By FIONA HO
Summer is upon us again and it is time to hit the beach and show off that hot bod you’ve been working for the past few months.
Okay, so it is hot and humid all year round here in Malaysia, but now is as good a time as any to flaunt that sexy physique. But if your body isn’t quite beach-ready yet, chances are it’s because of one area – the abdominals.
So how do you go about getting a chiselled midsection?
Watch what you eat
There is no getting around this. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you’re not watching what you put in your mouth, chances are, that beautiful set of hard and honed abs will continue to elude you.
However, the secret to getting washboard abs is not so much about slashing your caloric intake as it is about eating a balanced diet that is made up of protein, carbohydrates (carbs) and fats.
When shooting to get the six-pack abs look, protein is probably the most essential macronutrient of them all, mainly because your body burns a tonne of calories digesting protein.
If you’re eating at a caloric deficit, getting enough protein is especially important because it will help to prevent lean muscle loss that typically accompanies a lower calorie intake.
How much protein do you need? If a lean, defined look is what you seek, be sure to get about 0.5–1 gram of protein per pound of your body weight every day. Meanwhile, those looking to put on muscle should aim for 1.25-2 grams of protein for every pound of your body weight daily (depending on your fitness goals).
Eating enough carbs is equally essential to getting the body of your dreams. Some people believe they are “bad” for your six pack, but in reality, you must eat enough carbs to get the fuel you require to complete your workouts.
When deprived of carbs, your body will search for other energy sources and can consume protein as an alternative. This leaves less protein in your body for building muscles and can cause the precious muscle mass you’ve worked so hard for to waste away.
Also, while many people believe that eating fat will make you fat, healthy fats found in fish oil, nuts and olive oil will actually help you burn more fat than a low fat diet.
Fats in your diet also help keep your insulin levels stable, which can help you prevent gaining additional body fat in the long run.
Do not forget to include plenty of fibre and vegetables with each meal as fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals are all essential for building a lean body and sexy abs.
Also, exercise is not a license to eat badly, as it will only negate your hard earned gains.
Stop doing thousands of crunches
I get this all the time – how many crunches do you do to get your abs? My answer is always just one – when I get out of bed in the morning (ha ha).
Personally, I think crunches are over-rated. The key to getting a lean midsection is to reduce your overall body fat and crunches just aren’t a very effective way to do that.
This is because spot reduction has never worked and never will, and you can’t decrease a layer of fat simply by focusing on one area.
Compound, multi-joint total body movements are a much better way to promote more total fat loss and muscle building than hundreds of crunches and sit-ups ever will.
Here is a list of compound exercises that those who aspire to get sexy abs should have in their workout programme:
• Barbell squats
• Dumbbell lunges
• Overhead press
• Bench press
• Do (the right type of) cardio
So we’ve established that to get hard, defined abs, you will need to lose overall body fat and one of the best ways to do that is by doing cardio.
It doesn’t necessarily mean an hour on the treadmill every day, though. While long duration cardio at a slow to medium pace (or steady-state training) is a decent fat loss method, interval workouts or high intensity interval training (HIIT) are much better ways to blast off belly fat.
One way to do this is to start incorporating Tabata training into your workouts. The Tabata workout lasts only four minutes, but it will be the longest four minutes you will encounter in your life.
The structure goes something like this: Push yourself as hard as you can for 20 seconds, and rest for 10 seconds until you complete eight sets.
You can pretty much do this with any exercise you wish: kettlebell swings, push ups, rows – anything that targets large muscle groups is recommended.
Why is Tabata training more effective than steady-state training when it comes to fat loss? One simple explanation is because the high-intensity protocol jacks up your metabolism and boosts your ability to burn more fat (while building lean muscle), even while at rest.
Meanwhile, with steady-state training, you only burn fat while you are exercising. Too much of it can also eat into your lean muscle mass, and we don’t want that when you’re trying to get abs.
In summary, while there are no hard and fast rules to getting rock hard abs, you can hardly go wrong when you follow a proper diet and a training regime that incorporates compound exercises and efficient cardio methods.
While you’re at it, it is important to remember that Rome was not built in a day. The road to six-pack abs isn’t always an easy one, but if you stay focused on your goals and keep working on that fitness track, you will surely succeed in your quest.
Fiona Ho is a certified personal training and a strength training enthusiast who derives happiness in lifting heavy objects. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.