Category Archives: Good advices
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By: Lisa Jones
We’re not suggesting “The Situation” as a role model. But there is one hard-body lesson you can take from MTV’s Jersey Shore loudmouth: The less body fat you carry, the better your abs will show.
Start by performing triage on the six eating habits listed here. But don’t try to banish them all at once. “Target just one or two behaviors at first—ones that you can make the most difference by changing,” says Jennifer McDaniel, R.D., of St. Louis University.
The reason: Recent studies show that we have only so much willpower. That’s why trying to break several bad habits at once can be overwhelming. But if you follow the slow and steady approach, you’ll increase your odds of sculpting a thinner, fitter physique—and keeping it for life.
Skipping Meals or Snacks
Not eating can mess with your body’s ability to control your appetite. But it also destroys willpower, which is just as damaging. “Regulating yourself is a brain activity, and your brain runs on glucose,” says Martin Ginis. If you skip breakfast or a healthy snack, your brain doesn’t have the energy to say no to the inevitable chowfest.
So skipping a feed helps turn us into gluttons at night. Your starving brain “just doesn’t have the fuel it needs to keep you on track, monitoring your diet.”
Break it: This one’s easy. Spread your calories out into three meals of about 500 calories each, and two snacks of 100 to 200 calories each, says Liz Applegate, Ph.D., director of sports nutrition at the University of California at Davis. Most men who are trying to lose weight still need at least 1,800 to 2,200 calories a day, says Applegate. More important, change your mindset, she says. Think I’m going to start a new routine, not I’m going to restrict myself. Restriction leads to overeating.
Use the nondiet approach: You’re not denying yourself food, you’re just eating it more slowly. Savoring it. Allowing your body some time so you don’t keep eating when you’re full.
In an experiment published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 17 healthy men ate 11/4 cups of ice cream. They either scarfed it in 5 minutes or took half an hour to savor it. According to study author Alexander Kokkinos, M.D., Ph.D., levels of fullness-causing hormones (called PYY and GLP-1), which signal the brain to stop eating, were higher among the 30-minute men. In real life, the scarfers wouldn’t feel as full and could be moving on to another course.
Break it: Your body is trying to tell you something, so give it a chance. Slow down and enjoy your food, says Dr. Kokkinos. Put away the newspaper and turn off the TV. Try this breathing trick from The Yoga Body Diet: Inhale while counting slowly to five; exhale and count slowly to five; repeat three to five times before eating. A study in a 2009 issue of Journal of the American Dietetic Association shows that yoga increases mindful eating and results in less weight gain over time.
Pigging Out on Weekends
Weekend feasts can cause trouble beyond Sunday. In a recent study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers used rats to examine the effects of palmitic acid on leptin, a hormone that helps regulate appetite. Palmitic acid is found in saturated fat, an ingredient often featured in your favorite weekend grub.
“We found that within 3 days, the saturated fat blunts or blocks the ability of leptin to regulate food intake and body weight,” says study author Deborah Clegg, Ph.D., of the University of Texas Southwestern medical center. So a Friday to Sunday of burgers, fries, and wings may prime your brain to overeat on Monday.
Break it: You don’t have to go cold turkey (though turkey on whole wheat is always smart). McDaniel suggests that your reward for a healthy week should be one cheat meal, not an entire weekend of them. After all, having an all-you-can-eat weekend is like eating poorly for nearly 30 percent of your week. That means you’d be eating well just 70 percent of the time. We call that a C minus. Do you really want below-average results?
Gorging on Salty Snacks
Sodium is insidious—it causes us to eat unconsciously. It adds up fast: popcorn at the movies, chips during the game, peanuts at the bar.
Break it: Salt cravings go away after a couple of weeks on a reduced-salt diet, says Thomas Moore, M.D., an associate provost at Boston University medical center. Not many men can replace their favorite snacks with carrots or celery, but give them a try: The crunch may be what you crave. Otherwise, try small amounts of low-sodium chips and pretzels. As you’re cooking a dish, skip the salt and, if you want, add just a dash at the table. “Salt added to the surface of a food item is far more noticeable than the same amount of salt cooked into a recipe,” says Dr. Moore. A slow reduction of your salt habit pays off in fewer cravings, he says.
Alcohol, that is. Here’s an exercise to start tonight: Write down how much beer, wine, and other drinks you consume in a week. (Use that cocktail napkin.) You may surprise yourself. Calculate the calories and expect another surprise. A reasonable-sounding two beers a night can mean more than 2,000 calories a week—almost an extra day’s worth. It can take more than 2 hours of running to burn that off . You call that a weight-loss plan? Besides the empty calories, booze undermines your willpower, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D., spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. Which leads to impulse orders of, say, Buffalo wings.
Break it: Try quitting—for just a week. Check your weight and how your pants fit. See if you can live on less. When you do drink, switch to lower-carb dry red wine (about 4 grams of carbohydrates compared with almost 13 in a regular beer) or low-carb beer.
Eating in Front of the TV, Then Dozing Off
It’s a double whammy with a twist. You ingest calories while burning none, and sabotage your secret weight-loss weapon: sleep. Research confirms that people who eat in front of the tube consume more calories (nearly 300, in one study) than those who don’t, and that the more TV they watch, the less active they are. And University of Chicago researchers found that people who lost 3 hours of sleep ate about 200 more calories the next day in snacks than those who slept 81/2 hours.
Break it: Donald Hensrud, M.D., medical editor-in-chief of The Mayo Clinic Diet, says, “If you want to watch TV, be active at the same time or go work out and come back—then you can treat yourself with some TV.” And make your DVR earn its keep so you can go to bed on a regular schedule. Sleep is a fine habit when done correctly.
© 2010 Rodale Inc. | MensHealth.com
By: David Schipper
Recently, Cornell University researchers asked a group of people a simple question: “How do you know when you’re through eating dinner?”
The answer might seem obvious. After all, doesn’t everyone push the plate away when they feel full? Well, no. The leanest people do, according to the scientists, but people who are overweight rely more on what are known as “external cues.” For example, guys packing a few extra pounds tend to stop eating when . . .
1. Their plates are clean.
2. Everyone else in their group is finished.
3. The TV show they’re watching is over.
Unfortunately, these cues have nothing to do with how they feel physically. “People’s brains are often out of touch with their bodies,” says C. Peter Herman, Ph.D., a University of Toronto expert on appetite control. “And when eating becomes mindless, overeating becomes routine.”
The key player in all of this appears to be a region of your brain called the left posterior amygdala, or LPA. This area monitors the volume of food in your stomach during a meal. Fill your gut to a comfortable level, and the LPA tells your brain to drop the fork. Trouble is, it delivers that information at dial-up speed in a DSL world. “Many men consume calories faster than their bodies can say, ‘Stop!'” explains Herman. “So they look to external cues to guide their consumption.”
The bottom line is this: To shrink your gut, you need to start listening to it. We’ve scoured the science and tapped the top experts to help you learn how to do just that. Use these seven simple strategies, and you’ll fill up without filling out.
Sit Down to Snack
Turns out, the trappings of a formal meal make you think you’re eating more than you actually are—and that may boost satiety levels. A 2006 Canadian study found that when people ate lunch while sitting at a set table, they consumed a third less at a later snack than those who ate their midday meals while standing at a counter.
Think of it as the Zen of eating: “If you treat every dining experience with greater respect, you’ll be less likely to use your fork as a shovel,” says sports nutritionist and behavioral psychotherapist Lisa Dorfman, M.S., R.D. “And that includes snacks as well as your three squares.”
Turn Off the Tube
University of Massachusetts researchers found that people who watched TV during a meal consumed 288 more calories on average than those who didn’t. The reason: What you’re seeing on television distracts you, which keeps your brain from recognizing that you’re full.
Slow Down and Savor
“Pay close attention to those first three bites, which people usually wolf down due to excitement,” says Jeffrey Greeson, Ph.D., a health psychologist at Duke Integrative Medicine. In fact, mimic a food critic: “Examine the food’s texture, savor the flavors in your mouth, and then pay attention and feel the swallow,” he says. “Psychologically, this form of meditative eating boosts satiety and promotes a sense of satisfaction for the entire meal.”
While you’re at it, try spicing up relatively bland fare, such as scrambled eggs, with hot sauce or smoked paprika. “Hot, flavorful foods help trigger your brain to realize you’re eating,” says Dorfman.
Take a Bite, Take a Breath
University of Rhode Island researchers discovered that consciously slowing down between bites decreases a person’s calorie intake by 10 percent. “Breathing helps you gauge how hungry you are, since it directs your mind toward your body,” says Greeson. “It’s also quite practical, since you can do it throughout a meal and not draw attention to yourself in a social situation.”
Don’t Share Your Food
Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo observed that men who ate with a group of buddies downed 60 percent more calories than when they ate with a spouse or girlfriend. That’s because people often match their intake of food to that of their dining partners.
Of course, you shouldn’t have to sit home on guys’ night out. Choose one reasonable entrée for yourself, and skip the communal foods—bread, nachos, wings, and pizza, for example—which encourage you to take your eating cues from pals.
Keep a Food Journal
It’s an effective way to remind yourself how much you’re eating over the course of a day. But it doesn’t need to be complicated: University of Pittsburgh scientists found that dieters who simply wrote down the size of each meal (S, M, L, XL) were just as successful at losing weight as those who tracked specific foods and calorie counts.
One useful addition: Detail the motivation behind your eating habits. “Were you really hungry or just blowing off steam before bedtime? Recognizing that you weren’t feeling true hunger reinforces the idea of listening to your body,” says Dorfman.
Don’t Trust the “Healthy” Menu
You’re likely to underestimate your meal’s calorie count by about 35 percent, according to a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research. The best approach is to check the restaurant’s nutrition guide before you order. A University of Mississippi study found that people consumed 54 percent fewer calories when they used this simple strategy.
What You’re Doing Wrong
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.
Rows and Pullups
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.”
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
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.”
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.
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.
These easy remedies will eliminate all of life’s little annoyances—and improve your wealth, health, and sanity.
Drill sergeants know it. So do mothers and psychologists. Take care of the small things—maintain that rifle, clean your room, say you’re sorry—and life improves in big ways. Little fixes cut stress and build a reassuring sense of control.
“Once I have success with one goal,” says Tim Pychyl, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Carleton University, “it increases my happiness, well-being, satisfaction, and self-confidence. And that motivates me to do more.”
It’s like the broken-window theory that big-city cops swear by: If you correct little eyesores, the community pulls together to overhaul everything in sight. Try it in your life, starting now.
Fix Your Posture
(while you work)
Use the 20-20 rule. “Trying to sit up perfectly straight all day is impractical and will only tire you out,” says Alan Hedge, Ph.D., a professor of ergonomics at Cornell University. Every 20 minutes, stand for 20 seconds and stretch or shake things out. “Just 20 seconds away from your computer screen reduces fatigue and increases blood circulation,” says Hedge. Now you’ll have the power to sit up straight.
Recharge Your Workout
(and find your abs)
Do something that seems crazy: a one-sided workout. Unilateral training will trick your body into reaching new levels of strength and muscle, says David Jack, director of fitness for Teamworks Centers in Acton, Massachusetts. One-sided exercises demand stabilization, so you’ll strengthen your core, improve coordination, and (ironically) prevent muscular imbalances.
Add these exercises to your workout: single-arm dumbbell bench press, single-arm shoulder press, and single-legged squat. Start by performing 8 to 10 repetitions with one side of your body, and then switch sides and repeat to complete the set. Rest for a minute and perform 2 more sets. Complete 3 sets for each exercise. For an extra boost, mix up the order of your unilateral exercises every 4 weeks, and adjust your rep ranges a few times a week. You’ll have to decrease the weight you lift initially, but you’ll soon pack on new muscle.
Do not make a to-do list. Do not research power tools. Do not clean your desk. Just dive in. That’s according to Pychyl, who has studied procrastination. Your to-do list is just another delaying tactic with a short-term rush. “We relieve our anxiety by making this false schedule,” Pychyl says. Procrastinators aren’t necessarily bad at time management, he says, “they’re just not willing to deal with the discomfort of getting started.”
But starting will ultimately make you feel better about working. “Our emotional well-being and our satisfaction with life,” he says, “is based a great deal upon the successful pursuit of our goals.”
Fill Your Walls
(and cover that stain)
You don’t have to pay thousands to a starched, sniffing gallery owner for original paintings. But you really should replace your Alice in Chains poster and Rolling Rock mirror.
Starving artists are everywhere, dying to be taken advantage of. Check out local art schools and shows put together by newly minted Masters of Fine Arts, says Alan Bamberger, an art appraiser and author of The Art of Buying Art.
Get a sense of what’s out there at ugallery.com, where art-school grads showcase their work, priced from $20 to $5,000. It even offers a money-back guarantee. Other affordable alternatives: antique prints and maps (oldprintshop.com), and photographs (gettyimages.com).
Fix Your Budget
(and save your credit rating)
New concept: Read your bills. Do you truly understand your cellphone plan? “Most people don’t thoughtfully take the time to analyze what they’re spending their money on,” says J.J. Burns, founder of the wealth management firm J.J. Burns and Co.
1. Cellphone: Analyze how your plan compares to your usage. Not using all your minutes? Opt for a different plan. And remember: If you use fewer than 400 minutes a year, a prepaid plan may be cheaper.
2. Utilities: Do a year-over-year analysis of your bills with Quicken or Microsoft Money. Unexplained jumps? Make sure your meter’s not being misread. Burns did this, and his water company cut him a $380 check.
3. Mortgage: Make one extra payment toward your principal every year to save thousands of dollars of interest and pay off your mortgage earlier.
4. Stuff you buy: Anytime you buy something from a company that offers a refund if they lower the price within 30 days, take them up on it. Set your calendar to remind you to call them 28 days later.
Repair Your Scratched Fender
Examine the scratch to see if there’s still color left in the groove. Yes? Good—you’ve only scraped the clearcoat, a finish that protects the paint from sunlight and gives it that glossy sheen. You’ll be able to fix it yourself, says Dennis Parks, the author of The Complete Guide to Auto Body Repair.
First, buy a clearcoat polishing compound. Try Meguiars (meguiars.com) or Eagle One (eagleone.com). Using a soft cloth dabbed in the compound, buff out the scratch, using circular motions.
If the scratch has chipped the paint, clean the area with a wax and grease remover. This removes crud and will help the new paint stick. Then pick up a bottle of touch-up paint at a local auto-parts store. (Colors are typically broken down by manufacturer, but for the exact shade, find the tag on your car that lists the paint number. The folks at the store can help you.)
Apply the paint in light coats, allowing it to dry in between. When you’ve covered the scratch, let the paint dry for at least 24 hours. Moisten a piece of 2,000-grit wet/dry sandpaper and gently smooth out any bumps, ripples, or runs. Finally, rub on some automotive wax. Smile, and inspect your teeth in the reflection.
Fix Your Game
(because she’s heard it all before)
Relax and set your approach on Deeply Subtle. Make talking to you her decision, which will make her feel better about herself—and you. Never butt in while she’s with her friends.
Wait until she’s alone, then issue a drive-by compliment (keep it above the neck or below the ankles). “We’re used to men approaching us,” says Lisa Altalida, the author of The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to Getting Girls, “but if a man says something and then walks away like he doesn’t want anything, it piques our curiosity.” Now she’ll feel in control. Is she glancing your way? That means you’ve been cleared for approach.
Fix Your Hearing
(without a Q-tip)
Doctors who peer into ears with otoscopes all day long know a dirty little secret: Lots of men have too much wax in there. And many of those men have jammed the stuff (cerumen, technically) deep into the ear canal by using cotton swabs improperly.
At-home kits can’t always reach the wax deeply impacted against the eardrum, says Mark Pyle, M.D., a professor of otolaryngology at the University of Wisconsin. So have a doctor remove the buildup with saline or suction. Sometimes docs need to use small scoops called curettes.
Whatever the method, it’ll be a 10-minute procedure that yields glorious results. (Is your cellphone ringing? No, it’s that one across the room!) And while you’re at the doctor’s office, make an appointment for that full physical you’ve been putting off for 6 years.
Fix Your Eyesight
(without a prescription)
Eyestrain (tired eye muscles) isn’t the only cause of poor vision. It could be dry eye. Norwegian researchers recently found that people blink 10 fewer times per minute while they’re staring at a computer screen than while they’re having a conversation. This causes your “tear film”—the outer layer of moisture on your eyeball—to evaporate more quickly. “When your tear film isn’t healthy, your visual acuity won’t be as sharp and clear,” says Patricia Sabb, M.D., an associate professor of ophthalmology at the University of Wisconsin.
So take a break and close your eyes. (Not napping, boss—just restoring the tear film.) If you still need more moisture, try Visine Pure Tears.
Fix Your Storytelling
(before people doze)
Get to the point. Get to the point. Get to the point. Details—about the weather, color of the bike, height of the rosebush—make people’s attention spans collapse. A brief story lets them play along and fill in their own details. Start your tale when the conversation provides a segue, and not after someone just scored a big laugh. (If you tank, you’re the guy who killed the mood.)
Tell the story quickly, make yourself the fool, and exaggerate. “Take it to the edge of believability. Stuff happens every day to people. You need to make it stand out,” says Jack Gallagher, comedian and writer/performer of the one-man show What He Left.
Restore Your Endurance
(and set a PR)
The secret to improving endurance is to go faster, not lengthen a plodding run. Bill Hartman, P.T., C.S.C.S., suggests breaking your run into intervals at your goal speed. If your 5-K goal is 24 minutes, you must run a mile in 7:40, a half-mile in 3:50, and a quarter in 1:55. Pick the distance you can hit in that time and run those intervals, resting for as long as you ran. Once you can run, say, four quarters in 1:55, move up to a longer interval. Work your way up to your goal distance.
Fix Your Kicks
(and save money)
Instead of spending $150 on new shoes, spend less than half of that on new soles or heels for your favorite pair. Not a bad price for saving something you really like. Plus, there’s no break-in period.
Go to the Shoe Service Institute of America (ssia.info) to find a cobbler. Or mail off the old shoes via americanheeler.com or shoerepairresolecenter.com.
Clean the Coffee Stain
(before your 9:30 meeting)
Stain removers like Shout Wipes and Tide to Go are excellent. Don’t keep those in your desk? Find a sink fast, says Brian Boye, Men’s Health fashion director. Use soap and hot water and blot out the stain, pouring the water through the fabric if you can (take the damn shirt off if you’re in the john). “Whatever you do, don’t rub it,” says Boye. Blot dry with paper towels, or if there’s a forced-air hand dryer, crank it up.
Untangle that Mess
(because it looks like hell)
Unplug everything. Label each cord. Screw your power strip to the underside of your desk, or to the wall. Tie off excess cordage with bongo ties or cable ties (cableorganizer.com). Reattach your (wisely labeled) connector cords, gathering them as you go and bundling them with more ties or even carabiners to minimize tangle. Now, don’t you feel better?
Conquer Your Cravings
(and lose your gut)
Toss out all your chips. Then take this tip from Cornell University: You’re 2.7 times more likely to eat healthy snacks if you place them on the middle shelf of your refrigerator than if you’ve hidden them in the crispers. So stock that shelf with some mozzarella sticks and sliced red peppers to cover your cravings for sweet, savory, and crunchy snacks.
Fix a Leaky Faucet
(and impress her)
Many single-lever faucets leak when crud collects and causes a gap in the seal so it can’t shut off, says Danny Lipford, host of Today’s Homeowner. First, shut off the water supply under the sink. Then use an Allen wrench to loosen the screw at the base of the faucet handle and lift it off. Remove the washers and movable parts, soak them in white vinegar, and wipe them down. Reassemble and turn the water back on.
Lose that 5 O’Clock Shadow
(before your date)
Keep an electric shaver in your desk. They’re much better than they were in the Mad Men days. No cords, for starters. The Braun PocketGo is compact, quiet, and can be rinsed clean when you’re done buzzing off stubble. She’ll love it.
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