I've actually been involved in the fitness industry for about 3 decades now, as a Nutrition Specialist and a Certified Personal Trainer. I was a competitive body builder and also have trained 3 women champions. Two in bodybuilding and one fitness competitor. Now let's get real for a minute. Everyone wants a flat set of 6-pack abs, yet very few people ever achieve that goal. Is it really all that complicated of a process? You know, it's really NOT that complicated. However, with that said, to get your body fat % low enough to really see a nice set of abs, it does take a decent amount of discipline with your food intake. As well as a whole new level of intensity with your workouts. More than what most people are used to. Now when it comes to the diet, most of my clients always comment that the style of eating that I recommend is actually fun, and they feel more energy due to the more healthy foods they're eating and more balanced blood sugar and hormone levels in their body. The problem is that there's so much conflicting advice out there these days, it leads the average Joe or Jane to over-complicate things and end up totally confused about what's the best way to train and eat for six pack abs. Abdominal exercises such as crunches and sit-ups are extremely ineffective when it comes to achieving a flat stomach, and that they can actually make your stomach look WORSE. Now let me give an example of how people typically waste too much time on abs-specific exercises. A lot of times I see the average Joe or Jane spending about 15 minutes of their total workout just doing pointless repetitions of crunches, sit-ups, leg raises, or some other "abs pumping" exercise. My point here is that this type of excessive abs training is really a waste of time. Training a relatively small muscle group such as the abs, when that time could have been better spent on full body exercises. Compared to spending that time doing abs exercises, full body exercises will give you magnitudes more results in terms of hormonal response, metabolism increase, calorie burning, etc. ,all while demanding your abs work stabilizing your core. After focusing the majority of your workout efforts on those types of more effective full body exercises, then it's ok to spend about 5-7 minutes directly training the abs with abs-specific exercises. The point I'd like to make is that specific abs training should only be a small portion of your training program as a whole, and not the majority of it. Also, once you've got a decent amount of abdominal training under your belt, crunches tend to be one of the least effective ab strengthening exercises.
The viewpoints on the effectiveness of cardiovascular exercise seem to be shifting among fitness experts. I know there's a lot of mixed views in the cardio area, and I'll proudly say that I'm pretty much totally against traditional cardio in the sense of just doing long duration, steady pace cardio. I feel that steady pace cardio is a very ineffective way to train and a waste of time in my opinion that could be better spent on variable intensity (interval) training, or more high intensity resistance training.
Highly variable intensity training actually works your muscles in a more resistive fashion, stimulating a higher residual metabolic effect, hence burning more calories in the post-workout period compared with steady pace cardio. I could go on with more reasons why I strongly believe that steady pace cardio is an ineffective method of training, but I'll make this point instead. Look at the typical emaciated, sickly-looking body of a dedicated marathoner who has wasted most of their muscle away with long duration endurance cardio. Now compare that to the totally ripped, muscular, strong and healthy looking body of a world class sprinter, wide receiver, or other athlete that does mostly high intensity sprint work... which would you rather resemble? I REST MY CASE!
Now how important is diet in relation to achieving a ripped stomach. Diet is VERY important, probably the MOST important aspect. The only things we need to restrict is processed junk food, sodas, deep fried food, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame (any artificial sweetener) and trans fats. I would also recommend restricting wheat-based foods and soy-based foods as both of these can cause major problems in the body (despite the hefty billion dollar marketing budgets behind both of these claiming them to be "health foods").
1. Choose whole, unprocessed organic foods, as close to their natural state as possible
2. Choose high nutrient density food choices instead of nutrient deficient processed foods
3. Fruits and vegetables (lots of vegetables) as your main source of carbohydrates instead of so much reliance on grains as is so prominent in our food supply these days. Small amounts of grains is ok, but try to focus more on veggies/fruits for your carb sources.
4. Make sure to get moderate amounts of high quality protein at each meal
5. High fiber intake to help with appetite and glycemic control (maintaining more balanced blood sugar)
Don't neglect an ample healthy fat intake from nuts, seeds, nut butters, organic free-range whole eggs, wild fish and/or fish oil, virgin coconut oil and olive oils, avocados, etc (helps appetite control and hormonal balance). You can also take some daily Krill Oil for healthy fats(Omega3's) that are even more powerful than fish oil. Once you gain control over these suggestions above, everything else usually works itself out in your diet... you no longer crave sweets or junk food because your body finally has all of the nutrients it needs and balanced hormone levels. Good Luck...
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