Thinking you could look like that fitness model is a lot easier than actually looking like him, especially if you're groping the bottom of your popcorn tub for that last kernel. It might be June, but it's never too late to try for a chiseled six pack. Even if it doesn't happen this summer, you'll have plenty of other days in the sun to show off your great body.
Remember, achieving six pack abs won't happen overnight. It requires dedication to a clean diet and a great training program. To really see those etched abdominals, you'll have to have an aggressive approach. Abide by these nine abdominal axioms and you'll see some great changes in your physique.
1 / Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Weight loss requires creating a calorie deficit. One pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories, so in order to lose pounds you must create a deficit equal to the number of those calories. Losing one pound per week, for example, would require only a 500 calorie deficit per day (3,500cals/7days). That's fewer than the number of calories in a king-sized Snickers bar! Unlocking better eating habits is the key to uncovering your buried six-pack.
Bear in mind that "better eating habits" does not mean you should jump on the newest crash-diet bandwagon. As tempting as it may be to go on some ultra-low-calorie diet to cut corners and get those abs sooner, resist. Sure, you might lose some weight at the beginning, but drinking three gallons of lemonade and honey per day is not sustainable. As soon as you reap the temporary results, returning to regular or even healthier eating habits will result in weight gains. Your metabolism will still be stuck in slow motion—not cool.
Skip the cycle and choose an option that will work long-term.
2 / Eat Fish for Fat
Add fish to your dinner plate just a few times each week to help trim some fat from your diet. Fish like salmon, mackerel, or tilapia are great substitutes for a Rib-Eye steak, because they are leaner. The Omega fats found in fish will also boost your insulin sensitivity, guarding against a blood sugar spike and crash. Healthy omega fats also foster a leaner body composition.
Remember, just because the meat is lean doesn't mean you get to smother it in butter or deep fry it. Healthy, lean meat doesn't stay that way if you boil it in a vat of vegetable oil. Plenty of healthy seasoning and cooking options can keep your body and taste buds happy.
3 / Go Au Naturale
Twinkies and Wonder Bread don't belong on your plate. Processed starches spike insulin levels, keeping dieters on the sugar-binge roller coaster, and also have no nutritional benefit.
Almost anything which comes wrapped in a package needs to stay on the shelf. Closet-eating Pop-Tarts won't land you anywhere closer to your six-pack goals.
Don't skip starches altogether. Instead, get the carbs and nutrients you need from fruits and vegetables. If it doesn't come from the ground or a tree, you probably don't need it.
4 / Just Say No to Sauces and Condiments
Sauces and condiments, though delicious, can wreck your diet regimen; it's where a great deal of your excess sugar likes to lurk. Sauces and condiments are also full of sodium. Sodium increases water retention; so even if your eating habits are spotless, your abs might just be hidden under that bloat hanging out above your pants.
Kick the ketchup and soy sauce and save yourself hundreds of calories per day. Instead, flavor dinner with sodium-free and sugar-free spices and herbs.
5 / Don't Drink Your Calories
Be picky about the fluids you put into your body. If you regularly quench your thirst with fruit juice, energy drinks, sugary coffee drinks, or fruit smoothies, it shouldn't be a surprise that you pack around a few extra pounds. A good rule of thumb: If your beverage contains calories, don't drink it.
If you just aren't ready to break up with your favorite Starbucks barista, then switch up your routine. Try an Americano or green tea instead of your usual large Orange Mocha Frappuccino, and hold the whip.
6 / Lay Off the Booze
As hard as this may be, cutting alcohol out of your diet will eliminate empty calories that attach themselves to your waistline. Drinking also slows down the fat-burning and muscle-building processes. If your body is ridding itself of those beers you had, burning fat or building muscle will get short shrift.
If eliminating alcohol is simply not an option, stick to wine. Red wine has a little less residual sugar than white wine and has the natural benefit of antioxidants. Yet both types are similar in their calorie content. Liquor is the next best option, so long as it is not mixed in sugary cocktails.
7 / Pursue Muscle Mass
Without some muscle under that adipose tissue, your 6-pack won't be too impressive. Resistance training adds lean muscle to your frame, which revs metabolism and burns more calories. Adding muscle mass also makes your body stronger, shapelier, and better defined.
That muscle mass doesn't come from doing a few biceps curls and calling it good. Lift heavy and lift hard. If you want some extra calorie burn, shorten your rest periods, or do some sort of cardiovascular activity between sets. High intensity resistance training is the most powerful fat loss weapon in your arsenal. It burns calories during and after exercise, and it increases the secretion of hormones that stimulate fat breakdown.
8 / Keep Crunches in Their Place
Don't let your quest for great abs rule your workout routine. Some ab isolation movements are helpful, but you need to spend most of your time under a barbell or rocking some dumbbells. If all you do is crunches or cycle for an hour, you won't burn enough calories or build enough muscle to make a difference in your physique.
Spend 10-15 minutes three times per week doing isolation ab work in addition to your intense resistance training routine. But keep in mind that your abs are more than the washboard-looking rectus abdominus, so don't focus on them. Perform a variety of movements to strengthen the external obliques, internal obliques, and transverse abdominus.
9 / Sleep Your Way to Better Abs
Sleep is critical for maintaining a healthy metabolic rate and synthesizing essential hormones and protein needed for muscle growth. Human growth hormone (HGH) is produced more abundantly when you sleep; you'll need it for growth stimulation and cell reproduction.
Sleep also encourages better eating habits. A not-so-restful night might mean reduced leptin (an appetite-regulating hormone) levels.
So, if you ever wake up from a fitful night craving nothing but carbs, lower leptin levels might be the reason. Sleep well and your diet will feel easier.