But here’s the tricky thing about abdominal muscles: you can knock yourself out with all the crunches in the world, but exercise alone isn’t enough to sculpt a rippling washboard. You might have rock-hard abs, but if they are hidden behind a layer of fat, no one will be the wiser.
Luckily, there are some easy lifestyle tweaks you can make, starting today, in order to begin revealing a more chiseled midsection. It all starts in the kitchen with what and how you’re eating.
1. Drink more water. Hydration is important because it not only delivers important amino acids to your muscles when you work out, it also ensures that your body can break down fat effectively. Furthermore, it flushes out excess sodium from your body that would otherwise show up as a bloated belly. How much you drink daily will differ, depending on your individual needs (like workout length and intensity). A good starting point is to take your weight, multiply that by 2/3 (or .67) and use that as the number of ounces you should start with daily. Add 12 ounces more for every 30 minutes you workout. (For example, a 180-pound man should start with 120 ounces daily; 180 x .67 = 120.6.)
2. Pop probiotics. Research shows that there’s a direct correlation between the bacteria that live in your gut and your metabolism and digestion. Eating foods that contain probiotics (the good kind of bacteria) like fermented foods, yogurt, kombucha and even probiotic supplements can help keep your body’s microbiome happy and keep belly fat down.
3. Ban booze (at least temporarily). Not only can the calories in cocktails add up to more inches on the waistline, but also the alcohol can wreck havoc on your body’s ability to absorb and digest nutrients from food. Plus, it stimulates appetite and can lower inhibitions, which make for a dangerous snacking combination.
4. Pump up the protein. Protein is not only essential for building muscle and helping burn fat, but it also keeps your blood sugar steady so you’re less likely to hangry-binge on the wrong kinds of foods when your tank is empty. Aim to include ample protein at each meal, especially breakfast since this will get you off to a solid start in the a.m.
5. Ditch soda for good. If you’re drinking a lot of soda, chances are you aren’t drinking a ton of water (see rule #1 above.) Also? The average can of soda packs in 39 grams of sugar (more than 9 teaspoons), lots of empty calories, as well as ample carbonation – all of which cause belly bloat.
6. Don’t forget fat. Eating fat does not necessarily mean gaining fat, as long as you’re including the right kinds of dietary fat. Stick with good fats like coconut oil, avocado, olive oil and nut butters. These will keep you feeling satiated longer and help balance blood sugar throughout the day. You’re more likely to make healthier food choices with stable blood sugar levels.
7. Be mindful of food sensitivities. Pay attention to the way your body reacts to certain foods. A grumbling and bloated belly right after eating often means food isn’t digesting properly. The biggest culprits are usually dairy, gluten, soy, corn and eggs. If you’re not sure, try removing them from your diet temporarily to see if post-meal bloating subsides.
8. Just eat already! It might sound logical, but eating is actually important in keeping your metabolism revving – especially if you’re working out hard. Restricting calories or missing meals can cause the metabolism to slow way down (as a way of conserving calories), so aim for a small meal or snack every 2 to 3 hours. You want your metabolism firing efficiently in order for those abdominal muscles to become visible.
Getting a strong core – and six-pack abs to show for it – requires both exercise and a good, clean diet. For more guidance on either of those, think about hiring a professional to help you take your body to the next level. http://bit.ly/2pm2cnZ