Everyone who works out has their individual set of fitness goals, but the one area that most people find to be particularly problematic are the abdominal muscles. Even with a strict diet, many people accumulate fat the quickest and thickest around the midsection. Getting rid of unwanted belly flab has even created a closet industry of spot reducing training plans and various supplements claiming to resolve the issue quickly!
Unfortunately, many individuals believe that tons of crunches or the newest fat burning pill are all it takes to get the abs of their dreams. The truth is, getting an aesthetically pleasing and strong core takes time and the right kind of effort.
Basic exercise physiology shows that getting ripped abs comes down to three strategies. Those three strategies are quality nutrition, a good strength training plan, and the right type of aerobic activity.
What you eat is everything!
High-quality nutrition is the most important aspect of the ripped abs puzzle. The primary factor affecting body composition is calories burned versus calories consumed. A negative weekly caloric balance is necessary for our bodies to be able to burn excess fat without storing even more. The question is, which foods should be eliminated, added, and increased? Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
Start with cutting out as many processed, packaged, and canned foods as possible. These products are often refined and filled with artificial ingredients, excess sugar, and sodium that our bodies have difficulty breaking down.
Increase your consumption of lean protein, such as fish, fowl, and lean beef, along with non-meat sources like eggs and Greek yogurt. The added protein helps build and retain muscle while increasing your body’s fat-burning ability.
Add in the right kind of fats. Healthy fats help to regulate hormones for normal physiologic functioning, improve insulin sensitivity, and help with satiety. The healthy fats to focus on are foods such as avocados, plain nuts and nut butter, and oils like olive, coconut, palm kernel, safflower, and sunflower.
Replace sugary drinks with water, tea, or coffee. Consuming the right amount of water fires up fat-burning metabolism, and studies have shown that the caffeine in tea and coffee enhances fat burning.
Don’t eliminate carbohydrates completely; focus on the complex variety, like whole grains and yams. These should be consumed at breakfast, and immediately after your training session to help your muscle tissue absorb them directly to promote and recovery.
Make sure to eat plenty of fresh, raw vegetables at each meal. Vegetables will provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and key fiber to help fill you up. Use fruit to replace sugary, starchy snacks and choose those with a low glycemic index such as berries, apples, peaches, pears, and plums. Remember that all fruit contains sugar in the form of fructose, so keep your fruit intake lower than your vegetable intake.
Restrict alcohol to a bare minimum or eliminate it completely. Alcohol contains empty calories that are stored as fat, causes dehydration due to its diuretic properties, and decreases testosterone levels.
How you train is a factor.
Training is a secondary factor that affects body composition. A combination of strength and aerobic training will elevate metabolic levels to produce desired fat-burning effects.
Prioritize high-intensity strength training with heavier loads as often as possible. An elevated intensity level will stimulate the hormones responsible for breaking down fat and will also extend the fat burning effect well beyond the end of the training session.
Concentrate on multi-joint movements such as squats, deadlifts, and pull-ups, as they require abdominal muscle activation for stabilization and will burn more fat due to the large muscle groups involved.
If you choose to do specific abdominal exercises, use those that incorporate full-body movements.
For aerobic training, use high-intensity intervals (HIIT), as they will maximize fat burning capability and are the most efficient regarding duration.
In regards to fat-burning supplements, use them only after you have maximized your training and nutrition program, and then choose those with individually listed ingredients that have published scientific evidence supporting their effectiveness.
Six pack abs are a fitness goal that many people aspire to attain. The best plan for every individual will vary because of differences in genetics, so it is important to understand that there is no effective quick fix and that the process will take time. Getting the chiseled definition you seek isn’t an easy process, but if you faithfully follow a quality diet and well-designed training regimen, that, along with good sleep quality and the necessary post-workout recovery time will enhance your chances of success.