With summer right around the corner everyone starts thinking about exposing their pale stomachs to the harsh world. The first thought that runs through people's minds are, OH NO, I AM FAT! Well, you may be fat or you may just be carrying a little bit of extra "love" around the midsection but either way you could probably stand to lean out a bit and tone up your abs. The secret to six pack abs is simple. You need less fat and improved muscle tone on your entire body, and specifically on your stomach. OK, sounds simple enough right, if you have less fat your ab muscles will show and if you have more toned abs they will look nicer, but how?????
Fat loss is simple but not easy. To lose weight you need to burn more calories than you intake but it is not simply a matter of dieting (eating less) it is really a matter of eating smart. By eating smart I mean this:
Cut out junk food and processed food (basically anything that comes in a package is high in calories and sodium and low in nutrition). Nutritionally low food will make you hungry and eat more calories because your body wants, no needs, nutrition! By nutrition I mean protein, healthy fats, vitamins and mineral.
Dramatically decrease carbohydrates. Your body does not really needs carbohydrates! Your brain needs about 50 grams a day, and an extremely hard weight training session by a large man uses only about 150 grams of carbohydrates in one session. So why the hell are you drinking 45 gram post workout drinks after your walk on the treadmill! Your body can make carbohydrates out protein just fine. The only carbohydrate based foods you should eat when losing weight are fibrous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, radishes, etc) and northern hemisphere fruits (oranges, pears, apples).
Eat tons of protein. Digesting and synthesizing protein is extremely metabolically demanding, meaning eating meat burns calories! Ever eat a ton of meat and wonder why you are so hot? It is the metabolic effect of digesting meat. Also, meat makes you full and preserves muscle tissue. If you are not hungry all the time and carry a lot of muscle it is very easy to stay lean (think of an NFL linebacker). If you are hungry and emancipated (think every Hollywood girl) it is extremely difficult to stay skinny because your body is telling your brain to eat!
Eat tons of fiber. Fiber will keep you feeling healthy, keep all the meat you are eating moving through your body, and keep you feeling full. You can take a fiber supplement or just eat a ton of vegetables. I do both when I am low carbing just to be safe. Also, fiber will keep the old heart and arteries healthy so why not?
Consume fish oil. Salmon oil will make you burn fat. I know this sounds counter-intuitive but if you feed your body good fats (omega-3's for example) your body will burn fat. If the body is starved of the fats it needs, it will horde all fat and just burn carbs. Think of the really fat people who eat fast food, high in fat, yet never burn fat, they just keep burning sugar and storing fat.
Don't count calories, just eat right (meat, vegetables, fruits, fiber, fish oil) and not bad (packaged foods, fast food, dessert, etc). And no you do not deserve dessert, you have eaten more dessert in your life than all your ancestors did together and you know what? They had a harder life than you and were not fat!
Exercise. To burn fat do the following:
Decrease light exercise. Forget the 70% heart rate crap and the long slow and steady lie. It does not work! You will not burn enough calories on a nice walk or a jog to do anything! Don't believe me, look at all the fat walkers and joggers out there. I am not saying you shouldn't do this type of exercise, I am just saying that you should not rely on it for fat loss results.
Increase intense exercise. Intense exercise will burn fat after the training session and thereby elevate your metabolism. What is intense and effective for fat loss? Kettlebell lifting, Hills Sprints, flat sprints, circuit training and interval training are the answers. Anything that gets your heart rate WAY up, gets you breathing like a locomotive and gets the lactic acid high enough to make you a wee bit nauseous. Train so hard that a half hour to 45 minutes is all you can bear. If you can workout for 2 hours, I am sorry you are not working out you are just waving your arms and wasting time.
Train your abs heavy and hard. If you want abs you need toned ab muscles and the only way to tone a muscle is to make it stronger. Don't believe me, look at any gymnast. They are toned because they are strong. Look at any sprinter, they are toned because they are strong and lean. It is a fact, strong muscles are toned, weak muscles are not. Do not do a bunch of high rep work and expect the muscles to look better. Pick abdominal exercises like planks, push-up planks, Russian twists, weighted Swiss ball crunches and hanging leg raises. They will make your abs toned and therefore strong!
Train often. Sorry folks, people with great physiques train a heck of a lot more than 30 minutes a day three times per week. They train almost every day and do it hard. Exercise has to become a DAILY activity, not an afterthought on a Wednesday afternoon. Give your body the priority it deserves.
So, in summary I probably did not tell you what you want to hear. You cannot eat what you want and work out like a chatty Kathy while drinking Gatorade . You have to eat smart and train hard but if you do the rewards will be there. You will have six pack abs and everyone will be jealous. Not only that, but you will be healthier, fitter, and just feel better by treating your body like the highly tuned machine it is and not some garbage disposal unit. So get out there and get started now!