Test Your Exotic Fruit IQ!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 | 0 comments »

By Elizabeth Brion

You've probably seen them in the produce section: an array of intriguingly shaped and colored fruits that might taste like anything, really. Perhaps you've tried some of them already; perhaps you were dissuaded by the price, or the mystery, or both. We're here to help with at least a few of them. Expanding your palate beyond bananas, citrus, and apples is a great way to add variety to your diet—and a fun way to keep your grocery store's cashiers on their toes! See if you can match each name with the fruit's description.
  1. Jackfruit: Spiky yellow fruit weighing up to 50 lbs. When ripe, this fruit boasts a sweet, mild taste that's sometimes compared to banana bubble gum—and it also boasts an unsettling stench (emanating from the outside part, so hold your nose and dig in). The young green fruit is so mild that it's gaining popularity among vegetarian chefs as a meat substitute. No, seriously—it works. The seeds of the jackfruit are edible and nutritious as well.
  2. Mangosteen: Small, purple-skinned fruit with opaque white flesh. People get excited about mangosteens (no relation to mangoes). Really excited. For instance, some believe that the fruit prevents many diseases. Wouldn't that be great? I think it's appropriate to use this 1878 quote from traveler T.W.K. to sum it up: "It has a taste which nobody can describe any more than he can tell how a canary sings or a violet smells, and I know of nothing more forcible than the statement of a Yankee skipper who pronounced the mangosteen the 'bang-upest fruit' he had ever seen."
  3. Ugli fruit: Discolored, wrinkled, oddly shaped citrus fruit. Yeah, that one was kind of a given, wasn't it? Although the term "ugli fruit" is used generically, the nice people at Cabel Hall Citrus Ltd. would like you to know it's really UGLI® fruit. It's a tangy, juicy variety of tangelo—and yes, it got its name exactly the way you think it did.
  4. African cucumber: Horned yellow fruit with bright-green, seedy pulp. Some people describe the flavor of this impressive-looking fruit with words like banana, tropical fruit, and lime. Others mention cucumbers and grass. Perhaps this indicates that African cucumbers vary. Perhaps it indicates that people vary. Either way, you've got a guarantee with this one; if you don't like the lime-Jell-O–looking insides, you can make a spectacular centerpiece out of the rind.
  5. Soursop: Pinecone-like green-skinned fruit with creamy white pulp. The flesh of this fruit tastes like a sourer cross between strawberry and banana and is most often described as "refreshing." But there's a catch—that delicious pulp is studded with 50 to 100 seeds, and they're not easy to remove. For that reason, this fruit is most often found in juice and ice cream rather than whole. If you're patient and like having something to do with your hands, though, the whole-fruit experience can be well worth the effort.

By Team Beachbody

"Mirror, mirror on the wall . . . Are my thighs too big? Do these jeans look good? Is this dress too tight? Can you actually see any muscle?" . . . We can all relate to these feelings—not feeling like we're progressing as fast as we'd like with our fitness regimens, we are often very hard on ourselves.

The reasons we can be so dissatisfied with our bodies are varied and complex. Even people who belong on the cover of Maxim can be unhappy with the way they look. I had a conversation with an actress recently who was chastised by a photographer because she did not flatter a size zero swimsuit. Size ZERO. Aren't those actually made for children? And why should we have to flatter the article of clothing? Isn't it supposed to flatter us?

This is not to say that you shouldn't strive to be healthier, stronger, and at the top of your game. But ultimately, it's about being happy with where we are right now while still pushing every day for a little bit more.

Here are some simple, objective ways to measure your progress.
  1. How your clothes fit. I used to buy jeans at least two sizes too small in hopes I would diet down to fit them. In these tough economic times, having a closet full of expensive jeans I can't wear seems a little inane. But using how your clothes fit as a measure can be very helpful. Find a size of jeans you are comfortable with—a pair that fits. If they still fit, you know that you haven't gained those extra pounds you've imagined on yourself. And vice versa, if they begin to fit a bit loose, you know you're making progress. And even if those $300 jeans go out of style, you'll always have a very expensive measuring device.
  2. Measurements. A slightly more economical option involves an actual tape measure. Taking measurements of different parts of your body, and retaking them at specific intervals for comparison (for example, you can take them at 30-day intervals for P90X® or ChaLEAN Extreme®), can be a fantastic reality check on your path toward acceptance. You might also consider body fat measurements, which can be done with inexpensive calipers or special scales, or for the most accurate reading, a full-body water immersion. Again, it is the retaking of all of these measurements at predetermined intervals that will keep you grounded.
  3. Weigh yourself. This can be a tricky option for many people. I've destroyed entire weekends because of what my "trusty" digital scale had to say. But if you are looking for concrete facts, the scale does not lie. More often than not I have been shocked by how little I have gained after a giant Thanksgiving dinner. The secret is being consistent with the time of day and doing it at most once a week—not six times a day. Also remember that on a fitness plan, fat loss and muscle gain can often level the number on the scale—you might not seem to lose weight because you're actually gaining muscle. As a result, having a backup measurement (see #2) is most helpful.
  4. Keep track of your fitness progress. Continue to measure your progress with your fitness program, even as it becomes part of your healthy lifestyle. Keep track of how much stronger you've become, how many more miles you can run, or how you can finally touch your toes. Realize that only a super-motivated, amazing athlete could accomplish what you have, and that you look incredible as a result of your hard work.
  5. Draw outlines. This one requires a trusted friend, so choose wisely. Get a giant piece of butcher paper, put on some very tight clothing, lie down, and have your friend trace you on the paper. What you see will often be very different from what you have in your mind. Next, roll it up and hide it someplace. When you need a reality check, take it out and lie down. Often just seeing that we are still within the lines is enough.
  6. Photos. With most Beachbody programs, you will take your "before" and "after" pictures. Having our picture taken can be hell for many of us, but this can be a big eye-opener. First, realize that no one needs to see this but you. The idea is to take a picture of yourself wearing the same thing (again, this can be at 30-day intervals). A bikini is probably the most telling, but you have to make sure you are comfortable. At the end, compare all of the photos and note the progress you've made. If you work hard, you won't be the same on day 30 (or day 60 or day 90) as you were on day 1.
  7. Focus. If I read one more magazine article that says "Focus on what is beautiful about you, instead of what you don't like," I might just scream. That's great advice, except when I look in my compact, I am still going to see a zit—if it is there—before I notice my eyes. With that said, I think we can acknowledge that which we don't love, and not obsess about it. There are so many more amazing things to focus on, like your loved ones, your fantastic job, and even your workouts. Obsessing about your body, be it positive or negative, can be wasteful and can either make you vain or insecure. Focus on being healthy, strong, and fit, and all the other great things in your life.
Many of us are dissatisfied with the way we look. Yes, there's always a way to strive for more physical perfection, but there is only one YOU in this entire world. You are amazing, just the way you are. You are beautiful. Now go tell that to the mirror.

By Denis Faye

In a perfect world, countries would stop fighting, cars would emit rose-scented oxygen, and broccoli would taste like chocolate cake. Sadly, that's not the case. But there's always hope. Beachbody® may not be able to stop wars or global warming (yet), but we can certainly give you a few tips on getting your veggies to taste better. It's easier than you think.

There are a number of books on the subject of sneaking healthy foods to kids, including a few The Sneaky Chef titles and Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food. Basically, the same principles you'll find in these books apply to grown-ups. The only difference is your mind-set. Given that you'll be doing the cooking, you won't really be sneaking healthy foods into meals; you'll just be altering healthy foods to suit your tastes.

There are other easy ways to make sure you get your veggies, including taking green nutritional supplements and drinking everyone's favorite prebiotic, micronutrient-packed drink, Shakeology®, but remember that most healthy diets are supposed to be primarily made up of fruits and veggies. If you can drink your Shakeology and sneak a couple servings of cauliflower into your Texas chili, you'll be in great shape.

The goop

The gist of the aforementioned cookbooks is simply to steam veggies for 10 to 15 minutes, throw them in a blender or food processor with a couple tablespoons of water, and puree them into a fine goop. Then, you introduce the goop into foods that overwhelm its flavor. It's that easy.

Although the books offer a near-infinite variety of goops, I'm going to boil it down, so to speak, to two goops.
  • White goop. Most of the time, this is cauliflower, although some people try a little zucchini in there. It's the most flavorless of the goops, and it's ideal to mix into anything with a cream- or cheese-based sauce, such as pasta Alfredo or mac 'n cheese.
  • Green goop. Anything green can go into green goop, but I find broccoli and spinach work best. Green goop works well with red or reddish sauces, such as chili, marinara, or pizza sauce. You can also throw a massive layer into lasagna or manicotti and be none-the-wiser, yet all the healthier. I've never tried it in enchiladas, but I'm guessing it'll work there too.
  • Bonus: goop recipe. Pesto is incredibly easy to make from scratch and impresses the pants off of anyone who doesn't know how to make it. And the best thing about it is that its rich, complex flavor makes it easy to tweak, so that you can sneak a little healthiness in the form of iron-packed spinach to your unsuspecting dinner guests.
    • 1-1/2 cups basil, packed
    • 1-1/2 cups spinach, packed
    • 1/3 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese
    • 1/3 cup olive oil
    • 1/3 cup pine nuts
    • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
    • Directions: Mix them into a paste with a food processor or blender. Done.
The split

If you've eaten enriched flour pasta and white rice your whole life, it's understandable that brown rice and whole wheat pasta would taste weird. After all, brown rice and whole wheat pastas have flavor!

The solution is simple. Make a 50/50 mix. It's half as healthy, but it also tastes half as different. Once you're used to that, cut the white out and go 100 percent brown. You'll never look back.

Bonus Split Tip! Next time you make mashed potatoes, go half potato/half yam or sweet potato. You'll be adding flavor, which means less need for salt and butter. Also, you'll be adding the fiber that, especially if you don't like veggies, you're probably not getting enough of.

Miscellaneous strategies

While all the above stuff works great for fussy eaters young and old, keep in mind that at your age, techniques for sneaking in healthy food shouldn't always have to be so covert. Here are a few ideas that are slightly less sneaky but effective nonetheless. You'll be adding a very subtle taste to a strong, rich food.
  • Carrot juice in your apple juice. The former doesn't taste nearly as strong as the latter, but it packs a nutritional wallop that includes vitamins A and C, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
  • Broccoli in your burger. Shred the broccoli florets and mix them into the meat. Yeah, you might still see them floating around, but after piling on the lettuce, onion, tomato, pickle, mustard, or whatever else you add, you're just not going to taste them.
  • Whole wheat French toast. Yes, this might change the texture, but who eats French toast for the toast part? Your taste buds will be so busy dancing with the fresh fruit and syrup you put on top that they won't have time for to notice the fibrous, nutritious whole grains you're sneaking in.
No, we don't live in a perfect world. Pollution is a bummer, and there will probably always be countries that just can't seem to coexist on the same planet. But there's no reason why, with a little effort and a few tricks, nutritious and delicious can't live together happily on the same plate.

By Valerie Watson

The success of our own Beachbody workout programs has made stars of deserving folks like Tony Horton, Shaun T, Chalene Johnson, and Debbie Siebers. But once upon a time, there was a whole different class of exercise video: the kind that starred folks who were super-famous before they even decided to get into the workout video game. Actresses. Singers. Sports stars. See if you can match the celebrity with his or her obsolete, colorfully costumed, and often unintentionally amusing exercise video.
  1. Jane Fonda: _____'s Workout (1982). Jane Fonda's Workout, that is. The grandmammy. The original. The one that started them all. First came the book, then came this, the first of a string of videos. This one is iconic for so many reasons: the striped leotard. The legwarmers. The unbelievably perky Oscar winner asking potential feel-the-burners, "Are you ready to do the workout?" Jane seems so confident here that you never think to ask why the "beginners' workout class" in the video warms up with ballet moves that would in all likelihood damage the average beginner for life.
  2. Bubba Smith: _____ Until It Hurts: Not Just Another Pretty Workout (1985). Bubba Until It Hurts . . . Here's a phrase I bet you never thought you'd hear in association with a workout featuring this former All-Pro NFL defensive end: "motion-resistance isometrics." This videocassette's slipcover touts it as being "a total-body workout" for men and women of "all fitness levels," but frankly, it's hard to know what to think when you see strapping lad Bubba on the cover, flanked by two hotties in heavy eye makeup and revealing leotards—himself clad in skintight red leggings, no shirt, and red suspenders, his chest oiled and glistening under the photo lights. "Not just another pretty workout," eh? I beg to differ.
  3. Marie Osmond: Exercises for Mothers-To-Be (1984). Twenty-five years before she became a contestant on Dancing with the Stars and spokeswoman for a national diet system, the only sister of the Osmond Brothers starred in this video, demonstrating gentle aerobics and yoga moves appropriate for expectant women—especially, if the cover means anything, expectant women in baggy yellow, one-piece, zip-up-the-front sweatsuit/jumpsuit hybrids.
  4. Zsa Zsa Gabor: It's Simple, Darling (1993). Never will you see anyone more inappropriately attired for exercise than Zsa Zsa is here, but it's OK, because she doesn't really do anything; she just lies there while her "two muscular friends Mike and François" move her arms and legs around for her. This video is loaded with quotable moments: "Velcome to my own personal exercise video!" "I vasn't born to be an athlete; I vas born to be a lover!" "You vill see . . . It's simple, darling!" "Now don't break my neck, because I need it!"
  5. Alyssa Milano: Teen Steam (1988). The scene: A highly unbelievable bedroom set with a roomy, uncluttered central floor space any real teenager would have filled with a gargantuan pile of dirty laundry. The cast: Messy-ponytailed Alyssa and two straight-outta-Central-Casting gal pals who have ostensibly come over to discuss personal problems, but are conveniently attired in workout gear, so what the hey? Why not do some stretches and aerobics? The most memorable phrases: "Diagonal!" "Now we're gonna hold the floor!" "I wonder if this is how Michael Jackson got started!"

By Ben Kallen

When you want to create a lean, firm body, the best way to accomplish it is with an effective workout program and a healthy eating plan. But that's not the end of the story . . . . Because no matter how much you're putting into your exercise sessions, practicing a range of healthy habits the rest of the time can give your metabolism an even bigger kick.

So here's a full day's worth of metabolism boosters. Any one of them may have a relatively minor effect, but when put together, they're bound to help your body burn fat more efficiently. Add these tips to your weight loss arsenal, and you'll get the results you want as quickly as possible.

  1. Get some sun. A little outdoor time in the morning can help you slim down in three ways. First, bright light helps regulate your body clock, so you'll be more energetic during the day and sleep better at night. Second, during the winter months, sunshine helps ward off SAD (seasonal affective disorder), a condition that can lead to uncontrolled food cravings. And third, sunlight on your skin increases your levels of vitamin D, which are associated with a higher metabolism and a lower risk of obesity. (While sunscreen cuts down on your natural vitamin D production, experts warn that you shouldn't spend much time outside without it. You can also get more D by taking multivitamins, drinking fortified milk, and eating fatty fish.)
  2. Eat a good breakfast. Research has shown that a filling breakfast that includes both lean protein and complex carbohydrates helps you burn fat all day (and keeps you satisfied longer, too). In a study presented to the Endocrine Society, dieters who ate hearty breakfasts stuck to their food plans and ended up losing more weight than those who didn't, despite the fact that their daily caloric intake was actually slightly higher.
  3. And add some grapefruit. There's a reason grapefruit diets have never gone out of fashion. In a recent study in the journal Diabetes, mice on a high-fat diet that were given naringenin—a flavonoid chemical that gives grapefruit its slightly bitter taste—didn't gain weight, while others on the same diet did. And a study conducted at the Nutrition and Metabolic Research Center at Scripps Clinic found that half a grapefruit before each meal helped obese people drop more than 3 pounds over 12 weeks. (Consult your doctor if you're taking any medications—large amounts of grapefruit can change the way they're metabolized by your body.)
  4. Have a hot beverage. As you've surely heard by now, regular consumption of green or oolong tea can raise your metabolism by as much as 5 percent. But plain old java gives your fat-burning ability a boost too. Green coffee beans have been found to boost your metabolism through the combination of caffeine and something called chlorogenic acid. While roasting lowers the amount of this chemical, according to the Coffee Science Information Centre, a light roast retains more than a dark roast.

    Whatever you drink, don't overdo it, and keep the additives to a minimum—the calories in cream and sugar, or a coffeehouse latte, can far outweigh any fat-burning benefits.
  1. Take the stairs. Your daily workout will do more than anything else to burn fat and build lean muscle. But that doesn't mean you should be a slug the rest of the time. A highly publicized British study found that kids who were very active during physical education classes were that much less active throughout the day, which suggests that you may need to make a conscious effort to move your body when you're not working out, including taking such simple steps as walking everywhere you can and using stairs rather than elevators. Even relatively brief periods of exercise will help keep your metabolism revving at a higher level.
  2. Snack on nuts. All nuts (including peanuts, which aren't technically nuts, but whatever) are fairly high in calories, but they're also full of nutrients, especially protein and healthful fats. In a study at Purdue University, when people added 500 calories of peanuts to their daily diets, they ate less during meals and increased their resting metabolic rates by 11 percent. You don't need to eat so many, though. Just an ounce at a time will go a long way toward boosting your metabolism and keeping you satisfied.
  3. Shop in the outer aisles of the grocery store. Most supermarkets are laid out in similar ways: produce, meats, fish, dairy products, and other fresh, whole foods are along the outside edges, while processed, boxed, and canned foods are in the inner aisles. Shop on the perimeter first, and you'll end up with nutritious ingredients that will fuel your muscles while keeping you full—and because they're higher in fiber and protein and lower in starch, you can eat more of them and still lose weight.
  4. Take time to relax. Stress can take a toll on your metabolism. When scientists at Georgetown University fed two groups of mice a high-fat, high-sugar diet, the ones under stress gained more than twice as much weight as the low-stress group. If your job (or any other part of your life) leaves you feeling like a mouse in a cage, try to find ways of cutting down on stress. At some point during the day, take a break for meditation, yoga, or just sitting in a peaceful place and thinking about something pleasant.
  1. Watch your eating. If you're like most people, your activity level slows down at night, and so does your metabolism. And yet there's also a tendency to eat a lot at this time, either by having a big dinner or snacking in front of the TV, or both. If you're overeating due to stress or boredom, the evening is a good time to concentrate on healthful dietary habits.
  2. Hold the hooch. Your body loves alcohol—so much so, in fact, that it'll burn its byproducts as fuel before anything else. That means that while you're processing alcohol, you're not burning fat. Of course, alcoholic beverages also have calories, virtually none of which are good for anything other than helping you gain weight.
  3. Turn off your screens. At least 2 hours before bedtime, dim the lights, put away your computer, and turn off your video games. Bright lights, including those from computer screens, can interfere with your body's production of melatonin, an antioxidant hormone that builds up in the evening and helps you sleep. Research has shown that higher levels of melatonin are associated with lower levels of body fat.
  4. Catch your z's. While you're asleep, your body is hard at work producing hormones responsible for weight loss, muscle gain, and glucose metabolism. Studies have found that consistently getting less than the optimal 8 or so hours per night leads to a lower metabolism and a higher body mass. If you find yourself getting sleepy during the day, going to bed just an hour earlier could make a significant difference in your waistline.
And don't forget Beachbody's supplements, including ActiVit® Metabolism Formula and Slimming Formula. Both contain metabolism-firing green tea extract, along with other ingredients that can keep your engine running in top form.

By Whitney Provost

Many women believe that the only way to lose weight is to do cardiovascular (aerobic exercise). So they jog or take aerobics classes five times a week. Eventually, though, they notice that while their bodies are a little smaller, there are still a lot of flabby and jiggly bits. Sound familiar? Aerobic exercise is important for good health, but it's only half of the equation. Keep reading for the other half.

For optimal fitness, longevity, and a lean body, weight training is essential. If you avoid pumping iron because you're afraid of getting "bulky," then you're missing out on one of the best fat-burning methods around.

When you're weight training, you shouldn't rely exclusively on the scale to gauge your progress. You can use a body fat tester or a tape measure to track how many inches you're losing. The size of your body will shrink as you shed fat and build muscle, but your weight may not change as dramatically as you expect. Besides, what's more important, the number on the scale or how you look in your skinny jeans?

If you're still not convinced that you need to lift weights, here are 10 reasons you should reconsider.
  1. Burn more fat. Researchers at Tufts University found that when overweight women lifted heavy weights twice a week, they lost an average of 14.6 pounds of fat and gained 1.4 pounds of muscle. The control group, women who dieted but didn't lift weights, lost only 9.2 pounds of fat and gained no muscle. When you do an intense weight-training program such as ChaLEAN Extreme®, your metabolism stays elevated and you continue to burn fat for several hours afterward. During regular cardio exercise, you stop burning fat shortly after the workout.
  2. Change your body shape. You may think your genes determine how you look. That's not necessarily true. Weight training can slim you down, create new curves, and help avoid the "middle-age spread." Just look at the amazing body transformations of the women who've completed P90X®. Dropping only 3 percent of your body fat could translate into a total loss of 3 inches off your hips and thighs. And no, you won't bulk up—women don't have enough muscle-building hormones to gain a lot of mass like men do. If you keep your diet clean and create a calorie deficit, you'll burn fat.
  3. Boost your metabolism. The less muscle you have, the slower your metabolism will be. As women age, they lose muscle at increasing rates, especially after the age of 40. When you diet without doing resistance training, up to 25 percent of the weight loss may be muscle loss. Weight training while dieting can help you preserve and even rebuild muscle fibers. The more lean mass you have, the higher your metabolism will be and the more calories you'll burn all day long.
  4. Get stronger and more confident. Lifting weights increases functional fitness, which makes everyday tasks such as carrying children, lifting grocery bags, and picking up heavy suitcases much easier. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular weight training can make you 50 percent stronger in 6 months. Being strong is also empowering. Not only does it improve your physical activities, it builds emotional strength by boosting self-esteem and confidence.
  5. Build strong bones. It's been well documented that women need to do weight-bearing exercise to build and maintain bone mass, and to prevent osteoporosis. Just as muscles get stronger and bigger with use, so do bones when they're made to bear weight. Stronger bones and increased muscle mass also lead to better flexibility and balance, which is especially important for women as they age.
  6. Fight depression. You've probably heard that cardio and low-impact exercises such as yoga help alleviate depression, and weight lifting has the same effect. The endorphins that are released during aerobic activities are also present during resistance training. Many women find that regular strength training, in conjunction with psychological treatment, helps lessen their depression symptoms substantially.
  7. Improve sports fitness. You don't have to be an athlete to get the sports benefit of weight training. Improved muscle mass and strength will help you in all physical activities, whether it's bicycling with the family, swimming, golfing, or skiing . . . whatever sport you enjoy.
  8. Reduce injuries and arthritis. Weight lifting improves joint stability and builds stronger ligaments and tendons. Training safely and with proper form can help decrease the likelihood of injuries in your daily life. It can also improve physical function in people with arthritis. A study conducted at the University of Wales in Bangor, United Kingdom, found that mildly disabled participants who lifted weights for 12 weeks increased the frequency and intensity at which they could work, with less pain and increased range of movement.
  9. Get heart healthy. More than 480,000 women die from cardiovascular disease each year, making it the number-one killer of women over the age of 25. Most people don't realize that pumping iron can also keep your heart pumping. Lifting weights increases your "good" (HDL) cholesterol and decreases your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol. It also lowers your blood pressure. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that people who do 30 minutes of weight lifting each week have a 23 percent reduced risk of developing heart disease compared to those who don't lift weights.
  10. Defend against diabetes. In addition to keeping your ticker strong, weight training can improve glucose utilization (the way your body processes sugar) by as much as 23 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 weeks of strength training can improve glucose metabolism in a way that is comparable to taking diabetes medication. The more lean mass you have, the more efficient your body is at removing glucose from the blood, which can reduce complications from diabetes or even help prevent type 2 diabetes in the first place.

By Ben Kallen

When you're trying to lose excess fat, every advantage helps. Of course, your main tools are an effective exercise program, a proper food plan, and supplements that fit your lifestyle. But beyond those basics, anything that can boost your results is a plus.

Luckily, you probably have some safe, effective, and inexpensive fat burners in your kitchen already. Include the following items in your diet plan, and you can start losing more weight right now—without even making an extra trip to the store.
  1. Apple cider vinegar. While cider vinegar may not be the magic remedy your great-grandmother thought it was, there is increasing evidence showing that it can help you eat less and reduce the effect that carbs have on your body. The active ingredient, acetic acid, appears to improve insulin sensitivity and slow the absorption of carbohydrates, helping prevent blood-sugar spikes and excess fat storage. It can also make you feel fuller with less food.

    In a recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, mice on a high-fat diet gained up to 10 percent less fat if they were given acetic acid than if they were given only water.


    • Mix vinegar with extra virgin olive oil and your favorite spices for a simple, healthful, and delicious salad dressing. In a Penn State University study, women who ate large, low-calorie salads before lunch ended up consuming 100 fewer calories during the meal itself . . . and they loaded up on extra nutrients as well.
    • Combine vinegar with oil and herbs to make a tenderizing meat marinade.
    • Add a splash of vinegar to top off soups or stews; this will brighten up the flavors.
    • Add a tablespoon of vinegar before boiling, steaming, or stir-frying vegetables to bring out their fresh tastes and help them hold their colors.
  2. Cinnamon. This common spice has been found in several studies to help improve insulin sensitivity and regulate blood sugar, so it helps prevent the spikes and dips that can cause food cravings. This effect may be due to healthful antioxidant chemicals known as polyphenols.

    Keep in mind that most grocery-store brands of "cinnamon" are actually cassia bark, a close-tasting relative of the cinnamon plant. (If you want the real thing, look for "true" or Ceylon cinnamon on the label.) Both varieties seem to have health benefits, but be careful about using cassia in large amounts—it contains coumarin, which acts as a blood thinner and may cause liver problems when taken in high doses.


    • Add powdered cinnamon to hot or cold cereal, fruit, sweet foods, and even savory dishes such as curry or chili.
    • For cinnamon-flavored coffee, mix a little into your grounds before brewing.
    • Heat a cinnamon stick in water, apple cider, or even red wine for a spicy hot drink.
  3. Hot sauce and red pepper flakes. The active ingredient in hot peppers, capsaicin, creates thermogenesis; that is, it temporarily turns up your body's thermostat. Studies have shown that people who eat pepper-laced food get a small metabolic boost, and burn more fat, for up to half an hour afterward. Hot food also makes you feel full more quickly, so you're likely to eat less.

    Hot sauce and red pepper flakes are great flavor boosters, too, adding zest to meals with few extra calories. You don't need to ladle it on till there are flames coming out of your ears. A little bit will go a long way.


    • Add a few drops of pepper sauce to anything that needs spicing up, including eggs, soups, seafood, and even frozen dinners. (These sauces can be high in sodium, so go easy on the shaker.)
    • Sprinkle red pepper flakes on pizza, pasta, or sandwiches, or add to sauces or salad dressing.
  4. Curry powder. This complex spice mixture, which contains such ingredients as turmeric, ginger, cumin, and coriander, was created as a shortcut for preparing Indian food. While each of the spices can provide a small metabolic boost on its own, they may burn fat even better when used together. Turmeric itself has a variety of healthful properties, and shows promise as a potent anti-inflammatory agent that can help relieve joint pain and post-exercise muscle soreness.


    • Add as needed to flavor Indian and South Asian dishes.
    • Mix with ground beef to spice up burgers or meatloaf.
    • Add to soups and stews.
    • Mix with a little olive oil or light mayo as a dressing for chicken or tuna salad.
  5. Ice. Really? Well, yes. Regular old frozen water has several properties that can help you in your fight against excess fat:

    • When you blend ice into a fruit smoothie or protein shake, you get a thick, creamy consistency with no added fat or calories. And you're likely to drink it more slowly, if only to avoid brain freeze.
    • Making your beverages more refreshing encourages you to drink more, which is important when trying to lose weight.
    • When you drink an ice-cold beverage, your body actually has to expend calories to warm itself up to a normal temperature. Nobody agrees on exactly how much of a calorie-burning effect this has, and it's probably pretty slight. But every bit helps.


    • Blend ice cubes or crushed ice with other ingredients to make thick and creamy protein shakes, fruit smoothies, or meal replacement shakes. (Check your blender's instructions to make sure it's powerful enough to chop ice.)
    • Add lemon or fresh mint to water, and freeze it in an ice-cube tray. Whenever you want a cold glass of fresh, calorie-free flavored water, just add a few of the cubes.
    • Don't keep your water ice cold while you're working out. When it's time for fast hydration, you'll want a slightly cool or room-temperature beverage that goes down easy.

Test Your Food Fight IQ!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 | 0 comments »

By DeLane McDuffie

As an 8-year-old kid, I tried to incite a food fight in school. My only setback was that I tried to start one on a Friday, the day when we were served "fun" food, like pizza and hot dogs. No one wanted to throw that food around. True, we all know about food fights in school, but how many of us know about actual large-scale food fights—real skirmishes, wars, and battles involving food, fists, and, sometimes, firearms. Match the conflict with its unique food or characteristic.
  1. California Water Wars – Chinatown. This conflict was the basis of the 1974 movie Chinatown. The city of Los Angeles took on the residents of the Owens Valley over rights to the abundance of water from the Sierra Nevada. Back then, L.A. was a growing city in a semi-desert region with a very limited water supply. So much water was taken from the Owens Valley that the once water-rich landscape started to look more and more like the Sahara. Obviously, this upset the local farmers, who decided to blow up part of L.A.'s aqueduct system in 1924. This debate continued for decades.
  2. Banana Massacre – Chiquita. The United Fruit Company was an international trading juggernaut during the last century. It traded pineapples, bananas, and other fruit in Latin America and the Caribbean, selling chiefly to Americans and Europeans. In 1928, the Columbian Army opened fire on a picket line of United Fruit workers. The number of casualties is still unclear. Some speculated that the United Fruit Company actually convinced the military to do it. Controversy ensued. Eventually, the United Fruit Company (now Chiquita) got back to business and competing with its chief rival, Standard Fruit Company (now Dole).
  3. The Grattan Massacre – Bovine. It all started with a wandering cow. Back in 1854 in the Nebraska Territory, near present-day Laramie, Wyoming, a cow strolled off a Mormon camp and found itself in BrulĂ© Lakota (of the Great Sioux Nation) land. There were burgers for everyone that night. Once the actual owner figured out what happened to his cow, he made so much fuss that Second Lieutenant John Grattan was sent out to exact revenge on the cow "thieves." As the two parties were negotiating, the Lakota killed Grattan and his 30 troops after one of the soldiers shot Conquering Bear, the Lakota chief. Soon after, the U.S. retaliated by sending William S. Harney and 600 soldiers into Sioux land, killing nearly 100 Sioux in the Battle of Ash Hollow.
  4. The Cod Wars – Iceland vs. Great Britain. There were three of them, one in the 1950s and two more in the 1970s. Iceland, whose economy was mainly based on fishing, felt the need to expand its fishing borders in the North Atlantic. Great Britain challenged that notion. In the First and Second Cod Wars, a lot of fishing nets got cut and a lot of insults were thrown around; however, it was the Third Cod War during which tempers really flared. Both countries deployed scores of ships and vessels. From November 1975 to June 1976, shots were fired, vessels were rammed, and fish surely must have been frightened. Once Iceland threatened to close its NATO base, that's when NATO stepped in, made the two nations shake hands, and made everything better.
  5. Mutiny on the Bounty – Breadfruit. Lieutenant William Bligh, commander of the HMS Bounty, was on a mission in 1787. He had to sail down to Tahiti, snatch up some breadfruit, and swing on over to the West Indies, where the breadfruit would serve as 18th-century energy bars for the slaves. Bad weather conditions around Cape Horn derailed their Tahitian arrival for about 10 months. Once they got there, breadfruit was out of season, which caused Bligh and the boys to hang out in Tahiti for another 5 months, until harvest season. Soon, they realized that packing the huge amount of breadfruit plants onto the ship would be like packing a blue whale into a sleeping bag, which caused the living quarters to be more like living pennies for the crew, which caused shipmate Fletcher Christian and friends to stage a mutiny. Bligh eventually found his way back to England, and the mutineers were captured. Bligh did get another shot at delivering breadfruit to the West Indies. The biggest irony is that the slaves hated the taste of breadfruit and refused to eat them.

By Steve Edwards

I'm sure by now many of you have seen the recent cover of TIME magazine stating that exercise doesn't matter for weight loss. As you might imagine, we at Beachbody are a little incredulous at this premise. After all, we have reports from thousands of individuals who've used exercise to dramatically change their bodies. Could we be the ones who are mistaken? Could all of those transformations have happened from dietary change alone? Today, let's take an analytical look at how we lose weight.

This article is going to deviate from our usual approach. As a person who has spent most of his life altering human physiques, I'm going to deconstruct the TIME article from top to bottom and try to make some sense out of what seems like a very unlikely premise. Let's begin with the tagline:

" . . . because exercise makes us hungry or because we want to reward ourselves, many people eat more—and eat more junk food, like doughnuts—after going to the gym."

Could it be true? After all, exercise not only makes you want to eat more, but it requires that your body consume more calories to recover from a breakdown of body tissue. What's unclear at this point is where the "junk food, like doughnuts" came from. My experience with Beachbody customers (and others over the last 25 years) is exactly the opposite; exercise actually leads to better eating habits because a body in tune with its needs craves healthier foods. But this is the tag line of an article that's going to circulate worldwide. Certainly, the author is about to present some compelling evidence for his argument. John Cloud proceeds to inform us:

"One of the most widely accepted, commonly repeated assumptions in our culture is that if you exercise, you will lose weight. But I exercise all the time, and since I ended that relationship and cut most of those desserts, my weight has returned to the same 163 lb. it has been most of my adult life."

His personal example of how exercise has not helped him lose weight seems to have left him rather bitter. "I have exercised like this—obsessively, a bit grimly—for years," he states. "But recently I began to wonder: Why am I doing this?" To me, it revived memories of Gina Kolata's best-selling drivel from last year blaming the obesity epidemic on our genes, where her entire argument was based around her brother training for a marathon and losing only 3 pounds. But certainly, the cover story of TIME wasn't going to be based on one man's personal weight loss odyssey.

If only Cloud and Kolata were members of the Message Boards, we could have told them how to break plateaus using a simple periodizational approach. Of course, this may have hurt their bank accounts, but at least they'd be less disenfranchised with the fitness industry, as well as a lot healthier.

But I digress. Next, Cloud states:

"Still, as one major study—the Minnesota Heart Survey—found, more of us at least say we exercise regularly. The survey ran from 1980, when only 47% of respondents said they engaged in regular exercise, to 2000, when the figure had grown to 57%."

At least he used "at least say," because other studies don't back this up. In fact, numerous studies published this decade show that children exercise somewhere between 20 percent and 25 percent less than they did in the 1970s, while only eating approximately 3 percent more calories. Statistics tell us that childhood obesity rates are over 30 percent nationwide, and over 40 percent in some demographics. Obese children are 99 percent more likely to wind up as obese adults than non-obese children. In fact, we don't need statistics to tell us this at all. We just need to be observant. The absence of children playing in the streets, the empty bike racks at schools, the prevalence of video games, and the increase in things to watch on TV should make it easy to draw this conclusion sans further input. Using this background, Cloud gets down to the nitty-gritty:

'"In general, for weight loss, exercise is pretty useless,' says Eric Ravussin, chair in diabetes and metabolism at Louisiana State University and a prominent exercise researcher."

This seems like a pretty bold statement. The physiological response by the body to exercise is to increase its metabolism. All other things being equal, this leads to weight loss, and there is no scientific evidence to refute it. The only scenario when it would not help is one where an individual consumed more calories than they burned off. But not only would they have to exceed the actual caloric burn of the exercise, they'd have to eat beyond the additional physiological changes the body makes to recover from exercise. And while it feels as though we're getting to the point of the article, caloric consumption in Cloud's view is always only weighed against calories burned during exercise. Furthermore, this premise dismisses the findings of at least three long-term studies done between 1997 and 2008 that show exercise is extremely important for maintaining a goal weight after weight loss.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Cloud goes on to tell us:

"Today doctors encourage even their oldest patients to exercise, which is sound advice for many reasons: People who regularly exercise are at significantly lower risk for all manner of diseases—those of the heart in particular. They less often develop cancer, diabetes and many other illnesses."

So he's advocating exercise, apparently, just not for weight loss. Odd, when two of the diseases listed above are directly related to obesity. Regardless, this dubious setup allows Cloud to drop his bomb, which is based on spotty science and conjecture:

"That causes us to eat more, which in turn can negate the weight-loss benefits we just accrued. Exercise, in other words, isn't necessarily helping us lose weight. It may even be making it harder."

For scientific evidence, Cloud uses a study out of Louisiana State University [LSU] that showed women on an exercise program didn't lose much more weight than a group who wasn't on an exercise program when their diets weren't monitored. Of course, the women on an exercise program still lost more weight; it just wasn't very significant. But without factoring in diet, it's hard to say what went on within this group. Surely, the dietary component of a weight loss program is important, but stating that exercise is making weight loss harder seems like a stretch, especially when citing a study where the group that exercised still lost more weight. This extrapolation was summed up well in Denis Faye's blog The Real Fitness Nerd:

"Claiming that exercise isn't effective because people use it as an excuse to otherwise misbehave is like claiming a medication isn't effective because patients don't follow the directions properly."

The conjecture continues, as Cloud continues mentioning cravings for various junk foods whenever the topic of exercise comes up. For example:

"In 2007 the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association issued new guidelines stating that 'to lose weight . . . 60 to 90 minutes of physical activity may be necessary.' That's 60 to 90 minutes on most days of the week, a level that not only is unrealistic for those of us trying to keep or find a job but also could easily produce, on the basis of Church's data, ravenous compensatory eating."

But physical activity is defined as any type of movement that increases your heart rate over time, so he's using the American College of Sports Medicine's guidelines for undefined exercise, making a jump to suggest this should happen at intensities that cause us to pig out, assuming those exist in the first place. This is in contrast to studies that show compensatory eating happens more regularly among sedentary groups. Regardless, it's virtually impossible to prove that moving our bodies more will make us "ravenous," especially when Cloud's still only referencing the LSU study.

His next leap of illogic jumps the shark:

"If you force yourself to jog for an hour, your self-regulatory capacity is proportionately enfeebled. Rather than lunching on a salad, you'll be more likely to opt for pizza."

Cloud provides no rationale for this. Maybe he would opt for pizza, as we can only assume. But no evidence is presented as to why someone would do this other than a paper published in Psychological Bulletin in 2000 that claims self-control is like a muscle: it weakens each day after you use it. How he came to the conclusion that this would lead someone to eat pizza as a post-workout snack is anyone's guess because, unfortunately, he doesn't attempt to explain it. It's just his opinion.

Next, he attempts to make his point using some science:

"Yes, although the muscle-fat relationship is often misunderstood. According to calculations published in the journal Obesity Research by a Columbia University team in 2001, a pound of muscle burns approximately six calories a day in a resting body, compared with the two calories that a pound of fat burns. Which means that after you work out hard enough to convert, say, 10 lb. of fat to muscle—a major achievement—you would be able to eat only an extra 40 calories per day, about the amount in a teaspoon of butter, before beginning to gain weight. Good luck with that."

Cloud's flippant dismissal at the end of this paragraph could be taken as self-mockery because no one can convert fat to muscle. The physiological process does not exist. You can lose fat (atrophy) and gain muscle (hypertrophy), but you can't convert one type of body tissue into another. Furthermore, the Columbia research has not been proven conclusive. Brad Schoenfeld, in an in-depth review of the TIME article on his blog Workout 911, cites two studies showing far greater differences in metabolic properties.

"In a study done at Tufts University, Campbell and colleagues reported an increase in lean body weight of 3.1 pounds after 12 weeks of strength training increased resting metabolic rate by approximately 6.8%. This translated into an additional 105 calories burned per day. Do the math, and that equates to approximately 35 calories burned for each pound of added muscle. A study by Pratley and colleagues came to a similar conclusion on the topic. A similar four month strength training protocol resulted in a gain of 3.5 pounds of lean muscle. Metabolic rate showed a resulting 7.7% increase, correlating to a metabolic-heightening effect of muscle of approximately 34 calories."

Cloud does manage to quote a lot of credentialed people, but he does so in a way where he either uses their quotes out of context or he interprets them in a way that's just plain wrong. For example, let's use his analysis of why running could be worse for weight loss than "sitting on the sofa knitting."

"Some of us can will ourselves to overcome our basic psychology, but most of us won't be very successful. 'The most powerful determinant of your dietary intake is your energy expenditure,' says Steven Gortmaker, who heads Harvard's Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity. 'If you're more physically active, you're going to get hungry and eat more.'"

True, you will be hungry and might eat more. What he leaves out is that not only can you eat more, but at some point, you need to eat more to lose weight. At Beachbody, this is one of the most difficult principles we have to teach our customers. At the beginning of an exercise-induced weight loss program, we restrict calories. As a person's body composition changes, so does that person's need for caloric consumption. It's not uncommon for our customers to double the amount of food they need to eat to keep their weight loss moving once they get into good shape. This simple physiological fact renders Cloud's argument moot.

And not only do individual caloric needs change, but so do nutrient needs. In my experience, the need for more nutrient-dense foods seems to create cravings for healthier foods that are nutrient dense. And since these foods tend to be less calorically dense (because they are often plant based and contain fiber), the most common scenario among our customer base is that people become less hungry over time because they're eating foods which keep them full longer.

Cloud follows this with an about-face, making a point that if people moved more, they could exercise less. Ignoring the fact that all movement is considered some form of exercise, Cloud uses some studies that showed kids who got less recess time spent more personal time exercising, and thus stayed on par with their weight loss, than those who got more recess—not exactly a damnation of exercise.

Then he actually champions exercise with the following statement:

"In addition to enhancing heart health and helping prevent disease, exercise improves your mental health and cognitive ability. A study published in June in the journal Neurology found that older people who exercise at least once a week are 30% more likely to maintain cognitive function than those who exercise less. Another study, released by the University of Alberta a few weeks ago, found that people with chronic back pain who exercise four days a week have 36% less disability than those who exercise only two or three days a week."

This seems like a strong testament from an article that began as anti-exercise. He further drives home the need to exercise with the following paragraph:

"But there's some confusion about whether it is exercise—sweaty, exhausting, hunger-producing bursts of activity done exclusively to benefit our health—that leads to all these benefits or something far simpler: Regularly moving during our waking hours. We all need to move more—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says our leisure-time physical activity (including things like golfing, gardening and walking) has decreased since the late 1980s, right around the time the gym boom really exploded. But do we need to stress our bodies at the gym?"

Huh? Who defined exercise as the need to "stress our bodies at the gym"? Wasn't this the same guy who had just told me that I'd be better off knitting than going for a run? It seems like the entire point of the article was for Cloud to publish an excuse so he wouldn't have to go to the gym anymore. He then proceeds to ask himself this exact question.

"This explains why exercise could make you heavier—or at least why even my wretched four hours of exercise a week aren't eliminating all my fat. It's likely that I am more sedentary during my nonexercise hours than I would be if I didn't exercise with such Puritan fury. If I exercised less, I might feel like walking more instead of hopping into a cab; I might have enough energy to shop for food, cook and then clean instead of ordering a satisfyingly greasy burrito."

The funny thing is that over the course of the article he actually seems to have convinced himself that he should exercise, only differently. He simply became befuddled on the type of exercise that he should be doing to get rid of his belly. It's more like an article to promote periodizational exercise, even though he doesn't mention it. He admits his confusion:

"Actually, it's not clear that vigorous exercise like running carries more benefits than a moderately strenuous activity like walking while carrying groceries."

Here we would agree, as it is unclear, especially without defining the intensity of the run or the amount of weight in groceries being carried. Not to mention the duration or the way you structured your daily tasks. What's become clear to me, by this point, is that the author needs a personal trainer. But he doesn't need one who takes him through workouts; he needs one who would plan an effective program for him. Cloud sums it up:

"In short, it's what you eat, not how hard you try to work it off, that matters more in losing weight. You should exercise to improve your health, but be warned: fiery spurts of vigorous exercise could lead to weight gain."

Again, he has it wrong. He's admitted a need to eat better and to exercise; he simply doesn't understand the process. All his self-flagellation reminds me of the colloquial definition of insanity, "doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result." What this author really needs, if he wants to lose his belly, is a Beachbody program.

By Team Beachbody

Summer is here in all its glory, providing us with long days, warm weather, and a chance to get off work and actually enjoy the great outdoors.

Repetition can be a killer for many of us when it comes to our workout schedule. No matter how motivated we are, doing the same thing day in and day out can make us, well, bored. Motivation is the key to being fit and the best way to keep yourself charged up is to alter what you are doing from time to time and embrace new challenges. Summer is the perfect season to embark on something new. After all, you can spend a full day in the office and still have 4 hours of light to play with. Take advantage of this time and get outside! Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Rise and shine: There's nothing like a morning metabolism booster. Whether or not you are a morning person, a sunrise exercise ritual, such as a walk, jog, or yoga session in the park can get that metabolism moving and charge you up for the rest of the day. This will not be as fun to try during winter when it's dark and cold: now is the time!
  2. Try something new: If you ever had a sport or outside ActiVit® that you wanted to try, summer is your window of opportunity. With those extra hours of daylight, you've got plenty of time for a long bike ride or hike, some power yoga or tai chi on the beach, rock climbing in the local hills, or an evening swim or surf session.
  3. Teach the kids some new tricks: Don't let the kids keep you at home. Someone needs to teach them to enjoy the great outdoors, and it'll never be easier than when it's warm and sunny. The beach, the mountains, the desert, or even the park, children have a natural curiosity and love to explore. Use this to your advantage: get them outside, burn some calories, and have some fun!
  4. Join the club: Most cities have clubs, groups, or weekly races that form each summer to take advantage of the long days. When it comes to being active, there is definitely strength in numbers and having a group to encourage you might just be the ticket. Most urban areas (and small towns for that matter) have some free publications, such as City Sports, that list these groups categorized by ActiVit®.
  5. Just do it: Don't have anything you've been hankerin' to do? Just head outside and let nature take its course. Tell yourself that you are going to spend a set amount of time outdoors each day, even if it's only a break from work to explore the neighborhood. Once outside, keep an open mind, try to enjoy the open air and environment, and see what inspiration comes your way.

Eat Your Way to Great Abs

Sunday, June 20, 2010 | 0 comments »

By Ben Kallen

A few weeks ago, we gave you tips on building great-looking abs. Now we're going to focus on the other half of the equation: your diet. When it comes to creating incredible abs, even the most effective workout programs can only bring you so far. That's because you can't get a flat, hard midsection without losing body fat. Here's how to eat your way to great abs.

No matter how much effort you put into creating a six-pack, no one's going to see it if it's covered by a layer of flab. (The good news? While it's impossible to "spot-reduce," abdominal fat is often the first to go when you start losing weight.)

If you're following the dietary guidelines of a Beachbody® fitness program, you'll automatically be eating the right foods to lose fat as you get in shape. But the following seven principles can give you an extra edge, and will help ensure that the effort you're putting into your abs will bring you the results you want.
  1. Get plenty of protein. Eating enough lean protein promotes fat loss and muscle gain, the two most important elements for developing great abs. It also helps keep you from getting hungry while you're eating right. You don't have to gobble down 12-ounce steaks—just eat a normal portion of lean meat, fish, low-fat dairy, or vegetarian protein with every meal, and make sure your snacks contain some protein, too. If you still have a hard time getting enough in your diet, a daily shake made with Whey Protein Powder can be a perfect addition.

    By the way, protein is especially important in the morning, when a lot of people don't get as much as they should. A protein-rich breakfast will help keep your blood sugar steady for hours, preventing the dips that can lead to cravings later in the day. (Try some low-fat chicken sausage, or an omelet with one whole egg and three egg whites, along with fruit or whole-grain toast.)
  2. Reconsider your carbs. Despite the popularity of low-carbohydrate diets, the average American meal is still too high in sugar and fast-burning starches to bring body fat down to ab-baring levels. It's time to say goodbye to sweetened soda, ditch the Doritos®, and save the cake for your birthday. If your fitness plan calls for a sports drink before a long cardio workout, or a carb-and-protein recovery drink after resistance training, that's fine. But the rest of the time, stick with foods that are on the low end of the glycemic index (refer to GlycemicIndex.com for more information)—these foods burn more slowly, so they won't spike your blood sugar and insulin levels.
  3. Have fun with fiber. Something about the word "fiber" just doesn't sound appetizing. But high-fiber foods can actually be quite delicious: fresh berries and other fruits, salads loaded with colorful produce, your favorite steamed vegetables or vegetable soup, stews or chili made with beans, chewy whole-grain breads and cereals . . . You get the picture. (These foods just happen to be loaded with nutrients as well.) High-fiber foods keep you fuller with fewer calories, and they help keep your digestive system working at its best—a double-whammy for getting rid of belly bulge.
  4. Enjoy some yogurt. Probiotics, the healthful bacteria found in yogurt and other fermented foods, have been proven to help reduce belly fat. In a recent study in Finland, new mothers who took probiotic supplements averaged smaller waist circumferences—and lower body fat in general—than those who didn't take probiotic supplements. And while the topic is still controversial, studies have found that eating lots of calcium-rich dairy foods like yogurt may increase overall weight loss.
  5. Don't forget to eat. Tempted to lower your daily calorie count by skipping meals? Don't. Going hungry can raise your levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol, which research has found can increase belly fat even in otherwise thin women. And eating too infrequently can lower your metabolism and energy levels, while increasing the chance that you'll get too hungry and decide to chuck your meal plan entirely. If you're eating the right foods, regular meals and snacks will keep your body fueled while you're working toward that strong core.
  6. Drink more fluids. Hydration is important when you're on a fitness plan, but drinking plenty of water has particular benefits for your midsection. It helps keep your stomach full, so you don't overeat, and it helps flush out excess sodium to prevent belly bloating. (Eating more potassium-rich foods, such as tomatoes and bananas, will also help in this area.)

    Plain ol' H20 can't be beat, but you can also switch it up with flavored waters, iced tea, and anything else you like to drink that isn't full of sweeteners. How much do you need? The old rule of 8 glasses a day is a good start, but everyone is different: drink more if you're exercising or it's hot out, and drink less if you're running to the bathroom every 5 minutes.
  7. . . . With two exceptions. It's time to cut down on those mood-altering substances, coffee and alcohol. Too much caffeine raises your cortisol levels and can impair your sleep, which can lower the production of fitness-promoting hormones. Meanwhile, the proverbial "beer belly" isn't just the result of extra calories—alcohol actually makes it more difficult for your body to metabolize carbs and fat. Booze also stimulates your appetite and lowers your inhibitions, which can lead to bingeing. The best road to flat abs is no alcohol at all, but if you really like a drink now and then, just have one at a time (and no more than a few a week), and stay away from higher-calorie beers and sugary mixed drinks.
If you add these rules to your fitness plan, you're sure to see faster improvements in your midsection. Of course, there's an added bonus to eating this way: it'll keep you healthier, too. That may not be as big an inducement as great abs, but we're throwing it in for free.

By Steve Edwards

It's not just what you eat but when you eat that matters. The perfect food for one situation may be horrible for another. Nutrient timing is a science that athletes use to try to get the most out of every calorie they consume. Not everyone needs an athlete's level of efficiency, but all of us will benefit from a basic understanding of nutrient timing.

This is 911, need-to-know info only. To keep you focused on the big picture, I'll begin with an example at the extreme end of nutrient timing. If the average Joe followed the same diet as an Ironman triathlete, he'd likely have type 2 diabetes in a matter of months. Conversely, if someone tried to complete an Ironman on even the healthiest version of a low-carb diet, that person would either be forced to quit or die. This is not just because either diet would mean eating too much food or too little food. Different foods cause the body's metabolic process to react in different ways; and various activities should be fueled using various means.

Let's begin by looking at our possible fuel sources:
  • Carbohydrates. Are fuel only. They aren't stored in body tissue, only in the blood and liver as glycogen, which needs to be burned off. They are essential for high-level functioning like running fast, lifting heavy things, and thinking. They are digested and put to use by your body very quickly. If you eat more than you burn, your body will convert them to be stored in adipose (fat) tissue.
  • Proteins. Called the body's building blocks. Hence, you need them to rebuild tissue that breaks down daily. You digest proteins slowly, and at a certain point, your body just can't assimilate them. Therefore, it's important that throughout the day you eat foods that are high in protein.
  • Fats. Help regulate all of your bodily functions. They are dense and contain over twice the calories of proteins and carbohydrates. While they are vital for our health, it's easy to eat too much of them, which will result in unwanted fat tissue on your body. You digest fats slowly, and fats will also help slow the digestion of anything else you eat. Fats are also your backup fuel source, though they can't be put to use right away the way carbs can.
  • Fiber. Categorized as a carbohydrate, it is not a source of fuel as it has no calories. It's the indigestible part of a plant and is of vital importance in your diet because it regulates the absorption of the foods you eat. It also helps us feel full. Most of us don't eat enough fiber, and that's a big part of the obesity problem.
  • Alcohol. Not really a food source but something we tend to consume. It has nearly twice the calories of proteins and carbs (though it lacks fuel) and digests rapidly. Its only healthy function is that it seems to make us happy. Studies indicate this is a good thing, as those who consume alcohol generally live longer than those who don't, but from a purely nutritional standpoint, it's not so hot because you're getting calories without any upside. Its use should be strategic and regulated for best results.
Now let's look at the various situations we face daily, at least on most days—hopefully.
  • Relaxing. This is when we're sedentary both physically and mentally. In a relaxed state, you burn very few calories because your body is engaged as little as possible.
  • Sedentary work. When we're at work or school. Our bodies aren't moving, but our brains are engaged. The brain runs on glycogen, which is blood sugar fueled by carbohydrates.
  • Low-level exercise. Like mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, or going for a walk. This breaks down body tissue, so you're burning calories, but it's not intense work. Therefore, it can be fueled by your stored body fat. Your body tries to fuel its low-level outputs by mobilizing fat stores because this saves its limited glycogen for emergency situations.
  • High-level exercise. Fueled by glycogen. When you really have to get after it, all sorts of hormones go to work, and your body burns its blood sugar. Body-tissue breakdown is rapid, and your stored blood sugar (glycogen) won't last much more than an hour.
  • Sleep. A very active time. Deep sleep is where your body works the hardest to repair itself. You need nutrients to make these repairs, but it's better if you aren't mucking up the process with digestion. This is why you hear that you shouldn't eat too much at night. It's best to eat early to allow most of the digestion to happen while you're awake, thus allowing your body to use all its energy for recovery during sleep.
It is worth noting here that it's better to eat before bed if you need the nutrients—don't skip them. Your body can't repair itself without nutrients, and recovery from breakdown is why we eat in the first place.

Next, let's take a look at an important word you need to know: insulin.
  • Insulin. Wikipedia tells us that insulin "is a hormone that has extensive effects on metabolism and other body functions, such as vascular compliance. Insulin causes cells in the liver, muscle, and fat tissue to take up glucose from the blood, storing it as glycogen in the liver and muscle, and stopping use of fat as an energy source."
Okay, that's a little scientific, but look at all the things we've already referenced: hormone, glycogen, metabolism, and fat as an energy source. Even if you don't fully comprehend "vascular compliance," you can tell that insulin is something important in today's discussion.

Sure enough, it's the only hundred-dollar word we need to know today. Your body's insulin response is the main reason you want to eat certain foods at certain times, to do certain things.

Putting it all together

Now let's take what we've just learned and put it to use. For most of us, nutrient timing is pretty simple. The next thing to consider is what you're going to be doing or what you just did. As I said before, what you eat should be based on this.

You've probably heard about the evils of sugar, or maybe even the glycemic index. Using the science of nutrient timing, you can turn sugar into something healthy because it's the only thing that transports nutrients into your blood quickly enough to be of service during and after hard exercise.

Essentially, sugar or other easily digested carbs (the less fiber, the better) promote an insulin release. This speeds the transformation of carbohydrates into glucose in your blood. As your glycogen stores are depleted during exercise, recharging them with sugar minimizes the damage done by the breakdown of tissue during exercise. Therefore, sugar, the oft-vilified ingredient, is actually your body's preferred nutrient during times of excessive stress and tissue breakdown. Pretty cool, huh?

The bad news is that this miracle nutrient is not good for you when you're not doing intense exercise, which for almost all of us is most of the time. In fact, sugar's very bad for you because the insulin response that was so fabulous for you when you were bonking (glycogen depleted) is not so fabulous for you when you're sitting in front of the boob tube.

Remember this from the Wikipedia definition of insulin, "stopping use of fat as an energy source"? That's bad when you're sitting around. Remember how one of dietary fat's responsibilities is to fuel you during low-intensity exercise? Well, when sugar causes your insulin to spike, it cuts off that process. Now not only are you not burning body fat for low-level outputs, you're trying to force your body to use its glycogen. Double bad.

Unless you're exercising, sugar intake should be minimized. During these times—which is most of the time—your diet should consist of a mixture of proteins, fats, and complex carbohydrates. The latter are natural sources of carbohydrates that generally come with fiber, which regulates the insulin response.

Whole fruit, a simple carbohydrate by definition because it contains fructose (a sugar), always contains fiber and, thus, can be treated as a complex carb. Fruit juice, and other such stuff, is processed; it, along with processed complex carbohydrates like white rice, can cause an insulin response, so these types of foods should be used more like sports foods than staples.

It's also important to note that combining all these different nutrients slows sugar's ability to incite insulin into action. Therefore, a little sugar like a dessert after a well-rounded meal is buffered by the meal. The calories and lack of decent nutrients (processed sugar is devoid of most nutrients, except for energy) still count toward your overall diet, but at least you don't have to worry about an insulin spike.

So the main point of this article is very simple. You should eat small, well-rounded meals most of the time. These should include some proteins, some fats, some fiber, and some carbs. During (only if it's a long workout) and after hard workouts, you should supplement your diet with sugar or simple carbohydrates. After this, you should go back to eating well-rounded meals again.

Sports nutrition has evolved this process even further. In nature, foods are generally slow to digest. Nature's great sports foods are things such as bananas and figs. These are sugary but still contain fiber and other nutrients. Science has found ways to make foods that are even more efficient during sports. These basically manipulate pH levels and process the sugars to speed them into your system. Outstanding when you need it. Terrible when you don't.

They've even taken this a step further by finding a ratio of other nonsugary nutrients (like protein) that can be transported by the sugar to give you a further benefit. Beachbody's Results and Recovery Formula uses this science. When you're bonking during a hard workout, it speeds nutrients that are essential for quick recovery into your system as quickly as possible.

I can't stress how important it is that sports fuels be used for sports performance only. Gatorade, soda, and all sugar candies (hey, no fat!) all function as the poor man's sports foods. Unfortunately, those perusing the Quick Stop generally aren't trying to fuel up after doing Plyo X, and therein may lay our obesity trend.

In case the topic is still a bit fuzzy, let's use the above logic on the examples in the intro:
  • An Ironman athlete is doing intense exercise for 10 to 12 hours or more. During this time, that athlete is mainly burning glycogen, which is gone after an hour or so. The athlete burns stored fat, too, but this is limited in its effectiveness. To race, the athlete must replenish with sports foods because they contain the only nutrients that the athlete will digest fast enough to help. To complete an Ironman, especially at your physical limit, it may take 5,000 calories coming mainly from sugar.
This is a sports-specific diet only. Someone trying to eat that way during a viewing of the Lord of the Rings trilogy would be lucky to stay out of the emergency room. Conversely, if you tried to maintain a 25-mph speed for 8 hours on your bike while munching on raw spinach and lean steak, you'd bonk so hard you'd be praying to get yanked from the race at the first checkpoint.

That should cover your 911 on nutrient timing. Next time, we'll move on to the topic of supplements. Are they magic pills, overhyped placebos, or something in between?

By Whitney Provost

If you've ever avoided your Monday-morning weigh-in because you blew your diet over the weekend, you're not alone. Most people, even those who are not dieting, tend to eat more on weekends than they do during the week. You don't have to be like the average person, however, if you follow a few simple steps. Here are 10 tips for surviving the weekend on a diet.

In a study published in the journal Obesity in 2008, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis followed 48 men and women for a year to determine how weekend eating affected their diets. Almost all of the participants, who ranged from healthy weight to nearly obese, lost weight during the week and gained it back on the weekends. Their physical activity didn't change much; the weight increase was caused by a higher calorie intake. Weekend overeating is so powerful, the researchers found, that it could lead the average person to gain 9 pounds over the course of a year.

Indulging on the weekends can cause you to make up any calorie deficit you created during the week, which means you won't lose weight. And who wants to diet without seeing results? Don't let your days off derail your hard work. Be a weekend diet warrior.
  1. Eat within an hour of waking up. Starting your days with a healthy breakfast will give you energy and make you feel full longer. A healthy balance of protein and complex carbohydrates, such as an egg-white omelette with vegetables and whole-grain toast, plain yogurt sweetened with berries, or high-fiber cereal with low-fat milk, will stabilize your blood sugar and rev your metabolism, and it may help ward off hunger later in the day.
  2. Stick to your meal plan. There's no reason to change your meal plan on the weekend. If you eat five times a day during the week, eat five times a day on the weekend. When you sleep in on Saturday and Sunday, just shift your meal schedule to accommodate the later start, but keep everything else exactly the same. If you know you're going out to dinner and will want to eat more, simply cut back on the number of calories you consume earlier in the day. But don't skip meals, or your hunger will overpower you at dinnertime.
  3. Plan ahead. Weekends are busy with family activities, socializing with friends, and running errands. Part of creating a healthy lifestyle is learning how to adapt your diet and exercise routine to fit any schedule. Know ahead of time when you'll need to eat and plan for it. Bring nonperishable food such as dried fruit, nuts, and nut butters; make a sandwich; cut up some vegetables; throw a meal replacement bar in your bag; or pour some soup into a thermos and stash it in your car. You can also fill a cooler with food for you and your family when you're out all day. Added bonus: You'll all eat better and save money by not having to stop at a restaurant.
  4. Lay off the liquor. You already know that alcohol's empty calories and high sugar content are major diet busters. Many people lose their food inhibitions when they drink alcohol, which means they're more likely to make unhealthy food choices after a cocktail or two. If you really want to drink on weekends, have one non-caloric drink such as club soda with lime (looks like a vodka tonic!) or water between every alcoholic drink. And stick to lower-calorie options such as light beer or wine rather than mixed drinks, which can have upwards of 500 calories each.
  5. Be the first to order in a restaurant. Set the tone for the meal by ordering something healthy for yourself. Getting your order in first will make you less likely to be tempted by the unhealthy choices of your dining companions. And maybe your healthy selection will convince them to make better decisions about what they're eating.
  6. Stay busy. Boredom and loneliness are two common diet hazards. Plan your weekends so they're full of activities, and you won't be tempted to eat mindlessly. Keep up with your P90X®, Slim in 6®, or INSANITY, get outdoors, play sports, meet friends . . . Just get off the couch.
  7. Reward yourself with something other than food. If you've been dieting all week, you may feel like you deserve to indulge on the weekend. But a little splurge can result in slower weight loss. Is it really worth it? Instead of rewarding yourself with food, try something else. See a movie, buy a book or DVD, get some new workout clothes, or have a massage. Find something that makes you feel good and doesn't involve food.
  8. Get on the scale. Weighing yourself on a weekend morning can help you stick to your diet by reminding you of your goals. If you "think thin," you'll be more likely to maintain healthy habits throughout the weekend.
  9. Treat yourself during the week. Any diet that makes you feel deprived is destined to fail. If you adhere to a strict eating plan Monday through Friday, you're more likely to give in to temptation over the weekend. But when you add in a treat or two during the week, it'll be easier to practice portion control on Saturday and Sunday. Just find a way to incorporate indulgences into your weekday calorie target.
  10. If you do blow it, don't wait until Monday to start over. Nobody's perfect. If you have a blowout dinner or graze all day at a family party, simply get back on track with your next meal. This helps stop negative eating patterns that can carry over into the next week, and it minimizes the diet damage. No need to dwell on your splurge or feel guilty about it either; just forget about it and move on.

Test Your Muscle IQ!

Thursday, June 17, 2010 | 0 comments »

By Monica Gomez

Muscle Confusion, Muscle Burns Fat®, "the more lean muscle you have, the more fat you burn," lean muscle, ripped muscle, etc.—muscle is a word you come across often here at Beachbody. We know that the lean and ripped varieties are highly coveted. But what do you know about this body tissue consisting of long cells that contract when stimulated and produce motion?

True or False?
  1. False: The second largest muscle in the human body is the gluteus maximus. Actually, it's the largest muscle in the human body. The gluteus maximus is also the largest of the three gluteal muscles: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. The gluteus maximus acts to extend the thigh. The gluteus medius acts to abduct and medially rotate the thigh. And the gluteus minimus acts to abduct the thigh. Basically, they're essential for standing, running, and walking—you know, small stuff. It's safe to say that they're pretty important, so don't forget to do those lunges and squats!
  2. False: Your heart muscle is likely to shrink if it's weak and can't squeeze as hard. Your heart may enlarge, or dilate, to compensate for being unable to pump out the normal amount of blood. And it could enlarge to the point that it fails to function normally. Each day, the average heart beats (expands and contracts) 100,000 times and pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood. According to the Mayo Clinic, heart disease is the number one killer of men and women—worldwide! In the U.S., heart disease is responsible for nearly 40 percent of all deaths; that's more than all forms of cancer combined. To stay heart healthy, the American Heart Association recommends getting 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week—even simple exercise like a brisk walk or gardening can contribute to heart health.
  3. True: Disuse atrophy can be reversed. Unless it's extremely severe, disuse atrophy can be reversed. There are two types of muscle atrophy: disuse atrophy and neurogenic atrophy (neurogenic atrophy is the most severe type of muscle atrophy, occurring when there is an injury to or a disease of a nerve; ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease and polio are examples of diseases affecting the nerves that control muscles). Disuse atrophy results from lack of exercise (hmmm . . . Push Play, anyone?)—it can be reversed with vigorous exercise or better nutrition. Those vulnerable to this type of muscle atrophy include people with sedentary jobs, medical conditions that restrict movement, or decreased activity levels.
  4. True: Strabismus is an eye muscle condition in which one or both eyes may turn in, out, up, or down. More commonly known as cross-eye or walleye, eyes may turn in (esotropia), out (exotropia), up (hypertropia), or down (hypotropia). Strabismus is caused by a weak eye muscle or a weak signal from the nerve that controls the eye muscle. Other causes of strabismus include bleeding in the brain, brain tumors, nervous system disorders, diabetes, high blood pressure, myasthenia gravis, thyroid disease, and severe vision loss.
  5. False: Chewing is performed by the coordinated function of 15 muscles. You use eight muscles, four on each side of your head, to enjoy those delicious and healthy (right?!) meals. The four muscles are the masseter, lateral pterygoid, medial pterygoid, and temporalis. Based on its weight, the masseter muscle is the strongest muscle in the human body. Together with the temporalis and a few other smaller muscles, most people can generate at least 150 pounds of force between their teeth. Ouch! Sorry, bruxism sufferers—the masseter is an accomplice in your teeth grinding.