Go ahead and do that 30-day ab challenge, but it won't reveal results -- especially a six-pack -- if you don't bother to also alter your diet. The strongest, most developed abs won't show if they're masked by a layer of fat. If you want six-pack abs, it's time to cut body fat with a diet that reduces refined carbs and sugars and emphasizes lean proteins, fresh vegetables and whole grains.
For a six-pack to show, you must reduce body fat. The body fat percentage necessary to reveal a cut torso varies according to your genes and body type, but for most men, a percentage of 6 to 8 percent will reveal abs, while for women require a percentage of about 11 to 13 percent. To reduce body fat, reduce calories below what you burn daily, which can be determined by finding your basal metabolic rate. A 250- to 500- deficit daily will lead to a 1/2- to 1-pound weight loss in a week. Not all of it will come from your belly, but as you get leaner, your stomach will shrink to reveal your muscular six pack.
Simply starving yourself isn't a good strategy because this will encourage your body to burn lean muscle mass along with fat. Instead, focus on a diet that increases the amount of protein you eat while restricting calories. A study published in a 2012 issue of the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" found that this type of diet was better at reducing participants' body weight and fat mass, while preserving muscle and preventing a drop in metabolism, when compared to a standard high-protein diet. Quality protein sources include lean red meat, white fish, egg whites, chicken breast, whey protein, dairy and tofu. Include a serving at every meal -- including breakfast and snacks.
Eat a higher percentage of protein and you'll naturally consume fewer carbohydrates. Make the carbs you do eat support your quest for six-pack abs. Just say "no" to refined, white products and "yes" to whole grains instead. A study published in a 2010 issue of the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" revealed that a diet high in whole grains correlated with lower abdominal fat, especially when compared to a diet high in refined grains. Less belly fat means your six-pack is more likely to show. Try brown rice, quinoa or barley at meals instead of white rice and white bread. Other nutritionally dense carbs include sweet potatoes and winter squash.
Steer clear of soda and processed snack foods when you're trying to reveal a six-pack. The bubbles in soda contribute to bloat, while snack foods may contain belly-fat building trans fats. Also, keep tabs on your sodium intake -- salty foods, including chips, frozen dinners, canned soup and leftover Chinese take-out with lots of soy sauce -- can cause your body to retain water so your six-pack stays hidden. At snack time, reach for cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, asparagus and cauliflower, which offer lots of nutrients with minimal calories and sodium, along with a protein-rich dip such as hummus or tuna salad made with lemon and capers rather than mayo. Yogurt, especially plain with just a few berries on top, makes another good snack when you're aiming for a six-pack. The probiotics can help regulate your system, resulting in less bloating and stomach distension.
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Effects of Energy-Restricted High-Protein, Low-Fat Compared with Standard-Protein, Low-Fat Diets: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials
- Shape: Best and Worst Foods for Flat Abs
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Whole- and Refined-Grain Intakes Are Differentially Associated With Abdominal Visceral and Subcutaneous Adiposity in Healthy Adults: The Framingham Heart Study
- Burn the Fat Inner Circle: What Is the Necessary Body Fat Percentage to See Your Abs?
- Muscle and Fitness: The Ab Factors