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The Best and Worst Cocktails

By Steve Edwards

If you want a drink, you want a drink, and all the bad press you read isn't likely to quench your thirst. So the Nutrition 911 on alcohol will be to skip the boring science and discuss what to do when you're going to drink. Besides, studies keep telling us that a bit of alcohol in your diet enhances your health and lengthens your life span. All you may know now is that the last time you hit the bar, you woke up feeling like someone was using a rototiller on your brain, leaving you to wonder, "How can this have been good for me?"

Wine Glasses

The truth is it isn't. A hangover means you've done damage that needs to be reversed. Unfortunately, a common remedy is a greasy meal, which further damages your system and hinders your weight loss plans. But there's no doubt that a drink every now and then can help lift your spirits and diminish stress. But all cocktails are not created equal. Just like making smart choices with the foods you eat, imbibing with a plan can be the difference between extending your life and maintaining your P90X®, Slim in 6®, or ChaLEAN Extreme® results, and getting to know your Domino's delivery guy on a first-name basis. Let's get started, class, with this week's Nutrition 911: The Best and Worst Cocktails.

The Best

  1. Red WineRed wine. Much has been written about wine's high antioxidant content, the chemical resveratrol, and how wine drinkers are the healthiest sect of those who imbibe regularly. A handful of large-scale, long-term studies on wine have shown that those who drink heavily outlive teetotalers, and those who drink in moderation outlive everyone. This has led to a huge increase in wine production in the U.S.

    Keep in mind that while you hear a lot about the difference between red and white wines, in virtually every study, both have been shown to improve health. Red wine and its high antioxidant content gain most of the attention, but two recent studies gave white wine a higher rating for both free radical reduction and cardiovascular health. It seems that you can't go wrong either way.

    Downside . . . . The sulfates in red wine negatively affect many people, often leading to an inability to sleep. And if you can't sleep, you're offsetting all of the positive effects. Consider checking the alcohol content listed on the bottle—the recent trend has been toward high-alcohol-content wines. By drinking high-alcohol wines, it might seem like you're getting more bang for the buck. While that may be true, do you really want the bang, or just a nice accoutrement to dinner?

  2. Microbrews. On a percentage basis, only microbrewed beer production has increased more than wine production in the U.S. The reason for this trend is generally credited to mass-produced American beer, which beer snobs think tastes worse than stagnant water. But another reason is that microbrewed beer is healthier—much healthier, in fact.
    Most mass-produced beers in the U.S. are cheaply made, relying on ingredients like corn, rice, additives, colorings, and flavorings (oddly enough, the same things that make up most of the junk you can buy at 7-Eleven®). Microbrews adhere to the European codes for beer production, which dictate that it's made from barley, hops, wheat, and water. A good microbrew contains protein (more than double, in fact), more electrolytes (quadruple), and many times more vitamins and assorted phytonutrients (like flavonoids) than cheap beer. In fact, microbrewed beer is better for you than most sports drinks, sometimes even for sports.

    Downside . . . . It can be part of the recovery process, but don't try making it do all the work. Beer still contains alcohol, and if you down beer as though it were Gatorade®, you'll wind up with a hangover that will impede your sports performance.

  3. Guinness StoutGuinness stout. In Ireland, the saying goes that Guinness is food. And sure enough, it tastes like it. Thick, rich, and syrupy, one Guinness can feel as satisfying as a case of Bud Light®. It's also low in calories and high in iron, making it one of the best choices if you're going for a mass-produced beer.

    Downside . . . . It can be addicting. When one doesn't do the trick anymore, you can quickly pile on calories. And remember that most calories in beer come from alcohol.

  4. Top-shelf alcohol of any kind. Straight, on the rocks, or with water. The means of producing hard alcohol ensure that you're getting what you pay for. Cheap stuff isn't made with a high-quality distillation process, leaving it with all sorts of impurities and a taste that renders it to be mainly used as a mixer with nonalcoholic, and usually highly caloric, substances. Top-shelf stuff, whether it's bourbon, vodka, or even rum, is made to be consumed alone, or with water. Slowly savoring your drink is a great way to make sure that you don't overdo it. Cost is another. It's much better to slowly relish a glass of Blanton's than to power down a fifth of Old Grand-Dad and Coke®.

    Downside . . . . The cost of providing for your top-shelf-only habit could lead to enough extra stress down at the office to offset the stress you're relieving with your drink.

  5. Vodka soda. Vodka is the purest of the hard alcohols, and soda is mainly water. Add a couple of limes, and you've got a clean and refreshing cocktail with very few calories.

    Downside . . . . It's so clean and refreshing, it's hard to be restrained. If you have four of these, you might as well have just had that strawberry margarita you wanted in the first place.

The Worst

  1. Scorpion. Or just about anything you'll find at the Kon Tiki Inn, Trader Vic's, or any place where a drink is referred to as "grog." If there's anything worse than mixing a lot of sugar-based alcohols together, it's mixing them with a bunch of sugary juices in a bowl that's big enough for six. Drink one of these, and be prepared to skip the entire drunken process and head straight to the hangover.

  2. Long Island Iced TeaLong Island Iced Tea. Forget the word "tea." There are no antioxidants to be found in this concoction of five different alcohols, sweet and sour mix, and Coke. A few of these and you might as well put in a wake-up call to Domino's.

  3. Red Bull® and vodka. If you want to be a supercharged drunk, here ya go. One of the main offenders of the hangover is your inability to sleep well after a night on the town. Nothing enhances the chance of seeing dawn's early light like a couple of these. The only positive is that maybe you'll dance all night and work off the calories. Hopefully, you don't have to work the next day.

  4. Jack and Coke. You might as well just mainline your whiskey. Nothing's better than Coke for creating a sugar rush. Adding alcohol to this mix creates the perfect atmosphere for a bar fight. The only saving grace is that being drunk impairs your reflexes. Losing a couple of late-night melees could lead to some restraint.

  5. Piña ColadaPiña colada. The only thing more densely caloric than alcohol is fat, and this baby combines the two, along with all the sugar you need to guarantee a hangover. The result is a virtually nutrition-free milk shake that contains half of your daily caloric requirement. The only possible bright side is that you're only likely to feel comfortable drinking one of these on an island where you have ample opportunity to shed the pounds you gained the night before.

Related Articles
"Nutrition 911, Part XIV: Energy Drinks – Do They Really Give You Wings?"
"10 Steps to Improve Your Brainpower"
"Your Brain on Exercise"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, June 1st, at 7:00 PM ET, 4:00 PM PT, in the Beachbody Chatroom!


Steve Edwards If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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5 Ways to Sneak Fitness into Family Time

By Suzy Buglewicz

After spending several hours a day at a desk job or sitting in traffic while shuttling overscheduled kids from one activity to the next, it's tempting for families to want to spend their downtime plopped on the couch. The next time you find yourself with an hour or so of unscheduled free time, grab the kids and get moving. Research shows that families that work out together are more likely to stick with it, since they can motivate and encourage each other. And exercising as a family has multiple benefits, from being able to spend quality time with those you love and committing to an active lifestyle, to reducing stress and increasing energy levels. But you don't have to call it exercise. Here are six activities that let families play together, and promote fit and healthy lifestyles.

Family Outings

  1. Play in the park. Grab an assortment of balls and equipment from the garage (soccer ball, football, basketball, and baseball and gloves), along with a Frisbee® and the family dog. Pack a cooler with some water and snacks, and head to your local park with the family for an afternoon of fresh air and playtime. You'll all have so much fun that you won't even realize you're getting a workout.

  2. Kids SwimmingGo swimming. Swimming is a great way to stay in shape. It's an excellent workout for people of all ages. Depending on the time of year and where you live, you can head to your local indoor or outdoor pool for fun and affordable family playtime. Swimming helps improve balance, endurance, and posture, and it's one of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise.

    Swimming regularly can also increase self-esteem in kids as they become more comfortable in the water and learn to master their strokes. Get some rings and diving sticks, and take turns diving for them. If your kids are young, sign them up for swimming lessons—they can get their lessons while you work out in the lap lanes. Be sure young kids are never left unattended, and remember the sunscreen if you're outside!

  3. Take a hike. A family hike involves a little more planning than other activities, but the benefits are well worth it. Plan the trail level and hike length around the group's abilities and experience. If it's your first family hike, start with a mostly flat trail that's no more than 1 mile round-trip (you don't want to start carrying your kids halfway through the hike). Gradually increase the length and trail difficulty with each hike.

    Bring a few lightweight backpacks with healthy snacks and water bottles. Keep the kids interested by letting them carry the trail map, and having them look for specific items, like interesting wildflowers or rock formations. Most metropolitan towns have family friendly trails offering easy to moderately difficult hiking trails. To find a trail near you, visit LocalHikes.com.

  4. Family BikingGo for a bike ride. A family bike ride is a great way to get out of the house and get a workout at the same time. Cycling is also one of the best ways to tone and strengthen the upper leg and calf muscles. Turn a family bike ride into an outing by biking to a specific destination (maybe the corner ice cream shop for frozen yogurt?). Make sure everyone wears a helmet and the appropriate gear. And follow the rules of the road!

  5. Jump rope. Rope jumping dates back to 1,600 AD, when the Egyptians used vines for jumping. Nowadays, it's a great way to burn off energy, reduce stress, improve coordination and endurance, and sing your favorite rhyming songs. Jumping rope at a moderate pace can burn up to 800 calories an hour. For variety, try double Dutch, which is when a person jumps through two jump ropes at the same time. Or invite the neighbors over and have a jump-roping contest, and follow up with an assortment of healthy snacks. You just might start a new tradition.

Sidebar: More Tips for Staying Fit as a Family

  • Get a pedometer for every member of the family. The American Heart Association recommends 10,000 steps a day to stay heart-healthy. Have a family contest and see who can log the most steps in a day.
  • Family Playing SoccerInvest in a family membership at your local YMCA or recreation center. That way, everyone can work out in any kind of weather; you can choose from various activities that will appeal to individual talents and interests.
  • Let the kids take turns choosing a family activity that promotes fitness, and make sure everyone participates!

Related Articles
"6 Healthy Foods that Are Easy on Your Wallet"
"7 Tips for Healthy Lunches Kids Will Love"
"5 Reasons to Work It Out with Shaun T's Fit Kids"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, June 1st, at 7:00 PM ET, 4:00 PM PT, in the Beachbody Chatroom!


Suzy BuglewiczIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.


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Test Your Fitness IQ!

By Valerie Watson

Because May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, let's test your knowledge of physical fitness devices through the ages. See if you can rank these vintage exercise products from oldest to newest.

  1. Medicine Ball Medicine ball: 3,000 years ago. Believe it or not, the medicine ball was first used nearly 3,000 years ago in ancient Persia as an aid in physical training, and later in ancient Greece (ca. 350 BC) by Hippocrates for his patients' rehabilitation and conditioning. He's better known for the Hippocratic Oath, though, because "Do no harm" is more dignified than "Ooofff!"

  2. Pogo stick: 1919. First patented in 1919 by George Hansburg, the pogo stick has made the transition from primitive means of locomotion to children's toy to device for performing backflips and other aerial stunts and tricks (known as Stunt or Extreme Pogo).

  3. Wham-O! Hula Hoop®: 1958. Although primitive wooden hoops have been used throughout history as toys for rolling or spinning, in 1958, the familiar Wham-O! plastic model with the shoop-shoop sound was first trademarked by Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin (no relation to Larry "Bud" Melman).

  4. RollerbladingRollerblade® in-line skates: 1980. The Olson brothers of Minnesota founded the company that would become Rollerblade, Inc., in 1980. Originally intended as a way for the hockey-playing Olsons to stay in shape during the off-season, in-line skating soon became its own sport—nay, virtually its own lifestyle.



If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Reviews
Total number of Reviews: 4
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"You forgot to mention that hooping has made a comeback in the past few years. There are now a lot of adult-sized hoops available so that you can get in on the action even though you're older and bigger, and it's a really great workout, both cardiovascular and especially for the core, arms, and back. You can incorporate all sorts of different moves using different body parts into beautiful hoopdances, too."

– Rebecca, Evanston, WY

"I really enjoyed your article. I am just beginning the third week of P90X and it answered many questions I have had regarding alcohol consumption. As an avid homebrewer I have only one nit to pick. When talking about the ingredients in well-made European and microbrewed beer you left out the single most important ingredient of all...yeast. Brewer's yeast is chockfull of vitamins and is the magic catalyst for producing interesting and flavorable beer."

– Kevin Harvill, Flower Mound, TX

"thanks for that correction. i shouldn't have left that out, since i used to eat brewer's yeast as a supplement."

– steve edwards, la, CA

"This was the perfect article for getting ready for the July 4th bbq weekend. I have a fabulous idea for a grilled veggie salad with quinoa. Thanks for the great ideas. I also found the writing style to be LOL funny."

– Angela Lynne Johnson, Los Angeles, CA

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