Think Skinny, Live FABulous!
Ah, the quest for a flat stomach. There are over 200 ab devices on the market today, each of which swears to whittle your waist and create washboard abs quicker and more effectively than the last. Late-night infomercials and ads at the back of magazines all deliver the same promises—defined abs without the work. The sheer number of these gadgets indicates the public desire for what genetics, our diet or our current lifestyle may not automatically provide—a flat stomach. While you can’t fight your genes, you can achieve a tight tummy by making changes in your diet and exercise routine. It is difficult for some to attain a completely flat stomach, but these tips will help everybody have the best abs possible.
Diet and Exercise for a Flat Stomach: Fact vs. Myth
Everyone seems to have an opinion about how to achieve the elusive flat stomach. This section aims to dispel some of the more popular weight-loss myths as they relate to the abdominals.
Hundreds of crunches a day alone won’t give you six-pack abs. Contrary to popular belief, it is impossible to reduce fat and build muscle in only one spot. While weight-bearing exercises will certainly build up the muscles in a given area, thousands of repetitions of crunches do not create a flat stomach. To achieve washboard abs, you need to remove the layer of fat that covers those abs, which means an overall, total-body fat reduction.
Don’t resign yourself to a schedule full of cardio workouts just yet, however. Building muscle helps your body to burn calories even while resting. And a well-toned body looks even better than a slim one once you lose the weight. Supplement your cardio workouts with a weight routine that works your whole body for the best results.
You’ll most likely need to amend your current diet to help you in your quest for a flat stomach. Restrictive or fad diets won’t help you lose the weight. You only run the risk of regaining all the weight once your diet ends. Instead, try a healthy diet that you can adopt into a more permanent solution.
Some people believe that they lose stress most efficiently when they’re under stress. However, stress in the body triggers cortisol, a hormone that stimulates your appetite and encourages your body to deposit fat around your abdomen. Fat in your abdomen is increasingly associated with cancer, diabetes and heart disease. For the healthiest, most lasting weight loss, reduce the stress in your life. Schedule time for yourself every day, even if it’s just five minutes to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea undisturbed. A few deep breaths during a quiet moment in the shower works well too.
The Flat-Stomach Diet
Are you eating enough fiber? Most Americans consume far less than the recommended amount per day. The Institute of Medicine recommends women under 50 consume 25 grams of fiber per day; women over 50 should consume 21 grams per day. Men 50 and under should consume 38 grams daily, and men over 50 should consume 30 grams per day. Fiber helps keep your digestive system moving and also help you feel full faster and for a longer period of time.
When increasing your dietary fiber intake, however, start slowly to avoid potentially painful gas, and drink plenty of water.
You don’t need to cut out carbohydrates entirely, but make the carbs you do eat count. Vegetables, fruit and whole grains are excellent sources of beneficial carbohydrates. Aim for a carbohydrate intake that is 45-65% of your total daily calories. Consuming more or less than this intake could lead to bloating or water retention, which is prominent in the midsection. Aim for a high-protein, high-fiber diet that is filled with fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Protein helps your body feel full. Adding fiber only accelerates the time in which it takes for you to feel full.
Many athletes and professional bodybuilders eat several small meals daily, rather than three main meals. This is an excellent way to maintain your metabolism and blood sugar, rather than the energy peaks and valleys we often experience. However, it’s crucial that these meals be balanced and on the smaller side. Six large meals won’t help you lose weight, but six small meals may.
Exercises for a Flat Stomach
A flat stomach comes from total body fitness, which is achieved through improving cardiovascular health and building strong muscles. Work cardio exercises like running, walking, riding a bike, skipping or jumping rope, and climbing stairs into your weekly workouts.
If you exercise at a gym, the stationary bike, treadmill and elliptical machines are all excellent ways to get a good cardio workout. Although any cardio exercise is better than no cardio exercise, try to rotate the types of cardio exercises you perform. Your body adapts to any repetitive motion, building muscle memory to make everyday activities easier.
The metabolism seems to respond fastest to high intensity interval training. To help your body burn calories efficiently, alternate short bursts of hard exercise with longer periods of moderate exercise. With high intensity interval training, your body is always kept off balance. Since it doesn’t know how to react, the body can’t streamline the exercise to make it less intensive.
The next piece to total body fitness is building muscle. The more muscle on your body, the more calories you’ll burn. Muscles are metabolically active, more so than any other body tissue. Unlike fat, muscle keeps burning calories, even when the body is at rest. You don’t need to lift heavy weights to enjoy the benefits of weightlifting, however. Even one-, two- or five-pound weights can augment your body composition.
Work the upper body with arm, shoulder, chest, and back exercises. The lower body can be worked with exercises to target the rear, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. Consult a fitness professional for a personalized workout routine designed to suit your body type and fitness level. Throughout these weightlifting exercises, the abdominals stabilize the body, helping it to move smoothly.
For maximum benefit, practice perfect posture and squeeze your abdominals throughout your weightlifting workout.
Tone your stomach with crunches, reverse crunches and trunk twists. When combined with a healthy diet, a weight-lifting routine and cardiovascular exercise, these abdominal exercises will help to define your midriff. Since the abdominals are used to stabilize the body in nearly every other exercise, it doesn’t take much to tire the stomach muscles when these exercises are performed at the end of the workout.
A Flat Stomach Isn’t Everything
Above all, realize that a flat stomach does not guarantee happiness, a better love life or a more prosperous future. A flat stomach may certainly improve your self-esteem, but know that your value and self-worth does not stem from the measurements of your waist. Your genetics play an important role in determining what you look like. Not everyone can look like the models and actresses glamorized by modern society. Living a healthy, fit lifestyle should be your first goal, with a flat stomach as an added bonus! 🙂