You can crunch, twist and plank your core every day and never achieve a six pack if you don't change your diet. For all your hard work to show, you must reduce your body fat. For women, body fat levels below 15 percent usually reveal a six pack, while for men the key number is usually below 9 percent, notes personal trainer and author Tom Venuto. A diet that involves calorie control, strategic fat intake and a higher-than-average protein consumption can help you drop fat and reveal your abs.
Fill up on lean protein to help reduce fat and see your abdominals pop. A meta-anlysis published in a 2012 issue of the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" found that diets with higher amounts of protein helped people lose more weight and fat, especially around their midsection. The high-protein diets also helped prevent significant muscle loss, so ab muscles remained prominent. Options include skinless chicken and turkey breast, whey protein, egg whites, flank steak, white fish, shellfish and lean bison. For vegetarians, options include lentils, tofu and tempeh. Protein keeps you full, so you can reduce calories to lose fat without feeling excessively hungry.
Fats Can Help
Although saturated and trans fats should be kept to a minimum, healthy, unsaturated fats should be a regular part of your six-pack diet regimen. Cold-water fish, such as mackerel and salmon, are sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which may help with body fat loss. Other sources of high-quality fat sources that will satiate you include coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocado. Use these fats sparingly -- just a tablespoon of the oils or an ounce of the nuts with meals -- to keep calories in check.
Carbohydrates can help you achieve a six-pack, when eaten strategically. Skip all of the refined versions such as white bread, pasta, sugared treats and bagels. Focus instead on carbs that come with fiber, such as fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains. The fiber keeps you regular, so a bloated stomach doesn't eclipse your ab muscles. These fibrous foods also require some chewing, so it takes you longer to eat, enabling your body to register fullness and thus preventing overeating. Aim for a minimum of 25 grams of fiber per day.
Portion Control, Sodium Avoidance and Hydration
Even if you stick to lean proteins, healthy fats and fibrous carbohydrates, you'll need to watch your portion sizes. Too much food, even the most nutritious types, can lead to fat gain. Too much body fat, and your six pack won't show. Eat fewer calories than you burn daily to lose weight -- 3,500 calories equals a pound. While you're cleaning up your food choices, watch your sodium intake -- to prevent bloat -- and drink lots and lots of water. This keeps food, waste and sodium moving through your system, which helps keep your belly flat and your abs popping.