Eat Your Way to a More Beautiful Beard

There’s not too much you can do about a receding hairline, other than curse your gene pool. But facial hair is a different story. “The condition of your facial hair directly corresponds to the health of your body,” says Jim White, registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association spokesman. Specifically, he continues, “The same nutrients that have a positive effect on our heart and other major organs also benefit our skin and hair.”

In other words, you can literally eat yourself to a shinier, smoother, more healthy-looking beard. We asked White to tell us which vitamins are an essential part of a healthy facial hair diet, what they do, and how to get them into our diet. Results of our conversation below.

VITAMIN A AND BETA CAROTENE
How they better your beard
: “Vitamin A maintains and repairs skin tissue,” says White. “And keeping your skin healthy allows for better hair growth.” Beta carotene is a nutrient that your body converts to vitamin A. Since it’s found in foods that are lower in saturated fats than those that are rich in vitamin A, you’re better off eating foods that are high in beta carotene.

Where to find them: Vitamin A is present in milk, cheese, butter and egg yolks. Beta carotene is found in yellow and orange produce (e.g., carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and papayas) and leafy green veggies (e.g., spinach and kale).

VITAMINS C AND E

How they better your beard: Vitamins C and E promote the production of sebum, a natural oil that is produced by our bodies and lubricates and moisturizes hair, making it look thicker and more lush. Additionally, vitamin C assists in the growth of bodily tissues, including those that comprise our skin and hair follicles.

Where to find them: Citrus fruits, green peppers and broccoli are good sources of vitamin C. Wheat germ oil, almonds, sunflower seeds, safflower oil, peanut butter, corn oil, spinach, broccoli, mangoes and spinach all contain high amounts of vitamin E.

PROTEIN

How it betters your beard: Our skin and hair are composed primarily of keratin, a structural protein made up of amino acids. We don’t produce amino acids on our own; instead, we need to eat protein, which the body then converts to amino acids.

Where to find it: Fill up on fish, lean meats, poultry, eggs, rice, beans and milk.

VITAMINS B6, B12 AND BIOTIN
How they better your beard:
B vitamins help your body synthesize the protein you eat so it can be used to build new skin cells and hair. Getting enough B vitamins, says White, also helps reduce stress and prevent hair loss.

Where to find them: Fish, poultry, leans meats, eggs, nuts, and whole grains such as brown rice and oatmeal are chock-full of B vitamins. Foods that are rich in B12 include beef, milk, cheese and wheat germ.

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
How they better your beard:
Essential fatty acids are just that: essential to normal growth, including that of facial hair. They also protect cell membranes, helping to prevent your whiskers from getting dry and brittle.

Where to find them: Make sure flax seed oil, walnuts and fatty fish (e.g., salmon) find their way into your diet.

Want to make your beard even more beautiful? Of course you do! Supplementing the above foods with a multivitamin, or with any of the individual nutrients listed above, might do the trick. Just don’t overdo it: Your body will excrete any extra water-soluble vitamins (e.g., vitamin C or B12), but it’ll hold on to extra fat-soluble vitamins (e.g., vitamin A). Excessive doses of vitamin A could actually lead to hair loss. Ask your doctor to recommend a proper dosage, and you’ll soon be on your way to winning whiskers.

5 Colors to Pile on Your Plate

Want more energy? Improved stamina? Calmer nerves? Eat your colors and harness the power of phytochemicals -- organic compounds found in fruits and vegetables that endow them with their respective colors, each of which bestows unique nutritional benefits.

Carolyn Dean -- a physician, a neuropathic doctor and the medical director of the nonprofit Nutritional Magnesium Association (NutritionalMagnesium.org) -- has been following the rainbow for years. We asked her to explain the various properties of red, orange, green, white and blue foods so you can better balance your diet and attack specific health issues.

Reds
What to eat:
Tomatoes, beets, red apples, cranberries, red grapes, pomegranates, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon and red peppers.
Why:
The same fruits and veggies responsible for staining your best dress shirts are also believed to fight prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and -- listen up, guys -- male infertility. According to Dean, crimson-colored crops contain varying amounts of lycopene and anthocyanin, two naturally occurring chemicals in plants that are as rich in antioxidants as they are in difficult-to-pronounce syllables. Antioxidants, of course, are powerful molecules that cruise around your body, bonding to and safely defusing other less stable molecules (called free radicals, man!), which, if left unchecked, could cause you some serious cellular damage.

Oranges and Yellows
What to eat:
Oranges, papayas, pumpkins, carrots, yellow squash, lemons, sweet corn and pineapples
Why:
Sure, a tall glass of Tang can deliver your daily dose of vitamin C, which aids in the healing of wounds and the synthesis of collagen. But actual oranges and similarly shaded foods also provide you with the pigments alpha- and beta-carotene. “Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A,” says Dean. “The body converts this compound into vitamin A, which in turn promotes healthy vision, strong bones and smooth skin.” Got psoriasis? Eat more oranges.

Greens
What to eat:
Spinach, green apples, honeydew, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and avocados.
Why:
Milk may do the body good, but spinach may do the body even better. Greens are actually packed with higher and more absorbable concentrations of calcium than dairy products. They also contain the phytochemicals lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for vision. “And that’s to speak nothing of the chlorophyll in greens, which is a great detoxifier,” says Dean. “Kelp in particular is high in magnesium, an important nutrient in over 325 chemical activities in your body!” As a rule of thumb, the darker the green, the more chock-full of nutrients it is.

Whites
What to Eat:
Pears, bananas, cauliflower, potatoes, mushrooms, onions and garlic.
Why:
When you feel the need to chill out, reach for an onion. The aromatic bulb, like many white-ish veggies, is rich in the compound allicin. “This powerful antioxidant is known to combat high blood pressure and high LDL levels,” says Dean. Pale fruits and veggies are also packed with nutrients that are believed to stimulate your body’s B and T cells, which in turn boost your overall immune system. “And let’s not forget about bananas and potatoes, which are high in heart-healthy potassium,” says Dean.

Blues and Purples
What to eat:
Blueberries, blackberries, plums, purple grapes, beets, purple cabbage and eggplant.
Why:
Once upon a time, blueberries were largely ignored by nutritionists because of the fruit’s low level of vitamin C. Now, the same group of experts is tripping over itself to recommend that you eat 1 to 2 cups of the fruit every day. Why? “They’re high in anthocyanins, which can reduce the risk of high blood pressure and improve heart health,” says Dean. Blue fruits and veggies are also high in fiber and packed with antioxidants, and have been shown to reduce the risk of some male cancers. What can’t they do? They can’t make you fat, since they’re really low in calories too. Yahtzee!

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/Tanya_F

Olympic Hopefuls: A Roundtable Discussion (Part 1)

How exactly do you train for the Olympics? What do you do on a day-to-day basis, in terms of weightlifting, cardio and other training specific to your sport? And what do you eat? Men’s Life Today talked to three U.S. Olympic hopefuls -- all in very different sports, but all of whom are affiliated with the New York Athletic Club -- about how real champions prepare to compete on sport’s biggest stage. These were our participants:

Jake Herbert, wrestler, age 26, born in Naperville, Ill.; 2009 World Freestyle, silver medalist

Seth Kelsey, fencer, age 29, born in Colorado Springs, Colo.; 2010 World Championships, silver medalist

Jarrod Shoemaker, triathlete, age 28, born in Maynard, Mass.; 2008 Olympian, USA Triathlon 2010 Elite National Champion

 

MLT: Most athletes today do some form of strength training. Can you tell us about your weight-training regimens?

Kelsey: “Pretty typical is three long lifts -- one hour and 45 minutes each session -- on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. We do squats, Olympic lifts, single-arm dumbbells, a lot of full-body movements. We always do core -- hanging leg raises and that kind of stuff. Also for fencing, we do a lot of forearm work.”

Herbert: “Right now, we lift three times a week -- Monday, Wednesday and Friday -- for about an hour and a half. We have a strength coach there for us, and it’s all geared toward explosive, fast-twitch muscle fiber stuff. So we’ll do successively heavier sets of front squats, cleans, close grip bench, explosive push-ups off the medicine ball, dead lifts. We also do weighted pull-ups. Our coach wants us to get to the point where we can do them with a 100-pound plate strapped to us.”

Shoemaker: “We’re not doing squats and cleans, or really any traditional weightlifting. As endurance athletes, it’s more focused on enhancing and strengthening the core and on functional flexibility … very discipline-specific movements.”

MLT: What’s the most kick-ass cardio workout you do?

Shoemaker: “We do a really hard, tempo-running workout: 2 x 2 miles with five minutes rest between. Then run a mile [2 miles, five minutes rest, 2 miles, five minutes rest, 1 mile]. I’m getting down below a 4:45 pace.”

Kelsey: “What we call our most terrible circuit workouts: incline sprints, kettle ball swings, push-ups and pull ups. Nonstop, five times.”

Herbert: “We do treadmill sprints: 30 seconds hard, 30 seconds off. And every time we do one, our coach raises the incline. And then ups the speed. We do a total of anywhere from 22 to 40 of these, and at the end, you’re on max incline and running 14 miles per hour for 30 seconds.”

MLT: Sounds like you push yourselves to exhaustion.

Kelsey: “I need to know how my body feels when it’s drop-dead tired. Because any moment of hesitation in my sport and you get hit.”

MLT: So I imagine recovery must be a big issue too.

Herbert: “We drink a recovery shake after each workout, to get the amino acids back in us. I get a lot of sleep. And stretching’s huge!”

Shoemaker: “Massage once a week at least, chiropractic once a week, and I shoot for nine hours of quality sleep a night. That’s the most important thing I do for recovery.”

MLT: Let’s talk nutrition: What’s the breakfast -- and lunch and dinner -- of Olympic champions?

Kelsey: “We do a fairly low-carb diet. No refined carbohydrates -- i.e., no white flour, sugar or potatoes. I don’t think those do anything to enhance your training.”

Herbert: “In college, I was living off of Hot Pockets and ranch dressing. Now, I’m eating a lot of fruits and vegetables.”

Shoemaker: “There’s nothing crazy about our diet. We try to eat fresh and healthy, and stay away from processed foods as much as possible. We have a pretty high percentage of carbs, but protein is one of the best things for rebuilding muscles, so we try to eat plenty of quality proteins too.”

Photos: Courtesy of New York Athletic Club

10 Healthy Habits That Make You Handsome

There are easier, more effective, ways to look like a million bucks than by plunking down that much on some surgical solution -- the way some Hollywood pretty-boy wannabe would. And just your luck: all involve treating your body better. It’s true, a healthier lifestyle can actually boost your physical appearance -- targeting everything from your complexion, to those bags under your eyes, to the sheen of your hair.

Follow these 10 simple health and nutrition tips to make the face staring at you in the mirror hotter than ever.

1. Care about skin care.
Too often, this advice is sloughed off like dead epidermal cells. But listen anyway: Use moisturizers to keep your skin from drying out -- and more importantly, apply sunscreen to curb premature aging and undue damage from ultraviolet rays bound to resurface in the form of leather-textured moles or other such unpleasantnesses.

“If men would simply do this, it would make the biggest difference in their appearance,” says Dr. Leslie Baumann, a dermatologist and author of the best-seller The Skin Type Solution. Make it a habit, like shaving or brushing your teeth, she suggests.

2. Butt out.
As in, stop smoking. “Cigarettes cause worse wrinkling than the sun,” stresses Dr. Brooke Seckel, a plastic surgeon and author of Save Your Face -- The Revolutionary 6-Step Nonsurgical Facial Rejuvenation Program. Smoking robs the skin of collagen and elastin -- which give the skin texture, strength and elasticity -- and in turn speeds up the aging process. Cigarette use can also give the skin a grayish tone. Hot!

3. Eat right.
A healthy diet equals a more glowing complexion, shinier hair and a fitter you.

“The key is to stay well balanced,” says Jim White, a fitness and nutrition expert, and a spokesman for the American Dietetic Association. “Oatmeal is a great power food. It’s loaded with fiber and can help manage hunger and lower cholesterol. Cottage cheese, meanwhile, is low in sugar and high in protein and calcium.”

Overall, stick closely to a Mediterranean-type diet, with few high-fat meats and larger amounts of grains, fish and olive oil.

4. Sleep.
Get the recommended eight hours a night, at least. “Sleeping restores all organs of the body, including the skin, which is the body’s largest organ,” notes Seckel. “It also reduces tension and anxiety, lessening crow’s feet, frown lines and worry lines.”

Lack of sleep also causes those dreaded circles under your eyes. (See our Facebook photos.)

5. Hydrate.
“Skin needs water to function properly, especially to fight damage caused by the sun,” says Baumann. Drinking the recommended eight glasses a day additionally flushes toxins from the body and brings nutrients to the deep layer of the skin (the dermis).

6. Slenderize.
Trimming down will not only improve your appearance but also reduce your risk of stroke, diabetes, cancer and other diseases.

“Don’t go on some radical diet. Instead think about portion control,” says White. “Shave your calorie intake by 500 a day by cutting back on some vices like fried foods, and you’ll lose a sensible pound or two a week.”

7. Be pro-antioxidant.
Antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E found in fruits and vegetables are essential. They promote skin repair and elasticity and also reduce your risk for heart disease and cancer, says White.

8. Do cardio.
A cardio workout regimen lowers stress, makes you happier and gives your skin a glow. “Do any kind of aerobic exercise that will raise your heart rate above baseline for half an hour a day, says Dr. Douglas Peterson, a sports medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic. “It could be going for a walk, taking a bike ride or using the elliptical -- something that works up a sweat a little. Don’t do too much too fast or you’ll get injured and quit. Exercise should be fun, and you should feel good doing it.”

9. Watch the booze.
“Alcohol causes swelling of the tissues, especially puffy eyes, and often leads to bad eating habits -- causing weight gain -- and smoking,” warns Seckel.

10. Stand tall.
Good posture really is a good thing. Core strength training will get rid of that unseemly slouch. (Plus, a new set of six pack abs is definitely an appearance improvement.) Dr. Peterson recommends light resistance training two to three times a week to strengthen core muscles. A certified personal trainer can work with you on a regimen that you can follow at home.

From Frat Brothers to Fat Brothers

If staying lean is a struggle, you just might be hanging out with the wrong crowd. Here’s how to stop your friends from making you fat.



Your friends. If you didn’t know they loved you, you’d think they were trying to kill you: convincing you to go streaking during a blizzard, throwing that wild pitch right at your noggin, secretly spicing your chili with jalapenos.

But there’s something else they might be doing to harm you, and neither they nor you may even know it.

They could be making you fat.

Yes, your bros may influence your weight and the behaviors that tend to make you overweight. In a study published in the August issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, youngsters age 9 to 15 were paired up with either a friend or an unfamiliar person of similar age. Friends who ate together consumed more food than those paired with someone they didn't know. Friends were also more likely to eat similar amounts than participants paired with a stranger. The results, researchers said, suggest that friends may act as “permission givers” when it comes to overeating.

“It’s the same as smoking,” says exercise psychologist Thomas Collingwood, who holds a doctorate in psychology and works at Fitness Intervention Technologies in Richardson, Texas. “If your buddies smoke, you tend to smoke. The issue is peer pressure -- and we’ve known for a long time that this has a powerful, powerful effect on all kinds of behaviors.”

Does this mean you need to shed friends to shed pounds? Not necessarily. You can fight the weighty influence of your crew while actually helping them get leaner, fitter and healthier. The ways:

1. Know when you’re at risk and plan ahead.
Beware the dangers of being packed into a booth down at the local TGIF with your posse on a Saturday night. “The dinner table or the bar is probably the worst for guys,” says weight loss expert Kara Mohr, who holds a doctorate in exercise physiology and is the co-owner of Mohr Results Inc. “It’s a ‘man out’ thing -- who can drink the most, eat the most, enjoy the most.”

Recognizing these high-risk social eating situations in advance will enable you to plan ahead. For instance, consider pulling up the menu of the restaurant you’re headed to in advance so you can find the healthy alternatives there -- or maybe even decide you don’t want to go to this place at all! “Once you’re at the buffet at happy hour, it’s probably too late,” adds Mohr.

2. Take one step at a time.
“You don’t have to say ‘I’m going to stop hanging around with my friends, go the gym every night and eat celery sticks from now on,’” says Mohr. Instead, start by skipping the wings at happy hour. Or decide not to drink on weeknights. Or choose the menu’s healthy alternatives. “You still have choices, even if you’re hanging with the same friends,” says Janice Baker, a registered dietitian based in San Diego, Calif. “Instead of five beers, maybe it’s two beers with water in between. Instead of a double cheeseburger and 64-ounce soda, maybe it’s a regular burger with an iced tea.”

3. Put your money where your mouth isn’t.
No need to make an announcement about your new exercise or eating program. Just go ahead and do it. “You don’t have to talk about dieting; just set an example and enjoy your friends,” says Baker. “They might catch on and start asking about what you’re doing to be in such good shape.”

4. Be the game changer.
Perhaps the group could use a shake-up. While watching football on TV, “maybe you take the initiative to say, ‘Hey guys, at halftime, let’s go shoot some hoops instead of sitting around,’” recommends Collingwood. “Or ‘This week, how about we meet at the gym before we go out?’”

5. Work together.
Psychologists often use a “behavior contract,” a written agreement that you and a buddy could sign, to help people make changes. Example: You and your pal can pledge to do a 30-minute circuit workout at the gym together twice a week for the next month. You set a nonfood reward for compliance (e.g., after the month of workouts, you’ll treat yourselves to tickets to a ball game) and a punishment for failure (e.g., you’ll both do the dishes for your respective girlfriends for a week). If one sticks with reaching the goal and the other doesn’t, the non-sticker buys the tix.

Collingwood, who has helped develop fitness programs for everyone from middle schoolers to veteran police officers, says he’s found a 60 percent success rate with those who use a behavior contract. “They’re successful if they’re kept simple and doable,” he says.

6. Make a clean break.
If your playmates refuse to buy into any of this, maybe it is time to move on -- or at least see them a little less or under different circumstances. Instead, you can make some new friends (at the gym, the park -- heck, maybe even Subway!) who want to lift weights and play ball, and whose idea of fun extends beyond seeing how many plates of nachos and cheese they can scarf down. Says Mohr: “It can’t hurt to find new friends that model the behaviors you want to adopt.”