You can spend hours doing sit ups, crunches, leg lifts, and generally torturing yourself trying to get six pack abs. And, sure, those things are important. But the real secret to killer abs is in your diet. Our expert breaks it down for you below with hard science and specific diet recommendations.
You Are What You Eat. Dieting for Washboard Abs.
One motivation to spend time and effort to create washboard abs is for the defined “six pack” appearance. In order to appreciate the result, an understanding of the underlying anatomy is necessary. The “six pack” appearance of well-defined abdominal wall musculature is the result of the prominent architecture of four sets of muscle intersected by connective tissue. The “six pack” is actually an “eight pack” of muscle groups.
The external and internal oblique abdominal muscles, transverses abdominus and rectus abdominus muscles are the components of the “six pack”. Horizontally the muscles are separated by bands of dense fibrous connective tissue. Each specific muscle group is separated down the middle by a band of fibrous connective tissue called the linea alba. This arrangement allows all of the motions and positions enjoyed by the upper torso.
All of the tissues layers directly above and below these muscles contain fat. Failure to observe optimal definition is often because the fat layers obscure the definition of even well-toned abdominal muscles. Also, the bowel contained beneath the abdominal muscle wall can destroy a well-defined, flat abdominal wall with gaseous distention and bloating.
Any abdominal muscle definition cannot be obtained without attention to the reduction in the per cent of total body fat. Otherwise, all the hard work isolating and working the abdominal muscles can be in vain. Diet must be an integral part of the strategy to develop washboard abs.
Any diet designed to enhance abdominal definition should be designed to meet several needs. Of course, it makes sense to reduce fat deposition around the muscle layer to increase definition and create the flat couture of chiseled abs. But must be made to provide adequate protein; the basic building blocks to increase abdominal muscle mass. Another consideration is minimizing ingestion of foods that can distend the abdomen by either fluid bloating or gaseous distention.
Carbohydrates contribution to abs must be limited and consistent to provide a flat appearance. In the metabolic pathway, ingested carbohydrates break down into glucose. It is stored in muscle and fat as glycogen. Glycogen requires several water molecules around it to be stored. More carbs become more glycogen and the associated water causes bloating and edema. This immediate effect is in addition to the longer term effects of lipid conversion and deposition.
Some of the immediate excellent weight loss results from low carbohydrate diets are in part due to loss of the water weight associated with glycogen. Maintaining a consistent daily amount of carbohydrate in the 50% of total grams range is optimal. This would translate to about 220 grams for a 2000 calorie daily diet.
Keep everything moving. The healthier the gastrointestinal tract remains beneath the abdominal muscle wall, the flatter and more defined the overlying structures appear. The recommended daily amount of fiber is 25 grams. This amount should be consumed over a period of time throughout the day and not taken at one time.
In addition to keeping the bowel decompressed, fiber is known to bind cholesterol. It is then eliminated in stool. Increasing fiber is an initial treatment in lowering cholesterol. A diet high in fiber is initially recommended in many gastrointestinal conditions.
1 gram of protein per pound of body weight is required to maintain and build muscle mass, including abdominal muscles. For a 125 lb person, to consume 125 grams of protein daily requires protein supplementation at every meal. Protein supplementation does not have to be costly or contribute to the atherosclerotic process.
Whey is a product of cheese making. It is what is left after the curds are removed. It is usually dehydrated into powder form. Little Bo Beep was smart to eat her curds and whey. Whey is an excellent source of protein.
Whey contains high branched amino acids that have been shown to fuel muscle action and aid protein synthesis in muscle repair and growth. Supplementation with whey has been shown to speed muscle recovery and accelerate adaptation. Some research has suggested a positive effect in minimizing heart disease and cancer. Anti-inflammatory properties have also been demonstrated.
One of the pluses about dieting for flat abs is that no one food group needs to be eliminated. In general, modifying amounts, frequency and meal composition can optimize abdominal muscle definition. Universal dieting concepts still apply. The body will accommodate to a fixed diet. A routine weekly day off dieting, or breaking one week after three weeks of dieting can reprogram glycogen and protein metabolism.
Maintaining a positive fluid balance is paramount. Keeping toxins and metabolic byproducts dilute assists elimination. Homeostasis is driven by water as 60% of the physical human body is water. Major organs like the brain and lungs have a considerably higher percent of water in composition. The better hydrated we are, the better we function on all levels.
Recommended foods for washboard abs:
Almonds: Tasty nuts with fiber, magnesium, vitamin E, and protein.
Soy: The multiple benefits and multiple forms of soy make it a favorite to help define abs. Soy can be found as curd, edamame beans, liquid as milk or silken tofu, and dry roasted soybeans. Powerful antioxidants have proven roles in muscle metabolism, mood, and hormonal fluctuations.
Apples: An apple (or two) a day keeps the doctor away makes sense. Containing fiber and largely water, an apple fills you up while providing needed bulk. The fruit also contains quercetin, known to have a role against cancer, cholesterol and lung disease.
Green Leafy Vegetables: Iron, folic acid, vitamin B12, carotinoids, calcium, and fiber with a low calorie count.
Yogurt: A recent study revealed that women who ate yogurt regularly lost more weight and inches from the midsection than those that did not. The probiotics keep a stable gastrointestinal environment while the calcium source fuels work outs.
Vegetable Soup: Researchers showed that women that consumed the same number of calories in broth based vegetable soups as those eating the same caloric load in snack foods lost more weight and maintained the weight loss longer.
Salmon: Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel or tuna contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Aside from the important role in cardiovascular health, these healthy fats have been shown to encourage weight loss and effect glucose metabolism. With improved glucose tolerance, all energy pathways are enhanced. This allows better workouts and overall improved results.
Recommended Foods to Avoid:
Baked goods/white flour
A Sample Menu
A daily 1600 calorie menu considering the goal of flat abs could include four 400 calorie meals.
Breakfast: Fruit and Nut Oatmeal; 275 calories
Oatmeal 2/4 cup
Fruit 1 cup
Nuts (pecans) 2 tbsp.
Lunch: Salmon Sandwich; 436 calories
2 slices grain bread with olive oil or low calorie mayonnaise spread
½ can Atlantic Salmon
!/2 sliced tomato and romaine lettuce leaves
Dinner: Mediterranean Chicken and Rice with Cheese Salad; 436 calories
2oz Chicken breast
½ cup steamed wild rice
1 sliced tomato
¼ cup four cheese blend or equivalent
1 Tbsp. each oil and vinegar
Spice to taste
Snack: Fruity Nutty Yogurt; 249 calories
6oz fat free yogurt
½ cup fruit
2 Tbsp. almonds
The equivalent caloric choices utilizing recommended foods are limited only by individual tastes and creativity. Dieting to enhance abdominal muscle definition is hardly a sacrifice; rather it is a shift in dietary habits. The more committed and involved into dieting for washboard abs, the more information, ideas, and possibilities present to further improve and enhance your diet choices.
Share your experiences. Find a community on line or at the gym and find out what worked for someone, or more importantly what didn’t work. Seek out new places to find healthy alternative food choices like grains, fresh and organic products. Continue to research information and open your world. Start with dieting for washboard abs and enhance your total body wellness and fitness.
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