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


You're tougher than you think.

Tony Horton

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Consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.


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8 Misleading Fitness "Facts"

By Steve Edwards

When it comes to your well-being, not much pricks up your ears like the word miracle. But when referring to health and fitness, the word miracle is generally synonymous with the word scam. That is, unless finding yourself suddenly motivated to exercise and eat better is something you would consider a miracle. Other than that, miracles don't exist.

Healthy Meal and Woman on a Workout Machine

At Beachbody®, we're always on the lookout for the next great thing. We analyze every diet, every workout, and every medical breakthrough that promises to reverse the obesity epidemic and make the real world look like, well, the set of The Real World. Without fail, what we find is that the only "miracle" breakthroughs are those that expand on what we already know—that only through exercise and diet will you effectively change your body and your health for good. Let's take a look at eight marketing miracles that fail to do much more considered miraculous than make their creators rich. We'll interpret each one and let you know how each claim may have a positive effect on your life.

  1. SupplementsYou can get thin with a supplement. One of the most common questions we get is whether or not our programs will work without the supplements. Given how many claims there are about miracle cures involving a pill, this question makes sense. What doesn't make sense is that when we tell people that diet and exercise are the major components of our programs, they often become skeptical. We've been led to believe by advertisers that the reason we're overweight or out of shape is because there's a secret ingredient in some supplement that we've been missing. This, to put it a noninflammatory way, is not how it works. The obesity epidemic is the result of two rather simple numbers: we eat about 5 percent more calories than we once did, and we exercise about 20 percent less than we once did.

    This in no way means that supplements are worthless. While there are many shady supplement manufacturers in the marketplace, the reason we have supplements at all is because they can be effective in keeping us healthy. The use of supplements goes back thousands of years. Traditional medicines were the original supplements. There have been many advancements in the modern world, but basically, those same herbs and nutrients that aided people's health once upon a time have the same effects today. But they weren't miracle cures in the old days, and they still aren't. This is the reason we refer to our programs as being supplement-assisted exercises.

  2. Medicine can make you healthy. Medicine can make you not sick, but it can't make you healthy. Along with curing diseases and injuries, doctors now inject, alter, and prescribe us into becoming healthier-appearing beings. Cosmetic medical advancements are indeed impressive, but let's not lose sight of the facts. The human body needs exercise and nutrients to run smoothly. There is no way to chemically change this. There are certainly medical alterations that can be done to change our bodies once they've been misused and started to fall apart. And there are drugs and other chemical alterations that can reverse certain conditions. But try as they might, scientists have yet to come up with a way for us not to need to exercise and eat properly so we can perform to the best of our abilities. We may be able to increase our natural abilities using medicine, but without the fundamental groundwork that is exercise and what we eat, no amount of medical help will allow us to live long and vibrant lives.

  3. Book: Flat Belly Diet!You can get ripped with the right diet. With Flat Belly Diet on the bestseller list and Abs Diet on the cover of Men's Health, it may be hard to believe that no diet alone is going to land you on the cover of a Joe Weider publication. Dieting can help you lose weight and greatly improve your health. But since that isn't what marketers like to spin, it's generally not what they pitch. The only diet that will give you ripped abs is a starvation diet. And that one comes with a lot of undesirable side effects.

    Many of these diets, including Flat Belly Diet and Abs Diet, are basically very healthy. But if you want your body to look ripped, you need to exercise and diet. A healthy body can look lean but rarely ripped. A muscular body with too much fat won't look ripped either. Only a healthy and muscular body can allow you to both look ripped and perform well. A starved body will be both lean and ripped in appearance, but this is not due to your body being healthy—rather, it's due to the catabolic state you enter as your body feeds on its muscle for survival.

  4. You can have a six-pack by only working out your abs. Ab work will make your abdominal muscles strong, but you won't be able to see them unless your diet is in line with your exercise regimen. The easiest and quickest way to see your abs is to work your entire body intensely and eat well. The more muscle you add to your frame—your entire frame—the more your metabolism will increase, the more fat your body will burn while you're at rest, and the sooner your ab muscles will appear. And of course, the cleaner you eat, the faster you will make this happen.

    Six-pack abs—like most things used to gauge fitness—are a function of one's overall health and condition. They won't pop up on their own.� But you're also not wasting your time working on them. Your core, which is in part your abs, is the foundation that all of your movements are based on. Having a strong core is the single most important aspect of being physically fit.

  5. Healthy MealOne supplement can make up for a bad diet. We love miracles, especially when they don't require much work on our part. That's why we're always looking for a pill we can take that will make up for our bad habits. Supposed muscle-enhancing supplements have been available since Jack LaLanne invented the Universal Gym, but in the last decade, we've also been bombarded with things promising the opposite. Fat blockers, carb blockers, diet pills, cleansing pills, and so on all promise to rid us of something we wished we hadn't eaten in the first place. Unfortunately, this can't be done.

    There are many good dietary supplements, but heed the word "dietary." Supplements work along with the other factors of your diet. Nothing can even hint at offsetting a poor diet. In fact, one of the main advantages of supplements is exactly the opposite: they make the biggest difference when you're dieting already. Basically, supplements are condensed nutrients. When you're exercising and also attempting to lose weight, it becomes difficult to get all of the nutrients your body requires to recover from exercise. This is the realm of the highly effective supplement. Proper supplementation can allow you to eat fewer calories than you normally could and still allow you to recover from hard workouts, which greatly enhances your results. Beachbody's ActiVit® Multivitamin is a great way to make sure you get the nutrients you need each day to get the most out of your fitness program.

  6. Cardio is the only exercise you need. Cardio isn't even a scientific term for a type of exercise, yet it's still often trumpeted as the be-all and end-all for exercise effectiveness. In my experience, this is often a cop-out by medical practitioners who feel the need to recommend exercise but don't want to risk being specific. Cardio as a general term means anything affecting the heart. The problem with interpreting the term is that everything you do has an effect on your heart. And although intense exercise works the heart much more than easy aerobic exercise does, it seems that most people define cardio as aerobic, meaning low-level movement. And low-level movement is not the only exercise you need, unless your physical state inhibits you from doing something more intense.

    The key to changing your body composition, staying young, and remaining healthy is to do short bouts of high-intensity exercise. If done correctly, this is all the "cardio" you need. It also promotes muscle breakdown and hormonal releases that have a pronounced effect on your health. All "cardio" training is good, including low-level aerobic training. However, it just shouldn't be the only exercise you do.

  7. Old Workout MachinesYou can plug in and get ripped. Remember the old exercise machine that had a strap you placed around your butt that would vibrate like a washing machine? Back in the '60s, this odd contraption filled fitness centers worldwide and undoubtedly made someone a lot of money. It also never shed a pound off of anyone. And even though it's used in many gimmick jokes, we just can't stop trying to replicate it. If you ever see an advertisement for something that does all the work for you and claims you'll look better because of it, start searching for the remote. The calories you burn looking for it will exceed any amount you'll burn using the device.

    As is the case with most gimmicks, there is a scientific example at their root somewhere. Most of these modern contraptions are some type of electronic muscle stimulation (EMS) device. These machines use electrodes to contract your muscles while you do nothing. They were designed for physical therapy and work well within this application of keeping your muscle tissue from atrophying when you can't work your muscles naturally. So, yes, these machines do build muscle. But they lack the ability to stimulate anything near what you would do naturally. To keep the type of physique you would acquire in a round of P90X® would require you to be plugged in for most of any given 24-hour period. And if you're going to go to this much trouble, you'll save yourself a lot of effort by doing any 30-minute exercise video—shoot, one 10-Minute Trainer® workout will do a lot more for you than a full night on an EMS machine!

  8. A single type of workout will make you fit. Beware of any exercise that promises to be "the only workout you'll ever need." Even if one workout did cover all of your energy systems using each workout modality, it still would not be all you need. The reasons are many, but primarily, it's because your body adapts over time to any exercise regimen. To achieve continued progress, you need to alter what you do from time to time. The more planned out this is the better.

    There is a reason Beachbody designs fitness programs. For best results, you should train your body progressively and periodizationally. That is to say that you need to progressively overload your system as it becomes used to any one thing. Then, you should change the focus of your program to target various energy systems. By doing this, you keep your body stimulated and your progress curve will continually ascend.

�Actually, there is a medical procedure that removes the fat from your abdominals to make them visible. It does nothing for the rest of your body, does not help your fitness, and has potentially damaging effects over time.

Related Article
"Customizing P90X for Specific Goals: Part I"

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

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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Putting the X in MMX

Getting ready to start P90X for your 2010 New Year's resolution? Tony Horton has some advice for getting through those first 2 weeks, when you'll be making the ultimate adjustment to get healthy and fit!

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3rd Law of Exercise: Intensity

By Tony Horton

You're tougher than you think. The fear of pain or injury from working out is a mindset steeped in failure. You must learn to "find the line." Do the extra rep or two, increase your range of motion, and up the resistance as you get stronger. Intensity goes hand in hand with variety and consistency. And all three factors work as a triad that creates a platform for success. Programs like P90X and 10-Minute Trainer® provide variety. Your plan will keep you consistent.

Doing P90X® and 10-Minute Trainer®

Intensity is the final ingredient that gives you results. For a physiological change to occur, there first needs to be a stimulus. This stimulus comes in the form of an overload. This principle is known as GPO—gradual progressive overload. As you train over time, the overload should be slowly increased. Too much overload too quickly can result in injury. Lack of increased overload over time will result in plateaus. People who plateau often get discouraged and quit. Here are the 3 rules of intensity to help you succeed.

The 3 rules of intensity

  1. Find the line. The "line" is that special place you need to get to if you want any program to work. It's the desire to do the extra reps on push-up day or increase the depth and range of motion of your lunges and squats, and not being afraid to add more weight and resistance as you get stronger. It's discovering your pain/discomfort threshold so you can get the job done without jeopardizing good form and without injuring yourself. If you undertrain or just plain old "give up" because you "can't" do something the first few times, then you'll never know what it's like to be fit and lean. Find the line, do the best you can, and maintain good form.

  2. WalkingThe over/under. You need to understand the difference between undertraining and overtraining. Undertraining is what happens when you keep doing the same thing, with the same weights, at the same intensity, and nothing much is happening. You know you're overtraining when you can't get through workouts without hurling (see "Give yourself a break" in #3 below), and you're so sore for the next 3 days that you can't walk, sit down, or feed yourself. You're training properly when you have some soreness in your muscles—not pain in your joints.

  3. Put on the "breaks." I'm a big believer in listening to my brain's interpretation of what's going on with my body while I'm exercising. When looking for the "line," you sometimes discover you've already gone over it. When this happens, it's time for a break. Here's a list of when to take breaks:

    • Midset minibreaks. Say you're working your biceps and you've mistakenly chosen a weight that's a bit too heavy. You've set a goal of 10 reps, but on rep six, you know you're not going to make it unless you start crossing the line. Stop and hold the weights down by your side for a breath or two (chill!), and when you're ready, continue to rep 10. You can also put the weights down and grab lighter ones. This technique will work with almost any exercise. This is why I tell you to keep your remote nearby. Think of it as a minivacation.

    • Give yourself a break. Far too often I see people trying to be superheroes the first couple of weeks of a program. This aggressive attitude can often cause a phenomenon known as vomiting. To prevent this from happening to you, I recommend NOT trying to "push through it." Superman wasn't built in 2 weeks. He was born on an icy planet and . . . That's another story. Do yourself a favor and kick it down to 80 percent when you're starting out.

    • Illness or injury breaks. If you're getting sick or you're injured, then do the right thing: back off, back down, or modify. Hard exercise when you're injured or ill can be disastrous. You have to think long-term. More often than not, taking a break is the smartest approach for your long-term success.

Tony H.

Related Articles
"2nd Law of Exercise: Consistency"
"1st Law of Exercise: Variety"

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

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.

Submit A CommentTell A Friend Bookmark and Share

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Recipe: Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp Scampi

Who says you can't live it up while eating healthy food? This fine-dining favorite cuts out the fat and amps up the flavor for a garlicky, peppery treat that will make you forget about all the butter and bread crumbs this recipe typically contains. Buon appetito!

1/2 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. yellow pepper, minced
1 Tbsp. sweet red pepper, minced
1 tsp. crushed garlic
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp. sweet basil, chopped
Dry, crushed red pepper to taste (optional)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. white wine
Fresh ground pepper to taste

In a large nonstick sauté pan, heat olive oil. Add yellow pepper, sweet red pepper, garlic, parsley, basil, and crushed red pepper (optional). Sauté until vegetables are glossy and tender, then add shrimp and sauté until they curl and turn pink. Add lemon juice, white wine, and fresh ground pepper. Reduce heat and let simmer for about 15 minutes or until juices evaporate or thicken. Serve as is or over a bed of angel hair pasta. (Serving with pasta will change nutritional information.) Serves 2.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories: 300Protein: 30 g
Fiber: 0 gCarbs: 6 g
Fat Total: 16 gSaturated Fat: 3 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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