Six-pack abs. It’s what we’re all working towards, isn’t it? But it takes more than crunches and HIT cardio to mould that midsection. You need to eat clean to lean.
So what’s the best diet for those who want to have their ab game on point.
Well, everyone responds differently to the food they eat – both the types and combinations. That means you need to find what works best for you and that a generalised answer to your question won’t yield the results you’re after.
Rock your ratios
However, a good general rule to follow is to cut back on refined and sugary foods, processed and simple carbohydrates (such as breads and pasta), fried foods and alcohol. Your baseline diet should consist of a balanced intake of natural whole foods that include vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats such as oily fish, nuts and avo, and some complex carbohydrates.
Once you have the composition of your diet right, you can then start to manipulate the ratios of your macronutrients – the carbs, protein and fats – to find the combination that is best for your genetic make-up and current metabolism (which is affected by hormones, body composition and activity levels, among other factors).
In general, it’s advisable to start with a lower carb intake and gradually increase your consumption from complex sources, noting the effects this has on your body, energy levels and general feeling of wellbeing.
This is also a suitable approach for your specific aim, as a reduced carb intake (combined with regular exercise) can help to regulate insulin – a powerful hormone that controls fat loss and weight gain, particularly around your mid-section.
What to avoid
The foods you should stay away from include:
- High fructose corn syrup:This is the main ingredient in many processed foods. It is processed differently in the body compared to regular sugar, placing immense strain on the liver and leading to fatty liver disease. Also, it doesn’t offer any nutritional benefits.
- Baked goods:These contain refined sugar and flour. They spike blood sugar and are extremely bad for anyone who is suffering from insulin resistance or is pre-diabetic or diabetic.
- Processed cheeses, meats and sausages:These lack nutritional value, contain ‘bad’ manufactured fats, are high in sodium and contain excess calories.
- Breakfast cereals:These are sources of refined grains and sugars. Those that have additional flavouring have even higher sugar contents, or contain artificial sweeteners, which only serve to increase weight.
- Margarine:This is another source of manufactured fats which harm your health and waistline. It is also rich in calories and is closely linked to health problems, despite what the labels and advertising say.
- Convenience and fast foods:These are generally laden with trans fats and other manufactured ingredients as these are the cheapest options. They greatly increase your chances of developing heart problems and obesity.
It is also recommend that you prepare and cook most, if not all, of your meals as you then have complete control over what ingredients are used, as well as the cooking methods and mediums. In this way you can ensure there are no hidden sugars or bad fats. Cook with olive oil on low or medium heat or coconut oil on high heat. Grill food as often as you can.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.