With bikini season just around the corner, there is no better time to start working on your ab muscles than now. Six pack abs are not easy to achieve, however; and most pursuing the six pack goal may be trying to achieve it the wrong way.
One of the many misconceptions about getting perfect flat or six pack abs is that you have to spend all day and all night doing endless sets of crunches and sit ups. Although crunches and sit ups do help build the muscle in your midsection, they will not help burn the fat that lies on top of the muscles, preventing them from showing through your skin. The two main components to a lean, toned mid-section are diet and cardiovascular exercise. Core exercises and ab workouts help as well, but they are just a small piece of the puzzle in helping define your ab muscles. Keep reading to see how you can change your diet and exercise routine to give you the abs that will have everyone turning heads at the beach this summer season!
Diet: What Foods Should I Avoid?
Your diet is just as important, if not more important, when it comes to losing weight and getting in shape as your workouts are. If you have a poor diet, you will likely never see the results of the hard work you put in at the gym or on the field. You need to make sure that what you put into your body each and every day is something that is going to help you meet your fitness goals, not push you farther away from them.
So, what should you stay away from or limit to a minimum if you want to burn fat and help define your ab muscles? The first things you need to stay away from are foods that will bloat you. Obviously, if you are bloated, your abs will not look defined and sculpted. Examples of foods and beverages that bloat you are beans, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, soda, sugar, and refined carbohydrates such as white rice, pasta, potatoes and pastries. It also goes without saying that, if you are looking to achieve the six pack abs you see on magazine covers, you cannot indulge in pizza, hamburgers, ice cream, donuts, french fries or any junk food. These are all foods that will drive you farther away from your goal instead of helping you reach it. If you spend hours at the gym but eat an unhealthy meal before or after, you have undone all of the hard work and effort you put into your workout. By having the discipline to cut out the previously mentioned foods from your diet and replace them with healthier options, you can greatly reduce bloating in as little as two weeks. Some feel that you should not deprive yourself of anything that you love and, instead of eliminate foods, just eat them in moderation. This may be true with losing weight in general but, when you are trying to achieve a flat, defined stomach, junk food must be completely eliminated. It can definitely hinder your efforts in achieving a six pack.
In addition to foods that bloat you, it is also wise to stay away from foods that provide empty calories. Alcoholic beverages candy and gum all have very little to offer and little to no nutritional value. If you are trying to slim down, these are foods you must reduce your intake of and preferably remove from your diet all together.
As a general rule, carbohydrates are foods that will cause more bloating than others, such as protein, vegetables and fruits. If you want to get definition in your abs, it is wise to eat a low carbohydrate diet. Eating a low carbohydrate diet can benefit you in two ways. Carbohydrates bloat you so, by avoiding them, you reduce bloating. In addition, when you deplete your body of carbohydrates or eat less than normal, your body begins to look for other sources of fuel to burn for energy. If your body does not have carbohydrates, it has no choice but to burn fat for fuel and energy. This is why low carbohydrate diets are so popular, especially for fitness competitors all over the globe while competing or preparing for a competition. Low carbohydrate diets can help you get lean faster than most diet methods around and it is a diet that will not leave you starving. Most low carbohydrate diets allow you to eat large quantities of protein and some vegetables, keeping you full and satisfied longer.
Diet: What Foods Should I Eat?
So, you have read plenty about what foods you need to avoid while trying to achieve your ideal abs for summer. How about foods you should be eating? Your main source of nutrition when you are on a diet looking to show off your abs should be protein and vegetables. Carbohydrates, including grains, legumes, and fruits, should be eaten at a minimum and preferably in the morning so they can be burned off. Examples of lean proteins that can help you achieve toned abs are chicken breast, lean turkey, tilapia, tuna and lean beef. Most vegetables are good to eat unless they are considered cruciferous vegetables. Examples of cruciferous vegetables are broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts.
Exercise: What Types of Exercises Should I Do?
As previously mentioned, ab exercises such as crunches and sit ups will help tone your ab muscles but they will not help burn the fat around them. This is necessary to bring the muscles out and show the six pack we all have underneath the layers of belly fat.
The most effective way to burn the fat off of your belly is to do cardiovascular exercise. This includes running, swimming, spinning, using the elliptical, climbing stairs on the stair master or riding your bike. You will need to sweat and exercise at a moderate to high intensity for a minimum of 45 minutes per day most days of the week to burn the fat necessary to reveal six pack abs.
After you have done your cardio for the day, you may opt to do one of the many cardio ab workouts available on DVD or an ab workout at the gym. There are countless ab workouts available for purchase and most tout themselves as the best ab workout on the market. Ideally, the best ab workouts are those that target all of the muscles in the mid-section, including the obliques and the entire core itself. Beachbody features ab workouts with many of its’ workout programs and they can also be purchased separately online and on auction sites.
If you opt to purchase an ab workout to do after your cardio activity, try to find one that offers plenty of core exercise, as well as targeted ab moves such as crunches and sit ups. A general core workout DVD can be a great option as well since strengthening your core means strengthening your abs as well. When you strengthen your core, you are also providing extra strength and power to your back and spine. It will help you walk straighter and give you more overall strength in anything you do.
With only weeks left until bikini season begins, the time is now to get started if you want your abs beach ready. Remember that, unless you focus on your diet, cardio exercise and losing extra weight and fat first, you are never going to have the flat, lean, six pack abs you are dreaming of. Your core may be strong and you may be able to lift 300 pounds but the key to washboard abs is to eat lean and lower your body fat percentage. There is no such thing as spot reduction and that is why simply doing hundreds of sit ups a day does not equal six pack abs.