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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.

Do you need to warm up before exercising?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Physical Fitness
Warming up may help or hinder your performance depending on how you do so.

The Health section of the New York Times published an article that discussed a new study recently published in The Journal of Applied Physiology. Researchers found that some athletes warm up so much that they are too tired to perform at their best during competition. Researchers at Canada’s University of Calgary studied highly trained male track cyclists, asking them to compete, first, after their usual warm-up (20 minutes of riding, increasing to 95% maximum heart rate, then 4×8 minute all-out sprints) and, second, after a 15-minute, lower-intensity warm-up.

Interestingly, they found that the cyclists’ muscles had more power before the their usual warm-up than after it and that they performed better after the less intense warm-up than after their usual warm-up. Researchers concluded that when warming up, less may be more.

Fruits & Vegetables are important

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Add these resources to your arsenal of healthy-eating tools to help you get more fruits and vegetables in your diet.

Fruits & Veggies — More Matters™ is a health initiative led by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH), to increase daily consumption of fruits and vegetables. Visit the CDC and PBH websites for helpful tips, recipes, and interactive tools to help you increase your intake of fruits and vegetables.

The FDA cracks down on a Minnesota company making unproven claims

HPRC Fitness Arena:
The FDA seizes probiotic products from Minnesota company that makes unproven disease claims.

Probiotic products were seized by U.S. Marshals after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) complained that the products were marketed as drugs. The company who sells the probiotic products claims that the products will prevent or treat disease, which is in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. More information is provided in the FDA News Release.

Sleep Apnea and athletic performance

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Sleep apnea is a disorder caused by the decrease or pause in the airflow or breathing during sleep. It can lead to daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and cognitive impairment, all side effects that could negatively impact athletic performance.

NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal recently announced that he will retire from professional basketball after 19 seasons and four championship rings. In addition to that announcement, O'Neal announced via a YouTube video that he, like 12 million other Americans, had been diagnosed with sleep apnea.

According to his girlfriend, the seven-feet-tall, 300-plus-pounds center snored excessively during the night, and she noticed that his chest would often cease movement entirely. After participating in a Harvard University–sponsored sleep study, he was diagnosed with a mild case of sleep apnea and was advised to begin wearing a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) mask, a respiratory ventilation therapy that assists the wearer’s breathing while asleep. O'Neal's story has a happy ending—because of the recent diagnosis and subsequent treatment, O’Neal reports that he feels more energetic and that his overall quality of life has improved. He is also happy and comfortable with the treatment. Other professional athletes suffering from sleep apnea have not been so fortunate. In 2006, Reggie White, defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers—one of the greatest players in football history—reportedly died from causes related to sleep apnea.

What exactly is sleep apnea? And how does it affect athletic performance? People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night and often for a minute or longer. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, there are three types of apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed. Of the three types, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common. Weight can contribute to sleep apnea. In 2009, a study by Sweden's Karolinska Institute showed that overweight and obese men who lost weight during a calorie-restricted diet over nine weeks had major improvements in their sleep apnea symptoms.

Other risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea include certain physical attributes, such as having a thick neck (which describes many athlete body types), deviated septum, receding chin, and enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Allergies or other medical conditions that cause nasal congestion and blockage can also contribute to sleep apnea.

Signs of sleep apnea include loud and chronic snoring, choking, snorting, or gasping during sleep, long pauses in breathing, and daytime sleepiness regardless of how much time you spend sleeping. Other common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat, morning headaches, restless or fitful sleep, insomnia or nighttime awakenings, going to the bathroom frequently during the night, waking up feeling out of breath, forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating, moodiness, irritability, or depression.

Untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases, memory problems, weight gain, impotency, and headaches. Moreover, left untreated, it may be responsible for job impairment and motor vehicle crashes.

In terms of athletic/sports performance, sleep apnea is a major concern because sleep apnea causes a disruption to healthy sleep patterns, which in turn can affect physical performance. According to a 2007 Stanford University study of sleep and athletic performance, athletes who extend the amount of sleep they get and reduce their sleep debt are more likely to improve their performance. Conversely, if an athlete does not get a good night’s sleep, then the next day he/she is tired, sleepy, or irritable. In such cases, physical performance also is impaired, since there is limited energy reserve due to the lack of adequate or good-quality sleep.  Sleep apnea not only has an impact on athletes—it affects the military, as well.

So what can you do if you suspect that you or your sleep partner has sleep apnea? The only way to be sure is to undergo a sleep test, which is done in a sleep lab where patients sleep in a special bedroom with electrodes and other sensors attached to various parts of the body. There, you will be monitored throughout the night to keep track of whether and how often you stop breathing, how low your O2 sat (oxygen saturation) goes, and what your brainwaves are doing while you're sleeping.

For additional resources on sleep and sleep apnea, please visit the following:

American Sleep Apnea Association

National Sleep Foundation

How Much Sleep does a Warfighter Need?

National Center on Sleep Disorders Research

Outside Magazine plunges into the work at USARIEM

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Outside Magazine’s Christopher Solomon, took the plunge, so to speak, into the work conducted at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM).

Research at USARIEM (U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine) was featured in a article by writer Christopher Solomon titled "G.I. Joe and the House of Pain" in a special issue of Outside Magazine about human performance. The author spent time in the research lab's heat chamber, altitude chamber, and cold-water pool—conditions that simulate the extreme environmental conditions found in theater. He interviewed research physiologists there about USARIEM's work over the past 50 years as well as its current studies, all of which address the crucial issues of Warfighter health and performance in extreme environments.

Strategies to impact your well-being: Wrapping up

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Here are some thoughts to wrap up the series we presented over the past four weeks on how to improve your overall well-being through “savoring” strategies.

Several weeks ago we started a series on strategies for processing emotions. We have described four "savoring" strategies and four "dampening" strategies. Using more of the savoring strategies and fewer of the dampening strategies can help positive feelings linger from positive experiences. But you must also make sure you use strategies that match your personality and lifestyle. In this research study, those who used multiple savoring strategies (and avoided more of the dampening strategies) were the happiest. The authors also suggest staying in the moment when something positive happens to you and once the moment has passed, stepping back and savoring the experience. Take a moment now to review the tips from weeks one, two, three, and four.

To learn additional well-being strategies for your happiness toolkit, visit the HPRC's Mind Tactics domain, as well as the Defense Centers of Excellence Mind-Body Strategies website and White Paper.

Zinc: Some Facts

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Your body needs zinc for a number of essential functions, so make sure your diet includes foods that provide this nutrient.

Zinc, an essential trace element, is found in cells throughout the body and helps the immune system by fighting off bacteria and viruses. It is also involved in making proteins and DNA and helps wounds heal, among other functions. Oysters are the richest source of zinc, and other good sources include red meat, poultry, crab, lobsters, and fortified cereals. For more information, including the average daily recommended amounts, see the Office of Dietary Supplements’ Fact Sheet.

A New Eating Guide: MyPlate

HPRC Fitness Arena:
The USDA has a new symbol for good nutrition, emphasizing higher proportions of fruits and vegetables.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released MyPlate as the new Dietary Guidance graphic. MyPlate replaces the Food Guide Pyramid and is split into five sections for fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy and protein. The new recommendations focus on the importance of eating fruits and vegetables (half a “plate”). Go to www.ChooseMyPlate.gov for the new graphic and recommendations. For the USDA press release issued about MyPlate, click here.

Herbs at a glance

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Visit the website of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine for information on many of the herbs used as and in dietary supplements.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) has produced a series of fact sheets on specific herbs and botanicals. Find information on common names, uses, potential side effects, and other information by choosing any of the 45 herbs or botanical fact sheets.

New cooking temperature for pork

HPRC Fitness Arena:
The USDA recommendations for cooking various types of meet offer important and useful guidelines, including some changes from previous directions.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new cooking guidelines for meats include a reduced “safe” cooking temperature for whole cuts of pork to 145ºF (down from 160ºF). They recommend using a food thermometer and allowing a three-minute rest time before serving. For whole cuts of beef, veal, and lamb, the safe temperature is the same—145ºF—but the new guidelines add a three-minute rest time after these meats, too, are removed from a heat source.  For additional information, including the recommendations for cooking ground meats and poultry, read the new cooking guidelines.

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