Tips for Getting Six-Pack Abs
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For many people, having a visible six-pack is the ultimate fitness goal. Due to their position along the torso, abdominal muscles normally are not visible unless someone has extremely low body fat and decent muscle tone. Even relatively non-muscular people can get a six pack simply by losing weight. As most bodybuilders know, one secret to a flat stomach is having a very carefully monitored diet. Follow these tips to get trim and toned abdominal muscles as efficiently as possible.
Add More Protein to the Diet
Protein is a type of nutrient that is made of amino acids. The body needs these building blocks for muscle growth. Protein is also important because the low-calorie diet needed for visible abs tends to cause lean muscle mass. Getting enough protein can help ensure that the abs do not shrink as a person loses body fat.
The ideal protein source for someone who wants a six pack will be a lean protein that helps build muscles while also not containing excessive calories. Depending on how much muscle mass a person is trying to build, the recommended level is anywhere between 0.36 to 1.5 grams per pound of body weight. For those trying to cut fat and gain muscle, around 1.2 grams per body weight is recommended.
There are plenty of easy ways to add protein to a diet. When short on time, grab a protein bar or whip up some protein pancakes or a protein shake!
Protein Packed Pre-Workout Smoothie
- 1 scoop whey protein powder
- 1 cup milk - almond, soy, or cow
- 1 frozen banana
- 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 cup ice
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- Combine all ingredients in a blender.
- Pulse on high a few times to chop ingredients.
- Blend on medium speed until smooth.
- Depending on the banana size, a little extra milk can help make the smoothie a more drinkable texture.
Include Carbohydrate-Based Foods in a Post-Workout Snack
A lot of people focus on low-carbohydrate diets while building muscle, but the truth is that carbs can be quite beneficial. They are a valuable part of the body's metabolic process, so getting enough carbohydrates may keep a person's metabolism high. This provides plenty of energy for exercise, and it also makes it a little easier to drop extra pounds.
Eating a lot of carbohydrates throughout the day can lead to glucose spikes and excess water retention, so eating carbohydrates at the right time makes a difference in getting a flat stomach. In general, it is a good idea to keep overall carbohydrate levels low at no more than 100 grams of carbohydrates per day. Avoid eating carbohydrates at night when the sleeping body does not need the energy. Instead, it is best to eat them right after an intense workout session. The body needs at least 25 grams of carbohydrates to work on building and repairing muscle after a workout.
There are many options for getting some good post-workout carbohydrates. Post-workout formulas often contain a balanced mixture of protein, carbohydrates, and amino acids that help build muscles. Carbohydrates can be obtained by eating oats or pasta as well. In general, any type of complex carbohydrate in moderate amounts is great for a post-workout meal.
Have a Diet With Healthy Fats
When losing weight, it is tempting to cut fat from the diet because a gram of fat contains more calories than the same amount of protein or carbohydrates. However, fats actually have an important role in building muscle and cutting body fat. Fats keep a person feeling full and satisfied for hours, so just adding a little scoop of peanut butter to oatmeal can help curb cravings. Those trying to lose weight should try to get their fat from plant sources, like chia seeds, lentils, or nut butters, instead of getting them from animal sources like cheese and bacon.
In addition to help with reducing cravings and keeping calorie counts low, certain types of fats can provide extra help for getting abs. The helpful omega-3 fatty acids found in things like fish oil supplements reduce inflammation, so they can be beneficial for preventing muscle breakdown. Monounsaturated fats, like the type found in olive oil or a fresh avocado, have also been linked to lower fat storage around the midsection.
Balance the Overall Diet
"Abs are built in the kitchen" is a frequent saying among bodybuilders because the main requirement for six-pack abs is a lower body fat. This will require most people to pay attention to their overall diet and carefully balance it. To cut back on body fat, one will need to calculate their total daily energy expenditure, and then they will need to eat fewer calories than their TDEE each day. Fortunately, modern calorie-tracking apps make this an easy habit to get into.
When a person burns more calories than they consume, they will gradually lose fat around their midsection until abs are visible. Getting a visible six pack requires body fat percentages of around 20 percent for men and 25 percent for women. To get this sort of body composition, one will need to reduce fat levels while increasing muscle levels. A balanced diet of fat, carbohydrates, and protein can help build muscle while losing fat.
Workout Abs Smarter, not Harder
Once a person loses fat, whatever amount of abdominal muscles they have will be visible. For those who are not doing a lot of ab work, their abs might just appear to be two vertical bands of muscle. People trying to get a six pack often make the mistake of spending hours doing crunches each week. Though crunches might make one feel like they are targeting their abdominal muscles, the reality is that it is a rather inefficient exercise. The body gets used to doing sit-ups, so muscle memory creates motions that use less effort to complete a crunch.
Getting the definition of an actual six pack will require a more varied workout with progressively difficult exercises. Some useful options include hanging leg raises that require a person to hang from a pull-up bar while lifting their legs, planks that make a person keep their body straight while balancing on toes and hands, and arm and leg raises that require a person to lay on their back while moving their arms and legs from a straight position to a position parallel to the ground. These sorts of exercises can be customized with leg and hand weights to actually build muscle over time instead of just remaining static. Keep in mind that even basic exercises like squats will work out the core, so hours of dedicated ab work are not needed to build a six-pack.