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Eating For Ultimate Abs: Six Tips For A Six-Pack

Just about everyone I know who’s ever trained seriously, in almost any discipline, has focused in on their abs at one point or another. I know I have. There’s no denying that abs are a core (pun intended) component of perceived physical perfection, so it’s pointless to resist. Almost every magazine cover, advertisement, and billboard shows images of chiseled abs. “Ideal” waistlines have gone in and out over the years, but as a culture, we continue to celebrate abs more than ever.

Beyond that, abdominal training is simply important to all types of athletes. You use your abs every time you lift, twist, or even stand up. A powerful set of abs, along with a strong, balanced physique are big parts of the formula for overall physical health. And to everyone who says “visible abs aren’t necessarily strong abs,” I answer: That may be true, but I can still recognize a strong set when I see one.

Still, as this site and many others are happy to point out for you, you can’t train your way out of a poor diet. While there is an extraordinary amount of conflicting “expert” testimony when it comes to proper nutrition, there are tried-and-true techniques that millions of abs—sixes of millions of them, in fact—can agree on. They might blow your mind or they might be old news, but listen up either way. If you’re not following them, then it probably shows.

1 Fire It Up

First things first: You need to be aware of what you eat. The best way to do this is to prepare as many of your own meals as possible. When you cook for yourself, you can stay on top of exactly what every single ingredient is, and how much you use in preparation. The more knowledge and power you have the better.

When consuming foods made by others, you don’t know much for certain, and particularly when you dine out. Many times, even when prepared by “healthy” restaurants, meals are often served in oversized proportions and laden with gratuitous amounts of empty calories and chemicals. I’ve seen salads and sides that boast more than 1,000 calories per serving. No one will get abs eating like that on a regular basis.

2 Go Green

A lot of folks think I eat nothing but pull-up bars and tattoo ink. They’d be surprised to see how many leafy greens I consume on a daily basis. Everyone knows that green vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins, nutrients, calcium, and dietary fiber, but many don’t realize what a large role eating foods like spinach, kale and broccoli can have in sculpting amazing abs.

“People who have problems with self-control and portion size can’t go wrong when it comes to greens, which can be consumed virtually whenever you want.”

Greens, along with most vegetables, are extremely low in caloric intake. People who have problems with self-control and portion size can’t go wrong when it comes to greens, which can be consumed virtually whenever you want. Load two thirds of your dinner plate with veggies, and you’ll fill up with quality nutrition and decrease the temptation to make sketchier choices.

3 Avoid Processed Sugar

If you consume extra sugar and don’t metabolize it quickly, it will be stored as fat. Many of us, men in particular, tend to store this fat on our bellies. Clearly, a diet high in sugar will hinder you on your quest to a six-pack.

Processed sugar is among your abs’ greatest foes. By this, I am not just referring to white table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, but to just about any product where everything has been removed but the sugar. This includes “raw” and “natural” sugars, not to mention many other misleadingly labeled sweeteners on the market, including such as “nectars,” “syrups,” and “cane juice.”

The natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables do not fall into this category; they have never been processed and are un-stripped of their natural fiber. They therefore metabolize slowly over time. An apple is not only sweet, it’s filling and free of processed sugar, making it a great snack for ultimate abs.

4 Drink More Water

One of the worst things about sugar is that it’s added to virtually everything. While it’s obvious that beverages like cocktails and soda will stand in the way of the quest for abs, many well-intentioned individuals still drink their sugar unknowingly in the form of flavored waters, sweetened iced teas, fruit juices, coffee drinks, and other treats. These products should be consumed minimally, if at all.

“Water improves metabolic rate and digestion, which helps you get leaner.”

Make it a habit to look at ingredients and nutritional information and take nothing for granted. Drinks are not always what they seem! A glass of orange juice has more than 100 calories and 20 grams of sugar. Water has none. The importance of taking in adequate H2O cannot be overstated.

Water also improves metabolic rate and digestion, which helps you get leaner. It hydrates and moisturizes, increasing your skin’s suppleness and enhancing your abs’ appearance. Furthermore, water removes toxins and reduces aches and pains, helping you train harder and recover faster.

5 Eat Less

There are many paths one can take in the quest toward ultimate abs. Lots of diets and eating styles have the potential to help you get lean, and I’m not here to tell you why one is better than another. But here’s a thought: Although there is no single weight-loss method universally proven to work perfectly for everyone in all situations, simply eating less comes close!

Having a ripped six pack requires having low body fat: 10 percent or less for men as a general standard, and 20 percent or less for women. A number like that simply is not attained without good old-fashioned restraint. Assuming you’re like most of us, if you want to show off that hard-earned definition, you will simply have to eat less. There is no way around it.

6 Live Life

Practicing restraint is one thing. Subjecting yourself to deprivation is another. The line between them is one you have to find for yourself, but a system that leaves you constantly wanting more will inevitably leave you dissatisfied. Long-term deprivation can lead to a backlash of bad habits, and usually counter-productive. I think it’s best to have a healthful, holistic approach to training and life. Look at the big picture. Food is meant to be enjoyed, and with the right mindset, you can do so and have your abs, too.

“Each one of us is a product of our own day-to-day habits. If you eat well 80-90 percent of the time, there is no reason you can’t indulge occasionally.”

Each one of us is a product of our own day-to-day habits. If you eat well 80-90 percent of the time, there is no reason you can’t indulge occasionally. This principle is true for desserts, “cheat” meals if you’re inclined to call them that, and even Thanksgiving dinners. They’re all fine because they’re occasional. Just make sure to be honest and hold yourself accountable; it’s not a “cheat” if you do it every day.

If you have good eating habits, there’s almost nothing you’ll have to avoid 100 percent of the time. This will leave you and your six-pack abs free to live happily ever after together. Keep the dream alive!


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About The Author

Danny Kavadlo is one of the world’s most established and respected personal trainers.

Beauty talk with cover model Claudia Jovanovski

Beauty talk with cover model Claudia Jovanovski We chat to March 2017 cover model Claudia Jovanovski about her beauty regime and lifestyle.On looking camera ready year roundWhen I think about my feelings in relation to my day-to-day appearance and having to be photo shoot ready at a moment’s notice, I don’t feel anxious or stressed as you might expect. Clean eating and being active is a lifestyle for me. When I receive a request to participate in a photo shoot, my immediate response is excitement and happiness.

Post-workout pitfalls and how to beat them!

Your workout may be done and dusted for the day, but if you really want to see results, what you do afterwards is as important as the session itself. 

Whether you simply want to keep in shape or you’re working towards a specific goal, exercising takes effort, so don’t sabotage your hard work with silly mistakes. Check out these common pitfalls and solutions to get the most out of every session.

Pitfall 1: You don’t think ahead

You diarise dinner with your man and cocktails with your besties, but what about that all-important gym sesh? The last thing on your mind after finishing one sweat session might be pencilling in the next, but if you don’t stick to a schedule it’s easier to skip training or prioritise other plans. ‘If you book in your session while you’re high on the endorphins of your last workout, you’ll make the positive mental connection when you’re thinking about the next one,’ says Bodyism trainer Nathalie Schyllert (bodyism.com).

Pitfall 2: You guzzle back a sports drink

Staying hydrated during and after a workout is a no-brainer, but you don’t want to be chugging back sports drinks unless you’re working out intensely (i.e. training for over an hour). Believe it or not, a sports drink contains almost as many calories as a chocolate bar, with minimal gain. ‘Sugars such as sucrose and fructose are the main ingredients in most sports drinks. While they can be helpful to replenish electrolytes, they are often tested on elite athletes so, for you or I, we could end up just drinking 500ml of sugar,’ explains Nathalie. Rehydrate with naturally sweet coconut water instead. 

Pitfall 3: You stay in the same clothes

You wouldn’t stay in a soaking wet swimsuit after a session in the pool, so why stay in your gym gear after a workout? Sweaty, damp clothes are a breeding ground for bacteria, which can lead to nasty infections. ‘When we work out, we create body heat and moisture through sweat in those places where bacteria loves to hang out. While exercising, the body naturally sweats out water, but it also expels chemical compounds that eventually break down into bacteria (which make your clothes smell),’ explains Nathalie. No time to shower? Take some sweat-proofing precautions instead. Ditch stinky cotton and opt for sweat-wicking kit that traps moisture to keep you cool and dry. And don’t forget to stash a packet of wet wipes and some face wipes in your gym bag for a quick post-training wipe down if you can’t rinse off. 

Pitfall 4: You skimp on snacks

Eating after a workout is essential for building and repairing muscle tissue, helping to ensure you reap the rewards of all your hard work. ‘Your metabolism peaks about 30-60 minutes after exercise; this is the best time to fuel the body as you are burning the most calories at this time,’ says Nathalie. Aim for a combo of carbs and protein to boost energy levels – a protein shake made with a scoop of whey protein, water and a banana will replenish energy levels nicely.

Pitfall 5: You skip the steam room

Just as a stretching session makes up part of a good cooldown, so too should a quick stint in the sauna and steam room. Hitting the heat after an intense workout provides relief for sore muscles and helps to effectively flush toxins from your body. To avoid dehydration, limit your sweat sesh to no more than 10-15 minutes and sip around a litre of water after.  

Pitfall 6: You don’t hit the massage table

It might seem like an indulgence, but a massage is much more than a pamper sesh. Booking in for a regular sports massage after hardcore sessions can stave off post-muscle soreness and even improve future performance. ‘A sports massage will help to reduce muscle soreness after a workout by gradually pushing the lactic acid and other unwanted substances out of the muscles,’ explains Nathalie.

Pitfall 7: You’re a night owl

Slumber time and exercise go hand in hand; in fact, exercise is good for sleep. A study by Oregon State University found that getting at least 150 minutes of exercise a week positively impacts sleep quality. However, research also shows that not getting enough snoozing time after a fitness session can impair recovery from exercise, so try to get an early night after a workout. Being sleep deprived messes with hormones, increasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol and reducing muscle protein synthesis. It also causes a drop in the production of the growth hormone, which promotes fat loss and minimises fat storage in your body. So make sure you get your zzzzs!

Pitfall 8: You can’t say no to treats

Struggling to cut out the sweet stuff? You may have burned 300 calories in a 45-minute spin class or clocked up 10K pounding the pavements, but too much indulgence post-workout will derail all your hard work. Reward yourself with non-food related treats like a mani-pedi or a new piece of gym kit, and if you can’t seem to keep your sweet tooth in check, try eyeing up some slightly more waistline-friendly treats over your usual naughty nibbles. A pot of natural yoghurt with fresh fruit and a spoonful of honey, a few strawberries dipped in dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids) or oat pancakes drizzled in maple syrup will fit the bill. 

Pitfall 9: You weigh yourself too often 

Keeping an eye on the scales is important if shifting the pounds is your main goal, but weighing yourself too regularly can be counterproductive and leave you feeling demotivated if you aren’t seeing constant results. Since healthy weight loss is a slow, steady journey you’re not likely to see a noticeable difference in the number on the scales after a single training session. ‘It’s best to find a time when you can weigh yourself at the same time once a week – not immediately after exercise or eating,’ says Nathalie.

Top facts about exercising in the cold

Separate the freezing facts from fiction with the low down from a Fitness First expert:

1. Burning more calories in the cold is actually a myth, the body actually uses more energy cooling down in the heat than it does in the cold.

2. As per point one, exercising in colder temperatures is healthier than exercising in summer because we use less energy to warm up in winter than we do to cool down in summer

3. As per evolutionary theory, we tend to store more fat in winter to keep ourselves warm and with that comes weight gain, so exercising in the winter is actually more relevant for that reason

4. In the winter most of us divulge in alcohol and enjoy ourselves more, alcohol actually encourages heat loss in the body, so when we do exercise outside it makes it harder to stay warm

5. In summer we drink a lot of water, whereas in winter we’re not as aware that we’re dehydrated. This is dangerous as when we reach this point the body loses the ability to regulate temperature, so hydrating in winter is actually more important

6. Static stretching in the cold brings an injury risk, because muscles have the same elastic properties as a band if you stretch too quickly without the appropriate range of movement, the muscle can tear. Aim for dynamic movements as these will increase blood flow to muscle and therefore warm them quicker, whilst improving joint flexibility as well. They will also activate more muscles rather than isolated stretching.

7. Protect hands and feet. Heat loss tends to come from the hands, feet and head, so wear gloves, good socks and a hat and you’ll tend to find it easier to regulate temperature. It’s not about wearing a fleece, it’s about protecting the places that heat escapes from.

8. Stay dry. If you run in the winter and you sweat into cotton, it will stay wet and won’t dry. Therefore your body struggles to heat up due to the wet cotton. Wear dry fit material which will dry quickly as you work out.

9. Avoid over dressing. A lot of people wrap up warm when they work out outside. You risk excessive sweating which can cause dehydration and use excessive amounts of energy. It’s ok to start a run cold as you will warm up and your body will self-regulate your temperature.

10. There is a risk of slipping in the winter so wear a rubber studded sole to ensure you have grip.

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