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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.

Aviation and hypoxia

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Aviation, Flight, Hypoxia
Hypoxia in aviation is a real threat. Learn the signs and symptoms to recognize it.

Hypoxia, or insufficient oxygen supply to the body, is a stress factor associated with high altitude in aviation. It’s caused by low oxygen levels and decreases in partial pressure. Flight above 10,000 feet is dangerous and restricted without supplemental oxygen, and even the best oxygen and pressurization systems fail sometimes. Above 10,000 feet, an aviator’s “Time of Useful Consciousness” (TUC) begins; this means that you’re going to start having problems focusing, reacting, and making decisions. At 15,000 feet your TUC is around 30 minutes, at which point you’re more likely to be unconscious than not. At 22,000 feet it’s only 5–10 minutes, and by 28,000 feet it can be as fast as 3 minutes! Look out for these signs (what you can see in somebody else) and symptoms (what you can notice in your own body):

  • Cyanosis (bluing of the fingertips or lips)
  • Headache
  • Decreased reaction time
  • Impaired judgment
  • Unexplained happiness/euphoria
  • Visual impairment
  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheaded or dizzy sensation
  • Tingling in fingers and toes
  • Numbness

If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, remember to find the emergency oxygen, use it, and land safely!

Get good: Practice like you mean it.

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Emotions, Mind, Practice
There’s no easy path to becoming skilled in work or play. You need deliberate practice to consistently perform your best.

To be good at something, you can’t avoid hard work. It often requires 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” to become an expert in a profession, sport, game, or other skill. You can’t just go through the motions of practice sessions. You need to engage in “deliberate practice” in which you’re highly focused on mastering specific skills in complex conditions.

The most impressive performances require talent, but even the most talented people have to deliberately train skills to reach the highest level of capability and performance and then to maintain that level.

To develop and maintain your own talent, try the following:

  • Train your body, mind, and emotions with specific skills that are most related to what you want to achieve.
  • Have a sense that “I can do this.”
  • Cultivate the ability to cope with the emotions of disappointments and setbacks along the way.
  • Listen to feedback from others (a commanding officer, coach, or mentor) and put it into practice.

The video below (source) shows one example of where deliberate practice matters. Doctors who deal with a “Code Blue” heart failure situation hope for the best, but they consistently (and deliberately) prepare for the worst.

Father’s Day

HPRC Fitness Arena: Family & Relationships
A special thanks to fathers everywhere on this occasion. HPRC acknowledges your unique contributions.

HPRC salutes Father’s Day with special recognition of the many fathers out there who honorably serve their country, their families, their children, and themselves. Thanks for all you do! HPRC’s work helps to keep all men—current fathers, future fathers, and sons of fathers—healthy, happy, and fit so that every day can feel like Father’s Day!

Decompression sickness

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment
Decompression sickness can happen at altitude with loss of pressure. Know the symptoms.

Decompression sickness (DCS), also known as “the bends,” is well known to occur in divers. However, it also can occur in aviation, especially when there is a sudden or unexpected loss of cabin pressure above 18,000 feet. DCS occurs when the dissolved gases inside the body come out of solution to form bubbles. As these bubbles move throughout the body, problems occur. There are different types of DCS, but here are some common symptoms to be aware of:

  • Localized or deep pain in the large joints
  • Itching or the sensation of insects crawling on your skin
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Dizziness
  • Visual abnormalities
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of balance or vertigo
  • Dry, persistent cough

If you suspect DCS, first land safely as soon as you can. Treatment may involve breathing oxygen or time in a hyperbaric chamber. If you ever experience these symptoms after a loss of pressurization above 18,000 feet, contact your doctor or emergency room as soon as possible and report your recent exposure.

Got (chocolate) milk?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
It’s important to replenish your body after working out. Chocolate milk provides essential nutrients and is inexpensive, easy to find, and tasty.

Need a great post-workout beverage? Try drinking a glass of chocolate milk within 45 minutes after exercise to replenish glycogen stores and repair muscles.

Why chocolate milk? One 8-ounce glass of chocolate milk provides about 200 calories and the right ratio of carbohydrate to protein. It also provides electrolytes such as potassium and sodium, along with essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D and calcium in an easily digestible liquid form. And even better, it’s inexpensive, readily available, and tastes good! But be sure to choose heart-healthy low-fat versions.

For those who are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy products, or for those who simply prefer a plant-based diet, fortified chocolate soymilk is a great alternative (but note that almond, cashew, and rice milk are not as high in protein).

What are high-risk supplements?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Dietary Supplements
Some dietary supplement products contain problematic ingredients. Find out which ones might pose a health risk.

High-risk dietary supplements are those that may present serious health risks. Many have been found to contain undeclared drug ingredients, steroids, steroid-like ingredients, and/or stimulants, which can have negative and dangerous side effects. Products most commonly “tainted” in this way are those marketed for bodybuilding, performance enhancement, weight loss, sexual enhancement, and diabetes. Such products may also result in a positive drug test. For more information, read the FDA News Release “Tainted products marketed as dietary supplements potentially dangerous.” For more information about urinalysis and drug testing, read HPRC’s “Dietary supplements and drug testing,” which is also available as a PDF infosheet.

In addition, you can visit the OPSS High-Risk Supplement List for information about certain dietary supplements that may pose a health or sport anti-doping risk.

For more Frequently Asked Questions about dietary supplements, visit the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQs.

Separating fact from fiction online

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Education, Nutrition
There are thousands of websites that report on nutrition topics, tips, and trends. Which ones are questionable, and how do you spot the reputable sources?

How do you tell the good from the bad online? The Internet can be a great resource when you want to learn about a health condition or nutrition topic. But some websites provide nutrition-related information backed by sound research, while others base their information on myths and half-truths. HPRC offers some tips on what to avoid and what to look for instead to help you find accurate health and nutrition information on the Internet. Read more here

The foundations of Total Force Fitness

Get back to basics with the foundations of Total Force Fitness: health, resilience, and performance optimization. What are they and how do they go together?

Have you heard the terms “resilience” and “Total Force Fitness,” but you’re not quite sure what they mean or where they fit into the health and performance picture? Read on.

Your health is the foundation. The 2010 article "Why Total Force Fitness?" states, “nothing works without health.” Health is not just physical and not just something to worry about when you’re sick. Health is a combination of physical, mental, spiritual, and social well-being and includes practices that promote wellness in addition to those that help you recover from sickness or injury.

Resilience is next. Resilience is the ability to bounce back—or even better, forward—and thrive after experiencing hardship. It is not the ability to completely withstand hardship but rather the ability to come back from it and grow stronger through the experience.

Next is human performance optimization (HPO). Unlike resilience, which typically requires the experience of hardship, HPO involves performing at your best for whatever goal or mission you have (whether that is your PT test, a combat mission, or raising children). It goes beyond simply resisting challenges; it means functioning at a new optimal level to face new challenges.

Health, resilience, and optimal performance are the foundations of Total Force Fitness, which is defined in the “Physical Fitness” chapter of “Total Force Fitness for the 21st Century” (see link above) as a “state in which the individual, family, and organization can sustain optimal well-being and performance under all conditions.” Being totally fit requires a holistic approach—that is, an approach that doesn’t focus on just one aspect alone such as nutrition or physical fitness, but on multiple domains of fitness. It means attending to your mind (including psychological, behavioral, spiritual, and social components) and your body (including physical, nutritional, medical and environmental components). In order to achieve Total Force Fitness, these factors come together to enhance your resilience and/or performance.

This is where HPRC can help you on your quest for total fitness. By visiting each of our domains—Physical Fitness, Environments, Nutrition, Dietary Supplements, Family & Relationships, and Mind Tactics—you can get evidence-based information on a variety of holistic topics to help you achieve and sustain total fitness. But remember that total fitness is a life-long process that will ebb and flow. And it isn’t just about you; your loved ones are an important piece of the picture, too.

To learn more, check out HPRC’s "What is 'Total Force Fitness'?" and for in-depth information, visit the Total Force Fitness Articles section of HPRC’s website.

The dirt on diatomaceous earth

Diatomaceous earth is promoted as a “cure-all,” but is there any truth behind the claims?

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a powder composed of fossilized algae called “diatoms.” Diatoms are single-celled organisms found in bodies of water, and DE is used commonly for various reasons: 1) a natural insecticide; 2) an anti-caking agent; and 3) a clarifier for wine and beer. However, some people add food grade DE to their food and beverages because DE is a rich source of silicon dioxide. Silicon is a chemical element that occurs naturally as silicon dioxide in many foods, such as whole grains and vegetables.

Proponents of DE suggest that the high silicon dioxide content helps with weight loss, detoxification/cleansing, energy levels, joint pain, teeth and gums, cholesterol and blood pressure, and food absorption. Consumers and some retailers of DE supplements also claim that its abrasive (scratchy/rough) and absorptive properties improve digestive health by ridding the intestines of bacteria and parasites as well as regulating bowel movements.

There is not enough research to support these claims, and the biological role of silicon in humans is uncertain, so there is no recommended intake or DRI (Dietary Reference Intake). According to Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, silicon is safe to consume in amounts commonly found in foods, but insufficient scientific evidence is available for its effectiveness and safety as a dietary supplement.

For more answers to common questions we’ve received about dietary supplements, please visit our Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQs.

Powerful produce

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Less than 7% of men eat the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables. Don’t be that guy! Eat your way to good health with more fruits and vegetables.

Man up and eat your greens! (And your reds, oranges, yellows, purples, and whites). June is Men’s Health month and a good reminder that what you eat matters. What can eating more fruits and veggies do for you?

  • Reduce your risk! Eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables can help reduce your risk of stroke, heart disease, some cancers, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Fill you up. Fiber-filled fruits and vegetables fiber can help lower your risk of obesity.
  • Provide phytochemicals. Vegetables and fruits pack a powerful punch of these chemicals, which may reduce the chance you will experience chronic disease.
  • Pump up your performance. Fruits and veggies contain water, electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates, all essential nutrients for top performance in the gym or on the field.

What’s a great way to ensure you’re eating enough fruits and veggies? At meals, fill half your plate with fruit and/vegetables. Remember that raw, cooked, steamed, chopped, whole, sliced, and diced all count. Eat your way to health by making fruits and vegetables a colorful part of every meal. For more colorful tips, read HPRC’s articles on pink, orange, white, and purple produce.

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