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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.

Don’t let supplements send you to the ER

HPRC Fitness Arena: Dietary Supplements
Filed under: Drugs, OPSS, Supplements
Some supplements can have serious adverse effects and lead you to seek medical help. But there are things you can do to stay safe and out of the emergency room.

It is estimated that more than 20,000 Americans go to an emergency room every year for reasons related to dietary supplements such as allergic reactions and adverse events, according to a government study. Adverse events can result from ingredients in dietary supplements themselves or from drug-supplement interactions and can have serious side effects. Among adults, common complaints include chest pain and increased heart rate and are often associated with weight-loss products, energy products, bodybuilding products, and sexual-enhancement products.

Before taking any dietary supplement, talk to your doctor and be an informed consumer. It can prevent a health scare and even could save your life! For more information, please visit Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS), including the OPSS High-Risk Supplement List. And for more information about this study, read this article from MedlinePlus.

SoFAS weighing you down?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition
SoFAS are found in many foods and can increase your risk for disease. Learn how to spot them in foods.

It’s time to get off the SoFAS! No, we don’t mean your couch (but that’s a good idea too). We’re talking about solid fats and added sugars (SoFAS).

Solid fats are solid at room temperature and are found in foods such as butter, cheese, meats, and foods made with these products, such as cookies, pizza, burgers, and fried foods. Solid fats include both saturated and trans fats, which raise “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, increasing your risk for heart disease.

Added sugars can contribute to weight gain and tooth decay. Although some foods such as fruit and milk contain naturally occurring sugars, added sugars are usually found in processed foods such as sodas, sports or energy drinks, candy, and most dessert items. It can be hard to identify added sugars on food labels, but you can learn how to recognize hidden sources of sugar.

Foods containing SoFAS are often high in calories but don’t provide important nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, or fiber. Start cutting back on SoFAS by following a few simple tips:

  • Prepare more meals at home and cook with olive oil instead of butter. Olive oil provides healthy fats that can improve your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk for heart disease.
  • Switch from soda to sparkling water. Sparkling water is free of added sugars, but comes in a variety of flavors, so you’re bound to find one that you like!
  • Trade in chips, dip, and cookies for fruits, veggies, nuts, and hummus or guacamole. Nutrient-packed snacks are generally lower in calories but will keep you going throughout the day.

Remember, this doesn’t mean you can’t eat any foods with SoFAS. Just be aware of what foods contain them, eat them less often, and watch your portion sizes for better health and performance.

Bibliotherapy: Feel better through books

Filed under: Anxiety, Self-help
Reading certain kinds of books can actually improve your mood and anxiety.

Do you know that some self-help books have been scientifically shown to improve mood, reduce anxiety, and change behaviors? “Bibliotherapy” uses books in two ways: First, it can inspire you to reflect on a certain topic, often by identifying with a story’s character. Second, it can give you structured approaches to address specific problems. Bibliotherapy can be useful for self-help, but it’s often most effective when paired with expert guidance or psychotherapy. The approach can target everyday concerns and is effective with adults of all ages, dealing with issues such as depression, anxiety, alcohol abuse, addictions, insomnia, eating disorders, and migraines. Bibliotherapy can also help children and even assist parents to help their children become less anxious.

For structured approaches, the emphasis is often one of the following:

  • Experiencing new ways to think about your situation so you also can explore new emotions and new behaviors.
  • Letting your values guide your behaviors while you tune into and accept whatever difficult emotions you’re facing.
  • Recognizing how you usually relate to other people and making thoughtful choices about how you want to relate to others moving forward.

If you decide to use the self-help approach without a therapist, it’s likely to be most helpful if you’re already feeling motivated and energized to invite change into your life. Bibliotherapy can educate and empower you or your family, boost your awareness, and enable you to make self-directed change. 

If you think bibliotherapy might be useful to you, consult a mental health professional and/or a librarian for recommendations. You also can explore the American Psychological Association’s Bibliotherapy page, as well as the Department of Veteran Affairs Bibliotherapy Resource Guide.

Communication during deployment

HPRC would like to recognize Day of the Deployed (October 26th) with some tips for communication during your loved one’s deployment.

Members of the military community know how hard it can be to be separated during deployments for months at a time, but even with miles between your loved ones, there are ways to communicate and connect. October 26th marks the Day of the Deployed, a day set aside to recognize the devotion and sacrifice of our military personnel who serve and their families who live outside our nation. The National Day of the Deployed pays tribute to those whose military service has sent them outside the United States to ensure its safety and security.

Lengths and frequency of deployments are always changing. Most service members have been deployed at least once and often for stretches of 3.5–12 months. One way service members can communicate with people back home is through letters. In fact, writing letters can help improve relationship satisfaction more than other forms of communication. It’s easier to ensure privacy with a letter than with email or phone. More importantly, letters provide the writer opportunities to reread their work and take the time to express what they really mean.

There is no best formula for what to write in your letter. Couples can agree on rules for communication by talking through and finding agreement on what works well for both partners, such as staying away from certain topics. It’s sometimes best to keep the focus positive, saving tense topics for later. Some may prefer to keep open communication to help maintain a sense of intimacy. Keep the guesswork out of what to write by talking about it, and then enjoy the connection you experience through letter writing.

Marathon recovery

It’s marathon season. How do you recover after pounding the pavement for 26.2 miles?

You’ve just finished a marathon; you’ve put your body through hell, but it’s not over yet. Recovering can be just important as the time you put in training for race day. Taking the right recovery measures can help you avoid lingering soreness and injury and help you get back on the road sooner.

  • Food. After an intense workout such as a marathon, it’s important to refuel with carbs and protein. Think whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, dairy products, and legumes. You’ve probably been thinking about your post-race meal for some time. But before you binge, plan ahead.
  • Hydrate. Drink lots of fluids and eat juicy fruits and vegetables to replace the fluids lost during the race. See HPRC's Hydration Infosheet for hydration guidelines during and after exercise.
  • Massage/Foam roll. Massage by a professional or self-massage (such as foam rolling), increases blood flow and help heal damaged muscles. Foam rolling also helps stretch out tight muscles and decrease soreness.  
  • Exercise. Light exercise (not running) within a day or two after a race can help you recover by increasing blood flow, which brings nutrients into and flushes toxins out of your muscles. Keep it light; go for an easy bike ride, hit the pool, or even go for a light walk.
  • Sleep. Sleep is critical to recovery, not only after a race but for general health and optimal functioning. Sleep is the time when your body restores and repairs, which is especially important after the stress you’ve put it through. Take that extra nap; you deserve it!
  • Ice bath. While this method of recovery hasn’t actually been proven to be effective, sitting in a tub of ice water after a race or hard workout is still a popular method. People report that this makes them feel better, and mental recovery is very important.  


Green coffee beans: What’s all the hype?

Green coffee beans are popular for weight loss, but don’t be fooled by all the hype surrounding this dietary supplement ingredient.

If you’re looking for ways to optimize your performance or perhaps drop some weight quickly, you may be tempted by the marketing hype and claims around green coffee beans, a dietary supplement ingredient often found in weight-loss products.

Green coffee beans are the raw, unroasted seeds or “beans” of the Coffea plant. They’re a source of caffeine, but they have become popular as a dietary supplement ingredient because they also contain a chemical called chlorogenic acid that supposedly offers some health benefits.

Some research suggests that chlorogenic acid might help with weight loss and prevent heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. However, there’s limited evidence to support the use of dietary supplement products with green coffee beans for weight loss or other health conditions, so consumers should beware of health claims associated with this ingredient. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued a company for using unsupported weight-loss claims and fake news websites to market their green coffee extract dietary supplement. Read more in FTC’s Press Release.

Energy drinks: different labels, same risks

Energy drinks are now being marketed as conventional foods, but there are still risks involved. Learn how to stay safe if you drink these beverages.

Most energy drinks are now labeled with Nutrition Facts instead of Supplement Facts, but that doesn’t automatically make them safe. The most popular energy drinks contain about 80–120 mg of caffeine per serving (8 oz.)—about the same amount of caffeine in an 8-ounce coffee. Caffeine isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When used appropriately, caffeine can boost mental and physical performance. But each energy drink can or bottle often contains more than one serving, making it easier to consume larger amounts of caffeine, especially if you drink more than one per day. Too much caffeine (>400 mg) can cause nervousness, shakiness, rapid heart rate, and trouble sleeping.

In addition to caffeine, energy drinks commonly contain amino acids, vitamins, and plant-based ingredients such as guarana (which also contains caffeine) and ginseng. Although these ingredients are generally safe, there still isn’t enough reliable information about their long-term safety or how combinations of these ingredients might interact in the body.

If you drink energy drinks, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Be aware of how much caffeine (from all sources) is in each can or bottle, and limit the number you drink each day.
  • Avoid caffeinated foods, beverages, and medications while using energy drinks. You may be consuming more caffeine than you realize.
  • Don’t mistake energy drinks for sports drinks. Unlike energy drinks, sports drinks are designed to fuel and hydrate you during long workouts.
  • Don’t mix energy drinks with alcohol. Energy drinks can mask the feeling of intoxication but still leave you impaired.
  • Find other ways to energize yourself. It’s best to get the sleep your body needs, but you can try other ways to stay alert, such as exercising or listening to upbeat music.

Fight identity theft

Identity theft could cost you a lot of money, time, effort, and peace of mind. Learn more about how to guard your personal identity.

Identity theft can completely disrupt your life and ruin your credit history if you don’t catch it quickly, so learn what you need to do. So, what is identity theft? It’s a serious crime in which someone assumes your identity by using your personal information or property—typically your Social Security number or credit cards—without your permission. There are three basic types of identity theft:

  • Unauthorized or attempted use of existing credit cards
  • Unauthorized or attempted use of existing checking accounts
  • Unauthorized or attempted use of personal information to obtain credit cards, accounts, or loans or to commit other crimes

If your home is unoccupied for an extended time, it may be a goldmine for thieves to dig through trashcans, dumpsters, or storage areas for documents with useful pieces of information. Even if you’re home, it could be as easy as stealing a credit card from your mailbox or wallet.

When you’re getting ready for deployment, you can place an active duty alert on your credit reports that lasts for one calendar year. For more information about protecting your credit, review the Federal Trade Commission pamphlet Identity Theft – Military Personnel & Families. If it’s too late for prevention, visit FTC’s Identity Theft web page for information about how to recover.

Substance abuse: Stop it now

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. Read more about how substance abuse can affect you and how to put an end to it.

Substance abuse can be detrimental to your health and your career, and it’s on the rise in the military, but you can learn to avoid and overcome it. Stress from active-duty service, deployments, family, and life in general might lead you to try tobacco, alcohol, or drugs as a source of relief. In the long run, though, substance abuse can take a toll on your body and affect your heart, lungs, liver, and mind, putting even more stress on you and your family. Staying clear of self-medication (and the slippery slope of substance abuse) is a good way to stay healthy, be productive, and live longer.

Everyone needs help sometimes, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help with substance abuse. Each service has its own substance-abuse treatment and prevention program to help you get better and return to duty:

For more information on substance abuse, please visit this Military OneSource web page.

Reduce your breast cancer risk

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a good time to look at how you can reduce your risk for this widespread condition (guys too) through exercise.

Exercise is an important lifestyle tool to help reduce your risk for breast and other cancers such as lung and colon cancer. While your genetics play a role in the development of some breast cancers, research has found that regular exercise can reduce your risk by an average of 25%. It may even improve your chance of recovery if you’ve already been diagnosed. Gentlemen take note: Men can get breast cancer too.

It’s never too late to start getting active. While exercise at any age can reduce your risk for breast cancer, the greatest benefit seems to be for adult women, especially those over the age of 50. It’s important to be physically active throughout the day, not just when you’re exercising. Even household, recreational, and occupational activities can have an impact on reducing risk for breast cancer.

Of course, early detection can be critical for dealing with breast cancer. Make sure you conduct regular breast self-exams. If you find anything that worries you, talk to your doctor right away.

If you have already been diagnosed with breast cancer, talk to your doctor about what kinds of activities are safe for you to do while undergoing treatment. Exercise and physical activity during cancer treatment also can be healthy for mind and body, can manage fatigue, and may lower the risk of progression. Just another reason to get out and get active! 

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