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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.

It’s citrus season!

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Diet, Vitamin C
Lighten up your winter menu by including a variety of citrus. Your local grocery store is exploding with choices—go ahead and partake in the enjoyment of this winter delight!

Looking for easy ways to increase your fruit intake with super healthy foods? Think citrus! Many varieties are available at this time of year—at their peak of flavor, availability, and cost. Citrus include lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, clementines, and many others. They contain essential potassium, calcium, antioxidants, and fiber—all of this in a small, low-calorie package!

Citrus have been around for centuries. Long known as a valuable source of vitamin C, British sailors, known then as limeys, took them on board to prevent scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency. If you haven’t been a fan before, experiment by trying new varieties such as super-sweet Cara Caras or tart-and-sweet Mineola tangelos! Here are some delicious ways to include citrus in your winter meals and all year long:

  • Lay sliced oranges and red onions on a bed of romaine lettuce and top with kalamata olives and vinaigrette dressing.
  • Halve a grapefruit, top with ½ tsp brown sugar, and broil for a few minutes.
  • Cube several varieties of oranges and add some fresh mint.
  • Arrange thinly sliced oranges and top with shredded coconut.
  • Create a parfait of layered oranges, Greek yogurt, granola, and drizzled honey.

Since many citrus have been sprayed with pesticides, remember to wash before peeling—then eat and enjoy! Who knew eating healthy could be so tasty?

Especially for military parents

Being a parent is a tough job, but military parents have extra challenges. There’s a website that can help.

The military lifestyle can sometimes make parenting especially challenging, but there’s a website designed to help active-duty military and veteran parents. It’s a joint project between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Center for Telehealth and Technology. The website offers a free parenting course and additional resources, including tip sheets and videos. There’s an opportunity to provide feedback on the parenting course too.

Course topics and other resources include:

  • Communicating with your child
  • Helping your child manage emotions and behaviors
  • Taking a positive approach to discipline
  • Managing your own stress and emotions
  • Talking about deployment

Visit the Parenting for Service Members and Veterans website to find out more. There’s a Parenting2Go mobile app too! For more caregiving resources, check out HPRC’s Rock Solid Families page.

Stimulants—Give your heart a break

Know what’s in your dietary supplement, and if it could affect your heart.

Dietary supplements containing stimulants can negatively affect your heart and increase your risk of an adverse event. Stimulants such as caffeine, yohimbine, and synephrine can cause increased or irregular heart rate and high blood pressure and have been associated with chest pain, stroke, and heart attack. In addition, ingesting stimulants before or during exercise can further increase your risk for such heart problems and lead to potentially worse outcomes.

If you are considering a dietary supplement, it’s important to read the product label carefully, especially if you have a heart condition. There are many different stimulants used as ingredients in dietary supplements, and often products come with a warning. Moreover, stimulants are sometimes contained in a proprietary blend, so you can’t tell from the label exactly how much of each ingredient you would be taking. 

Too sick to exercise?

Feeling under the weather? Find out when bed rest is best—or when it’s safe to sweat it out.

Is it safe to exercise when you’re sick? Those who have strict workout schedules aren’t likely to let the sniffles get in the way of their physical fitness. Exercise benefits include better weight control, improved mood, more energy, and healthier sleep. What’s more, just 30 minutes of regular exercise 5 times each week can improve your heart health and boost your immune system too.

 

Moderately exercising while you’re sick can be safe and, in certain cases, might actually improve symptoms such as congestion and low-energy. First, you need to determine “how sick is sick.” You can figure this out by using the “neck rule.” If you have symptoms above the neck—including sore throat, nasal congestion, sneezing, or watery eyes—then moderate workouts can continue. If your symptoms are below the neck—including cough, fever, fatigue, or body aches—then rest until the symptoms are gone. You can also use your temperature to determine whether exercising is okay. If you have a temperature of 101°F or higher, moderate or vigorous exercise isn’t safe due to risks of heat-related illnesses and dehydration.

 

Ultimately, the decision to exercise when you’re sick is up to you. If you’re too weak and fatigued to get out of bed, exercising might not be the best choice. If you have symptoms of a cold and your temperature is below 101°F, light to moderate exercise could be good for you. Make sure to see a doctor if your symptoms don’t improve or get worse. 

Want better sleep? Track it.

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Mind-body, Sleep
Master your sleep habits! Track your activity and snooze patterns using HPRC’s Sleep Diary to learn what’s harming—and helping—your efforts to get a good night’s rest.

Using a sleep diary to track your routines can steer you to healthy slumber. You probably know that your sleep is affected by factors such as caffeine, dietary supplements, medications, alcohol, exercise, and naps. The timing of these things and your sleep schedule have a big effect too.

But if you’re like many others, you might want to learn more about the patterns that help or hurt your sleep. Use HPRC’s Sleep Diary to figure out how to get some more quality Z’s—and wake up rested and raring to go!

Heart-healthy gifts show love

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
February is American Heart Month. Discover ways to make it healthy for your loved ones and yourself!

How you treat your heart today can add years to your life—that’s the best gift you can ever give your loved ones! The latest research continues to show that eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and minimally processed foods is good for your heart. Reflect on what you eat as this can dramatically reduce your risk of heart disease. Make sure to include these heart-healthy foods in your nutrition plan too: luscious berries, leafy greens, a variety of nuts, and seafood (twice per week).

Want to show some love for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day? Cards, flowers, and chocolate are ordinary—do something extraordinary!

  • Surprise your sweetie with a fabulous meal. If you’re able, dine in this Valentine’s Day. Make a delicious spinach salad and salmon with a nut topping. Serve berries, frozen yogurt, and Chocolaty Delights (see recipe below) for the perfect dessert. You’ll save money, eat like royalty, and provide the nutrients your bodies crave. Don’t forget the candles and your favorite playlist!
  • Whip up Chocolaty Delights. Use cooking spray to grease the bottom of an 8 in pan. Blend one can of black beans (drained) and ¾ c water in a blender for 30 seconds. Add one box of brownie mix. Stir mixture well and spread in pan. Sprinkle ¼ c dark chocolate chips and ¼ c chopped walnuts on top. Bake according to box directions or until a toothpick (inserted in the center) comes out clean. Let your partner know that each tasty treat includes added protein, fiber, and iron—go ahead and indulge!
  • Give a gift of lasting health. Consider a fitness app, pedometer, or walking shoes. Then invite your sweetheart to work out or take a long walk together.

Valentine’s Day rewards

“Candy is dandy, but...” try these ways to reward your loved one even more this Valentine’s Day.

No doubt about it: Being rewarded is a great way to make someone happy. When you were a kid, you loved getting a reward for doing something good, right? It still works when you become an adult, but the reward—and what you did to earn it—is often more subtle. Rewarding your significant other for his or her daily acts of love and care is a sure way to bring you closer.

So this year, in addition to giving the usual flowers or chocolates or whatever you do for each other, try these two simple acts: Do or say something loving to your partner, and tell them you’re happy to be in a relationship with them.

For more information on supporting your relationship with your partner, visit HPRC’s Relationship Enhancement page.

DMAA products persist

HPRC has updated its list of products containing DMAA.

Although DMAA is now illegal as a dietary supplement ingredient, some companies still offer products containing this substance. HPRC’s newest update of “Dietary Supplement Products Containing DMAA” lists those products still being offered on the Internet, as well as products that have disappeared from the market. Before you buy any dietary supplement, check this list and read the label to make sure it doesn’t contain this potentially dangerous ingredient. Based on federal policy, DoD considers such products illegal to use or possess. Don’t risk your health or your military career!

Running form 101

Filed under: Exercise, Running
How’s your form? Make sure you’re ready to hit the ground—running!

Proper running form can help improve your overall efficiency and reduce your risk for injury. We’ve all seen awkward running forms—you can’t help but wince because it looks challenging and sometimes painful to run that way. Following a few simple reminders can keep you injury-free as you reach peak performance.

Running infographic

Find your best eating plan

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
You might have recently seen an athlete’s or movie star’s eating plan. Could following their diet make you a star?

Want to eat healthy and perform as well as the rich and famous? Often an elite athlete or entertainer has a dietitian or chef to plan meals and even do their grocery shopping. But is following someone else’s eating plan a wise idea?

  • Some superstars eat mostly organic vegetables and less fruit. A diet rich in vegetables is healthy, but can be taken to extremes. Eating entirely organic foods isn’t essential. Fruit contains numerous vitamins and minerals plus fiber. The current daily recommendation is 2–3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit. It’s also unnecessary to avoid nightshades (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and mushrooms), as it’s not proven that they cause inflammation.
  • A lot of performers pick proteins. Their pattern might include only specialty proteins such as grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon, free-range chicken, and duck. These are good sources of protein but duck and beef should be eaten a few times per week, as they can be very fatty. Other good protein sources include eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds. Nuts and seeds are higher in fat but contain healthy oils and other key nutrients.
  • Many icons avoid sugar and white flour. U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting sugar and refined grains but it’s unnecessary to completely avoid these foods. It’s best to eat at least 3 whole grains each day: whole-wheat products, brown rice, oatmeal, or popcorn are good choices.
  • Some celebrities only eat foods cooked with coconut oil. It’s better to include a variety of unsaturated fats in your nutrition plan.
  • Several VIPs dodge dairy. This isn’t recommended unless you have an allergy or intolerance. Dairy contains valuable nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, protein, and potassium.

Want to be ready for the locker room or the red carpet? Follow a balanced plan and eat what works best for you.

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