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HPRC Blog

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.

Crazy for coconut water?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Coconut water is touted as a “natural” drink and a possible alternative for rehydration, but you may need additional nutrients during strenuous exercise.

Coconut water, the flavorful liquid found in young green coconuts, has become a popular drink. It is often promoted for a variety of ailments—from curing bad skin to resolving hangovers. But coconut water is also touted as a fluid replacement alternative. For this reason, some Warfighters choose coconut water over sports beverages because coconut water is “natural” and contains carbohydrates and key electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. However, not all brands of coconut water are created equal. In fact, they can vary considerably in terms of their nutrient content, so read product labels to be sure you’re getting the right amount of nutrients you need for optimal performance.

For example, the amount of carbohydrate and sodium in coconut water is sometimes very low, and individuals who participate in prolonged, vigorous exercise (longer than an hour) may need more carbohydrate and sodium. On the other hand, the potassium content of coconut water can be very high. Drinking a lot of coconut water (more than 8–10 servings in one day), especially if you eat potassium-rich foods such as bananas, can raise your body’s potassium levels too much, which can cause heart problems for some people. For more information about hydration needs, see HPRC’s article on fluids and exercise.

For periods of exercise less than one hour, water is always your best choice—about 7–10 ounces every 15–20 minutes. But for longer periods of exercise, sports beverages are a good choice because they are specially formulated to replenish carbohydrate, sodium, and potassium lost during extended and/or vigorous physical activity. Again, be sure to read the product label to make sure yours has what you need, and nothing more. If you choose sports beverages, drink three to eight ounces every 15–20 minutes to stay hydrated. For more information about proper hydration, read An Athlete’s Guide to Nutrient Timing.

And what about that coconut water? There simply isn’t enough evidence to support the use of coconut water as a remedy for any condition. And although it’s a tasty beverage, know what’s in it so you can replenish what your body needs—no more, no less.

Assert yourself and be heard

Assertive communication is neither aggressive nor passive. It is both directive and cooperative.

Listening is half of communication. The other half is what you say and how you say it. The best way to express yourself is to be assertive. Assertive communication feels neither aggressive nor passive. It’s a balance between issuing a directive and being overly cooperative.

Communication between siblings can provide some good examples. Here’s the super directive approach: “You need to call me too. Don’t make me do all the work to keep up our relationship.” That may make sense, but the other person may not take it in because it triggers defensiveness. And here’s the overly cooperative approach: When your sibling says, “I hope you don’t mind that I never call,” you reply, “No, it’s okay, whatever you want is fine” (even if it isn’t). An assertive approach would be: “I’d really like to talk with you on the phone more, and I know you’re busy. What can we do to stay in better contact?”

The approach is basically a combination of “This is what I need” and “Can you join my team in figuring out a solution?” It’s straightforward and mutually empowering, opening the door for real communication. And for the other half of the communication equation, read last week’s article about how to be a good listener.

Remembering on Memorial Day

Filed under: Memorial Day
Memorial Day is not only a time to remember those who have served but to remember how to serve those who do.

Today is Memorial Day. Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day” after the Civil War. In 1882, Decoration Day became widely known as Memorial Day, and after WWII it became a day to remember all our fallen heroes, not just those from the Civil War. In 1967, Congress passed the law making it an official holiday to be celebrated on May 30, subsequently changed to the last Monday of May. We at HPRC extend our greatest appreciation to those who have perished for our nation and offer our sincere sympathy for the families left behind. There are many ways people choose to remember those who gave their lives as a supreme sacrifice to our country and its ideals. HPRC is dedicated to providing our Warfighters and their families the information they need to build resilience to prevent injury and illness and carry out their missions as safely and effectively as possible. Our desire is to reduce the level of sacrifice our warriors have to make as they fulfill their future missions for us and for our nation.

A stimulating topic: drug abuse

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Learn about stimulant drugs—controlled substances that have potentially serious side effects and can be addictive.

Prescription stimulants can improve attention and alertness, and doctors prescribe them for people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or excessive fatigue. Used improperly and without the supervision of a health provider, these drugs have serious side effects. Some people misuse and/or become addicted to them. Learn more in HPRC’s “Stimulant drugs: use and misuse.”

Stimulants found in weight-loss product

The weight-loss dietary supplement product Dexaprine has been found to contain undeclared active substances and has been removed from the Dutch market. Consumers should be aware of the reports of adverse events.

Last summer the Netherlands removed the weight-loss dietary supplement product Dexaprine from the market due to reports of serious adverse events, but the results of research into the cause has just been released. A recent article in Drug Testing and Analysis described at least 26 cases of Dexaprine toxicity reported to the Dutch Poisons Information Center. Testing revealed the existence of “a cocktail of synthetic stimulants” including synephrine, oxilofrine, deternol, yohimbine, caffeine, and theophylline, and possibly ß-methyl-ß-phenylethylamines. (Problematic forms of phenylethylamines, including ß-methylphenylethylamine. were discussed in an April 2014 article in the New England Journal of Medicine.) For more information about tainted weight-loss dietary supplements, see the Food and Drug Administration’s information. Note that this product is still available in the U.S. and online.

Colds versus allergies

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
Can you tell the difference between a contagious cold and the irritating allergies that affect some people in the spring?

Have you been experiencing symptoms such as sneezing; a runny nose; watery and/or itchy eyes, and fatigue? Colds and allergies both can make you feel miserable and affect your performance, but it can be hard sometimes to tell which is which. The causes of each are distinctly different: Colds are contagious, and they are caused by viruses. But allergies are due to sensitivity to allergens such as seasonal pollen, and they’re not contagious. To prevent colds, hand washing is key, along with hygiene etiquette such as covering your mouth or nose when you cough or sneeze. To avert allergies, on the other hand, try to avoid the allergens that cause your symptoms. Common allergens, especially in the spring, include grass and tree pollen. Year-round allergens include mold, animal dander, and dust mites. It can be a challenge to exercise and enjoy the outdoors if you have allergies, but it’s not impossible. Here are some tips to help you manage your allergies:

  • Know and avoid your allergy triggers. If you’re not sure what you might be allergic to, getting tests done by a specialist could help you narrow it down. A doctor might also suggest an antihistamine or inhaler to help prevent flare-ups.
  • Check the air quality in your area every day. If the pollen count is high, avoid spending too much time outside, mowing the grass, or exercising outdoors.
  • Shower after being outside. This can help reduce symptoms by washing pollen off your, skin, hair, and eyelashes.
  • If you must be outside during high pollen/pollutant times, wear a cover (such as a mask or bandana) over your mouth and nose to keep particles out of your airways.
  • Rinse out your nose with a saline spray to help wash away allergens after being outside.

Got (chocolate) milk?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
It’s important to replenish your body after working out. Chocolate milk provides essential nutrients and is inexpensive, easy to find, and tasty.

Need a great post-workout beverage? Try drinking a glass or two of chocolate milk during the first 15-60 minutes after exercise to replenish glycogen stores and repair muscles.

Why chocolate milk? The carbohydrate-to-protein ratio in chocolate milk is roughly four-to-one, the best ratio for replenishing glycogen stores while providing adequate protein for muscle building and repair. One eight-ounce glass of chocolate milk provides about 200 calories. It provides carbohydrate, protein, electrolytes such as potassium and sodium, and essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D and calcium in an easily digestible liquid form that is inexpensive and readily available, and it tastes good! But be sure to choose heart-healthy low-fat versions.

For those who are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy products, or for those who simply prefer a plant-based diet, fortified chocolate soymilk is a great alternative.

Communicate better by listening better

Amp up your communication skills. Improve the other half of the conversation with “active listening.”

If you find yourself at odds with those around you more than you’d like, think about bolstering your communication skills. Communication is a key skill in all relationships, and half of this skill is knowing how to listen. “Active listening” lets your loved one, friends, and associates know that you heard them and understand their perspective. Active listening happens when the listener—you—takes part in the conversation, not just listens. Here’s how you do it:

  • Repeat back to the other person the gist of what he or she just said.
  • Reflect the other person’s feelings; that is, recognize out loud that you understand how he or she feels
  • If you need clarification, ask for it in a gentle way.
  • Show interest and curiosity in what the other person is saying.

To see what this might look like, watch this video from the Kansas National Guard about active and constructive communication. FOCUS has a handout on “Effective Communication Skills” that further describes this skill.

What is “Total Force Fitness”?

Do you know what “Total Force Fitness” is? It’s a Department of Defense model for building and maintaining health, wellness, and resilience.

Have you heard of Total Force Fitness, but you aren’t sure what it is? It’s a framework for building and maintaining health, readiness, and performance in the Department of Defense. It views health, wellness, and resilience as a holistic concept that recognizes “total fitness” as a “state in which the individual, family and organization can sustain optimal well-being and performance under all conditions”—a connection between mind, body, spirit, and family/social relationships. Total fitness shifts the perspective from treatment to wellness and focuses on prevention and strengths.

The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury created a slide presentation for units and groups on Total Force Fitness: A Brief Overview that describes what TFF is, its core components, and each of its eight “domains” (behavioral, social, physical, environmental, medical and dental, spiritual, nutritional, and psychological). For more in-depth reading, check out the original Military Medicine Supplement that started it all, including a scholarly chapter for each domain.

The ABCs of stress

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Mind, Relaxation, Stress
The ABCs of stress explain how much stress you feel and why. Learn how they can be turned into strategies for stress management.

Everyone experiences stress, but how you interpret stress determines how stressed you feel. This process is often referred to as the “ABCs of stress”:

Activating event + Beliefs = Consequences

When you experience an event, you interpret that “Activating event” according to your “Beliefs”—the lens through which you view the world. Generally, your interpretation is what causes your feelings of stress—that is, the “Consequences.” This is why two people can go through the same event and be affected in very different ways. If your interpretation of events leads to high levels of stress, you can manage your stress by finding ways to reframe your interpretation.

Afterdeployment.org suggests making a “Stress Toolkit” in which you identify helpful coping strategies. These could be strategies that ignite your relaxation response or reframe your thinking (see above) and/or behavioral methods such as deep breathing.

Another way to help you manage stress is to think through future stressful situations to be better prepared. Afterdeployment.org suggests: 1. Visualize potential stressful situations. 2. Determine how much of the situation you can control. 3. Problem-solve what you can control (using coping methods that work for you), and 4. Remember to lean on your friends and family for support.

For more information and ideas, visit HPRC’s Stress Management section.

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