Just like Dan mentioned in So, You Wants Abs? Part I, if you want to see your abs your main focus has to be fat loss. Exercise is great for building muscle and certainly plays a part in the fat loss process, however, it plays a much smaller role than you might think. What really matters is what goes into your body.
It all comes down to calories
Caloric surplus = weight gain. Caloric deficit = weight loss
Here’s what I want you to do: keep a 3-5 day food journal and write down everything you eat. Yes, those two Hershey kisses from the office candy jar need to be written down. After 3-5 days take a good look at what you’re eating then see how you match up with the following guidelines and see where you can cut back or increase and change up certain food choices.
Since I like to steer people away from counting calories, tracking macros and stressing over food, let’s make this simple and break it down piece by piece.
If you want to see those abs, a caloric deficit is the only absolute requirement for fat loss, however protein is a key player. Eating enough protein helps maintain muscle mass while losing fat which we want to do because visible abs are muscles we’ve worked to build up over time. Getting enough protein is a sure fire way to control your hunger, curb your appetite, and keep you full and satisfied. Protein also keeps up feeling fuller for longer because it takes more time to break down and digest than the other macros.
Can you see how important protein is? You definitely want all of these things working in your favor when you’re trying to lost fat and see those abs!
When you’re building a meal, think protein first then plan the rest of your meal around it. Focus on lean proteins like chicken breast, eggs or egg whites, lean ground turkey/chicken/beef, Greek yogurt, low fat cottage cheese and white fish.
Portion: 4-6oz or roughly the size of your palm
Serving: 4-6 servings per day
Carbs are essential for providing and replenishing energy, especially before and after exercise. They’re also the main source of energy our brains use to function properly so don’t be too stingy here.
Remember though, not all carbs are created equal. Eating a diet that is high in carbs like sugar, pastries, cereals, bread, and pasta is a perfect storm for fat gain. Center your carb intake around your workouts then eat them more sparingly throughout the day.
Focus on carb sources like potatoes, sweet potatoes, squashes, corn, peas and fruit. These foods provide high water content, natural sugar, fiber and loads of nutrients. They’ll help you stay full for longer, help with digestion and are also just great food choices for overall health. You don’t have to nix whole grains by any means but limit those carb sources for more veg/fruit based ones.
Servings: Eat 2 or 3 servings per day and eat them close to your workout
Portion: Serving: 1/2c or 1 piece of fruit
Fat gets a really bad rap, however eating the right amount and types of fat will not make you fat. Adding healthy fats into your diet can help you stay fuller for longer, help with vitamin absorption, and can help raise your good cholesterol (HDL) while lowering bad cholesterol (LDL). Fat can also improve your hair, skin and nails (think shiny, clear & strong) and let’s face it…it’s delicious.
Most importantly for the purpose of having visible abs, the right amounts and right types of fat actually helps your body burn fat. Choose fats like egg yolks, nuts, nut butters, olive oil, coconut oil, any nut oil and avocado.
Although fat has so many awesome qualities, you should still somewhat monitor your intake during fat loss because it’s pretty high in calories. Remember, too much of a good thing is not a good thing,
Portion: 1 tablespoon of a nut butter/oil/butter, a palmful of nuts/seeds, ¼ of an avocado
Serving: Eat a 2-3 servings of fat per day
You know that bloated feeling when you feel like your body is just holding on to all the water?? The best way to get rid of that is by drinking more water. Water helps us stay hydrated (duh), keeps our hunger at bay, helps our muscles grow and function and helps keep everything moving through our bodies.
If we’re living in a constant state of dehydration we’ll have less energy, interrupted sleep, food cravings and the feeling of hunger even though we might just be thirsty. When these feelings hit, we’re more likely inclined to grab another coffee or maybe a quick boost of sugar, but I want to urge you to try water first. Drink a couple glasses, give it a half hour or so and then check back in with your cravings and energy.
As you increase your water intake you’ll pee more (it should be alllllmost clear in color) but that’s good because all the trips to the bathroom will get you up and moving! Win/win!
Aim for 2-3 liters per day. Start first thing in the morning with 1-2 glasses upon waking then just keep going!
It’s just as important to relax as it is to hit the gym and eat the right stuff. If we’re running on overdrive and burning the candle at both ends 24/7 we cause stress, burnout and exhaustion. If we’re stressed, burnt out and exhausted how are we going to have energy to exercise and eat right foods? Overdoing it makes it much too easy to skip workouts and make less then ideal food choices. When we’re overtired or stressed our bodies will naturally crave carbs. It’s looking for a quick energy boost so you’ll be more inclined to go for the candy/cookies/crackers. So whether this is some kind of meditation, a long walk, reading, writing, whatever, do something to help calm you down every day…even when you don’t feel like you really ‘need’ it. Keep your stress hormones at bay and give yourself a break. Your body and mind will thank you.
If you follow these guidelines you’ll be well on your way to seeing those abs!! Keep things consistent, keep things simple, keep things sane and you’ll be a super success! Let me know how it goes!