By Joe Wilkes

Put a little Halloween cheer into your Shakeology this season. In addition to all the amazing Shakeology ingredients, you'll also get the nutritional benefits of pumpkin, which contains lutein, fiber, and alpha and beta carotene. Plus the healthy polyphenols in cinnamon help regulate blood sugar levels. You'll get the yummy taste of pumpkin pie . . . without turning your butt into a pumpkin.
  • 1 scoop chocolate Shakeology
  • 1 cup rice, soy, almond, or low-fat milk (plain or vanilla)
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin, unsweetened
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • Ice (optional)
Combine all ingredients in blender and whirl until smooth. You can substitute pumpkin pie spice for the cinnamon and nutmeg, or add more pumpkin for a thicker shake. Makes 1 serving.

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Nutritional Information (with low-fat [1%] milk):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
284 27 g 7 g 40 g 3.5 g 2 g

By Omar Shamout

Ghouls and goblins and ghosts, oh my! That's right, folks—Halloween is just around the corner, and if you're not careful, you might have to add another "G" to that list: gastric bypass. Okay, maybe that's a little extreme, but we all know how tempting it is for you adults to gobble down those sweets before, during, and after All Hallow's Eve, which is nothing compared to the blitzkrieg of sugar your kids have in store for them. So take a minute to rethink some of your holiday traditions, learn some interesting ways to avoid the "scary" dietary pitfalls October brings, and rediscover what the spirit of Halloween is really all about! Trust me, the parents of the trick-or-treaters in your neighborhood will thank you too! (Sugar tantrums are terrifying.)

  1. Candy is candy, no matter how you sweeten it. Whether it’s dolled up with HFCS or agave syrup, candy will still rot your children’s teeth, mess with their blood sugar, and add to their waistlines. "Sweet" doesn't have to come from a factory, though. There are many tasty, less processed, more wholesome foods that will satisfy that sweet tooth just fine. Fruit can be made into a variety of delicious treats, and is loaded with vitamin C to help your immune system and fiber to aid your digestion, as well as a host of other nutritious vitamins and minerals. Many dried fruits, like raisins, come in small packets ideal for tossing into trick-or-treaters' bags. If you're willing to put in the effort, fresh fruit can be carved into many fun, devilish designs that will add more to the Halloween mood than the calorie count. Although safety dictates that not many trick-or-treaters accept fruit, particularly cut-up fruit, your ghoulish creations should be a hit at any Halloween party—even the grown-up ones.Think of all the possibilities with just these simple ideas: an orange as a mini-pumpkin, grapes as eyeballs, a melon as a brain, and either carrot sticks or string cheese as fingers. Okay, so string cheese isn't exactly a fruit, but you get the idea. Be creative!
  2. Go nuts! If you don't have the time to indulge your inner artiste in the kitchen and create some spooky snacks, then consider handing out individually wrapped packs of almonds, pretzels, or trail mix to the kiddies. Pretzels are pretty low in calories, and almonds are chock-full of healthy fats and protein. Trail mix can be high in sodium, so keep an eye on the nutrition label, but all of these options are much healthier than candy.
  3. Don't be scared of the dark. If you or your kids just can't live without a chocolate fix, opt for dark chocolate over milk chocolate, because it's far less sweet, has fewer calories, and contains more iron and antioxidants. And without milk as an ingredient, you'll be consuming less saturated fat. Dark-chocolate-covered almonds are a personal fave!
  4. Become the Crypt Keeper. There was no better master of ceremonies than everyone's favorite cheeky little skeleton, so why not follow his lead, and host your own party or event for your friends or your kids' friends? That way, you'll know exactly what's going into their hungry mouths. Get those crafty-yet-healthy snacks ready, and continue the creativity by having a costume-making party, scavenger hunt, ghost story session, or scary movie night. Just pop in Adventures of Pluto Nash or Stop or My Mom Will Shoot! and the younguns will be terrified! No? Well, I suppose you know your kids better than I do, but I left the theater shaking . . . Getting back to the matter at hand, shouldn't Halloween be more of an activity (with an emphasis on active) than just an excuse to eat as much candy as possible? Besides, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and even Festivus will be here before you know it, all of which will provide plenty of time to celebrate the wonders of food. Keeping your kids occupied with fun things to do during Halloween is something they'll enjoy far more than a candy bar, one they'll be sure to look back on with a smile rather than the memory of an upset stomach.
  5. Take a hike! No, really. If your kids are restless and insist on hitting the pavement to beg for candy, why not find a nice big hill for this year's trick-or-treating trip? This will really separate the truly dedicated costumed adventurers from the mildly amused. If your group manages to make it all the way up the hill, then at least they've gotten in some exercise to balance out the chocolate overflowing from their bags. On the other hand, if they poop out halfway up, all the better for you—and their blood sugar! Plus when they pass out early from exhaustion, you can toss out all the really bad stuff they acquired without their ever knowing!
  6. Coins over candy. It's never a bad time to teach your children about compassion, so try cutting candy out of the equation altogether by convincing them to trick-or-treat for UNICEF. In addition to being able to get coin boxes from UNICEF through the mail, you can also pick them up at any Toys "R" Us® or Babies "R" Us® store. By participating, your kids can collect money to help children around the world receive clean water, healthy food, and life-saving immunizations. What better reason could there be to put on a costume?
The bottom line is, the last thing we need in life is another holiday dedicated to unhealthy food. (Plus with the amount of artificial ingredients, chemicals, and highly processed sweeteners in candy these days, most of it can barely even be classified as food.) The fun of Halloween has always been in the mood, the atmosphere, the thrill of the scare, and the excitement of planning and dressing up in a costume, so focus your attention on those things, and you're bound to create a memorable experience for everyone. And remember, keep it active!

Exercising To Relax

Saturday, August 13, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Steve Edwards

The therapeutic benefits of regular exercise are well documented. Study after study has shown that it increases health and general well being. It’s been said that if exercise were a drug, it would be the most powerful medication on earth. However, it still seems difficult to get people to workout on a regular basis. When life gets hectic, it’s generally the first thing that gets crossed off the “to do” list. In reality, it should be the last. It’s an industry standard to tell people that they should consult a physician before beginning an exercise program. Based on the scientific evidence, it would be more appropriate to consult a physician before parking yourself on the Laz-E-Boy for a session with the TV.

"Often times, my clients say they are too stressed to find time to work out, however the fact is, they are probably too stressed not to work out,” says triathlete and LA-based fitness trainer Erica Nemmers. “Exercise releases hormones into the body that allow people to bring balance into their lives and focus better on everything they do. It is the natural remedy that brings the body into homeostasis in a hectic world that constantly threatens to throw us out of that balance."

The evidence is clear; there's no doubt that physical exercise has a positive effect on stress and can calm the mind and relax the body. Exercise releases endorphins, the body’s “feel good hormones,” and in as little as 20 minutes a day, can change your entire outlook on life.

What type of exercise is best?

So, okay, exercise relieves stress, but what kind of exercise is the best? That depends on the individual. People have different environments that cause stress: work, home, traffic, etc. For example, if you work on your feet all day you might benefit more from a stretching-based workout, like Ho' Ala ke Kino, yoga, or Debbie’s Slim and Limber video, because you are constantly contracting your muscles, which makes you tense. But a person that is more sedentary and, say, sits in front of a computer all day might need more of a strength-based program to keep your muscles from atrophying. The bottom line, however, is that something, no matter what, is almost always better than nothing.

How long is long enough?

This is another variable situation but, again, any exercise at all is a million times better than none. After 20 minutes of exercise the brain starts releasing epinephrine and endorphins into the system, which lower tension and help stress stabilization. But even if you can’t take 20 minutes or more, you shouldn’t just throw in the towel. Even a 5 minutes stretch and breathing session can provide a calming effect that can last for hours.

Not sold yet? Here is a list of 10 ways that exercise will de-stress your life.
  1. Detoxifying: During the stress response, nearly 1,500 biochemical reactions occur in the body. Neurotransmitters (also known as “brain signals”) are activated, hormones are released, and nutrients are metabolized. Some body systems, like the cardiovascular system, accelerate their functions while others, like the gastrointestinal system, slow down their operations in response to stress. This is commonly referred to as the fight or flight response, meaning that regular exercise allows the body to return to homeostasis faster and reduce the physical impact of psychosocial stress.
  2. Anger Management: Research has documented the important role that expression or repression of anger and hostility plays in disease progression. Physical activity can be a healthy catharsis for this most caustic of emotions. It can provide a socially acceptable means of physically releasing negative energy. No matter what you do, be it kickboxing or yoga; the physical release of energy appears to dissipate feelings of anger in a positive way.
  3. Moving Meditation: Certain exercises require a fairly consistent repetitive motion that can alter one's state of consciousness. Such as the Zen practice of walking meditation, the physiological effect is similar to what happens during meditation. Breathing and movement act as a mantra and may be responsible for the feelings of calmness and tranquility.
  4. Introspection: Exercise can be a solitary escape from the daily toils and pressures of a stressful society. It can provide a mini vacation that allows one to recharge their energy levels to deal with conflicts when they return. Others use this time to self reflect on issues of importance, or to stimulate creative problem solving.
  5. Reduction of Muscular Tension: During stress, muscles contract and lose their normal resting muscle tone. Bouts of physical activity allow muscles to work, thereby releasing stored energy and allowing muscle groups to return to their normal resting potential. This action also reduces discomfort associated with muscular tension, like tension headaches, arthritic joint pain, backaches, etc.
  6. Endorphins: As stated before, endorphins have been shown to increase during physical activity of twenty minutes or more. Chemically similar to opiate compounds, this morphine-like substance has been shown to provide a pain relieving effect and promote a sense of euphoria – and it’s legal! The actual way endorphins work on the body is debated. Most of the controversy has to do with our inability to measure chemical changes that occur on the other side of the blood brain barrier. Regardless of the neuro-chemical reaction or other mechanisms that initiate changes in emotional status, this phenomenon does seem to exist. The positive mood states associated with frequent exercise are so significant that some have suggested that this is a more effective treatment for clinical depression than either psychotherapy or the use anti-depression drugs.
  7. Increased Awareness: Physically fit individuals tend to develop an increased sense of somatic awareness, meaning that they become more in tune with their bodies. Thus, they are able to detect subtle changes in their physiology that they were previously unaware of, such as breathing patterns, reactions to diet and exercise, quality of sleep, etc. This new awareness allows people to be able to circumvent the physiological process of stress before it can cause problems.
  8. Decreased Boredom: Too little stress in one's life can be just as upsetting as too much stress. It is natural for humans to seek out stimulation and excitement. For some, the opportunity for physical challenges is the most interesting part of life. At the far end of the scale are those who practice high-risk activities such as extreme skiing, skydiving, and rock climbing. By constantly testing themselves, individuals learn how to take on higher and higher loads of stress. The learning that ensues transfers over to stress that is experienced in daily life. All exercise accomplishes this to some degree.
  9. Improvement in Sleep: A symptom of stress overload can be the inability to get adequate rest. A fatigued individual is less able to perform at a high level. Exercise has been shown to be very effective in helping some people fall asleep easily and sleep more soundly.
  10. Stronger Immune System: The better shape you’re in, the stronger your immune system will be. When fit people become ill or injured, they will demonstrate more stamina and greater resiliency to fighting the discomfort. They will also recover more quickly.
Exercise Tip: The 2-minute De-Stressor

If you’re fed up and need to reduce your stress in an instant, here’s something you can do when you can't "press play." Take 2 minutes to bring your body into focus. This quick and simple stretch and breathing exercise may seem similar to how you start any Beachbody™ workout, but can be effective on its own to re-focus your mind and body.
  1. Standing tall, lift your head up so that you stretch your neck. Take a deep slow breathe in through your nose, pulling it down deep into your lungs.
  2. Slowly exhale while turning your head to the right and then to the left. Dip your head and return to looking straight ahead.
  3. Keep breathing with this deep, slow pattern and slowly rotate your head in a clockwise and then counter-clockwise direction, keeping your chin to your chest and shoulders.
  4. Take your shoulders back as far as they will go. Lift your left shoulder and relax it down again. Now swap and lift and relax your right shoulder.
  5. Swing your right arm slowly in a full circular movement to free the shoulder. Swing your left arm in the same way.
  6. Raise and relax both shoulders. Keep breathing slowly.
  7. Put your right hand over your right shoulder and touch your left shoulder blade. Repeat with your left hand to your right shoulder.
  8. Repeat 10 times, focusing solely on your breathing the entire time.

By Debra Pivko

Ever wonder how you gained 5 pounds overnight—even when you're cutting calories? The usual culprit is water weight.

If your stomach feels bloated, your face looks puffy, or your hands and feet swell, it's likely that your body is retaining water. And this may show up on the scale as a few extra pounds. Not fun.

Here's why it happens. Your body is constantly trying to rid itself of the salt you consume. When it can't purge all the extra salt, your tissues react by holding on to water, so the ratio of salt to water is always at a safe level.

But if you want to determine your real weight, see how close you are to your fitness goals, and button up those old jeans with ease, follow these quick tips to lose the extra water weight—fast.

Drink more water.

It may seem counterintuitive, but not drinking enough water every day can actually make you retain more water! Dehydration causes your body to go into panic mode, and it'll hold on to water the next time you take a drink. Diuretics like alcohol, tea, and caffeinated soda can actually have a dehydrating effect on your body since they flush water out of your system.

What to do? Drink at least eight to ten glasses of water each day so your body will maintain its fluid balance, and you won't gain those extra pounds. Water is the best diuretic you can give your body and it's all natural, and usually free! If looking thinner and feeling less bloated isn't enough motivation, here's some more. Drinking water before each meal has been shown to help promote weight loss and even to help keep your skin healthy, which is particularly useful if you don't want your skin to sag once you lose weight.

So keep a water bottle at your desk, send yourself "drink water" reminders if you have to, track your water intake for motivation, or do whatever it takes to remember to drink enough water. The extra hydration will prevent those false pounds from showing up on the scale.

Sweat it out with exercise.

When you sit in one place for a long period of time, your circulation slows down and your body can begin to swell. Exercise promotes blood flow and circulation (not to mention sweating). So when you get in some serious cardio, you'll literally sweat out excess fluids and pounds. Make sure to get your daily exercise to help rid your body of water weight.

The exercise program that leaves my workout clothes most drenched in sweat would have to be Chalene Johnson's TurboFire®. When I eat too much salt or just too much food and feel extra bloated, Chalene's latest program is my savior that helps me get my stomach looking flat, fast. I just pop one of the high-intensity interval training or cardio kickboxing discs in the DVD player to work up a serious sweat and burn major calories. I think it's the awesome music remixes that keep me going through the intense cardio conditioning. After big holiday meals, like the annual Thanksgiving feast for example, I can expect to find my coworkers ready for some TurboFire to fire up our weight loss and sweat it all out.

Limit the sodium in your diet.

To give your body a break from retaining water and working hard to eliminate sodium in the first place, try to keep your sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day and avoid adding salt to foods.

Watch out for sneaky salt in boxed or packaged foods by reading nutrition labels carefully. Some of the foods where sodium is often hidden are canned soups, fast foods, pickled foods, processed/deli meats, cheeses, frozen meals, and soy sauce. Make sure to look for labels that say "reduced sodium" or "sodium free." You may also want to choose fresh vegetables over canned. While canned veggies can be a handy substitute for fresh, they're typically laden with preservatives or sauces and seasonings that add extra sodium. A cup of canned cream-style corn, for example, contains 730 milligrams of sodium.

Also, food at restaurants and fast food establishments often contains high amounts of sodium. Eliminate all table salt and try using pepper or other spices on your food instead. Or, maybe try nothing and remind yourself what the food actually tastes like.

Another great way to keep track of your sodium intake is by getting your own customized nutrition plan with Team Beachbody's My Meal Planner. It's an awesome new benefit of the Team Beachbody® Club membership. You'll get a week's worth of recipes that include low-sodium options, or you can modify and make substitutions to the recipes for even lower sodium options. I use it to track my progress throughout the week so I know all my nutrition stats. You can even use the food analyzer to search any food and get the nutrition information for it. I'm obsessed.

Eat more protein.

Deficiencies in protein, along with vitamins B1, B5, and B6, can lead to water retention as these nutrients assist with fluid balance functioning. Some good sources of these nutrients include lean beef, legumes, and low-fat dairy products. You should try to eat two to three appropriate portions of lean protein per day.

Don't starve yourself.

Undereating can also cause you to gain water weight. Eating fewer than 1,200 calories a day may cause your body to retain water and, ironically enough, cause you to gain more weight.

Limit your sugar intake.

Having too much sugar in your body can cause your insulin levels to rise. High levels of insulin may make it harder for your body to get rid of sodium, which in turn causes water weight gain.

Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.

Fresh fruits and vegetables—especially those naturally rich in water, such as watermelon, onions, celery, and cucumbers—can make you urinate more frequently, reducing water retention. Fruits and vegetables also provide ample sources of potassium, which assists with fluid balance within body cells. I love going to the farmers' market on Sundays and picking up fresh fruits and veggies, but let's face it—making constant trips to buy fresh produce doesn't always fit into my lifestyle. Thank goodness for Shakeology®. It's an easy way to get my fruits and veggies without having to set up shop in the produce section of the market. And that way, my veggies come in the form of a delicious chocolate-flavored treat. I sometimes toss a mini banana into my shake for some extra potassium, which also helps discourage water retention and keeps my muscles from cramping up during workouts.

By Sasha Papovich

The Greek poet Homer called it "liquid gold." It's mentioned in the Bible, the Talmud, and the Koran. Greek mythology includes the story of the goddess Athena winning great praise from Zeus for her useful invention of the olive tree. For millennia, the olive tree has been a symbol of peace, purification, and good health. And in recent years, we've all heard the good news that the high-fat oil of the olive fruit is actually good for you. Is it possible that olive oil merits the reverence of ancient Mediterranean culture and the respect of the medical establishment of the West? And if so, what's the real scoop on how to get the most benefit and enjoyment from it?

Olive oil is the only vegetable oil that is created simply by pressing the raw material—in this case, olives. Extra virgin is the best quality because it comes from the first pressing of the olives and is therefore the least processed, which matters to those of us interested in olive oil for its health benefits.

Recent research does indeed show that olive oil is a medicinal powerhouse. More than just an improvement over animal-fat-based oils, antioxidant-rich olive oil can actually protect against degenerative diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer. The FDA has officially credited olive oil with decreasing the risk of coronary heart disease. Olive oil's role in the prevention of bone density loss, diabetes, and obesity is being explored.

And now a little more about those health benefits . . .

Olive oil is composed largely of monounsaturated fatty acids—sometimes called good fats. Monounsaturated fatty acids keep HDL—the so-called good cholesterol—levels up and LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol, levels down. LDL is the main source of cholesterol buildup in the arteries, and HDL actually works to clear cholesterol from the blood.

The nutrition community is somewhat divided right now as to whether saturated fat and its effect on cholesterol is truly an issue. If you happen to be on the pro-saturated-fat side, olive oil still offers you a host of benefits, primarily because it contains natural antioxidants—polyphenols—which prevent the formation of certain free radicals that cause cell destruction within the body. Free radicals are linked to heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and the general degenerative process of aging.

Recent studies show that olive oil's polyphenols also inhibit another one of the processes that contribute to heart disease. This means that not only do the monounsaturated fats in olive oil resist the plaque-forming process that leads to heart disease, but the antioxidants actually help to inhibit that process as well. When people with high cholesterol levels removed the saturated fat from their diets and replaced it with olive oil, their LDL cholesterol levels dropped by 18 percent. Another study reported that 2 tablespoons a day of olive oil added to an otherwise unchanged diet resulted in significant drops in total and LDL cholesterol. These impressive results can be understood as a by-product of the monounsaturated fats AND of the high levels of polyphenols that are present in olive oil.

But wait, there's more!

Research on olive oil and the symptoms of diabetes has also shown that a diet rich in olive oil helps to prevent belly-fat accumulation and the insulin resistance seen after the high-carbohydrate meals. Anti-inflammatory substances linked to the monounsaturated fats in olive oil can help reduce the severity of arthritis symptoms, and may be able to prevent or reduce the severity of asthma. And early studies reveal that the phenols in olive oil can lessen the inflammation-mediated bone loss involved in osteoporosis.

How much is enough?

So now that we're confident that olive oil is good for the heart and is likely good for many other degenerative or inflammatory conditions, we can look at how to go about adding this nutritional elixir to our diets. Experts agree that at least 2 tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil a day is needed for any of these preventive purposes. While it's true that olive oil adds great benefit regardless of what else you're eating, you can benefit most by substituting olive oil for less healthy fats, rather than just adding more olive oil to your diet.

The most important point about usage, however, is not how much olive oil we consume a day, but what kind of olive oil we use and how we store it.

Olive oil shopping

All olive oil contains monounsaturated fat and phenols, but the amounts vary wildly depending upon the type of olive oil and how it is handled. Simply put: If you're interested in the health benefits of olive oil, don't buy anything less than extra virgin olive oil! All types of olive oil contain monounsaturated fat, but extra virgin olive oils are the least processed forms, which means that their phenol (antioxidant) content is the highest.

Just as important as the purity of the olive oil you buy is its storage both before and after you get it home. Olive oil can become rancid from exposure to light and heat, but even low levels of light and heat exposure that don't cause rancidity can cause the breakdown of phenols, thereby canceling out many of the health-enhancing benefits. Research has shown that consuming olive oil that has been degraded by light and heat is simply not as beneficial, so do your best to control for light and heat both before and after you buy the olive oil.

Look for olive oil that is sold in dark-tinted bottles, since the packaging will help protect the purity and nutritional value of the oil. (Research shows that after just 2 months' exposure to light, antioxidant levels had dropped so much the olive oil could no longer be classified as extra virgin.)

Ask your grocer how long the olive oil has been out; purchase olive oil that has spent the minimum time sitting on the shelf by checking the expiration date or by choosing the bottles at the back of the shelf, as the newest ones often reside there.

Buy your olive oil in smaller containers and store it in the dark.

How to care for and cook with your olive oil

Once you get it home, make sure the oil is stored in a cool area, away from any direct or indirect contact with heat. You can leave a small bottle out at room temperature, refrigerating the rest and refilling your daily-use bottle every week or so. (Refrigerated olive oil will solidify and turn slightly cloudy, but will become clear and liquid as it returns to room temperature.)

Add olive oil to foods immediately after cooking to get the most nutritional benefit. All cooking oils have a "smoke point" at which they begin to break down, thereby compromising taste and, in the case of olive oil, phenols. Although different sources report various grades of olive oil as having various smoke points, it's generally accepted that extra virgin olive oil has a much lower smoke point (anywhere from 200 degrees to the high 300s). If you do want to cook with olive oil (which is perfectly fine and, if done right, delicious), buy a separate bottle of regular or "light" oil, which has a much higher smoke point, upward of 400 degrees.

Instead of serving butter, fill a small condiment dish with extra virgin olive oil for use on bread, rolls, potatoes, or other vegetables. For more flavor, try adding a few drops of balsamic vinegar or a sprinkling of your favorite spices to the olive oil. You can also drizzle your daily serving of 2 tablespoons of olive oil over just about anything after it's been cooked: a morning frittata, your lunchtime salad (mixed with balsamic or a flavored vinegar), or your dinner vegetables, pasta, fish, or chicken.

Trendy superfoods may come and go, but olive oil has been here since the days of the ancient Greeks, and today's medical research validates its long-lived reputation. Whether you're primarily interested in cardiovascular health or protection against degenerative diseases, adding olive oil to your daily diet is delicious and healthful, so drizzle it into your nutrition plan today.