You have put in the work. You have diversified your exercise routine. You have stuck to the plan. You have been giving it your all. Nevertheless, your abs still don’t show just how much effort you have been putting into them. What else can you do?
The Importance Of Food
Maintaining a balanced diet, tailored to your goals, is at least as important as your exercise routine. In order to develop your abs, you will need to shed stored up body fat, and the easier way to do so is through your diet.
However, don’t think of diet as a simple reduction of food intake – this might actually be detrimental to your efforts. Reducing food intake at random may cause your body to lack in essential proteins, vitamins and minerals required to sustain key body functions, as well as be able to withstand more demanding exercise sessions. If necessary, visit your doctor or nutritionist prior to any drastic changes.
In order to get the best results, consider the rule of five. It’s best to spread out your food intake throughout the day than to limit it to two or three meals. This way, your keep your metabolism “furnace” running, which will help you burn fat faster.Also, the more natural your food sources are, the better the effects they will have on your body. Coincidentally, the way you cook your food – and the oils you use to do it – will also be an integral part of a successful diet.
Avoid processed foods and learn to get acquainted with food labels, as those will help you distinguish good options from bad ones, and you might even be surprised by the sugar and salt content of some foods you might be ingesting daily and hindering your dietary efforts without you even noticing it.
The building blocks of muscle – it’s (NOT) all about the protein!
To boost your body’s muscle building qualities, make sure to ingest enough protein. You can find good sources of protein – as well as other equally important compounds, vitamins and minerals – in the following foods:
- Almonds: Besides containing protein and fiber, almonds are also a good source of magnesium, a mineral our body needs in order to produce energy. It also helps build and maintain muscle tissue. Some studies have also shown that almonds have the interesting ability to block calories, which makes them an extremely lean snack option. For reference, 20 almonds have approximately 160 calories.
- Apples: Several studies have shown that people who include apples in their diet lose more weight, do to its high fiber count. Also, a large apple is composed of about 85% water, which will help you feel satiated (and thus avoid any dietary sins!). Also, they help to prevent your body from storing fat.
- Leafy Greens: Did you know that a cup of spinach contains only 40 calories? Or that a cup of broccoli has as little as 55 calories? Plus, they have a high fiber count and provide a good source of calcium – which is key for muscle contraction!
- Berries: Once again, the answer is fiber – the more fiber you eat, the fewer calories your body will absorb. Why? Because fiber acts as a trap for food particles and kicks them out of your system before they get fully digested. Berries are high in fiber and also antioxidants – since the latter ones help improve blood flow, they might actually have a very positive effect on your workout results.
- Bananas: Besides lending a helping hand in preventing those nasty exercise cramps, bananas are also a powerful ally in getting rid of excess water in your body, which can minimize the effects of the not so flattering bloating sensation. Usually, this happens when your body’s potassium and sodium levels (which control the amount of water in the body) get out of balance – bananas can help restore said balance.
- Eggs: An excellent breakfast option, eggs will keep you feeling less hungry throughout the day. An excellent source of protein and healthy fat, eggs contribute to the balance of some essential amino acids – which are the building blocks used by our body to fabricate muscle fibers, among other indispensable elements.
- Yogurt: A recent study has shown that people who resource to yogurt as their primary calcium source tend to lose more weight around their midsection. This is due to the probiotic bacteria present in most yogurts, which helps keep the digestive system healthy – which means less occurrences of gas, constipation, bloating and so on. Some people
- Salmon: There is such a thing as “good fats” – omega-3 fatty acids are a part of that list. These healthy fats make your metabolism work more efficiently, which in turn promotes faster fat burning. Salmon is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, but you can also include tuna and mackerel on your list.
- Cheddar: If you are a cheese fan, we have some good news. Cheddar is a great CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) source, an important element in the building of muscles.
- Meat: The most well-known source of protein is of course meat, which is why we positioned it at the bottom of this list, so that you could be aware of several other options that might be a good fit to your diet. Different types of meat may present different levels of protein. As a general rule, try to go for lean meat and poultry, such as chicken and turkey. Below, some examples and the amounts of protein present per 100g of meat:
- Chicken = 24g.
- Turkey = 22g.
- Beef = 24g.
(Take into account the fact that free-range meats will have the most reliable levels of protein.)
Put Down The Fork
If you feel like you are not reaching the goals you envisioned for your abs, then maybe it’s time to take a step back and put down the fork. Take the time to construct a diet that is balanced to your body needs and the goals you want to achieve. Don’t starve yourself nor ingest too much protein – as in all fields of life, best results are achieved through balance. Educate yourself on the foods that work for you and if needed, schedule an appointment with a nutritionist. Remember that balanced and achievable plans produce better long-term results.