Miss the Olympics? These golden ladies share their must-have meals before a big game/meet:

Nastia Liukin, gymnastics
"I normally try to do a piece of chicken or fish and vegetables just to have the protein and the balance of having some energy but not too heavy before a competition."

Jordyn Wieber, gymnastics
"I usually don't get to choose food because we're usually given our meals. But I usually try to make healthy choices, some protein and some vegetables, something that will give me a lot of energy.”

Missy Franklin, swimming
"Carbs are huge before swim meets, so my mom makes the best homemade mac and cheese ever. But chicken parm is one of my favorite meals. But in London, I'm pretty sure I just went with spaghetti. My mom wasn't there to home-cook me meals."

Keilani Ricketts, softball
"It changes every year ... I guess I’d have to go with Panera. Yes. A tomato mozzarella Panini from Panera."

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The scene is the Women's Sports Foundation's 33rd Annual Salute to Women in Sports. It's at Cipriani Wall Street, and the event feels even more special in 2012, exactly 40 years after the passage of Title IX. The ballroom is decorated, the red carpet is out, and the athletes are ushering in. As the Olympic soccer star famous for her feet and forehead, Alex Morgan, walks across the carpet, a woman calls out to her, "Hi, Alex, look at this," and shows her a picture of her daughter wearing a Morgan jersey. "She wants to be you so badly."

A little further down the carpet, Jordyn Wieber is calling to her mom, asking her to take a picture of her, Gabby Douglass and 2008 all-around champion Nastia Liukin as they pose in their dresses. The ladies of the U.S. rowing team grasp their gold medals proudly. Paralympic swimmer Jessica Long waves at those watching from the side of the carpet, and Missy Franklin attempts to figure out what kind of dress she's wearing by asking an interviewer to look at her tag for her.

Meanwhile, Women's Sports Foundation founder Billie Jean King walks down the carpet, looking at the athletes who have become inspirations to young girls now, seeing the effect of what she started so many years ago, seeing how her strength, her courage, paved the way for all of this -- for the awards and the dresses and the red carpet and the fans. But mostly, for the athletes, who were inspired by Billie Jean King's courage and are now inspiring those who watch them.

As the Women Sports Foundation's current president, Laila Ali, stands in the center of the red carpet and looks at all of this proudly. The athletic achievements of these women are incredible. But Ali is just as proud of what it means for the young girls to see their role models not only excelling in what was once a male-dominated-sports universe, but also feeling proud of themselves and who they are while doing it.

And that shows through as these women work the red carpet -- they're wearing fancy dresses and their hair is done, and they're walking in heels (or at least attempting to walk; some are wobbling slightly) but they exude an equal amount of confidence when they're out competing in their uniforms and cleats.

"I say this a lot, but young girls out there need to be educated about the fact that the celebrities they always see on magazines, they have trainers," Ali says. "They have airbrushing. They have all these things. And you just shouldn't strive to be that way. That's why it's so great for young girls out there to look at these athletes."

Ali turns her head toward those surrounding her on the carpet and says, "You can see right here that these athletes come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are lean. Some of us are bulkier or more muscular. But we're all beautiful, confident women."

And for many of these women, that confidence came from sports. They've learned how to embrace who they are, and take what they have, take something that someone else might consider a flaw, and use that to further their game. For five-time Olympic swimming medalist Missy Franklin, who smiles as she autographs items for parents on the side of the carpet, growing up a head above everyone in her grade wasn't something that was easy to deal with.

"I've always been this tall and it was really hard growing up," says Franklin, who is 6-1. "I mean, it makes you different. It makes you stand out."

It wasn't until she started swimming that she realized just how much of an advantage that height was.

"I realized it was a gift," Franklin says. "It helped me succeed at what I love to do. And so I grew to absolutely love it now. It's just the best. I wish I were even taller."

For three-time Olympic medalist Mary Whipple, it's the opposite end of the height spectrum. The 5-3 1/2 (and she says she takes that half inch "very seriously") coxswain says that when she's around her teammates, she doesn't feel short -- even though almost all of her teammates are over 6 feet. She says the confidence her teammates have about themselves transfers over to her.

"I feel like I'm 10 feet tall when I'm around them because of our confidence," Whipple says. "They're much taller than the norm, and yet they put their shoulders back and embrace it. I love them and they love themselves. And so for me, being short -- well, I can work that, too."

Ali says that the heart of solving the problem of body image for young girls is to abandon what others might consider societally normal, and instead focus on what makes you happy.

"I've always been very confident," she says. "If there's something about myself that I want to change, I do the work that it takes to get that way. You have to not be too hard on yourself -- everyone has a different shape and build. You know, I weigh 180 pounds and most people are like, 'oh my God!' But I feel fine!"

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Morgan, who was named Sportswoman of the Year for team sport, agrees. She says soccer has taught her a lot about life in general -- how to be patient, how to listen, how to step up when she needs to. And it has taught her to love herself.

"It's important for women to feel confident in their own body, whether they have broad shoulders or big calves, or whatever," Morgan says. "I have big calves and I love showing off my legs because of it. So whether your body is athletic, or skinny, or big-boned, it doesn’t matter. You should love it no matter what.”

That’s the kind of confidence and influence that Morgan, who the WSF named Sportswoman of the Year for a team sport, brings with her everywhere she goes.

It's what defines the spirit of women's sports and these female athletes.

It's what continues to inspire the future faces of women's sports -- and it's why in ten years, the girls out there who want to be Alex Morgan so badly right now will be the ones on this very red carpet, being told by the mothers out there how badly their daughters want to be like them.

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Ah, yoga. Great for clearing the mind, stretching the body and ... indoctrinating youngsters into religion?

Well, some parents in a town near San Diego are so concerned about the religious aspects that they may sue the school district for providing free classes.

Mary Eady removed her son from the classes and told the North County Times, "There's really a lot of unease among a lot of parents."

The parents objecting to the introduction of yoga have hired a lawyer, who sent a letter to the superintendent of the Encinitas Union School District, claiming the classes are unconstitutional.

"There's a deep concern that the Encinitas Union School District is using taxpayer resources to promote Ashtanga yoga and Hinduism, a religion system of beliefs and practices," attorney Dean Broyles told the Times.

Superintendent Tim Baird isn't backing down, saying he expects the district's trustees to keep the classes, which started in nine schools last month and are scheduled to be introduced to other campuses in January.

"Yoga is a worldwide exercise regime utilized by people of many different faiths,” he said. "Yoga is part of our mainstream culture."

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While yoga can include spiritual components, the district said its classes have removed them to focus on fitness.

"Our goal is that kids get a really healthy workout, that they get a chance to relax and reduce stress,” Baird said, "and yoga's perfect for that."

According to a report in February on NPR, 20 million people practice yoga in the United States.

The Encinitas program is funded through a $533,000 grant from the Jois Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes Ashtanga yoga across the world.

"It's not just yoga; it’s the background of who's teaching it and how they were brought in," parent Samantha Vigil told the Times.

In an interesting twist, the protests from the Encinitas parents come at the same time that the USA Yoga Federation is pushing for yoga to become an Olympic sport.

But there is controversy within the yoga community about whether turning the practice into competition is contradictory.

"With yoga, the mind-body-spirit connection is within," Ha Nguyen, a yoga instructor in Virginia, told WUSA. "So, to have yoga as an Olympic sport, it'd be great to have coverage, but I don't believe that is the true teaching of yoga."

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I lost 24 pounds during a 12-day cleanse. I know people who have lost 20 pounds in a week and 12 pounds in a day. Heck, I lose 8 pounds of water weight in a 90-minute hot yoga class. I lived with a bunch of wrestlers in college so I heard hundreds of rapid weight-loss stories. Then there are my friends in Vegas and on Wall Street who have turned diet into a sport.

In a bet between two poker professionals, Mike "The Mouth" Matusow won $100,000 from Ted Forrest by going from 240 pounds to 179 pounds in a year. Then the 5-11 Forrest got revenge by winning $2 million from Matusow by shrinking from 188 to 138. But Forrest paid a price (not to mention the difficulty in collecting).

"I think he's 50-50 to die," Matusow said of Forrest. "He starved himself for 11 days and ran 16 miles a day. He's lost all of the muscle around his heart. He could have a heart attack."

It leads us to the question: How much weight can you safely lose in a week?

Before we answer, let's say you need to squeeze into your fancy wedding suit, make weight for a match, win a bet (HealthyWage.com, dietbet.com, GymPact and StickK offer varieties of weight-loss for money), or look better than you actually do for three hours while on the verge of passing out at your high school reunion, wedding, or crashing an ex's party.

What you should do:
1. Sweat a lot. Infrared sauna is doubly effective because it pulls toxins from the body. Hot yoga allows you to gain flexibility while you're dying ... I mean sweating.

2. Lift weights. Forrest lifted four days a week to win his bet and said, "I didn't want to build too much muscle, but I needed to build a little to keep my metabolism up."

3. Avoid salt and starches. "When you reduce sodium and cut starches, you reduce fluids and fluid retention, which can result in up to 5 pounds of fluid loss when you get started,” says Michael Dansinger, MD, of NBC's The Biggest Loser show.

4. Poop a lot. While the urban legend of Elvis dying with 40 pounds of fecal matter in his colon seems far-fetched, the intestines are fertile ground for unwanted weight. Fasting teas, salt water flushes (both part of The Master Cleanse) and colonics (which were part of my 12-day cleanse) are all controversial, so consult a professional first. Artichokes, navy beans, figs and prunes make the list of Dr. Oz-approved high-fiber heavyweights and will help move out that dead weight. Beware high-fiber cereals which are processed and often loaded with sugar.

5. Drink coconut water. Sweating, eating less and drinking less water puts you at risk of passing out. Coconut water is loaded with potassium and has the dual benefit of being a slight diuretic, so you’ll pee out the water and retain the nutrients.

6. Find a distraction. When you restrict yourself, cravings can be intense. Sex is better than TV since one coincides with moving and the other with eating. Chewing gum may help. Lots of people chew tobacco or smoke cigarettes to make up for not eating.

The mal-adaptive behavior of replacing food with tobacco brings us to the question: what price are you willing to pay to lose weight? Even Forrest and Matusow had a clause forbidding diuretics or amputation. Cut off a leg and you’ll bring new meaning to the phrase "dropping a quick 20."

Most experts agree you can lose about 1 percent to 1.5 percent of body fat in a week. In other words, when you're on a healthy path you are not going to see the huge loss that you would from a fad diet. We tend to be slaves to the scale when what we’re really seeking is feeling good, looking good and having lots of energy.

Starving ourselves does neither of the three -- even if you can fool the camera for a few hours.

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The real twist is that losing weight fast through fad diets makes it much harder to lose weight in the long run because it slows your metabolism, decreases muscle mass and disrupts your hormones. Dr. Rudolph Leibel, an obesity researcher at Columbia, was quoted in a New York Times article titled "Study Shows Why It's Hard to Keep Weight Off" saying that losing weight "is not a neutral event" and added that 90 percent of people who lose a lot of weight gain it back. “You are putting your body into a circumstance it will resist.”

According to the same New York Times article, “One hormone, leptin, which tells the brain how much body fat is present, fell by two-thirds immediately after the subjects lost weight. When leptin falls, appetite increases and metabolism slows.”

Matusow said he has gained all his weight back and believes Forrest has as well. The Mouth's advice on fad diets: "Don't do them."

If you're thinking about the long term, understand that fad dieting turns your body against you. Jon Gabriel, who detailed how he lost 220 pounds without dieting in the international bestselling book "The Gabriel Method," said, "Starvation diets make your body want to be fatter. You can lose a little bit of weight in the short term, but you'll have to pay it back with interest."

Coffee, cigarettes and cocaine are a sure-fire formula for losing weight. So was Ephedrin, the active ingredient in Ephedra, before it was banned by the FDA in 2004 and blamed (though not confirmed) for the death of athletes Korey Stringer, Steve Belcher and Rashidi Wheeler.

Lesson: Think about the big picture and what you really are seeking before going on a fad diet.

If you want to lose weight in a hurry, you can do it. Just be warned that you could be putting yourself in danger, creating mal-adaptive behaviors, and making it harder to lose weight in the long run. Even $2 million may not be worth it if you end up bigger and sicker than when you started. Or if you really go to an extreme, not even around to enjoy it.

-- Greg Dinkin is a Certified Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and the author of three books including The Poker MBA. He explains in his TED talk how he used the power of both mind and body to lose 100 pounds.

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Faster footsteps equal a healthier heart.

Working out harder instead of longer could be the secret to warding off metabolic syndrome (MS), a combination of risk factors -- which include obesity and high blood pressure -- that increase your risk for cardiovascular disease, according to new research in the BMJ Open.

Ten years after gathering people’s baseline fitness habits -- including workout length and intensity --researchers found that those who reported jogging or brisk walking 2 to 4 hours a week cut their risk of developing MS by 35 to 50 percent. (About 19 percent of inactive people developed MS, compared to just 12 percent of very active people.)

The cardiovascular impact of high-intensity exercise versus light exercise has been a longstanding debate, says cardiologist Eric Topol, M.D., director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute and a Men's Health expert advisor. While the jury remains out, the new study lends credence to the high-intensity camp.

"Higher-intensity exercise does have a whole different impact on the body’s physiology,” says Dr. Topol. Everything is more pronounced: Your heart rate is higher, your blood vessels are more dilated, and you’re revving up your cardiovascular system as you would a car, Dr. Topol adds.

The results of this study fall in line with past studies on the topic: There's some kind of a threshold that you need to surpass in order to see changes. And it’s possible that intense exercise triggers those changes in lipid and glucose metabolism and blood pressure, lowering the risk factors that trigger MS, says David Maron, M.D., a cardiologist at Vanderbilt University's medical center. (Discover tons of ways to keep your heart pumping strong with The Lean Belly Prescription, your no-diet, no-workout plan that's better than running five miles a day!)

But don't give up your leisurely evening walks just yet. A recent study in Circulation found that just 2.5 hours of light exercise a week can reduce inflammation in your body thought to be a major contributing factor for developing heart disease. The key: Make sure your heart rate hovers around 120 beats per minute (think: Not quite heavy breathing, but breathing more heavily than normal), and that you put in the recommended 2.5 hours for the week.

So what's the happy medium? Be your own judge. While the BMJ Open study found that light physical activity didn’t decrease the participants' MS risk -- even if they walked for 2 hours a week -- brisk walking was categorized as high intensity. If going hard for you means brisk walking, do that until it becomes easy, then take it up a notch. "Rigorous aerobic activity is really the best," Topol says. So, if you enjoy your nightly stroll, just make sure you're sweating it out in the morning, too. (Looking for a great routine? Try one of these 3 New Killer Cardio Workouts.)

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You would think that the more I study nutrition, the more answers I would have. After reading yet another book, Gary Taubes' "Why We Get Fat ... And What to Do About It," I am back to searching for the "truth" about weight-loss and nutrition.

This reminds me of when I was a student at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN). T. Colin Campbell, author of "The China Study," would present well-researched and verified facts about how a vegetarian diet is best and animal protein makes us sick. Then, Sally Fallon from the Weston A. Price Foundation would present researched and verified facts on the importance of animal protein. One day, I'm eating organic kale and spinach; the next I'm buying butter and lard in bulk.

Then David Wolfe would have us all convinced that a raw food vegan diet was the way to go. Just after I forked out five hundred bucks for a blender, an expert in traditional Chinese Medicine would explain that eating only raw food kills our digestive fire and often leaves us feeling cold and damp. So much for having a blue-green algae smoothie for dinner.

You've probably told most of your life that if you want to lose weight you have to eat less. But in a previous column, I listed five reasons why eating more helps you lose weight. I had been drinking the vegetarian Kool-Aid, but when I put on some weight and read Taubes' book, I cut my carbohydrates, including fruit (which I still have mixed feelings about) to almost nil and started snacking on pepperoni. In three weeks, I'm back down to one chin.

Where the heck does this leave us in our search for the truth?

Confused!

Good luck finding the truth. If, however, you're on a search for your truth, you'll find your way. It may take a lot of trial and error, but if you're committed to experimenting and listening to yourself (even if it means ignoring the advice of doctors, gurus and authors), you'll find what works for you.

Prepare yourself for the bombshell I'm about to drop in you, something the gurus, doctors and best-selling authors won't tell you.

Brace yourself for this out-of-the-box, revolutionary idea.

Everyone is different. What worked for them may not work for you.

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Fine, maybe it's not so revolutionary and so downright obvious that it's hardly worth stating. Perhaps that also explains why it's so frequently ignored.

We accept that a majority of people of Asian and African heritage are lactose tolerant, so why do we stop there and assume we also digest fruit, grains and animal protein the same? Or that our bodies respond to exercise the same way? While Peter J. D'Adamo has received some acclaim for "Eat Right 4 Your Type," his assertion that our blood type determines what we should eat, he's frequently trashed by nutrition experts.

Right or wrong, at least D'Adamo points out what should be so obvious. Different people handle just about everything differently.

Case in point, coffee. Bestselling author Dr. Joseph Mercola officially changed his stance on coffee last month and explains why the pros outweigh the cons. Many bodybuilders swear by it as a great way to ramp up the metabolism before a workout. Yet other experts, including Dr. Mark Hyman, another bestselling author, point out that, "The caffeine in coffee increases catecholamines, your stress hormones. The stress response elicits cortisol and increases insulin. Insulin increases inflammation and this makes you feel lousy."

Lucas Rockwood of Yoga Body Naturals, does what few other "experts" do by shedding light on our differences. He writes that some of us have the "coffee gene" called CYP1A2. It explains why some people can drink a double espresso and go right to sleep and others will be wrecked with one cup at noon. But did you "really" need an expert to tell you that? All you have to do is pay attention and listen to your body to know what works.

Personal experience is the only expert.

That is your truth.

-- Greg Dinkin is a Certified Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and the author of three books including The Poker MBA. He explains in his TED talk how he used the power of both mind and body to lose 100 pounds.

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Adam Greenberg's long and winding journey between his two major league at-bats -- the first with the Chicago Cubs in 2005 and the last with the Miami Marlins in 2012 -- has been well chronicled.

What many people may not know, however, is that in fighting his way back to the big leagues, Greenberg relied heavily on the ancient Chinese remedy lu rong -- deer antler velvet. The medication is made by harvesting and grinding up antlers from young deer.

Greenberg first began using the deer antler velvet pill after it was recommended to him by a chiropractor. According to a book excerpt published on Deadspin, deer antler velvet worked wonders for Greenberg:

[Greenberg] was blown away by the pill's anti-inflammatory effects: his joints and muscles felt better, he recovered faster from workouts, he had more energy and stamina.

While a reasonable case could be made that the Marlins were giving Greenberg a gift -- a convoluted but good-hearted make-up gesture -- with the single at-bat, that shouldn't diminish from the effort he put into the attempt of coming back. After the beaning in 2005 left him battling vertigo, vision problems and post-concussion syndrome, Greenberg spent years with various teams in the minors.

He wasn't blowing anyone away as can't-miss prospect but stayed relevant long enough that his perseverance led to a grassroots campaign, lobbying to get him back to the majors even for one at-bat. And deer antler was what he credited for helping his career stay afloat.

Greenberg even helped start a company, LuRong Living, which sells the pill.

The spray form of deer antler velvet made headlines last year when the NFL and MLB issued a warning about a specific brand of deer antler spray. Scientists discovered that the velvet from immature deer antlers contains IGF-1, which according to SI.com, is banned by Major League Baseball for its "muscle-building and fat-cutting effects."

IGF-1 cannot be detected in urine tests, but it could produce positive tests for the banned steroid methyltestosterone.

The pill that Greenberg took, however, appears to be OK. On LuRong's website, it says the pill does not alter hormone levels and it is safe for professional athletes because it "does not contain any synthesized banned substances like some imitation velvet antler products like extracts, sprays, or drops."

Last year former Saints fullback Heath Evans revealed to ThePostGame that he used a product called The Ultimate Spray that is touted by its maker as containing the banned substance IGF-1.

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