter material while still adequately protecting the individual. However, leaders are taking a more preventative approach to reducing injuries on the battlefield. These include changes in pre-deployment training, as well as an increased number of deployed physical and occupational therapists and improvements in forward-deployed care centers.
“Garbage in, garbage out.” - George Fuechsel, IBM Programmer and Instructor
What you put in your mind and body has an impact on your performance. Surround yourself with positive people who can encourage you to build the motivation you need to maintain high performance during hard times. Replace negative thoughts and conversations with “I can…” statements. Nutrition also has an impact on your performance. Fueling yourself with high-performance foods can help you perform at your best consistently. Like a car, you cannot run on empty nor fuel yourself with empty calories. The Warfighter Nutrition Guide is an excellent resource for information about performance nutrition. For even more information on fueling performance, explore HPRC’s Nutrition domain.
Although the military does not allow women to take part in direct combat, they routinely face the dangers of war. The Pentagon was recently pressed to develop better-fitting body armor for female soldiers, recognizing that men and women have different body shapes. Women have more curves, shorter torsos, and narrower shoulders than most of their male counterparts. The current male-based body armor creates gaps and additional pressure points that leaves service women vulnerable and reduces their performance (aiming a weapon, entering and exiting vehicles, etc).
Engineers are looking to create plates that conform to the female body, similar to the armor worn by TV’s popular Xena: Warrior Princess. There are some concerns regarding weight and protection, but so far the Army has tested eight sizes, with positive feedback from women Warfighters.
Confidence is a central aspect of performance. Confidence comes from a belief in self, coupled with hard work. Surround yourself with confident people whose support can help get you through situations where it may seem impossible to succeed. Likewise, being a confident, positive role model helps bolster the confidence of those around you. Confidence within a group or unit is contagious and can have amazing results when you believe in yourself and those around you.
Tobacco use, especially in the military, is still an important health issue in this country. While the negative effects of tobacco use have been well documented, what you may not know is that there’s also a lot research about what happens when you quit smoking—and the news is good, especially if living longer is something you care about. Scientists have compiled information from these studies and have found that it’s never too late to quit, even if you have been a lifetime smoker. The military is committed to keeping its past and present service members ready and resilient. Check out HPRC’s article “Tobacco in the military: Be a quitter!” Live longer and better. Consider quitting, starting today!