There may not be a single more-sought-after commodity in the world than six pack abs. And yet when it comes to actually getting them, most are completely clueless on how to go about it. A universal symbol of health, six pack abs are found on everyone from movie stars, to fitness competitors, to cartoon characters. Back in the Paleolithic era, we all likely had six pack abs. Before our modern world of sedentary lifestyles, super sized sodas, and television, we ate enough to survive and moved around quite a bit. Now not so much.
There are a wide variety of myths, misconceptions and misnomers around six pack abs. In evolutionary terms, gaining and storing fat would have been an advantage. But now, being lean and ripped is seen as the physical pinnacle of modern existence. What led to this change? It is no doubt partially due to the fact that being stout no longer shows that you have lots of wealth, as it did in earlier times. Now success is seen as multi-faceted mental, physical and social.
But even though the motivation to achieve six pack abs may be vanity, having strong abdominal muscles is actually a safeguard against injury. Protecting your lower back is an important priority as you age, and without core strength, many tasks are much more complex and difficult as well.
Also of important note here, is that getting six pack abs is not an overnight process. I know personally, because I’ve gone through the process. It will take time, dedication, discipline, and strength of both mind and body. Whatever bad habits have caused you to gain fat over your abs will be tough to break. This can be as simple as an extra donut you have to give up every day. Or it can mean starting to exercise. For some, it is a complete diet and exercise overhaul. But whatever your reasoning, getting six pack abs can be done. In fact there are many ways to do it.
01. Eat Less
This way will be the most obvious, most direct, and most difficult. To lose weight from any area of your body, you must work in a caloric deficit this means eating less than is required to maintain your body weight. This can range from 100 to 500 calories less than maintenance and it won’t be easy. Our bodies like to stay in homeostasis which means they want to keep everything in equilibrium. This includes our weight and body fat. If anything, we prefer to store fat, not remove it.
02. But Not TOO Little
Do not try to go to less than 500 calories below your maintenance trust me. All kinds of nasty hormonal and metabolic problems are likely to result. You may actually stop losing body fat. Yes, you read that correctly. What I have found works best for most people, is a slow but steady deficit of around 250-300 calories less than maintenance. This avoids the feeling of deprivation, which can often occur when you cut to 500 calories below your maintenance level. Which leads us to our third way to get 6 pack abs.
03. Eat Lots Of Fat
This caloric deficit can be hard to deal with. You may be feeling deprived, empty
and craving. This is why eating the right foods is so crucial to long term success. Where most go wrong is by either not eating enough protein to feel satiated, or not eating enough fat. The tendency is to eat lots of sugar and carbs, which is a surefire way to fail. You want to make sure you are getting at least 0.5g of protein, per pound of body weight, eat enough carbohydrates for your activity level, and fill in the rest of your diet with quality fats.
This means cooking with coconut oil, drizzling extra virgin olive oil on foods, and consuming other coconut products and avocados. Nuts are fair game as well, just be careful not to overindulge. A sample meal will likely consist of: a chicken breast cooked in coconut oil, plenty of broccoli drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, and a sweet potato. Make sure you map out a few days worth of meals with calories carefully calculated, and then keep following this template. Since a few hundred calorie difference here means everything, it is vital to actually count calories. Once you get the hang of what a proper meal looks like, you won’t have to continue this practice.
04. Do Some Cardio
Cardio will be your best friend here. Even long, low intensity cardio will burn lots of calories, and as long as you don’t consume what you’ve burned, you’ll be losing fat! Always add in some cardio to every workout while you’re trying to get down to a beach-ready stomach. If you don’t feel like walking for 45 minutes, do some quick sprints instead.
05. The Dreaded Sit Ups
Though they were overstated and overemphasized in importance for years, sit ups are key to building abdominal muscles. There are many, many variations of sit ups, but any kind will work for this scenario. Don’t think that sit ups are what will give you a defined six pack. They are more like the icing on the cake. Eating at a caloric deficit and getting plenty of nutrients, fat and protein is far more important than sit ups. Sit-ups will provide stronger abdominal muscles to look at though¦once you get rid of that pesky fat.
Planks are boring, difficult and somewhat time consuming. They are also an excellent way to build up your abdominal muscles. Start in the push up position, and then place your forearms on the ground, instead of your hands. Keep your back in a straight line don’t sag and then keep your abdominal muscles tight. Maintain normal breath, and hold this position for as long as possible.
07. Lift Weights
The more muscle you have, the more fat you can burn effectively. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to get stronger by lifting weights. Lifting weights (while being in a slight caloric deficit) is the best 1-2 combo for fat loss known to man. You can do high rep, low rep, medium rep the details don’t matter. Just go out and lift some heavy things. You will be glad you did.
08. Drink Water
Most Americans do not drink nearly enough water. Water will keep your cells happy, as well as motivating you to eat less. Soda currently outranks water as the most popular beverage in the United States. Think about that for a minute. Since roughly 60% of your body is water, it makes a lot more sense to drink tons of water – not sugary soda.
09. Eat Fiber
Since the American diet is vastly under-stuffed with fiber (part of the obesity problem) loading up on fiber-rich vegetables is a great way to keep your hunger down while losing bodyfat. The normal American diet is stuffed with pizza, pasta, bread and other nutrient poor foods. Replacing these calories with vegetables will provide vastly more nutrients, and you will likely end up eating fewer calories, due to the increased fiber content. Make sense?
10. Stay The Course
This is perhaps the most difficult and important item. No matter what happens, stay with your plan. Even when your friends drag you to a pizza place, or when your co-workers are drinking lots of beer. Stay the course. You will enjoy the beach much more than they will once you’ve achieved your goal!
As you can likely see, exercise is but a small part to obtaining a strong midsection. Diet is far more important, and that goes for many other areas of health as well. What goes in your mouth is what largely determines your appearance so choose wisely. Lots of magazines, products and infomercials claim that their specific products will get you results. But don’t believe this for a minute.
Did I dispel some myths about six pack abs? The truth behind achieving six pack abs is simple, clear - and nonetheless still difficult to follow. Resisting temptation, whether it is be from stressful situations, boredom, or peer pressure - is quite difficult. Even the simple act of tracking calories can be challenging for some of us in the beginning. But it is important to notice our dietary patterns, and how they may have led to our undesirable appearance. Small changes, repeated every day, are what ultimately lead to success. Whether it is with your job, your health or six pack abs. Do not fall for gimmicks, stick to smart, logical choices and enjoy being in the best shape of your life!
This article originally appeared on PaleoHacks.