A month is a tight deadline for achieving six-pack abs. This enviable midsection shows up at 14 percent to 20 percent of body fat for women and 6 percent to 13 percent of body fat for men
And how low you'll have to go to really see your abs depends on genetics — some people have thicker skin and tissue covering the muscles that make up the abs, so they need extremely low body fat levels to be visible. Expect to lose about one percent body fat per month safely, says the American Council on Exercise.
Attaining such low body fat levels requires serious dedication at the gym and a lot of self-discipline when it comes to diet. If you 're at an average body fat level of 25 percent to 31 percent as a woman or 18 percent to 25 percent as a man, it'll take longer than a month of such discipline.
So be patient! Even if you don't get a perfectly segmented middle in a month, you can make strides toward better health and fitness in 30 days.
Reform Your Diet
Steps that bring about weight loss, such as reducing caloric intake and avoiding sugar, certainly help you get closer to six-pack abs. However, you'll have to adopt stricter measures to get super lean.
- Eliminate most processed foods, such as canned soups, packaged bread, snack bars and frozen meals, from your eating plan. Skip sweets, alcohol and refined grains, such as white rice, pasta and breakfast cereal.
- Eliminate beer, wine and spirits from your diet, as well as sugary sodas. These are all sources of empty calories.
- Limit your intake of fruit and dairy, too, as their calories can add up and some of the natural sugars in them contribute to bloating, which undermines your six-pack.
- Eat 4 to 6 ounces of lean proteins, such as flank steak, eggs, chicken breast, tuna and white-meat turkey, at each meal. Avoid sugary sauces and high-sodium processed meats, including sausage and hot dogs.
- Load up your plate with watery, fibrous vegetables, such as broccoli, lettuce, kale, spinach, peppers and cauliflower. A salad is a healthy meal choice, as long as you veer away from fried toppings, croutons, cheese and mayonnaise-based dressings. Stick to olive oil, vinegar and citrus juices for seasoning.
- Limit your grain intake to just a half-cup serving of whole options, such as brown rice, oatmeal or quinoa, at one or two meals per day. Nuts, hard-boiled eggs, deli meat and whey protein serve as snacks.
Plan ahead by packing your work lunches, carrying a cooler with six-pack friendly foods for snacks. Considering saying no to happy hour; eating out isn't impossible, but can be a challenge when you have such dietary limitations.
Make Physical Activity a Lifestyle
To lose body fat and reveal a six-pack, targeted abdominal exercises help — but they certainly aren't enough. Regular cardio, such as jogging or cycling, promotes heart health and helps you burn calories, so you can lose fat more easily.
To really become lean and cut enough to display a six-pack, perform strength training. The more lean muscle you have, the more calories you burn daily during workouts and at rest. The process of building muscle also causes your body to make hormonal shifts that promotes fat loss. Add muscle to your whole body to benefit the most.
Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of cardiovascular activity most days of the week. At two or three workouts, do intense intervals, which involve going all-out for a minute or two, and taking it easy for a minute or do for the duration of the session.
Strength train four to six times per week, targeting different body parts each time. For example, train the upper body on Monday with moves such as rows, pullups, pushups, chest presses, curls and triceps dips; legs on Tuesday with squats, deadlifts and lunge variations; and core on Wednesdays.
Take Thursday off, and then repeat the workouts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. At each strength workout, do eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise with a weight that makes it hard to do all the repetitions with good form.
Train all the muscles of your core, not just the superficial rectus abdominis. Crunches, cobra, front plank and side plank are good beginner exercises. Once you've mastered these — after about two weeks — add moves such as:
- Bird dog for the stabilizing muscles of the back
- Bicycle crunches for the obliques
- Paloff presses for the deep transverse abdominis
- Hanging leg raises and incline crunches for the rectus abdominis.
Rest and Destress
Adequate rest between workouts and at night are other important steps toward encouraging fat loss that reveals six-pack abs. Allow at least 48 hours between muscle groups worked with weights. Adults should aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep per night.
If you've got a month full of work deadlines, family emergencies or moving, you're six-pack ab goal may take longer to achieve. Stress encourages the release of cortisol, a stress hormone, which actually encourages your body to hold onto fat, especially around your middle. Separate yourself from as much life drama as you can over the month to keep your mind and body calm.