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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.

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...

Brace yourself for winter

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Cold, Environment, Winter
Well, winter may actually already be here, depending where you are, so make sure you’re prepared in case of a winter weather emergency.

Winter weather can be dangerous for you, your family, and even your pets if you’re not prepared. The next few months might bring anything from ice and sleet to “Snowmageddons” and sub-zero temperatures. In the event of a cold-weather emergency you should know what to do to protect yourself and those around you. The National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health has compiled a list of resources with information, tips, and checklists for winter-weather emergencies and general cold-weather health. And of course, check out the “Cold” section of HPRC’s Environment domain. Stay warm, safe, and resilient!

Mindful eating during the holidays

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Diet, Holidays, Nutrition
Try these helpful eating tips as you enjoy parties and family feasts this holiday season.

The holiday season can be a challenging time to eat sensibly as food is everywhere you turn. The practice of “mindful eating,” a form of mindfulness, can help you stay the course. It means being more aware of your eating habits, eating cues, and sensations. When you eat mindfully, you learn to savor your food with all your senses and become aware when you’re full. Try these mindful eating tips this holiday season and all year long!

  • Come prepared. Many tend to overeat during social gatherings because it’s easy to be distracted by all the food choices. When you first arrive at a holiday party, go on a reconnaissance mission and see what’s available. Choose carefully between what you’ll eat, sample, and avoid.
  • Recognize feelings of hunger and fullness. Try to understand the reason you want to eat. Is it true physical hunger? Or do you tend to eat when you’re stressed? Perhaps you saw or smelled something delicious, and now your stomach is rumbling. Eat only when you’re hungry. And avoid skipping meals because you have a holiday party later in the day. Try to eat a light meal or snack before you head out too. If you wait until you’re starving, you’ll likely end up eating twice as much. After you’ve had your first helping of food, wait 10–20 minutes to determine if you’re still hungry.
  • Enjoy your food. You can have your favorite dessert and eat it too! All foods can be eaten mindfully. First, choose a sensible portion size. Then eat slowly, chew your food thoroughly, and put your fork down between bites. Enjoy the taste, texture, smell, and sight of your food too. Mindful eating also teaches you not to be judgmental about your food choices—there’s no right or wrong way to eat!

It’s easy to think, “I’ve overindulged,” and continue to overeat. Still, mindful eating can help you maintain healthy habits this holiday season!

Teens: Say no to energy drinks

Energy drinks have become increasingly popular among teens, but they provide no health benefit and can even be harmful.

Energy drinks can actually pose health risks to adolescents, yet approximately 30% of teens consume them on a regular basis. The risks include increased heart rate, high blood pressure, anxiety, digestive problems, sleep disturbances, dehydration, and even death. In addition, teens who consume energy drinks are also more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors such as drinking more sugar-sweetened beverages, smoking cigarettes, and using drugs and alcohol.

Many of the negative effects associated with energy drinks are due to the large amounts of stimulants in these beverages. Their caffeine content can range from 50 to more than 300 mg per can or bottle. However, the amount of caffeine teens consume from energy drinks is trending upwards, in part due to heavy marketing with celebrity athletes.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and teens consume no more than 100 mg of caffeine per day (equal to about 2 cans of caffeine-containing soda or one 8 oz. cup of coffee) and avoid energy drinks altogether. They provide no nutritional benefit.

Parents: Be sure to talk to your teens about the potential problems associated with energy drinks, and make sure they don’t confuse them with sports drinks, which teens should use only when needed.

‘Tis the season for decisions

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
The holiday season is filled with choices. Learn how to build a foundation for better decision-making.

Decision-making is difficult, but there are a few strategies you can put into place to help make better choices this holiday season. The holidays are jam-packed with options: what to buy for gifts, who to spend time with, or whether to reach for another cookie. Try these tips to feel good about your decisions and reduce regret:

  • Remember the basics. Good health habits lay the foundation for making better decisions. But when you’re busy or stressed, it’s easy to forget the basics. Stay current on dietary guidelines to help make healthy food choices. Build in time for exercise because staying active benefits both body and mind. The mood-enhancing, stress-buffering effects of exercise can boost your confidence and clarity with decision-making as well. And use HPRC’s sleep tips to make sure you start each day with a full tank because sleep lays the foundation for optimal emotional, mental, and ethical functioning.
  • Slow down. It’s really easy to go on autopilot and make thoughtless, “emotionally charged” decisions. However, this can lead to outcomes you might regret. So take pause when you can. Try the STOP technique: Take a tactical pause, breathe deeply, and note your thoughts and feelings before you begin to weigh your options.
  • Use “if…then” thinking. The holidays are filled with temptations to do and say regrettable things, drink or eat more than you want, or spend more money than you planned. “If...then” thinking can help you proactively head off poor choices by connecting a situation or circumstance to an alternative action or behavior that you planned ahead of time. For example, you might say to yourself, “IF I find myself getting worked up by a political discussion, THEN I will see if cousin Jack wants to go for a walk.”

‘Tis the season for decisions. Make sure you’re making good ones. A little proactive planning can help you make wiser choices and avoid the decision pitfalls that are common this time of year.

Transgender service members and veterans

Filed under: Sexuality, Transgender
DoD policy changes now enable transgender service members to openly serve. Training for commanders and other personnel in this policy’s implementation is underway. Learn more.

As of June 2016, DoD policy states that qualified service members can no longer be involuntarily separated, discharged, or denied reenlistment or continuation of service solely for being transgender. Transgender describes someone whose gender identity, gender expression, or behavior doesn’t conform to what’s typically associated with the sex he or she was assigned at birth. This policy enables transgender persons to serve the military without fear of dismissal or harassment. It also ensures transgender service members and veterans have access to medical care and a structure is in place for those to transition gender when medically necessary. In addition, DoD has produced the following policy-related guides for military personnel:

The Services will use these guides and other materials to conduct policy training for commanders, medical personnel, operating forces, and recruiters through June 2017. The handbook reinforces that harassment of any service member is inappropriate and shouldn’t be tolerated. It also states that discrimination based on gender identity is considered sex discrimination, and any concerns should be addressed through DoD’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) program.

In recent years, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) also has updated its approach to working with transgendered veterans. VHA Directive 2013-003 summarizes its healthcare services for transgendered veterans. This shift at the Veterans Administration (VA) helps lessen barriers to care for transgender vets. Transgender males and females can now change their gender identifications and names in the VHA system. In addition, VHA sometimes will provide transgendered veterans with sexualizing hormones such as testosterone and estrogen. However, VHA won’t provide surgeries for those considering sexual reassignment.

Visit the National Center for Transgender Equality website for additional resources for transgender service members and veterans.

Enjoy cranberries all year ‘round

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Nutrition, Recipes
Find out how cranberries add color, flavor, and nutrition to your meal plan.

Cranberries are especially popular during the holidays but can be a healthy part of your meal plan all year long. They’re good sources of vitamin C and fiber and contain polyphenols, which might lower your risk of heart disease.

There’s some evidence that cranberry juice can help reduce the recurrence of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in those prone to such infections—important because UTIs can be debilitating, and more than 60% of women experience at least one. However, there’s no proof that it has any benefit for an existing UTI. Keep in mind that drinking juice hasn’t been proven to effectively treat infections.

Still, cranberries can be an easy, healthful way to add fruit to your meal plan. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), males (ages 19–50) and females (ages 14–50) consume less than one cup of fruit (including juice) daily—roughly half the recommended amount. So enjoy berries whole, dried, in sauces, and in juices. Tip: Purchase whole berries in the fall when fresh and store them in the freezer for future use.

Cranberries are tart, and some sugar is needed to make them edible, so watch how much sugar and other sweeteners you consume at any meal that includes cranberries.

  • Breakfast. Drink 4–8 oz cranberry juice or toss a spoonful of dried cranberries on your cereal or oatmeal. Or add ½ cup raw berries to your favorite quick bread recipe or boxed mix.
  • Lunch or dinner. Spread cranberry sauce instead of mayo on your turkey or chicken sandwich. Or sprinkle dried cranberries on your salad. Stir dried cranberries, cooked apple, onion, celery, toasted pecans, and sage into wild rice for a tasty side dish.
  • Snacks. Mix ¼ cup dried berries with 1 Tbsp nuts.
  • Cranberry relish. Combine 12 oz uncooked cranberries with one unpeeled, chopped orange in a food processor or blender. Pulse to mix, being careful not to over process. Add sugar to taste. 
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