When it comes to creating great abs, even the most effective workout programs can only bring you so far if you keep digging into that Halloween candy. That’s because you can’t get a flat, hard core without losing body fat. No one’s going to see your abs if they are covered by a layer of flab. (The good news? While it’s impossible to “spot-reduce,” abdominal fat is often the first to go when you start losing weight.) Here’s how to eat your way to great abs without eating 10 zone bars every day.
Most good dietary programs will lead you to eat the right foods to lose fat and get in shape. But the following seven principles can give you an extra edge and will help ensure that the effort you’re putting into your abs will bring you the results you want.
1. Get plenty of protein. Eating enough lean protein promotes fat loss and muscle gain, the two most important pieces of the “great abs” puzzle. It also helps keep you from getting hungry while you’re eating right. You don’t have to gobble down 12-ounce steaks—just eat a normal portion of lean meat, fish, low-fat dairy, or vegetarian protein with every meal, and make sure your snacks contain some protein, too. If you still have a hard time getting enough in your diet, a daily shake made with Whey Protein Powder.
By the way, protein is especially important in the morning, when a lot of people don’t get as much as they should. A protein-rich breakfast will help keep your blood sugar steady for hours, preventing the dips that can lead to cravings later in the day. (Try some low-fat chicken sausage, or an omelet with one whole egg and three egg whites, along with fruit or whole-grain toast.)
2. Reconsider your carbs. Despite the popularity of low-carbohydrate diets, the average American meal is still too high in sugar and fast-burning starches to bring body fat down to ab-baring levels. It’s time to say goodbye to soda, ditch the chips, and save the cake for your birthday. If your fitness plan calls for a sports drink before a workout, or a carb-and-protein recovery drink after training, that’s fine. But the rest of the time, stick with foods that are on the low end of the glycemic index (refer to http://www.GlycemicIndex.com for more information)—these foods burn more slowly so they won’t spike your blood sugar and insulin levels.
3. Have fun with fiber. Something about the word “fiber” just doesn’t sound appetizing. But high-fiber foods can actually be quite delicious: fresh berries and other fruits, salads loaded with colorful produce, your favorite steamed vegetables or vegetable soup, stews or chili made with beans, chewy whole-grain breads and cereals . . . You get the picture. (These foods just happen to be loaded with nutrients as well.) High-fiber foods keep you fuller with fewer calories, and they help keep your digestive system working at its best—a double-whammy for getting rid of belly bulge .
4. Enjoy some yogurt. Probiotics, the healthful bacteria found in yogurt and other fermented foods, have been proven to help reduce belly fat. In a recent study in Finland, new mothers who took probiotic supplements averaged smaller waist circumferences and lower body fat in general, than those who didn’t take probiotic supplements. And while the topic is still controversial, studies have found that eating lots of calcium-rich dairy foods like yogurt may increase overall weight loss.
5. Don’t forget to eat. Tempted to lower your daily calorie count by skipping meals? Don’t. Going hungry can raise your levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol, which research has found can increase belly fat even in otherwise thin women. And eating too infrequently can lower your metabolism and energy levels, while increasing the chance that you’ll get too hungry and decide to chuck your meal plan entirely. If you’re eating the right foods, regular meals and snacks will keep your body fueled while you’re working toward that strong core.
6. Drink more fluids. Hydration is important when you’re on a fitness plan, but drinking plenty of water has particular benefits for your midsection. It helps keep your stomach full so you don’t overeat, and it helps flush out excess sodium to prevent belly bloating. (Eating more potassium-rich foods, such as tomatoes and bananas, will also help in this area.)
Plain ol’ H20 can’t be beat, but you can also switch it up with flavored waters, iced tea, and anything else you like to drink that isn’t full of sweeteners. How much do you need? The old rule of 8 glasses a day is a good start, but everyone is different: drink more if you’re exercising or it’s hot out, and less if you’re running to the bathroom every 5 minutes.
7. . . . With two exceptions. It’s time to cut down on those mood-altering substances, coffee and alcohol. Too much caffeine raises your cortisol levels and can impair your sleep, which can lower the production of fitness-promoting hormones. Meanwhile, the proverbial “beer belly” isn’t just the result of extra calories—alcohol actually makes it more difficult for your body to metabolize carbs and fat. Booze also stimulates your appetite and lowers your inhibitions, which can lead to bingeing. The best road to flat abs is no alcohol at all, but if you really like a drink now and then, just have one at a time (and no more than a few a week), and stay away from higher-calorie beers and sugary mixed drinks.
If you add these rules to your fitness plan, you’re sure to see faster improvements in your midsection. Of course, there’s a bonus to eating this way: it’ll keep you healthier, too. That may not be as big an incentive as great abs, but we’re throwing it in for free.
Prevent Over-training Young Athletes
In far too many situations throughout North America, strength coaches and personal trainers make common errors in their programming for young athletes, many of which can lead to overtraining syndromes –
Critical Analysis of Biomotor Ability
In working with young athletes, there is very little reason to ever ‘test’ their ability at certain lifts or speed variances. Your programming guidelines must be based around teaching proper execution of technique in your young athletes from a lift and movement economy standpoint. Having said that, having 3, 5 or 8 RM values on any particular exercise should be deemed a distant secondary consideration to teaching the proper values of form and function.
By using a ‘Teaching Model’ of exercise development rather than a ‘Training Model’ you are taking the pressure off of kids to reach for biomotor improvements at the expense of developing sound technique.
Changing Exercises to Often
Although when training adult clientele, there are neural advantages to altering your exercise selection often, with young athletes the reality is that the initial stages of training should comprise little more than dedicated time to teach and become proficient in the basics of lift and movement economy.
Far too often, trainers work to make young athlete routines challenging and neurally stimulating by incorporating complex programming and exercise selection into the mix early in the athletes’ training life. Resist the urge to make a neurological impact and instead, focus your efforts on developing sound competency in just a few basic lifts – the foundation you build during this time is paramount to eventually increasing both the volume and intricacy of your programming.
Consider the Athlete’s Entire Life
When creating a training program for a young athlete, you must take into consideration their entire life – that is, don’t just make training sessions hard for the sake of making them hard. You do a disservice to the athlete and your business by following this practice.
For instance, if the young athlete is in-season for a particular sport, there practice and game schedule must be considered into the reality of your overall programming. Soccer practices, for instance four days per week coupled with one to two games per week, will leave any young athlete bordering on the verge of overtraining syndrome as it is. Your job during times like this is to augment them with restorative training that does not serve to push them lower beneath what would be considered normal and healthy biological levels.
Additionally, you must work to understand your young athletes’ eating and sleeping habits as well. Inappropriate nutrition and poor sleeping patterns (which many teenagers face today) are precursors to overtraining syndrome in that they are two of the more important restorative elements trainees can use to combat such concerns.
As a professional trainer working with young athletes, you are responsible and must assume accountability for their overall health and wellbeing. When training young athletes and in an effort to ensure quality, efficacy-based training practices, resist the temptation to do the ‘norm’ by making exercise sessions hard and physically challenging. Instead, follow the three key points above to ensure optimal training conditions and guard against the very real concerns of overtraining.
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I just got done reading the Time Magazine article “The Myth About Exercise”.
As I always way, you have to eat right to maximize results. HOWEVER, This article made me frustrated because it forgot to mention all of the other benefits of exercise (Increased performance, improved strength, cardiovascular, hormone regulation, increased endorphins, reducing depression …I could go on). It sounds like the writer needs to switch up the workouts and like a previous person stated….watch what they eat. I agree that exercise won’t make you thin if you burn 300 kcal and eat horribly (consuming thousands of calories).
I just hope people don’t take that article seriously! This person like many others in our society are looking for a quick fix instead a tried and true solution (the combination of fitness and healthy diet). What a horrifying message to send to the country that is >30% obese!
As a fitness professional, I deal daily with idiots in the medical community that give advise to patients that have no clue about exercise. “This patient can not exercise because they have arthritis” or “This patient can not exercise because they have osteoporosis”! Then I have to play nice and not call their doctor an idiot, and give the patient some backdoor explanation of why they need to exercise.
This is like the reports talking about the health benefits of chocolate and wine. I have to come to work and have my clients burn an extra 1000 calories because they had a wine and chocolate dinner the night before thinking in is good for them. Who eats a portion size of chocolate? Eat an apple you’re better off. Exercise works!
Yes – Sooner or later you’re going to get hurt. That’s what happens when athletes train hard and play intensely.
Yes – there is a lot you can do to prevent injuries, especially ACL tears, which are prevelant in young athletes, especially women.
Most ACL injuries are what we call non-traumatic, which simply means that it is an injury that no contact was made in. For example, a soccer player running down the line with the ball, works to move the ball inside, and suddenly falls down while hearing a pop; an ACL tear. These are all preventable!
The number one cause of these types of injuries is tight hamstrings. The three hamstrings should be stretched separately, and when tested in a straight leg raise, attention must be made that the findings are made with the pelvis remaining stationary. As soon as the pelvis rotates posteriorly, the test is negated. Most females have good straight leg raise range of motion, but have poor hamstring flexibility. The difference here is crucial. Normal is 80-90degrees. Please be tested, do the tests, and tell all of your friends and teammates, so that we decrease the incidence of ACLs!
The other preventable cause is a muscle imbalance between the quadriceps and hamstrings. I will say that this is crucial, that the three hamstrings need to be strengthened again individually. Closed kinetic chain strengthening should be done all of the time, unless it is a rehab program
Another cause of many ACL tears can be traced back to weak hip muscles, such as the gluteals.
The gluteus maximus and gluteus medius are the two large muscles in the buttocks that propel you forward and support the hip joint and pelvis. As soon as your foot hits the ground, your glutes should fire first, followed by hamstrings and then quadriceps. If the glutes aren’t strong enough to activate, the quads and hamstrings will have to pick up the slack. This throws off the alignment and mechanics of the entire leg and can lead to knee and foot problems.
Remember; the human knee is one of the most well-built force-transference mechanisms in all creation, and pain is usually the knee’s gift to us. Listen to your body and back off when needed.
For you “type-A” people who can’t back off, here is a great warm-up for you. Give this to your coach or trainer; it may save your knees!
Always warm-up the bhody with light cardio then move to Dynamic Flexibility drills. They are very effective in preparing the brain and body for the movements of sport. Dynamic warm ups get our bodies ready to do what we need them to. They increase our range of motion dramatically, warm up our bodies significantly, stretch all core muscles including the legs trunk and upper body and can be made to be sport specific.
Dynamic Flexibility warm-up
Hip rotations (both directions) 20 each leg
Walking Lunges 20 each leg
High knees 20 yards x 2
Butt Kicks 20 yards x 2
Bear crawls 20 yards x 2
Crab walks 20 yards x 2
Squat Jumps 3×8
360 Jumps 3×8
Skaters (Toe Touch) 3×8
Lateral Jumps 3×8
My buddy Dave just asked me, as he was huffing away on the elliptical trainer, how Sly Stallone is in such good condition at his age. My answer is the same as always. He challenges his body!
I think it is great that people get to the gym and jump on those cardio machines. I’d rather poke out my eyes, but that’s just me.
Getting your heart rate up and sweating is a great thing, but it wont make your stronger, it wont make you more toned and though you are burning calories while you are on those machines, they usually cause you to burn muscle ultimately slowing down your metabolism….. Ok…I am starting to rant.
If you want to look a certain way, find out what people who look that way are doing and copy them.
If you want sexy muscular arms, you better pick up some weights. If you want those volleyball player legs, you better start doing some plyometrics or at least sprint a little.
Don’t get confused, alll it usually takes is lifting up some heavier weights than you are probably doing. See this is the only answer. If you want your muscles to grow, you must lift heavier weights – period.
However, I never trained that way. Ever since I was young, I wanted to look like an Athlete. I wanted to be able to run fast, jump high and do anything and everything I wanted to do. So that is how I train. Athletes have powerful legs, so I do sprints, lunges and squats until I fall over. When an athlete falls down, they get up quickly, so I do hundreds up pushups and pull-ups a week. Athlete must have good balance, so I spend a lot of time training on balls and unstable surfaces. This way, the things I do everyday always come easy.
Oh yeah – This type of training also burns calories and builds muscle so in the end you will probably have that lean athletic look you are seeking.