July 2010

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By: Adam Campbell

You have the right to remain fat. Or skinny. Or weak. But you should know that every workout you miss can and will be used against you to make your belly bigger, your muscles smaller and weaker, and your life shorter. Unfortunately, most Americans are exercising their right not to exercise.

A recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics found that only 19 percent of the population regularly engages in “high levels of physical activity.” (That’s defined as three intense 20-minute workouts per week.)

Another 63 percent—about the same percentage as that of Americans who are overweight—believe that exercising would make them healthier, leaner, and less stressed, but they don’t do it. At the root of this problem is motivation, or the lack thereof.

It’s the difference between wanting to exercise and actually doing it. That’s why the advice you’re about to read is priceless. We’ve filled these pages with the favorite motivational strategies of the top personal trainers in the country. Their livelihoods, in fact, depend on the effectiveness of their tips to inspire their clients to exercise—and to stick with it. After all, statistics don’t pay by the hour.

And for even more ways to shape your body, check out The Men’s Health Big Book of Exercises. With complete instructions of more than 600 exercises, along with hundreds of workouts and useful tips, it’s the most comprehensive guide to fitness ever created.

 Sign Up for a Distant Race

That is, one that’s at least 500 miles away. The extra incentive of paying for airfare and a hotel room will add to your motivation to follow your training plan, says Carolyn Ross-Toren, chairwoman of the Mayor’s Fitness Council in San Antonio.

Make a “Friendly” Bet

Challenge your nemesis—that idea-stealing coworker or a non-mowing neighbor—to a contest. The first guy to drop 15 pounds, run a 6-minute mile, or bench- press 250 pounds wins. The key: “Make sure it’s someone you don’t particularly like,” says Michael Mejia, C.S.C.S., Men’s Health exercise advisor. (It’s okay if your rival thinks you’re best friends.)

Tie Exercise to Your Health

Check your cholesterol. Then set a goal of lowering your LDL cholesterol by 20 points and increasing your HDL cholesterol by 5 points. “You’ll decrease your risk of heart disease while providing yourself with a very important, concrete goal,” says John Thyfault, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., an exercise researcher at East Carolina University. Ask your doctor to write a prescription for new blood work in a month. You’ll just have to go to the lab, and the doctor will call you with the results.

Switch Your Training Partners

Working out with a partner who will hold you accountable for showing up at the gym works well—for a while. But the more familiar you are with the partner, the easier it becomes to back out of workout plans. “Close friends and family members don’t always make the best training partners because they may allow you to slack off or cancel workouts,” says Jacqueline Wagner, C.S.C.S., a trainer in New York City. To keep this from happening, find a new, less forgiving workout partner every few months.

Compete

Find a sport or event that you enjoy and train to compete in it. “It adds a greater meaning to each workout,” says Alex Koch, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., an exercise researcher (and competitive weight lifter) at Truman State University. Consider training for the World Master’s games, an Olympics-like competition for regular guys. Events include basketball, rowing, golf, triathlon, and weight lifting.

Think About Fat

Your body is storing and burning fat simultaneously, but it’s always doing one faster than the other. “Understanding that you’re getting either fatter or leaner at any one time will keep you body-conscious so you won’t overeat or underexercise,” says Alwyn Cosgrove, C.S.C.S., owner of Results Fitness Training in Santa Clarita, California.

Do a Daily Gut Check

Place your fingers on your belly and inhale deeply so that it expands. As you exhale, contract your abdominal muscles and push your fingertips against your hard abdominal wall. Now pinch. “You’re holding pure fat between your fingers,” says Tom Seabourne, Ph.D., author of Athletic Abs. Do this every day, 30 minutes before your workout, and you’ll find that you’ll rarely decide to skip it.

Join a Fitness Message Board

It’ll be full of inspiration from men who have accomplished their goals and are working toward new ones. Our particular favorite: the 52-Day Challenge. Created by a Men’s Health Belly Off! Club forum member with the username Determined, it’s designed to foster encouragement, discipline, and accountability. “Each participant posts and tracks his goals for a 52-day period so that everyone is accountable to the other members,” says Determined. To sign up, click here.

Strike an Agreement with Your Family

The rule: You get 1 hour to yourself every day, provided that you use it for exercise (and reciprocate the favor). So there’s no pressure to do household chores, play marathon games of Monopoly, or be a doting husband (a fat, doting husband). “Since it’s for your health, it’s a contract they can’t refuse. And that will allow you to exercise guilt-free while acting as a role model for your children,” says Darren Steeves, C.S.C.S., a trainer in Canada.

Burn a Workout CD

Studies have shown that men who pedal stationary cycles while listening to their favorite music will do so longer and more intensely than men who exercise without music. So burn a disc with your favorite adrenaline-boosting songs (maybe something by Limp Bizkit or—if you’re over 40—Hot Tuna).

Plan Your Workouts in Advance

At the start of each month, schedule all of your workouts at once, and cross them off as they’re completed. For an average month, you might try for a total of 16 workouts. If any are left undone at the end of the month, tack them on to the following month. And make sure you have a contingency plan for bad weather and unscheduled meetings. “You’re about 40 percent more likely to work out if you have strategies to help you overcome these obstacles,” says Rod Dishman, Ph.D., an exercise scientist at the University of Georgia.

Squat First

If you have trouble finishing your weight workout, start with the exercises you dread. “You’ll look forward to your favorite exercises at the end of your workout, which will encourage you to complete the entire session,” says John Williams, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Spectrum Conditioning in Port Washington, New York.

Have a Body-Composition Test

Do this every 2 months for a clear end date for the simple goal of losing body fat or gaining muscle. “Tangible results are the best motivator,” says Tim Kuebler, C.S.C.S., a trainer in Kansas City, Missouri. Your gym probably offers the service for a small fee—just make sure the same trainer performs the test each time.

Don’t Do What You Hate

“Whenever you start to dread your workout, do what appeals to you instead,” says John Raglin, Ph.D., an exercise psychologist at Indiana University. If you loathe going to a gym, try working out at home. (Check the Men’s Health Home Workout Bible for ideas.) If you despise the treadmill, then jump rope, lift weights, or find a basketball court. Bottom line: If you’re sick of your routine, find a new one.

Go Through the Motions

On days when you don’t feel like working out, make the only requirement of your exercise session a single set of your favorite exercise. “It’s likely that once you’ve started, you’ll finish,” says Rachel Cosgrove, C.S.C.S. If you still don’t feel like being in the gym, go home. This way, you never actually stop exercising; you just have some gaps in your training log.

Start a Streak

There’s nothing like a winning streak to attract fans to the ballpark. Do the same for your workout by trying to set a new record for consecutive workouts without a miss. “Every time your streak ends, strive to set a longer mark in your next attempt,” says Williams.

Make Your Goals Attractive

“To stay motivated, frame your goals so that they drive you to achieve them,” says Charles Staley, owner of staleytraining.com. For example, if you’re a 200-pound guy, decide whether you’d rather bench “over 200 pounds,” “the bar with two 45-pound plates on each side,” or “your body weight.” They’re all different ways of saying the same thing, but one is probably more motivating to you than the others.

See Your Body Through Her Eyes

Ask your wife to make like Howard Stern and identify your most displeasing physical characteristic. “It’s instant motivation,” says Mejia. If she’s hesitant, make a list for her—abs, love handles, upper arms, and so on—and have her rank them from best to worst. Make the most-hated body part your workout focus for 4 weeks, then repeat the quiz for more motivation.

Buy a Year’s Worth of Protein

“If a guy believes that a supplement will help him achieve better results, he’ll be more inclined to keep up his workouts in order to reap the full benefits and avoid wasting his money,” says Kuebler. Stick with the stuff that really does help: protein and creatine, from major brands like MuscleTech, EAS, and Biotest.

Blackmail Yourself

Take a picture of yourself shirtless, holding a sign that shows your e-mail address. Then e-mail it to a trusted but sadistic friend, with the following instructions: “If I don’t send you a new picture that shows serious improvement in 12 weeks, post this photo at hotornot.com and send the link to the addresses listed below . . . ” (Include as many e-mail addresses—especially of female acquaintances—as possible.) “It’s nasty, but extremely effective,” says Alwyn Cosgrove.

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This a great new exercise from our friends at Mens Health. Use this move to sculpt your core–no equipment necessary

Ready for another all-new abs exercise? Then check out this move, called the “tight rotation,” that we learned from fitness expert Nick Tumminello, owner of Performance University in Baltimore. It’s a fantastic core exercise that’ll not only make your abs look better, but will also improve how fast you run and even how hard you can punch. Click the video to see Tumminello demonstrate the movement–you may discover it’s the best exercise you aren’t doing.


For full-color photos and instructions of 600 more exercises, along with tons of workouts and useful fitness advice, check out The Men’s Health Big Book of Exercises today. It’s the most comprehensive collection of exercises ever created.

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By: The editors of Men’s Health

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The latest science on the muscle-building, brain-enhancing, wrinkle-erasing, heart-strengthening, bone-protecting, immunity-boosting, and inflammation-fighting foods you should be eating every day.

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1. Almonds

These energy-rich snacks lower bad cholesterol, thanks to plant sterols, and benefit diabetics by lowering blood sugar. They’re also rich in amino acids, which bolster testosterone levels and muscle growth. Almonds are also stuffed with vitamin E, which helps defend against sun damage. In a study, volunteers who consumed 14 milligrams of the vitamin (about 20 almonds) per day and then were exposed to UV light burned less than those who took none. And because vitamin E is an antioxidant, it also works to keep your arteries free of dangerous free radicals. Low levels of vitamin E are also associated with poor memory performance and cognitive decline, says dietitian Sari Greaves of New York Presbyterian Hospital–Cornell.

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2. Flaxseeds

Rich in protein and fiber, these little seeds offer a payload of omega-3 fatty acids, which erase spots and iron out fine lines in the skin. The British Journal of Nutrition reported that participants in one study who downed about half a teaspoon of omega-3s daily in 6 weeks experienced significantly less irritation and redness, along with better-hydrated skin. A recent study of people with high cholesterol (greater than 240 mg/dL) compared statin treatment with eating 20 grams of flaxseed a day. After 60 days, those eating flaxseed did just as well as those on statins. Try sprinkling ground flaxseed on oatmeal, yogurt, and salads.

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3. Tomatoes

There are two things you need to know about tomatoes: red are the best, because they’re packed with more of the antioxidant lycopene; and processed tomatoes are just as potent as fresh ones, because it’s easier for the body to absorb the lycopene. Studies show that a diet rich in lycopene can decrease your risk of bladder, lung, prostate, skin, and stomach cancers, as well as reduce the risk of coronary artery disease, and help eliminate skin-aging free radicals caused by ultraviolet rays. “Cooked tomatoes and tomato paste work best,” says celebrity trainer Gunnar Petersen.

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4. Sweet Potatoes

Often confused with yams, these tubers are one of the healthiest foods on the planet. In addition to countering the effects of secondhand smoke and preventing diabetes, sweet potatoes contain glutathione, an antioxidant that can enhance nutrient metabolism and immune-system health, as well as protect against Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, liver disease, cystic fibrosis, HIV, cancer, heart attack, and stroke. What’s more, they’re also loaded with vitamin C, which smoothes out wrinkles by stimulating the production of collagen. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that volunteers who consumed 4 milligrams of C (about half a small sweet potato) daily for 3 years decreased the appearance of wrinkles by 11 percent.

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5. Spinach

It may be green and leafy, but spinach—a renowned muscle builder—is also the ultimate man food. The heart-health equivalent of a first-ballot Hall of Famer, spinach is replete with the essential minerals potassium and magnesium, and it’s one of the top sources of lutein, an antioxidant that may help prevent clogged arteries. Plus its vitamins and nutrients can bolster bone-mineral density, attack prostate cancer cells, reduce the risk of skin tumors, fight colon cancer, and, last but not least, increase blood flow to the penis. “Popeye was on to something,” says Susan Bowerman, assistant director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of California at Los Angeles.

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6. Rosemary

The carnosic acid found in this spice has been shown to reduce stroke risk in mice by 40 percent, according to a study published in the Journal of Neurochemistry. Carnosic acid appears to set off a process that shields brain cells from free-radical damage, which can worsen the effects of a stroke. It can also protect against degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and the general effects of aging.

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7. Wild Salmon

A 4-ounce serving of salmon has approximately 2,000 milligrams of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), omega-3 fatty acids that serve as oil for the brain’s hardware by helping nerve cells communicate with one another. Thirty-five percent of your brain consists of fatty acids like these, but they can decline as the years stack up. A 2008 University of Cincinnati study, for instance, found that the brain tissue of 65- to 80-year-olds contained 22 percent less DHA than the brain tissue of 29- to 35-year-olds. “If you want to keep your wits about you as you age, start consuming omega-3s now,” says William Harris, Ph.D., a nutrition researcher at the University of South Dakota. Why is wild so important? Because farmed fish, which are fattened with soy, can be as high in inflammatory omega-6 fats as a cheeseburger. If in doubt, opt for sockeye salmon, which can’t be farmed and is always wild. Aim for at least two servings a week, says dietitian Joan Salge Blake, author of Nutrition and You.

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8. Blueberries

“This potent little fruit can help prevent a range of diseases from cancer to heart disease,” says Ryan Andrews, the director of research at Precision Nutrition, in Toronto, Canada. Think of blueberries as anti-rust for your gray matter, too. Besides being rich in fiber and vitamins A and C, they’re also packed with antioxidants—only açai, an Amazonian berry, contains more—that neutralize the free radicals that cause neuronal misfires. Eat a cup a day, and opt for wild blueberries whenever possible, as they contain 26 percent more antioxidants than cultivated varieties.

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9. Green Tea

Green tea releases catechin, an antioxidant with proven anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. Research found that drinking 2 to 6 cups a day not only helps prevent skin cancer but might also reverse the effects of sun damage by neutralizing the changes that appear in sun-exposed skin. Other studies show that green tea—infused with another antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)—can boost your cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of most types of cancer.

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10. Dark Chocolate

Flavonoids, a natural nutrient in cocoa, improve blood flow in the brain, which helps boost cognitive function. Plus dark chocolate contains a tannin called procyanidin, which is also found in red wine, that can keep your arteries flexible and your blood pressure low. It helps on the outside, too. In a study from the Journal of Nutrition, women who drank cocoa fortified with a chocolate bar’s worth of flavonols had better skin texture and stronger resistance to UV rays than those who drank significantly fewer flavonols. Indulge in 1 ounce a day to get all the benefits, says dietitian Sari Greaves of New York Presbyterian Hospital–Cornell.

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11. Tuna

Your favorite deli sandwich has a little secret: Selenium. This nutrient helps preserve elastin, a protein that keeps your skin smooth and tight. The antioxidant is also believed to buffer against the sun (it stops free radicals created by UV exposure from damaging cells). Tuna is also a great source of protein, contains no trans fat, and a 3-ounce serving of chunk light contains 11 mg of heart-healthy niacin, which has been shown to help lower cholesterol and help your body process fat. University of Rochester researchers determined that niacin raises HDL cholesterol (the good kind) and lowers triglycerides more than most statins alone.

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12. Carrots

Think of carrots as orange wonder wands—good for the eyeballs, and good for clearing up breakouts. No magic here, though, just plenty of vitamin A, which prevents overproduction of cells in the skin’s outer layer. That means fewer dead cells to combine with sebum and clog pores. They’re also spiked with carotenoids—fat-soluble compounds that are associated with a reduction in a wide range of cancers, as well as a reduced risk and severity of inflammatory conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

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13. Dried Plums

Also known as prunes, these dark shrivelers are rich in copper and boron, both of which can help prevent osteoporosis. “They also contain a fiber called inulin, which, when broken down by intestinal bacteria, makes for a more acidic environment in the digestive tract,” says Bowerman. “That, in turn, facilitates calcium absorption.”

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14. Whole Grains

Whole grains—oatmeal, wheat flour, barley, brown rice—are high in fiber, which calms inflamed tissues while keeping the heart strong, the colon healthy, and the brain fueled. Whole grains can be loaded with carbs, but the release of those sugars is slowed by the fiber, and because they can pack as much as 10 grams of protein per 1/2-cup serving, they also deliver steady muscle-building energy. But not all breads and crackers advertised as “whole grain” are the real deal. “Read the label,” says Lynn Grieger, an online health, food, and fitness coach. “Those that aren’t whole grain can be high in fat, which increases inflammation.”

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15. Red Wine

Swimming in resveratrol—a natural compound that lowers LDL, raises HDL, and prevents blood clots—red wine can truly be a lifesaver. A recent review in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, for instance, suggests that resveratrol may prevent or delay the onset of chronic disease. But limit your intake to two drinks a day. According to a study of 6,000 patients in the Journal of the American Medical Association, you’re 97 percent more likely to reach your 85th birthday if you keep your daily alcohol consumption to fewer than three drinks. Vin rouge is also a rich source of flavonoids, antioxidants that help protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart, and may make you less likely to die of cardiovascular disease, according to Japanese researchers.

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16. Yogurt

Various cultures claim yogurt as their own creation, but the 2,000-year-old food’s health benefits are not disputed: Fermentation spawns hundreds of millions of probiotic organisms that serve as reinforcements to the battalions of beneficial bacteria in your body, which keep your digestive tract healthy and your immune system in top form, and provide protection against cancer. Not all yogurts are probiotic, though, so make sure the label says “live and active cultures.”

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17. Avocado

Chock full of monounsaturated fat, avocados deliver a double-barreled blast to LDL cholesterol (the bad kind). They are also rich in folate, a water-soluble B vitamin that helps lower the levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that can hinder the flow of blood through blood vessels. Eat a 1/4 cup twice a week, says Greaves.

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18. Walnuts

Richer in heart-healthy omega-3s than salmon, loaded with more anti-inflammatory polyphenols than red wine, and packing half as much muscle-building protein as chicken, the walnut sounds like a Frankenfood, but it grows on trees. Other nuts combine only one or two of these features, not all three. A serving of walnuts—about 1 ounce, or seven nuts—is good anytime, but especially as a postworkout recovery snack.

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19. Turmeric

Curcumin, the polyphenol that gives turmeric its tang and yellow hue, has anticancer properties, anti-inflammatory effects, and tumor-fighting activities known in nutrition-speak as anti-angiogenesis. Researchers at UCLA have also found that it helps deter the accumulation of amyloid plaques in the brain, tiny blockages that may cause Alzheimer’s disease. Turmeric’s prevalence in India, the researchers suggest, may help explain why so few of the country’s senior citizens have the disease, whereas the statistic is close to 13 percent in the United States, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. One tip: Pair it with pepper in curries. “Adding black pepper to turmeric or turmeric-spiced food enhances curcumin’s bioavailability by 1,000 times, due to black pepper’s hot property called piperine,” says nutritionist Stacy Kennedy of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

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20. Black Beans

People who eat one 3-ounce serving of black beans a day decrease their risk of heart attack by 38 percent, according to a study in the Journal of Nutrition. And while other beans are also good for your heart, none can boost your brainpower like black beans. That’s because they’re full of anthocyanins, antioxidant compounds that have been shown to improve brain function. They’re also packed with superstar nutrients, including protein, healthy fats, folate, magnesium, B vitamins, potassium, and fiber.

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21. Apples

An apple a day reduces swelling of all kinds, thanks to quercetin, a flavonoid also found in the skin of red onions. Quercetin reduces the risk of allergies, heart attack, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and prostate and lung cancers. If given the choice, opt for Red Delicious. They contain the most inflammation-fighting antioxidants.

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22. Alaskan King Crab

High in protein and low in fat, the sweet flesh of the king crab is spiked with zinc—a whopping 7 milligrams per 3.5-ounce serving. “Zinc is an antioxidant, but more important, it helps support healthy bone mass and immune function,” says Bowerman.

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23. Pomegranates

The juice from the biblical fruit of many seeds can reduce your risk of most cancers, thanks to polyphenols called ellagitannins, which give the fruit its color. In fact, a recent study at UCLA found that pomegranate juice slows the growth of prostate cancer cells by a factor of six.

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24. Bok Choy

This crunchy cruciferous vegetable is more than the filler that goes with shrimp in brown sauce. “Bok choy is rich in bone-building calcium, as well as vitamins A and C, folic acid, iron, beta-carotene, and potassium,” says celebrity trainer Teddy Bass. Potassium keeps your muscles and nerves in check while lowering your blood pressure, and research suggests that beta-carotene can reduce the risk of both lung and bladder cancers, as well as macular degeneration.

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25. Oysters

Shellfish, in general, is an excellent source of zinc, calcium, copper, iodine, iron, potassium, and selenium. “But the creamy flesh of oysters stands apart for its ability to elevate testosterone levels and protect against prostate cancer,” says Bass.

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26. Broccoli

One cup of broccoli contains a hearty dose of calcium, as well as manganese, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron. And that’s in addition to its high concentration of vitamins—including A, C, and K—and the phytonutrient sulforaphane, which studies at Johns Hopkins University suggest has powerful anticancer properties.

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27. Kiwis

Like bananas, this fuzzy fruit is high in bone-protecting potassium. “They’re also rich in vitamin C and lutein, a carotenoid that can help reduce the risk of heart disease,” says Bowerman. “I try to eat at least one or two a week after exercising.” Freeze them for a refreshing energy kick, but don’t peel the skin: It’s edible and packed with nutrients.

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28. Olive Oil

The extra-virgin variety is rich in beneficial monounsaturated fats. “Its fatty acids and polyphenols reduce inflammation in cells and joints,” says Grieger. A study in the journal Nature found that it’s as effective as Advil at reducing inflammation. “Have 2 tablespoons a day,” says Bowerman.

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29. Leeks

“Leeks can support sexual functioning and reduce the risk of prostate cancer,” says Michael Dansinger, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine and an obesity researcher at Tufts–New England Medical Center, in Boston. “Chop the green part of a medium leek into thin ribbons and add it to soups, sautés, and salads as often as possible.” These scallionlike cousins of garlic and onions are also packed with bone-bolstering thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, and potassium, and they’re also rich in folic acid, a B vitamin that studies have shown to lower levels of the artery-damaging amino acid homocystein in the blood.

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30. Artichokes

Lauded for centuries as an aphrodisiac, this fiber-rich plant contains more bone-building magnesium and potassium than any other vegetable. Its leaves are also rich in flavonoids and polyphenols—antioxidants that can cut the risk of stroke—and vitamin C, which helps maintain the immune system. “Eat them as often as you can,” says Bowerman. Ripe ones feel heavy for their size and squeak when squeezed.

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31. Chili Peppers

“Chilis stimulate the metabolism, act as a natural blood thinner, and help release endorphins,” says Petersen. Plus, they’re a great way to add flavor to food without increasing fat or calorie content. Chilis are also rich in beta-carotene, which turns into vitamin A in the blood and fights infections, as well as capsaicin, which inhibits neuropeptides (chemicals that cause inflammation). A recent study in the journal Cancer Research found that hot peppers even have anti-prostate-cancer properties. All this from half a chili pepper (or 1 tablespoon of chili flakes) every day.

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32. Ginger

Contrary to popular belief, ginger—a piquant addition to so many Asian dishes—isn’t a root, it’s a stem, which means it contains living compounds that improve your health. Chief among them is gingerol, a cancer suppressor that studies have shown to be particularly effective against that of the colon. Chop ginger or grind it fresh and add it to soy-marinated fish or chicken as often as you can. The more you can handle, the better.

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33. Cinnamon

Known for making desserts sweet and Indian food complex, cinnamon is rich in antioxidants that inhibit blood clotting and bacterial growth (including the bad-breath variety). “Studies also suggest that it may help stabilize blood sugar, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes,” says dietitian Nancy Clark, author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook. “What’s more, it may help reduce bad cholesterol. Try half a teaspoon a day in yogurt or oatmeal.”

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34. Eggs

Those who have eggs for breakfast lose 65 percent more weight than those who down a bagel breakfast with the same number of calories, according to a study in the International Journal of Obesity. Eat the yolk, too. Recent studies have proved that the fat in the yellow part is important to keep you satiated, and the benefits of its minerals and nutrients outweigh its cholesterol effect.

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35. Figs

Packed with potassium, manganese, and antioxidants, this fruit also helps support proper pH levels in the body, making it more difficult for pathogens to invade, says Petersen. Plus, the fiber in figs can lower insulin and blood-sugar levels, reducing the risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Select figs with dark skins (they contain more nutrients) and eat them alone or add them to trail mix.

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36. Grass-Fed Beef

Nothing beats pure protein when it comes to building muscle. The problem with most store-bought beef, however, is that the majority of cattle are grain fed, which gives their meat a relatively high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. That, in turn, contributes to inflammation. The fatty acids in grass-fed beef, on the other hand, are skewed toward the omega-3 variety. Such beef also contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which studies have shown help reduce belly fat and build lean muscle.

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37. Mushrooms

Delicious when added to brown rice, reiki, shiitake, and maitake mushrooms are rich in the antioxidant ergothioneine, which protects cells from abnormal growth and replication. “In short, they reduce the risk of cancer,” says Bowerman, who recommends half a cup once or twice a week. “Cooking them in red wine, which contains resveratrol, magnifies their immunity-boosting power.”

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38. Pineapples

With its potent mix of vitamins, antioxidants, and enzymes—in particular, bromelain—pineapple is an all-body anti-inflammation cocktail. It also protects against colon cancer, arthritis, and macular degeneration, says Grieger. (If only the “colada” part of the equation were as healthy.) Have half a cup, two or three times a week.

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39. Fruit or Vegetable Juice

Raise a glass of the good stuff. In a 2006 University of South Florida study, people who drank three or more 4-ounce glasses of fruit or vegetable juice each week were 76 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who drank less. The high levels of polyphenols—antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables—may protect brain cells from the damage that may be caused by the disease, says study author Amy Borenstein, Ph.D.

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40. Bing Cherries

Research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that eating about 35 bing cherries a day can lower the risk of tendinitis, bursitis, arthritis, and gout, says Bowerman. Studies also suggest that they reduce the risk of chronic diseases and metabolic syndrome.

More on MensHealth.com
Read This, Look Younger
The Big Book of Exercises
Your Best Body at 40+

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by Men’s Health

Use these moves to stay in shape at home or on the road–no gym needed

Resistance bands aren’t just for rehab and weaklings. Learn to use them the right way, and you can get a great workout anywhere, any time. Top fitness expert Todd Durkin, C.S.C.S.–who trains Superbowl MVP Drew Brees–shows you how to work your entire body with just a single resistance band. Click the video to see Durkin perform the moves he uses when he travels–you may discover they’re the best exercises you aren’t doing.

And for full-color photos and instructions of 600 more exercises, along with tons of workouts and useful fitness advice, check out The Men’s Health Big Book of Exercises today. It’s the most comprehensive collection of exercises ever created.

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By Mens Health

A great tip is an awesome thing. Whether it’s an undiscovered restaurant, a sleeper stock, or a Sure Thing in the late double at Pimlico, savvy inside info imbues a man with confidence. Control. Strength.

Knowledge is power, baby.

It’s also the secret to a powerful body, as you’re about to find out. In our never-ending mission to get you in the greatest shape of your life, we’ve grilled the world’s top experts, combed our own archives, even eavesdropped on some cell-phone conversations to find 100 perfect fitness training tips—small gems that will make a huge difference in any man’s life.

Get ready: You’re about to feel the power—and have the body to show for it.

And for even more ways to shape your body, check out The Men’s Health Big Book of Exercises. With complete instructions of more than 600 exercises, along with hundreds of workouts and useful tips, it’s the most comprehensive guide to fitness ever created.

Build Better Abs

Don’t work your abdominal muscles every day. “Physiologically, your abs are like any other muscle in your body,” says David Pearson, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., an exercise scientist at Ball State University. Train them only 2 or 3 days a week.

Protect Your Neck

Put your tongue on the roof of your mouth when you do crunches. “It will help align your head properly, which helps reduce neck strain,” says Michael Mejia, C.S.C.S., Men’s Health exercise advisor.

Keep Muscles Limber

If you’re under 40, hold your stretches for 30 seconds. If you’re over 40, hold them for 60 seconds. As you reach your 40s, your muscles become less pliable, so they need to be stretched longer.

Don’t Drop the Ball

To catch a pop fly in the sun, use your glove to shade your eyes. It’s bigger than your free hand and puts the leather in perfect position to snag the ball.

Grow Muscle, Save Time

Keep your weight workouts under an hour. After 60 minutes, your body starts producing more of the stress hormone cortisol, which can have a testosterone-blocking, muscle-wasting effect.

Exercise in Order

Use dumbbells, barbells, and machines—in that order. “The smaller, stabilizer muscles you use with dumbbells fatigue before your larger muscle groups,” says Charles Staley, a strength coach in Las Vegas.  So progress to machines, which require less help from your smaller muscles, as you grow tired.

Strengthen Your Core

Don’t be afraid of situps. We’ve changed our tune on these, and here’s why: Situps increase your range of motion, which makes your abdominals work harder and longer. (Doing crunches on a Swiss ball or with a rolled-up towel under your lower back has a similar effect.) Just avoid situps with anchored feet, which can hurt your lower back.

Test the Bench

Press your thumb into the bench before lifting. “If you can feel the wood, find another bench,” says Ken Kinakin, a chiropractor in Canada and founder of the Society of Weight-Training Injury Specialists. Hard benches can cause T4 syndrome—a misalignment of your thoracic spine that affects the nerve function of your arm, weakening it.

Swim Faster

To build speed in swimming, develop your ankle flexibility. Flexible feet will act like flippers and propel you faster through the water. To increase your flipper flex, do this: Sit on the floor with your shoes off. Extend your legs in front of you, heels on the floor. Point your toes straight out as far as possible, then flex them toward your shins as far as you can. Repeat for 1 minute.

Buy Shoes That Fit

Shop for workout shoes late in the day. That’s when your feet are the largest. Make sure there’s a half inch of space in front of your longest toe, and that you can easily wiggle your toes. Then slip off the shoes and compare them with your bare feet. If each shoe isn’t obviously wider and longer than your foot, go half a size bigger.

Kill Your Excuse

If you think you’re too busy to exercise, try this experiment: For one day, schedule a time to work out, and then stick to it—even if you can exercise for only 10 minutes. “At the end of the day, ask yourself if you were any less productive than usual,” says John Jakicic, Ph.D., an exercise psychologist at the Brown University school of medicine. The answer will probably be no—and your favorite excuse will be gone.

Help Your Forehand

To build forearm strength for tennis and racquetball, crumple newspaper: Lay a newspaper sheet on a flat surface. Start at one corner and crumple it into a ball with your dominant hand for 30 seconds. Repeat with your other hand.

Muscle Up Your Back

When doing lat pulldowns, don’t wrap your thumb around the bar. Instead, place it on top, alongside your index finger. This decreases the involvement of your arm muscles, so you’ll work your back harder. Works for pullups, too.

Drink A Pint, Get Ripped

If you’re a beginner, train to failure—the point at which you absolutely can’t do another repetition—then throw back a pint. In a new study, beginners who trained to failure with three sets of six exercises per day then drank a supplement immediately afterward gained over 5 pounds of muscle in just 8 weeks. A pint of 1 percent chocolate milk will provide all the nutrients you need to achieve the same result.

Lose Your Weak Spot

If you don’t like an exercise, start doing it. “You’re probably avoiding it because you’re weak at it,” says Mejia.

Overcome Injuries, Build Big Arms

If you hurt your right arm, don’t stop exercising your left arm. Researchers at the University of Oklahoma found that people who trained only one arm for 2 weeks managed to increase arm strength in their nonexercising arm up to 10 percent. The reason: Exercising one arm stimulates the muscle nerve fibers in the opposite arm.

Cut Pain, Increase Gain

Count your repetitions backward. When you near the end of the set, you’ll think about how many you have left instead of how many you’ve done.

Turn Heads with Your Legs

Do standing and seated calf raises. You’ll get better results. “Your calves are made up of two different muscles, so you have to do the straight-leg and the bent-leg versions of the exercise to hit them both,” says Mejia.

Keep Your Stats, See Amazing Results

Test yourself often. Every 4 weeks, measure a variable—waist size, body fat, bench press—that equates to your end goal. “It’ll show you the tangible results of your training,” says Craig Ballantyne, C.S.C.S., a trainer in Canada. And that translates into motivation.

Kill the Pill

Don’t pop a pill after you work out. Researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences found that ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) were no more effective than a placebo in relieving postexercise muscle soreness. More important, they say the drugs may actually suppress muscle growth when taken after a workout.

Putt Like a Pro

Roll a golf ball across the carpet to improve your putting. The distance doesn’t matter. Just toss it by hand and try to make it stop at a specific target. You’ll hone your ability to judge speed and line without even picking up a club.

Blow Off Your Belly

Exhale forcefully at the top of the movement when you do abdominal crunches. It forces your abs to work harder.

Build Big Biceps

Bend your wrists to work your biceps harder. That is, extend them backward slightly—and hold them that way—while you do arm curls.

Heal Faster

Don’t exercise when you’re sick—unless your symptoms are above the neck. And even then you might do better taking a day off. “Your body will use its resources to heal itself, not build muscle and endurance,” says Alwyn Cosgrove, C.S.C.S., a trainer in Santa Clarita, California.

Pick Up Your Pace

Increase the speed of your running strides—not their length—to get faster. Your foot should always land under your body, rather than out in front of it, and you should push off with the toes of your rear leg for propulsion.

Ditch the Weight Belt

Don’t train with a weight belt. Over time, regular training in a weight belt actually weakens your abdominal and lower-back muscles. Wear it only when attempting maximal lifts in such exercises as squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses.

Ride More Efficiently

Practice cycling one-legged to ride more efficiently. This forces you to concentrate on pulling up at the bottom of the stroke, which better distributes the work among the major leg muscles. Lock both feet on your pedals, but let your left leg go limp while you do all the work with your right leg. Do this for 30 seconds, then switch legs. Ride normally for 5 minutes, then repeat the drill. Continue this way for a 20- to 30-minute workout.

Pay Now, Build Later

Pay your trainer in advance. “You’ll be more likely to follow through on exercise sessions,” says Mejia.

Flatten Your Gut

Work your invisible abdominal muscles. Your transversus abdominis lies beneath your rectus abdominis—the six-pack muscle—and flattens your waistline when you suck in your gut. Work it with the vacuum: Pull your belly button toward your spine and hold for 10 seconds while breathing normally. Repeat five times.

Stretch for Strength

Between sets, take 20 to 30 seconds to stretch the muscle you just worked. Boston researchers found that men who did this increased their strength by 20 percent.

Save Your Shoulders

Decrease the weight by 10 percent when you change your grip. So if you’ve been benchpressing 135 pounds for 10 repetitions with a medium grip, drop to 120 pounds when you switch to a wide grip. “You’ll be stressing your joints and muscles in a different way than they’re used to, which can cause injury,” says Kinakin.

Improve Quickness

For faster foot speed in sports, try this move: Start with your feet hip-width apart and your hands at your sides. Lift your left foot in front of you, touch it with your right hand, and lower it to the floor. Lift your right foot, touch it with your left hand, and lower it. Then touch your left foot behind you with your right hand, then your right foot behind you with your left hand. Go for 20 seconds at a time, moving as fast as you can, and repeat for a total of three to five sets.

Repair Muscle Faster

Recover faster from a hard workout by lightly exercising the same muscles the following day. Use a light weight—about 20 percent of the weight you can lift one time—and do two sets of 25 repetitions. This will deliver more blood and nutrients into your muscles so they repair faster.

Dress Better

Buy only workout clothes that are black, white, or gray. They’ll go with everything, and you’ll never again waste time looking for a T-shirt that matches your gold-and-purple Lakers shorts.

Eat Meat and Grow

Eat meat—4 to 8 ounces every day—to grow more muscle. A study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared two groups of older male weight lifters: One group ate meat, the other didn’t. Both groups grew stronger, but only the carnivores gained significant muscle. Chicken, turkey, and fish count, too.

Save Time in the Gym

Don’t worry about specific rest periods between sets. Instead, rest as you need it—less in your early sets when your muscles are fresh, and more as they become fatigued. “You’ll cut your workout time between 15 and 20 percent,” says Staley.

Get Home-Run Power

To hit more home runs, swing with a slight uppercut at high pitches. The high swing utilizes your powerful hip and midsection muscles instead of just your hands and arms.

Shake a Defender

To come open for a pass in football, run near enough to your defender that you can shake his hand. The closer you get, the easier it’ll be to blow past him. As you close in on him, shorten your strides without slowing down—it’ll help you cut faster.

Stay in the Saddle

When you cycle, keep your pace between 80 and 110 rpm. You’ll ride farther and faster with less fatigue and knee strain. To gauge your pace, count how many times your right leg comes to the top of the pedal stroke in 10 seconds, then multiply that number by 6. The result is your pedal rpms.

Build Arms Faster

Work opposing muscle groups—your biceps and triceps, for instance—back-to-back for a faster workout. “While one muscle is working, the other is forced to rest,” says Staley. You won’t need as much time between sets.

Get a Better Handle

To improve your ball-handling skills in basketball, practice dribbling while wearing leather or canvas work gloves. The thickness of the gloves helps improve the sensitivity of your fingertips, so you’ll have better ball control when you take them off. Jason Williams, a Memphis Grizzlies guard, credits his ball-handling mastery to this training method.

Make More Contact

Play foosball to become a better softball hitter. It improves hand-eye coordination.

Improve Balance

Use a sofa cushion to improve your balance. Stand one-legged on the cushion and move a medicine ball (or a 1-gallon milk jug or heavy phone book) from hand to hand, side to side, and behind your head. Once you’ve mastered the move, try it with your eyes closed. “You’ll improve your balance, coordination, and body control, all important athletic attributes,” says Greg Brittenham, assistant coach of player development for the New York Knicks.

Get Stronger Fast

Do the same amount of exercise in 10 percent less time. It forces your muscles to work harder and improves your endurance at the same time. If it takes you 30 minutes to do a full-body workout on Monday, try to do it in 27 minutes on Wednesday.

See Ball, Hit Ball

Play better tennis by training your eyes to focus faster. You’ll hit more winners by learning to change your visual focus from distance, when your opponent is hitting the ball, to close up, when you’re hitting it. Try this drill while riding in a car: Focus on an object about a tennis-court length away. Then quickly shift focus to a closer object.

Double Dip Benefits

Do dips with your elbows in and your body straight to work your triceps. But lean forward and flare them out to focus on your chest.

Bench More Now

Look at your dominant hand—without turning your head—while you’re bench-pressing. “You’ll be able to lift more weight,” says Staley.

Do More Chinups

Don’t think about pulling yourself up when you do chinups. Instead, imagine pulling your elbows down. The exercise will seem easier.

Climb Like Spiderman

For rock or wall climbing, buy shoes that fit your bare feet so tightly you can stand but not walk comfortably. They’ll give you optimal control, and you’ll be better able to use your legs—the key to successful climbing.

Run Injury-Free

One week out of every six, cut your weekly training mileage and frequency in half. You’ll give your body a better chance to recover, and you’ll avoid permanent, nagging injuries.

Drink Up, Get Lean

Drink low-fat milk. Scientists in Canada found that people who consumed more than 600 milligrams of calcium a day—roughly the amount in 2 cups of milk, a cup of broccoli, and a half cup of cottage cheese—had lower body fat than those who consumed less than 600 milligrams a day.

Slash Your Score

When you’re putting, aim high on breaks. “Whatever you think the break is, double it and you’ll come much closer to being correct,” says Dave Pelz, author of Dave Pelz’ Putting Bible and a consultant to dozens of PGA pros.

Multiply Your Muscles

Follow this simple formula to build more muscle: Multiply the amount of weight you lift for a particular exercise by the total number of times you lift it. Try to increase that number every workout by lifting heavier weights, increasing your repetitions, or doing more sets.

Be More Flexible

Spend twice as much time stretching your tight muscles as your flexible muscles. “Focus on problem areas instead of muscles that are already flexible,” says Bill Bandy, Ph.D., a professor of physical therapy at the University of Central Arkansas. Typical problem areas for men: hamstrings, shoulders, and lower back.

Recover Faster

When you’re recovering from a muscle injury, begin exercising again as soon as you can. Try a few minutes at low intensity to test yourself. Go slowly—no explosive movements. If you experience pain, stop immediately. Afterward, ice the area for 20 minutes and exercise again the next day. You should be able to go a little harder and longer each workout.

Reach Your Goals

Set your goals in reverse. That is, pick a date of completion and work backward, writing down short-term goals as you go. “The goals then seem more like deadlines,” says Ballantyne.

Run Hills Faster

When running uphill, keep your head up and your eyes focused on the top of the hill. This opens your airways, making it easier to breathe than if your upper body were hunched forward.

Manage Your Middle

Do your ab exercises at the beginning of your workout if you can’t pass this test: Sit with your feet flat on the floor and your legs bent—as if you had just performed a situp. Then place your fingers behind your ears with your elbows pulled back. Lower yourself to the floor as slowly as possible. “If it doesn’t take at least 5 seconds, you need to prioritize your abdominal training,” says the Australian strength coach Ian King.

Win a Marathon

To build speed and endurance, train like a Kenyan: Go slowly for the first third of your run, at a normal pace in the middle third, and at a faster-than-normal pace at the end. Gradually increase your starting pace each week, and you’ll increase your normal and fast paces, too.

Outdrive Your Pals

To hit a golf ball farther, take some practice swings from the opposite side. It strengthens and balances your muscles, which may help you clear that water hazard. Do a few opposite swings on the first three or four holes, or for a minute at the driving range.

Sit Back, Squat More

Use a bench to squat with perfect form. That is, stand in front of the bench when you squat. Lower yourself as if you were sitting down. When your butt touches the bench, push yourself back up. Try it with a light bar or a broomstick first.

Shake Your Muscles

Eat immediately after your workout. A 12-week study conducted by Danish researchers found that older men who drank a shake with 10 grams of protein, 7 grams of carbohydrate, and 3 grams of fat (about the same as in a cup of milk) within 5 minutes after their weight workout gained muscle, but men who consumed the drink 2 hours later did not. For a serious postworkout muscle-building shake, try this formula from Thomas Incledon, M.S., R.D.: Blend a half cup of fat-free frozen chocolate yogurt, a quarter cup of egg substitute, a cup of fat-free milk, a large banana, and a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder, and drink. You’ll down 23 grams of protein, 52 grams of carbs, and only 4 grams of fat.

Get Stronger Legs

Do lunges in reverse. This forces your front leg to work throughout the entire exercise. Use the same movement pattern as in a traditional lunge, but step backward instead of forward.

Tape Your Jams

If you have a finger that is frequently jammed, tape it to a neighboring finger when you play sports. Together the two fingers will be stronger and less likely to bend at an odd angle.

Use Iron, Get The Lead Out

Lift weights to run faster. A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that 8 weeks of resistance training improved experienced runners’ 5-K times by 30 seconds.

Save Your Back

Squeeze your butt muscles when you lift weights over your head. “You’ll force your body into a position that automatically stabilizes your spine, which lowers your risk of back injuries,” says Staley.

For a Better Warmup, Train Your Brain

Don’t forget to warm up your brain. “Preparing your central nervous system for activity is just as important as preparing your muscles,” says Vern Gambetta, former director of conditioning for the Chicago White Sox. That’s because your central nervous system tells your muscles when to contract. Try standing on one leg while you squat down, and touch the floor in front of it with your opposite hand. Do two sets of 10 to 12 repetitions with each leg.

Loosen Your Hips

Keep your heels on the floor when you squat. If you can’t, your hip flexors are too tight. Try this stretch: Hold onto the sides of the squat rack and lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Hold for 30 seconds. Return to a standing position, then repeat five times.

Squeeze Out Gains

Squeeze the bar inward when you bench-press. This works more muscles in your chest. But squeeze it outward when you do the close-grip version of the exercise—this hits your triceps harder.

Make More Birdies

For straight-on putts, aim exactly 17 inches past the hole. That’s because the 17 inches of green surrounding the cup will be free of footprints, meaning blades of grass there are thicker and more upright and will slow down your putts dramatically.

Finish Faster

To save time, use the same weight for your entire workout. Pick the weight based on your weakest exercise—choose an amount you can lift only six to eight times—and do the moves in a circuit.

Save Your Calves

If you’re a runner and your calves feel tight when you wake up in the morning, try sleeping on your stomach with your feet hanging off the bed. Gravity will take over, lightly stretching the calf muscles all night.

Go Short, Get Fast

Go faster for shorter distances to improve your running form. You’ll not only perform better, but you’ll also be less susceptible to injuries.

Go Light, Get Strong

Lift light weights fast to build strength. Your muscles will generate as much force as if you were lifting a heavier weight more slowly. Try it with the bench press: Use a weight that’s 40 to 60 percent of what you can lift one time, and do eight sets of three repetitions, pushing the weight up as fast as possible. Rest 30 seconds between sets.

Isolate Your Abs

When you do reverse crunches and hanging knee raises, round your back by rolling your hips and pelvis toward your chest, instead of simply raising your legs. Otherwise, you’re mainly working your hip flexors—the muscles at the top of your thighs.

Stay Healthy

If you’re not exercising at all, just try to fit in two 20-minute aerobic or weight-training sessions a week. Researchers at Oklahoma State University examined absentee records of 79,000 workers at 250 sites and found that those who did this minimal amount of exercise had fewer sick days than those who didn’t exercise at all.

Swipe the Rock

To make a steal in basketball, swipe up, not down. Refs and whiny opponents are just waiting for you to hack down on the ball. Flicking up is more subtle and surprising—and if you do poke the ball away, it’ll be higher and easier to grab.

Build Sprint Muscles

To sprint faster, work your hamstrings. They help you push off and develop speed. Try this variation of the leg curl: Pull the weight toward you with your ankles flexed (as you normally would) so that your toes are pointing toward your shins. But when you lower the weight, extend your ankles so that your toes are pointing away from your shins. Your hamstrings will work harder than with the traditional version of the exercise.

Get Up Faster

To mountain-bike uphill faster, edge forward in the saddle to distribute your weight more evenly between the front and rear wheels. If you slip back too far, you’ll cause the front wheel to skitter off the ground. If you lean too far forward, you’ll lose traction on the back tire.

Save Your Neck

When doing squats, rest the bar so that as much of it as possible is touching your shoulders. Holding it only on your lower neck causes the entire weight to compress your spine, which can lead to spinal and muscle injuries.

Isolate and Grow

Exercise one arm at time. Do a set of shoulder presses with your left arm, then do a set with your right. “You’ll get higher-quality sets than if you work both arms at the same time,” says Ballantyne.

Come Clean

Throw all your dirty workout clothes into one mesh laundry bag. At the end of the week, tie a knot in the bag and throw it in the washer. You’ll always know where your favorite workout shirts are, and you won’t have to touch your sweat socks when they’re fully ripe.

Squat for a Six-Pack

Do squats and deadlifts . . . to build your abs. Research shows that these two exercises force your abdominal muscles to do a significant amount of work to maintain your posture.

Flex for Muscle

When doing standing arm curls, completely straighten your arms by flexing your triceps at the end of each repetition. This ensures that you work the muscle through its entire range of motion.

Run Longer, Easier

When you run, breathe so that your belly rises as you inhale. This ensures that your lungs are inflating fully with oxygen, so you’ll be able to go longer. Practice by lying on your back and placing a book on your stomach. The book should rise when you breathe in.

Jump Higher

Do this simple jumping exercise to improve your vertical leap: Stand on the edge of a step that’s about 8 inches high. Step off backward with both feet. When your toes hit the ground, immediately jump back onto the step. Concentrate on pushing off the ground as quickly as possible, rather than on the height of your jump. “The speed of the jump is more important than the height,” says Brittenham. Do three to five sets of 10 to 20 repetitions twice a week.

Make the Catch

To catch a football, focus on the tip of the ball. You’ll watch the ball into your hands, instead of just tracking the blur. Plus, by concentrating on that specific spot, you’ll block out oncoming defenders.

Replace Your Shoes (Not Your Knees)

To avoid injuries, write an “expiration date” on your shoes as soon as you buy them. Shoes last about 500 miles, so simply divide 500 by your average weekly mileage to determine how many weeks your shoes are likely to last.

Get Up and at ‘Em

If you want to exercise before work but aren’t a morning person, try this trick: For a set period—say, 4 weeks—force yourself to get up 15 minutes earlier than normal and do any type of physical activity (walking, for instance). “Make it so easy that you don’t even have to change into your workout clothes,” says John Raglin, Ph.D., an exercise researcher. As you near the end of the 4 weeks, you’ll have a new habit and will then be able to progress to greater amounts of exercise.

Build Quality Quads

Push from your toes when you do leg presses. Your quadriceps will work harder.

Warm Up the Right Way

Skip the treadmill warmup before lifting weights. Instead, do a warmup that targets the muscles you’ll be using. For a full-body warmup, grab a bar and do two sets of 10 repetitions each of the squat, deadlift, bench press, and bent-over row.

Get a Better Grip

To strengthen your grip, wrap a towel around the bar when you do arm curls. It makes the bar thicker, which forces your forearm muscles to work harder.

Improve Your Max

Before you try a maximal lift, load the bar with a weight that’s 20 to 30 percent heavier than what you think you can handle. Then simply lift it off the rack, hold for 1 to 2 seconds, and put it back. Wait 3 to 4 minutes, then try your true max—the weight will feel noticeably lighter. Never attempt this without a spotter.

Avoid Burnout

To see if you’re overtraining, check your pulse first thing in the morning the day after a workout. If it’s 10 beats per minute or more above normal, your body is still recovering.

Skip Tendinitis

Use a shoulder-width grip when doing upright rows. Unlike the traditional narrow grip, it’ll help you avoid shoulder-impingement syndrome—an injury that causes tendinitis and bursitis.

Build Real Strength

Don’t use machine weights exclusively. A study at Georgia State University found that older adults using exercise machines improved their strength on the machines an average of 34 percent in 2 years. But their strength measures for everyday activities actually declined 3.5 percent.

Get a Big Back

Break cable rows into two parts. Hold the bar with your arms outstretched and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Then pull the bar to your body.

Feed Your Muscles

Satisfy your sugar cravings immediately after your workout. Eat at least 20 grams along with some protein. The sugar will help carry protein to the muscles you’ve just worked. So have a soda with your tuna sandwich, but limit your sugar intake the rest of the day.

End Back Pain

For every set of abdominal exercises you perform, do a set of lower-back exercises. Focusing only on your abs can lead to poor posture and lower-back pain.

Stop Screwing Up

Don’t try to lose your gut by working your abs. Researchers at the University of Virginia found that it takes 250,000 crunches to burn 1 pound of fat—that’s 100 crunches a day for 7 years.

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By Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D., C.D.E., Lifescript Nutrition Expert
 
Women start to lose bone mass in their 30s. But a good diet will lower the risk of a weak skeleton. Here are 7 foods that are great for your main frame. Plus, you can make up for diet deficiencies with supplements, but how much do you know about them? Test yourself with our quiz…

1. Seeds
Our skeleton is largely made of calcium, but other minerals play a key role too. In fact, 50% of the body’s magnesium resides in our bones. Low levels are linked to fragile bones and calcium loss, research shows.

All seeds are good magnesium sources, but pumpkin seeds outshine the rest.

Here are a few ways to eat seeds:

  • Measure a 1-ounce portion to take to work for an afternoon pick-me-up.
  • Sprinkle a tablespoon or two onto your mixed green salad.
  • Toss some with green beans or sautéed spinach.

2. Nuts
Bones aren’t hard and brittle; they’re living organs with live cells and fluids. Every day, bone cells break down and build up. That’s how they remain strong and heal after a break.Walnuts – rich in alpha linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid – decrease the rate of bone breakdown and keep bone formation constant, according to a 2007 Nutrition Journal study. Brazil nuts are also great sources of magnesium.

So grab a small handful for a snack or sprinkle a couple tablespoons into your oatmeal. Keep in mind that nuts are high-fat and high-calorie, so limit your daily serving to one ounce – about 1/4 cup.

Other foods with alpha linolenic acid include: flaxseed oil, ground flaxseeds, walnut oil, soybeans, soybean oil and canola oil.

3. Oysters
Long touted as an aphrodisiac, the oyster is our best source of zinc, a mineral  important in immune function, normal growth, taste, smell, wound healing and dozens of enzymatic reactions in the body.

One of those chemical reactions aids in the formation of bone collagen, the protein framework of bones that makes them somewhat flexible.

Enjoy oysters steamed, boiled, baked and in stews. A word caution about raw oysters: They may be contaminated with the bacteria vibrio, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

4. Leafy Greens
Make green your new favorite color. Your salads and steamed greens are packed with bone-building nutrients, particularly calcium, magnesium and vitamin K.Vitamin K is critical in forming bone proteins and cuts calcium loss in urine. Too little of this fat-soluble vitamin increases risk of hip fractures, research shows.

Just one cup of raw or a half-cup of cooked greens provides several times the recommended intake of 90 micrograms per day.

Here are a few ways to sneak some extra greens in today:

  • Add lettuce to your sandwiches. Even iceberg has vitamin K.
  • Slip spinach leaves between layers of noodles in homemade lasagna.
  • Start your dinner with a salad of spinach or mixed greens.
  • Try dandelion greens or Swiss chard for dinner.

5. Beans
Have beans for supper tonight, especially pinto, black, white and kidney beans. You’ll get another good boost of magnesium and even some calcium. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends at least 2-1/2 cups of beans and other legumes (peas, lentils) weekly.Bean-eaters reduce their risk of cancer, heart disease and obesity. Problem is, most people don’t know what to do with them. Here are a few ideas:

  • At the beginning of the week, open and rinse a can of beans, and store them in your refrigerator. Each night, toss a heaping spoonful into your mixed green salad.
  • Top nachos with red beans.
  • Mix any canned bean into vegetable soups.
  • Add black beans or kidney beans to pasta salads.
  • Instead of coleslaw or potato salad, take a bean salad to your next potluck supper. 

6. Fish
When it comes to bones, calcium is nothing without vitamin D, which we need so our bodies can absorb calcium. As with vitamin K, vitamin D deficiency also is linked to hip fracture.

In fact, 50% of women with osteoporosis who were hospitalized for hip fracture had signs of vitamin D deficiency, according to a scientific review by the American Medical Association.The best fish? Salmon. A small serving of salmon – only 3-1/2 ounces – gives you 90% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin D. If you want a double-whammy of bone-building nutrients, don’t just look to fresh fish. Canned salmon provides vitamin D and calcium… as long as you eat the bones. (Don’t worry, they’re soft.)

7. Dairy
Many of us forget about milk once we outgrow crazy straws and strawberry powder, but bones don’t stop developing in our teens. We add bone mass even in our 20s, but only if we consume enough of the nutritional elements.

Once we reach menopause and begin to lose estrogen, our bones lose calcium more rapidly than at any other time in our lives. Here again, calcium and vitamin D can help delay the loss of bone mass.

Milk is a good source of vitamin D because it is fortified. Cheese, yogurt and ice cream generally aren’t; they contain little vitamin D. Drink nonfat or 1% milk; the others have high saturated fat and cholesterol content. Pour a nice cold glass and enjoy – with or without a cookie.

More Dos and Don’ts for Strong Bones

Do eat fruits and veggies. Higher consumption means greater bone mineral density. Researchers can’t say why, but fruits and vegetables are loaded with an array of nutrients that build strong bones.

Do exercise. Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. Weight-bearing exercises like running, dancing and lifting weights stress your bones in a good way. This signals your body to make more bone cells. Don’t drink too much. Alcohol can inhibit the formation of new bone cells.

Don’t drink cola. Regular cola drinkers have lower bone mineral density than women who rarely drink cola.

Don’t smoke. The more you smoke, the greater your risk of a fracture.

Don’t worry about caffeine – if you get enough calcium. Drink caffeine and you’ll lose more calcium in your urine 1-3 hours afterward. Drinking more than 2-3 cups of coffee per day is associated with bone loss in postmenopausal women when their calcium intake is inadequate.

Aim for 1,200 milligrams (mg) of calcium daily – the equivalent of four cups of milk or yogurt – if you’ve hit menopause. Otherwise, 1,000 mg should do.

What’s Your Supplement IQ?
You know taking calcium supplements can help build strong bones when you don’t eat enough dairy, but do you know all you should about supplements? Here’s your chance to test your IQ with this supplement quiz.

Check out Health Bistro for more healthy food for thought. See what Lifescript editors are talking about and get the skinny on latest news. Share it with your friends (it’s free to sign up!), and bookmark it so you don’t miss a single juicy post!

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By: Mike Zimmerman

Say anything nasty about sugar and folks will swallow it. Sugar caused the recession. Sugar makes your nipples grow. Sugar keyed your car. Sugar’s crazy—it knifed my cousin down at the corner bar last Saturday night. Somebody should drop a safe on sugar.

Well, maybe. It’s true that sugar is insidious—diabolical, even—and hidden in countless processed foods. It certainly contributes to the obesity crisis. It makes people fat and diabetic. These claims are correct—to a limited and oversimplified extent. But sugar doesn’t point a gun to our heads and force us to eat it. It’s only as big a bogeyman as we make it out to be.

We need some truth about sugar. It’s too important. The sugar in our bodies, glucose, is a fundamental fuel for body and brain, says David Levitsky, Ph.D., a professor of psychology and nutritional sciences at Cornell University.

The health threat to the vast American public arises from a very personal level, Levitsky says: “It’s that sugars taste good. Sweetened foods tend to make us overeat. And that threatens the energy balance in our bodies.”

Read this and learn a few facts about the sweet stuff hiding in some of your favorite meals and drinks. Then, the next time some uniformed punk says sugar’s out of line, you won’t be tempted to drag sugar behind a dumpster and kick the crap out of it. The fact is, you may be the one who’s out of line.

Sugar and Diabetes

Sugar Doesn’t Cause Diabetes
Too much sugar does. Diabetes means your body can’t clear glucose from your blood. And when glucose isn’t processed quickly enough, it destroys tissue, Levitsky says. People with type 1 diabetes were born that way—sugar didn’t cause their diabetes. But weight gain in children and adults can cause metabolic syndrome, which leads to type 2 diabetes.

“That’s what diabetes is all about—being unable to eliminate glucose,” says Levitsky. “The negative effect of eating a lot of sugar is a rise in glucose. A normal pancreas and normal insulin receptors can handle it, clear it out, or store it in some packaged form, like fat.”

What matters: That “normal” pancreas. Overeating forces your pancreas to work overtime cranking out insulin to clear glucose. Eric Westman, M.D., an obesity researcher at the Duke University medical center, says that in today’s world, “it’s certainly possible that the unprecedented increase in sugar and starch consumption leads to pancreatic burnout.” But researchers can’t be sure; everyone’s body and diet are different, so generalization is iffy. One thing that is sure, Dr. Westman says, is that the rise in sugar consumption over the past 100 years is unprecedented.

Your job: Drop the pounds if you’re overweight, and watch your sugar intake. Research has shown for years that dropping 5 percent to 7 percent of your body weight can reduce your odds of developing diabetes.

Sugar and High-Fructose Corn Syrup

Simply Avoiding High-Fructose Corn Syrup Won’t Save You from Obesity
In the 1970s and 1980s, the average American’s body weight increased in tandem with the food industry’s use of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a staple because it’s cheap. But it’s not a smoking gun. “This is a correlation, not a causation,” says Levitsky.

“Obesity is about consuming too many calories,” says Lillian Lien, M.D., the medical director of inpatient diabetes management at the Duke University medical center. “It just so happens that a lot of overweight people have been drinking HFCS in sodas and eating foods that are high on the glycemic index—sweet snacks, white bread, and so forth. The calorie totals are huge, and the source just happens to be sugar-based.”

Dr. Westman notes that the effect of a high-glycemic food can be lessened by adding fat and protein. Spreading peanut butter (protein and fat) on a bagel (starch, which becomes glucose in your body), for example, slows your body’s absorption of the sugar.

What matters: We can demonize food manufacturers because they produce crap with enough salt and sugar to make us eat more of it than we should—or even want to. But it comes down to how much we allow down our throats. “A practical guide for anyone is weight,” says Dr. Lien. “If your weight is under control, then your calorie intake across the board is reasonable. If your weight rises, it’s not. That’s more important than paying attention to any specific macronutrient.” Still, skinny isn’t always safe. (Keep reading.)

Sugar and Fat

Too Much Sugar Fills Your Blood with Fat
Studies dating back decades show that eating too much fructose, a sugar found naturally in fruit and also added to processed foods, raises blood lipid levels. And while the relatively modest quantities in fruit shouldn’t worry you, a University of Minnesota study shows that the large amounts of fructose we take in from processed foods may prove especially nasty: Men on high-fructose diets had 32 percent higher triglycerides than men on high-glucose diets.

Why? Your body can’t metabolize a sweet snack as fast as you can eat it, says Levitsky. So your liver puts some of the snack’s glucose into your blood-stream, or stores it for later use. But if your liver’s tank is full, it packages the excess as triglycerides. The snack’s fructose goes to your liver as well, but instead of being deposited into your bloodstream, it’s stored as glycogen. Your liver can store about 90 to 100 grams of glycogen, so it converts the excess to fat (the triglycerides).

What matters: By maintaining a healthy weight, most people can keep their triglycerides at acceptable levels. “If you’re overweight or gaining weight, however, they’ll accumulate and become a core predictor of heart disease and stroke,” Levitsky says.

If you’re one of those overweight people, your first step is to lay off sugary and starchy foods, beer, and sweet drinks. Your body wasn’t built to handle all that sugar. Consider this: You’d have to eat four apples in order to ingest roughly the same amount of fructose in one large McDonald’s Coke.

Oral Glucose Tolerance Test

Too Much Sugar Stresses Your System
Doctors use the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes. For an OGTT, you consume 75 grams of glucose to see how your system processes sugar. It’s a kind of stress test—downing that kind of sugar load is not something you should normally do.

And yet a 24-ounce soda often contains more than 75 grams of sugar, most of it likely HFCS. Roughly half of that 75 grams is fructose, so that soda shock may be worse than the doctor’s test is. “The way people eat and drink these days, unintentional stress tests probably happen quite often,” says Dr. Lien.

What matters: Maybe you figure your body can process a big sugar load without damage. But that’s like pointing to a man who smokes until he’s 90 and dodges emphysema or cancer, Dr. Westman says. Why gamble?

Severe hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) can cause blurred vision, extreme thirst, and frequent urges to urinate. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is easier to spot: You feel weak with cold sweats and anxiety, blurred vision, or tiredness a couple of hours after a sugar binge. Sound familiar? Ask about an OGTT, which is more accurate than the simpler fasting glucose blood test.

Avoid Blood Sugar Spikes

Fewer Blood Sugar Spikes Help You Live Longer
If you live large—big meals, lots of beer, little moderation—you may be shortening your life even if your weight is okay. Repeated blood sugar spikes stress the organs that make up the metabolic engine of your body. That takes a toll.

And you might not notice. “People can live symptom-free for years in a prediabetic state even though they’ve lost as much as 50 percent of their pancreatic function,” says Dr. Lien. “And they don’t even know it.” People with prediabetes share the same health risks, especially for heart disease, that haunt people with full-blown diabetes.

What matters: Moderation. It’s simple, yet difficult. Think about what you put in your mouth. Sugar is diabolical; it tastes great and is less filling. Back off on the high-impact glycemics: beer, sugary soft drinks and sport drinks, potatoes, pasta, baked goods, pancakes. “The less sugar stress you put on your system, the longer it will function properly,” says Levitsky. And stop blaming sugar for all the world’s problems. Even if it is diabolical.

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By: Adam Baer

Popping a daily multivitamin might be worthwhile as “health insurance,” but let’s face it: Eating real food is a lot more fun than gobbling supplements. Besides, you can get most, if not all, of the nutrients essential to good health by selecting the right combination of foods. You just have to know where to look.

Start with the 40 body-boosting superfoods listed here. And for even more must-have eating tips for your heart, bones, muscles, brain—even your sex life—pick up a copy of Your Best Body at 40+ today! It’s packed with muscle-sculpting workouts and no-nonsense nutrition advice that will help you get in the best shape of your life in just 4 weeks.

Alaskan King Crab

Bone Builder
High in protein and low in fat, the sweet flesh of the king crab is spiked with zinc—a whopping 7 milligrams per 3.5-ounce serving. “Zinc is an antioxidant, but more important, it helps support healthy bone mass and immune function,” says Susan Bowerman, assistant director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of California at Los Angeles. “Several studies have linked adequate zinc intake to increased immunity and decreased incidences of respiratory infection.” And you can reap all these benefits by swapping one of your weekly fish meals for a six-ounce serving of crab.

Dried Plums

Bone Builder
Also known as prunes, these dark shrivelers are rich in copper and boron, both of which can help prevent osteoporosis. “They also contain a fiber called inulin, which, when broken down by intestinal bacteria, makes for a more acidic environment in the digestive tract,” says Bowerman. “That, in turn, facilitates calcium absorption.” Enjoy four or five a day to strengthen your bones and boost your energy.

Bok Choy

Bone Builder
This crunchy cruciferous vegetable is more than the filler that goes with shrimp in brown sauce. “Bok choy is rich in bone-building calcium, as well as vitamins A and C, folic acid, iron, beta-carotene, and potassium,” says celebrity trainer Teddy Bass. Potassium keeps your muscles and nerves in check while lowering your blood pressure, and research suggests that beta-carotene can reduce the risk of both lung and bladder cancers, as well as macular degeneration. Shoot for a cup a day.

Oysters

Bone Builder
Shellfish, in general, is an excellent source of zinc, calcium, copper, iodine, iron, potassium, and selenium. “But the creamy flesh of oysters stands apart for its ability to elevate testosterone levels and protect against prostate cancer,” says Bass. “They aren’t a food most people will eat regularly, but getting five into your diet twice a week will make your weekends more fun.”

Bananas

Bone Builder
Athletes and performers are familiar with the calming effect of bananas—a result of the fruit’s high concentration of tryptophan, a building block of serotonin. But their real benefit comes from potassium, an electrolyte that helps prevent the loss of calcium from the body. “Bananas also bolster the nervous system, boost immune function, and help the body metabolize protein,” says Bass. “One banana packs a day’s worth of potassium, and its carbohydrate content speeds recovery after strenuous exercise.”

Kiwis

Bone Builder
Like bananas, this fuzzy fruit is high in bone-protecting potassium. “They’re also rich in vitamin C and lutein, a carotenoid that can help reduce the risk of heart disease,” says Bowerman. “I try to eat at least one or two a week after exercising.” Freeze them for a refreshing energy kick, but don’t peel the skin: It’s edible and packed with nutrients.

Broccoli

Bone Builder
Our president’s dad may hate this cruciferous all-star, but one cup of broccoli contains a hearty dose of calcium, as well as manganese, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron. And that’s in addition to its high concentration of vitamins—including A, C, and K—and the phytonutrient sulforaphane, which studies at Johns Hopkins University suggest has powerful anticancer properties. “One cup a day will do the trick,” says Bowerman. Try cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, or cabbage for variation, as all possess many of the same nutritional qualities. “Broccoli may also help reduce excess estrogen levels in the body, thanks to its indole 3-carbinol content,” says celebrity trainer Gunnar Petersen.

Spinach

Bone Builder
A renowned muscle builder, spinach is also rich in vitamin K, which has been shown to bolster bone-mineral density (thus protecting against osteoporosis) and reduce fracture rates. Spinach is also high in calcium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and even selenium, which may help protect the liver and ward off Alzheimer’s. One more reason to add it to your diet: A study in the Journal of Nutrition suggests that the carotenoid neoxanthin in spinach can kill prostate cancer cells, while the beta-carotene fights colon cancer. “Popeye was on to something,” says Bowerman. “Eat one cup of cooked spinach, or two cups raw, four times a week.”

Leeks

Bone Builder
These scallionlike cousins of garlic and onions are packed with bone-bolstering thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, and potassium. Leeks are also rich in folic acid, a B vitamin that studies have shown to lower levels of the artery-damaging amino acid homocystein in the blood. What’s more, “Leeks can support sexual functioning and reduce the risk of prostate cancer,” says Michael Dansinger, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine and an obesity researcher at Tufts–New England Medical Center, in Boston. “Chop the green part of a medium leek into thin ribbons and add it to soups, sautés, and salads as often as possible.”

Artichokes

Bone Builder
Lauded for centuries as an aphrodisiac, this fiber-rich plant contains more bone-building magnesium and potassium than any other vegetable. Its leaves are also rich in flavonoids and polyphenols—antioxidants that can cut the risk of stroke—and vitamin C, which helps maintain the immune system. “Eat them as often as you can,” says Bowerman. Ripe ones feel heavy for their size and squeak when squeezed.

Tea/Green Tea

Immunity Booster
Studies show that green tea—infused with the antioxidant EGCG—reduces the risk of most types of cancer. “The phytonutrients in tea also support the growth of intestinal bacteria,” says Bowerman. “Specifically, they inhibit the growth of bad bacteria—E. coli, Clostridium, Salmonella—and leave the beneficial bacteria untouched.” Why is this important? “Because up to 70 percent of your immune system is located in your digestive tract,” says Bowerman. “Four cups a day will keep it functioning at its peak.”

Chili Peppers

Immunity Booster
“Chilis stimulate the metabolism, act as a natural blood thinner, and help release endorphins,” says Petersen. Plus, they’re a great way to add flavor to food without increasing fat or calorie content. Chilis are also rich in beta-carotene, which turns into vitamin A in the blood and fights infections, as well as capsaicin, which inhibits neuropeptides (chemicals that cause inflammation). A recent study in the journal Cancer Research found that hot peppers even have anti-prostate-cancer properties. All this from half a chili pepper (or one tablespoon of chili flakes) every day.

Ginger

Immunity Booster
Contrary to popular belief, ginger—a piquant addition to so many Asian dishes—isn’t a root, it’s a stem, which means it contains living compounds that improve your health. Chief among them is gingerol, a cancer suppressor that studies have shown to be particularly effective against that of the colon. Chop ginger or grind it fresh and add it to soy-marinated fish or chicken as often as you can. The more you can handle, the better.

Blueberries

Immunity Booster
“This potent little fruit can help prevent a range of diseases from cancer to heart disease,” says Ryan Andrews, the director of research at Precision Nutrition, in Toronto, Canada. One serving (3.5 ounces) contains more antioxidants than any other fruit. Drizzle with lemon juice and mix with strawberries for a disease-fighting supersnack.

Cinnamon

Immunity Booster
Known for making desserts sweet and Indian food complex, cinnamon is rich in antioxidants that inhibit blood clotting and bacterial growth (including the bad-breath variety). “Studies also suggest that it may help stabilize blood sugar, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes,” says dietitian Nancy Clark, author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook. “What’s more, it may help reduce bad cholesterol. Try half a teaspoon a day in yogurt or oatmeal.”

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes
Often confused with yams, this tuber is one of the healthiest foods on the planet. In addition to countering the effects of secondhand smoke and preventing diabetes, sweet potatoes contain glutathione, an antioxidant that can enhance nutrient metabolism and immune-system health, as well as protect against Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, liver disease, cystic fibrosis, HIV, cancer, heart attack, and stroke. “One sweet potato a day is a great alternative to the traditional variety,” says Clark.

Tomatoes

Immunity Booster
“I think of tomatoes as the ‘fighting herpes helper’ for the divorcé crowd,” says Petersen. Their lycopene content can also help protect against degenerative diseases. “Cooked tomatoes and tomato paste work best,” he says. Shoot for half a tomato, or 12 to 20 ounces of tomato juice, a day.

Figs

Immunity Booster
Packed with potassium, manganese, and antioxidants, this fruit also helps support proper pH levels in the body, making it more difficult for pathogens to invade, says Petersen. Plus, the fiber in figs can lower insulin and blood-sugar levels, reducing the risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Select figs with dark skins (they contain more nutrients) and eat them alone or add them to trail mix. Newman’s Own fig newtons are also a quick and easy way to boost the immune system. Aim for four figs per week.

Mushrooms

Immunity Booster
Delicious when added to brown rice or quinoa, these mushrooms are rich in the antioxidant ergothioneine, which protects cells from abnormal growth and replication. “In short, they reduce the risk of cancer,” says Bowerman, who recommends half a cup once or twice a week. “Cooking them in red wine, which contains the antioxidant resveratrol, magnifies their immunity-boosting power.”

Pomegranates

Immunity Booster
The juice from the biblical fruit of many seeds can reduce your risk of most cancers, thanks to polyphenols called ellagitannins, which give the fruit its color. In fact, a recent study at UCLA found that pomegranate juice slows the growth of prostate cancer cells by a factor of six. “Drink a cup a day,” says Bowerman.

Quinoa

Muscle Enhancer
“Move over white rice and make room for this South American grain,” says Lynn Grieger, an online health, food, and fitness coach (lynngrieger.com). Although technically a seed, this protein source contains a complete set of branch chain and essential amino acids, making it a tissue- and muscle-building powerhouse. “Its nutritional composition is better than most grains, so try to have one cup a week, alternating it with other healthy starches such as sweet potatoes and brown rice,” says Bowerman. “It’s a great breakfast cereal, especially when flavored with cinnamon.”

Grass-Fed Beef

Muscle Enhancer
Nothing beats pure protein when it comes to building muscle. The problem with most store-bought beef, however, is that the majority of cattle are grain fed, which gives their meat a relatively high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. That, in turn, contributes to inflammation. The fatty acids in grass-fed beef, on the other hand, are skewed toward the omega-3 variety. Such beef also contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which studies have shown help reduce belly fat and build lean muscle. “Shoot for two six- to eight-ounce lean cuts [e.g., flank or tenderloin] a week,” says Bowerman. “But don’t grill it. Charring is carcinogenic. Roast or pan sear.”

Nonfat Ricotta

Muscle Enhancer
“Men don’t eat the 16 ounces of protein they need every day, and this is a great substitute if they don’t like cottage cheese,” says Dr. Dansinger. Made from whey, this soft cheese is rich in amino acids, which speed muscle recovery after a workout. Flavor it with jam and spread it on a cracker, or put half a cup in a blender with skim milk and fruit for a postworkout cheesecake-flavored smoothie. It also tastes great on its own with olive oil and fleur de sel.

Tofu

Muscle Enhancer
Made from soybeans, tofu was once the bastion of vegetarians. But the plant protein in these pressed bean curds—available firm or soft, and delicious when marinated and tossed into salads—provides a full complement of amino acids, as well as isoflavone, which helps muscles recover from exercise. “A serving is four ounces,” says Andrews. “Eat one to three servings a week.”

Lentils

Muscle Enhancer
These flat beans don’t just make delicious soups. “They’re packed with protein, not to mention B vitamins and zinc, which are important for good sexual health,” says Andrews. Eat half a cup twice a week, cooking them for about 30 minutes (until they start to break apart) to create a satisfying mashed-potato-like texture. “A single serving will help you cover all of your nutritional bases,” adds Andrews.

Eggs

Muscle Enhancer
The old school of thought was that you should eat egg whites rather than whole eggs in order to get the protein without the added cholesterol. But recent studies have proved that the fat in the yolk is important to keep you satiated, and the benefits of the minerals and nutrients in the yolk outweigh its cholesterol effect. Eggs deliver the most nutrients for the fewest calories and provide the most satiety per calorie consumed. Plus, eggs contain choline, a B vitamin that studies have linked to improved brain function. “Eat three or four servings a week for breakfast or as a protein alternative at other meals,” says Bowerman.

Greek-Style Yogurt

Muscle Enhancer
All yogurt provides muscle-friendly protein as well as probiotics that keep your digestive tract healthy and your immune system in top form. “But the Greek variety is thicker than regular yogurt, so it has more protein, and it’s sweeter and heartier,” says Clark. “It’s man-style yogurt, with a velvety texture.” Mix eight ounces with fruit for breakfast, or spread it on flatbread and top with chicken and onions.

Quorn

Muscle Enhancer
A little-known protein source, Quorn is a great substitute if you’re looking to add variety to your diet with nonanimal protein. “It’s composed of a compound similar to mushroom protein: mycoprotein,” says Dr. Dansinger. “As such, it is top-quality protein without unhealthy animal fat. If you’re a vegetarian, this should be at the top of your list.” Quorn is also lower in calories than chicken and turkey, and you can buy it cubed or ground, making it an ideal substitute for ground beef. Find it at your local specialty market, and shoot for six ounces a day if you’re tired of soy.

Chocolate Milk

Muscle Enhancer
Believe it or not, the sweet brown milk you loved as a kid is actually good for you. “Chocolate milk is one of my favorite postexercise recovery drinks because it contains whey protein, which helps muscles recover and repair,” says Grieger. “Plus, it tastes great while boosting calcium and vitamin D, which research shows is important for preserving cartilage and joint health.” Indeed, a 2006 study in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that it is as good as or better than Gatorade for replacing glucose in fatigued muscles. “Drinking one large glass after you work out will boost muscle growth and speed recovery,” says Grieger.

Wild Salmon

Muscle Enhancer
High in inflammation-fighting omega-3s, wild red or sockeye salmon (canned or fillet) is an excellent low-mercury alternative to canned solid tuna, which can be high in the toxic metal. “Defrosting a frozen fillet for dinner makes a great substitute for steak,” says Dr. Dansinger, “or pan sear a fresh fillet with olive oil and kosher salt.” Recent NFL probes suggest that many teams—including the Bengals and the Giants—serve it to players to lock in strength gains and fuel performance. But while pro athletes might eat 16 ounces at once, you’re better off with three or four six-ounce servings a week.

Pineapples

Inflammation Fighter
With its potent mix of vitamins, antioxidants, and enzymes (in particular, bromelain), pineapple is an all-body anti-inflammation cocktail. It also protects against colon cancer, arthritis, and macular degeneration, says Grieger. If only the “colada” part of the equation were as healthy. Have half a cup, two or three times a week.

Olive Oil

Inflammation Fighter
The extra-virgin variety is rich in beneficial monounsaturated fats. “Its fatty acids and polyphenols reduce inflammation in cells and joints,” says Grieger. A study in the journal Nature found that it’s as effective as Advil at reducing inflammation. “Have two tablespoons a day,” says Bowerman.

Bing Cherries

Inflammation Fighter
Research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that eating up to 45 bing cherries a day can lower the risk of tendinitis, bursitis, arthritis, and gout, says Bowerman. Studies also suggest that they reduce the risk of chronic diseases and metabolic syndrome. “They taste great on yogurt or cereal,” says Bowerman.

Dark Chocolate

Inflammation Fighter
“The flavonoids in dark chocolate inhibit platelet clumping, which reduces the risk for stroke, heart attack, and embolisms,” says Bowerman. “It’s high in calories, so limit yourself each day to a half bar with at least 70 percent cacao.”

Turmeric

Inflammation Fighter
Curcumin, the polyphenol that gives the spice its tang and yellow hue, has antitumor, antiarthritis, and anti-inflammatory properties. “Studies show that it also inhibits the growth of plaques associated with Alzheimer’s,” says Bowerman. Sprinkle half a tablespoon on fish or chicken to add color and flavor.

Wild Fatty Fish

Inflammation Fighter
Mackerel and other wild fatty fish contain a hearty dose of omega-3 fatty acids, which protect the heart, cells, joints, and brain. “Stay away from farmed varieties,” says Bowerman. “They contain undesirable levels of omega-6 fatty acids.” The DHA and EPA in the oil of these fish also reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Shoot for four six-ounce servings a week. “I like mine grilled with olive oil, lemon, and sea salt,” notes Bowerman.

Flaxseed

Inflammation Fighter
Rich in protein and fiber, these seeds taste great on cereal and yogurt. Their oil also comes in pill or liquid form, and is high in alpha linolenic omega-3s, which puts them next to wild fish on the list of heart-healthy fare. “They’re a great brain food too,” says Andrews. Shoot for a tablespoon of ground flaxseed a day.

Almonds

Inflammation Fighter
These energy-rich snacks lower bad cholesterol, thanks to plant sterols, and benefit diabetics by lowering blood sugar. They’re also rich in amino acids, which bolster testosterone levels and muscle growth. “Eat a third of a cup a day with the skins on. The skin is full of antioxidants,” says Bowerman.

Apples

Inflammation Fighter
An apple a day reduces swelling of all kinds, thanks to quercetin, a flavonoid also found in the skin of red onions. Quercetin reduces the risk of allergies, heart attack, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and prostate and lung cancers. If given the choice, opt for Red Delicious. They contain the most inflammation-fighting  antioxidants.

Whole Grains

Inflammation Fighter
Whole grains—oatmeal, wheat flour, barley, brown rice—are high in fiber, which calms inflamed tissues while keeping the heart strong and the colon healthy. Not all breads and crackers advertised as “whole grain” are the real deal. “Read the label,” says Grieger. “Those that aren’t whole grain can be high in fat, which increases inflammation.” Try for two slices of whole-grain bread a day.

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by Men’s Health

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Guys tend to abandon the pushup for the bench press sometime around puberty. Which is why you usually have to wait in line at the gym for a bench while there’s always plenty of floor space. But the once-forgotten pushup has recently muscled its way back to the top of the exercise universe. Why? Because it not only builds a powerful front façade to your physique, but also develops the support system behind that musculature. “They’re also a great way to judge how strong you are relative to your body weight,” says Martin Rooney, P.T., C.S.C.S., author of Ultimate Warrior Workouts.

Test yourself by doing as many pushups as you can in 3 minutes. Rest whenever you want, but keep the clock running the whole time. Fifty-five is average, but if you can’t reach 75—what strength coaches consider “good”—then you need to either gain strength or lose weight. Our 14 pushup variations will help you do both. Weave them into your daily workouts to build strength, power, and sleeve-busting muscle.

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The Classic

Good for: General upper-body conditioning

Balance your weight on your toes and palms, with your hands a comfortable distance apart, probably just beyond shoulder-width. Your body should form a straight line from your ankles to your head. Squeeze your glutes and brace your abdominals, and keep them that way for the duration of the exercise. Slowly lower yourself to the floor, pause, and push yourself back up. Repeat a few hundred times.

Variations: Three-point pushup (place one foot on top of the other to make the exercise a little more challenging); decline pushup (set your feet on a bench or chair to strengthen your shoulders); and triceps pushup (place your hands close together, directly under your shoulders, and keep your elbows tucked close to your sides as you lower your body—an adjustment that shifts the work from your chest to your arms).

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Rotational Pushup

Good for: Athletic performance in sports involving torso rotation, such as tennis, hockey, and baseball

Assume the classic pushup position, but as you come up, rotate your body so your right arm lifts up and extends overhead. Your arms and torso should form a T. Return to the starting position, lower yourself, then push up and rotate till your left hand points toward the ceiling.

Variations: One-dumbbell (grip a dumbbell in one hand, rotate to the dumbbell side for half your repetitions, then switch the dumbbell to the other hand); two-dumbbell (grip dumbbells in both hands, and alternate sides when you come up).

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Plank

Good for: Posture; midsection endurance and stability

Lie facedown, rest your weight on your forearms and toes, tuck your hips, and hold your body in a straight line from ankles to shoulders for 5 seconds. Do a total of 10 5-second holds.

Variations: When 5-second holds are easy, progress to longer holds, until you can stay in the position for 30 seconds. Next, try a regular push up position with your hips tucked. When you can hold that for 30 seconds, try it on your knuckles.

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Barbell Pushup

Good for: Stability of midsection, shoulder; grip strength

Get into the classic pushup position with your hands on a barbell (the kind that can roll away if you don’t keep it steady). Knock out the pushups, but not yourself—keep in mind that one slip can send you crashing teeth-first into the floor.

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Walking Pushup

Good for: Abdominal development; shoulder stability

Set up in the classic pushup position on a smooth floor, and place your feet on a towel. Walk with your hands across the room, turn, and walk back. Keep your back flat throughout the movement.

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Plyometric Pushup

Good for: Developing upper-body power

Set up in the classic position on a well-padded carpet or exercise mat. Push up hard enough for your hands to come off the floor and catch some air. When you hit the floor, go immediately into the next repetition, pushing up again as hard as you can and catching more air.

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Suspended Pushup

Good for: Upper-body strength and stability

Wrap a pair of straps (or chains) around a chinup bar or the crossbar of a power rack. At the bottom, the straps should be about 12 inches off the floor. Attach gymnastics-type rings (or a straight bar) to the ends of the straps. Grab the rings and do pushups, being careful to protect your lower back by keeping your core and glutes tight—as you should when you do any variation of the pushup.

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By: Rachel Cosgrove, C.S.C.S.

What if you could instantly make any exercise 10 times more effective? Chances are, you can. That’s because most men—including longtime gym rats—make tiny but key technique errors on even the most basic movements. And as it turns out, these seemingly minor mistakes may be preventing you from achieving the body you want. You see, an exercise may feel right, but smart lifting isn’t just about moving a weight from point A to point B. For big-time gains, you need to master the small details.

The good news: The best fitness coaches need only one sentence to tell you how to improve your results. Apply their words to your workouts, and you’ll upgrade your routine instantly. Use these 18 tips from the top trainers in the industry to help you perfect your form, engage the right muscles, burn more calories, and lower your risk of injury. Think about it this way: It takes the same amount of time to do an exercise right as it does to do it wrong. So start squeezing more from every second of your workout.

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Pushup

What You’re Doing Wrong
You’re letting your hips sag as you raise and lower your body.

Perfect Your Form
1. “When you’re in a pushup position, your posture should look the same as it would if you were standing up straight and tall,” says Vern Gambetta, the owner of Gambetta Sports Training Systems, in Sarasota, Florida. “So your hips shouldn’t sag or be hiked, and your upper back shouldn’t be rounded.”

2. “Before you start, contract and stiffen your core the way you would if you had to zip up a really tight jacket,” says Kaitlyn Weiss, a NASM-certified trainer based in Southern California. Hold it that way for the duration of your set. “This helps your body remain rigid—with perfect posture—as you perform the exercise.”

3. “Don’t just push your body up; push your hands through the floor,” Gambetta says. You’ll generate more power with every repetition.

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Bench Press

What You’re Doing Wrong
You’re thinking only about pushing the bar up from your chest.

Perfect Your Form
1. “Every time you lower the weight, squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull the bar to your chest,” says Craig Rasmussen, C.S.C.S., a fitness coach at Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California. This will help you build up energy in your upper body so that you can press the bar up with more force.

2. “As you pull the weight down, lift your chest to meet the barbell,” Rasmussen says. “This will aid your efforts to create a springlike effect when you start to push the bar back up.”

3. “When you press the weight, try to bend the bar with your hands,” says Pavel Tsatsouline, a fitness expert and the author of Enter the Kettlebell! The benefit: You’ll activate more muscle fibers in your lats and move the bar in a stronger and safer path for your shoulders.

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Squat

What You’re Doing Wrong
You’re starting the movement by bending your knees.

Perfect Your Form
1. “Sit back between your legs, not on top of your knees,” says Dan John, a strength coach based in Draper, Utah. Start your squats by pushing your hips back. “Most men tend to bend their knees first, which puts more stress on their joints.”

2. “When you squat, imagine you’re standing on a paper towel,” says Charlie Weingroff, director of sports performance and physical therapy for CentraState Sports Performance, in Monroe, New Jersey. “Then try to rip the towel apart by pressing your feet hard into the floor and outward.” This activates your glutes, which helps you use heavier weights.

3. “Instead of raising your body, think about pushing the floor away from your body,” says Alwyn Cosgrove, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Results Fitness. “This helps you better engage the muscles in your legs.”

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Straight-Leg Deadlift

What You’re Doing Wrong
You’re rounding your lower back as you bend over.

Perfect Your Form
1. “To lower the weight, pretend you’re holding a tray of drinks and need to close the door behind you with your butt,” says Cosgrove. This cues you to bend over by pushing your hips back instead of rounding your lower back—a form blunder that puts you at risk for back problems.

2. “Try to ‘shave your legs’ with the bar,” says Weiss. The reason: Every degree the bar is away from your body places more strain on your back, which increases your chance of injury and limits the emphasis on your hamstrings and glutes.

3. “As you lift the bar, squeeze your glutes like two fists,” says Nick Grantham, a top strength and conditioning coach in the U.K. and the owner of Smart Fitness. You’ll ensure that you’re engaging your butt muscles. This helps you generate more power, lift more weight, and produce better results.

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Rows and Pullups

What You’re Doing Wrong
You’re ignoring the muscles that retract your shoulder blades.

Perfect Your Form
1. “When doing bent-over and seated rows, and any pullup variation, create as much space between your ears and shoulders as you can,” says Rasmussen. Pull your shoulders down and back and hold them that way as you do the exercise. This ensures you’re working the intended middle-and upper-back muscles.

2. “As you row the weight, stick your chest out,” says Mike Boyle, M.A., A.T.C., owner of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning, in Winchester and North Andover, Massachusetts. This allows you to better retract your shoulder blades, which will lead to better results.

3. “Imagine there’s an orange between your shoulder blades,” says Grantham. “Then try to squeeze the juice out of it with your shoulder blades as you pull the weight or your body up.”

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Lunge

What You’re Doing Wrong
You’re leaning forward, causing your front heel to rise.

Perfect Your Form
1. “When you lunge, keep your torso upright, and focus on moving it up and down, not backward and forward,” says Rasmussen. This will keep your weight balanced evenly through your front foot, allowing you to press hard into the floor with your heel—and target more muscle.

2. “Drop your back knee straight down to the floor,” says Boyle. Consider this a second strategy to help you remember that you should drop your torso down, not push it forward, as you do the exercise.

3. “To work your core harder, narrow your starting stance,” says Gray Cook, M.S.P.T., the author of Athletic Body in Balance. The smaller the gap between your feet, the more your core has to work to stabilize your body. Your goal: Lunge so that it’s almost like you’re walking on a tightrope as you perform the exercise.

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