Who doesn’t want to shrink their waistline, eliminate lower back pain and achieve washboard abs?
Let’s face it, six packs are one of the most attractive body features you can have. Sure we all want lean legs, a good butt and a muscular body, but that seemingly unattainable body part we focus on more than anything is a flat stomach.
Or even more so, a rock hard set of six pack abs. It isn’t easy, but it may surprise you to learn that it’s not all about endless crunches and starving yourself to build those chiseled abs of your dreams.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT
There’s a saying, that your abs are built in the kitchen and not just in the gym.
Even if you have a toned belly, chances are it might be hidden under a layer of fat.
Know this: you can’t out exercise a bad diet.
You don’t necessarily need to eat less, but instead eat better, while also being careful to burn more calories than you take in.
If you starve yourself and eat too little, your metabolism will slow down out of survival and will get the energy from your muscles instead of your fat.
Sacrificing your muscle is not wise, as that’s what you need to create a high metabolism.
Focus on complex carbohydrates and whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, fruits and veggies before a workout to give you energy; proteins like fish, tofu, protein shakes and eggs after a workout to refuel your muscles; and be sure to get healthy fats throughout the day such as olive oil, avocado, walnuts and almond butter.
Crunches and sit-ups aren’t as effective as many other abdominal exercises as they don’t target your entire core.
Your energy is better spent on compound movements utilizing your full body through bodyweight exercises or free weights, as they will really activate your core.
Your core is a set of muscles involved in almost all the exercises you perform, so no need to isolate your abs and crank away with just crunches, ab rollers, or other traditional exercises.
Exercises such as deadlifts, push-ups, pull-ups, one-arm chest presses, cable oblique twists, hanging leg raises or stability ball jackknives will be sure to get the job done.
Not sure how to do some of these exercises?
Fire up Google or YouTube to get a quick demonstration. If you engage your core properly, almost any bodyweight or weights exercise will become a functional abdominal workout.
Yoga and pilates are great at helping to strengthen your core and create body awareness.
No matter what exercises you do it’s important to know how to do them correctly; for example, exhaling on the concentric (lifting) part of the exercise is key, as well as drawing, or pulling in, your core in order to help train your abdominals to be active and engaged.
In order to have strong abs, it’s important to have all of your core muscles strong; this includes your rectus abdominis, obliques, transverse abdominis, and low back.
Yoga and pilates help to strengthen all these muscles if weights aren’t the route you’d like to take.
No matter what abdominal exercise you chose to do, it’s important to do them correctly to recruit as many muscles effectively and to help prevent injury.
NO STRESS MESS
Stress isn’t just a mental drag, it has harmful physical effects on your body too.
When you’re stressed your body releases a hormone called cortisol, and too high of levels of cortisol cause you to retain an excess in the deep layer of belly fat called visceral fat.
In addition, sleep goes hand in hand with stress too.
When you don’t get enough sleep, your body is stressed and produces more cortisol which can stimulate weight gain.
Lack of sleep and high stress mess with our hunger hormones, causing us to lose our ability to know when we’re full.
It also inhibits our ability to make rational food choices and increases our cravings for starchy, sugary foods.
High stress and lack of sleep can have quite a lot to do with belly fat.
While we are on this journey of creating healthier and more fit bodies, it’s important to accept certain aspects about your body and know your body type.
Some of us are more apple shaped, and we carry our weight more in our belly, arms, and back.
Some of us more pear shaped, carrying our weight in our buns and thighs.
Apple shaped body types will have a little tougher go at it, but it definitely doesn’t mean it’s unattainable.
A six pack is possible for anyone, it just takes the knowledge of how to and dedication to achieve it.
Health and fitness columnist Julie Wilson is a local ACE certified personal trainer and 200-hour yoga instructor through her company BeNShape. She previously wrote health and fitness columns for the Summit Daily News before relocating to Buena Vista and loves sharing her passion for a healthy lifestyle with others.
Julie plans to take the months of November and December off for maternity leave and return to writing after the first of the year.