If you’ve been itchin’ to strip a few inches off your midsection and sculpt a sexy stomach, you’ve gotta be willing to do more than a couple of crunches.
In fact, strengthening your abs is only one small piece of the tight-tummy puzzle, and achieving the ever-elusive eight-pack requires oodles of effort on both the dietary and fitness fronts. But if you’re up to the challenge and serious about whittling your waist, the following formula can help make ripped abs your reality:
Fuel the fire
Proper nutrition is the key to a shapely stomach. It doesn’t matter if you’re squeezing out 1000 sit-ups a day; if you don’t watch your diet, your efforts are doomed.
First, you’ll need to control blood sugar levels in order to lose body fat. This is best accomplished by eating 5 or 6 “mini-meals” a day, because re-fueling regularly keeps your metabolism revved. Each meal should be a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrate and a little bit of fat, like an egg-white omelet with veggies and cheese, or a slice of whole-grain toast with peanut butter and a glass of milk. Just be sure to keep your calories in check: Inhaling a six-course feast every 2 to 3 hours won’t help your waistline one bit.
It’s highly unlikely that you’ll develop fab abs if you’re getting most of your calories from carbohydrates. Ratios can vary quite a bit, but it’s best to keep your carb count at around 55 per cent of your daily caloric intake. And none of this white flour and refined sugar crap: Think high fiber, whole grains and fresh fruits and veggies.
If you’ve mastered both the timing and ratios of your meals and still aren’t seeing results, your caloric consumption might be to blame. It matters not how healthful your nutrition program is if you’re simply eating too much.
It’s important that you first determine maintenance calories; that is, the amount of food you can consume without causing your weight to fluctuate. This will take some experimentation and effort, but isn’t too tricky if you note your nutrients in a food journal. Be sure to track total calories as well as grams of protein, carbohydrates and fats, and your optimal intake should become clear after a couple of weeks.
Create a deficit
Once you’ve determined maintenance, simply reduce your calories by 200 per day. The goal is to be eating enough to retain muscle but still be burning fat, and cutting too many calories slows the metabolism and encourages muscle atrophy.
You may lose as much as four to six pounds in the first week, but stifle your excitement; it’s mainly water-weight. You’ll know you’re on the right track if after that you level off at about a pound to a pound and a half of weight loss per week.
You’ll need to follow your nutrition program 6 days a week if you hope to maintain a sexy stomach. You’re allowed one day off to “cheat”, but don’t use it as an excuse to gorge yourself. It’s okay to indulge your sweet tooth, have a beer with your buddies or serve up seconds of your favorite dinner dish, but do so in moderation. You’re not trying to make up for the calories you cut during the week!
Lift to lose
To keep fat off your frame, hit the weight room at least 3 times a week for 45 minutes to an hour. And just because you’re after an eight-pack doesn’t mean abs should be your focus. A full-body routine will bring the most benefit, because for every pound of muscle you add, you’ll burn an additional 30 to 50 calories per day.
Sweat to get svelte
Cardio training is also key, and should be performed at a moderate intensity 3 to 5 days per week. Try to stretch your sessions past the 30-minute mark to really feel the burn, and be creative with your workouts. Switching up your routine every now and then will ensure that you remain a lean, mean, fat burning machine!
Though the road to a ripped midriff is paved with hard work and willpower, fab abs are well within reach. You’ll trim and tone your tummy in no time if you keep tabs on what and when you eat, don’t go overboard when you “cheat”, and hit the health club throughout the week!