Extreme Newsletter—Diet and fitness tips, recipes, and motivation

Issue #053 THE FACTS ABOUT GLUTEN

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Gluten-Free Diets: Are They Healthier for You?

By Whitney Provost

What do some celebrities, a former president, and the Old Spice® guy have in common? They've switched to gluten-free diets. These days, you can't swing a grocery bag without hitting gluten-free pasta, cookies, and even beer. So what's the deal?

Sliced Bread

It seems that gluten is the latest dietary demon to make headlines. Madonna served gluten-free food at her 52nd birthday party. Gwyneth Paltrow writes about gluten-free recipes on her Web site. The White House pastry chef says former president Clinton is allergic to wheat flour. And Isaiah Mustafa—the Old Spice guy—says he gave up gluten to stay lean (in addition to working out with Tony Horton!).

Some people eliminate gluten in hopes of alleviating digestive issues like abdominal pain and bloating. Others claim going gluten-free helps them overcome fatigue. Still more people think it'll help them lose weight faster. If you're wondering whether you should go gluten-free, let's explore the subject a bit further.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. It gives dough its elastic texture and acts as the "glue" that holds it together. It's also added to many processed foods. Some common sources of gluten are:

  • Beer
  • Bran
  • Bread
  • Candy
  • Cereal
  • Crackers
  • Ice cream
  • Ketchup
  • Lunch meats
  • Pasta
  • Soups and sauces
  • Soy sauce

Could you be allergic to gluten?

Most people have no trouble eating foods that contain gluten. For those with celiac disease, however, gluten is a toxin that can damage the small intestine and lead to nutrient deficiencies. Symptoms of celiac disease include abdominal pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea, fatigue, itchy rashes, and unintended weight loss. Over time, people with untreated celiac disease can experience iron-deficiency anemia, decreased bone density, irritable bowel syndrome, infertility, and vitamin B12 deficiency, among other health problems.

According to the Celiac Disease Center at The University of Chicago, true celiac disease affects only about 1 percent of the population. Proper diagnosis requires a blood test and a biopsy of the small intestine. So what about all the other people who believe that gluten makes them sick? They may actually be gluten sensitive, which is a less severe but more common reaction. The symptoms are similar (abdominal pain, bloating, fatigue) but they go away quickly after cutting gluten out of your diet for a while, and there's no lasting intestinal damage.

Giving up gluten to lose weight

FruitSome people swear that going gluten-free has helped them lose weight. But according to Dee Sandquist, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, their weight loss is probably a result of eating fewer calories. When people eliminate gluten, they're less likely to eat fast food and packaged foods and more likely to consume fresh fruits and vegetables. So in many cases, a healthier diet and lower calorie intake is likely the reason for the weight loss, not just giving up bread and cereal.

Here's something else to consider: If you give up gluten in hopes of losing weight, you may be putting your health at risk. Grains are excellent sources of B vitamins, fiber, folate, vitamin D, iron, zinc, and magnesium, and eliminating them completely can lead to nutritional deficiencies and possible illness. Gluten-free diets need to be carefully structured to make up for missing vitamins and nutrients.

The bottom line

If you've been diagnosed with celiac disease, it's very important to eliminate gluten from your diet. And if you think you're sensitive to gluten, you may want to cut back on grain-rich foods and see if you feel better. For the rest of us, however, gluten is a perfectly fine and healthy addition to a balanced diet. There's no reason to avoid it in moderation. So go ahead and eat your Wheaties® before your next P90X® or INSANITY® workout. Or better yet, drink Shakeology®. It's certified gluten-free!

Related Articles
"Going Grainless, P90X® Style"
"7 Days, 7 Breakfasts"
"Eating for Great Abs"

Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Steve Edwards, the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development (who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards), in the Beachbody Chat Room on Monday, November 1st, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT.

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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Why Confused Muscles Get Strong Faster

By Steve Edwards

With the popularity of P90X, the term Muscle Confusion� is getting a lot of play in the media. And while many people credit it as the reason P90X is effective, not many people understand what it means, much less how it works. Today, we'll briefly examine what Muscle Confusion is and why it's so effective.

Muscle Confusion� Graph

Peaking

I think it will be easier to comprehend if we work backward. The whole idea is based around creating a fitness peak. P90X starts and ends with a fit test. We don't have you take the fit test mid-program because your progress curve is not supposed to be steady. Instead, the program is designed with phases that take a while to master. As you are attempting this mastery, confusion reigns, and your performance may not be all that great. But when you put it all together, and the various bits that have been confusing your body all come together, the result is a period of peak fitness.

One of the concepts that seems the hardest to impart to our P90X athletes is how (or why) to peak. Most Xers don't consider themselves athletes because they lack performance-oriented goals—they just want to look good or feel better. But it's important to understand that all training at the level of P90X adheres to athletic principles. And athletic training always builds around a peak period when you need your body to perform at its best. Following this template doesn't just work for athletes. It works for anyone training at a high level.

Periodization

The entire theory of Muscle Confusion is based on something called periodization, which is basically training in targeted cycles that keep your body from getting too used to your schedule. The goal of periodizational training is to minimize performance plateaus and keep your improvements happening for a specific amount of time. All periodized programs are structured with a progression of training blocks designed around a peak. This is why most of our customers get their best results during the latter phases of our programs, especially with P90X.

Adapt, master, transition

Muscle Confusion� WorksheetThe training blocks are laid out with a plan. Your body begins each block faced with something new. This forces you to adapt to it. The stress of this process leads to accelerated improvements. When your body is used to the new regimen, it has a short period where it makes even greater improvements, which is called a growth or mastery phase. Finally, you get so used to the training that your results begin to plateau, at which time it's best to transition into something else.

Timing is everything

You don't always want to be in a state of confusion, so it's important to be aware of when your body should transition. This can be difficult, but with experience, you get better at it. Moderately intense programs like Power 90®, customized for clients who are out of shape, have a structure that is less rigid because the adaptation period takes longer. Conversely, the fitter you are, the quicker your body reacts to training and the quicker it adapts.

Most science shows that a 3-week-on, 1-week-off cycle of training is about as short as you can go to maximize the adaptive and growth phases. That's why we've used this in P90X. This isn't set in stone. If you read the fine print of your guide, you'll see that we do recommend that you set each block to your own schedule. Ultimately, what's important is that you halt the growth phase before a plateau occurs and that you see the full cycle through to its end.

Don't get happy! Attack!

A friend of mine was in a wrestling tournament and his opponent's coach kept yelling to his wrestler, "Don't get happy! Attack!" His vitriolic approach was so over the top that my friend started laughing and almost lost, but his message was a verbal equivalent of Muscle Confusion. You teach your muscles something new until they master it. Then, before they get happy, you launch into something else and force them to respond.

Although he wasn't speaking of Muscle Confusion, I think Arnold Schwarzenegger summed the process up quite succinctly in the film Stay Hungry. When asked why he didn't take it easy more often, he said, "I don't want to get too comfortable. I'd rather stay hungry."

Related Articles
"The 3 Rules of Intensity"
"A Girl's Guide to P90X"
"1st Law of Exercise: Variety"

Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Steve Edwards, the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development (who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards), in the Beachbody Chat Room on Monday, November 1st, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT.

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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Too Young to Go INSANE?

While our Beachbody® general counsel would like us to mention that anyone still in diapers should consult their pediatrician before beginning an extreme exercise program like INSANITY, we couldn't resist this video posted by bjoseph77 of his son Ethan busting a move with him as he Digs Deeper. Click here and get ready to awwwwww...

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Recipe: Zesty Chicken with Brown Rice

Zesty Chicken with Brown Rice

Here's a healthy recipe with a great carb-to-protein ratio. Lean chicken, veggies, and fiber-rich brown rice make this one-dish wonder a perfect meal. Makes great leftovers for lunch the next day, too!

  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, low-sodium
  • 1 cup chili sauce, low-sodium
  • 1-1/2 cups green pepper, chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups celery, chopped
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tsp. dried)
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped (or 1 tsp. dried)
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil

Heat 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add rice and stir until it starts to crackle (about 2 minutes). Add water and 1/2 tsp. of salt. Cover pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to cook for about 30 minutes, until rice is soft. In a deep skillet, add 1 Tbsp. of olive oil and preheat over high heat. Cook chicken in skillet until no longer pink (about 4 minutes). Reduce heat and add all other ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover for 10 minutes. Serve over the cooked brown rice. Makes 4 servings.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
310 31 g 5 g 43 g 6 g 1 g

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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