Category Archives: Physical Fitness

Boost your mental performance with better nutrition

Smoothie bowl with fresh blackberries, blueberries, banana, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia  seeds and coconut

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest blog provided courtesy of the Human Performance Resource Center. Navy Suicide Prevention Branch is a proud partner of the Human Performance Resource Center. To learn more, visit https://www.hprc-online.org/.

Have you ever felt tired, sluggish, or foggy after eating a big meal? Have you seen how kids (and kids at heart) get hyper or seem like they’re not thinking straight after a candy binge? Then you probably know that what you eat affects how you feel.

In a state of optimal nutritional fitness, what you eat supports healing and your immune system, helps prevent injury, improves energy levels, and allows you to achieve optimal emotional, cognitive, and physical performance. When you eat right, you’re likely to feel more energized, less fatigued, and have better focus, judgment, accuracy, and reaction time. The opposite is true when you fuel your body improperly. Whether you’re at home or deployed, follow these tips to help you to stay alert, focused, and performing at your best.

Mental Performance Nutrition Tips

To achieve nutritional fitness, focus on a balanced diet rich in whole foods, with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean meats. Read more on the recommended diet for Military Service Members.

  • Boost your intake of magnesium. Magnesium is important to regulate muscle and nerve functions, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure. It also helps make protein, bone, and DNA. Nearly half of all Americans over age one are deficient in magnesium, and the deficiency is even greater for some gender and age groups. Foods high in magnesium include legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, green leafy vegetables (such as spinach), fortified breakfast cereals, milk, and yogurt.
  • Eat plenty of foods high in B vitamins. These nutrients support metabolism, brain development, blood and nerve cell health, DNA production, and the development of serotonin, which impacts mood, memory, and emotions. Foods high in B6 include poultry, fish, organ meats, potatoes and other starchy vegetables, and noncitrus fruits. Foods high in B12 include beef, liver, clams, fish, poultry, eggs, milk and other dairy, and fortified breakfast cereals. Foods high in folate include asparagus, brussels sprouts, spinach, oranges, nuts, beans, peas, and grains. Food is the best source of most vitamins, but supplements can help if you’re unable to eat some of these foods.

“We don’t eat nutrients, we eat food.”

Paul Jacques and Katherine Tucker,
Tufts Human Performance Research Center on Aging

  • Fuel your body consistently. Eat meals regularly to maintain blood glucose (sugar) and muscle glycogen (stored energy) levels throughout the day. Balance meals and snacks with whole grains, lean protein, fiber, and healthy fats to help keep your blood sugar steady. Avoid skipping meals, too much sugar, and imbalanced meals that are mainly refined flours (carbohydrates). Dips and spikes in your blood sugar can make you feel tired, shaky, or less focused. If you skip meals or don’t eat enough, your blood sugar can drop, resulting in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and a decline in performance. Symptoms of low blood sugar include headache, dizziness, blurred vision, weakness, fatigue, sweating, confusion, and fainting. You don’t actually need to have full-blown hypoglycemia to begin feeling these effects.
  • Rethink your meal choices on the night shift. At night, your body’s metabolic processes slow down. Eating at night has been shown to be bad for your health, including an increased incidence of obesity, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and infections. But for night-shift workers, it can mean the difference between staying alert—or not—on the job. The right type and amount of foods and beverages can help keep up your blood sugar to stay alert.
  • Get a caffeine boost, but not too much. Caffeine improves alertness, vigilance, attention, and reaction time when taken in small to moderate amounts. Caffeine can also help mental performance in sleep-deprived situations. But dose and timing matter;  refer to Operation Supplement Safety for more information.
  • Drink enough water. Water is the most abundant component of the human body—around 50–70% of your weight—so your body needs fluids regularly to function properly. Performance can start to decline once you’ve lost as little as 2% of your body weight. Even mild to moderate dehydration can reduce alertness and cause fatigue, tension, and difficulty concentrating. Carry a water bottle with you and refill it throughout the day. Aim to drink half your body weight in water each day to stay hydrated (e.g. 100 oz if you weigh 200 lbs). And don’t rely on thirst as a good indicator of your fluid needs. By the time you feel thirsty, you’re already a little dehydrated.

Bottom Line

Mental performance is just as important as physical performance. Fortunately, proper nutrition can help with both.

Think You Need Equipment to Exercise? Think again!

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Editor’s Note: In honor of Navy Fitness Month, LCDR Heath Clifford of the Navy Physical Readiness Program has provided Every Sailor, Every Day with the second installment of how to exercise with limited space and gym equipment. Learn how to work out on a time, space and equipment “budget” and check out the newest minimalist fitness workouts below!

It has been well documented that one of the best ways to alleviate stress is through exercise.  Sailors face many challenges in balancing family life with the Navy’s current operational tempo.  In this crunch for time, all too often physical fitness is placed on the back burner.  Combine the lack of time and limits of space and equipment, Sailors find it difficult to maintain an adequate level of fitness especially during periods of deployment, causing stress levels to soar.  Utilizing input from over 750 Sailors, in 2009 Navy Subject Matter Experts worked closely with Athletes’ Performance Institute (API) to develop a program that would combat these barriers.

What is Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling System?

The Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling System (NOFFS) is designed to provide the Navy with a “world class” training resource for fleet Sailors.  Using the latest sports science methodologies, NOFFS combines both human performance and injury prevention strategies, resulting in safer training while yielding positive human performance outcomes.  The exercises used in the NOFFS system are designed to replicate the activities Sailors conduct in their operational duties: lifting, pushing, pulling and carrying.

The NOFFS contains four specialized series tailored for use on submarines, surface ships, large decks, and for group physical training.  Designed specifically for real-world space and equipment limitations, these four categories provide Sailors three different levels of exercises that are based on current fitness and capability and can be used safely without supervision or direction.

A Pentagon of Parts.

The training session will consist of 5 training components:

  1. Pillar Preparation: consists of your hips, torso and shoulders and represents the foundation for all your movement.  “Pillar Prep” primes these critical muscles to prepare your body for the work ahead- helping to protect you from injury and boost your performance during your training session.
  2. Movement Preparation: lengthen, strengthen, and stabilize your body.  “Movement Prep” consists of a series of active and dynamic stretches to help you to move.
  3. Strength: strengthen the movements needed to perform on an operational platform.  Close attention must be payed to the quality of your movement.  Select a resistance that you feel challenged with for the number of reps prescribed (body weight to bands).
  4. Cardiovascular Fitness: boost your endurance, leg strength and speed through a variety of interval training options.  The movements in this component are designed to target and develop your energy systems while efficiently burning calories.
  5. Recovery: a critical component to any training program, recovery brings balance back to your body, helping to relieve tension and the associated aches and pains while enhancing your body’s response to the training.

Break a Sweat!

The following is a challenging total body workout from the Surface Ship Series to be utilized in a confined space environment with limited equipment.  All 5 training components are addressed in this workout.

NOFFS SUFACE SHIP SERIES – LEVEL 1

Pillar Preparation (1 circuit/6 reps)

  1. Pillar Bridge (hold 30 seconds)
  2. Glute Bridge (hold 30 second)
  3. Y’s – Deck
  4. 90/90 Stretch

Movement Preparation (1 circuit/4 reps)

  1. Mini Band – External Rotation
  2. Reverse Lunge, Elbow to Instep – Kneeling
  3. Lateral Squat – Alternating
  4. Knee Hug – In Place
  5. Drop Lunge
  6. Inverted Hamstring w/ Support

Strength

Circuit 1 (x2/8 reps):
1.       Glute Bridge (reps)
2.       Push Up (Standard)
3.       Squat w/Mini Band
4.       Y’s – Bent Over (Bands)
Circuit 2 (x1/8 reps)
1.       Lateral Squat – Low Alternating
2.       Overhead Press – ½ Kneeling (bands)
3.       Lateral Pillar Bridge (30 sec hold/each side)
4.       Straight Leg Lowering – Alternating

Cardiovascular Fitness:  Perform each movement for 15 seconds and immediately transition into the next movement for the duration of the circuit. Rest 90 seconds between circuits, then repeat the circuit.

  1. Reverse Lunge – Alternating
  2. Pillar Bridge w/Arm Lift
  3. Lateral Lunge – alternating
  4. Forward Lunge, Elbow to Instep – w/Rotation
  5. Plank Running
  6. Single Leg Balance – Alphabet
  7. Split Squat – Alt. 5 sec Holds
  8. Drop Lunge – Alternating

Recovery (no equipment needed):  Hold each stretch for 2 seconds while exhaling, then relax back to the start position and continue for 10 reps each.  DO NOT BOUNCE through the end range of the stretch.

  1. Bent Knee Hamstring Stretch
  2. Knee Hug – Supine
  3. Leg Cradle – Supine
  4. Quad/Hip Flexor Stretch – ½ kneeling
  5. Triceps Stretch
  6. 90/90 w/Arm Sweep

Learn More:

NOFFS continues to grow in popularity fleet-wide. CFLs are being taught introductory courses within the 5-day initial certification course and can also receive short course certification through the CFL 2-day seminars.  For more information on the complete NOFFS Series, including exercises videos, visit https://www.navyfitness.org/fitness/noffs-training or download the NOFFS app online.

About the Blogger:

LCDR Heath Clifford, OPNAV N17 CFL Program Manager, is a certified Aerospace Physiologist by the Aerospace Medical Association with 14 years’ experience as a Naval Aerospace/Operational Physiologist with expertise in Exercise Physiology and Water Survival Training as well.  He is an avid swimmer and outdoor enthusiast and believes that nutrition, sleep, and fitness are the foundations of mission readiness and operational success.

Nutrition’s Role in Building Resilience

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Editor’s Note: The following is a guest blog provided courtesy of the Real Warriors Campaign. Navy Suicide Prevention Branch is a proud partner of the Real Warriors Campaign. To learn more, visit www.realwarriors.net.

Proper nutrition is vital to maintaining good health and mission readiness.1 In this article, you will find tips on making healthy food choices, whether at home or while deployed. You can also help boost the resilience of your whole family by sharing these tips with loved ones.

Why Nutrition is Important

One of the most important drivers of good physical and psychological health is what we eat.2 Food provides the energy and nutrients you need to be healthy. Nutrients include:3

  • Proteins (e.g. fish, chicken, beans)
  • Carbohydrates (e.g., bread, fruits, vegetables)
  • Fats (e.g., walnuts, olive oils)
  • Vitamins (e.g., vitamin D, folic acid)
  • Minerals (e.g., potassium, calcium)
  • Water

In short, healthy food is really fuel for the body. This fuel is key to your physical and mental performance, and helps maintain emotional control during field operations.4 Beyond performance, nutrition also plays an important role in protecting overall health throughout a lifetime. A diet rich in whole grains, lean protein, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products helps lower the risk of certain diseases such as diabetes.3

Nutrition Tips

While healthy food options may be limited while deployed, the military has long understood the role of nutrition for service members. The military is continually working on improving the food supply for deployed warriors such as introducing the Unitized Group Ration–Express, a nutritionally complete meal-in-a-box group ration, and re-assigning some dietitians at dining facilities to implement education programs and food selection recommendations.If you are deployed, keep these helpful nutrition tips in mind:

  • To boost energy, consume complex carbohydrates such as fruits and whole grain bread
  • To meet the demand for increased energy needs in the field, increase your intake of food to prevent fatigue
  • To meet the need for increased energy in cold weather and at high altitudes, try to eat healthy, nutritious snacks in between meals and drink more than your thirst may dictate since the sensation does not keep pace with water loss.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration; even mild dehydration can reduce your physical and mental performance

While home, and when possible while deployed, the following daily nutrition recommendations are important to keep in mind:1,5

Fruits and vegetables Eat at least 3 – 5 servings of colorful vegetables and 2 or more servings of fruit each day.
Grains Aim for 6 or more servings of whole grain products each day.
Fiber 20 – 35 grams of dietary fiber are recommended daily, although a low-fiber diet may be preferred during some operations.
Dairy Aim to have 3 cups of low-fat dairy products, including milk, yogurt and cheese, each day.
Meat/beans Eat 7 ounces of meat or beans (legumes) each day, with lean or low-fat choices that are heavy on fish, beans, peas, nuts and seeds.

In addition to these food groups, research is also uncovering the importance of omega-3 fatty acids to a healthy diet. Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to decreased risk of heart disease, certain cancers, circulatory problems and high blood pressure. Researchers have also linked omega-3 deficiencies with increased risk of depression or other psychological health concerns. Some studies indicate that supplements provided to warriors who have low levels of omega-3s might provide a significant boost in their mood and additional resistance to stress.1 Seafood, including oily ocean fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel, are among the richest fish sources of DHA, one of the most efficient forms of omega-3 fatty acids. While there is no official recommendation on a recommended daily allowance for omega-3, dietary guidelines call for increasing the amount of seafood consumed as part of a healthy eating pattern.6

 

What Line Leaders Can Do

As a line leader it is important to stay informed about your service’s nutrition programs. It is also important to educate units about nutrition using guidance from each respective service.1 Finally, you should provide a model for healthy eating behavior and encourage everyone to make nutrition choices that help build resilience and contribute to mission success.

Additional Resources

Sources

1Scott Montain, Christina Carvey and Mark Stephens. “Nutritional Fitness” [PDF 4.65MB], Total Force Fitness for the 21st Century, Supplement to Military Medicine-Volume 175. Published August 2010.
2The Nutrition Source, Harvard School of Public Health. Last accessed Aug. 20, 2014.
3Nutrition, MedLine Plus, National Institutes of Health. Last accessed Aug. 20, 2014.
4Module 6: High Caliber Nutrition in the Field [PDF 1.10MB], U.S. Army Public Health Command (Provisional). Last accessed Aug. 20, 2014.
5Patricia A. Deuster and others. “Sustaining Health for the Long-Term Warfighter” [PDF 451KB], The Warfighter Nutrition Guide, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Last accessed Aug. 20, 2014.
6Covington, Maggie. “Omega-3 Fatty Acids,” American Family Physician. Published July 1, 2004.
7Health Consequences, Overweight & Obesity, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

Fueling Your Body and Mind with Food

Fueling Your Body and Mind With Food_blog image

The relationship between food and health is complex. The foods we eat have a chemical effect on the brain and impact how we feel. Eating processed foods—from nutritional supplements like protein powders to combo meals from your favorite drive-thru—can keep your body from accessing the beneficial nutrients it needs to help you feel and perform your best. Why is this? Many of the essential and naturally occurring nutrients are stripped, altered or replaced during processing. This includes fiber, phytonutrients and other healthy compounds.

Current studies show that a balanced diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein promotes optimal health and better mood. These whole foods are made of vitamins and minerals that are broken down during digestion, making them available for the body to use as energy and for essential processes like cellular repair. When essential components are missing, we experience a decline in energy, alertness and mood.

Supplement vs. Whole Food

Supplements typically use artificial or synthetic vitamins and minerals, which may not offer the same benefits as whole foods. The human body is designed to recognize natural and whole ingredients, so it isn’t able to utilize the man-made vitamins and minerals as effectively.

Many supplements isolate particular nutrients and leave out essentials that the body would otherwise use if the food was consumed in its natural form. Take whey protein powder supplements for example. While this milk-based protein produces a rapid increase in amino acids needed for muscle growth and repair, casein protein can also help prevent muscle breakdown (which in turn, supports growth). Where do both whey and casein naturally occur? In milk! In general, service members consume enough protein through their food and don’t actually need to supplement their protein intake.

Comfort Food vs. Whole Food

Our mood often influences what we eat, but what we eat can also influence our mood. Consider these scenarios:

  • Two Sailors are experiencing similar stressors. They’re in the midst of preparing for permanent change of station (PCS) moves that are causing a lot of strain in their households and on their wallets. At work, they’re both hit with short-fused tasks that their current supervisors are keeping close watch on, in addition to the other things they have to get done.
  • When Sailor A gets home, tired and frustrated, he reaches for cookies, potato chips and a soda and heads to the couch. He starts to get his mind off of everything, but about 20 minutes later he’s back to feeling drained and irritated.
  • When Sailor B gets home, tired and frustrated, he goes for some leftover grilled chicken and vegetables in the refrigerator and a glass of water. His problems don’t go away after he eats, but he’s able to regroup and shift focus to the things he can get done at home to support the move without feeling angry or annoyed.

Why the different outcomes? The comfort foods Sailor A went for are highly processed, high in added sugar and fat, and low in nutrients. While they may have an emotional appeal (especially if they were his go-to comforts as children) those effects wore off quickly. The vitamins and nutrients he needed to rebalance his mood, such as serotonin, were missing or less effective because they were in a man-made form that wasn’t as accessible to his body. This emotional rollercoaster can increase feelings of anxiety, depression and fatigue, causing the craving cycle to begin again. Sailor B got the benefits of serotonin, boosting his mood and giving him the energy to do something productive. Not only did he get his mind off of his day, but he’ll sleep better and be more focused and alert.

How to Make Changes

Eating healthy or healthier doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Here are a few ways to make the switch to whole or less processed foods:

  • Re-think fast food. For a quick and healthy meal, opt for a rotisserie chicken at your local grocery store, a salad and fresh fruit.
  • Shop the perimeter of your grocery store for fresh meats and produce. Most frozen food is good too; just skip items with gravies and sauces. Living in the barracks? Check out these tips to eat healthy while saving time, space and money.
  • Swap out your sugary snack stash for your favorite fresh fruits and vegetables; the original comfort foods. Pair them with 10-15 nuts or a tablespoon peanut butter or other healthy spread.
  • If going for a processed food (something that comes in a bag, box, container or package), aim for five ingredients or less. Watch out for high-fructose corn syrup and other hidden sugars.

Talk to your Health Promotions Office or Registered Dietitians (RD/N) office for more information and resources.

LT Pamela Gregory, OPNAV N17 Nutrition Program Manager, is a Registered Dietitian with nine years’ experience in counseling a wide variety of clientele on nutrition and health-related diseases/ topics. LT Gregory uses a functional nutrition approach to assist clients in their treatment phase.

References:

  1. (2015, Aug. 31). Is Whey Protein the way to go? Retrieved Jun. 21, 2017, from http://hprc-online.org/dietary-supplements/hprc-articles/is-whey-protein-helpful-to-optimize-performance.
  2. (2014, Jan. 2 ). Can Food Affect Your Mood. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2017, from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/01/02/food-affects-mood.aspx
  3. (2012, Jan. 1) Journal of Food Science, 77 PP R11-R24.
  4. (1999). Impact of Processing on Food Safety. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 459 PP 99-106.

5 Benefits of Working Out with a Buddy

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Editor’s Note: The following is a guest blog post provided courtesy of Guard Your Health. More information and tools are available at www.guardyourhealth.com.

We all know that staying fit and exercising is important. We also know that staying motivated to work out on a regular basis can be hard.

That’s why finding a good workout buddy is one of the smartest fitness moves you can make. Working out with a buddy can give you:

1. Motivation

When you work out by yourself, it’s easy to lose motivation. A buddy will support you and cheer you on to help you reach your fitness goals.

2. Accountability

It’s easy to bail on your own workout. But it’s much harder to ditch a workout when you know you’re going to be letting someone else down. Having a reliable workout buddy will help you stick to your goals.

3. Friendly Competition

As humans, we like to be competitive—even if it’s just good, friendly competition among friends. A buddy will challenge and push you to do more than you might do alone.

4. Companionship

Working out can be boring, especially during long cardio sessions. Having a buddy to talk with while working out will make the time go by faster.

5. Workout Variety

A buddy can share new exercises or workouts so that you can switch up your routine. This will keep your workouts fresh, as well as keep you motivated to try new moves.

So who qualifies as a good workout buddy? Here are some tips of what to look for when choosing one:

  • A good attitude. You want someone who is encouraging and positive.
  • A compatible style of motivation. You may need a drill sergeant to get motivated, or maybe a cheerleader.
  • Similar schedules. You want someone who is dependable, as well as available to consistently work out with you at the same times.
  • Similar fitness goals. You need to share similar fitness goals to be effective workout partners.
  • You want someone who makes working out enjoyable and even fun.

Finding a workout buddy can be as easy as looking around the gym during your workout, or calling a fitness-minded friend.

Want More?

Navy Suicide Prevention Branch is a proud partner of Guard Your Health (www.guardyourhealth.com), a health and medical readiness campaign for Army National Guard Soldiers and their families sponsored by the Army National Guard Chief Surgeon’s Office. Guard Your Health provides Army National Guard Soldiers with the information, motivation, and support to overcome challenges and make healthy decisions for themselves, their families, and their units. To learn more about improving your health, visit the Guard Your Health website, like “Guard Your Health” on Facebook, and follow @ARNGHealth on Twitter. For more tips to max your APFT and stay mission ready, subscribe to FitText, Guard Your Health’s text message program, by texting FIT to 703-997-6747.