A flat stomach or six-pack abs are desired by many, difficult to obtain and even harder to maintain. Although infomercials abound for products and exercise programs that will produce these desired results, it is not as easy as these infomercials would make it seem. Gender, genetics, age, lifestyle and diet are contributing factors that determine whether you will be able to have a flat stomach or ripped six-pack abdominals.
Men and women are different in the abdominal area. Women are meant to have more fat cells in their abdominal area to protect the reproductive organs and the fetus when pregnant. During adolescence and childbearing years, females typically produce additional body fat cells in the abdominal area in preparation for pregnancy. This results in the softly rounded lower belly that most women have even if they are fairly fit and lean. Men, on the other hand, do not produce these extra fat cells and can maintain a flatter stomach much easier unless they have poor exercise and nutrition habits.
Genetics can play a role as well in whether you will be able to have a flat stomach. Some populations, such as Eskimos, tend to carry more body fat in general due to centuries of acclimation to cold climates. Sometimes entire families, going back several generations, have a very distinct body shape. The apple shape, for example, is distinguished by body fat in the stomach area. If you have a type of genetic predisposition such as these, it may be difficult for you to obtain a flat stomach.
With each decade, metabolism slows down by approximately 3 percent. For many, this results in a slow weight gain spanned over many years. For women and men alike, this slow gain often results in added weight around the waistline by the mid-40s or 50s. For women, this is compounded by the fact that they can add abdominal fat cells during perimenopause, similar to the adolescent and childbearing years. For men, the weight gain is often deep abdominal fat that results in a hard belly, commonly referred to as a pot belly. It is not a misconception that the older you get, the more difficult it is to keep your flat belly.
An active lifestyle must be maintained to have a flat stomach. Daily cardiovascular exercise and a regular weight training program are essential ingredients to obtaining and maintaining a flat stomach. If exercise is part of your daily lifestyle, you have a higher chance of getting a flat stomach -- gender, genetics and age not withstanding. If you are less active and you do not adjust your caloric intake, you are likely to see weight gain and a rounded belly.
Without following a healthy diet, a flat stomach is nearly impossible. Eating fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, and whole grains will help keep your digestive system regular and prevent bloating. Drinking plenty of water and watching daily caloric intake are also necessary for a flat stomach. If you want six-pack abs, you will need to eat only lean proteins and very little added fat, monitor salt intake and basically never stray from great nutritional practices. A flat stomach is not normal for most people, but with work and dedication, and perhaps some good genes, it is possible.
- The Personal Trainer's Handbook; Teri S. O'Brien, MS; 1997
- Sports Nutrition Guidebook; Nancy R Clark, RD; 2008