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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.

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Family matters on the homefront

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Tips to help decrease the stress before deployment.

Harmony on the homefront helps ease deployment stress on Warfighters and their families. One Army spouse shares her tips for decreasing stress during deployment:

  1. Gather important documents before deployment.
  2. Identify possible problems and discuss them ahead of time.
  3. Tape an enlarged photo of the deployed parent in the car, and don't lose sight of the big picture, which as she describes as "come home safe and sound, to an intact family."

Click here to read the full article and see more tips.

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Questions raised on the effectiveness of toning shoes

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Toning shoes are exercise shoes that have a uniquely shaped rocker type sole and extra cushioning to alter the wearer’s normal walking gait. They are the latest trend in fitness footwear, but is all the buzz and manufacturer’s claims too good to be true?

Toning shoes are exercise shoes that have a uniquely shaped rocker type sole and extra cushioning to alter the wearer’s normal walking gait.  Manufacturers of toning shoes claim that wearers can tighten and shape their lower-body muscles just by walking in the shoes. They are the latest trend in fitness footwear, but is all the buzz and manufacturer’s claims too good to be true? Proponents of toning shoes cite that “instability of the shoes” forces the user to activate muscles that otherwise would not be used with regular exercise shoes. Additionally,  advocates for the shoes claim that by wearing toning shoes, you can change your posture and take pressure off aching, overused joints. However, a growing share of medical skeptics say no independent studies have shown benefits from these types of shoes over traditional pairs.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE), in conjunction with researchers from the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse, released results of a study comparing the effects of wearing toning to traditional running shoes. Seems the claims may not be true.

Read the press release from ACE here.

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Warming-up provides much needed benefits

HPRC Fitness Arena:

You may be anxious to get your workout started, but take the time to warm up and you'll avoid injury and perform better. Click here for more information on why you should stretch. To review warm-up and stretching techniques, see Chapters 4 & 7 in the Navy Seal Fitness Guide.

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Protect your skin from the sun

HPRC Fitness Arena:
With the hot sun of summer, make sure your skin is protected when exercising outdoors.

With the hot sun of summer, make sure your skin is protected when exercising outdoors. This isn't just a cosmetic issue, but a health issue, as well. Apply enough sunblock of the correct type for the exercise you're performing outdoors. Visit Environment, Health, and Safety Online for general sun safety tips.

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Stay cool and in shape!

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Fitness and fun – swimming gives you both.

Swimming is a great way to stay cool this summer and get a great workout. Try variations with strokes and swimming equipment like kickboards and fins. For more swimming tips to improve your fitness, visit Medicinenet.com.

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The regulation of dietary supplements

HPRC Fitness Arena:
When you choose a multivitamin or supplement from the store, have you ever wondered how to choose?

When you choose a multivitamin or supplement from the store, have you ever wondered how to choose? Or if there’s any regulation to ensure the one you choose is safe, and that you’re getting what you’re paying for? Regulation is perhaps the least understood aspect of the dietary supplement industry. We, here at HPRC, hope we can shed some light on the matter. Look for the quickest way to ensure quality and safety in your supplements at the end of the article.

Dietary supplements are regulated, but not as strictly as many might want. Oversight of dietary supplements began with the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). Since supplements are intended to supplement one’s diet, they are regulated the way food is, and not as drugs are. Under DSHEA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates dietary supplements by holding manufacturers accountable in five important areas: Manufacturers are required to ensure that the supplement is safe; make truthful claims; abide by current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs); submit to FDA all reports of serious adverse events, and notify FDA before it markets a supplement containing a “new dietary ingredient” (NDI).

What consumers should know is that manufacturers cannot sell unsafe, ineffective supplements; they have to document that their product will not harm anyone, and provide convincing evidence that the product does what it claims. To further ensure safety and effectiveness, the FDA closely regulates supplement labels for accuracy and honesty. All information on the label must be truthful and conform to all FDA standards. It has to list the sources of all components, and the amount of key nutrients and ingredients. Manufacturers are also required to report to the FDA before marketing supplements containing new dietary ingredients, which must have data supporting safety of the ingredient. The FDA also regulates manufacturing standards using the current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) to ensure product quality and safety. Violation of cGMP is a violation of the law. Lastly, the FDA requires manufacturers to report on serious adverse events that may occur from consumers using their products.

Despite this oversight, there’s a misconception that dietary supplements are not regulated. This could be because supplements don’t require pre-market approval, and the post-market responsibility of FDA simply ensures compliance with the regulations listed above. The downside of this is that some unsafe and contaminated products end up on the market. Once there, the FDA has to prove that the product is unsafe (or show that the information on its label is untruthful or misleading), before it can be removed from the market. Also, although supplement labels are highly regulated, the content of separate brochures and fliers is not subject to FDA rules.

Enforcing regulations take time and resources. Since the cGMP rule went into effect in June 2008, the FDA has conducted approximately 55 inspections for compliance with the new regulations – and in light of the thousands of companies manufacturing supplements, there’s some dissatisfaction with the progress of the FDA.

So how can you protect yourself, as a consumer, from ineffective or even potentially unsafe supplements? There’s a simple answer: When purchasing dietary supplements, choose products approved by independent organizations that offer certification or verification. Look for supplements whose labels display a seal from the  United States Pharmacopeia (USP), the non-profit NSF International, or the Natural Products Association (NPA). Since these verifications are voluntary and are performed at the company’s expense, you can be certain that approved products have little or no contaminants, that the ingredients are present in the labeled amounts, and the labels are accurate.

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Optimize your relationships!

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Everyone can benefit from learning relationship enhancement skills.

In our previous post, we talked about why family relationships are important for Warfighter performance. This week, we’ve identified strategies for enhancing one’s relationships, based on the latest research we’ve read. Just like our bodies, relationships can be made stronger with training.

Think about adding the following strategies to your “relationship fitness plan.” They can be used in any close relationship: with your partner, your child, other family, or friends.

1) Relationships need work before problems arise. Many programs, like the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program and the One Shot One Kill v2.0 Resilience Program, address this concept of prevention. Just as you don’t start training for combat the day before a mission, you shouldn’t start relationship training after issues arise. Your relationship fitness plan should include practicing these behaviors:

Appreciate your loved ones through words or deeds.

Obey the Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated.

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. When in a fight, stop and ask yourself what the true message is behind the other person’s words.

Listening openly rather than reacting to angry behavior can head off an argument.

Communicate using “I-statements,” rather than blaming statements beginning with “you.” Start with an “I” and clearly state what you want to say from your perspective.

Keep negative comments and interactions to a minimum. For every one negative comment or interaction, five positive ones are needed to balance it out.

Soften your “start-up.” Conversations that turn into fights can be predicted from the start of the conversation. If a conversation begins with angry tones, high-pitched voices, or aggressive behavior, it can quickly escalate into an argument.

Keep things in perspective. Focus on the bright side.

Have fun. Remember to laugh together and have fun.

2) Relationship problems don’t go away by ignoring them. Being proactive by addressing recurring problems can go a long way towards fewer problems and creating less stress in the long run.

3) Timing is everything. Be strategic about when you address problems. When emotions are high, you’re more likely to say things without first thinking them through. With sensitive issues, take a break and address the issue when everyone is calm. At the very least, break from the argument for the time it would take to drink a glass of water.

4) Practice good relationship skills during the good times, so you’re prepared in difficult times. Just as Warfighters constantly train in order to be prepared for the difficulties they might encounter, relationship skills require practice before they’re put to the test in stressful situations.

The above strategies can help your relationships be positive forces in your life – and with less stress and more love, you can handle the rest of your life better.

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Caffeine can boost sports performance

HPRC Fitness Arena:
High doses of caffeine can increase muscle power and endurance, researchers from Coventry University said in a news release.

The June 29 edition of the Telegraph.co.uk published an article titled Caffeine can boost endurance racing. The article cites research done by Coventry University and reports that high doses of caffeine can increase muscle power and endurance.

Study author Dr Rob James, from the University of Coventry's Department of Biomolecular and Sports Science, said: "A very high dosage of caffeine, most likely achieved via tablets, powder or a concentrated liquid, is feasible and might prove attractive to a number of athletes wishing to improve their athletic performance.

"A small increase in performance via caffeine could mean the difference between a gold medal in the Olympics and an also-ran."

 

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New report on protein drinks

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Recent surveys of dietary supplement use indicate that about 20 percent of active duty personnel are using some type of protein powder. The percentage of users is likely higher among special operations personnel, and this is of concern, given the July 2010 Consumer Reports® alert on protein drinks.

Recent surveys of dietary supplement use indicate that about 20 percent of active duty personnel are using some type of protein powder. The percentage of users is likely higher among special operations personnel, and this is of concern, given the July 2010 Consumer Reports® alert on protein drinks. These powder products are typically mixed with milk, water, or another liquid to make a shake and promoted as a sure way to increase muscle mass. The products often come in different flavors, with strawberry and chocolate the mainstays.

The Consumer Reports® Alert indicated that most of the 15 protein drink products analyzed contained miniscule to concerning amounts of selected contaminants – arsenic, cadmium, lead, and/or mercury – each of which is toxic to various organs in the body. Military personnel commonly use several of the products noted in the report. These include EAS Myoplex Original Rich Dark Chocolate Shakes; Muscle Milk chocolate, vanilla crème, and nutritional shake beverages; MuscleTech Nitro-Tech Hardcore Pro-Series Vanilla Milkshake; selected GNC products, and BSN and Optimum Nutrition whey protein products.

It is important to note that if three servings of these products were taken per day, consumers could be ingesting amounts of these contaminants in excess of the maximum limits proposed by the United States Pharmacopeia, the authoritative standard for health products. Importantly, toxic effects have been reported from using these products and are of concern because the Food and Drug Administration does not require such products to be tested to confirm the absence of contaminants and other potentially dangerous products before they are sold.

Take Home Message: A chicken breast, three 8-oz glasses of milk, and three eggs are inexpensive sources of high quality protein, whereas protein powders are expensive sources of uncertain quality, and potentially contaminated, protein. It is both better and cheaper to eat real foods.


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Why are family relationships important for Warfighter performance?

HPRC Fitness Arena:
The awareness that family well-being is crucial to Warfighter readiness and success is growing.

The awareness that family well-being is crucial to Warfighter readiness and success is growing. Admiral Mullen’s talk at the Total Fitness Conference in December centered on the importance of the family for total Warfighter fitness. There are numerous programs designed to support the Warfighter’s family – from Family Readiness Groups to advice and counseling services. But other than the common knowledge that military life can be hard on families, why are family relationships so important to Warfighter performance?

For many of us, everything we do, all the choice and decisions we make, are with our families in mind (be it parents, spouses, children, or siblings). This is because relationships enrich our lives. At the same time, relationships can be a double-edged sword – while happy and supportive relationships help people deal with stress better, unsupportive relationships with lots of fighting are a source of stress. In fact, being in a difficult relationship can go beyond just being a source of stress – relationships can impact your health for better or for worse. People in supportive and loving relationships are in better health, rebound from pain and trauma faster, and heal faster than those in unsupportive and negative relationships.

Now imagine the impact a personal relationship filled with a lot of conflict could have on a Warfighter’s ability to be successful in theater, and on returning home from a demanding tour.

The military lifestyle, with its long and stressful deployments and multiple moves, can take a toll even on the best relationships. But stepping outside of the military for a moment, relationship happiness is a major problem for most Americans. Divorce statistics in this country speak for the state of most relationships, and surveys show that of the 50 percent of couples who stay married, less than half report actually being happy with their spouse.

The good news about relationships, though, is that they can improve!

Learning the relationship skills that strengthen families and ease problem areas is something everyone can do. The saying “relationships take work” is true, but the work we put in can powerfully benefit all of our relationships. The importance of these skills is recognized by the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, which focuses on prevention and enhancing family relationships as key components of Warfighter performance and success.

In next week's blog, the HPRC will identify what we think are the best strategies for enhancing one’s relationships, based on the research we’ve read. Just like our bodies, relationships also need daily training for optimal fitness. Check back next week for what we think should be in everyone’s “relationship fitness plan.”


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