There’s no denying that at least once in our lives, we have imagined how we would look with abs. The thought probably came to us after seeing that enormous billboard of David Beckham on EDSA or those catwalk videos of Victoria’s Secret angels on Youtube.
If you ask anyone what body part they would most like to improve, the answer is usually, “my stomach.” Men tend to want 6-pack abs while women want their stomach to be lean and flat.
So what does it take to get a six pack? Those who have them will tell you that it takes a lot of work and discipline. No matter where you are in the pursuit of a 6 pack, if you follow these 5 tips you’ll be well on our way to reaching your goal.
1. Steer clear of those sneaky fats and refined sugars.
In order to expose your ab muscles, you need to lose the fat in your stomach area so you’ll need to adjust your diet accordingly.
All excess calories turn into fat so you’ll need to watch everything you eat. Most importantly, skip fatty and sugary foods as these are packed with a lot of calories even in small amounts.
Visible fats such as oils, butter, margarine, and cream, should be easier to avoid since you can easily see and identify them. Obviously, the fat on the outer layer of pork belly is not very good for our goals here.
However, we need to be more cautions about the sneakier type of fats - those which cannot be easily removed from your food. Therefore, you’ll have to limit your intake of these foods.
Examples of food laden with invisible fats are pastries, dips and dressings, nuts and nut butters, processed meats and deep-fried foods such as fish and chips. Some types of meat have more fat in them so make sure to choose leaner cuts.
As for sugars and sweets, you’ll find that it is very easy to go overboard especially when it has been a habit to include sweetened drinks and rich desserts in your usual diet. Keep things simple by just getting yourself a glass of water during meals, and thinking twice about ordering dessert - most times you don’t really need it.
2. Eat less salty and processed foods
These foods have something in common - they are high in sodium. You’d be surprised to find that even food such as canned fruits, breads, cereals, and pasta can have considerable amounts of sodium. This is because salts are used to preserve food or enhance flavor, color, and texture.
Inside our body, water always follows where sodium goes. This means that if we take in a lot of salty or high sodium foods, we tend to have water retention, defeating our goals to look lean.
The best way to lessen dietary salt is to eat more natural and less processed food. We can also minimize our use of table salt or other condiments when dining out.
When shopping for food, we can check the label for sodium content and choose those with the least amount of sodium. Also keep in mind that those containing less than 140 mg of sodium per serving are considered “low sodium” food.
3. Increase your intake of foods high in fiber
Fiber is usually found in plant foods like fruits and vegetables. They are considered carbohydrates but humans do not have the enzymes needed to break them down, because of this, food fiber just passes through our body, contributing very little or zero calories.
Fiber-rich foods take longer to travel to our intestines. This naturally rations the amount of energy absorbed by the body so that it takes longer for you to feel hungry again.
When fiber is exposed to fatty substances in your intestines, it binds some of the fat, making them unavailable for absorption. Instead of these fats being absorbed and stored if not used, they are swept out together with fiber when it leaves your body.
4. Challenge your whole body by doing high intensity interval training
If you think a death-by-crunches workout will help you get abs, think again. Although they can strengthen the ab muscles, they can actually do more harm since repetitive flexion of the spine is not a natural movement for the body.
Choosing to do only ab workouts when you want abs, or only arm workout if you want them toned is called “spot-reducing.” If you are already lean and you want to define your muscles, this is the way to go. But if you want to lose fat around your belly, these just wouldn’t work.
First of all, we don’t get to choose which part of our body loses fat first. Our genes have predetermined this - as well as where fat gets stored in the first place. Therefore, we should focus on doing exercises that burn the most fat for our whole body.
Focus on working out larger muscle groups as these would demand more energy and allow more stored fat to be used. In addition, we like to lose more fat in less time, since convenience also makes it easier to be consistent with our effort.
One way to do this is with high intensity interval training as this pushes our body to give its maximum effort with intermittent active rest. The combination of just enough cardio plus intense bouts of resistance exercises burns more calories in a shorter period of time.
5. Strengthen your core every day
We choose to develop our abs for aesthetic purposes but we shouldn’t forget that we are exercising to keep our bodies in top shape. We want our whole body to be on point and with the ab muscles, their key function is stability.
To develop endurance in your ab muscles, you can do lying or elevated leg raises, reverse crunches, plank holds and side planks. You can cycle through these exercises on a daily basis. Time yourself to do as many repetitions or to hold your plank poses for 30-45 seconds with 10-15 seconds of rest in between exercises.
These don’t just strengthen your core for a workout but for everyday activities such as your house chores or daily commute. It contributes to good posture - allowing you to stand taller, breathe deeper, and look more confident.
It’s possible for anyone to have good-looking abs but it definitely requires a lot of discipline, commitment, and hard work. Proper diet and high intensity interval training should be incorporated into your daily routine to develop your abs for aesthetic and functional purposes.