How To Buy the Luxury Car You Desire… Used

No doubt you’ve heard — repeated again and again — the old adage: dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Sure it goes for the office, but the parking lot?

For those with Maserati taste and a Honda Accord budget, consider buying a used high-end car that’s in great shape. Sound good? Check out these tips:

Choose Your Look

Without a doubt, older luxury cars are interesting and great conversation pieces. An older model Mercedes-Benz can be romantic, elegant and classic, while a vintage BMW can look as if it has adrenaline pumping beneath its sheet metal.

Because used luxury cars range in quality and upkeep, it’s hard to recommend specific vehicles. If you’re a car aficionado you may already have a favourite (say the 1995 BMW 5-Series, perhaps). Once you’ve chosen your manufacturer, it’s time to shift down for some serious research.

Consider that more “mainstream” luxury automakers — like Saab, Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Porsche — often have more inventory on the market initially, and therefore, more cars on the secondary market. More inventory means a lower used car price tag. When compared to more unusual high-end companies, such as Ferrari or DeLorean, these makers are also more likely to have service facilities in your area, and independent mechanics who feel comfortable about maintaining your vehicle.

Dynamics of Aged Luxury

Sure, you can have the sweetest car among all your entry-level peers; but if you keep showing up late due to car trouble, you’re better off driving a brand new Accord than a pre-owned Beemer. In other words, do your homework.

Kelley Blue Book is about to become your best friend. This publication and online service provide information that will walk you, step-by-step, through the car buying process. These guys know cars. Suggested retail values of used cars can also be found on the Web site, so you can gauge if you’re getting a good deal.

“This is the most complex consumer item that you could get,” says Charles Vogelheim, executive editor for Kelley Blue Book, when asked about buying older luxury vehicles. “Anytime you’re looking at a car five years or older, the history of that car becomes so much more important…whether it was cared for properly and how it was maintained by previous owners. At this stage, you’re getting to a point in a car’s life where you could have things starting to go wrong. Also, whether it was parked inside or not, waxed and cleaned regularly are important factors.

“At a certain point the mechanics cost more and the parts cost more, so a good history is really important. There are fewer qualified mechanics that can work on them–this is all part of what you’re buying into when you purchase an older luxury car,” added Vogelheim.

So, don’t be shy; ask lots of questions, including maintenance history. For example, did the owner change the oil every 3,000 or 6,000 miles, and was the recommended service schedule meticulously followed? Refer to Kelley’s “10 Steps to Buying a Used Car” for a detailed listing of suggested questions to ask.

SharpNote: Consider following up the salesperson or previous owner’s contention that the car was maintained. A luxury car is often serviced by the same shop — and the same service agent or mechanic — throughout it’s time with an owner. Ask the owner for the name of the dealership or shop where the car was maintained, then call, with the Vehicle Identification Number to follow up. Dealership service agents can look up the car and service record, smaller shops may remember a meticulous owner by name and car model. Seem like a lot of work? Wasn’t it also a lot of work to earn the money you’ll spend to repair a previously ill-maintained car?

Locating Vintage Beauties

When you decide it’s time to buy a used luxury car, you have two options: buying from a private individual or a dealership. Each choice has its own advantages and disadvantages.

According to Kelly Blue Book’s online guide, private parties often offer lower prices than a dealership due to the “refurbishing” a dealer must do to ready the car for sale. For example, they list a 1999 Mercedes-Benz SL-600 roadster with 112,000 miles and in “good” condition as having a suggested retail value of $31,105 at a dealership compared to $24,465 from an individual.

The upside of buying from a dealership is that there may be some kind of extended or “after-market” warranty. The vehicle may also participate in a program that “certifies” its condition. In fact, some manufacturers make it very easy for you to locate dealers’ pre-owned, certified cars. The Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. Web sites have a nationwide search for certified models, while BMW offers a similar search within 500 miles of your zip code, as does Audi.

Conversely, buying from a private party most often means that you are buying a vehicle sold as is, which may or may not be the best deal.

The Old Gray Mare, She Ain’t What She Used To Be

Older luxury cars can be a lot of fun to drive; however, do note that these are used vehicles, which means they have a lot of miles under their timing belt, engine, tires, interiors and the like. Kelley’s Vogelheim emphasizes looking at the details: “leather can age gracefully or can be a problem depending on how it was maintained…it can be cracked or not in good shape. Before it starts to crack it gets very hard. It’s the little things which should make you cautious.”

Vogelheim also suggests, “be aware of the car that you’re getting …the first year some cars came out they had problems, which were fixed over subsequent model years. They may have even had a recall. We recommend using CARFAX. It’s always nice to know whether it was involved in any kind of accident that required bodywork.”

CARFAX is an online resource that, for a fee, will provide you with a vehicle history report for the specific vehicle you inquire about. Yes, the actual one you have your eye on. You’ll need the vehicle identification number (VIN) for the car to obtain the report.

Each CARFAX report includes information on whether the vehicle associated with the VIN was:

  • Totaled in an accident/salvage
  • Sustained flood damage
  • Odometer rollbacks were observed
  • Has a “lemon” history
  • Has “junked” titles
  • Passed or failed state emissions inspection
  • Includes any lien activity and/or
  • Whether the vehicle was used as a taxi, rental, lease, etc.

The service costs $24.99 for unlimited vehicle history reports or $19.99 for a single vehicle history report. A Safety and Reliability Report on the overall make and model is also included with the $24.99 report, providing information on crash tests, safety recalls, reliability ratings and warranty information.

SharpNote: You can also obtain make and model recall information by visiting The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Web site.

Of course, prior to negotiating a price or signing on the dotted line, it’s a smart idea to have the vehicle inspected by a qualified mechanic of your choosing. Consider approaching a mechanic at the dealership, who has an incentive to find something wrong with the vehicle.

Managing the Unibrow

Got unibrow?

Having one eyebrow spanning the area over your eyes (instead of two distinct brows) can be an embarrassing problem. We live in a culture with very specific ideas of how much hair is “normal” and how much is unwanted and unattractive. And the hair in the middle of your brows is generally considered unattractive in today’s culture. Want options? Check out these SharpGrooming tips:

Why You?

It’s easy to look around and think you are the only one suffering from the unibrow problem. But as with most problems, you are never alone. Why some men have a unibrow and others don’t stem from a couple of different reasons.

Heritage can play a large role in how much facial hair you have. Some genetic lines and ethnic heritage typically have more body and facial hair growth than others. Moreover, if your background has given you darker hair and lighter skin, body and facial hair will, of course, be more obvious to the eye.

Heredity also can’t be ignored. Odds are against you if your father had a unibrow and strong facial hair growth. These things usually pass from generation to generation.

Getting Rid of the Unwanted Hair

Getting rid of that unwanted hair in between your eyebrows can be difficult. While some methods claim permanence, the results vary from person to person, and the method you choose will depend on the strength of your growth, what treatment you can afford and your willingness to maintain your eyebrows on a regular basis.

Tweezing or plucking. While hardly pleasurable, tweezing is often the best option for most SharpMen. You can do it in the privacy of your own home and can pluck away stray hairs as soon as they appear. With small metal tweezers, you literally pluck the hair from your face. The method is time-consuming since you have to take away one hair at a time (more than one is extra painful), so this method may not be ideal for anyone with a very full unibrow.

You can also visit a beauty professional who will do the initial grunt work, shape your brows and leave you to maintain a more manageable amount of hair. Most aestheticians or cosmetologists who service women’s eyebrow shaping have male clients.

Waxing. Waxing involves spreading hot wax over the area targeted for hair removal, placing a strip of cloth over the wax, rubbing vigorously and then ripping the cloth — along with the wax and the hair — in one smooth stroke. This technique removes the hair and hair root and is generally considered to be longer lasting than plucking (the roots take several weeks to re-establish themselves). While this is painful, the method takes only seconds and the sting disappears quickly.

While there are many home waxing kits that will allow you to wax your own unibrow, SharpMen are strongly advised to go to a professional beauty salon for this treatment. First-time home waxers have been known to hurt themselves or wax off more hair than they intended, with unattractive results. Waxing lasts a few weeks and then you will need to go back for another session.

As with plucking, most aestheticians and cosmetologists who servicewomen also accept male clients.

Electrolysis. Electrolysis uses a small needle to pass an electric current into the root of the hair, in order to kill the root and permanently arrest the regrowth of the unibrow. Regardless of what you’ve seen on late-night infomercials, you’ll need to go to a professional or beauty salon for this one. Since each hair is treated individually, the full effect generally requires several sessions. Moreover, each treatment can be relatively expensive.

Electrolysis is one of the methods of hair removal that claims to be permanent — and it is for many. Of course, as with anything, there’s a disclaimer on the back of the box: permanence is not guaranteed.

Laser treatment. This area of treatment is still relatively new and includes a number of variations. All claim to be permanent. The success and amount of treatment you require greatly depend on the strength of your hair growth, the fullness of your unibrow and (sometimes) the colour of your hair. Most treatment courses are slightly more expensive than electrolysis.

One example of laser treatment, the Epilight method uses pulsed light to remove hair and impair hair growth. First, a cool gel and a hand-held treatment unit is applied to the skin. Then, in a flash, pulses of light penetrate the skin and disable the hair follicles. When the gel is removed, much of the hair is wiped off with it. The remaining hair in the treated area falls out within a week or two.

Another treatment involves a beam of light passing through the skin, to the hair follicle where it is absorbed. “The laser energy is transformed into heat, which can disable the follicle, leaving the surrounding skin unchanged.” This method is called Gentlelase.

Each type of session usually lasts 20-60 minutes and you can find local dermatologists through your area’s dermatology association or search the online Laser Treatment Doctor Referral database.

Does any of this hurt? In some cases, a lot. With some laser light treatments, the closer the technician is to the bone, the more pain the patient feels. Then of course, there’s the burning. Some laser hair removal lightly burns the skin surface in addition to the hair roots (which will scab over and be obvious, you realize). Ever had a “light” burn? They hurt, too, right?

Of course, when compared to the short treatment time and permanence, many SharpMen may decide that laser treatments are their best bets.

Tips and Tools for Shaping Your Eyebrows

Even if you regularly go to a beauty salon to have your unibrow removed, you will always need to do some maintenance at home. There will be stray hairs you’ll want to get rid of. Alternatively, you may have decided that your unibrow is not full enough to necessitate a trip to the salon, or you may just have fuller brows than you’d like or stray hairs that are annoying you. Whatever your reason, you’re in need of some tips for grooming and shaping your eyebrows.

Leave it to SharpGrooming to bring you some eyebrow shaping tips:

  • Get a good magnifying mirror. The Conair Deluxe Halo Lighted Mirror is the ultimate option with triple and regular magnification and a light to help you along.
  • Get a GREAT pair of tweezers. There’s nothing more annoying than a dull tweezer that lets go of little hairs — just when you thought you had them. Once you’ve got your great pair, sharpen or replace them often. Try it once and you’ll never go back. We recommend the Tweezerman line of tweezers. They’re made with a variety of grips and edge slats, but all are terrific and come with a guarantee and free re-sharpening.
  • Pluck just out of the shower. It is easier and less painful to tweeze hairs when you first get out of the shower. The steam and water will have opened your pores and loosened their grip on the hairs.
  • Map out your route. So where should you eyebrow begin and end? Hold a pencil or nail file against the end of your nose, straight up to your eyebrow. Your inner brow should begin where the pencil rests and end about half a centimeter past the outer corner of your eye. SharpMan Tip: If you’ve spent money on a professional, let him or her determine the “line” of your eyebrows, and then don’t pluck within that line. Avoid messing up something you’ve paid good money for!
  • Keep the eyebrows balanced. The last thing you want is for one eyebrow to be thinner or shorter than the other. So alternate plucking each brow every few hairs and watch the balance between the two. It’s a good idea to mark exactly where you want to pluck before you begin, to avoid taking too much on one side. See SharpMan Tip above.
  • Don’t over-pluck. Pluck slowly and take away only those stray hairs that are particularly obvious. See SharpMan Tip above.
  • Clean up. Wipe the area with an antiseptic wipe to clean and close pores when you are finished tweezing.

What Is “PNF” Stretching?

In this article:

  • PNF stretching explained.
  • Stretches to get you started.
  • Guidelines for stretching.

We all know we should stretch but, truthfully, how many of us take the time? It’s a fast-paced world and every minute counts. A SharpMan doesn’t have time to waste on stretching if there is no immediate and practical benefit. Should you give up stretching and hope you don’t pull a hamstring on your next run? Don’t throw in the towel yet.

Let’s take a different approach. As Chef Emeril says, “we’re gonna kick it up a notch,” with PNF stretching. Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, or PNF, is like stretching on steroids. Check out the SharpHealth skinny:

A Little History

Originally developed by Herman Kabat MD, Ph.D. in the 1940s and early 1950s as a treatment modality for paralysis patients, PNF stretching has found its way into mainstream health and fitness circles. And for good reason: it works. Study after study supports the efficacy of PNF stretching and also shows other benefits as well. Such as:

  • Want to improve your flexibility in the shortest time possible? PNF.
  • Want to gain strength while you’re stretching? PNF.
  • Want to recover more quickly from workouts? PNF.

What PNF Is Not

A couple basic types of stretches are used today. You have probably done one of the following two versions of stretching in the past:

Ballistic stretching. Sometimes called dynamic stretching, this style of stretching forcefully stretches a muscle by way of a bouncing movement. An example of a ballistic stretch is standing with your feet together, legs straight and rapidly bouncing down to the toe-touching position. Ballistic stretching risks muscle injury and is no longer advised as a healthy means of stretching.

Static stretching. This is the most common form of flexibility training. In static stretching, the target muscle is stretched to the point where a “pull” is felt in the muscle. An example of a static stretch is sitting on the floor with your legs extended and reaching forward to grab your toes. Static stretches are typically held for a count of 15-30 seconds.

What PNF Stretching Is

PNF stretching is a specific flexibility protocol that uses a combination of isometric contractions and partner-assisted stretching techniques. Several styles of PNF are used, the most practical being the CRAC (contract-relax, antagonist-contract) technique.

PNF stretching is best done with a partner after a light warm-up. A warm-up may consist of walking briskly, cycling for 5-10 minutes or engaging in any activity until you first break a sweat. Whenever you do a warm-up you are literally raising the temperature within the muscle. Warmer muscles make for more pliable, and therefore more injury-resistant, muscles.

Sample PNF Stretches

Interested? Try the following PNF stretches the next time you hit the gym:

Hamstring Stretch. Lie on the ground facing up with one leg fully extended and the other leg bent at a 45-degree angle with your foot flat on the ground.

Raise your straight leg as high as possible — but stop before you feel any pain or discomfort. If you have a partner, he or she can assist by holding the raised leg in position. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds.

Forcefully contract your hamstring for six seconds (as if you are trying to force your heel to the ground). Your partner will apply resistance by pushing your leg and holding it steady. If you are working without a partner, a towel wrapped around your foot will work do the same.

Now, pull your raised leg forward towards your body again. This will stretch your hamstring. As you reposition your leg by pulling it farther back, your partner will again stabilize your raised leg to provide resistance against your motion. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds.

Repeat two to three times. After the initial contraction and relaxation, you will notice an ability to comfortably stretch farther.

Pectoralis (Chest) Stretch. Begin by standing in a doorway with one arm raised above your head at a 90-degree angle (i.e., a WWII German-style salute). Place your forearm and open palm against a doorway and turn your body away from the arm until you feel a comfortable stretch through your chest and into your shoulder. Hold for 15 seconds.

Contract the pectoralis, or chest, muscles, pushing against the doorway for six seconds (i.e., imagine pulling your arms together in the prayer position).

Relax and repeat the stretch, holding for 15 seconds. Repeat two to three times per side.

Shin (Tibialis Anterior) Stretch. Begin this stretch by lying flat on the ground and “pointing” with your toes. This will stretch your shins to their full range of motion. If you are stretching with a partner, he or she will hold the foot in the stretched position. For an effective self-stretch, anchor your foot under a solid object such as a couch or dresser. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds.

Contract your shin muscle, pulling your toes toward your body for six seconds. Relax and point with the toes, once again stretching the shin muscle. Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat two to three times.

This can be an especially important stretch for anyone who suffers from shin splints, as PNF stretching will serve to both strengthen and stretch the affected muscles.

SharpTips to Remember

Warm up before stretching.

Continue to breathe throughout the stretching process. Holding your breath — which many SharpMen do when they concentrate on a movement — can cause a rapid rise in blood pressure.

Stretching should always be comfortable and pain-free. If you stretch to the point where it hurts, you greatly increase your risk of muscle or tendon injury.

Work with an attentive partner and explain to him or her exactly what assistance you require.

Regardless of the type of stretching, you are incorporating into your workout, the one factor that will best increase your flexibility is consistency. Just as adding bulk requires consistent weight workouts, maximizing your flexibility allows your body the time it needs to adapt to new requirements.

Adding An Inch To Your Arms

In this article:

  • Tricks of the trade.
  • The best exercises to add an inch.
  • Finding your niche: beginner, intermediate and advanced programs.

Have you ever noticed how most people equate how big your “muscles” are with the size and shape of your arms? Strange, isn’t it? Especially considering how much smaller these muscles areas are compared to your larger muscle groups: your chest, back and legs. Why is this? Probably because arms are the muscle group most often exposed by T-shirts and tank tops. 

Check out these SharpHealth tips. You’ll learn how to get a little more exposure and a lot more looks by adding an inch to the width of your arm size.

Tricks of the Trade

Eat well. If you’re going to add size to your body and get bigger arms, you’ll have to gain some lean muscle. How much? It’ll take about seven to 10 pounds of lean muscle to add an inch to both your arms. And if you haven’t heard it before, listen up: protein is responsible for building muscle, so your diet should consist of about 30 percent protein. To make it even easier, take in about .75 to one gram of protein for each pound of your body weight. Trust us, you’ll grow like a weed. 

Additionally, about 50 percent of your daily diet should consist of carbohydrates. You’ll need these “carbs” for the energy to get through the arm-blasting workouts and to help you recuperate afterward. Don’t worry about the body fat; the final 20 percent of your daily diet is usually made up of some fat from your protein and carbohydrate sources.

Work the long head of your triceps. Your triceps muscles are made up of three muscles, or different “heads”. These are the medial, lateral and long. The long head of your triceps is located on the back of your upper arms and goes from your elbow to your armpit. This head is the largest of the triceps muscles and since your triceps make up two-thirds of your upper arm muscles, it has a lot to do with the way your arms look. Got that? That’s right: if you target the biggest muscle in your arms, the bigger your arms will appear. The good news? The long head of your triceps is affected by any triceps exercise where your elbows are extended over your head. More on this later.

Supersets. A key to adding size to arms is to push them to grow. And if “supersets” don’t do that, they come very close. What is a “superset? Simply put, it’s a set in which you work your biceps and triceps back-to-back, with no rest periods in between sets. For example, try doing a set of dumbbell curls for 10 reps and then immediately do triceps press downs for 10 reps. (Now call 911 to help put out the fire burning in your bigger arms.)

Lift heavy, rest a lot. For some of us, the only way to get bigger, stronger arms is to lift heavier. So mix it up a little: do your supersets, but then choose a weight so heavy that you can only do six reps “to failure” with on the barbell curl. In between sets, rest up to five minutes.  Heavy lifting may not get your heart pumping like the supersets will, but sleep on it, and I promise you’ll feel a little “good” pain the next day. Lifting heavier is crucial for training arms.

The quad drop set. Pick any exercise for your arms and then pick a weight with which you can only do about eight reps. As soon as you complete all eight reps, do another eight reps immediately, but lower the weight by five to ten pounds. Do this again and again, allowing rest for blood flow in your arms, until you’ve completed four drops or “quad” drops for a total of 32 reps in one set. Give it a try — you’ll love it.

21s. Nope, not a blackjack game, but a great way to fry your biceps. Pick up a barbell with a weight that you can perform about 10 reps within good form. Now curl the barbell from the bottom position to the midway point seven times. Then curl it from the top position to the midway position another seven times.  Then let it all the way down and finish off the set with seven more reps — but this time do seven full curls. See why these are called 21s?

The Exercises

Since this isn’t “Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding,” we’ll just give you a quick overview of the best exercises to make your arms why these exercises work. Make sure to give all of these arm workouts a try.

Biceps

Barbell Curl: The Macdaddy of biceps exercises, this is known as a mass builder because you can use more weight on these biceps curls than any other exercise. The more weight used, the more muscle fibers stressed, and the more muscle growth you get after you recuperate. This is one of the workout ideas you can’t miss if you want bigger arms.

Stand with your legs slightly bent to take pressure off your lower back. Hold a barbell loaded with the desired weight using a grip that is about shoulder width. Curl the weight up, keeping your elbows close to your sides. Don’t let your elbows come forward during the movement or you’ll be incorporating your shoulder muscles too much. And finally, do not lean back or swing the weight to get it up. That could cause major damage to your lower back, and you won’t be working your bicep muscle much either.

Preacher curl: Again, you can use good (heavy) weight on this for building bigger arms, but the difference is that since your arms are in a fixed position:

  1. you can’t cheat; it’s all about your biceps, and
  2. you’re hitting the lower part of your biceps very hard. 

Great for adding size. Sit on a preacher bench with the pad fitted comfortably under your armpits. Use an E-Z curl bar. You can vary your grip on this if you like. A narrow grip will hit your outer biceps, while a wide grip will target your inner biceps. A middle grip will hit them all around. Allow the weight to come all of the ways down at the bottom of the curl position. When you curl up at the top, keep constant tension on your biceps and flex or contract the muscles.

Seated dumbbell curl: When you’re seated, again, you’re less likely to cheat and if you supinate (or twist) the dumbbells on the way up, it’ll help increase your biceps’ peaks.

Sit on a flat bench. Keep your elbows tucked close to your sides and don’t bring them forward. You’ll start the movement with a dumbbell in each hand, with your palms facing your sides or turned into your body. As you curl the weight, on the way up, supinate the dumbbells so that your palms will actually be facing your chest/shoulders at the top of the movement. Again, squeeze at the top.

Incline dumbbell curls: You’re seated and lying back on an incline bench. This position means that your biceps get even less help from other muscle groups — a really efficient biceps workout. Dig in and start building. The same movement as the seated dumbbell curl, but this is harder. Your biceps are isolated when you’re lying on a 45-degree incline bench, so go a little lighter. Control the weight throughout the movement and don’t swing it up. Anyone can use momentum to lift heavier weights, but you’re building your muscles, so make them do the work.

Triceps

Overhead dumbbell extension: Remember what we said about the long head of the triceps? Here’s your chance to make it happen. Grab a dumbbell with both hands and hold it from one end over your head. Begin with your arms straight in the air above your head, and slowly lower the weight back behind your head. The movement is similar to a “throw in” used in soccer, but your arms should fully extend directly above your head. Keep your elbows in tight and lower the dumbbell as far as you can behind your head. It’s a great site builder.

Close grip bench press: If you want size, this exercise gives it to you. The close grip bench press works your triceps hard because the movement allows you to pack on a heavy weight. Lying on a flat bench, load a barbell with the desired weight. Keep both feet planted on the ground at all times and do not lift your butt off the bench during the movement no matter what, or you could cause back damage. Grip the barbell just inside shoulder width, or go as close as having your hands six inches apart. This will force your triceps to do the work rather than your chest. Bring the weight down to your chest using the close grip and press it back up to the start position.

Triceps pressdowns: The focus is more on the lateral (outside) head, depending on your grip. But it’s still great for size and adding some definition to that cool horseshoe muscle on the outside of your one arm. Using a high pulley cable attachment, pick a straight bar and hook it on the high pulley cable. Grip the bar at shoulder width, keeping your elbows very tight against your sides. Begin with your arms at a 90-degree angle against your sides. Press the weight down or straighten your arms. Be sure to squeeze at the bottom. When you bring the weight back up, do not let your arms bend any further than the 90-degree starting point.

Vertical dips: Hold a dumbbell in between your ankles and the size will come almost instantly. It’s a tough exercise, to begin with, so take it easy at first and just use your body weight. On a parallel bar dip machine, grip each side and support yourself in the air. Keeping your legs bent at the knees slightly, lower your body (or if you’re more advanced, have a partner place a dumbbell in between your ankles). Lower yourself until your arms are bent at or just below a 90-degree angle and then press back to the start position.

Take Care of Simple Heartburn Before It Becomes Complicated

In this article:

  • The definition of chronic heartburn.
  • The medical complications of chronic heartburn.
  • When to seek medical advice.

Almost everyone experiences heartburn occasionally. For most SharpMen, heartburn is nothing more than an infrequent inconvenience brought on by overeating.

Unfortunately, according to the American College of Gastroenterology, approximately 15 million Americans suffer from heartburn on a daily basis.

The problem?

Persistent heartburn can have a serious negative effect on a SharpMan’s long-term digestive health. Check out the following SharpHealth tips about this seemingly simple condition, its potential complications when left untreated, and safe and effective ways to stop it before it causes real trouble:

Chronic Heartburn Defined

When heartburn and indigestion occur frequently, the condition is known as gastroesophageal (pronounced gas tro ee soph a jeel) reflux disease (GERD). GERD is caused by stomach acid backing up into the esophagus, the tube that connects the throat to the stomach. Because stomach acid has no place in your esophagus, the acid causes you to feel the discomfort associated with heartburn, one of the problems commonly associated with GERD. Other symptoms of GERD include difficulty swallowing and recurring nausea.

So what is the underlying cause of GERD?GERD is generally caused by weakness of the muscle at the top of the stomach, where the stomach meets the esophagus. This muscle, called the lower esophageal sphincter, is designed to control the opening and closing of the bottom of the esophagus. When this muscle loses its tone, it fails to close properly and allows acid-soaked stomach contents to back up into the esophagus.

In the past, physicians commonly believed that GERD was caused by a hiatal hernia, a protrusion of a portion of the stomach into the chest. While studies indicate that the presence of a hiatal hernia may affect the tone of the lower esophageal sphincter muscle, this condition is not the uniform cause of GERD.

What You Can Do About Heartburn and GERD

Minor changes in lifestyle may help. The following is a list of lifestyle adjustments that may help to control or reduce heartburn and other symptoms of GERD:

  • Don’t drink alcohol. Alcohol relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter muscle and may irritate the mucous layer that lines the esophagus.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking can reduce the muscle tone of the lower esophageal sphincter and increase acid production in the stomach.
  • Avoid heavy meals and eating too quickly.
  • Avoid foods that are spicy, greasy or acidic (such as tomatoes, onions, orange juice, etc.).
  • Don’t wear pants that are too tight around the waist. Anything that puts pressure on the abdominal area may force stomach contents upward into the esophagus.
  • Elevate the head of your bed. GERD is often worse at night. Why? Sleeping horizontally means that you lose the assistance of gravity in keeping stomach acid down where it belongs. By elevating the head of your bed or propping your head up with pillows, you may be able to reduce nighttime heartburn.

Some prescription medications may make it worse. Certain over-the-counter and prescription medications can exacerbate the symptoms of GERD. Aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and some steroids can irritate the stomach, so check with your doctor if you take over-the-counter pain relievers or arthritis medication.

When all else fails. If lifestyle changes and the use of over-the-counter antacids fail to control your heartburn and GERD, or if you use over-the-counter antacids more than twice per week, consider seeking the advice of your physician.

Why You Should Have Heartburn and GERD Checked Out

When left untreated, the chronic presence of stomach acid in the esophagus can lead to the development of ulcers in the esophagus. You know, actual holes in your esophagus. Not great.

More serious is the fact that unmanaged GERD can cause Barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous condition. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, SharpMen who develop Barrett’s esophagus are 30 times more likely to develop esophageal cancer than asymptomatic patients, and SharpMen who experience chronic heartburn but do not develop Barrett’s esophagus are eight times more likely to develop esophageal cancer than guys who experience no gastroesophageal symptoms.

As with so many other medical conditions, the earlier Barrett’s esophagus is diagnosed and treated, the better, so it’s worth getting your chronic heartburn checked out ASAP.

Treatment for GERD

What can you expect? Before prescribing a treatment plan, your doctor may want to run some tests. The following three examinations are most commonly required for GERD diagnosis:

Simple blood work. Your physician will likely ask to draw blood in order to rule out the presence of an ulcer-causing bacteria in the stomach and to ensure that you are not experiencing bleeding in the digestive tract.

Upper GI (or barium swallow). Your physician will also want to take a number of painless X-rays of your esophagus, stomach and small intestine. In order to better judge the function of these organs, your physician will ask you to drink a beverage that includes barium prior to the test. The barium drink doesn’t taste great, but it does the trick.

Upper endoscopy. In this procedure, your physician will ask you to say “aaah,” and insert a plastic tube fitted with a light and a small camera inserted down your throat. The aim is to visually inspect your esophagus and stomach. The procedure is usually performed in your office or another outpatient facility and requires you to be sedated.

What are the treatment options? If your physician determines that you have GERD, he or she is likely to prescribe an acid-reducing drug such as Prilosec or Prevacid. While these drugs do not boost the functionality of the lower esophageal sphincter, they do reduce the amount of acid in the stomach and will typically provide relief from indigestion. Decreasing the amount of acid also provides a measure of protection to the esophagus.

A daily dose of prescription medication is often all it takes to relieve chronic heartburn and prevent a more serious digestive condition. If medication fails to control the problem, surgery may be recommended. Researchers are developing new and less invasive surgical procedures to correct the laxity of the lower esophageal muscle that causes GERD.

Things to consider while under treatment. While under treatment for GERD, patients should be regularly monitored by a medical professional to ensure against the development of Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer.

SharpMen interested in more information about chronic heartburn should check out the following links:

American College of Gastroenterology

WebMD

Hobbies That Drive Women Wild: Rare Book Collecting

In this article:

  • Are all “first editions” valuable?
  • Which books should you buy?
  • Where should you buy them?

Since our first SharpToys on winemaking (Sharp HomeBrew Toys), SharpMen has reported great SharpDating success stories on wooing women with interesting hobbies. Cool. In response, we offer you a new occasional series, Hobbies That Drive Women Wild. Yes, you will sound pretentious, but who cares if she doesn’t? Our first offering: rare book collecting. Talk about sounding well-read! These tips will help you sound well-read, well-shopped, and well-liked. Here are the basics:

What makes a book “collectable?”

Like any other business, it’s all about supply and demand. Not many copies + lots of people who want it = valuable. So, reprints of bestsellers, even if they’re hardcovers in nice condition, are not going to be valuable. Ever. Give these away to make room for the good stuff (buy a paperback next time). However, the first books of many popular authors are often valuable in the first edition, because the publisher was unwilling to take a gamble on an unknown by printing the first run of 50,000 plus copies.

Are all first editions valuable?

Think about it. Supply and demand, again. Tens of thousands of books are published every year, and most don’t make it to a second printing. So are you gonna run out and buy copies of all of those first editions? Of course not. A book is valuable only if someone’s willing to pay lots of money for it.

Are books a good investment?

No. Collect rare books because you like them, or to impress women. It’s not gonna make you rich.

Now, what should you collect?

The book collector’s maxim is to collect what you love. Good news: even if the last book you read was the Catcher in the Rye in ninth grade (a first edition of which would set you back some $4500 now — gulp), you can find some category of interest. Hate to read, only like sports? Then collect first editions of books about golf, football, surfing, or whatever. She’ll see them lined up on your shelf with their gilt-lettered spines or vintage dust jackets and will find you much more alluring than when you’re in front of the tube guzzling beer and watching the playoffs.

History buff? Collect Americana. (Doesn’t that sound impressive?) Or, do you have lots of money but no desire to read? You can really impress the women by collecting “incunabula,” books printed in the year 1500 and before. (Most of these aren’t in English, which is why it’s a good field to collect if you just want them to look impressive on your shelf without having to worry about what’s inside the covers.) Note that incunabula mean serious dough.

If you like fiction, you can collect modern first editions, a.k.a. “modern firsts.”(SharpMan Tip: antiquarian book dealers consider anything published since 1900 “modern.”) Good news: you can start a modern first collection before you get rich. Start collecting first editions of the authors you like now (this means hardcovers).

How do you know it’s a “first edition?”

Publishers vary in their method of identifying first editions, but you can often tell if a book is the first edition by checking the string of numbers on the copyright page. These numbers generally look like “987654321,” with the “1” indicating the first printing. The printer then removes a number for each run. So beware if the copyright page states “First edition, 9876543,” because although the publisher may consider this the first edition of the book (i.e. no new material), it’s the third printing, and therefore not a true first edition from a collecting perspective. This is not a foolproof method, however; Random House, for example, marks its first editions with a “First Edition” tag and a string of numbers ending in 2. If you’re going to drop serious cash on a book, you want to make sure it’s a first. Consult a dealer.

How do you buy rare books?

The best way to get your feet wet is to form a relationship with an “antiquarian book dealer.” If a dealer knows he (or she) is your main source for your collection, the dealer will actively scout for the books you are seeking and will let you know when a certain copy is overpriced or in an inferior condition. Some dealers will even find you a “lesser” copy of a book and agree to let you return it for full price (“trade up”) when they find a better copy. Look for a dealer who belongs to the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America. These vendors abide by a code of ethics and have undergone a peer approval process, so you can generally feel you will be treated fairly by a dealer affiliated with this organization. Check out their website at http://abaa.org and search for a member dealer near you by geographic location. Another great feature of this site is its book search function.

Buying Online.

You can also buy rare books online using a site such as Bibliofind. Many ABAA members are also members of this service. Be careful, though–make sure that the dealer you buy from has a return policy in case the book you receive doesn’t look like the description you read.

Other sites include Alibris.com and even ebay . With non-ABAA affiliated sites, be sure you know whom you’re buying from. With sites like ebay, check the seller’s rating, but realize that you’re never guaranteed purchase security, since sophisticated scams include good ebay ratings, as well. Be especially careful about online auctions; you never know what idiot will try to pass off their “really old, 1933” edition of Shakespeare as a “first.” Our advice: buy your most expensive books from offline professionals.

In fact, even if you shop online, we recommend starting out with one ABAA-accredited dealer, because of the great variation in the way different dealers describe the condition of their books. After all, the fact remains that you can learn more from a flesh-and-blood dealer than from reading online catalog descriptions.

Other Information Sources.

Investing in a price guide is not a bad idea. SharpMan.com recommends Collecting Books: A Guide to Values by book dealers Allen and Patricia Ahearn.

Newly published by the same authors is a more general book, Book Collecting 2000, A Comprehensive Guide, which also has price information.

Novice collectors can also learn a lot from Firsts: The Book Collector’s Magazine www.firsts.com/.

Finally, learn more about this Hobby That Drives Women Wild while having a Great Date by attending a book dealers’ trade show. If you’re near New York City, a major one is coming up: the 40th Annual New York Antiquarian Book Fair will take place April 13th-16th at the Park Avenue Armory. If you have a book you think might be valuable (the cornerstone of your new collection, perhaps?), show up with it on Sunday the 16th for a free appraisal. For more information, check out the website http://www.sanfordsmith.com/nyabf/nyabf.html . If you’re in a smaller town, don’t despair; local dealers often get together for a regional fair. Check out Firsts Magazine, the ABAA or your local newspaper for listings.

Shirt Collars 101

In this article:

  • How to determine your collar size.
  • Collar styles explained.
  • Which collars will complement you and your look.

What’s In a Shirt Collar?

Should you care about the type of collar on your shirts? Maybe not. But knowing a thing or two about shirt collar choices could make the difference between looking dressed and looking Sharp. What’s the story with collars? Many tailors describe cuffs and collars as the finest details of any man’s shirt. In fact, the quality of a shirt is often determined by these features. Cuffs and collars also define the formality of the shirt. For example, the stiffer (or more heavily starched) the collar, the more formal the shirt appears. Moreover, the cleaner and more groomed the collar of your shirt, the cleaner and the more groomed you appear.

Determining Collar Quality and Size

A well-made collar must sit evenly on the neck, creating a frame for your face. If the collar folds over, as most western-style collars do (as opposed to the so-called “Mandarin Collar”), the inside of the fold should be stitched or double-stitched with additional fabric on the part of the shirt that touches the neck. This gives the collar “body,” or a good shape, and prevents visible perspiration marks.

What is your ideal collar size? One that doesn’t choke, of course. To translate this to a number, take a tape measure and measure the circumference of your neck just below your Adam’s Apple. Insert your fattest finger and loosen the tape measure to accommodate it comfortably, but not loosely. This is your final collar measurement, and in the U.S., also your shirt size.

Types of Collars

Despite so many innovative collar styles emerging, most styles are variations on the following traditional models:

The Turndown Collar. This common style is also known as the “Straight-Point Collar” and is widely recognized as the “normal” collar style. It features two sharp points that can be dramatically long or corporate short depending on the fashion.

The Buttondown. Many people mistake the name “button-down shirt” for a description referring to the buttons along the front of the shirt. In fact, this name more accurately describes the style of the collar. The Buttondown is similar to the Turndown, but with buttons on the tips of either point that fasten the collar ends to the shirt beneath. This style was originated by polo players whose dress collars had to be restrained while they rode.

The Tab Collar. This “stubbier” version of the Turndown features a small strip of lining fabric that buttons the two wings of the collar in front. Very preppy. Despite the fact that this style originated among English royalty, it is most often associated with the uniform of American Ivy Leaguers.

The English Spread. The turned-down portion of this collar is of medium width and the points are somewhat flared and characteristically spread apart. This collar was designed to accommodate the full Windsor knot, the big-daddy version of the popular “Half-Windsor” most Americans fight with each morning.

The Club Collar. Also known as the “rounded collar” because of its rounded collar points. Like the Tab Collar, the Club Collar features a shorter, “stubbier” width and frequently has a pinhole on each collar tip. When fastened, this collar is worn heavily starched and high up on the neck, pinned or unpinned. When unstarched, it may be worn unfastened. Either way, you’re bound to look like a prepubescent English schoolboy.

The Mandarin Collar. Traditionally associated with elegant Eastern men’s wear and cousin to the Middle-Eastern “Turkish Collar,” the Mandarin Collar comes up from the collarbone approximately one to two inches without a “turndown” element. May not be worn with a tie. Very elegant when worn with or without a jacket, but may not be appropriate with a Western-style business suit.

Which Collar Is Right For You?

Collars frame your face, and should therefore be used to complement your facial features. Many tailors suggest matching the shape of your face and neck to a certain style of the collar. For example, the SharpMan with a narrow face should opt for a high collar that’s not too wide. On the other hand, another SharpMan with a broad face and thick neck (that’s you, rugby boy) will look best wearing a low collar that exaggerates the length of his neck.

Another consideration is fashion. Plenty of styles may flatter you, but one never looks Sharp showing up to work dressed as The Scarlet Pimpernel. Similarly, even if Gucci’s Spring look features super-elongated collars, perhaps you should stick with a more conventional — and traditional — collar for the office. Be aware of fashion, but ultimately choose a collar that is appropriate for the event for which you dress.

SharpThreads Q & A

In this article:

  • Fading new blue jeans.
  • Patching jeans with holes — the easy way.
  • Buying the perfect-fitting jeans — and avoiding “shrinkage.”

Got a wardrobe question? The SharpThreads Guy can answer it. WRITE STG This week the SharpThreads Guy answers questions about the SharpMan’s favorite wardrobe item — blue jeans:

“I Just Want to Dye”

I have a pair of jeans that I never wear because they look too “new.” I’ve heard there’s a way to fade them in the washing machine. How do I do this?

P.Q.
Garland, TX

SharpThreads Guy: Yes, you can fade jeans artificially, but realize that the results will be slightly different than if the indigo-blue dye faded naturally over time. To fade jeans, skip the washing machine — too hard to tell what the heck is going on in there, so your chances of bleaching your jeans evenly are slim.

Instead, fill a bathtub with about eight inches of water and, using a pair of waterproof gloves, pour in between a quart to half a gallon of bleach (depending on how much you’d like to fade your jeans). Realize that the more bleach you put in, the more you’ll weaken the denim. Take a long stick (like the kind given out in paint stores) or some other disposable tool and stir the bleach in thoroughly. Be careful not to splash on yourself, or you’ll get bleach spots on whatever you’re wearing.

Add your jeans into the mix by laying them out flat — no folds, twists, or wrinkles. Any of these will cause your jeans to lighten unevenly. With your tool, poke the jeans down so that they are submerged. Turn them every five minutes or so — again, laying then down flat. Check the color after a half-hour of turning. Take the jeans out about two shades before the one you want (fabric looks darker when wet). Rinse the jeans in cold water — three times — and then hang them over the shower to dry. Drip-drying is best to ensure that dye doesn’t accumulate in the folds.

Once dry, you’ll notice they stink — bad. Throw them in the washing machine and then into the dryer. Use good-smelling dryer sheets to help with the smell.

Patch Power

I need to patch up some jeans with big holes in the knees. It seems like every time I wear them they get even worse. Is there a difference between the outside patches and the other way jeans are mended? The patches look kind of stupid.

S.T.K.
Lakewood, CO

SharpThreads Guy: Quick, patch up. The more you wear a pair of jeans with a well-placed hole, the faster and more out of control the hole will grow to be. There’s no real difference between visible patches and the kind that are sewn on the inside of the garment. The “inside” style is more discreet, and usually requires a patch two to three times the size of the whole, usually, the same color as the jeans, sewn many times around the whole and then around the perimeter. But why bother doing all that work yourself? For a couple of bucks, any local dry cleaner will patch your jeans — fast.

Shrunken!

I recently bought a great-fitting pair of Levi’s only to have them shrink once I washed them. What’s up with that? Is there some special way to dry jeans?

B.F.
Peoria, AZ

SharpThreads Guy: Sounds like you bought 501s — the most popular cut of Levi’s, but also one of the only styles sold by Levi’s that do not come pre-shrunk (other styles are guaranteed not to shrink more than 3 percent). 501s must be purchased large, about an extra inch at the waist and an extra two inches long in the inseam (leg length). Give the small pair to a shorter SharpMan and better luck next time

9 Tips For Cubicle Feng Shui: Using Feng Shui at Work

Pronounced “fung shway,” feng shui can be traced back to China… 6000 years ago. Literally translated as “wind, water,” the ancient Chinese art of feng shui is the study of man and his relationship to the world around him. The goal is to create a perfect environment in which you have total harmony and balance with nature. In the context of your office cubicle, the goal is to enhance your little workspace so that it is more conducive to you being productive.

What Is Feng Shui?

Feng shui uses five specific elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water, to balance our environment. When all of these energies work and flow together in harmony, it creates a space that feels good and seems appealing or inviting. The places where we spend most of our time can affect us poorly if the energy is “constipated” and negative — which can cause us to feel uncomfortable or physically drained. Feng shui’s goal is to change that.

All right, I know, it sounds like new age malarkey. But, most SharpMen spend an increasingly large amount of time at work — and if that environment is unpleasant, well, then, our whole experience can generally suck. So, without delving too far into the ideas behind the art of feng shui, see below for all you need to bring feng shui, and turn the average office cubicle into a proverbial positive energy-filled paradise, and help with your career success and well being.

I mean, really, what have you got to lose?

The Feng Shui Cubicle

In general, the very idea of the cubicle is negative. It often brings to mind words like “slave” and signifies the average SharpMan’s rat-like existence within a small prison of paperwork, fluorescent lighting, and computer wires. The cubicle creates an inhibiting work environment devoid of privacy and natural light, but also fails to keep out distractions. Think about an overhead view of a cubicle-filled office (or “cube farm”). Seems like one of those little mazes that they run mice through, doesn’t it? Doesn’t a feng shui cubicle sound much nicer?

So how do you change this? You can by bringing feng shui into your office space of course! The goal is to create an environment that is relaxed, one that will allow you to be creative and free-flowing. You want your office space to be more pleasant, a better mental space, in a way that will make it a more effective workspace — without creeping out your coworkers and boss. After all, you don’t want to be become known as the “new age cubicle guy” around the office floor. That would be weird.

Bringing Feng Shui To Your Office Space

Check out the following amazing ways for transforming your cluttered cubicle into a more effective workspace through the art of feng shui:

Step One: Declutter

Take a lunch hour to de-clutter your office. Remove all objects — even office supplies like staplers and tape dispensers that you don’t use more than once per hour. Place these in desk drawers out of view. They’ll only remind you that you’re in work jail. Also, remove outdated schedules and other scraps of paper that you thumb-tacked up on the walls of your cube just to look like you had stuff going on. The first rule is to open up your space.

Step Two: Position Your Chair

Chances are that you work on a computer and often spend a lot of time in a good chair. Your first goal should be to make the entrance to your space visible, in a commanding position. This is often the complete opposite of the way an average chair is oriented, as most of the time people arrange their chairs so that their backs face the entrance to their cubes.

Why is this bad? It reflects paranoia. How can a workspace be relaxing if you may be surprised from behind at any moment? When you can’t see what is coming from your seating area, you will instinctively worry about it and not be able to relax and focus on the current task at hand.

If it is not possible to face or see the opening to your cubicle by moving your chair around, or if you simply don’t have the option of adjusting your space due to office restrictions or electrical access, then try placing a small mirror in a place that allows you to see the entrance to your cube while working.

Step Three: Personal Goals

Although it may not seem to be related to the design of your cube, make a shortlist of your work and personal goals. For example, jot down “improve work quality” or “receive raise” or “move to next level.” Just go with us, here. The changes you make to your cube will be based on reinforcing those goals that you’d like to achieve. Choose to focus on one or two goals at a time. Then mentally commit yourself to follow through on these goals.

Step Four: Feng Shui Design

Get a regular old compass and find the four major directions within your cubicle. Mark them on Post-Its®. Now decorate with the following feng shui design concepts with the following tips:

North Corner

The color of the north is black, its element is water and its animal is the dependable turtle. “Enhance” the north part of your cube if you are looking for overall business success and growth. Do this by enhancing the visual prominence of this corner with the color black, adding a small water feature (although you are treading remarkably close to the “new age cubicle guy” label).

East

The color of the east is green, its element is wood and its animal is the dragon. “Enhance” the east part of your cube for business growth and personal health. Do this by enhancing the visual prominence of this corner with the color green, by adding plants or wooden object.

South

The color of the south is red, its element is fire and its animal is the phoenix. This is the most powerful element. “Enhance” the south part of your cube if you desire fame and fortune. Do this by enhancing the visual prominence of this corner with the color red or a figurine of a phoenix.

West

The color of the west is white, its element is metal and its animal is the fierce tiger. “Enhance” the west part of your cube to improve your personal creativity and overall self-worth. Do this by enhancing the visual prominence of this corner with the color white or a metal object.

The key is to determine which direction(s) best matches your goals and visually enhance that corner of your cube with its corresponding color, element or animal.

Step Five: More Positive Energy

Now take a look at your cube again. Is there anything else that would make you find the space more pleasing and add flare? Inspirational quotes? A plant? Better lighting? A picture of your car or travel pictures? Calming colors? A more comfortable chair? If the things that you see make you relax, then you will be more likely to relax enough to focus on your work.

Step Six: Enjoy Your Feng Shui

Now the reality check. There’s no magic associated with feng shui. Meeting your goals is up to you. What feng shui does do is help you create an environment that is more conducive to feeling more comfortable and therefore more focused on your life goals. It helps with your energy levels and productivity, and helps eliminate anxiety.

On the other hand, the five elements of feng shui should act as a mere base from which you can develop ideas of your own on how to create a productive workspace. If the feng shui plans don’t work for you, then throw them out and try it your way.

You need to feel good about the space in which you spend nine to twelve hours out of your day. So do whatever is necessary to make your little part of the maze a bit more pleasant. Before you know it, the other rats may be finding their way to you.

Unlocking the Secrets to a Sharp Body

You’ve been hitting the gym for the past six months, desperately trying to lose weight and pack on muscle. Attempting to solve the problem, you try different exercise routines and experiment with the latest food supplements. Expecting results, you to look into the mirror for signs of improvement, only to see the disappointment in the reflection. Discouraged with little visible progress, you begin to lose motivation for the gym and start skipping workouts.

Does this sound familiar?

Have you reached a point in your exercise routine where weight loss and muscle growth (or both) seem impossible to achieve? You are not alone; most fitness enthusiasts experience this common and often frustrating problem. Fortunately, there is a proven method available that will allow you to unlock the secrets to a sharp body and keep you on track to your fitness goals. Specifically, this method is called Somotyping. Read on for the SharpHealth skinny:

Somo-WHAT?

Developed in the 1940s by William H. Sheldon, some typing involves matching a person’s body type according to their external characteristics (i.e., height, weight, size). Bodybuilders have been using serotyping for years, producing a “chiselled look” that makes most people envious. You don’t have to be a professional bodybuilder, however, to take advantage of this easy to understand method. By customizing your diet and exercise routine according to your somatotype (body type), your days of “no progress” will become just a memory.

Examine each of the three body types below and decide which one best represents your situation. Take note of the customized diet and exercise tips under each body type and employ these suggestions in your sharp routine.

The Ectomorph (Tall and Thin)

A tall and thin build characterizes this body type. Ectomorphs are generally void of body fat and have very little muscle mass. This body type tends to have muscles that are long and thin, especially in the arm and leg areas. New muscle growth can be a frustrating challenge for this body type, with weight gain being equally hard to achieve. Basketball players and marathon runners often fall into this category.

What to Feed Ectomorphs. Sharp ectomorphs will find that both weight and muscle gain can be more easily achieved by increasing the number of calories in their daily diet. This means eating five to seven small meals per day, with the high carbohydrate meals occurring early (breakfast and lunch). Ectomorphs should increase their fat intake by 30 per cent, provided it comes from unsaturated sources such as fish and vegetable oil. Protein intake is also important for this body type. Try to make sure that two of your daily meals contain at least 15 grams of protein (if you are eating healthy, this will not be a problem).

SharpTip: Chicken and tuna will provide good meal choices and will ensure that you are getting the right nutrients. An option is to incorporate a piece of low-fat red meat into your weekly diet (this is not required, but some people respond better to red meat). If you choose this option, consider a thinly sliced flank steak.

The Sharp Ectomorph Workout. Ectomorphs are natural fat burners. It is for this reason they need to avoid outdoor activities and restrict their exercise routines to the gym.

SharpTip: Packing on new muscle for this body type can be achieved by doing low reps while using heavyweights.

Rest is extremely important for this body type, meaning that you will need to space your gym visits apart by 48 to 72 hours. Your workouts should centre on compound movements such as the deadlift, squats and incline bench presses. These kinds of exercises have proved highly successful for ectomorph muscle building. The goal for this body type is to work several muscles at once and allow plenty of rest.

The Mesomorph (Medium Height and Weight)

A muscular, hard body with a mature appearance characterizes this body type. Mesomorphs have little trouble gaining or losing weight and possess the ability to rapidly pack on muscle. The other body types tend to be jealous of mesomorphs because they can eat (for the most part) whatever they want and have naturally “beautiful” bodies. Their muscles appear to be medium in length, with well-built upper torsos. A common problem for this body type is packing on new muscle mass. The reasons for this can be traced to an improper diet and inconsistent visits to the health club. Gymnasts and boxers often fit this body type characteristic.

What to Feed Mesomorphs. Mesomorphs should eat four to six high protein meals per day to help break through the “growth plateau.”

Sharp Tip: Consistency in the diet is the key to a sharp body for the mesomorph. This means fueling your body with the right foods and not skipping meals. Try to get in at least 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight with each meal. There is no need for super long workout sessions, as this body type easily gains muscle.

This body type is perhaps the most desirable because results take a short time to realize. Bottom line: stick to a healthy diet that is high in protein and low in fat and you will open the doors to an impressive physique.

The Sharp Mesomorph Workout. Mesomorphs should exercise with weights at least three to five times per week, with cardio exercises on the two “off days.” Add heavier weights to your exercise routine every other week, and conduct slow and deliberate repetitions.

Sharp Tip: Free weights are this body type’s best friend in the gym. Consider exercises such as bench presses (chest), “French Curls” (triceps) and squats (legs and butt) in your quest for a bigger body. If you find you are not building new muscle, try reducing the number of reps and use a slightly higher amount of weight (i.e., if you are using a 40-pound dumbbell for arm curls, increase it to 45 pounds).

Finally, mesomorphs need to learn that over-exercising a body part can prohibit growth. Avoid super long sets; opt for something less strenuous, such as a four-set exercise routine with heavier weights being added in ascending order. An example might be a rep of ten, eight, six and six.

The Endomorph (Short and Stocky)

A short, round body with a stocky appearance characterizes this body type. Endomorphs have wider hips and extra “baby fat” around the face. This body type finds new muscle gain easy, but weight loss very difficult. Weightlifters commonly fall into this category.

What to Feed Endomorphs. Increasing metabolism is key to the dual goals of losing weight and packing on muscle for endomorphs. This means spacing out four to six small meals throughout the day, which should be consumed every two to three hours. You want to eat foods that are high in protein and low in fat. Chicken breast, water packed tuna, and low-sugar protein bars have helped this body type to lose weight and pack on muscle. Incorporate high fiber foods into your meals (fruits, vegetables) and avoid dairy products.

Avoid eating meals late at night, meaning that if you go to bed at 10:30, your last meal should be eaten no later than 7 p.m. In other words, allow three to four hours between your last meal and bedtime. This will enable your body to properly metabolize the foods you are eating and bring about weight loss.

Drink at least eight to ten eight-ounce glasses of water per day. This will help speed up your metabolism and wash out body impurities (fat).

Sharp Tip: Pick one day of the week that you designate a “cheat day,” meaning on that special day, you allow yourself the chance to “let go” with one helping of “fatty” food. The benefit of the cheat day is twofold: you will have something to reward yourself with each week, and you won’t feel like you are missing out on the foods you enjoy.

The Sharp Endomorph Workout. Because endomorphs tend to be heavier, the exercise goal should be weight loss. Start by adding regular cardio exercises to your workout routine five to six times per week. Begin slowly, eventually building up to 30 to 45 minutes of sustained aerobic activity. Consider treadmills, exercise bikes and rowing machines to accomplish this task.

Sharp Tip: Don’t buy into the myth you have to “break into a sweat” in order to lose weight; not true. What is required for this body type is consistent, low-impact aerobic exercise. Walking on the treadmill at a quick, steady gait is very effective for this body type.

The second component in the endomorph body type is weightlifting. Hit the gym three times per week, with two days separating each workout. Exercise your major muscle groups as suggested for ectomorphs. Consider adding isolation exercises such as the “peck-deck” to build tone.

Endomorphs should use high reps and low weights. Remember, the goal is weight loss and new muscle growth. Doing the opposite will work against your dream of a sharp body and hide muscles under body fat.

Sculpting your physique no longer needs to be a source or discouragement. Look at your body type carefully and begin customizing your diet and workouts accordingly. Remember, nothing comes easy in life, but if you stick with your program, your trips to the mirror will soon reveal the sharp body of your dreams. 

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