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We always assume that getting fit means we will be sporting that gleaming six-pack on the beach. While we do need to be fit to get a six-pack, there is a big difference between eating to keep up with your fitness programme, and eating for a shredded waistline. Here we will highlight some key factors to consider to get that washboard for the summer.
First of all, one thing needs to be clear; getting abs takes time, hard-work, commitment, and sacrifice. There is just no other way, and anyone saying anything different is wrong. Now, “abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym,” is a phrase that we all have come across whenever we have researched how to get abs. While this notion is true, it’s not the full picture. Getting your abs to reveal themselves is dependent on your diet, but then again, so is getting lean in general, so it is not some magical theory. Just because you eat clean, and eat right, doesn’t mean you will have a rocking set of abs, because they still need to stimulate through training.
Ab training is only a small slice of the pie (terrible thing to bring up during talk of getting abs), and all the training in the world will be pointless without getting that layer of blubber off them. However, you cannot just “eat well” and think you will get there; you need to eat for a specific goal, the same as what you would if you were looking to build new lean muscle. Good eating habits are the start, the foundation if you will, but now you just need to eat the right foods, at the right time.
Eating well is a broad concept, usually just referring to eating wholesome food and cutting out processed foods. However, this is not enough when it comes to getting rid of fat because meal timing plays a crucial role as well. There is a big debate as to whether or not eating every 2-3 hours impacts the metabolism, but real people have often found that food is easier digested and they feel better by eating more often.
Eating large meals spread out over 5-6 hours at a time tends to leave you feeling lethargic and discomfort during training, so while there may not be compelling scientific research, real world people have experienced better results from eating frequently. Remember, you are eating a large amount of protein as well, so getting those vast numbers of food in just three meals is a task for most people.
Another factor is ensuring that you have split your total macronutrient count evenly over all your meals. The only variation is to keep the majority of your carbohydrate intake around your workout and your breakfast. These are the two most important (and useful) times to take carbohydrates in and make sure they are being put to work, especially while trimming body fat.
Lastly, prepping all of your food. Learning how to effectively prep your food is a key skill that will seem daunting at first, but you will be a pro in no time. All it takes is a little time management and commitment, and if you learn to cook for 2-3 days in advance, you will be saving loads of time. For example; if you are sitting on the couch on a Sunday afternoon, why not make your food for a few days in advance while you are watching? Throw your chicken/fish/lean red meat, whatever your choice, into the oven to cook and chuck some potatoes/rice and veggies on the stove. Pack it away in containers once cooked, and there is all your food for three days, so you have no excuse to stick to a diet.
Put in the hard work and you will reap the rewards. Think of it as building something, it takes careful planning, attention to detail, and a lot of preparation, but it will all be worth it.
Many people like to believe that they are eating “clean” because they are ordering the chicken burgers from McDonald’s and not the beef. It is still McDonald’s, no matter what you are buying. Don’t fall victim to this mentality, buying the “healthier” alternative from a fast food restaurant is not eating clean. Just stay away from them all together.
Eating a fresh chicken breast that you have seasoned well with some rice or potato and veggies is without a doubt healthier and more nutritious than any fast food variant. No matter how ‘healthier’ a chicken sandwich alternative to a burger may be, it is still never going to be good enough compared to fresh, wholesome food.
Including junk food into your diet on a regular basis will still have you feeling fit and looking okay, but if you want those abdominals, it’s sad to say, you are going to have to forget junk food for now. Alternatively, look for burger recipes that fit into your diet. You don’t need to eat boring food to look great. Look up ways on how to spice your food differently to get interesting combinations, and if you feel like a burger, or pizza, or whatever fast food you are in the mood for, find a recipe that you can make at home.
Small things are often where people trip up in their diet, particularly when it comes to condiments because they carry extra calories that are not accounted for. Think about it, even two tablespoons of mayonnaise throughout the day (an amount that can easily be reached) is already some extra +-280 calories. That is obviously dependent on what brand, but it is an example. Also, don’t let “lower calorie” alternatives fool you; they still contain some compounds that will set your fat loss efforts back.
This where you need to start looking at spicing your food with different combinations to get different taste profiles and make your food great. However, there is no reason you can’t use a spice you love on all your food until you feel like you need a change. The reality is, there is going to be some hum-drum activity in your journey, and a lot of things will feel repetitive, but these are not problems. These things are necessary because they will ensure that you look phenomenal at the end, but some sacrifice is required. Like the saying goes; “you can’t have your cake and eat it too.” Well, you can’t have cake at all, so just stay away from cake entirely.
I can understand how this may sound like an extremely boring endeavour that will have you eating boring food all day, for weeks at a time. You aren’t wrong. However, you may find (as most others who adopt an aesthetic eating plan) that you start to enjoy food a lot more. Once you embrace the idea of eating for function over taste, you enjoy the small variations in your food. Before, you wouldn’t think lemon juice makes much of a difference, but now you realise how amazing your food is just because of lemon juice. You will also feel how negatively junk food impacts your body when you cut it out. Cheap, fast food once made you feel great, but now it makes you feel apathetic and groggy even.
While we are on the topic of fast food, let’s chat about cheat meals. Now, there are two concepts when it comes to cheating; there is the fast food binge or generic cheat meal, then there is also a concept called “clean cheating.” While there are some wavering beliefs on the benefits of the generic cheat meal – whereby you binge for one meal on whatever food you want – the consensus right now is that this good for you and is the way you should reward yourself. The other idea is that you should still be responsible for your cheating and thus you should look at making healthier variations of whatever cheat meal you feel like. For example; if you feel like burgers, rather stay home and fry some patties than eating at a fast food place.
Losing fat is not a strictly “one size fits all” approach. Some react differently to various approaches, and what works great for one might not be best for someone else. In saying that, there are some general principles that everyone should adhere to. If you have a large amount body fat to lose, do not even consider cheat meals, they will only be setting you back. If you are just looking to lose some extra baggage, then once every two or three weeks shouldn’t be detrimental. You need to be honest with yourself because you are an adult so you can make your own choices, but just know that those actions have consequences.
Alcohol is one of those topics, like cheating, that people have a misguided approach on. There is no point in cutting out all these foods, only to get the calories from your beers. Like we said, getting that six-pack takes time, effort, and sacrifice, there is no other way. You might think one beer won’t hurt, but take the nutrients of one beer (around 150 calories) and times that by six. Even if you have one a day, that’s an extra 750 calories a week you are consuming. At the end of the day, this all adds up. If you are at a party, then a couple of beers with friends is not the end, but stick to water afterward.
Another misconception is that a glass or two of wine every day is good for you. Yes, if you are a normal person, a glass or two of red wine is fine, but not if you are looking for that shredded look. Wine also has alcohol (which is toxic) and provides seven calories per gramme. Alcohol slows the metabolism down as well and prevents protein synthesis from occurring. The anti-oxidants that wine may offer, you can easily get from blueberries or any berries for that matter, and they won’t be impacting negatively on your diet (or musculature).
This journey is not forever. You need to do this because YOU want to have that six-pack, not because of your friends or other social influences. This all depends on what YOU want. You will struggle to stick to all of these things if your heart is not truly in it, so make sure that this is something that will benefit your life. If you want your abs to be a part of your life though, these sacrifices won’t seem like hurdles anyway, as long as you love your life. Simply; sacrificing all of these things for a six pack you don’t truly want will just lead to regret.
Do you have to listen to all of this advice? Nope. Not at all. However, this is what it takes to get ripped and show your abdominals. Every step back you take during this journey only delays the results. Put in the hard work and you will be amazed at what you get out of it. You can always turn back after you have attained those glorious abs, but once you get there, we sincerely doubt you will look back.