During a presentation at a corporate health awareness event, I was asked, “ How did you get a six-pack? You probably do a gazillion crunches, right?” “No”, I answered, “Abs are made in the kitchen.” Developing six-pack abs (or reducing your abdominal/waist circumference) has more to do with nutrition and total body weight loss.
To reduce excess fat covering your six-pack (yes, you too have a six-pack) mostly requires change in diet supplemented by sleep and exercise. Here are a few tips to get you started:
• Carb Cycling– healthy carbs, like whole wheat and quinoa, can help you feel full and be a great source of energy. However, if your body doesn’t use carbs as energy, the storage of carbs in the body can contribute to covering your abs behind a curtain of fat. Use carbs to your advantage through carb cycling. On days you plan to workout, increase your carb consumption. Your body will use the carbs as energy during exercise. On days you don’t workout, reduce your consumption of carbs. For example, on days that I workout, my lunch may include a sandwich consisting of two slices of whole wheat bread, turkey, spinach, peppers and other healthy toppings. On days I don’t workout, I make a sandwich by cutting one slice of bread in half and adding turkey and the toppings previously mentioned.
• Replace soda with water– soda is a major contributor to concealing your six-pack abs and widening the circumference of your abdominal/waist area. Fill up on water. Drink at least 64 ounces of water per day. Consume 16 ounces just before dinner. This will trick your body into feeling full to avoid overeating.
• Load up on vegetables and fruit– this will assist in filling you up without consuming excess calories.
• Eat slowly– to assist with satiety and reduce your risk of overeating, slow down the pace at which you consume meals.
Getting 7-8 hours of high quality sleep is critical to attaining a six-pack. According to a New York City Obesity Research study, those who get less than 7-8 hours of sleep consume almost 300 calories more per day than those who sleep 7-8 hours per night. That can add approximately 35 pounds of excess weight per year. A separate study in the journal Sleep disclosed that those who slept 7-8 hours per night had less visceral fat than those who slept less than 7-8 hours. Visceral fat (excess fat surrounding organs in the abdominal area) has been associated with many chronic illnesses. For high quality sleep:
• Keep your room completely dark– Turn-off your TVs, cellphones and other electronic devices that glow. The light from these devices can disrupt melatonin, which regulates sleep.
• Keep your room cool– your room temperature should be 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. This will assist in lowering your core body temperature and promote high quality sleep.
• Interval Cardio Training– involves consistently changing speed during your cardio exercise (i.e. slow, fast, slow, fast, etc.). The change in speed will assist in uncovering your six-pack by reducing total body weight. Interval training can be used with most cardio exercises including running, biking and jumping rope.
• Combination exercises– these involve the execution of different exercises with little to no rest between. For example, you may perform pushups followed by crunches with a 30-60 second active rest between exercises. That is one set. Combination exercises can assist in burning calories, reducing total body weight and unveiling your six-pack.
• Planks– this is a great abs (and core) exercise that requires no movement. Get into a push-up position. But instead of resting on your hands, rest on your forearms and keep your abs (and glutes) contracted. Hold the position for at least 30 seconds per set.
Don’t be fooled by gimmicks that promise six-pack abs in “3 easy steps”. Infomercials that claim you can have “steel abs” in a matter of days by using Ab rollers, electric shock pads and other medieval-like contraptions. Save your money. Uncovering your six-pack abs (or reducing your abdominal/waist circumference) primarily requires a change in diet supplemented by sleep and exercise.