By Ben Kallen via p90x newsletter
When it comes to creating incredible abs, even the most effective workout
programs can only bring you so far. That's because you can't get a flat, hard
midsection without losing body fat. Here's how to eat your way to great abs.
And no matter how much effort you put into creating a six-pack, no one's
going to see it if it's covered by a layer of flab. (The good news? While it's
impossible to "spot-reduce," abdominal fat is often the first to go when you
start losing weight.)
If you're following the dietary guidelines of a Beachbody®
fitness program or a personalized meal
plan from TeamBeachbody.com, you'll automatically be eating the right foods
to lose fat as you get in shape. But the following seven principles can give you
an extra edge and will help ensure that the effort you're putting into your abs
will bring you the results you want.
- Get plenty of protein. Eating enough lean
protein promotes fat loss and muscle gain, the two most important elements for
developing great abs. It also helps keep you from getting hungry while you're
eating right. You don't have to gobble down 12-ounce steaks—just eat a normal
portion of lean meat, fish, low-fat dairy, or vegetarian protein with every
meal, and make sure your snacks contain some protein, too. If you still have a
hard time getting enough in your diet, a daily shake made with Whey
Protein Powder or Shakeology®
can be a perfect addition.
By the way, protein is especially important
in the morning, when a lot of people don't get as much as they should. A
protein-rich breakfast will help keep your blood sugar steady for hours,
preventing the dips that can lead to cravings later in the day. (Try some
low-fat chicken sausage, or an omelet with one whole egg and three egg whites,
along with fruit or whole-grain toast.)
your carbs. Despite the popularity of low-carbohydrate diets,
the average American meal is still too high in sugar and fast-burning starches
to bring body fat down to ab-baring levels. It's time to say goodbye to
sweetened soda, ditch the Doritos®, and save the cake for your birthday. If your
fitness plan calls for a sports drink before a long cardio workout, or a carb-and-protein
recovery drink after resistance training, that's fine. But the rest of the
time, stick with foods that are on the low end of the glycemic index (refer to
GlycemicIndex.com for more information)—these foods burn more slowly so they
won't spike your blood sugar and insulin levels.
- Have fun with fiber. Something about the word
"fiber" just doesn't sound appetizing. But high-fiber foods can actually be
quite delicious: fresh berries and other fruits, salads loaded with colorful
produce, your favorite steamed vegetables or vegetable soup, stews or chili made
with beans, chewy whole-grain breads and cereals . . . You get the picture.
(These foods just happen to be loaded with nutrients as well.) High-fiber foods
keep you fuller with fewer calories, and they help keep your digestive system
working at its best—a double-whammy for getting rid of belly bulge
- Enjoy some yogurt. Probiotics, the healthful
bacteria found in yogurt and other fermented foods, have been proven to help
reduce belly fat. In a recent study in Finland, new mothers who took probiotic
supplements averaged smaller waist circumferences, and lower body fat in
general, than those who didn't take probiotic supplements. And while the topic
is still controversial, studies have found that eating lots of calcium-rich
dairy foods like yogurt may increase overall weight loss.
- Don't forget to eat. Tempted to lower your
daily calorie count by skipping meals? Don't. Going hungry can raise your levels
of the stress-related hormone cortisol, which research has found can increase
belly fat even in otherwise thin women. And eating too infrequently can lower
your metabolism and energy levels, while increasing the chance that you'll get
too hungry and decide to chuck your meal plan entirely. If you're eating the
right foods, regular meals and snacks will keep your body fueled while you're
working toward that strong core.
- Drink more
fluids. Hydration is important when you're on a fitness plan,
but drinking plenty of water has particular benefits for your midsection. It
helps keep your stomach full so you don't overeat, and it helps flush out excess
sodium to prevent belly bloating. (Eating more potassium-rich foods, such as
tomatoes and bananas, will also help in this area.)
Plain ol' H20 can't
be beat, but you can also switch it up with flavored waters, iced tea, and
anything else you like to drink that isn't full of sweeteners. How much do you
need? The old rule of 8 glasses a day is a good start, but everyone is
different: drink more if you're exercising or it's hot out, and less if you're
running to the bathroom every 5 minutes.
- . . . With two exceptions. It's time to cut
down on those mood-altering substances, coffee and alcohol. Too much caffeine
raises your cortisol levels and can impair your sleep, which can lower the
production of fitness-promoting hormones. Meanwhile, the proverbial "beer belly"
isn't just the result of extra calories—alcohol actually makes it more difficult
for your body to metabolize carbs and fat. Booze also stimulates your appetite
and lowers your inhibitions, which can lead to bingeing. The best road to flat
abs is no alcohol at all, but if you really like a drink now and then, just have
one at a time (and no more than a few a week), and stay away from higher-calorie
beers and sugary mixed drinks.
If you add these rules to your fitness plan, you're sure to see faster
improvements in your midsection. Of course, there's a bonus to eating this way:
it'll keep you healthier, too. That may not be as big an inducement as great
abs, but we're throwing it in for free.