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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.

Ladies: Set limits on drinking

The holidays are filled with celebrations, which sometimes means temptation to engage in heavy drinking. Learn how to cope with holiday stress and avoid drinking too much.

The holiday season is here, and it’s time for parties and gatherings with family and friends. Through these good times, try to steer clear of risky drinking and manage stress well, so you can enjoy the festivities. 

Those who consume 4 or more alcoholic drinks in one sitting—or within 2 hours—are binge drinkers. Binge drinking is dangerous, and alcohol can be especially harmful to women. It can impact your speech, memory, coordination, and balance, and sometimes result in alcohol poisoning. Women are more likely to develop liver and heart problems from drinking. And drinking during pregnancy can severely impact fetal development.

Alcohol use can affect your marriage too. It can have a negative impact on other family members as well. Alcohol also is commonly used as a sleep aid for Warfighters and their spouses, but it’s ineffective. While drinking might make you sleepy, it disrupts your ability to get the deep sleep your body needs.

Military wives might be more likely to binge drink than civilians too. They might drink because of stress related to deployment, or they’re exposed to alcohol more frequently at “post-deployment” parties. Some younger wives are more willing to experiment with drinking as well. Some might binge drink to let off stress, but other, healthier coping skills can help you go the distance. Military wives report that what really helps them keep stress at bay is staying busy, exercising, journaling, spending time with family and friends, and focusing on spiritual activities.

It’s fine to enjoy a drink or two at a holiday party, but it’s important to know your limits and drinking patterns. If you’re concerned you or someone you know has a problem with alcohol, understand the signs and symptoms and get help.

The scoop on lentils, peas, and beans

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Fiber, Nutrition, Protein
Beans, once thought of as a poor man’s food, are trending. Learn more.

Lentils, peas, and beans can provide a protein-rich boost to your meal plan. They contain healthy carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and valuable minerals such as potassium, iron, magnesium, and folate. Also known as legumes or pulses, these foods can help balance your blood sugar and keep you fuller longer, which is especially helpful if you’re trying to lose weight. Eating legumes also might lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and even some cancers.  

Legumes are inexpensive too. At just pennies per serving, they’re cheaper than other forms of protein. What’s more, they’re delicious and can be eaten in different ways!

  • Dried. These varieties always require cooking, but cooking times vary. For example, lentils and split peas cook in about 10 minutes. Tip: Avoid soaking legumes—and save more time—by cooking them in a crockpot instead.
  • Canned. Keep low-sodium or sodium-free varieties on hand for salads and soups. Tip: Cook instant rice, mix with black or red beans (drained), and season with garlic for a quick meal.
  • Specialty packs. In a hurry? Grab ready-made meals, pastas, and bean blends from your local grocer. Remember: Ready-made foods tend to cost more, and they’re typically higher in sodium. Tip: Add 1 cup of sodium-free beans to your specialty pack, which lowers the total amount of sodium per serving.

Legumes help keep you “regular” too. A ½ cup serving contains roughly 25% of your recommended daily fiber. One carbohydrate in legumes ferments in the gut, causing gas. However, this mostly diminishes as you eat them more frequently. If gas becomes problematic, cook legumes thoroughly, rinse them well, and gradually increase your fiber intake. And keep in mind the New Dietary Guidelines for Americans' recommendations for 1–3 cups per week, depending on your age. So, try to eat them more frequently. Make sure to check out the Bean Institute's easy recipes too.

Savoring: your strategy to total fitness

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness
Find out how your total fitness approach to savoring positive experiences builds stronger relationships and improves overall health, wellness, and resilience.

Savoring is a total force fitness strategy you can use to create, maintain, and enhance positive emotions, which can help boost your well-being and performance. It’s intentionally paying attention to past, present, and future experiences, and purposefully trying to appreciate them. When you savor an experience, you hone in on the positive moments and replay them in your mind. The focus is on prolonging or even intensifying the good emotions you attach to a particular situation.

Savoring can increase your happiness. It might even help you gain a new perspective or insight as well. Read more...

Phenibut concerns

Is it okay to use “smart pills” or anti-anxiety dietary supplements that contain phenibut?

Phenibut—also “β-phenyl-γ-aminobutyric acid” or “4-amino-3-phenylbutyric acid HCl”—is found as an ingredient in some dietary supplements. These supplements are sold for a variety of uses, including sleep, stress reduction, and nootropic (“smart pill”) effects. Phenibut is a drug developed in Russia and Latvia, where it’s used as to treat anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, insomnia, and other conditions.

In the U.S., phenibut is neither a controlled substance nor a prescription drug. But that doesn’t mean it’s “okay.” Phenibut is a synthetic substance—it’s made in a laboratory and doesn’t occur in nature—which means it doesn’t fit FDA’s definition of an acceptable dietary supplement ingredient. It’s similar to the FDA-approved drug baclofen.

There are reports of adverse events associated with phenibut use, and some evidence suggests that continued use can lead to dependence and increased tolerance, which means an increasingly higher dose is needed for the same effect. Withdrawal symptoms include visual and auditory hallucinations, muscle pain and twitching, heart arrhythmia (tachycardia), nausea, vomiting, insomnia, sensitivity to sound and light, and separation from reality.

Although FDA has not yet declared phenibut illegal for use in dietary supplements, we advise caution.

Bounce back after a breakup

Everyone experiences a breakup differently. Some people are able to rebound quickly, while others struggle with intense emotions and insecurity. If you’re having a hard time moving on, keep reading.

The loss of a romantic relationship—whether through divorce, separation, or breakup—is a distressing event. It sometimes can be challenging to move on, especially for those who might question their self-worth.

Be aware of your anxiety. Highly anxious people tend to be more emotional after a breakup. They might become preoccupied with what happened and sometimes turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to self-soothe. Effectively managing your anxiety means you’ll be better able to leverage the breakup and improve yourself.

Focus on personal growth: Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this experience?” Maybe this breakup will help you clarify future expectations of your romantic partners. Perhaps you can reframe being “alone” as now having more time to be with friends and family. Write out what led to the breakup to help lessen negative thoughts about your split too.

When your relationship ends, it doesn’t have to mean you lose sight of your own goals. If your ex didn’t help you meet your goals or wasn’t supportive of your pursuits, then breaking up can help you shift your focus to what you want to achieve on your own. Concentrate on finding new, more effective sources of support as you move towards reaching your goals.

Expect other relationships to change too. Particularly after a divorce, it’s likely that you’ll lose contact with some people, including your in-laws or your ex-partner’s friends. Yet, you’re also likely to meet new people and expand your social network. You might find comfort in new friendships with others going through similar situations as well. And soon enough, you’ll be ready to date again.

Make stress your ally

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Stress doesn’t have to be your enemy. Learn how to make it your ally.

Stress is unavoidable, especially for Warfighters and their families. Alleviating or overcoming your stress is one way to cope, but you also can learn to embrace it and make it your ally.

You might believe that stress is out of your control, and the only way to cope is to avoid it. The good news is there are many ways you can respond to stress. Try the following strategies to turn stress from enemy to all. Read more...

Soup in a hurry

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Looking for ways to get nourishing, comforting meals on your table in minutes? Just add vegetables and other ingredients to canned soups and dried soup mixes. Learn more.

Soups can be the perfect solution when you’re trying to eat well and save money. You can “doctor” a packaged or canned soup to make a healthier and tastier version in no time. For example, add low-sodium ingredients to increase the volume and lower the salt content of ready-made soups. Or add veggies to increase your soup’s antioxidant content and make it more colorful. Add leftover beans, fish, or chopped meat to boost protein too. Here are more ideas to get you started.

  • Tomato. Swap water for skim milk to add more protein. Top with 1 Tbsp grated, low-fat sharp cheddar cheese for extra calcium too. And add chopped tomatoes for more lycopene, flavor, and texture.
  • Minestrone. A handful of greens and your favorite low-sodium beans add protein, fiber, and flavor.
  • Chicken noodle. Add a grated carrot plus fresh or frozen green beans.
  • Vegetable. Toss in some thyme and cooked tortellini for an Italian flair.
  • Split pea. Fry lean ham in a hot pan and add.
  • Potato (dried). Add grated potato and frozen corn to make this soup a homemade hit!
  • Potato (canned). Add cooked broccoli and a sprinkle of cheese for extra fiber and calcium.
  • Onion (dried). Add 1 cup chopped onion and cook for 10 minutes. Divide into oven-safe, single-serving bowls. Top each bowl with thin slices of toasted French bread, a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, and a slice of provolone cheese. Broil until bubbly.
  • Ramen. Crack one egg into boiling water and stir. Add noodles, cooked mixed vegetables, and ½ the seasoning packet. Flavor with red pepper flakes.

Want to try your hand at homemade soup? Check out HPRC’s soup recipes and use your holiday leftovers to produce delicious results!

Busting the “fat-burning zone” myth

What’s a “fat-burning zone”? Is it based on actual science?

You’ve probably seen those colorful charts on exercise machines at the gym, showing your ideal heart rate zone for optimal fat burn. Is this “zone” the best way to burn fat?

The concept of the “fat-burning zone” might not be entirely true. Many people assume that in order to burn fat, they must keep their heart rate within the defined range. This can be misleading for a few reasons. First, people’s heart rates are very different, making it difficult to generalize recommendations from a fixed chart. Second, your body burns two main sources of energy during exercise: fats and carbohydrates. (Protein is an energy source, but it’s only used in very small amounts.) For any given heart rate, your body will burn both carbohydrates and fats; however, the proportion of each will vary. Low-intensity exercises (lower heart rate) with a longer duration (30 minutes or more) mostly rely on fat for energy. So, there’s a zone in which a higher proportion of fat is being used for energy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean more fat is being burned. Your body actually gets most of its energy from fat during rest. In theory, your ultimate “fat-burning zone” is in your living room: you lying on your couch, binge-watching your favorite new series.

So, how do you burn more fat? High-intensity exercises actually burn the most fat due to the higher overall energy (caloric) expenditure. Interval training is a great way to boost the intensity of your workout, and you get that “afterburn” effect. Fitness level also is a factor. Fitter people’s bodies tend to utilize more fats than carbohydrates.

If you’re training for endurance activities, the “fat-burning zone” on the exercise machines might be the “right zone” for you. To burn even more fat, you ultimately need to burn more overall calories. High-intensity workouts are a challenging and efficient way to help reach your goal.

Treat your partner right

New Year’s Day brings an increased risk of mistreating loved ones. Instead, commit to taking care of each other through healthy communication and respectful conflict resolution.

Partner maltreatment—also known as intimate partner violence (IPV) or domestic violence—tends to peak on holidays and weekends, and one date is quickly approaching: New Year’s Day. Commit to respecting and taking care of each other in the new year and beyond.

IPV can include physical violence, emotional or psychological abuse, or sexual harm within a relationship. By some estimates, partner maltreatment rates are nearly 3 times higher among military veterans and active-duty service members than civilians.

Weekends and holidays often mean more time with significant others. For some, time away from work also can coincide with increased use of drugs or alcohol. There’s some evidence that IPV spikes in military households on weekends, New Year’s Day, 4th of July, and Super Bowl Sunday. In addition, drug and alcohol use tends to increase alongside more reports of IPV.

Depression, antisocial traits, and marital problems also are linked to increased instances of domestic abuse. Combat exposure and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are associated with partner maltreatment as well. Women might be just as likely to maltreat their partners. Yet when females become victims, they tend to sustain more serious injuries than males. In some relationships, both partners can be violent towards each other too.

IPV can lead to physical, emotional, and psychological injuries. If you have children, they’re at increased risk of abuse as well. If you’re concerned about your own alcohol or drug use, take the Alcohol and Drugs Assessment at AfterDeployment.com to better understand how it can affect your relationships. Domestic violence resources and reporting options also are available for military families. So, start the new year by practicing healthy communication and conflict resolution skills with your partner.

What’s your stress mindset?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Your mindset about stress can influence how it impacts your health and well-being. Learn more.

While most people believe stress is seriously harmful to their health, it turns out that your stress mindset—or how you think about stress—influences whether your psychological and physiological reaction to stress impacts you positively or negatively. Some evidence suggests those who experience lots of stress and feel that it negatively affects their health have a nearly 50% increased risk of premature death. However, those who experience lots of stress but don’t believe it’s all bad tend to have a much lower risk of death.

It’s not realistic to suggest that life could ever be stress-free, especially for Warfighters and their families. Although many are convinced that all stress is bad, it actually can be good for you. Read more...

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