Everyone wants to have a lean midsection, but the majority of people will never have one. The key to getting abs is to remove the layer of fat that’s covering up those muscles. So how do you do this?
The Key to Finally Seeing Your Abs
I would estimate that 80% of the equation for seeing your abs is diet. The other 20% is exercise. Unfortunately, most people have this backwards, and rely on exercise to get their abs to come in. The common thought is that if you do enough sit-ups or crunches, your abs will start to show through. Targeting fat loss is a myth.
Real body transformations come through diet manipulation. You can work out until you’re blue in the face, but as long as you have that layer of fat covering your muscles, you will always just look bulky and smooth. The good news? It’s much easier to lose fat than it is to build muscle. I should add one caveat to that – physically it’s much easier to lose fat than to build muscle. Psychologically it’s a whole different story.
However, if you’re willing to give yourself 16-20 weeks, nearly anyone can bring their body fat levels down enough to either start bringing in their abs, or really start defining them (depending on your starting body fat percentage).
Dialing in Your Diet
If you want abs, your nutrition is going to be key. You are going to need to provide an optimal fat-burning environment so that fatty acids have a chance to be released. How do you do this? You place a strong emphasis on keeping insulin levels low.
There are several ways to do this. One way is to eat plenty of low-glycemic foods. Low-glycemic foods cause a slower release of glucose which results in favorable insulin levels for releasing body fat. You cannot release body fat when insulin (a storage hormone) is high. If you want those six pack abs, you need to take control of this powerful hormone, and learn to harness its positive muscle building qualities, while minimizing its fat storage capabilities.
How else can we bring out our abs through our diet? Again, let’s focus on controlling insulin levels. Besides eating low-glycemic carbohydrates, you can also keep insulin levels low by minimizing your intake of carbohydrates. While eliminating them or keeping them very low will keep insulin levels low, I do not recommend such low levels. Carbohydrates (glucose) are an important fuel source for the brain and high-intensity exercise, and they are also needed for the complete metabolism of fatty acids.
To sum up the nutritional guidelines, there is no cookie cutter approach – only principles you should follow.
- Eat around .8-1 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight.
- Eat enough carbohydrates to fuel your workouts, but no more.
- Eat low-glycemic carbohydrates to keep insulin levels low to provide an optimal environment to release fatty acids.
- Get in enough essential fatty acids (EFAs).
- Make sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals to support optimal body function.
- Eat enough calories so that your body won’t think it’s starving, but low enough to stimulate fat loss.
These guidelines will work for everyone as long as they stay consistent. Consistency through diet is the key to getting a six pack.
Isolated Ab Exercises Do Very Little
Once you start getting your body fat percent levels down into the low teens and single digits, you’re going to see your abs. No direct ab work is required. Just because you aren’t doing direct ab workouts, it doesn’t mean your abdominals aren’t getting any exercise.
If you are working out like you should be and using big compound movements, your abs get a great workout by playing a vital role in stabilizing the core. When you are doing squats, it takes a large amount of core strength to stabilize the body while you have a bar with weights sitting on your back. Make sure you are doing the 3 big compound movements – bench press, squats, and deadlifts, and/or combinations thereof.
Now don’t get me wrong, you can certainly do targeted ab work anytime you want, and it can only benefit you. My point is that if you’re doing isolated ab work in the hopes of burning fat in that area, you’ll be doing it in vain. Focus your efforts on your diet, continue strength training, lower your body fat, and your abs will start to show.