By Cecilia H. Lee

Just in time for Halloween, we've rounded up a bunch of foods that frighten us. Some retro foods look monstrous, while some of the latest culinary concoctions just sound plain ghastly, and still others make you turn away in disgust. Here are some of our favorite dining horrors, which are not for the faint of heart.

We've rated the scary food on a scale of 1 to 10 for general unhealthiness and disgustingness (10 being the most unhealthy or most disgusting).

It's difficult to avoid giving in to cravings or embarking on some serious mood-related eating when we're not thinking about what we're doing or why. We often turn to comfort foods for reasons other than fuel. And distinguishing the physical need for foods from the emotional need, especially in the heat of the moment, can be one of the hardest things to do. We know how good we'll feel once we satisfy that craving. It's like our secret drug for temporary happiness, or in my case, filling the void of not having my daughters around. Boredom and loneliness, as well as anger, sadness, anxiety, frustration, and fatigue, are extremely powerful emotions. Similarly, our bodies' own internal chemistries can emit extremely strong signals both before we eat and then as a reaction to what we eat. The key is to strike a balance between knowing what you're eating and understanding how you're feeling. How can you find this balance? Read on.
  1. Things that shouldn't be paired with bacon. Don't know whose idea it was to combine pork bits and dairy, but rabbis everywhere are just shuddering at the thought. Bacon started as a way for farmers to sell the fattiest portions of their pigs, which were literally thrown to the dogs. Due to some smart marketing in the 1920s, bacon became a staple food in American homes, as a popular side to morning eggs. Since then, they've been putting bacon in nearly everything, including the latest culinary adventure: chocolate-covered bacon. But I think bacon milkshakes are taking the whole bacon thing a step too far in the wrong direction. Besides, that's like a heart attack just waiting to happen. Unhealthy: 10, Disgusting: 3
  2. Any salad that hides fruit in whipped mounds of white. Originating somewhere in the South, ambrosia salad first began appearing in American cookbooks at the end of the 19th century. It's usually made with canned pineapple, canned mandarin oranges, maraschino cherries, shredded coconut, sour cream, and whipped topping. The funny thing is the original versions were made with fresh fruit and just a sprinkle of sugar on top. Drowning all that fruit in sour cream, whipped topping, or mayonnaise became a custom during the 1950s, when many other questionable foods made their way into restaurants, cookbooks, and Susie Homemaker's kitchen. Unhealthy: 8, Disgusting: 3
  3. Gelatin molded fish. Again, as a child of the 50s, I remember that people would take a perfectly fine fish and create salmon mousse, trout molds, or tuna gelatin. Who thought it would be a good idea to take fish, mix it with gelatin, and shape it into a mold, fish-shaped or otherwise? One of the worst combinations of this group is borscht and gefilte fish. Gefilte fish is bad enough, but to combine it with borscht and gelatin seems like a laboratory experiment gone awry. Unhealthy: 3, Disgusting: 4
  4. Frankenfoods. Speaking of scientific experiments, engineers at seed supplier companies and biotech companies have been tinkering with the genetic makeup of food for some time. The most frightening part of this is that it's unregulated by the government (and look at what happened to the lack of regulation in the financial sector). Now, these genetically modified foods have infiltrated over a third of our food supply. Sure, they can grow stronger and more portable tomatoes, but we shouldn't have to worry about salmonella on our fruits and vegetables. Dr. Frankenstein would be proud, but remember what happened to the monster in the end. Unhealthy: 9, Disgusting: 9
  5. Some parts of animals that just shouldn't be eaten. On top of this list are Rocky Mountain oysters, a regional delicacy, which are deep-fried bull testicles served as a "novelty" appetizer in restaurants. Sometimes called prairie oysters or calf fries (when the parts have come from a young calf), we're not sure if you'd want to eat a dish that some describe as "not completely inedible"—not a resounding recommendation by any measure. Unhealthy: 5, Disgusting: 10
  6. More questionable animal parts. Practically every culture has some traditional dish made from the innards of animals. Although I respect using all the parts of an animal once it is slaughtered, some parts are still difficult to stomach, so to speak. Koreans have their fish intestine soup. Mexicans enjoy their menudo, made with tripe, and chorizo sausages, made with various meat cuts, including lips, lymph nodes, and salivary glands. The British take all manner of animal parts and bake them in a pie. But one of the worst for those with weak stomachs is the Filipino diniguan. Sometimes called "chocolate soup or stew," it's a blood soup made with bits of leftover roasted pig. All the fun parts like the lungs, intestines, liver, and stomach are cooked up with the congealed blood—a veritable feast for zombies! Unhealthy: 4, Disgusting: 6
  7. Creepy crawlies on your plate. Some people might have had a bit of fried alligator or even enjoyed a bit of barbecued rattlesnake. But would you want to have a bite of roasted iguana or other freshly caught lizard? How about a tarantula that's been roasted over a fire? Of course, entomophagy (the practice of eating insects) has been going on for centuries, but you won't find me digging into a jar of pickled black scorpions anytime soon. Unhealthy: 2, Disgusting: 9
  8. Animal parts in jars. Evoking bad memories of high school biology, something about pickled pigs' feet, pickled ox tongue, and other animal parts suspended in a liquid reminds me of bad experiments, natural history museum displays, and serial killers. Maybe it's the way the liquid magnifies the texture of the animal, or the way the parts have to be squeezed into the jar. Whatever the case, I won't be picking one up for dinner, for sure. Unhealthy: 4, Disgusting: 5
We hope you enjoyed this foray into the revealing world of scary foods. We hope we didn't frighten you too much. Happy Haunting!

By Denis Faye

Halloween kind of sneaks up on you, doesn't it? One minute you're fretting over how to eat healthy during the upcoming holidays. Then, suddenly, BANG! It's late at night on October 31st, and you're dressed as a giant M&M and going through your kid's trick-or-treat booty looking for a little treat before bed. They're just little Snickers—you can eat three or four guilt-free, right? Wrong. You may be putting your P90X®, Turbo Jam®, or Hip Hop Abs® results at risk if you keep indulging in that hard-to-resist booty. Oh, the shame.

Well, okay, so maybe that exact thing hasn't happened to you, but something close to it has, surely. So what's a giant M&M to do? As usual, Beachbody® has come up with a few suggestions.

Candy ain't that dandy

Instead of trick-or-treating . . . How tough do you want to be on your youngsters? Trick-or-treating is right up there with Easter egg hunts and Santa Claus visits for most kids. Deny them that pleasure, and you might have a revolution on your hands. But if you must, try replacing candy gathering with a trip to an age-appropriate haunted house or some other community event. Then you can stop somewhere for ice cream on the way home. No, ice cream isn't good for you, but it's much better than a giant bag of candy (that can last for weeks!), and it keeps your brood from feeling cheated.

Eat a healthy dinner. If you decide to allow trick-or-treating, the first thing to do is to make sure kids hit the sidewalk with a big, healthy dinner in their bellies. This can inhibit urges to sample the loot en route. When the kids get home, insist they turn over the goods. Then, you can dole it back out to them a few treats at a time over the next few weeks.

Throw out half the treats. If you really want to get Machiavellian about it, once your kid hits the hay, throw half of his or her candy away. Your kid will never know the difference.

Lead by example. Just because your neighbors are handing out sugary junk doesn't mean you need to. Although we live in an age when giving out homemade snacks or fruit is frowned upon, your local discount shop should have all kinds of cool little doodads that any kid would be happy to have, from crayons to rubber spacemen to our favorite, Chinese finger traps.

Customize your costume

Trick-or-treating is dandy, but for many, Halloween is a chance to let their hair down and recognize the night for the pagan bacchanalia it was meant to be. It's a chance to put on a mask and be someone you're not.

It's all in the outfit. It's all about the costume, man. So the first thing we advise is that you throw out that aforementioned M&M outfit. You've been working out all year! You've got a fit body now so don't hide it! America needs fewer M&Ms and more shirtless barbarians and cheerleaders!

Prop it up. While you're designing your costume, think props. Idle hands are the snacker's worst enemy. If you're a naughty devil carrying around a pitchfork all night, it's a lot harder to get your hands on those nachos. The same goes for masks. There's no way around it; you're going to eat and drink less if you wear a gorilla mask.

With a few simple shifts in thinking and a little planning, Halloween can be turned into a pretty healthy holiday. If you can get by all those candied apples and individually wrapped snacks without gorging, congratulations. Thanksgiving is going to be a snap!

By Carla Lord

They sting, they bite, and, well, they just creep a lot of us out! But sometimes, insects and other critters can be beneficial to our health and lives, and even fashion (after all, we'd have no silk without silkworms). Test your wits on these helpful creepy-crawlies in medicine.
  1. What larvae have been found to be helpful in removing gangrene? The fly larvae, or maggots, can actually kill harmful bacteria. As we know, they eat dead tissue, and even field doctors during the Civil War used them to treat wounds. In fact, a study started in the late 1980s showed that maggots cleaned infected wounds better than other nonsurgical treatments. And, to top it all off, the maggot treatment appears to help the wounds heal faster, too! There's even a more clinical name for the maggot treatment—maggot debridement therapy, or MDT.
  2. What insect's sting is being studied for purportedly relieving symptoms of arthritis and multiple sclerosis? The bee (honeybees in particular). Apitherapy (the medical use of honey bee products) is still primarily considered more anecdotal than scientific. From pollination to beeswax to royal jelly to delicious honey, bees are truly man's best friend in the insect world. That's why their recent mysterious disappearances have rung a global alarm. The main active "ingredient" in bee venom is mellitin, which is an anti-inflammatory agent that's considered to be 100 times more powerful than hydrocortisone. Before you run out to get bee-sting therapy, however, make sure you're not allergic first!
  3. Which parasitic creature, once used quite popularly, is still being used in medicine? The leech. History shows that the first usage of leeches in medicine occurred about 2,500 years ago in Egypt; since medieval times, people have used leeches for everything from stomachaches to headaches to draining "impure blood" and curing illnesses. Nowadays, they're making a resurgence: they reduce blood coagulation (which can help prevent strokes and heart attacks) and stimulate circulation (helpful after reattachment surgeries and in the distribution of local anesthetics in the bloodstream), and are even being used to treat varicose conditions.
  4. What creature's venom is being tested for possibly slowing the growth of cancerous tumors? Snakes . . . Why did it have to be snakes? They may be no friends to Indiana Jones, but recent studies have shown that there's a compound in snake venom that causes certain types of cells to separate from each other, and when they do, they die—which can be very beneficial when applied to cancerous cells. And, of course, snake venom is also used to create antivenom, which helps save the lives of snakebite victims.
  5. Which insect is one of the most commonly used "model organisms"? Drosophilia melanogaster, or the common fruit fly. A model organism is a species that's widely used in research on the causes and treatments of diseases that affect other species, particularly humans. The fruit fly has been helpful in studies in genetics and heredity, physiology, and even life history evolution! Thomas Hunt Morgan won the 1933 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his discoveries in the relationship between chromosomes and genes with the help of these winged creatures. Recent research at Queen's University in Canada has shown the fruit fly to be helpful in the way birth defects are studied.

Recipe: Pumpkin Pie Shakeology!

Thursday, October 28, 2010 | 0 comments »

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 all the 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 combine 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 milk):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
284 27 g 7 g 40 g 3.5 g 2 g

By Stephanie Saunders

Halloween. A holiday that puts joy into the hearts of children and terror into the hearts of dieters. Is it the result of the tiny little costumes we are supposed to be wearing or the abundance of junk food that infiltrates our lives? Perhaps a little of each. Also, it might be that Halloween is the gateway holiday to dieting disaster. For many of us, it begins with trick-or-treat, and finally ends with a New Year's Day hangover and five extra pounds. Since avoiding sugary goodness for three months is virtually impossible, how can you approach the weeks of mini candy bars, Halloween parties, and alcohol-abounding punch? Here are some "tricks" that might actually keep Halloween Horror in the movies, and off of your thighs.

  1. Make wise choices. We've already established that you will probably not avoid all contact with candy this holiday, so know exactly what you are choosing when you reach into that jack-o'-lantern. One mini candy bar has around 80 calories in it, between 3 and 5 grams of fat, and is so small that just one would not satisfy 99 percent of the population. Some wiser choices, for around 50 calories, include:
    • Two Hershey's Kisses®
    • Two Dum-Dum® lollipops
    • Three Mini Tootsie Rolls®
    • One Nerds® mini box
    • Ten pieces of candy corn
    • Two small Laffy Taffys®
    • Two Jolly Ranchers®
    • One Junior Mints® mini box
    • One Mike-n-Ike® mini box
    • One small York® Peppermint Patty
    We realize that the difference between 50 to 80 calories seems rather negligible, but as most of us might indulge in more than one serving over the holiday, those calories can really add up.
  2. Eat before attending a party. This is an age-old dieting trick, but one that is extremely effective. It is tempting to indulge in sweet treats when faced with a table full of them. It is even worse when you haven't eaten since lunch and your workout has left you completely depleted. Consuming a healthy meal, snack, or even a meal replacement like Shakeology® can keep hunger at bay and your hands off the devil's food cake.
  3. Choose a costume that shows off your accomplishments. There is a belief that Halloween is an excuse for women to dress inappropriately, and for men to show off their muscles. And why not? This is in no way a suggestion that you attend an event in a Speedo or bikini, but something a little sexy, in a safe environment, that shows off all of your hours with P90X® can be the perfect motivation to avoid overeating. Most of us respond better to short-term, tangible goals, and wearing the Spider-Man costume without the built-in abs is certainly attainable. So be a little daring one night, and save the costume for future motivation.
  4. Work out before attending an event. Many studies have been done that conclude we tend to eat less—and absorb less of the bad stuff when we do—after a good workout. Also, the rush of endorphins tends to make us a bit happier, which means we don't seek joy in Reese's Peanut Butter Cups®. A really intense INSANITY workout just before the big party might save you countless more to undo the damage.
  5. Avoid the punch bowl. For some reason, there is always a bowl of sherbet-stuffed punch around at Halloween. Perhaps it is the festive orange color, or the fact it mixes nicely with vodka? Regardless, run in the opposite direction. One serving can equal a couple hundred calories and send your blood sugar levels through the roof. Always stick to beverages that you can determine a calorie count for, and preferably, those that have few or no calories.
  6. Try the "two-to-one" theory. When out on the town, my friends and I used to employ the strategy that for every alcoholic beverage we consumed, we had to follow it up with two glasses of water. Why not try this for sugary snacks at parties? For every mini candy bar you consume, follow it up with two veggies off of the crudités tray. All of the fiber will help fill you up fast, and following up a Milky Way with broccoli is really not so appealing. It could help you eat less, or maybe just stick to the broccoli.
  7. Host your own event. If you simply can't say no to Halloween goodies at a party, host your own and take control of what is on the table. Low-fat brownies, cookies, and even cakes taste incredibly similar to the full-fat version, but will leave less residual damage. Choose from the selection of candies we suggested above, serve air-popped popcorn, and make a light punch with diet sherbet that everyone will enjoy. And don't forget the fruit and veggie platters. Also, taking the focus off food with a scary movie or some fun games can often make the party much more enjoyable. After all, we stand around, talk to people, and eat every day. Why not try to make your event a little bit different?
  8. Get rid of the evidence. For those of you who hate to waste, this might be a difficult one. But, however you do it, get rid of ALL of the trick-or-treat candy the following day. If you work in an office, set it out in the lunchroom. If you work from home, anonymously mail it to your high school enemy. It is too hard to say no to a bowl of Snickers® bars, especially after a rough day, if they are sitting in a cabinet calling your name. Most of us will not get in a car to go buy candy, but if it is there, we will eat it. Just get it out of the house as quickly as you can.
  9. Don't forget the parents. When you're handing out treats on trick-or-treat night, it's a great time to treat some of the parents in your neighborhood with a packet of Shakeology or a P90X Peak Performance Protein Bar to give them the energy for a long night of going door to door with their little goblins. Then, you can wish them a Happy Health-oween!
  10. Halloween is only one night, so don't make it your gateway to a gluttonous holiday season. Instead, use it as a motivator for looking great! Holidays can be the very best time of the year, even on a diet and fitness plan. Just remember how it will feel when, at that Christmas party, everyone comments on how great you look. That will make any holiday seem a lot less frightening.

By Omar Shamout

Our feet carry a big burden around with them every day—namely, us. The amount of stress we place on our feet can be detrimental to our health if we don't take the proper precautions to ensure that their needs are being met. A vital juncture in the anatomy of the foot is the heel—it provides the primary posterior point of support while walking or running, and it is also the area where the connective tissue is formed that creates the arch of the foot. Up to 2 million people in the United States suffer from some form of foot or heel pain each year. Let's examine one of the most prevalent foot ailments, plantar fasciitis, to understand why it occurs, what we can do to prevent and treat it, and what other injuries it puts you at risk for.

What is this plantar fasciitis business?

Like all repetitive use injuries, plantar fasciitis is a product of our own making. Plantar fasciitis is a medical condition that occurs when the fibrous tissue on the sole of your foot known as the plantar fascia becomes inflamed due to overuse, a condition that can be made worse by improper foot mechanics while walking and/or running. This connective tissue near the heel is the center of weight distribution and helps maintain the arch in your foot. Therefore, even a slightly off-kilter stance or landing position of the foot can place a lot of extra stress on an already heavily worked area. The fascia is susceptible to a small amount of tearing, and when the fascia is overused, these tears can lead to an inflammation in the tissue.

Plantar fasciitis may not happen overnight, though the stabbing pain associated with it definitely worsens during sleep, when the tissue tightens up while not being used. The first few steps in the morning are often the worst of the entire day as the tissue remembers that it's still angry with you for not taking care of it properly.

And who gets it?

The condition is more prevalent among the overweight, pregnant, and middle-aged, though it can occur in all age groups, depending on exercise type and frequency.

Yikes! How do I prevent it?

Plantar fasciitis can be described as a sort of gateway injury, because it leads to other injuries that we'll discuss later. Taking proper care to prevent it will also aid in staving off related problems down the line.

According to the Mayo Clinic and the Plantar Fasciitis Organization, proper support is crucial to avoiding this painful condition, especially among those who run frequently or stand for long periods of the day, so make sure your shoes fit and have sufficient arch support. Also, be aware of when it's time to buy new cross-trainers. If you've logged more than 500 miles in any pair of shoes, it may be time to consider heading to the store for a new pair.

That said, there is a school of thought that wearing running shoes may actually increase the likelihood of impact-based injuries like plantar fasciitis because they promote heel-first impact, adding much more stress to the foot. Barefoot runners have a much greater tendency to land on the balls of their feet, reducing the force of the impact, and their risk of heel or ankle injury. However, there are other obvious risks that need to be factored in when deciding whether or not to go shoeless, especially for city-dwellers who run outdoors. (The Mayo Clinic does advise against barefoot running, especially on hard surfaces.) Inexperienced runners would be advised to ease into barefoot running slowly, as their calf and foot muscles would need time to acclimate to a new gait.

Okay, got it. But what about those other injuries you mentioned?

Here are two of the more common medical conditions associated with plantar fasciitis.
  1. Heel spurs. A heel spur is a hook that forms on the heel bone at the bottom of your foot, where the plantar fascia is most likely to become inflamed. It's easy to confuse the symptoms of a heel spur with those of plantar fasciitis, because the pain associated with each condition can be similar. While about 70 percent of plantar fasciitis sufferers also have a heel spur, it's possible to have a heel spur without any other symptoms, and only an X-ray will provide a conclusive diagnosis.
  2. Tarsal tunnel syndrome. The tarsal tunnel is the area of the foot between the fibrous plantar fascia tissue and the bone where the tibial nerve is located. Tarsal tunnel syndrome, which is analogous to carpal tunnel syndrome in the hands and wrists, occurs when the nerve in this narrow passageway becomes pinched. One common symptom is numbness along the bottom of the foot, along with pain such as burning or tingling. Specific tapping tests performed by a doctor, along with electrodiagnostic exams, are the only way to properly diagnose the disorder.
In addition to repetition and overuse, other medical conditions, including fractures, arthritis, spurs, ganglions, and tumors, can contribute to the onset of tarsal tunnel syndrome by adding further stress to the region and causing the nerve to become more restricted. Those with plantar fasciitis are more susceptible to the problem.

Ow! My feet hurt just reading that. If I have these conditions, how do I treat them?

There are several things you can do for plantar fasciitis and heel spurs.
  1. Get rest. Rest is the best way to treat plantar fasciitis. Your tissue needs time to heal, and staying away from high-impact activities is essential for at least several days.
  2. Maintain a healthy weight. High-impact exercise exerts a lot of stress on your feet, and any extra pounds will have a negative impact on your podiatric health.
  3. Wear shoe inserts. Shoe inserts, like orthotics, can be worn to provide additional protection. Sometimes night splints are also used to prevent the arch from tightening up overnight.
  4. Apply ice packs. You can also apply an ice pack 3 to 4 times a day for no more than 20 minutes when the pain is severe.
  5. Take anti-inflammatory medications. Some, like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium, can be purchased over the counter; others can be prescribed by your doctor.
  6. Stretch. Take care when you wake up in the morning to stretch your feet around a little before getting out of bed. At first you may even want to step directly into your training shoes so your arch stays supported. (Soon it will be strong enough that this additional "step" won't be necessary.)
  7. Ease back into your normal routine. Take it easy—get back into the swing of things slowly, because if you continue to push yourself through the pain, your plantar fasciitis could easily turn into a chronic condition.
  8. Tape your foot. Taping your foot can provide support and relief while you're on the mend.
Is there anything I can do that's a little more proactive, like exercises or something?

While we can't replace the guidance of a qualified physical therapist in one short article, here are three exercises courtesy of Beachbody's own Steve Edwards that will help alleviate—and possibly even prevent, if begun early enough—the pain caused by plantar fasciitis:
  1. Sit with feet flat. Place your fists together between your knees and squeeze your knees together, not hard, just enough pressure to keep your fists from falling (you can use a small ball as well). Rotate your feet inward until your toes touch (or nearly touch), keeping the weight on the outside of the foot. Then rotate your feet outward, raising your toes and keeping the weight on the inside of the foot. Do sets of 40, once or twice a day.
  2. Sit in a chair on a tile (or slippery) floor. Place a small towel (like a washcloth) on the floor with your toes at the edge. Use your toes to scrunch up the towel, then go the opposite way and push it back out until it's flat again. Start slowly but build up until you can do this over and over.
  3. Stand on one foot. (Hold on to the back of a chair with one or both hands if you need help balancing.) Curl your toes so that your foot bunches up, then press it as flat as you can toward the floor. Do 40 reps. Switch feet.
And what about tarsal tunnel syndrome? How do I treat that?

Doctor-prescribed oral anti-inflammatory medication or a cortisone injection is a typical treatment for the problem. Foot inversion through the use of orthotics is also used to relieve pressure around the nerve. If these are not successful, a surgical procedure known as a tarsal tunnel release, which creates an incision in the area in order to relieve compression, may be required.

Heel pain may be diagnosed in different ways, but the key to preventing its various forms is the same. Know your limits, and allow your body time to recover between high-impact workouts. If you frequently find yourself in pain following these types of routines, consider trying a low- or no-impact routine to help ease the pressure and stress on your heel and foot. Ignore telltale signs of heel pain at your own peril, because these conditions are known to recur, and can end up causing you problems for a very long time.

Words of Wisdom: Energy

Monday, October 25, 2010 | 0 comments »

By Tony Horton, creator of P90X®

So you bought P90X off the tube and you're all pumped up to kick some butt. Do you remember that shift in ENERGY the day you picked up the phone and started dialing? Any number of thoughts could've been racing through your mind at the time—fear, doubt, excitement, hope, anticipation—you name it.

Then the DVDs arrived.

Some of you ripped the package open, read all the material, and got started that day. Some of you looked at the box as if it were filled with anthrax—keeping it sealed and placed on a shelf for some future investigation.

You're all at different stages of the program: newbies, start-agains, and even round 5-ers. I'd like to reveal four key components for success with P90X, and quite possibly other aspects of your life.

Have you ever noticed that some days just flow? Even on days when you have tons of things to do, you seem to have all the ENERGY in the world to handle anything. Yet other days feel like you live on Saturn. The weight of the world feels 10 times heavier than normal.

It comes down to the amount of ENERGY you have on any given day. Your ENERGY always dictates your REALITY. When you're filled with ENERGY, you're sharp, ready, enthusiastic, and willing. When you're pooped . . . forget about it! Organizing a sock drawer feels like climbing Mt. Everest.

So what causes these shifts? The big four are:
  1. Food and supplementation. I know, I know. Here I go again. Hold on to your hats! There's no way on God's earth you can maintain a consistent level of ENERGY and enthusiasm for any 90-day program by eating the same old crap. You must . . . you have to . . . you need to make "The Change." Proper ENERGY levels only come from eating the right food the right way at the right time of day. If you don't know what that means, then you haven't read the material and you're doing this program the wrong way.

    You are what you eat! If you eat the same old tired food that put you in this mess in the first place, that's just what you'll get. Tired and old before your time. You know what to do, so do it! It's not Atkins® or Slim-Fast® or fast food or soft drinks or fried food or candy bars or doughnuts or liquid diets or any panoply of misleading ways of consuming food. Get your mind right about what goes in your mouth or continue to live in the land of the wannabes!
  2. Sleep. This probably seems like the most obvious and simple component of the four. But it's often the most abused. Recent statistics have shown that the leading cause of traffic accidents in this country is NOT alcohol, but sleep deprivation. If we don't have enough ENERGY to stay awake while driving a car, how will we have enough ENERGY for a 6-day-a-week workout program?

    We're not sleeping enough hours at night, and even when we do, they're often filled with so much mind chatter that we don't get the proper rest we need. My new Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines "sleep" as follows: "the natural periodic suspension of consciousness during which the powers of the body are restored." In Taoist philosophy, there's the yin (not ying) and the yang. These are opposing ENERGIES that create balance. P90X is yang ENERGY. Sleep and rest are yin ENERGY. There must be proper balance between vim and vigor (yang) and inward calm (yin). If you don't get enough sleep and rest, your body will not receive the proper restoration it needs to complete or succeed with this program, or anything else in life, for that matter.
  3. Stress management. Do you realize that if you took the fear, worry, and anxiety out of every "stressful" situation in your life, the end result of that situation would still occur? You can panic and freak out all you want, but time will still pass and the end of that moment will still happen, whether you freak out or not. So why not choose something different? When do fear, worry, and anxiety ever really help a situation?

    So what is stress? It's the inability to move through a situation logically, peacefully, positively, productively, and gracefully. To be stressed out takes lots of ENERGY. Being stressed out can severely affect how well you'll sleep at night. Stress is when you assess blame and don't take responsibility. ("I'm stressed out because of______, and that's why I can't______.") Don't let stress be your scapegoat.

    There's a story about 10 people in line at a bank when three armed robbers come flying in, screaming and yelling and pointing guns. They terrorize everyone and steal all their money. The moral of the story is that these 10 people will be affected by this experience in 10 different ways. The two extremes range from one having a wild story to tell at work the next day to another being severely traumatized for the rest of his or her life. Where would you fall in that spectrum?

    There's a saying that there are three kinds of business: "God's business"—things that happen in this world that are out of my control; "their business"—the choices other people make based on their life experiences so far; and "my business"—the choices I make that shape my life. If I focus on what I have to do to make my life the best it can be, and NOT on God's and everyone else's business, I will have less stress, which in turn will give me the ENERGY to live the life I've always wanted.

    Don't waste your time on gossip, ridicule, envy, self-pity, anger, guilt, arrogance, need, impatience, regret, manipulation, jealousy, fear, worry, and anxiety, because they'll zap your ENERGY and cause you stress!

    Choose understanding, truth, clarity, patience, devotion, gratitude, vulnerability, acceptance, wisdom, hope, forgiveness, empathy, discipline, perseverance, community, and peace. Because if you do, you will gladly kiss stress goodbye and say hello to all the ENERGY you'll need.
  4. Purpose. Purpose is the driving force to get you from here to there. If you don't have purpose, all the best food, supplementation, sleep, and stress-free days won't help you one bit. You have to have a powerful burning desire to want it.
    My dictionary tells me that "purpose" is "seeking resolution." Searching for answers to solve a problem. An intention. This all goes to the core of . . . why? Why do I want to spend the next 90 days turning my life upside down, maybe even for the second or third time, or more?

    You're looking for resolution. You're searching for answers to help solve this problem. And most importantly, you must be clear about your intention. No one ever does anything just for the heck of it. There's always some intention behind everything we do. Different kinds of behavior have different levels of intention and purpose. Eating fast food and leaving the DVDs on the shelf is one level. Following the program the way it was designed is another.

    I know I've said this before, but if your intention and purpose are based exclusively on esthetics and bragging rights, you miss the whole point of P90X. If your intention and purpose are based on good health, quality of life, athleticism, flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular endurance, you're doing P90X for all the right reasons. If your intention and purpose are based on lifestyle, you will have plenty of ENERGY to succeed with and complete P90X. You will also have the ENERGY to be everything you always knew you could be.
May the Energy Revolution begin!

Tony Horton

Recipe: Mango Chicken Skewers

Sunday, October 24, 2010 | 0 comments »

By Team Beachbody

Time to fire up the grill and enjoy some healthy high-protein treats. Check out this recipe that combines lean chicken with the taste of the tropics.
  • 1 tsp. lime rind, grated
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil (plus extra to grease grill surface)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 3 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, cut in 1-inch chunks
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 2 mangoes
  • 1 sweet red pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 small red or sweet onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • Medium bowl
  • Large bowl
  • 8 skewers
  • Brush for marinade
Light charcoal grill or preheat gas grill. In a small bowl, create marinade by whisking together lime rind, lime juice, oil, garlic, chili powder, salt, and cayenne pepper. Place chicken chunks in large bowl. Pour half of marinade over chicken, toss to coat, and let stand for 20 minutes. Stir honey into remaining marinade, cover, and refrigerate until needed. Cut mango flesh from each side of pit. Cut mango flesh in a grid pattern of 3/4-inch squares down to but not through the skin. Gently push skin to turn inside out and cut off the flesh. Alternately thread mango, pepper, onion, and chicken pieces onto each of 8 skewers. Brush with half of the reserved honey marinade. (Discard marinade that chicken soaked in.) Lightly grease grill surface and place kabobs on it over medium-high heat; close lid and grill, turning and basting kabobs once with remaining honey marinade until fruit is softened and chicken is browned and cooked through (with no pink inside) and juices run clear (about 8 minutes). Makes 4 servings (2 skewers each).

Preparation Time: 40 minutes
Cooking Time: 8 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
225 14 g 4 g 35 g 8 g 1 g

By Tony Horton, creator of P90X®

So a duck walks into a bar . . . Did you know that there's actually a scientific name for the study of laughter? It's gelotology. Laughter is such an important part of our everyday lives that it can actually make us healthier. Smiling and laughing release all kinds of good chemicals and hormones in our bodies—the physiological and psychological effects are well-documented. And let's face it, laughing at a good joke or situation, funny or not, just plain old makes us feel better. But how does laughter work? And how can we use it to make our lives healthier and happier?

We actually get exercise when we laugh or smile. Yes, it takes fewer muscles to laugh or smile than it does to frown, but it's much more fun. So for once, I'm telling you to exercise less, smile or laugh more, and you'll be healthier. Laughter is such an important part of my life that I make an effort to surround myself with friends who make me laugh.

Research shows that laughter actually protects the heart. Researchers don't know exactly why, but studies show that when we're stressed, the endothelium—the protective layer in our blood vessels—decreases, thus allowing cholesterol to build up in our arteries. Heartfelt laughter can lower the serum cortisol released during a stress response and can, therefore, lower the risk of hardening of the arteries. It has also been linked to lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes; it increases antibodies and killer cells in our bloodstreams, thus helping us fight off disease; and it increases blood flow. And get this: laughing 100 times equals the same aerobic output as 10 minutes on a rowing machine or treadmill.

So how do we use laughter in our daily lives? How do we turn the tide of negativity and stress that so often makes up the bulk of our days? We simply make a choice. Decide in your head that you're going to seek out the positive—the humor—in any given situation. Granted, not all situations warrant laughter or smiling. I don't want anyone to get punched. But the next time you see another person, anywhere, smile at him or her. Not only will you feel better, they will too; and it's fun to watch people's reactions. Flood your mind with thoughts that make you smile—a good joke, a friend you haven't seen in a while, a great trip you once took, a goal you reached or are going to conquer—anything positive that will bring a smile to your face or make you laugh. That's half the battle; the body naturally takes over from there. When you're confronted with a stressful situation, smiling actually reverses the stress-induced chemical response in your body. And chances are that if you smile, the situation will be diffused before you can even think about stressing out.

In every aspect of your daily life and interaction with others, a smile goes a long way in getting people to do things you may need or want. The next time you get ready to work out with 10-Minute Trainer® or P90X®, put a smile on your face and think how great it'll be, not what a burden. We do make a conscious choice over what emotions we allow to flood our bodies. Laughter and smiling are natural physical responses to those emotions. And now that you know laughter and smiling can actually make you feel better and live a longer, healthier life, well, there's no other choice—laughter really is the best medicine.

9 Nutrition Myths Exposed

Friday, October 22, 2010 | 0 comments »

By Joe Wilkes

Every fall, the publishing industry begins a new cycle of hitting bookstore shelves with diet books, just in time to help assuage winter holiday guilt and prepare for New Year's resolutions. At the same time, TV stations are in the throes of sweeps periods and launching a new season. You know this phenomenon is in full swing when you start hearing the local news and talk show pitches: "You can lose 10 pounds in 1 week and eat whatever you want!" or "A common ingredient in your kitchen that will burn off fat without exercise! Tune in at 11 to see what it is!" Then in the next media cycle there'll be new books and news stories telling us how these miracle cures were all a load of hooey, but there are brand-new miracle cures that really work! Here are some common nutrition myths that have gone in and out of fashion over the years—and the real truth behind the hype.

Myth #1: Fat makes you fat.

People confuse dietary fat, the fat that we eat, with body fat, the adipose tissue that makes up our spare tires and thunder thighs. But while it's true that dietary fat contains twice as many calories per gram as carbohydrates and protein, what actually makes us fat isn't the dietary fat, it's the calories in that fat. In fact, the calories in the carbohydrates and the calories in the protein can also make us fat. Dietary fat is very important to human health, and should make up around 25 to 30 percent of our caloric intake. For one thing, fat helps with the absorption of several vitamins that are only fat soluble, including vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fats also include heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Artery-clogging saturated fats and trans fats should be mostly avoided though, as they will raise blood cholesterol levels (see #2) and clog arteries with plaque.

In the 1980s, fats became vilified by regulatory and health agency reports as being unhealthy overall. The reasoning was that while the agencies were largely targeting saturated fats (as found in animal and dairy products), they believed it would be simpler to tell Americans to avoid all fats instead of having to explain the complexities of saturated, unsaturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, hydrogenated fats, etc. Because of these warnings, the food industries began marketing scores of low-fat or fat-free versions of products. In many cases, they would replace the missing fat with sugar or starch. So while there would be less fat, there would be almost as many—and sometimes more—calories. Consumers would eat twice as many of the new "reduced-fat" treats and wonder why they weren't losing any weight.

As more studies have come out extolling the benefits of healthy unsaturated fats, like those found in olive oil, avocados, nuts, fish, etc., more specific recommendations have been made to increase the allowance of good dietary fats while decreasing the allowance of saturated and trans fats. In fact, many makers of cookies, breakfast cereals, and snack chips now trumpet "No Trans Fats" on their packaging. That's great, but don't be fooled into thinking this means there are any fewer calories. Just because the manufacturer has shown restraint in not making the food even unhealthier doesn't mean that it's suddenly health food. Some of these "No Trans Fats" products never had trans fats to begin with, but it's good marketing to proclaim it. Now poison free! Not quite as toxic! Just as fattening with less artery plaque! For your health, check the labels and make sure that the kind of fat in the product is unsaturated—and make sure there aren't too many calories for your waistline. A day's dietary fat intake should be around 60 to 70 grams.

Myth #2: Foods high in cholesterol give you high cholesterol.

As with dietary fat, foods with high dietary cholesterol levels are believed by many to raise blood cholesterol levels. High blood cholesterol levels have been linked to heart disease and stroke, and levels should be monitored. However, our bodies need some cholesterol for normal cellular function and to assist in the production of bile, which helps the body digest fat. Unfortunately, because dietary and blood cholesterols have been given the same name, people take an attitude of "cholesterol in, cholesterol out." In fact, studies are increasingly showing that high blood cholesterol comes from a diet high in saturated fats, while foods high in dietary cholesterol have a fairly negligible effect on high blood cholesterol. Foods high in dietary cholesterol but low in saturated fat, including eggs, shrimp, lobster, crab, clams, and other shellfish, can be safely eaten in moderation without having much effect on blood cholesterol levels. Where this misunderstanding of the causal link between dietary and blood cholesterol levels may have also come from is that many non-seafood animal products contain high levels of dietary cholesterol as well as high levels of saturated fat. So if double cheeseburgers are making regular appearances in your diet, you're going to see a spike in your cholesterol score—but it'll be from the saturated fat.

Myth #3: Snacking will cause weight gain.

Isn't this what Mom always said? "No snacking or you'll ruin your appetite!" Good! Go ahead, ruin your appetite! If you ruin your appetite, you won't eat so much dinner. Nutrition experts have pretty much come to a consensus that you're much better off having six small meals over the course of the day than two or three giant meals. You'll give your body a steady source of fuel and keep your blood sugar levels and metabolism at an even keel all day long. If you think back to our caveman days, before we sat down to eat civilized meals, we probably just wandered the forests and jungles, eating when we were hungry or when the opportunity arose. Those instincts are worth listening to today. If you have a hunger pang at three o'clock in the afternoon, don't stifle it because you know you're having dinner at seven. You'll be so hungry, you'll approach dinner like a Roman orgy, eating way more than you would have if you had merely satisfied your afternoon hunger with a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts. Keep in mind though, permission to snack isn't permission to stuff your face with Doritos, Fritos, Cheetos, or any other kind of "-tos." There should be some sort of strategy to the snacking. Try evenly pacing out the snacks and predetermine a reasonable portion size of a healthy food, so you're not just eating handfuls of something out of a bag.

Myth #4: If you exercise enough, you can eat whatever you want.

How many times have you heard your horrible friends who never gain weight say, "Oh, I'll just run it off" to justify whatever sinful treat would give you a third buttock if you ate it? It's impossible to keep a fit, healthy figure without both a healthy diet and exercise. It's all right to indulge in the occasional pig-out sometimes. In fact, it's good to reassure your body that there's no need to go into starvation mode from time to time. But if you eat that slice of blackout cake, you're looking at a 2-hour run just to burn it off, let alone what came before it. Losing weight and maintaining weight is a simple equation: if you burn off more calories than you take in, you will lose weight. Some lucky stiffs have a higher resting metabolism and burn off more calories naturally, but what probably helps your friend burn off the cake faster is that they have more muscle on their body, and, even at rest, muscles burn more calories. So while you can never eat whatever you want and stay thin, you'll be able to indulge in a pig-out every once in a while if you can keep your body muscular and lean. And for those times, you might consider trying exercise designed to burn more calories than walking or running, like Hip Hop Abs® or Turbo Jam®, which will help you maximize the calories you burn in the time you spend exercising.

Myth #5: Drinking lots of water flushes out fat.

Drinking plenty of water is vital for weight loss. If you're dehydrated, your energy and exercise will suffer. Also, many times we confuse thirst for hunger, so it's always worth trying a glass of H2O before we hit the fridge. Drinking water can even give your metabolism a slight boost. What it doesn't do is flush fat from your system. Any excess water that your body doesn't need for proper hydration and functioning will simply get peed out, and, sadly, it won't be taking any fat with it. You should definitely make sure you drink enough water, but don't go overboard thinking you can chug away your love handles. If you drink too much water at any one time, it could even result in hyponatremia, or water intoxication. However, adult kidneys can process 15 liters of water a day, so drinking too much water day to day is unlikely. (It's more likely if you're involved in extreme Ironman-type athletic activities where over- and under-hydration are real possibilities.) Keep a water bottle handy and drink when you're thirsty, but if you really think you can flush away your beer gut, you might be drinking a bit too much of something else.

Myth #6: Multigrain bread is better than white bread.

While whole-grain bread is better than white bread, multigrain bread is only better if the grains are whole grains, which isn't always the case. With the bread industry, it's really important to check the ingredient list carefully. For example, "wheat bread" is just white bread with molasses added for color. So, if anything, it's worse for you than white bread. Unless it says "whole-wheat" bread, you're not getting the added fiber and nutrients that come with using whole grains as ingredients. Many multigrain breads are just processed-flour breads upon which manufacturers sprinkled a couple of sunflower and sesame seeds. Hey, that's two grains, right? That makes it multigrain! So even if the headline on the packaging says "whole-grain," double-check the ingredient list to make sure all the grains, or at least the tmain ones, are whole. Similarly, many breakfast cereals have switched to whole-grain flour, but if the cereal still contains more sugar than a candy bar, it's not going to move the needle much toward better health. Try to find whole-grain brands with minimal or no sweetening. If you need to, you can always add your own sugar, and at least control the amount you consume.

Myth #7: Sugar causes diabetes.

Many people falsely assume that because diabetics have to watch their sugar and carbohydrate intake that sugar causes diabetes. But if you don't have diabetes, sugar won't cause you to get it. The main risk factors for type 2 diabetes are being overweight and being inactive. As with fat and cholesterol, blood sugar and dietary sugar are often confused. If you eat sugar, you won't necessarily get diabetes, but sugar is highly caloric and, as part of a high-calorie diet, can be a contributing factor to obesity, which does have a causal link to type 2 diabetes. This isn't to say that it's okay to eat lots of sugar, but it's good to be aware that if you have a high-calorie diet, you are still just as much at risk for diabetes, even if that high-calorie diet doesn't include a lot of sugar. As with most dietary health issues, it's mainly about the calories.

Myth #8: Grapefruit burns fat.

Anyone who remembers the heydays of the Hollywood or Beverly Hills diets knows that they were good times to invest in grapefruit futures (as well as other "miracle" fruits and vegetables). The theory of those and similar diets was that grapefruit had a secret enzyme that would make body fat disappear. Grapefruit is a very healthy citrus fruit and worth eating as part of a varied diet. It has tons of vitamin C and can help fight arterial plaque buildup, and maybe even certain kinds of cancers. But grapefruit can't burn fat. Cabbage soup can't burn fat. Celery can't burn fat. In fact, no food can. Some foods can temporarily increase your metabolism to assist your exercise efforts in fat loss, but the only way to truly burn fat is through exercise. And, if any fad diet revolves around a secret fat-burning ingredient, that should be a red flag that the diet isn't nutritionally sound. Not to sound like a broken record, but the only way to effectively lose weight is to eat fewer calories and burn off more calories through exercise. Healthy metabolism-boosting foods can help, but they can't do it alone.

Myth #9: Light olive oil has fewer calories than olive oil.

If you read the labels of various olive oils, you'll notice that light olive oil has pretty much the same amount of calories as any other kind of olive oil. The difference is in the flavor. Light or extra-light olive oil has been heavily processed to remove the strong flavor of olive oil and make it lighter in color. It may even have been combined with other vegetable oils to achieve a milder taste and color. It still has just as much fat and calories as extra-virgin olive oil, but not nearly as many nutritional benefits, including vitamin E and polyphenols. Unlike extra-virgin olive oil, light olive oil is an unregulated product, so you don't know what you're getting.

Recipe: Mexican Frittata

Thursday, October 21, 2010 | 0 comments »

By Team Beachbody

Eggs are truly a wonder food—each one is high in protein and low in calories. Here's a tasty Mexican frittata recipe with the zing of onion, bell pepper, and salsa, and the lightness of added egg whites. Enjoy!
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 medium white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch cumin
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 12-inch nonstick skillet with ovenproof handle
  • Medium-sized bowl
  • Whisk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and onion; sauté until tender. While pepper and onions are cooking, place milk, eggs, egg whites, salt, pepper, and cumin in medium-sized bowl; mix together with whisk. When vegetables are tender, pour egg mixture over them in pan. Cook without disturbing eggs just until slightly set; flip over and cook other side until just slightly set. Place pan in oven; bake at 350 until eggs are cooked (about 5 minutes). Place frittata on a plate; top with salsa. Makes 1 serving.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
371 31 g n/a g 25 g 15 g 3.8 g

By Shaun T

I care about what I put into my body, and don't have a lot of time to cook with complicated ingredients (or the patience to shop for some of the more mysterious "wonder" grains and oils). But I've been doing some research and have found that eggs are a great food to build meals around, and hey, even I can make eggs! Here's what I've learned about them:

  1. Eggs contain all nine essential amino acids, making them a complete-protein food.
  2. Eggs are one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D.
  3. 1 large egg contains approximately 80 calories. (The white has approximately 20 calories, and the yolk has approximately 60 calories).
  4. While soft-boiled eggs got a bad rap for a while, a soft-boiled egg is safe to eat as long as it's cooked for at least 3-1/2 minutes. This should raise the temperature of the egg to approximately 140 degrees and pasteurize it.
  5. To reduce calories, fat, and cholesterol in recipes, use more egg whites and fewer egg yolks—you won't taste the difference.
  6. To lighten up your omelet or scrambled eggs, try adding a small amount of water instead of cream or milk when you're beating the eggs. Milk products tend to harden the yolk and add calories you don't need.
  7. Eggs should always be cooked over low heat—high heat makes eggs rubbery.
  8. To beat egg whites more quickly and make them fluffier, add a pinch of salt, let them come to room temperature, then beat.
  9. For a good plant fertilizer, dry eggshells in the oven, then pulverize them in a blender to make bone meal.
  10. To tell how old an egg is, place the egg in a pan of cold water. If it lies on its side, it's fresh; if it tilts on an angle, it's approximately three to four days old. If the egg stands upright, it's probably about 10 days old; if the egg floats to the top, it's old and shouldn't be used.
So whaddaya say? Wanna get crackin'?

Peace out,
Shaun T

How to Pull Off a Pull-Up

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 | 0 comments »

By Stephanie S. Saunders

The first time I attempted a pull-up, it was for fitness testing in elementary school. I stepped up to the bar, jumped up to grip it, and then hung there like a right-side-up possum. And I wasn't the only one. Frankly, I didn't think anyone had the upper-body strength to hoist their entire body weight up to the bar at the age of 11. What I didn't know then was that with a little assistance and practice, we all could have completed a pull-up.

Chin-up vs. pull-up.

The difference between a chin-up and a pull-up is the grip of the hands. Pull-ups are done with palms facing away from you; chin-ups are done with palms toward you, or sometimes facing one another. Either is effective in training the muscles of the upper back, and most people use a variety of grips to target them from different angles. It's a bit of a myth that chin-ups and pull-ups actually work different muscles. They may, in fact, target different muscle fibers, but if you're pulling yourself up, you've engaged your upper back, lats, and shoulders. So whichever grip feels the most comfortable for you is a great way to begin.

How to do it.

If you're able to reach the bar while still standing, grip the bar a shoulder length apart, fully extending your arms. Keep your torso as straight as possible and bend your knees back so your feet are behind you and off of the ground. Inhale as you initiate a pulling motion that should continue until your chin clears the bar. You'll end up leaning back a bit as your torso ascends to the top position. Exhale as you begin your descent, bringing your torso straight under you and extending your arms fully at the bottom position. Go slowly, and control your descent to stimulate your chest and tricep muscles.

Finding a strong and safe bar is step number one. Beachbody's P90X® Chin-Up Bar offers a variety of grips and can be placed over the top of a door frame, which is the appropriate height for the type of pull-ups you're attempting. This chin-up bar holds up to 300 pounds and has foam grips that make it more comfortable to grasp.

Wrist straps, pull-up gloves, and pull-up hooks are each sold for assistance with the pull-up. They can make your hands and wrists more comfortable, while leaving the bulk of the work to your upper back. Please note, though, that while these items will not necessarily make the exercise easier, they will help make the process a bit more comfortable.

A little help here, please?

At this point, you may be saying, "I couldn't do a pull-up when I was 11 and weighed 78 pounds. How am I supposed to do it now?" The answer: progression. You have to build up to it. Even Nadia Comaneci couldn't pull herself up to the uneven bars the first time she tried, and she probably never weighed much more than 78 pounds.

Your first order of business should be strengthening your back muscles. Any pulling movement will engage these muscles, and P90X has an entire series of exercises using B-LINES® resistance bands that will help this process along. Consider a lateral row, a lat pull-down, an overhead pull, or a straight-arm press-down in your training schedule. Once you have developed a bit of strength, you can move on to the next step.

An assisted pull-up is your next stop on the journey. There are a few ways to do this. One is to find or create a bar that is three to four feet off of the ground. Sit underneath the bar, with your chest parallel to it. Reach up and grab the bar with either grip, keep your arms straight, and make your torso as flat as possible, slightly bending your knees. If you require more resistance, you can eventually straighten your knees so your body is one long plank. Bend your arms, pull your torso up to the bar, touch your chest to the bar, and then return to a straight-arm position. The closer to the ground you position the bar, the more difficult it will be.

Another option—Tony Horton's favorite—is the chair-assisted pull-up. Place the chair underneath the bar, then stand on the chair's seat with one or both legs and use them to assist yourself in pulling up. Try to put progressively less and less pressure on your legs so the majority of the work is increasingly done by your torso.

You can also get a friend to spot you. Having someone hold your feet and help you lift yourself can make all the difference in the world. If that's too much help, cross one foot over the other and have the spotter only support one ankle. If it's not enough, the spotter could support you from your waist and help you rise up to the bar.

One last form of assisted pull-up can be found in most fitness facilities, in the form of weight-loaded or air-pressurized machines. The machine essentially helps lift a percentage of your body weight while you pull yourself up. If you're using a machine, make sure you can effectively complete 10 to 12 pull-ups at your current level before you go on to the next level, reducing the amount of assistance you're getting from the machine.


Should pull-ups become as simple as brushing your teeth, adding weight to the process can help make them more challenging. You can hold a dumbbell between your feet or wear one of the special weight belts created specifically for pull-ups. You can also wear a weighted vest to create more resistance in most exercises. And for the very daring, the one-armed pull-up can be executed by gripping the bar and lifting yourself with one arm while you hold on to the working wrist with your other hand. You should only attempt these advanced exercises after you've developed a sufficient amount of strength.

A final pull-up exercise is the negative pull-up, which should really be called the "descent-only pull-up," since it's not particularly depressing or cynical. The idea is to have an assistant, either human or a chair, help you with the upward-pull portion of the exercise, then to control the downward portion on your own. This is great for those building up to being able to do the complete pull-up, and also for those looking to work to muscle failure by doing many different exercises for the same muscle group in a given session. Note that the negative pull-up works more of the stabilizing muscles, as opposed to the primary ones we have been focusing on so far.

Begin the journey

Accomplishing something like a pull-up can be a bit daunting, even for the bravest of us. But with effort and a lot of tenacity, you can take the steps we've discussed and master an exercise you've been trying to do since the fifth grade. After all, isn't it time to clear up at least one of the lingering issues from childhood?

By Team Beachbody

When you're recovering from an injury, one thing your muscles definitely need to help them rebuild and grow strong is some high-quality protein. Here's a quick, flavorful recipe for tuna steaks that are high in protein and low in fat.
  • 2 12-oz. fresh tuna steaks (each 1 inch thick)
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, fresh
  • 2 Tbsp. rosemary leaves, fresh
  • 2 to 3 tsp. lemon zest (about 1 lemon's worth)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Salt ( to taste)
  • Ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat grill, grill pan, or skillet. Rinse tuna and pat dry. On a cutting board, pile parsley, rosemary, lemon zest, garlic, salt, and pepper together and mince until combined. Drizzle both sides of tuna steaks with oil and rub herb mix into fish. Set aside for 5 minutes to let flavors marry.

Grill steaks 2 minutes on each side for rare or 5 minutes on each side for well done. Cut each steak into two pieces. Makes 4 servings.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 4 to 10 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
244 38 g 0 g 1 g 9 g 2 g

By Steve Edwards

Last week, we examined dealing with injuries from a preventative perspective: how to avoid getting injured in the first place. This week, in the second part of the series, let's look at what to do when prevention isn't enough and we have to deal with an actual injury.

It's common to see athletes return from being injured better than they were before they got hurt. This is because when you're injured, you're forced to rebuild your body the correct way. Failure to do this could lead to your being handicapped for life. If you rebuild correctly, however, you can easily return from most injuries not only feeling fitter but better able to stave off additional future injuries. Here's a quick guide to how you can come back stronger and faster after you're injured.

Examining your injury

The first thing you need to do is assess your injuries. Let's throw major trauma out of this discussion, because in those situations you need professional healthcare right away. In situations of major trauma, you should follow your doctor's orders until he or she gives you the go-ahead to do things on your own. At this point, you probably still have some physical limitations to consider, but once your doctor releases you, the information I've provided below regarding minor trauma becomes relevant.

Pain is generally associated with an injury, but all pain doesn't mean that you're injured. A fairly common occurrence—especially for people who haven't worked out before—is to confuse standard muscle breakdown for an injury. This may sound absurd, but it's not when you consider how the body becomes stronger. The kind of breakdown we instigate through training is, in fact, a type of injury. The only difference is that it's a targeted breakdown, involving body parts that recover quickly. This is why recovery is such an important subject in fitness training. When you follow a workout program, the overload is progressive, meaning that the amount of breakdown increases over time. But when you overdo it during a workout, you create excessive muscular breakdown, which can feel like an injury.

Most other injuries that don't require immediate medical attention are called soft tissue injuries. These are referred to as sprains, twists, pulls, jams, etc., which are all different types of microtrauma to your ligaments or tendons. These injuries vary in severity. In some cases, you need to see a doctor to assess how serious an injury is—and whether it's something that needs medical attention. Minor cases are often left untreated. Leaving minor injuries untreated is an easy way to help an area turn into a chronic problem.

But whether you're beat up from training or have an injury, your recovery protocol is similar. Although all pain doesn't mean you're injured, all pain should be treated as an injury, because standard recovery for microtrauma in uninjured muscle tissue is similar to that for minor trauma in injured muscle and connective tissue. The only difference should be in how aggressively you go about implementing the treatments listed below. For example, if you know you have muscle breakdown from jumping too high during yesterday's P90X® Plyometrics workout, you can be less diligent about certain protocols, like icing the "injured" region. Ice would still help the injured area recover more quickly, but given that you know it's not a real injury, you can be certain it will heal 100 percent anyway. Incidentally, an after-workout shake like P90X® Results and Recovery Formula that enhances quick replenishment can help you figure out whether you're injured, or you just overdid it. A properly timed recovery shake will improve muscle resynthesis so you're less sore.

So essentially there are two types of injuries. Major, which means you need to see a professional ASAP, and minor, which you can (and should) treat yourself. Keep in mind that a minor injury can become major. Therefore, keep a close eye on how your home treatment is progressing. If things continue to get worse, it's always better to get to a doctor—the sooner, the better.

Periodizational training for injuries

As soon as you notice an injury, whether you've twisted your ankle or noticed that a dull ache in your elbow seems to be getting worse, your protocol should be the same. Like an exercise program, an injury treatment program has steps for you to follow and progress through in phases. In most cases, the type of injury doesn't matter because these steps are the same. If your injury isn't so bad that you need to see a doctor, these are the steps you should follow.

Step 1: Post-injury assessment ASAP

When you get injured, your very first step is to assess the injury. Is it bloody, are you disfigured, can you mobilize the area, etc.? Your first step is to address whether or not you need to get to a hospital. If the answer is yes, you want to get there ASAP, because the sooner the treatment is started the easier your recovery period will be.

If there's no doctor on your agenda, your next step is to immobilize the injury. Adding further stress at this point can make the injury worse. So when you've hurt something, the first thing you want to do is to stop moving.

Next, you want to keep the area from becoming inflamed. If you're away from home and you need to keep moving, this can become step one. Taking anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium should be the first thing you do, unless you have an issue with these medications.

You'll want to ice and elevate the area immediately. Of the two, icing is more effective. Doing both is best. Getting ice on an injury as soon as possible is probably the best way to speed up your recovery. It's amazing how effective keeping an area iced and elevated post-injury are for speeding recovery. By taking the time to do this, even when the injury isn't too severe, you can change something that could become a nagging, chronic problem into something that is gone so fast you forget you were ever injured.

Ice helps with standard exercise recovery, too. If you know you've overdone your workout, immersing the affected areas in ice will greatly speed up your recovery. It's important to keep in mind that icing small areas like your fingers can lead to frostbite, because you don't have enough circulation to melt the ice in those areas. The smaller the area, the shorter the time you should ice it. For fingers, don't exceed 10 minutes or so. For larger areas, like ankles, standard practice is to ice for 20 to 30 minutes. After icing, allow the area to warm up fully before icing again. During the acute stage of an injury, you can ice up to 5 times or so a day. Don't get discouraged if you can't do this. Any icing is much better than none.

Now rest. During the acute stage of this phase, you don't want to do any other exercise. This will cause breakdown that reduces your body's ability to repair the damaged area. The length of this period depends on the injury. For an injured finger, you might be able to move into the second phase the next day. For a larger body part, you might need a few days or more of downtime.

Step 2: Recovery

As soon as you can, you want to get the rest of your body moving again. This helps speed your recovery by reversing the atrophy that begins once you stop movement. What to do during this step varies a lot and is entirely dependent upon the location of your injury. The only constant is that you don't want to stress the injured area at all. Other than that, you can do any physical activity you want.

Step 3: Physical therapy

This is where you target the comeback for your injured area. Visiting a physical therapist can help greatly, because, well, it's his or her job to help you recover. The training you do will generally start with simple manipulations of the injured area. Once these can be done without pain, the intensity begins to increase.

Physical therapy exercises focus on muscular balance. That is, they tend to target both the large prime mover muscles of an area along with the smaller stabilizer muscles. Because you focus on these in combination—which often doesn't happen during sports, or in training programs that are are only based on changing how you look—you'll often return from an injury more balanced than you were prior to the injury. This is why many athletes come back from injuries stronger than they were before.

It's impossible in the scope of this article to explain all the types of exercises you could do for injured areas of your body. There are many references on this subject, including physical therapists. Beachbody now offers a solution as well. Our Total Body Solution program covers basic movements you can do for rehab. Keep in mind that you can also do these to help prevent injuries. Total Body Solution also has assessment exercises that will help show you if your body is out of balance.

You know that injuries are really just a part of life, as is how we respond to them. If you follow a regimented protocol, there's really no reason to fear injuries. Like most things in life, they're simply a part of the process of living. How we deal with them can make them worse, or turn them into a positive.

By Denise Michelle Nix

Part of being fit and healthy is being kind to your body—listening to it when it tells you it's hurt and caring for it. Sure, if you twist your ankle doing P90X® or pull a muscle pushing yourself to your limits during an INSANITY® workout, you'll go see a doctor. But sometimes your body talks to you in a much quieter voice, asking for care and attention you didn't even know it needed or could benefit from. This is where massage can become a valuable recovery tool. Whether you're seeking to relieve an injury, focus your mind, or work on flexibility, there's a type of massage suited for you.

Besides just feeling good, studies show that massage can help bring relief from stress, manage anxiety and depression, reduce pain and stiffness, control blood pressure, and boost immunity. Massage therapy goes a long way toward preventing pain and injury, too. According to a 2003 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, subjects who received 20 minutes of massage 2 hours after exercising a muscle had significantly less soreness 48 hours later than subjects who didn't.

The different kinds of massages and their benefits are not always so obvious just from what's on a therapist's shingle or the menu at the most luxurious day spa in town. We've asked Los Angeles–based acupuncturists and massage therapists Tanja Degen and Hillary Wollman to break down the eight most popular kinds of massages and demystify what sometimes seems like a most mystical experience.


In Western massage practice, the experts agree that the Swedish massage is the basis for all others. It's meant as a relaxation massage, says Degen, an instructor at the California Healing Arts College. "It's your most common type, and it can be firm, moderate, or light pressure." she says. Long, gliding strokes on the skin, usually with the aid of massage oil, promote circulation and bring stress relief not only to tired muscles, but to the busy mind.

Deep tissue/sports

A deep tissue or sports massage builds on the techniques of the Swedish massage—but takes it further. "It's more of a focused, individualized discipline targeting different areas for deeper relief," Degen explains. While Swedish massage is relaxing, it doesn't have any therapeutic effect on the muscles the way a deep tissue or sports massage does, she says. The slow stroke technique, usually with a bit less oil, is designed to increase range of motion and loosen up tight muscles.


You've probably seen this form of on-the-go massage therapy at the mall or street fairs. Clients sit fully clothed, facing the back of a special chair as hands, fists and elbows work their backs, necks, shoulders, and heads. "It's therapeutic and convenient for someone who doesn't have a lot of time, but still wants the benefits for what massage can provide," says Wollman, owner and operator of Bliss Acupuncture. While a therapist performing a chair massage is more limited in terms of range of motion and depth, the convenience factor makes it popular. Wollman often performs chair massages in the business setting for companies who want to give their employees a nice way to de-stress.


Shiatsu massage, commonly referred to as acupressure, is the basis for traditional Eastern medicine that dates back to ancient times. "It actually works with the body's meridians and energy flow," says Degen, explaining that meridians are the channels through which energy flows in the body. Where there's a block in a meridian, a therapist applies deep pressure, promoting circulation, relaxation, and both lymphatic and hormonal health benefits.


Also a part of Eastern practice, Reiki concentrates on the body's energy as well, but can be done either deeply or more subtly, says Wollman. In Reiki, the therapist places hands on the different energetic systems of the body, including the crown of the head, brow, heart center, and abdomen area. It's gentle touching that allows an exchange of energy between the practitioner and the patient. Reiki may not always involve massage. Wollman incorporates it into the end of her practice. "It helps close the session, almost like saying good-bye to the body without just leaving. It seals in the benefits of what just happened," she adds.


Incorporating warm, smooth stones into the practice is a great way to loosen up sore or tight muscles and heal injuries, says Wollman. "It is so delicious. It's very sensual and the heat of the stones is very penetrating." The therapist either places the stones on key points of the body, allowing their weight and heat to penetrate, or uses them to go deeper with strokes and penetration. The use of the stones increases circulation and has both calming and sedating effects. "For someone who is fitness-oriented and on the go, it is great," Wollman adds.


In reflexology, the hands and feet are the focus, with the idea that all the body's systems are represented there. "You can activate different points on the foot that then help the body's ability to function better," Wollman says. For example, people who have problems with their digestion or intestines can often find relief through reflexology. Another benefit is that it is a convenient therapy, because no oils or lotions needed and the patient can stay clothed if he or she chooses.


Thai massage is the ultimate combination of Swedish or deep tissue massage, with some yoga-like qualities thrown in. In a Thai massage, therapists use practically their entire bodies to massage and stretch their patients. "It's a very active approach to getting things healed in the body," says Wollman. "It's active, but relaxing." For athletes especially, Thai massage helps with flexibility and range of motion. "You have to kind of know that you're gonna be almost thrown all over the place and have the practitioner on top of you," she adds.

Wollman and Degen agree that everyone can find the massage therapy that works best for them. The key, Degen explains, is to communicate with the therapist before the session begins, discussing problem areas and the level of firmness desired. Both note that some people may be hesitant because massage can be such a personal experience, especially when your clothes are off. Most therapists, they say, will accommodate their practice to fit a client's comfort level.

The health benefits of this type of holistic medicine are bountiful, and it's an easy way to care for your body. "There are no (bad) side effects," Degen says. "And it feels great." Wollman adds that the strengthening and focus that massage brings can have far-reaching effects, especially for fitness buffs. "It can calm the mind in a way that can enhance better focus," she says. "It's something passive, but it helps support your game."