Being Bruce -: November 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

5 Life Lessons from Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee"If you always put a limit on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." —Bruce Lee
While some might hesitate to consider Bruce Lee's films works of art, there are few who will deny the beauty and grace of his physicality. Standing at 5'7" and weighing 135 pounds at his peak, the renowned martial arts master was a temple of muscle. As Chuck Norris put it, "He had muscles on muscles."

Of course, to reach this point took devotion, perhaps even obsession, which few of us are willing to put forth. That said, there's still plenty to be learned from the man whose short life—he died at 32 of cerebral edema in 1973—has influenced thousands of bodybuilders, action heroes, and martial artists.

In the book Bruce Lee: The Art of Expressing the Human Body, author John Little parsed through a vast amount of material on or about Lee to come up with a concise interpretation of the master's fitness regimen. At its core, Lee's plan consisted of anaerobic work—weight training and isometrics—balanced with aerobic work. Given Turbo Jam® had yet to be invented, his preferred form of cardio was running. He combined all this with a clean diet. No surprises there. However, when you look into the details, you'll find some interesting things.
On circuit training
Tony YogaLee's devotion to what would eventually be known as circuit training started when he read a series of articles in Ironman magazine by bodybuilder Bob Gajda about The Peripheral Heart Action (PHA) System. Like Tony Horton does in his Power 90® routines, the system moves from body group to body group instead of focusing a long time on one particular group. The benefit of this is that blood flow continually flows from muscle group to muscle group, thus increasing muscular endurance and delaying fatigue. It also works the cardiovascular system. Lee loved the multiple benefits of this technique.

On Lee's abdominals

AbsThe man had amazing abs, but he had to work hard to get them. His five basic stomach exercises were sit-ups, leg raises, twists, frog kicks, and side bends. He also understood that while you could do crunches until you were blue in the face, it wouldn't matter unless you ate completely clean, avoiding sugar, starches, and excess fats. Yes, there are people to whom a six-pack comes naturally but, according to his journals, Bruce Lee, owner of one of the most amazing six-packs in history, was not one of these people. So next time you're pushing through Slim & 6-Pack, thinking about that grandé mocha latte you skipped this morning, just remember that Bruce Lee made the same sort of sacrifices.

On stretching

StretchWhile he believed in stretching every day for at least 15 minutes, his regimen was basically to limber up at every available opportunity. He'd do it watching television, reading, even in the sound studio while dubbing his films. While few of us are in the movie business, that doesn't mean we can't work a few thigh stretches into our coffee breaks, or work those shoulders and neck while watching American Idol.

While he was a man of extremes, Lee understood the importance of moderation in the stretch. Never bounce-stretch or stretch too hard because overaggressive stretching can actually send a signal to the brain to tighten up the muscle to protect it from damage.

On Asian food

Of the various aspects of fitness, diet was the one Lee studied least. As his wife, Linda Lee Cadwell put it, "He couldn't boil water" and therefore left culinary responsibilities to her. He did, however, understand "junk in, junk out." Mealtimes in their household weren't much of a focus—more of a time to fuel up.
Asian Cuisine
He also preferred Asian-style cooking because it offered more variety in a meal and a healthier ratio of veggies to protein. Keep in mind that this was over 30 years ago, when American cuisine meant a potato and a hunk of meat, as opposed to an Asian meal which could consist of shrimp, chicken, veggies and tofu all on the same plate. He felt this variety led to a more complete nutritional profile. While American cuisine has since diversified, the message is the same, keep that variety up. Eating the same thing every day probably means there are vital nutrients that you're skipping.

And no, Bruce Lee wasn't a saint. From time to time, he'd indulge in steak or even McDonald's, keeping in mind that super-sizing did not exist at the time.

On opportunities for everyday exercise

FlamingoIn much the same way he stretched whenever possible, Lee felt it important to shove exercise into his day as much as he could. Here are some of the tips he'd offer his students:
  • Walk whenever possible. Park the car a few blocks from your destination and walk the rest of the way.
  • No elevators. Take the stairs whenever possible.
  • Practice balance by standing on one foot when putting clothes or shoes on—or just stand on one foot whenever you choose to.
Fitness doesn't come from 60 minutes a day. It's a lifestyle thing. Whatever workout you're doing now is great, but take a look at the rest of your life—when can you walk instead of driving? When can you hand-whip instead of using a blender? When can you run around with your kids instead of watching television with them? Bruce's son Brandon was no slouch himself. His dad clearly had a huge influence on him.

Bruce Lee accomplished an amazing amount in his short life. Even if you follow his path, odds are you won't accomplish as much as he did. On the same note, you probably won't win the Tour de France even if you train like Lance Armstrong and you don't stand much of a chance winning the California governorship, even if you lift weights like Arnie.

But then again, maybe a defeatist attitude like that is just the kind of "limit" Bruce Lee was talking about.
BONUS! The Bruce Lee Protein Shake
According to John Little, up to two times a day, Lee would make a drink consisting of several of the ingredients listed below. Unfortunately, he left no instructions for his magic elixir. We can tell you this much, however—he did use a blender.
  • Non-instant powdered milk (which, nowadays, he'd probably replace with whey protein powder)
    Water or juice
  • Ice cubesM
  • 2 raw eggs, occasionally with shell*
  • 1 Tbsp. wheat germ or wheat germ oil
  • 1 Tbsp. peanut butter
  • 1 banana
  • 1 Tbsp. brewer's yeast
  • Lecithin (in granular form)
* Eggs are healthiest when eaten raw, but poor-quality commercial eggs carry a risk of salmonella infection. Unfortunately, these are the majority of eggs on the market. The USDA does not recommend eating raw shell eggs that are not cooked or undercooked due to the possibility that salmonella bacteria may be present.

- Denis Faye - Team Beachbody Newsletter

Monday, November 25, 2013

Test Your Strange Food Facts IQ

  1. CeleryWhat vegetable burns more calories than it contains?
    Celery has about 6 calories per stalk. But your body burns more calories than that in the digestion process. It's not actually the chewing and crunching, but the digestion of the high amount of cellulose in your stomach that burns the calories.
  2. Poppy Seeds on BagelWhat common bagel topping can show up as an opiate in drug tests?
    Poppy seeds are related closely enough to opium poppies that they can show up in a urine test as an opiate like heroin or morphine. The level is generally considered too low to be considered a "true positive" and most drug testing companies discount these results. However, just to be on the safe side, the federal prison system has banned its inmates from eating poppy seeds. And in case you were wondering, you could pretty much eat your weight in poppy seeds and not get high.
  3. Vanilla Ice CreamWhich U.S. state eats more ice cream per capita than any other?
    Despite living in one of the coldest states in the Union, Alaskans eat twice as much ice cream as any other state.
  4. What are the food additives cochineal and carminic acid made from?
    These scientific terms found in the ingredient lists of many foods, beverages, and cosmetics are fancy names for a red food coloring developed by the Aztecs, made of dried powdered beetles native to Central and South America. While their origins may be less than appetizing, they are perfectly safe to eat.
  5. Cans of Spam What do the letters in the canned meat product SPAM stand for?
    Salted Porky Anonymous Meat? Guess again. Originally it stood for SP iced h AM , named in a contest, where the winner was awarded the princely sum of $100. The people at Hormel Foods say that while it does include ham and spices, it doesn't begin to describe the product that is SPAM, and now maintain that SPAM stands merely for SPAM.

    - Joe Wilkes, Team Beachbody Newsletter

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Will Turkey Make You Sleepy? Check Out 10 Urban Food Myths

There have always been rumors spread about food. Remember the one about the Kentucky Fried rat or Mikey, the kid from the Life cereal commercials, who allegedly expired after washing down his Pop Rocks with a Coca-Cola? These, like so many, turned out to be apocryphal, but now in the age of the Internet, it seems like there's always some story making the rounds about a grocery item that will poison you or a food that will miraculously cure what ails you. Here are some myths we were able to dismiss.
  1. Carrots Eating carrots improves night vision. This rumor apparently was started by the British during World War II, after a new British radar device began greatly assisting in the shooting down of German bombers at night. Not wanting to alert the Germans of the new technology, the government spread a disinformation campaign that the British pilots' love of carrots was the cause of their keen night vision. It spread like wildfire and it has become a staple in parents' arsenals for getting kids to eat their veggies. Carrots are generally good for your eyes, though, as studies are beginning to show a link between increased beta-carotene (carrots are loaded with it) consumption and a decrease in macular degeneration.
  2. Turkey Turkey makes you sleepy. It's true that turkey contains tryptophan, the amino acid credited for the poultry's alleged soporific effects, but beef, chicken, meat, milk, and beans also contain tryptophan and they don't seem to make you pass out on the couch after dinner. Turkey's bad rap probably comes from the famous post-Thanksgiving food coma, which was probably not induced by trace amounts of an amino acid, but more likely by consuming vast quantities of carbohydrates like potatoes and stuffing, washed down with a couple of glasses of wine.
  3. Julius Caesar Caesar salad was created by or for Julius Caesar. Actually, despite what they might tell you at the Olive Garden, the Caesar salad is not Italian food. It was created by Caesar Cardini, a restaurant owner in Tijuana, Mexico less than a hundred years ago, not in ancient Rome. The recipe includes romaine lettuce, olive oil, garlic, coddled eggs, and Parmesan cheese, among other ingredients, but the original recipe does not contain anchovies—another myth debunked.
  4. Mentos Diet Coke Geyser Mentos and Coca-Cola, combined, will explode your stomach. As any YouTube connoisseur can attest, dropping a Mentos candy into a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke can create an effect that will give the fountains at the Bellagio a run for their money. However, despite rumors of Brazilian youths dying of burst abdomens, this myth seems to be another of the endless variations on Mikey and the Pop Rocks. There seems to be little evidence that eating any combination of anything generally considered edible will make you explode. (Although that Chinese food I had for dinner came pretty close around midnight.)
  5. Beware of flesh-eating bananas! There was an email forwarded by many well-intentioned people not too long ago that asserted that the FDA was covering up the fact that several thousand bananas covered in germs causing necrotizing fasciitis (the flesh-eating disease) had entered the country. This turned out not to be true. A reverse rumor, that humans were killing bananas, also has circulated. This one says that due to varying explanations, such as climate change or genetic modification, bananas will be extinct in less than a decade. This also is false. So, eat your bananas. They're full of potassium, won't make your skin fall off, and there are plenty more where they came from.
  6. Kangaroo Grazing McDonald's uses kangaroo meat in their burgers. This is one that's been around since I was a kid. Common sense can answer this one. While we wouldn't put it past the Golden Arches to put anything in their food, kangaroo meat seems an unlikely beef substitute as it costs much more per pound than actual beef. Although adventurous eaters might consider adding 'roo meat to their diet, as it has more protein and about half the fat of beef.
  7. Chocolate Milk Chocolate milk is tainted with cow's blood. This is a popular playground myth that milk too contaminated with blood to sell as plain white milk is colored brown, flavored, and sold as chocolate milk. Chocolate milk and all dairy products go through the same rigorous FDA testing process that regular moo juice does. However, the added sugar isn't doing you any favors.
  8. Aspartame causes multiple sclerosis and lupus. Aspartame, often branded as NutraSweet, has been rumored to cause many serious diseases. While we consider the jury to be out on whether aspartame is completely safe, there have been no reputable scientific studies linking the sweetener to MS, lupus, cancer, or any other life-threatening illnesses. However, it still can't claim to be totally healthy.
  9. Canola Oil Canola oil is toxic. It's been rumored that canola oil contains the same toxins found in mustard gas. Canola oil is made from oil pressed from the seeds of the rape plant, a member of the mustard family. There is actually no such plant as the canola, but it's easy to see the marketing problems that would result in calling it "rape oil." This may have been one of the reasons scurrilous rumors have circulated about this noble oil, which is perfectly safe and rich in monounsaturated fat, the best fat, also found in olive oil and avocados. As for the mustard gas claim, while it is true canola oil is made from mustard plants, mustard gas is not. It's called that because of its acrid smell, not its ingredient list.
  10. Red Bull Red Bull causes brain tumors. As a favorite beverage of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, it's easy to make a case based on anecdotal evidence, but there actually is nothing in Red Bull that has been linked to brain tumors. It has been banned in some European countries because of its high caffeine content (a can has about as much as a cup of coffee), but aside from the typical health concerns regarding any sugary, caffeinated beverage, Red Bull appears safe. Claims that it will give you wings seem unfounded, however, and when mixed with vodka, it has been rumored to make underpants disappear.

    - Joe Wilkes, Team Beachbody Newsletter

Saturday, November 23, 2013

4 Hearty and Healthy Dips

When aren't we going on and on about how you need to eat more vegetables? They're full of fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and low in calories and fat. And one of the best ways to eat them? Raw. So you're trying to be a good camper, with your bowl of broccoli and cauliflower florets, baby carrots, and celery sticks, crunching your way to a leaner (and probably gassier) you. You know what would really make these veggies sing? Some dip! French onion dip. . . or guacamole . . . or hummus . . . or nacho cheese. Ha! Guess again! Nothing can make your healthy vegetable snack descend the rungs of Michi's Ladder faster than a few dunks in a bowl of fatty, salty, delicious dip. But we're not completely heartless. Here are some variations on some old favorites that are actually pretty good for you!
  1. Hummus. It's a perfect dip. Made primarily of creamed chickpeas, it's like dipping your vegetable in another vegetable! But not all hummuses (or is it hummi?) are created equal. Many are loaded up with tahini (the sesame paste that gives hummus it's nutty flavor) and olive oil, which are almost pure fat. Granted, they're both healthy fats, so a little is OK, but too much will pack on the pounds. Try making your own from scratch. Just puree a can of chickpeas in a food processor or blender with lemon juice, garlic, and cayenne pepper to taste. You can add as much tahini or olive oil as you think your diet can handle, or none at all. If the hummus is too thick, you could thin it with a little vegetable broth or water instead of oil.
  2. Guacamole. Avocados? They're in the Pious Tier of Michi's Ladder. And guacamole is just mashed avocados, right? Right, but as with olive oil and tahini, avocados are full of calories. One avocado has 227 calories, and 21 grams of fat. Instead, how about an easy-to-make avocado dip? In a food processor, combine one avocado, one cup of nonfat yogurt, and one cup of nonfat cottage cheese (all top-tier ingredients from Michi's Ladder). Blend until creamy and no lumps from the cottage cheese remain. Add cayenne pepper and ground cumin to taste. For extra flavor and texture, mix in some chopped fresh cilantro and onion before serving.
  3. French onion dip. OK, nothing made of instant soup (essentially flavored salt) and full-fat sour cream is going to pass Michi muster. But onions are in the top tier, so that's a start. Instead of sour cream, how about tofu? It's not just that white brick that sits in the back of your fridge after a well-intentioned impulse buy. Puree 2 cups of extra-soft tofu in a food processor with a couple of tablespoons of white wine vinegar and Worcestershire sauce, and garlic cloves to taste. Meanwhile sauté some chopped onions in a little bit of olive oil until caramelized. Mix the onions into the tofu mixture and deglaze the pan with a little white wine and add that to the dip as well.
  4. Spinach dip. Nothing's a bigger hit at a party than that hollowed-out sourdough boule full of mayonnaise-y goodness. Instead of mayo though, try pureeing some nonfat yogurt and cottage cheese. Thaw out some frozen chopped spinach and mix that in and add some chopped water chestnuts and scallions for crunch and flavor. For extra zip and color, try mixing in some curry powder. With all that going on, you'll forget the mayo's gone! And don't forget to use whole grain bread.

    Joe Wilkes, Team Beachbody Newsletter

Friday, November 22, 2013

Onions, Garlic, and Leeks: Our Stinky Friends!

Onions, garlic, and leeks—the bane of the romantic evening, but the balm for so much else. These aromatic and pungent stars of the vegetable world are all members of the allium family and have a myriad of health benefits, both real and purported, not the least of which is all those germs you'll avoid when nobody will kiss you after you've eaten them. So, let's take a moment to salute these beautiful, bountiful bulbs which are delicious and nutritious, with a smell that's slightly vicious.

The onion (Allium cepa) has been a culinary staple for thousands of years. Many civilizations even worshipped them as symbols of eternity, because of their concentric rings. Ancient Greek Olympic athletes consumed onions before exercise, as it was believed they cleansed the blood. They were also taken along on long sea voyages by many cultures, as their high levels of vitamin C helped prevent scurvy. Onions have also been applied topically as home remedies to relieve congestion, fever, gout, and arthritis, as well as to speed healing of scars and burns.

In modern times, many studies have turned up evidence that there are some genuine health benefits to eating onions. Onions can help lower levels of LDL cholesterol, the bad cholesterol that is responsible for clogging arteries. They are believed to lower blood pressure. They have been found to have antibacterial properties which can help kill salmonella and E. coli. They can reduce clotting, which can aid the circulatory system. They have anti-inflammatory properties which can help alleviate cough and cold symptoms, and onion extracts are even used in some asthma medications to provide bronchial relief. They are loaded with vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. And they are among the cheapest vegetables available, which is healthy for your pocketbook.

It's an extremely versatile vegetable, which can be sharp and tangy when raw, or sweet when cooked. Another great thing about onions is that almost none of their nutritional value is lost when cooked. One medium onion only has 44 calories, no fat, and 2 grams of fiber. A half a cup of chopped green onions only has 28 calories, no fat, and 4 grams of fiber. So for those of us keeping an eye on our diet, onions are a great way to get a lot of flavor for very few calories.
Cooking tip: Onions contain all kinds of different sulfur compounds. When the vapor from the sulfur hits your eye, sulfuric acid is created, which is why onions can make you cry. The best way to avoid tears is to rinse the onions after you cut off the ends. The milkier the juice oozing from the onion, the stronger the acid. By rinsing this off, you'll have fewer tears, and the onion will be less bitter in the recipe. Also, make sure you use a very sharp knife. This will help ensure that the juice stays in the onion instead of on your cutting board, and ultimately in your eye. Less juice, less vapor, less crying.
Garlic (Allium sativum) is a spicy relative of the onion. Unlike the onion which is a discrete bulb, a head of garlic is a clump of bulbs, each clove an individual bulb. It has also been harvested for thousands of years for its flavor and also is one of the earliest known plants to be cultivated for medicinal reasons. It was thought by ancient cultures to be a great purifier, i.e., anything that smelled that bad had to kill whatever bad was inside you. And garlic is a frequent component in folk remedies throughout the ages, purported to cure impotence, madness, and tuberculosis. And anecdotal evidence that it wards off vampires and werewolves is very persuasive.

As with onions, garlic contains a high number of sulfur compounds, and when a clove is broken or chopped, the chemical reactions create a very pungent smell. Allicin, a sulfur compound found in garlic, is both an antibiotic and antifungal compound. It is also what gives garlic it's hot, spicy flavor. It and other sulfur compounds have been credited with researchers for a number of health benefits, including lowering of LDL cholesterol levels and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels; lessening atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries; reducing clotting of the blood; stabilizing blood sugar levels; and possible anti-cancer benefits. Studies have even shown that babies tend to breast-feed better when their mother eats garlic which shows up in her milk. And a clove of garlic only has 4 calories and no fat, so you can season your food to your heart's content.
Cooking tip: To get rid of garlic breath, chew some parsley. To get rid of the smell on your hands, wet your hands and rub them against the blade of a clean stainless steel knife (but don't cut yourself!). To get rid of the odor in your plasticware, freeze the offending item overnight. When you take it out of the freezer, the smell should be gone!
Leeks (Allium ampeloprasum) are also members of the onion family. Usually they are eaten for their white and light-green base, and some are cultivated for their bulbs, which are marketed as "elephant garlic." Leeks have enjoyed a long history, especially in Europe. In Wales, the leek is the national emblem, a symbol of courage and independence. They require much more care in their cultivation, as they are a biennial plant, like asparagus, and are therefore a little more expensive than their bulbous cousins.

Leeks recently received some good ink in Mireille Guiliano's French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure. In the book she revealed her recipe of Magical Leek Soup, a simple leek broth, which she would eat on a two-day fast to jump-start her diet. (We prefer our own 2-Day Fast Formula®). Their high content of manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, folate, and iron make them an excellent food for helping to stabilize blood sugar, probably the reason Ms. Guiliano's fasts are successful. Also, like garlic and onions, leeks are good at raising HDL (good) cholesterol levels while lowering LDL (bad) levels. There has also been some evidence that they lower blood pressure. At 38 calories per leek, with no fat, this is another great light vegetable.
Cooking tip: Because leeks must grow through two seasons before they are harvested, there is a fair amount of dirt, grit, and sand hidden in their folds. Before chopping your leeks, soak them in a sink full of cold water, so that some of the sand and grit will float out. Then chop from the white to the green, and rinse again, as needed.

Joe Wilkes - Team Beachbody Newsletter

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Test Your Metabolism IQ

So do you think you burn hot, or not? Do you know how metabolism works and effects your health and your weight? Maybe you do, maybe you don't. Check yourself out by reading further:

FALSE: Your metabolism slows drastically because of age.
  1. People's metabolism does tend to slow a bit as they age, about 5% per decade, but the biggest change isn't because we're getting older, it's because we're becoming more sedentary. As we age, many of us enter a vicious cycle of decreasing our activity, which causes us to gain weight, which causes our metabolism to slow, which causes us to have less energy, which causes us to be more inactive, which causes us to gain more weight, etc. The reason you didn't gain weight as easily when you were younger is probably because you were more active. If you can maintain a comparable level of activity into your golden years, you can keep your metabolism as high as it ever was, or higher.

  2. TRUE: Your metabolism is genetically fast or slow.
    But this doesn't let us off the hook. Sure, a lot of us were dealt some bad cards genetically, but our genetic predisposition is only a fraction of what influences our metabolism. Behavior, in terms of what you eat and how active you are, is many times more important then the metabolism you were born with.

  3. FALSE: Heavier people have a slower metabolism.
    The good news for heavy people is it takes a lot more energy to haul that carcass around, so heavy people will actually have a much faster metabolic rate to produce the energy they need for day-to-day activities. The bad news is that in order to lose weight and maintain long-term weight loss, they will have to make greater and longer-lasting changes in diet and exercise to keep the weight off .

  4. TRUE: Men metabolize alcohol better than women.
    This has nothing to do with the fact that men may be bigger or have a higher tolerance because of their vast experiences at keggers. It's because men produce an enzyme in their stomach that women do not. This enzyme is responsible for metabolizing alcohol more quickly, so only about half as much alcohol enters the bloodstream of a man as a woman. So in that famous scene from The Thin Man when Nora Charles asks the bartender how many drinks her husband Nick's had and requests he line up an equal number for her, she's actually setting herself up to get twice as drunk as Nick. As tolerance grows, both genders will metabolize alcohol faster, so the ladies could conceivably catch up, but they start at a huge disadvantage.

  5. TRUE: Eating certain foods can speed up your metabolism.
    But eating any food will speed up your metabolism—at least in the short term. Some studies have shown that some food and drink such as hot pepper, green tea, and caffeine can give you an extra short-term calorie-burning boost, but for a long-term change to your metabolism, overall improvements in diet or exercise are necessary.

    Joe Wilkes
    , Team Beachbody Newsletter

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

5 Simple Steps to "Reprogram" Your Weight

  by Steve Edwards, Beachbody
Your body resists change, even when it's good for you. This irritating little survival trait has led to a passel of colloquial words that we use when referring to how to deal with it. These include survival mode, starvation mode, periodizational training, plateau-ing, and set point. Today we'll tackle the latter, which is a term we use to explain why our bodies impede our results whenever we get close to our target weight.

"Set point" is not a real term in a medical sense and, thus, its meaning is often misused or misunderstood. A common "definition" found on the Internet states "Set point is the weight range in which your body is programmed to weigh and will fight to maintain that weight." While more or less accurate, its use of the word "programmed" is misleading because it insinuates that you have no control over the programmer, which is, in fact, yourself.

This is further exacerbated with the sentence "everyone has a set point and just like you have no control over how tall you will be, or what color your eyes and hair will be, you also have no control over what your set point will be. Your body is biologically and genetically determined to weigh within a certain weight range." While this sentence has some true elements, it's also fatalistic and sounds as though you're doomed to live a life that's predetermined. You have a lot more control over what you weigh than your height and what color your eyes are. If this wasn't true, Million Dollar Body members wouldn't be so successful at losing weight.

What the creators of the term "set point" have done is to combine the meaning of the word homeostasis with the fact that there are different body types. Homeostasis is your body's desire to stay regulated under varying conditions. Since it's a point your body likes to maintain, it is, in a way, a set point. Except that it's changeable. Body type is not changeable. However, how your body looks, no matter what type, is easily altered. If that weren't true, bodybuilding would be a sport with only one body type, and it's not.

So let's get down to the business of how to change your set point. Since "set point" isn't even a real term, but more of a myth, it shouldn't be too difficult. We change myths all the time.
Step 1: Change whatever you are currently doing. If you don't believe that your set point can change, try Morgan Spurlock's experiment, the film Super Size Me, and super-size all of your meals at McDonald's for the next month. Most of you can visualize this pretty well. If you overeat like crazy, you will gain weight. By just understanding this one thing we've myth-busted the legend of the set point. You can gain weight and, therefore, you don't really have a set point as defined.

But you probably don't want to gain weight; you probably want to lose. So let's look at how this works. Your body likes wherever it is right now. Even if that state is sick or overweight or out of shape, your body tries to hang on to this state because the reactionary state of your body is that change is bad. It's a survival mechanism that kicks in because, no matter how unhealthy, we're currently still alive and all change has some risk associated with it. But we are reasonable beings and have the ability to offset our reactionary state (that we might want to refer to as our "amoeba state"). So when we understand that something is good for us, we can force our reactionary body into doing something it doesn't want to. The easiest step of all is to simply change what you are currently doing.

When ultra-runner Dean Karnazes made the decision to become a runner, he was in a bar. He stopped drinking, went out into the night, and ran 30 miles. At that time, his set point was that of a guy who sat in bars and not someone who would run 50 marathons in 50 days. He had to change it, which he did in sort of an extreme manner. But my point is that he did change it. And it didn't happen on that first run, which I'd imagine was quite miserable. You've got to force change on your life; otherwise your body will revert to its state of homeostasis.

Step 2: Clean up your life.
Step one is easy; this one takes more work. Nothing you can do will help you as much as changing your lifestyle to a healthier one. Eat less junk, get plenty of exercise, stay hydrated, eat more whole foods. It doesn't sound all that hard, but we wouldn't be having this discussion if it were easy.

This is a roundabout step because it won't necessarily change your weight and, hence, your set point, but it will change you inside. It's the most important step because your body will get healthier and run better. Eating good food changes the way your body metabolizes, especially when you add some exercise. And your metabolic process is what this entire set point issue is about. When you change your body's foundation for the better, it will more easily accept future changes.

Step 3: Zigzag your diet.
To lose weight, you generally need to eat less. But while randomly eating less can be effective, the best strategy that you can use is to zigzag your calories.

Don't confuse zigzag dieting with yo-yo dieting; they are completely different. Zigzagging means to eat more on different days in order to keep your body's metabolism working at its set point while you are under- or overfeeding it. It works both ways—you can zigzag down and zigzag up.

Your goal is that your overall calorie expenditure is either down or up. Most of you probably want to lose weight, so let's use down. Say you weigh 200 pounds and want to weigh 150. Your body wants to eat around 3,000 calories a day in order to maintain its weight (or its current set point). But you want to lose weight as quickly as is safe and you're psyched to starve yourself to do it, so you're willing to eat 1,200 calories a day. If you do, however, your body thinks that you are starving and, over time, begins to lower its metabolism. There is some lag time in your body's ability to react, so you may lose a lot of weight in a week or two eating 1,200 calories a day but then it will slow down. Furthermore, your slower metabolism will negatively affect your ability to work out hard, especially the fitter you become.

Instead, eat between 2,500 and 3,000 calories two or three days per week and 1,200 on the others. This way your body doesn't have the time to react, resulting in negative calorie days that force your body to more efficiently use its stored body fat as fuel for energy. While your caloric consumption for a week is a few thousand calories higher than if you were eating less, your higher metabolic rate allows you to work out harder, exert more energy, and burn more calories. Over time, the calorie burning will increase beyond what you could hope to achieve by just eating less.

As you lose weight, your upper-end caloric consumption can drop. But be careful because your body composition is changing. With more muscle and less fat, your caloric needs increase, even as you are losing weight. There is no exact scale to use for this, but a muscular 150-pound person can burn more calories than a fat 200-pound person. So never drop your high-calorie days too much.

Step 4: Eat more!
Assuming you've followed the above steps you will reach a point where you need to eat more in order to continually lose weight. The reason is that a 1,200-calorie-a-day diet isn't enough to feed a highly active person of any weight. If you're small, 1,200 calories may be fine during times of inactivity, but an hour of intense exercise burns at least 500 calories and an active body can't live long (at least in a fit state) on 700 calories a day—it's starvation mode central. For this reason, adding calories is probably the number one piece of advice we use on the Message Boards to get our members off of weight plateaus toward the end of their programs.

This concept throws a wrench into the original idea of the whole set point theory because if your body's "set point" is, supposedly 160 pounds, is it 160 pounds at 15% body fat or at 30%? The difference in how these two bodies will look couldn't be starker. It's like the difference between Gabrielle Reece and Roseanne Barr. How you look is far more related to your body composition than your actual weight.

Step 5: Periodize your diet.
In other words, eat for what you do. Food is fuel and you don't put gas in your car when it's sitting in the driveway. It's much the same with your diet. You need far less food when you are sitting all day then when you aren't.

Periodizational dieting is, basically, just planning your diet around your activities with your goals in mind. Much the way you do with your workouts. For example, Beachbody exercise programs are all programs, meaning that you do certain exercises and workouts over a given amount of time, usually 4 to 12 weeks. Then you're "done," at which point you re-evaluate your goals and do something different. This is exactly how your diet should work.

For example, each of the above four steps could be a "period" of dieting. Each time you change what you were doing before, you go through a period of adjustment as your body resets its set point to reflect your new lifestyle. Once it's reset, you again change what you are doing until you get your body to the point where you want it. At this point, your set point becomes your friend because, due to homeostasis, your body always wants to maintain the point it's currently at.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pumpkin and Red Lentil Soup

Pumpkin and Red Lentil Soup

Pumpkin and Red Lentil Soup
Total Time: 45 min.
Prep Time: 10 min.
Cooking Time: 35 min.
Yield: 6 servings
2 tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups cubed pumpkin (or butternut squash)
1 cup dry red lentils
6 cups water
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cumin
Cayenne pepper (to taste; optional)
Sea salt and ground black pepper (to taste; optional)
1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium high heat
2. Add onion. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until translucent.
3. Add garlic. Cook for 1 minute, or until tender.
4. Add pumpkin, lentils, and water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat. Gently boil, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until pumpkin in soft. Remove from heat.
5. Place soup in a blender or food processor in small batches. Cover with lid and kitchen towel. Blend until smooth.
6. Return soup to saucepan over medium heat. Add ginger and cumin. Season with cayenne and pepper, if desired. Cook, stirring constantly, until soup is hot.

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories: 146
Fat: 2 g
Saturated Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 59 mg
Carbohydrate: 24 g
Fiber: 4 g
Sugar: 1 g
Protein: 9 g

From the Team Beachbody Kitchen

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Test Your Veggie IQ

Test Your Veggie IQ

  1. FALSE: Yam is another word for sweet potato. The yam (Dioscorea Species) is a tuber, or underground stem, completely unrelated to the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas). Yams are starchier and grow mostly in tropical climates (some up to seven feet!). They aren't grown commercially in the U.S. and what are often labeled "yams" are in fact sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are sweeter and moister. Neither yams nor sweet potatoes are related to the common potato, either. Both are high in potassium and fiber, although the sweet potato is higher in calories.
  2. FALSE: The first eggplant in America was grown by Benjamin Franklin. The first eggplant was actually grown by Thomas Jefferson. He is believed to have brought the plant from France, where eggplant was popular. Jefferson, a horticulture enthusiast, began growing it in his own extensive garden. He also was known for developing many strains of tomatoes that would ensure a longer harvest period and is often credited with introducing the french fry to American cuisine.
  3. TRUE: Elephant garlic is not really garlic at all. Not really garlic on steroids, elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum) is actually part of the leek family. The flavor of its cloves is similar to garlic and it is often grown in gardens to discourage pests.
  4. FALSE: Boiled veggies contain more water than fresh. While they may seem more waterlogged, boiled vegetables contain less water. The heat releases much of the water retained in their cells in their raw state.
  5. TRUE: Egyptians replaced the eyes of mummies with onions. The ancient Egyptians believed that onions warded off evil spirits, so the eyes of the dead were often replaced with onions to protect them against demons in the afterlife. The Egyptians would also have people place their hand on an onion when swearing to something. The walls of the pyramids are filled with paintings of onions, as they also believed the concentric circles of the onion symbolized eternity.

    Joe Wilkes, from the Team Beachbody newsletter.

Monday, November 11, 2013

How Do I Improve My Digestion?

Ask the Expert: How Do I Improve My Digestion?

By Denis Faye In a way, it's strange that this question needs addressing. After all, digestion is part of the parasympathetic nervous system, meaning it happens automatically. It's not like exercise or sleep or any other bodily function that we can control. You eat and it gets digested. No instructions necessary.

Woman with Upset Stomach

Or, maybe not. After all, just about everyone—myself included—has digestion issues from time to time, which is why TUMS® and Pepto-Bismol® are household names. (For the record, ginger tea with a hint of honey is a much more holistic—not to mention yummier—way to fight indigestion.)

How do you know if your digestion needs a little fine-tuning? Obvious signs include heartburn, excess gas, and too many/too few bowel movements. (One visit to the white throne a day is ideal.) If you really want to get into detail, your transit time—the time it takes food to get from one end to the other—should be about 24 hours. To test this, eat 2 to 3 beets in one sitting. Without getting too graphic, it will be extremely obvious when they've worked their way to your stool. If it's within a day or two, that's a good thing. If not, the tips below should help get things moving.

(Warning: The beet test can also turn your urine red—and in much less time than 24 hours. This is normal, albeit freaky. Don't panic.)

1. Drink More Water

Many of you would really, really like me to tell you that when you eat butter, barbeque sauce, and bacon fat they keep your body lubricated. Sadly, this isn't the case. It's water that keeps everything flowing smoothly throughout your whole body, including your gastrointestinal tract.
Drink at least half your weight in ounces daily. (If you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of H2O.) This is an excellent way to aid digestion—particularly if you're having a hard time backing the brown bus out of the garage . . . if you know what I'm saying. If you're having a hard time drinking enough water, here's an article featuring 25 handy dandy tips. One is bound to work for you.

Woman Drinking Water

Some people say you should avoid drinking water when you're eating because it dilutes stomach acid, thus hampering digestion. Personally, I don't buy into this. Fruits like melon and citrus are loaded with water. Should we not eat those? If you feel you digest better if you don't drink at the same time, then listen to your body. For everyone else, I think it's OK to drink water while you eat.

2. Eat Slower

Digestion is hard work. Whatever you eat has to be broken all the way down to molecules—and that's a big job! By eating slower and completely chewing your food, you save the rest of your system a lot of effort, and you thoroughly mix saliva into your meal. The enzymes in your saliva aid digestion by allowing the breakdown process to begin before the food even gets to your stomach.

Also, eating slower makes it easier for you to judge how full you are. It takes your belly about 10 to 30 minutes to tell your brain that it's full. Ever rush through a big meal and then end up feeling overstuffed less than half an hour later? That's why. Slow down chow time and you'll start recognizing the signals that your body is full before you overeat.

3. Consume Smaller Meals

Your body processes food better when you eat less of it in one sitting. If you eat five or six smaller meals a day, your body will have an easier time digesting them and better absorb the nutrients.

If you want to see this theory in action, consider the last time you took a multivitamin and your urine turned bright yellow. This happened because your body was flushing out excess vitamin B. Now, if you were to chop up the pill and take it over the day in five or six parts, odds are your pee wouldn't go neon. This is because you were better able to absorb the B vitamins. The same goes for all the nutrients in your meals. (For the record, you don't need to do this. You're still getting plenty of benefit from your multivitamin without going through the stress of partitioning it.)

Another benefit of smaller meals is that, like eating slower, it helps you avoid stuffing yourself, which isn't great for digestion and, frankly, feels terrible.

4. Eat More Fiber

I'd need a whole separate article to explain all the benefits of fiber, but one of the most important things it does is to act like a broom to sweep your food down the intestinal hallway and shove what you don't use out the back door. Insoluble fiber is especially good for this and can be found in whole grains, seeds, nuts, and fruit and veggie skins.

But keep in mind, there is too much of a good thing. If you plan to up your fiber, do it slowly, maybe increasing it 5 grams a day. Otherwise, there's a good chance that you'll find yourself with a serious case of the toots. For most people, between 25 grams and 50 grams daily is a good range.

5. Eat Less Fried and Greasy Food

Fried Shrimp

This isn't an excuse to get you to eat less junk. Some fat in your diet is a good thing, but too much can overwhelm your system, which is why heartburn and acid reflux are common when you eat one Buffalo wing too many. They're also a trigger for diarrhea, so they're basically nailing your tract on both sides. On the other hand, not eating enough dietary fat can cause constipation, so make sure you get enough healthy fats in your diet, including omega-3 fatty acids from fish and flax, as well as nuts, avocados, seeds, and "good" oils such as extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil.

6. Supplement Your Diet With, Um, Supplements

All along your gastrointestinal tract are proteins called enzymes that break down the various macronutrients you've eaten. A few of the better known ones include protease, which breaks down protein; lipase, which breaks down fat; and amylase, which breaks down carbs. If you don't think they're doing the job, you can supplement with more digestive enzymes. Shakeology® happens to have an excellent enzyme blend that includes all the above-mentioned enzymes—and more.

Another supp proven to aid digestion are probiotics. Once food gets to your small intestine, a whole ecosystem of bacteria aid in breaking it down. Unfortunately, "bad" bacteria can often overwhelm "good" bacteria, so it's a good idea to send reinforcements down there from time to time in the form of probiotics. Shakeology also happens to contain an excellent probiotic strain: lactobacillus sporogenes, which has been proven to promote bowel health.

You can also get healthy bacteria from fermented foods like yogurt, kimchee, and kombucha.

7. Get Some Exercise

And you thought Brazil Butt Lift® was just for your rump! Working out helps keep things moving down south in a number of ways. It speeds up your metabolism, which speeds up digestion; it promotes blood flow, which makes all systems in your body run smoother; and it tones the muscles in your digestive tract. Now you can tell people you have a six-pack colon. (Don't actually do that. It's a joke.)

8. Keep a Food Journal

If you have digestive issues, you could have a food intolerance. The usual culprits are dairy, soy, and gluten. There are also foods that cause "intestinal discomfort" for many people, including beans and artificial sweeteners. Keeping track of everything you eat allows you to look for patterns in your digestion. When things aren't working properly, you can look back and make connections between that and what you ate, and if you're also tracking your exercise, your activity level. Also, if you get to the point that you need to see a nutritionist or dietician, they're going to ask you to journal anyway, so you might as well get a jump on the process. Just get yourself a notebook and write down everything you eat and drink, as well as how it makes you feel. (Here's a tip: "Bloated and gassy" is usually a bad sign.)

Digestion should come naturally. Unfortunately, in the age of processed food and sedentary lifestyles, it may need a little help. So follow these tips. With a little fine-tuning—and a lot of fiber—you'll be able to tell your bowels who's boss in no time.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Pumpkin and Red Lentil Soup!

From the Beachbody Kitchens...

Recipe: Pumpkin and Red Lentil Soup

Recipe: Pumpkin and Red Lentil Soup

(Makes 6 servings)

Pumpkin Soup and Red Lentil Soup
Pumpkin and lentils may not be a combo you typically think of, but trust us, it works. The pumpkin gives this spiced soup that seasonal taste that just screams autumn (the good parts, at least), not to mention a healthy dose of vitamin A. The lentils give it a velvety texture, as well as some extra protein and fiber. Combined, they make for a rich source of potassium, magnesium, and iron.

Total Time: 45 min.
Prep Time: 10 min.
Cooking Time: 35 min.


  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups cubed pumpkin (or butternut squash)
  • 1 cup dry red lentils
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • Cayenne pepper (to taste; optional)
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper (to taste; optional)


  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onion; cook, stirring frequently, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until translucent.
  3. Add garlic; cook for 1 minute, or until tender.
  4. Add pumpkin, lentils, and water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; gently boil, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until pumpkin is soft. Remove from heat.
  5. Place soup in a blender or food processor, in small batches; cover with lid and kitchen towel. Blend until smooth.
  6. Return soup to sauce pan over medium heat. Add ginger and cumin. Season with cayenne, salt, and pepper, if desired; cook, stirring constantly, until soup is hot.
  7. Ladle soup into 6 serving bowls.

Tip: Blend small batches of hot liquids in blender or food processor since they expand during the blending process, therefore increasing the chance of overflowing.

Nutritional Information (per serving):
CaloriesFatSaturated FatCholesterolSodiumCarbsFiberSugarProtein
1462 g0 g0 mg59 mg24 g4 g1 g9 g

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

When Should You Listen to Your Craving? - Guest Post from Team Beachbody

Ask the Expert: When Should I Listen to My Cravings?

By Denis Faye
Cravings can be intense—and often they go way beyond minor hankering. Surely, it can't just be that you want chocolate. There must be some reason that you need chocolate. Come on, please! Just a taste.

Dark Chocolate
Unfortunately, you probably don't. In most cases, cravings aren't a physiological function telling you what you need. In fact, it's much more like that that they're a dysfunction.

You might be aware of an infographic floating around the Interwebs featuring foods that people typically crave, along with micronutrients that (supposedly) trigger those cravings. If you desire bread, toast, or pasta, the graphic suggests you need more nitrogen in your diet. Salty foods mean you need chloride, chocolate suggests a need for magnesium, etc. You may notice a complete lack of references at the bottom of this chart. That's probably because there's no science backing up these claims—whatsoever. While the craving might stem from something more obvious—sugar, for example—it's highly unlikely that your yen for chocolate means you need more magnesium in your diet.

Why Do I Crave Chocolate and Other Foods That Aren't Good For Me?

Cravings are far more complex than this cause-and-effect chart suggests. While a subtle nutrient need may be partly to blame, cravings arise for several reasons—and tend to include a tangled web of psychology, hormones, and other physiological issues.

Let's go back to the chocolate/magnesium connection. By the time chocolate gets to the milked-down form most Americans consume, there's not much magnesium left. One ounce of milk chocolate contains just 4% of the recommended daily value for magnesium. Dark chocolate has 16%.

Why would the body seek out a food for a specific nutrient when that food has very little of that nutrient? Wouldn't it make more sense that your body would crave foods richer in magnesium, such as nuts, leafy greens, or beans? Your chocolate cravings probably exist for more insidious reasons. Some research shows similarities between chocolate cravings and alcohol addiction, in that both alcohol and cacao contain similar neuroactive alkaloids (chemicals that tweak your melon).1 In other words, research suggests that chocolate is addictive.

Another reason you could be craving that brownie is because of your emotional history with it. It's one of the great American comfort foods. We're brought up identifying chocolate with birthdays, Halloween, post-soccer game ice cream outings, and all those magic moments when you were a good little boy or girl who deserved a reward. If you can't see how that would etch a positive association neural pathway deep into your gray matter, we need to get Dr. Freud on the horn, stat.

Furthermore, unless you like chewing on cacao nibs (and some people do!), the chocolate you consume is filled with sugar—and sugar cranks up the "feel good" hormone serotonin (among other chemicals) levels in your brain, giving you a feeling of mild euphoria. When it's gone, you want more.2 Combine this sugar hit with the emotional issues and you've got one powerful craving.

I'm not ruling out the possibility of a causal relationship between cravings and micronutrients—but the key word here is possibility. For instance, when I first began road cycling seriously, I found myself with an irresistible craving for potato chips. It was only when I started adding sea salt to my recovery drink that those cravings passed. Similarly, pregnant women often crave foods that are high in nutrients they need. For example, she might crave cheeseburgers—an obvious source of calcium and iron.

If you're convinced that your particular craving stems from a micronutrient deficiency, there's an easy way to test this: supplement the vitamin or mineral you have in mind. Getting back to chocolate, if you buy into the magnesium thing, try supplementing Beachbody® Core Cal-Mag™. Another angle would be to embrace the psychology aspect of cravings and instead grab a bag of Chocolate Shakeology®, so that you can indulge yourself, but in a healthy way. (Not to beat a dead horse, but a serving of Shakeology contains 20% of the recommended daily value of magnesium.)

So I Shouldn't Trust My Cravings?

Maybe sometimes. With all this talk of micronutrients, we've overlooked another possible root cause for your craving—a macronutrient deficiency. You could be craving certain foods—or certain food types—because your balance of carbs, protein, and fat is off. While it's a stretch to assume your body desires a food because it contains trace amounts of a certain mineral, the causal link between foods and macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fat) is obvious. Eat a piece of carb-heavy cake and you're going to spike your blood sugar.


If you think this may be the case, feed the craving with healthy food. If you're craving sweet things, increase your fruit and veggie intake. If you crave greasy foods, increase your raw nut or avocado (good fats) intake. If you find yourself craving meat and cheese, increase your lean protein intake with chicken, fish, eggs, and legumes. If you do this and it doesn't work, odds are that your cravings are more psychologically based.

If you're deliberately eating at a calorie deficit, this method can be a problem. Ultimately, you're not getting enough of any macronutrient. In these situations, it might be useful to adjust the balance of carbs/protein/fat in your diet. So, for example, if you're in the middle of phase one of P90X® and you're jonesin' for sweet stuff, try switching to phase two, which features a carb increase.

Cravings suck. And when you're trying to lose weight, they suck even more, as calorie deficits tend to increase cravings.3 In our most frustrated, give-me-the-donut-before-I-kill-someone moments, we'd all like a simple solution. Unfortunately, it doesn't exist. Finding your way around cravings requires a little patience and experimentation. It's just a matter of finding a healthy substitute, a little willpower—or some combination thereof.

What do you crave? Why do you think that might be and how do you beat it? Tell us at


1. Tetrahydro-beta-carbolines, potential neuroactive alkaloids, in chocolate and cocoa. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
2. Sugar Addiction in Your Body, Not Your Mind. Psychology Today.
3. The effect of deprivation on food cravings and eating behavior in restrained and unrestrained eaters. The International Journal of Eating Disorders.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Water, water, water. What do you do?

Shaun T says (from the Focus T25 Challenge Group Guide): "Hydration, hydration, hydration! Water helps curb hunger. Shaun T suggests drinking half of your body weight in ounces of water each day. Not only will water keep you hydrated and quench thirst, it will ease your hunger."

I generally drink two full 12 ounces glasses of water first thing on arising in the morning, during the first hour or so while I'm checking on email and doing stuff like posting in Challenge Groups. The first glass makes all kinds of noise while it gurgles through my system. The second glass fills me up.

I don't keep track religiously through the day how much water I drink, but I always have a glass by my computer or chair. I usually don't drink anything during meals (something I learned doing The Beachbody Ultimate Reset), but if I remember I'll drink a glass about 20-30 minutes before each meal.

So how about you? What's your deal with drinking water?