#242 Happy Valentine's Day

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If music be the food of love, play on.

William Shakespeare

9 Aphrodisiacs to Heat Up Your Love Life

By Joe Wilkes

AphroditeNamed for Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, aphrodisiacs have been the stuff of legend and song throughout history. Lovers looking for a leg up in the libido department have gone to their shamans, medicine men, and herbalists for centuries, searching for the magic ingredient that will kick their mojo into high gear. And today the search has gone to the Internet. Anyone with a lackluster spam filter has probably scanned the hundreds of emails that arrive every day, advertising powdered rhinoceros horn or some unpronounceable chemical that promises to goose your or your partner's desires. The efficacy of these miracle products is extremely dubious (and in the case of the exotic animal parts, illegal), but there are plenty of products that you can find right in your grocery store or farmers' market that can potentially increase the heat between the sheets. Here are some common foods and why they might be able to put a little extra oomph into that special evening. And over half of them are in the top two tiers of Michi's Ladder, so you can have your cake and eat it, too! (Well, not cake, but asparagus and bananas!)

  1. OysterOysters. These are perhaps the classic aphrodisiacs of all time. The legendary lover Casanova reportedly consumed 50 oysters every day to keep his . . . um . . . stamina up. But until recently the powers of these bivalves were only backed up by anecdotal evidence and testimonials by mollusk-loving Lotharios. Recently though, studies have shown that oysters and their shellfish brethren including clams, scallops, and mussels, all contain chemical compounds that may aid in the release of testosterone, estrogen, and other sex hormones in both men and women. Oysters are also full of zinc, a deficiency of which can cause impotence in men, another reason they can be man's best friend in the bedroom. And then of course, there's the conventional wisdom that if you'll eat an oyster, you'll eat anything.

  2. ChocolateChocolate. What's more associated with Valentine's Day than chocolate? The ancient Aztecs considered chocolate to be an aphrodisiac for both men and women, and when the Europeans got wind of its inhibition-lowering properties, it wasn't long before the candy treat became a must-have when pitching woo. Casanova and famed Louis XV courtesan Madame du Barry were reported to be great believers in the powers of chocolate and there may have been something to it. Chocolate contains the chemicals phenylethylamine and serotonin, which are also naturally occurring chemicals in the brain, usually released when we are happy or in love. Its chemicals can literally cause your heart to beat a little faster. Add to that a boost of caffeine and sugar, and it can be a pretty good pick-me-up with a small side of euphoria.

  3. FigFigs. Maybe it wasn't just the apple in the Garden of Eden that got things going. Remember, Adam and Eve ended up covering themselves in fig leaves. And, it was also the favorite fruit of Cleopatra, who was certainly no slouch in the ways of love. In ancient Greece, fertility rituals would often follow the first fig harvest and Greek portrayals of bacchanalia usually also included some fig action. In some European countries, figs are thrown instead of rice at newly married couples (ouch!) as symbols of fertility.

  4. Banana02Bananas. In the Islamic version of the tale, Adam and Eve covered themselves with banana leaves rather than fig leaves. Bananas are also considered a fertility symbol by the Hindus. Bananas can really get you going with high levels of potassium and B vitamins which aid production of your hormones. Bananas also contain the protease bromelain, which is believed to help circulation.

  5. AsparagusAsparagus. It is rich in vitamin E which is critical to production of hormones. It also contains a lot of folic acid which the body needs to produce histamines. And histamines are the chemical compounds that cause muscle contractions. A word of caution though, too much asparagus can cause flatulence, which might make the whole romantic plan backfire (no pun intended).

  6. AvocadosAvocados. The Aztecs referred to the avocado tree as Ahuacuatl or "testicle tree." Apparently, the fruit usually hangs in pairs. There appears to be little besides anecdotal evidence to support its claim as an aphrodisiac, though it is rich in many nutrients like vitamins B6, C, and E. The California Avocado Commission conducted a Valentine's Day survey in 2000 of experts, 63 percent of whom concluded that the avocado does have some aphrodisiac qualities, some of which could be attributed to recently discovered phytochemicals.

  7. CaviarCaviar. This fish-egg delicacy has been enjoyed by lovers for centuries, including, of course, Casanova (which increasingly leads me to believe a lot of women were just sleeping with him to get to the buffet). Caviar is known for its silky texture. Naturally, eggs are common fertility symbols, but there may also be some chemical reasons they are rated so highly on the love-maker's diet. Like oysters, they are high in zinc, and also are rich in vitamins A and D and omega-3 fatty acids. They also are high in arginine, an amino acid which acts as a vasodilator, widening blood vessels and increasing blood flow.

  8. TrufflesTruffles. Not the chocolate kind (although those count under "Chocolate") but the expensive underground mushroom kind that pigs and dogs root out of the ground. Unlike other foods, it is the musky scent of the truffle that is believed to be what gets us going. Scientists have recently discovered that black truffles contain the pheromone androstenol. There is some debate over how much human beings are affected by pheromones, but truffles have been considered to be aphrodisiacs for centuries, and this could be one explanation why.

  9. ChampagneChampagne. When we think of romantic beverages, the list pretty much begins and ends with champagne. Most of the effects of champagne seem to be largely psychological though. The purchase of an expensive beverage may set the mood for a special evening, and a mystique has been built in the media about the drink and its drinkers from Marie Antoinette to Marilyn Monroe. But scientifically speaking, its amorous effects seem to come from the same place as most alcoholic beverages. But alcohol appears to have no positive effect on sexual function and when overindulged will usually move you in the other direction. It does however lead to a loss of inhibition and a decrease in judgment—in other words, a prelude to a kiss.

Joe WilkesIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just 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 Sweat with Your Sweetie

By Denis Faye

What are you doing for your sweetheart on Valentine's Day? Dinner and a movie? A box of chocolates? Who are you? Forrest Gump? Come on! You're working towards a firm, hard body! Who wants to sit around and eat junk? You can do better than that! But how do you do that and keep the romance dialed up to 11 at the same time? Here are a few ideas:

  1. SkiCross-country skiing. While hitting the slopes might dial up the adrenaline, going cross-country is a much better way to spend a quiet, romantic few hours alone with your beloved, checking out the winter wonderland. Plus, it's a much better prolonged cardio workout, therefore burning more calories than downhill skiing. Score extra points with your date by packing a thermos full of hot cider.

    Three hours of cross-country skiing = approx. 2,700 calories.

  2. SkatesIce skating. Pretty much every romantic movie ever made has an obligatory lovey-dovey-on-the-ice-rink scene. If it's good enough for Hollywood, it's good enough for us! If you're seeking a slightly more credible source, look to Ice Skating—Steps to Success by Karin Künzle-Watson and Dr. Stephen J. DeArmond, which explains that the sport manages to be both low-impact and high-energy while improving strength and coordination—provided you don't fall down too much. If there are no frozen lake beds or indoor rinks in your area, roller skating works in a pinch.

    One hour of ice skating, moderate speed = approx. 400 calories

  3. CampCold weather camping. Yeah, yeah, it doesn't seem mushy from the sound of it, but you'll spend your days hiking or backpacking, your evenings huddled by the fire, and your nights? Well, once you tuck into your sleeping bag, you might want to feign a little hypothermia because, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the best ways to fight the condition is to "use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels, or sheets." Sounds good to us!

    Two hours of backpacking = approx. 1,100 calories
    One hour of "fighting hypothermia" = approx. 190 calories

  4. RockRock climbing. Again, how is this romantic? While you scale the wall, your lover holds your safety line. He or she is the only thing between "climbing" you and "pile-of-broken-bones-on-the-floor" you. Scary? Yes, but that´s a good thing. According to Purdue University communications professor Glenn Sparks, fear's physiological stimulation can intensify any positive emotions following the experience—making the moment you share once you're down from the wall all the more special.

    Two hours of rock climbing, including belaying = approx. 800 calories

  5. UrbanUrban sightseeing. So your hometown isn't exactly the City of Lights, but surely you can fashion some sort of romantic stroll on the local streets. If you find some sort of map and guide, great. If you can't, all the better. You'll be getting some low-impact aerobic benefit, sure. But you'll also be alone with your date in a situation that doesn't require shoving food in your mouth or watching a screen or focusing on your workout. In other words, the two of you will have plenty of time to talk, which works wonders on any relationship, new or old.

    Three hours walking at 3 mph = approx. 1,000 calories

And if it's too bitter cold outside, you and your sweetheart can always pop in a Beachbody fitness video to get your heart pumping!

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your Valentine's Day IQ!

By Joe Wilkes
  1. I Love YouWho was the first to declare Valentine's Day an official holiday in 1537? It was that old romantic King Henry VIII. His motto was "True Heart" and he had a heart and the word "loyal" sewn onto his clothes—ironic in light of his six marriages. But to this day nothing says "I love you" like a heart or "it's over" like a beheading.

  2. What was invented by NECCO in 1866? The NECCO company, maker of the delicious NECCO wafers, invented "Conversation Hearts" in 1866. With new sayings added every year, more than 8 billion are expected to be sold between January 1 and February 14 this year.

  3. ValentineThe city of Verona receives 1,000 letters for whom every Valentine's Day? The lucky lady is Juliet, the star-crossed lover immortalized in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Undeterred by the fact that she is both dead and fictional, every year around 1,000 correspondents wish her many happy returns on the day.

  4. What product was introduced on Valentine's Day in 1929? Penicillin. Discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928 and introduced to the public on Valentine's Day the following year (the same day as the infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre). Maybe not the most romantic product, but one which has cleared up the side effects of many an unprotected encounter.

  5. Valentine #2Who sent the earliest known Valentine's Day card? Charles, the Duke of Orleans sent his wife a love poem in 1415 while imprisoned in the Tower of London. The valentine is now in the British Museum.

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