A few weeks ago I decided to run an Abs of Steel class during an open gym session. This was partly done as a joke (if the name didn’t give that away already). The joke was on me though when people actually showed up for it. I work at a CrossFit gym and whenever I get asked what do you do for abs the typical response is I squeeze my stomach really hard when I’m lifting. It’s a smart ass response, but that’s the majority of my ab work.
I see people all the time after class doing sit ups, crunches, holding planks. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t strengthen your core. There’s no downside to having a stronger core (it’s your internal weight belt). But you can do all the sit ups in the world, and it’s not going to give you six pack abs.
Are you ready for some tough love? The hard truth is that everyone has a 6-pack, it just might be hiding for some, and doing more and more crunches and leg lifts isn’t going to make those abber dabbers pop.
As with everything related to diet/nutrition/health/body composition/fitness there will be outliers. Those people who can do whatever they want, eat whatever they want and they always look amazing. Some, or all, of these rules do not apply to them. For the rest of us, that’s simply not the case. You have to have rules.
Here are 4 things that will actually work:
1. Stop Drinking Beer.
Okay, I’m going to say it. Are you ready for it? Do you want to drink a 6-pack, or do you want to have a 6-pack? You can’t have both. One of the primary ingredients in beer is wheat (which are additional carbs, see #2). Wheat causes water retention and bloating in the stomach. Whether you’re sensitive or allergic to wheat or not, if you cut out the beer, you cut out the belly bloat. Try wine or clear liquors instead. As a byproduct of cutting out beer you’ll look better, feel better, and perform better.
2. Stop Eating Crap Food.
Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym. Write that down and put it on your fridge. Eat real food. Real food doesn’t come in packages, because real food will decompose in a short amount of time. If something can sit on a shelf for years and not rot, it’s not real food.
Of that real food, keep it low carb (less than 100 grams/day for men, and less than 75 grams/day for women). By “carb” I mean anything that will break down into sugar in the body. This includes: any and all sugars (natural or artificial), grains, potatoes, squash, fruit, fruit juice, etc.
3. Sleep More.
Sleep is awesome. Do more of it (the goal is 9 hours a day). It will regenerate and recharge your body, help with stress management (see #4), and lead to better overall body composition and health. So, while I appreciate you reading this blog post, get off your damn computer or phone already and go to bed. The light from these electronics is tricking your brain into thinking it is daytime and keeping you up.
4. Chill the F*ck Out.
Lastly, chill the f*ck out. Everyone needs to take a deep breath and calm down. Too much stress in any form (life, work, family, and even exercise) is not good. During times of stress your body releases a hormone called cortisol. Some cortisol is good. Too much is bad, leading to additional belly fat.
The secrets to changes in your body composition are largely food and lifestyle related. You have to make permanent changes in both to see and maintain results.