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.
Since 2000, around 350,000 service members have been affected by traumatic brain injuries. TBI often impacts memory, especially short-term memory. Think of long-term memory and short-term memory as “holding bins” for information. Your long-term memory can hold information from several days to decades, while your short-term memory retains information for just a few seconds. And short-term memory is closely associated with working memory (your ability to manipulate information in your head) and sustained attention (your ability to maintain focus).
When memory problems strike, short-term memory, working memory, and sustained attention tend to suffer before long-term memory does. Regardless of cause, memory of a remote event stands out more than newer events because your mind has “rehearsed” the older event repeatedly, essentially embedding it in your brain through repetition. By comparison, your mind hasn’t yet “learned” the newer event. For example, you might recall every detail of combat stories but have difficulty remembering what you ate for lunch. In this case, brain connections that rehearsed the combat story have become solidified, while connections responsible for learning this new information haven’t formed yet.
Depending on the location and nature of the injury, your brain might work differently than it did in the past. This could happen because brain cells that used to “communicate” with each other easily are now being rerouted.
Short-term memory, working memory, and sustained attention also can be affected by other factors such as stress, distraction, poor sleep, depression, anxiety, and/or body toxins. The cause isn’t always obvious. Your doctor can help sort it out, answer questions about your condition, treatment, and prognosis, and refer you to a neuropsychologist for further evaluation. In the meantime, you might find HPRC’s TBI resources useful too.
If you’ve searched recently for dietary supplements to enhance your performance, you may have come across products marketed as “ketone supplements.” Before you consider taking any of these products, read the new Operation Supplement Safety FAQ about ketone supplements. Learn what ketone supplements are and if they’re worth the often-hefty price tag.
If you’re curious about other supplements marketed for performance, check out the OPSS Performance FAQs. Can’t find the answers you’re looking for? Send us a question using our Ask the Expert feature.
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...
Another basic component of Physical Fitness (PFT) and Physical Readiness Tests (PRT) training involves muscular strength and endurance, but as with aerobic conditioning, you need to develop it over time, not just before your fitness tests. Whether you’re training or in the field, and even when you’re not thinking about it—such as moving ammunition boxes into a transport—your muscular strength and endurance are essential components of your overall fitness.
But training to improve muscular strength is not the same as training for muscular endurance. Muscular strength is the amount of force that a muscle can produce with a single maximum effort. Muscular endurance is the ability to sustain a muscle contraction over a period of time, or to repeatedly contract a muscle over a period of time.
Learn how to use the FITT principle to develop a muscular fitness routine that will build both strength and endurance to prepare for PFT/PRT and beyond. Read more...
Those TV ads your children enjoy watching impact their food choices and their health. Kids see many commercials that advertise foods high in fat, sodium, and/or added sugars, especially during Saturday-morning children’s TV programming. The more kids are exposed to advertisements of unhealthy foods, the more likely they are to request—or sometimes beg—to eat them.
TV commercial viewing has also been linked to children’s weight problems. Kids who watch these commercials have an increased chance of eating foods containing too many calories and few nutrients. And the impact of TV commercials on kids’ food choices extends beyond what they eat at home. It’s also been linked to how often families eat at fast-food restaurants.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children under 2 years old avoid all TV and screens, while children 3 and over watch no more then 2 hours of TV each day. Limiting the amount of time your kids watch TV means more time for them to be physically active. And less TV time means kids are exposed to fewer commercials that encourage unhealthy food choices.
Make sure to watch what your kids are watching—that means the shows and the commercials. When possible, watch TV together and move more during commercial breaks. Encourage them to get active by doing some jumping jacks, sit-ups, or push-ups!
Remember that commercials can influence kids’ food choices, so teach them to spot advertising tricks too. Keep the conversation going about the importance of healthy eating habits. Heading to the grocery store? Point out nutritious alternatives to your little ones, and ask older kids to help compare labels.
If your lower back hurts now and then, or if you struggle with ongoing pain in this area, consider yoga to help relieve the physical and mental discomfort. Lower-back pain is common, but the good news is that the pain usually goes away pretty quickly without specific treatment for most people. For others, though, lower-back pain is chronic. Practicing yoga and yoga stretches can be a great short-term way to reduce the length, intensity, and frequency of lower-back pain. For some people, yoga can even reduce this pain in the long term. And what we know so far suggests there aren’t likely to be serious negative effects of using yoga for lower-back pain.
Yoga typically includes three parts. First, breathing retraining to help calm and focus your body and mind. Second, yoga can increase your flexibility, coordination, and strength. Lastly, meditation exercises can help you develop greater self-awareness, lower your stress levels, and improve your mood.
Yoga isn’t a replacement for seeing your doctor or talking to a healthcare provider about your pain. If you have a medical condition, consult your healthcare provider before you start doing yoga. Also, everyone’s body is different, but yoga can be modified based on your body structure and how your body is feeling. There is no such thing as “perfect form.” The best practice is what you commit to doing in that moment.
Wondering how to get started? HPRC’s Mindful Stretching Exercises Using Yoga Poses will walk you through some basic yoga stretches.
Mindfulness meditation can help service members learn to focus on the present, heal from injury, and/or improve their performance. It’s a popular technique in which you clear your mind of clutter and simply notice thoughts, sensations, emotions, or distractions by focusing attention on a specific target such as breathing. During this process, you consistently (and gently) guide your attention back to a present moment and focus on your target, with an attitude of acceptance and non-judgment. This attitude extends into treating yourself with compassion, rather than judgment. “Mindfulness meditation” and “mindfulness” are often used interchangeably, but mindfulness meditation refers to a technique, whereas mindfulness refers to any process of bringing mindful awareness into daily life. Practicing mindfulness meditation regularly can help you become more mindful in general. Read more...
While there has been some discussion about whether adults should drink milk, most reliable scientific evidence shows that drinking milk offers many benefits. There are some important facts to consider when deciding whether to include milk in your meal plan.
- Milk contains calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. Most Americans don’t consume enough of these 3 essential nutrients, especially those who don’t drink milk. These all-important nutrients are necessary for bone growth, most of which takes place by the age of 18. However, they’re also needed to maintain bone as you age.
- It’s low-calorie! If your goal is weight maintenance or weight loss, fat-free (skim) and no-added-sugar flavored choices contain relatively few calories. And they’re rich in nutrients.
- Digestion problems? If you’re lactose intolerant, lactose-free milk and fortified soy milk are great alternatives.
- Chocolate milk makes an excellent post-workout beverage. It helps with refueling because it contains protein to rebuild muscles and carbohydrates to replenish energy stores.
The jury’s still out on whether milk-fat content matters, so follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommendations on consuming low-fat and/or fat-free choices. And stay within the New Dietary Guidelines for Americans' recommendations for 3 daily servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods for anyone 9 and older. If you like milk, keep drinking it.
The Food and Drug Administration recently announced that methylsynephrine (also known as oxilofrine) “does not meet the statutory definition of a dietary supplement ingredient.” So what does this mean? Products containing methylsynephrine are adulterated and can’t be marketed legally as dietary supplements. Methylsynephrine is also prohibited in sport because it’s a pharmaceutical drug (not currently approved in the U.S) and a stimulant that increases blood pressure and affects heart rate. What’s more, some supplements have been found to contain methylsynephrine in amounts equal to or greater than pharmaceutical doses.
The consequences of taking methylsynephrine in large amounts or in combination with other stimulants aren’t entirely known, but one product containing this ingredient and other stimulants has been linked to nausea, vomiting, agitation, increased heart rate, chest pain, and cardiac arrest. If you’re considering taking a dietary supplement with methylsynephrine or oxilofrine on the label, you might want to think twice. For more from FDA, please see “Methylsynephrine in Dietary Supplements.”
April is Sexual Assault Prevention Month. One essential step to prevent misconduct or missteps with your sexual partners is to openly and clearly obtain consent. What is it? Consent is spoken permission to continue moving forward with the sexual experience. Consent is an enthusiastic, verbally expressed “Yes! I want what is happening to keep happening!” Verbal consent is important because it’s unmistakable.
If you’re not sure how to ask for consent, consider some of the following:
- Can I kiss you?
- Is this okay?
- Are you enjoying yourself?
- Do you want me to keep going?
- How far should we go?
A positive verbal answer to any of these questions—“Yes!” “Yes please.” “Keep going.”—is consent, meaning you’re both on the same page about the sexual experience. In addition to asking for verbal confirmation, get in tune with your partner’s body language. Is he or she making eye contact and responding to your gestures?
In some situations, an individual isn’t able to consent to sex, such as when drugs or alcohol are involved. They impact decision-making and impulse control.
Also remember that lack of a “No” doesn’t mean consent. When a person feels in danger, he or she might become immobilized with fear and not actively resist or say no. Don’t mistake absence of resistance for consent.
You must obtained consent with each and every sexual encounter, regardless of your sexual history with your partner. Everyone is entitled to a change of mind, so it’s important to keep checking in with each other throughout the whole experience.
The DoD Safe Helpline is available 24/7 as a free, anonymous, confidential sexual assault resource for the DoD community. You can call, text, or chat with Helpline members. They will answer your questions and connect you with resources.