We’ve got some good news and some bad news when it comes to carving out an ever-elusive six-pack.
First, the bad news: You can’t spot reduce body fat, not even with exercise. A recent study found that targeting a very specific for weight loss simply doesn’t work.
“Asking your body to lose fat in one area is like trying to remove a cup of water from one corner of a filled bathtub,” says personal trainer Lecia Whitlock. “The overall water level will go down, but there won’t be a divot in one corner of the tub.”
The good news? Achieving a toned tummy is easier than you think. The key is to clean up your diet and shed fat all over (including around your mid-section) to reveal your abs beneath.
Of course, regular cardio and strength conditioning are important if you want to achieve that super-cut look, but diet is a deal breaker. If your diet isn’t clean, then your abs will never show.
Here’s the breakdown on how to really get the abs you want.
Look Into Food Intolerances Or Allergies
For some people, a round tummy can mean a food intolerance or allergy that’s caused insulin resistance and, in turn, extra belly fat. These are some of the most commonly allergenic foods:
To find out if you have a food allergy or intolerance, try an elimination diet under the supervision of a health care professional, and see if your tummy naturally leans out.
What About Bloating?
A bloated belly can often be caused by gas. Here are some foods to avoid to prevent bloating and show off those abs:
- Beans. Some beans are easier on the digestive system than others, including Pinto beans and black beans. You can also beans with whole grains, meat or quinoa.
- Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. Cooking these foods makes them easier to digest, but you may also want to warp them out altogether for spinach, cucumbers, lettuce and zucchini.
- Some fruits, such as apples and pears. Their high fibre and glucose content can result in bloating for some people. Swap for belly-friendly fruits like bananas, blueberries, grapefruit, oranges or strawberries.
- Wheat. For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, wheat causes digestive problems such as bloating, gas, diarrhea and stomach pain.
- Fizzy drinks such as soda.
- Dairy, such as milk, cheese, ice cream, and yogurt.
- Packaged foods – such as bread, cereal, and salad dressing – that contain small amounts of lactose, a sugar found in milk.
- Candy and gum, made with sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol.
- And of course, beer.
Now, you don’t need to avoid all the foods listed here unless you know that they cause digestive issues for you. You can also take a digestive enzyme (sold at most pharmacies) to help.
Boost Your Metabolism
Famed celebrity weight-loss expert Jillian Michaels recommends these foods for boosting your metabolism and keeping belly fat at bay.
According to Michaels , garlic “stimulate the production of glutathione, an antioxidant that is especially important in the liver, where it helps remove hormone-disrupting chemicals.” Translation? Garlic keeps your gut health (and your belly fat!) in check.
Berries give you anthocyanins, which Michaels says may prevent fat cells from growing, reduce inflammation and regulate blood sugar.
Michaels recommends drinking one or two daily cups of this beverage for its caffeine and its oxidation effect on fat cells.
The Fibre Equation
Fibre is a nutrient known to help with fat loss, but it can also cause belly bloat. So what’s a flat tummy seeker to do? The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders says that since most of us aren’t getting enough fibre, a small increase will help with weight loss, but eat too much, and it can cause health issues.
Your best bet is to stick with the recommended allowance, then scale back or add more depending on how it affects your body. People who have difficulty obtaining the goal of 20 to 35 gm per day through diet alone may find fibre supplementation helpful. With any dietary fibre, the guideline is to start low and go slow. You’ll need to drink lots of water to prevent fibre’s bloating effects.
Finally: Ab-Friendly Diets
What works for one person won’t necessarily work for someone else. However, there are a few popular diet plans that may help you reduce belly fat.
The number one most important thing you can do to lose belly fat is to cut add sugar from your diet. We cannot stress this enough!
There’s added sugar in everything nowadays, from canned soups and tomato sauces to breakfast cereals and even almond milk. Cut out sugar, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly the fat melts away. That’s because sugar is packed full of empty calories and nothing else. Replace those empty calories with nutritious ones, and reach for a piece of fruit the next time you get a sugar craving. Natural sugars don’t affect the body in the same way as processed, refined sugars do.
Watch Your Calories
While we never recommend obsessively tracking calories, if you’re eating too much, you’ll store the extra energy as fat. If this is the case, the only way you’ll show off show off the abs you’ve been training so hard for is by lowering your caloric intake. You’ll often see 2,000 calories a day as a guideline, but if you want to lose weight, you’ll need to figure out how many calories your specific body uses each day. Use the calorie calculator to estimate the number of daily calories your body needs to maintain your current weight to make sure you’re not going dramatically over this number.
Also Read: 5 Common Myths About Belly Fat
However, be warned: Cutting calories is not the be-all, end-all of losing belly fat. Indeed, you’re likely better off eating a clean diet filled with lean protein, plenty of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. For most people, losing fat is about eating the right foods and eliminating processed junk and sugar, rather than cutting calories (which will come naturally once you’ve cut removed calorie-laden treats from you diet!).
When it comes to high-protein, low-carb diets, there are many fad diets to choose from, including Atkins, South Beach, Dukan, Paleo, and more, all of them claiming to change the way food is metabolized and stored in the body. However, you don’t need to follow a fancy diet to cut back on unnecessary carbs and increase your protein intake. Simply use your common sense, and as always: Think clean.
Feed Your Abs
If you’re a gym rat and still aren’t noticing a six-pack, cutting back on carbs won’t necessarily work for you. According to trainer Jason Ferruggia, you’ll have to consume more whole-food carbohydrates (especially before and during your workouts), more calories and adequate levels of protein and dietary fats to let those abs shine through.
Here are his eight top tips:
- Start with 14 times your bodyweight to roughly calculate your daily calorie allowance.
- Eat real, whole foods, preferably organic.
- Aim to eat four to six servings of vegetables and fruit per day.
- Don’t go overboard with your fat intake.
- Eat about .8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, per day.
- Eat enough carbs to support training, recovery, immune and brain function, but choose complex carbs
- Eat 20 to 40 grams of protein immediately after training.
- Make breakfast your largest meal, followed by a medium-sized lunch and a small dinner.
And there you have it: Your complete guide to getting a six-pack. If a super-toned tummy is what you’re after, you’ll do well to follow these tips.
Keep in mind, however, that a six-pack isn’t realistic for most people. You can be perfectly fit, happy and healthy while embracing your belly jiggle, too!