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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.

Activity trackers: Fun fitness tools

Learn how activity trackers can help keep you motivated, moving, and healthy.

Activity monitors or “activity trackers” can be fun and useful tools for monitoring your exercise and other activities. Some products also track your sleep every day. And some even can track your diet. With the ever-evolving technology, there’s likely a tracker that’s best for you: from simple step/distance/calorie-counting to smartwatches with GPS tracking.

These days, the most popular trackers seem to be wearable wristbands. Check out our updated comparison chart of some popular trackers to help find the right one for your needs and budget. While they can be fun and interactive social fitness tools, it’s important to remember they’re not meant to be used as medical devices. All activity trackers will have some margin of error, and none of them make perfect measurements. Be sure to speak with your doctor if you’re looking for a specific medical device.

Still, if you want to stay active, motivated, and healthy, then an activity tracker might be a perfect fit! 

Your family’s Independence Day story

Resilient families create shared meanings and stories. This 4th of July, consider what story you tell your kids about our country’s birthday.

Creating shared meanings about events, especially adversities, is a trait of strong, resilient families. So what’s the story you tell your kids about Independence Day? What meaning do you attribute to this holiday? And how might this meaning link to your own personal philosophies about life?

Do you tell your kids a story of overcoming oppression? Fighting for freedom? Is it a story about justice? Or perhaps one about taking risks? Is it about uniting behind a common goal? Or maybe it’s about creating something new? Perhaps it’s a story about everyone being able to pursue his or her own happiness?

Families develop and share common understandings about events that grow from their strong beliefs. Especially in times of stress, shared family beliefs and the meaning families attribute to their struggle can impact how well a family copes. The stories told within families create a family culture and cohesion. It also becomes part of how families assess challenges.

As a parent, you can strongly impact your children’s beliefs and nurture joint understandings. Faced with a new situation, your kids look to you to help them make sense of what they don’t understand. They’re likely to mimic your physical reactions too.

You can create meaning through your own life experiences as well as the explanations you attribute to events and circumstances. The meaning you pass on to your kids comes from your own personal philosophy, morals, and impressions of the world, yourself, friends, and family. 

This 4th of July, think about how you frame the story of Independence Day and what that tells your kids about their country and perhaps about their own family.

Updated OPSS High-Risk Supplement List

More products have been added to HRSL. Is yours on the list?

Since May 2016, 43 dietary supplement products have been added to the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) High-Risk Supplement List, bringing the total number of products on the list to 247. Together with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), OPSS frequently updates the list to help you stay informed about current high-risk products. You can access the High-Risk Supplement List from the OPSS web page or download the app (from the Apps tab) to your phone or tablet and take it wherever you go. If you’re considering dietary supplements, be sure to check back often for more updates.

Raw or cooked produce: What’s healthier?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Learn when you should turn the flame up—or down—on your favorite fruits and vegetables.

Many raw fruits and vegetables are tasty, low in calories and fat, and high in fiber. And eating them might help you feel fuller and consume less, which is especially helpful if you’re trying to lose weight. However, some cooked produce can be just as delicious—and even more nutritious.

Many cooked fruits and vegetables (such as tomatoes, corn, spinach, carrots, and asparagus) provide more antioxidants, which protect cells and help your body function properly. For example, cooked tomatoes and asparagus release vitamin-rich lycopene, which can help lower your risk of heart disease and cancer. And cooked spinach provides greater amounts of calcium, iron, and fiber.

However, broccoli is best eaten raw because myrosinase, a valuable enzyme, is damaged during the cooking process. Vitamin C can be lost during cooking too. But you can find it in citrus and other foods. In the warmer months, eating raw produce can save time as well as keep your kitchen cooler since you won’t be cooking! Still, raw fruits and vegetables might be hard to find when you’re on a mission or in a smaller dining facility. So instead, choose from what’s offered—whether it’s dried, canned, frozen, or dehydrated.

Try to include a variety of produce in your meal plan, aiming for 2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups of veggies each day. Choose fruits and vegetables from the rainbow of colors (red, blue/purple, green, yellow, orange, and white) to maximize nutrient intake. Eat both cooked and raw varieties to make sure you’re getting nutrients, antioxidants, and more. For example, eat raw carrot sticks one day and cook them on a different day. And enjoy the benefit of obtaining all that nature intended to provide!

Homemade fitness

Your gym workout can be expensive and time-consuming. Use household items to exercise in the comfort of your own home—at little or no cost.

Dumbbells, kettle bells, barbells, and benches can be expensive additions to your home gym. So, get creative, look around your home, and find common household items that can help pump up your fitness routine. Or reuse balls or bottles to boost strength and reduce waste to help protect the environment. Try these DIY home-exercise hacks for a full-body workout that’s convenient and easy on your wallet!

  • Perform calf raises, single-leg raises, or squats on your stairs.
  • Use a sturdy chair for tricep dips, step-ups, push-ups, or squat jumps.
  • Practice ab rollers using a hand or kitchen towel on your tile or hardwood floors, or switch to paper plates for use on a carpet.
  • Use a gallon (or half-gallon) jug—filled with sand to desired weight—for bicep curls, overhead presses, or tricep extensions.
  • Use a 72-oz detergent bottle—weighing about 5 lbs—for 2-handed lifts such as shoulder raises or sumo squats.
  • Use water bottles—filled with water or sand—for a variety of dumbbell-weight exercises, including bicep curls, weight lunges, and shoulder presses.
  • Make a medicine ball: Cut a slit in a basketball or soccer ball, fill with sand, and seal.

Remember there are clever ways to workout—whether you’re on or off duty. And check out HPRC’s videos to learn more home-exercise hacks.




Criticism: It’s not all bad

Filed under: Criticism, Mind
Criticism sometimes can be hard to hear, but there are ways to listen and learn from it.

Is it true that it’s easy to dish it out, but not take it? Being on the receiving end of criticism can be tough on anyone—whether you’re at work, on missions, in the classroom, or at home. And for some, it can even provoke anger.

If you think that avoiding or denying criticism, making excuses, or fighting back is the best way to handle things, try to remember when those tactics made the situation worse. When criticism stings, try this instead: Listen to what’s being said, thoughtfully ask for details, and remember that your critic has a right to his or her opinion.

Find a way to use the criticism as a learning opportunity too. Any feedback is useful, even if the lesson simply is that others might see you differently than how you want to be perceived. If you need time to think about what’s being said or time to calm down, try saying “Let me think about what you’re saying” to get some breathing space. And work out a plan to develop your talents and improve your performance.

What makes an effective apology?

You messed up and now you’re trying to “make it right.” Learn how to apologize.

Owning up to your mistakes is important to all relationships, especially close ones. Mistakes often violate trust. But you can apologize and restore that trust, helping others feel secure.

Admitting fault helps you too. Those who actively seek forgiveness tend to be more agreeable and open to forgiving others. And make sure to maintain eye contact when you start the conversation. This lets the other person know you’re fully engaged. The tone of your voice is important too. Be sincere.

Successful apologies contain 6 elements. Be ready to right the wrong and rebuild trust in your relationship. Read more...

Overcome “imposter syndrome”

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Ever feel like a phony on or off duty? Learn how to defeat self-doubt and keep “confidence gaps” from holding you back.

Even the most successful people wonder, at times, if they’re good workers, leaders, or parents. However, some can be overwhelmed by self-doubt. And they worry they’ll be exposed as fakes or frauds to others—otherwise known as “imposter syndrome.” Try these strategies to fight your fears and perform well.

  • Normalize it. Take some comfort in knowing that others experience self-doubt—and get through it. You’re not alone.
  • Try on different thoughts. When you treat your thoughts as facts, they can take on a life of their own. Don’t assume the worst and think, “I’m going to fail.” Instead, experiment with different thoughtssuch as, “This is going to be hard, but I can do this.”
  • Look to others for inspiration. You can feel even more inspired when you find similarities between other successful people and yourself. For instance, maybe he or she is hard-working, imaginative, or organized—just like you.
  • Chill out and breathe. If you’re too amped up, it’s hard to focus on the task at hand. Allow yourself some longer, slower exhales, and enjoy clearer thinking.
  • Remember your successes. Mental imagery is a powerful tool. Thinking about past times when you were successful—regardless of when they occurred—might help you feel more confident.
  • Know you don’t “need” confidence. Certainly you’d like to feel self-assured before you perform, but you don’t have to feel confident at first. People often perform well and then experience confidence.
  • Fake it ‘til you make it. "Acting" successful can help you actually become successful. And if you have some screw-ups along the way, own those mistakes and learn from them.

There’s no magic trick to overcoming imposter syndrome, but you can use these approaches to help defeat doubt, believe in yourself, and celebrate success!

The problem with picamilon

Why is picamilon illegal in dietary supplement products?

Picamilon goes by many names, such as pikatropin and nicotinyl-gamma-aminobutric acid, but one thing it can’t be called is a dietary ingredient. In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration declared that picamilon is not a legal ingredient in dietary supplements and sent warning letters to 5 companies whose dietary supplement products contained picamilon. So why is it illegal? Find out in the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ about picamilon.

If you want to learn more about other questionable ingredients, explore the OPSS FAQs about dietary supplement ingredients

What’s in your smoothie?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Before you whip up or grab your next smoothie, make sure it’s got “the right stuff” to meet your nutritional needs.

What role does a smoothie play in your meal plan: meal, snack, or post-workout fuel? If it’s a meal-replacement, then choose one that includes dairy, some fruit, and maybe vegetables. Is it a snack? Then go lighter and pick one with fruits, vegetables, and ice. And if you’re replenishing fuel after your workout, then make sure your smoothie includes protein—and choose the protein source wisely.

Make them quickly: Just dump your ingredients into a blender, hit start, and blend to desired consistency. That’s it! They can include any combination of fruits—such as berries, cherries, apples, melons, bananas, and grapes—and vegetables (such as kale, spinach, and cucumbers). Try freezing some ingredients for an icier drink. You also can use frozen bags of smoothie ingredients, saving time and decision-making. But avoid adding juice because it contains little (or no) fiber and extra calories.

There are many protein options too. Milk (dairy or nondairy) and plain (or Greek) yogurt also provide calcium. Nut butters can be flavorful as well. But remember 2 tablespoons add an extra 200 calories.

Choosing ready-to-drink dairy or juice smoothies? Some contain added sugar, and others with mostly apple juice aren’t as nutrient-dense as ones made with other fruits and vegetables. And check the Nutrition Facts panel because some bottles contain two (or more) servings. This is especially important because you’ll want to get the proper nutrients without going over your daily calorie needs.

Tip: Try a refreshing blend that includes 1 cup watermelon, ½ cup strawberries, 4 ice cubes, and ½ tsp lemon juice. Make sure to experiment with multiple combinations and flavors, and include more fruits and vegetables! And read HPRC’s FAQ about juicing to learn more. 

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