Friday, November 30, 2012

Grape Seed Extract

Harness The Power Of Grape Seed Extract By Anil Shrikhande, Ph.D.

As an athlete, you work hard to maintain your muscle stamina and flexibility. Are your blood vessels – which continuously carry blood to your muscles – also in great shape? Scientific evidence shows adding grape seed extract to your diet may improve your blood flow and reduce your chances of having a heart attack or stroke, and may also benefit your daily work out routine.
Researchers have long claimed that red wine, concord and rubired grape juice, as well as high-quality grape seed extracts, are good for your heart. Some studies indicate that substances found in grapes and grape seed extracts may:
  • Reduce your risk of cancer and strokes
  • Reduce hypertension (high blood pressure) and improve circulation
  • Reduce atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • Increase calorie burning
  • Nourish organs and muscles, helping them to work more effectively
  • Enhance physical endurance
You would have to eat a lot of grapes or raisins, or drink gallons of wine, to consume the same level of active components analyzed in most studies. High-quality grape seed extract is an excellent alternative because it is a pure source of procyanidins, compounds believed to be responsible for grape’s benefits, without the added calories, sugar or alcohol.

How Premium Grape Seed Extracts Work

Grape seed extracts have properties that are comparable to another well-known molecule: nitric oxide (NO), as the two have similar metabolic pathways. One patented ingredient, available as MegaNatural-BP, has been shown to affect the flexibility of blood vessels. Blood vessel walls are, like all tissues, a collection of cells. This grape seed extract acts on the endothelial cells which contribute to the tone, or flexibility, of the blood vessel wall.
The interior of a blood vessel is called the lumen. Blood pressure increases when the lumen is constricted. Conversely, blood pressure decreases when the blood vessel walls are relaxed and the lumen can dilate, or increase in size. This effect, called vasodilation, helps the body achieve positive physical gains beyond healthy blood pressure.
A dilated blood vessel allows an increased flow of blood to hungry tissues, nourishing both smooth (organ) and striated (skeletal) muscles and ultimately allowing them to become more effective. More blood flow into muscle tissues and cells, called perfusion or pump, is desirable to people who are health- and fitness-conscious.
This powerful circulatory effect lends the use of premium grape seed extract to at least three applications that appeal to the health-conscious, waistline watchers and gym buffs alike.

Benefits For The Health-Conscious

According to the 2006 Update of Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics published in Circulation, about one in three U.S. adults have hypertension, or high blood pressure. It’s the number one risk factor for having a stroke, and contributes to heart attacks, heart failure, kidney failure and hardening of the arteries. A recent study indicates grape seed extract may help in all of these areas – a major benefit to anyone concerned with his or her long-term health.
“Results of the first human clinical trial on grape seed extract were impressive. Participants in the two groups receiving MegaNatural-BP grape seed extract experienced an equal degree of reduced blood pressure,” says C. Tissa Kappagoda M.D., professor of cardiovascular medicine at UC Davis Health System. That’s good news for the one third of adults who must manage this condition.
The same grape seed extract properties that reduce blood pressure may also impact the millions of men and women who are trying to manage their weight. Balancing energy and activity poses a challenge to men and women everywhere.
Early research into the action of grape seed extract led to its new role in a class of dietary supplements called thermogenics. Thermogenesis literally means “creating heat.” Thermogenics raise the body’s core temperature and, in turn, raise the metabolic rate and accelerate energy expenditure (calorie burning).
The tough equation that’s so important for weight management, “calories in = calories out,” becomes easier when a grape seed product can accelerate the calories burned during and even after exercise by as much as 60 percent.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

7 Bench Press Crimes

As soon as I walk into any gym, I start critiquing other lifters. I can't help myself. "Those are some great half-reps, buddy," or "Lady, if those dumbbells were any lighter they'd float away." Sometimes, it's just, "Pal, I have no idea what the Christ you're trying to do."
Obviously I don't say these things aloud, or I'd spend more time fighting than lifting. One of my rules is I never give unsolicited advice. Sometimes this rule tortures me—especially when I see mistakes with the bench press.
Why is the bench so important to me? Well, I spent several years competing in this particular lift as the captain of a traveling team that participated at meets throughout New England. I'm not one to do anything half-assed, so I did my research, read books, watches videos, and experimented with different methods in preparation for my contests. My work paid off in many official lifts more than double body weight—and in one strange contest, where I benched my body weight for 29 reps.
I spent hours at bench contests watching hundreds of lifters making thousands of attempts. I saw the following mistakes, and many others. This is my list of the major crimes and how to correct them. Fix each one to bring you closer to fulfilling your quest for a big bench, and move on to more pressing matters.

/ Crazy Legs

If you want to press heavy weight, start with a solid base and incorporate your whole body. I've seen guys straining for another rep with their feet kicking like they're being strangled. Even worse are those who put both feet up on the bench. Unless you're practicing to walk a tightrope, there's absolutely no benefit to that position.
Here's how to build your base: After you lie back on the bench, bring your feet straight back toward your head, to the point where your heels are about to come off the ground—but no further. Your heels should stay in contact with the floor throughout the lift.
If you've got long legs, your butt may tend to come off the bench. You can avoid this by widening your feet. On the initial drive off your chest, drive your heels through the floor and hold that position until you rack the weight.

/ Bent Forearms

Where you grip the bar determines which muscle groups will have the most influence on your lift, and which ones will get worked. Obviously your grip should be balanced and identical on both sides, using the power rings as a gauge. You may generate more power from your chest or your triceps, but at least initially, you should start out with a placement that uses both equally.
Here's how to determine that placement—and you will need someone to help you with this:
Have your helper stand either directly behind your head or directly in front of your feet. Lie back on the bench and take a balanced grip on an empty bar. Lower the bar to your chest and hold it there. Now have your helper tell you whether your forearms are exactly vertical and perpendicular to the floor. Ideally, your hands should be directly over your elbows. If you hands are flaring out (which is often the case), narrow your grip.
Now that you're properly aligned, you can make slight alterations, but I'm talking about an inch or two at most. If you believe most of your power comes from your chest, you can widen your grip. If you feel like the triceps are your big movers, you can narrow your grip slightly.
Do not use a false, or "thumb-less," grip. It's dangerous, and it also tends to force your elbows in tight to your body, making your front delts and triceps do most of the work.

/ Shrugged Shoulders

When you lie on the bench your shoulders shouldn't be up by your ears. In the shrugged position you're not getting the full benefit of your pec strength, and you take your lats completely out of the lift—yes, your lats assist in your bench press.
During the lift, flex your lats and drive your shoulders down toward your hips while squeezing your shoulder blades together. This should create an arch in your lower back, but your butt should always stay on the bench. Only your upper back should be pressed hard into the bench. Always look straight up, and do not press your head into the bench. This could cause a neck injury.

/ Sagging Wrists

When you grip the bar, don't let your wrists sag back. The bar should remain directly in line with your forearms. Allowing your wrists to hang could lead to wrist problems. More important in the short term, it means the bar isn't in line with the sources of your power.
Need a visual cue? Hold your wrists tight as if you were punching a heavy bag.

/ Partial Reps

Who said it was OK to stop six inches above your chest? Are these the same people parking two feet from the curb?
The bottom portion of the bench press is where your pecs are most heavily activated. If you don't touch the bar to your chest, you're cheating your pecs out of a lot of good work. Sure, it's the most difficult portion of the lift. That's the point.
If you're doing these partial reps to inflate your numbers, be advised: Any rep that doesn't both touch your chest and end with complete unassisted lockout is not a rep. This means that you can't claim it when a fellow gym rat asks, "So how much ya bench?"
It's true that partial bench reps are acceptable in certain training programs, but that's beyond my jurisdiction for this article. We're talking the standard bench press here.

/ The Chest Trampoline

Thankfully, I don't see this as much as I used to, but back in the day, guys were bouncing the bar off their chest like it was a bell-ringing contest. It's just another form of cheating, it's counterproductive, and you better believe it's dangerous.
I knew a guy who never benched without bouncing. Then he entered his first contest, where he had to pause with the bar on his chest. His pec ripped like an old gym towel.
A new version of the chest trampoline I still see is a lot guys dropping the bar on the descent and then coming to a quick stop just above the chest. They cheat themselves out of the negative portion of the lift, which is just as effective in building muscle as the positive portion.
Envision it this way: Your descent needs to be controlled, as if you are compressing a heavy spring. When the bar touches your chest, the spring releases upward, powering you past the sticking point.

/ Too Much Weight

This is a chronic problem in the weight room. It takes all my strength not to shout, "Are you benching, or are you assisting your spotter with upright rows?"
If you're doing a set of eight with a weight you can only get to lockout on two reps, lighten up, buddy. One or two assisted reps, after you perform at least five on your own are all you should need for assistance.
And if you're spotting someone, don't let the bar stop. Always keep the bar moving, upward and level.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

5 Fit Slow Cooker Meals

By Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

It's 4 p.m. and chances are you're wondering what's for dinner—again. If you started a slow cooker meal this morning, you'd have an answer. "The best thing about slow cookers is that you fix a meal, walk away, and it's ready when you want it," says Kitty Broihier, M.S., R.D., and co-author of Everyday Gluten-Free Slow Cooking.
After a long day or a tough workout, it's hard to muster the motivation to make a nourishing meal. Most of our slow cooker dishes are meals in themselves, and they require little fuss to prepare. Even better: Slow cookers simplify cleanup—a big plus for busy women.

/ Moroccan-Spiced Salmon

Didn't plan ahead? Fish cooks quickly, so it can be ready for lunch or dinner even when you don't get a head start. Salmon is brimming with omega-3 fats, the kind that tamp down inflammation, which plays a role in joint and muscle pain. Omega-3s also get kudos for helping reduce the risk of heart disease.
This zesty, no-carb dish gets its zip from cumin, coriander, and turmeric—spices with antioxidant properties that protect your cells from everyday damage. No salmon? Halibut andcod fillets work just fine. Marinate the fish the night before or in the a.m.
  1. Put the marinade ingredients in a large ziplock bag, then place the fish in the bag, making sure that the marinade coats both sides of the fish. Refrigerate for four to six hours.
  2. Add 2 tbsp water to the slow cooker crock. Cover and cook 1½ to two hours on low. When done, let the fish sit, uncovered, for five minutes before serving.
  3. Use a spatula to remove the fish from the slow cooker and transfer to a plate. Gently remove any bones from the fish.
  4. To serve, divide the fish between plates (serve it on top of couscous or rice) and garnish each portion with cilantro.
Adapted with permission from Everyday Gluten-Free Slow Cooking by Kimberly Mayone and Kitty Broihier, M.S., R.D. (Sterling, 2012)
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size (Makes 4 Servings)
Amount per serving
Calories 412
Total Fat28g
Saturated Fat5g
Total Carbs0g
 Moroccan-Spiced Salmon PDF (15 KB)

/ Easy Pulled Pork

Pork tenderloin has no bone, and very little fat to trim. It's also a zinc powerhouse, and one serving provides 20% of the suggested daily intake for zinc, which regulates blood sugar levels. Pork contains thiamin, too, which insures your muscles and nervous system work properly.
  1. Place onion in a slow cooker.
  2. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, paprika, salt, and pepper, mixing thoroughly.
  3. Rub the mixture on the meat, coating evenly. Place the pork in the slow cooker.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine the vinegar, chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper flakes, sugar, mustard, and cayenne pepper, mixing thoroughly.
  5. Add to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for eight to 10 hours.
  6. Remove the meat. Using two forks, shred the meat and onions coarsely and discard the fat.
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size (Makes 8 Servings)
Amount per serving
Calories 200
Total Fat4g
Saturated Fat1g
Total Carbs7g
 Easy Pulled Pork PDF (13.8 KB)

/ Beef With Root Vegetables

Lower-cost cuts of beef are well suited to slow cookers, since they require longer cooking times at low temperatures, which also allows the flavors to blend better. As for nutrition, root vegetables contain beta carotene and other carotenoids, which are the nutrients that give orange produce its bright hue and serve as the raw materials for the body's production of vitamin A (if you're watching your carbs, you can omit the veggies).
And there's no shortage of iron here, with nearly 60% of your daily target in one serving. Iron is crucial for active women, since a shortage of it can lead to fatigue, and it helps form the part of the red blood cell that ferries oxygen around the body.
  • 1 medium Onion, chopped
  • 2 medium Sweet Potatoes, peeled and chopped into 2-inch chunks
  • 2 medium Carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium Turnips, peeled and chopped
  • 3-lb bottom Round Roast, trimmed
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp All-purpose Flour
  • 15-oz can no-salt-added Tomato Sauce
  • 2/3 cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp ground Cumin
  • 1 tsp Mustard Powder Sprigs, roughly chopped
  1. Arrange onion, potatoes, carrots, and turnips in bottom of slow cooker.
  2. Season beef with salt and black pepper. Rub flour on the beef. Place the beef on top of the vegetables.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the tomato sauce, brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, and mustard powder, stirring well. Pour the mixture over the beef.
  4. Cover and cook on low for 12 hours or on high for 8 hours.
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size (Makes 6 Servings)
Amount per serving
Calories 266
Total Fat12g
Saturated Fat1g
Total Carbs24g
 Beef with Root Vegetables PDF (55.2 KB)

/ Thai Peanut Chicken

Peanut butter fanatics will love this delicious slow cooker dish. Peanut butter lends creaminess and great taste, along with heart-healthy unsaturated fat, niacin, and vitamin E. It's also the primary reason this entrée supplies nearly 20% of your daily requirements for vitamin E, necessary for guarding against cell damage and supporting your immune system, and nearly half of your daily requirement for niacin, necessary to convert the protein, fat, and carbohydrates you consume into fuel your cells can use.
Chicken contains choline, an essential nutrient that supports your heart, liver, and brain, and helps prevent neural tube defects in early pregnancy; a serving of Thai Peanut Chicken supplies nearly 25% of your daily needs. You can substitute boneless chicken breast as well.
  1. Season chicken with fresh ground black pepper and place in slow cooker.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients except cilantro.
  3. Pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low for eight hours.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, remove chicken and place on serving platter. Pour sauce over chicken.
  5. Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges.
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size (Makes 4 Servings)
Amount per serving
Calories 302
Total Fat20g
Saturated Fat4g
Total Carbs10g
 Thai Peanut Chicken PDF (54.4 KB)

/ Quinoa And Bean Chili

This cholesterol-free vegetarian chili is high in fiber and low in saturated fat, a dynamic duo that keeps your blood flowing to your muscles and organs. Plus, one serving packs about one-third of your daily potassium need, which keeps blood pressure in check and your heart and muscles in working order.
Quinoa, a gluten-free, easily digested grain with all of the essential amino acids you need to make muscle and other lean tissue, is also a source of fiber. Kidney beans supply protein and fiber, too, and they're loaded with manganese, a mineral your body requires to produce energy, make collagen, and help defend against cell damage.
No worries about leftovers, as this chili freezes well.
  1. Add all ingredients to the slow cooker.
  2. Cover and cook eight to 10 hours on low (or four to five hours on high).
  3. Remove bay leaf and stir well before serving.
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size (Makes 6 Servings)
Amount per serving
Calories 315
Total Fat7g
Saturated Fat1g
Total Carbs54g
 Quinoa and Bean Chili PDF (28.4 KB)