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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.

Prevent altitude sickness

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
Altitude sickness can affect your performance. Learn about what happens to your body and how to look for warning signs.

Altitude affects what your body needs and how it responds, especially when it comes to exercise. Acute mountain sickness (AMS)—caused by dry air, a decrease in oxygen, and low barometric pressure—can severely impact your health and performance. The good news is there are things you can do to help reduce your risk of altitude sickness.

Performing physical activity—whether you’re at the gym or on a mission—at moderate (4,000–7,900 ft or 1,200–2,400 m) and high (7,900–13,000 ft or 2,400–4,000 m) altitudes can be challenging. At high altitude, oxygen pressure is significantly lower, which results in less oxygen in the blood and muscle tissues. And as altitude increases, there’s also a decrease in air temperature (about 2°F for every 500 ft or 150 m), less moisture (resulting in drier air), and increased solar radiation. AMS can affect anyone who is unacclimatized and ascends too rapidly to high altitudes. Symptoms can include headache, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, vomiting, sleep problems, shortness of breath, dehydration, and impaired cognition and balance.

The risk and severity of altitude sickness are greater above 4,000 meters, and treatment might require evacuation to lower altitude or immediate medical attention. To reduce your risk of AMS, wear sunscreen, drink water, and try to limit your physical activity at altitude for the first 24 hours. Acclimate to moderate elevations (2,000–3,000 m), if possible.

With current and future military operations in mountainous regions, the issue of AMS is a serious concern. However, leaders can help manage and perhaps prevent AMS among Warfighters by being aware of the elevation, types of activities, and lengths of stay at altitudes. Visit HPRC’s Altitude section to learn more about performance at altitude.

Whole grains 101

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Diet, Grains, Nutrition
Try these tips to enjoy more whole grains in every meal and snack.

Whole grains—such as brown rice and oatmeal—keep you fuller longer and provide sustainable energy to boost your performance throughout the day. Those who eat whole grains daily have a lower incidence of prediabetes, heart disease, cancer, respiratory and infectious diseases, and mental decline too.

Make sure to make at least half of your grain choices whole grains daily to get the vitamins and nutrients they contain and that are missing from refined and processed grains. The more processed grains you eat, the more important nutrients you miss out on. Read more...

What’s a proprietary blend?

Does your supplement contain a “proprietary blend”? What does that tell you about its ingredients?

Before you take a dietary supplement, look at the Supplement Facts panel on the label and check to see if any of the ingredients are contained in a “proprietary blend.” Proprietary blends aren’t always called “proprietary blends” on the label (they might be described as “complexes,” “matrixes,” “formulas,” or other descriptive names), but you can tell if your product contains one if you see a list of ingredients without the amounts of each one next to them. Although the absence of a proprietary blend doesn’t automatically make a product safe, the presence of one is something to think twice about. To learn more, read the OPSS FAQ about proprietary blends.

Fighting the “negativity bias”

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Learn how your brain focuses on the negative, how that can impact your well-being, and how to balance out your perception.

The human brain has evolved to be adept at identifying threats and challenges, which enables you to navigate through a dangerous world successfully. This ability helps keep Warfighters, family members, and teammates vigilant and safe from harm. But it also can skew your perception of life toward the negative. Read on to learn how to keep your mind in balance.

This hardwired tendency, called “negativity bias,” causes your brain to prioritize, seek out, and lock on to negative information out in the world like a heat-seeking missile. You’re likely to process negative events more fully than positive ones. Negative emotions seem to hang around a lot longer than positive emotions. And when you get home at the end of the day, you’re more likely to mull over the one negative comment someone made about your work and ignore the many positive comments you received from others. It’s just the way your brain works.

Negativity bias is adaptive and helpful in many ways, but the key to maintaining good mental health is in finding balance. So what can you do? Here are a few strategies to try:

  • Spend a few minutes each day looking for the good around you. Write down the positive things you notice and reflect or share with other people.
  • Check your interpretations. If you notice you tend to interpret the world in negative ways, ask yourself if you’re seeing things accurately and if you can be more flexible in your thinking.
  • Be intentional about appreciating the ordinary. Good things don’t have to be big things. When you can learn to be grateful for and appreciate the little things, you can balance out the impact of your negativity bias.

The bad stuff will find you, but work each day at fighting the negativity bias by searching for the good.

Raise healthy eaters—Part 2: Age-specific tips

Part 2 of HPRC’s “healthy eater” series explores age-specific tips to get your kids to eat healthy.

Children need guidance from their parents about eating a well-balanced diet. As they grow, your interactions with them around food will change. They’ll take on more responsibility for feeding themselves too. Still, you’ll continue to influence their eating preferences through the foods you prepare and offer to them. Read on for age-specific tips to encourage your kids’ healthy eating too. And if you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to read Part 1 about general nutrition tips for helping your children learn how to be “healthy eaters” at all ages. Read more...

EPOC-alypse, now!

Some exercise programs claim their workouts give you “afterburn.” But does your body continue to burn calories after exercise?

Have you ever raced to the top of a long flight of stairs and found yourself gasping for breath just minutes later? Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), also known as “afterburn,” occurs after strenuous exercise as a way to bring your body back to its normal metabolic rate. It takes time for your body to replenish the oxygen used up during exercise, and during this time you continue to burn calories as a result of your elevated metabolism.

You might have experienced EPOC after completing a tough workout, remaining hot and sweaty even 20–30 minutes later. The good news is that it doesn’t take a long workout to achieve that afterburn. Still, it means your workouts need to be more intense. Rounds of short bursts of high-intensity exercise—such as cardio or resistance training—followed by a period of low-intensity exercise or rest is the best way to achieve afterburn. This style of intermittent high-intensity exercise can burn more fat, improve glucose tolerance, and even increase your aerobic fitness. Many commercial programs and gyms claim their workouts will increase EPOC, but this isn’t “new science.” And you don’t have to pay extra money to achieve the same results.

Split your cardio workout into two shorter sessions of higher intensity to accomplish a longer afterburn. For example, if you usually cycle for 50 minutes after work, do two 25-minute rides instead: one before work and one after work. Or replace your normal resistance training with supersets: Pair 2 exercises of opposing muscle groups and complete them back-to-back with minimal rest. For example, combine pull-ups with pushups into one superset, completing 8–12 repetitions of each exercise for 3–5 sets. You also can do a full-body workout by combining 3–4 different supersets. Remember to maintain proper form because it reduces your risk of injury too.

Raise healthy eaters—Part 1: For kids 2–18

It’s important to teach children about acceptable eating behaviors and how to control their eating impulses. In this two-part series, HPRC offers tips to help your kids eat healthy.

How you approach feeding your children influences their food choices, the amount they eat, and their weight. While it’s important for kids to maintain a healthy weight, it’s also helpful for them to determine when they’re hungry and when they’re full.

Insisting kids eat more after they say they’re full can interfere with their ability to learn what “being full” really feels like. Trust that your child’s brain is sending signals back and forth to his or her belly, indicating “full.” And if children are offered a selection of generally healthy foods, they’ll eat the right amount and grow healthy. Read the rest of this article for specific tips you can use to help your own children eat healthfully as they grow.  

Your money grows with compound interest

Filed under: Finances, Money
Learn how compound interest can help your money grow for the long term.

Making smart financial decisions now—such as saving your money so that it earns compound interest—can secure your future. You might find yourself with extra money to spend during different points in your career. Perhaps you worked overtime hours or received hazard duty pay. These extra funds can feel like a windfall and that there are endless possibilities for what you can purchase. While that might seem attractive in the short term, investing your earnings with compound interest can literally “pay off.”

You earn interest—money the bank pays you—from saving or investing a set amount. For example, if you save $100 in a savings account with a 5% annual interest rate, you’d have $105 at the end of the first year: your original $100 plus $5 in interest. Compound interest is what you earn on the money you save and on the interest that money earned. Using the same example, you’d have $110.25 at the end of the second year: $105 plus $5.25 in “compounded” interest.

The more you save, the bigger your interest compounds. And when you come into a large sum of money, perhaps from deployment pay, you have a unique opportunity to make that money grow. Check out how much you could earn by using a compound interest calculator. Visit your bank’s website or meet with a financial counselor to learn about other opportunities to earn compound interest and how to invest in stocks and bonds too.

Keep your eyes on long-term financial goals and stay financially fit by creating and sticking to a budget. Refrain from buying “extra” things in the short term too. And set aside money—up to 6 months of living expenses—in a “rainy day” savings account to help cover emergencies, costly car repairs, and other unexpected expenses. 

Focus on routines

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Mind-body, Routine
Routines help you focus your attention on what’s important, but rigid routines sometimes can get in the way. Flexibility is key to your successful performance. Learn more.

Warfighters especially need the ability to make quick and accurate judgments without having to think about them deliberately. You can hone this skill using techniques employed by top athletes: They use routines to help shift their attention—away from stressful anticipation of how things are going to turn out—to focus instead on what’s most important in the moment. In other words, routines can help reduce anxiety and improve focus.

While routines can improve your performance, it’s also important to be flexible. Overly rigid routines can morph a helpful tool into a superstitious or obsessive ritual. Flexibility and adaptation are crucial parts of even the most finely honed routines. With service members, for whom crises are part of the job, the best teams are able to go “off-script” when needed in order to work together most effectively.

HPRC has strategies to help you focus your attention, so that it goes to the right place at the right time. By honing these approaches, you’ll find that your habits become so well formed that you’re able to focus, guide your actions, and be more aware of your environment. And you’re able to do even more: You can “get out of your own head” so you can make decisions and avoid “paralysis by analysis.” Read HPRC’s “Develop routines to optimize attention” to learn details.

Is DMAA coming back?

Our most recent list of DMAA products on the Internet market shows a rise in the number available, including some apparently new products.

DMAA has been illegal for use as an ingredient in dietary supplements for more than 3 years. It still is, but just when you think it would be disappearing from the market, it seems to be on a slight rise again. Our online search of available dietary supplements with DMAA turned up 11 products we had never encountered before, in addition to 34 products still on the list since before DMAA became illegal. We also found 50 discontinued products with DMAA still being sold by third-party retail outlets.

Unfortunately, illegal substances of all kinds are readily available on the Internet. For example, ephedra has been illegal since 2004, when FDA acted on growing reports of severe adverse events, including deaths, associated with the popular weight-loss supplement ingredient. However, products containing ephedra are commonly marketed online. Even substances on the Drug Enforcement Agency’s list of controlled substances can be purchased online. Worse, laboratory testing of dietary supplement products sometimes reveals the presence of illegal ingredients even when they aren’t listed on the products’ labels.

Ingredients such as DMAA are not allowed in dietary supplements because, according to FDA, “they can be a health risk to consumers.” Stay informed, starting with the OPSS FAQ about DMAA and updated list of Dietary Supplements/Products Containing DMAA.


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