Summer’s here and everyone wants to look good in a swimsuit. The area most people want to flaunt? The “6-pack!” If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me for ab exercises I’d probably have about five to six bucks! Ok, I wouldn’t be rich but you get the point. That’s still over a hundred people! The good news is, we all have a set of 6-pack abs. The not so good news is that some of us have more fat covering them than others. No amount of exercises or machines will magically reveal your abs. The ONLY way to reveal your abs is to lose the layer of fat covering them. How do we do that? Proper food. Yes exercise is important, but if you're not eating right you'll never see that 6-pack!
"Abs are made in the kitchen." Have you heard that quote before? Well, it's true. I think for the most part people totally agree. However, emotionally it does not click. I know this because when I used to go to LA Fitness or even at the stations, I see people doing marathon abdominal work. They do four or five different exercises. They think the more they do, the more defined their abs will become. They try to target the upper, lower, inner and outer, left, right, etc. They do tons of weighted side bends trying to get rid of the love handles. Guess what? It won't work. You cannot spot reduce! What I mean by this is that you can't pick and choose the areas that you would like to lose the fat and do exercises that work those areas expecting the fat to just magically disappear. Your body does not work that way. The only way to decrease the amount of fat in certain key areas is by lowering your total body fat levels. As you lose fat, it will come off all over your body, not just in specific areas.
It's kind of interesting to watch sometimes. They have the right motivation, but they are misdirected. If they expended 1/2 the energy on their diet as they do doing rep after rep of crunches, machines and hanging leg raises, they would already have their 6-pack. In general, your body fat percentage needs to be below 10% for a man and 14% for a woman to begin to see your 6-pack. Combine this with the fact that you cannot out-train a bad diet, and it becomes clear that what you eat is going to be the primary factor in getting your core summer-ready.
The CrossFit way of eating is to follow the Paleo diet. We know this. However, there are specific foods higher in fiber that will help a little more with fat loss. Foods high in fiber normalize blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full longer. Some of the best sources for dietary fiber include:
Another important thing is drinking enough water. Besides the fact that staying hydrated will help you feel full, water actually helps the body metabolize stored fat by keeping our kidney's functioning properly. Drinking water is also the best treatment for fluid retention(as is monitoring sodium intake).
One last tip is to be prepared. Ok, granted, this isn't really a "nutrition" rule, but it's extremely important. We're an on-the-go society which is why fast food chains are so popular to begin with. However, if you're looking for that 6-pack, you're going to have to find alternatives to even the "healthy", sodium laden food choices found in restaurants and fast food chains. With a little planning, this isn't all that difficult. Always keep healthy snacks on hand such as nuts & seeds, fruit, pre-cut veggies & jerky. If you're someone who spends all day Sunday preparing the week's meals, this probably isn't a problem for you. But if you're like me who typically goes day by day, spend one day just preparing snacks for the week. A little prep work goes a long way.
Even though we focused on nutrition, it is still extremely important to strengthen your core. Not for aesthetic reasons either. The core is where all movement originates. Your core muscles are actually the center of your bodies strength. Having a strong core will make you more physically powerful, improve posture, help prevent back injuries and maintain equilibrium and stability for exercising, physical activity and LIFE. Remember, it's not just "ab" exercises either. Strengthening the entire core(abs, lower back, pelvic and hip muscles)is what we need to focus on.
Here's to a strong core and a nice 6-pack(both kinds)! HAPPY SUMMER!