It’s commonly said that “abs are made in the kitchen”, “abs are 80% diet, 20% exercise,” and so on and so forth. But, what does that really mean? What are actual, tried and true steps that will help define and strengthen your core to develop those 6-pack abs? While I may not have all the answers, here are the steps I took (and am currently taking), to get that commonly sought-after 6-pack.
The 6-pack abs can be a really fun challenge, whether you intend on showing them off often or not. It’s such an interesting journey to slowly watch them emerge after working hard in the gym and at home in the kitchen. The main key, though, is not the hours put in at the gym, so much as it is consistent and clean lifestyle eating. Let me preface this topic a bit before we get too far ahead: I believe the word ‘diet’ often suggests a short-term, non-committal way of eating that will bring about short-term, non-permanent results; thus the reason for saying ‘lifestyle eating’. Lifestyle eating is a daily diet where we can thrive and live optimally. So, what exactly does that entail? It’s a well-balanced, healthy, plant-based daily regimen. Does this mean you will never have variation? Absolutely not! It just implies making a commitment that is kept, not for a week, or a month, or a few months, but (you guessed it) for life!
Well-balanced food intake does not equate to starving oneself, or never allowing carbs, or fats, etc., but actually quite the opposite. Instead of depriving yourself of these, there must be a harmonious blend of the healthiest, natural types of fats and carbohydrates. For instance, complex carbohydrates vs. simple carbohydrates; unsaturated, unprocessed fats vs. partially hydrogenated oils; and, of course, the constant topic of debate: proteins. What are the optimal choices for these categories? Complex carbohydrates include foods such as sweet potatoes, brown rice, and quinoa, and healthy fats are found in delicious foods like nuts and avocados. While protein is present in every plant food, the most commonly known high-protein, plant-based foods are tofu, seitan, tempeh, nuts, seeds and legumes. There are also plenty of protein shakes available made from some of these protein-rich foods. A balance of foods from these groups will help our bodies run smoothly, gain muscle, and recover faster.
Taking the information from above and applying it to every day life need not be daunting. In fact, it can be both relatively simple and even fun. Now, the cleaner the diet, the leaner the abs; however, a diet that is too strict, for too long, can be extremely unhealthy. This is where balance must come into play! Here is a general example of daily clean eating that can be consistently followed:
Quinoa or oatmeal with fruit and a protein shake
Veggies and/or fruit
Brown rice with seitan, kale, and Brussels sprouts
(If training heavy and are hungry) Rice cakes with nut butter and fruit, then veggies and protein as an additional snack
Sweet potato, tofu, and kale
This is just one of many examples for a healthy daily meal plan that will allow your body to utilize the fuel you are supplying it. Change it up, make it fun, be creative, and make sure to consume quality protein immediately post-workout to start the muscle recovery process!
Now that we have a guideline to follow for healthy eating, let’s discuss cheating. A cheat meal once a week, or even a day of cheating once a week, will not make or break abdominal definition, per se. But, as we all know, if you’re eating dirty all week, for weeks on end, that’s when it’ll really start to make itself visible. When you cheat continuously, your body displays it. The opposite, however, is JUST as evident! Eat veggies for a snack instead of a muffin, cookie, or a donut, and you will see the results! Our bodies are fantastic machines with the ability to externally project what is taking place inside. So, what could a cheat meal be? Really, anything, but if you’re the type of person that loves fun food, be sure to plan it out. I personally love foods like curried tempeh, coconut water, and sweets, so I decide early in the week what it is I intend on having for my cheat meal. Then when that day rolls around, I’m not just scrounging around for junk to put in my mouth or skipping my cheat meal; I have a plan. The primary importance here is, regardless of your workout goal: make a plan and stick to it!
Here are a few of my favorite ab exercises:
Hanging Leg Raises:
TRX Pikes (Upper Body Balance on Bosu Ball):