How to Flatten Your Lower Abs

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Abs aren't just sexy — they're functional. (Image: Malkovstock/iStock/GettyImages)

Nothing sets off the season's hottest swimsuit like a flat lower tummy. While you can't target just the lower abs for fat loss, you can slim your midsection by losing total body fat. Eating right, exercising often and doing ab exercises as part of a total-body strength training routine will help tone and tighten for that slim, sexy look that's always in style.

Eat Right

Lose excess weight that may be rounding out your lower abdomen and midsection by eating fewer calories than you burn each day. This creates a calorie deficit in which your body uses fat stores for energy. The first line of fire is to cut out processed foods; refined grains; snack and junk foods; cheesy, fatty and fried foods; and sodas and other sugary drinks.

Eat healthy foods including fresh and steamed vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats. Watch your portion sizes and avoid heavy sauces and dressings. Eat three small meals a day along with two to three healthy snacks.

As long as you burn more calories than you consume, this diet will slowly help to burn fat from all over your body, including the fat collected in your lower tummy.

Avoid Bloating

If you're already at a healthy weight, but gas or bloating is your tummy trouble, adjusting your diet can help. Drink plenty of water every day. Drinking enough water actually keeps your body from retaining it. When water is scarce your body holds on to it tightly because it's worried about a drought, causing you to gain water weight.

Lower your salt intake. Too much salt also causes the body to retain water. Cutting out processed foods will naturally lower your salt intake. You should also reduce the salt you add to foods by flavoring them with low-sodium herbs and spices.

Some healthy foods can cause bloating -- significant bloating for some people. Known belly bloat culprits include beans, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, apples and some grains. You may be sensitive to these foods, or you may not. If you are, eat them in moderation. Rinsing beans well and eating well-cooked vegetables can help reduce some of the bloating and still give you the nutritional benefits.

Exercise and Tone

Regular exercise also helps reduce bloating because it improves digestion. Feeing bloated? Get active!

In addition, burning calories through regular exercise will help create a bigger calorie deficit for fat loss. Running, biking, hiking, rowing, aerobics, power yoga and dancing are all good ways to get active. Activity should be moderate to vigorous, causing you to break a sweat and breathe harder. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of cardio most days of the week.

Total-body strength training will also help you burn fat by building lean muscle mass. Muscle takes more calories to maintain than fat, so the more muscle you have the more calories you'll burn -- even at rest. Do strength training exercises for all your major muscle groups two to three times per week.

You can work your abs as part of your total-body strength training routine. Do sets of sit-ups, bicycle crunches, planks and V-ups. Perform each exercise for 15 to 25 reps, then repeat. Do ab exercises two to four days per week.

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