Today, Thursday, January 17, 2019

Six Pack Abs: Secrets to a Youthful Physique

For some of us it was Gerard Butler in “300.”  Or maybe Brad Pitt in “Fight Club.”  Or perhaps the classic image of Bruce Lee when his shirt gets torn off in “Enter the Dragon.”  We all dream about it at some point- achieving perfectly sculpted six-pack abs.  Well, as those of us who've tried it can attest, the road to perfect six-pack abs isn't easy.

For many of us it seems that no matter how many abdominal exercises we do, nothing makes a difference.  Crunches, sit-ups, obliques, leg lifts, none of them seem to even make a dent.  Many of us get so frustrated we end up just giving up altogether.

Which is too bad, because the obstacle in the road for most people who are trying to develop six-pack abs is actually very simple. 

What's In the Way?
The thing you need to know is this: No amount of abdominal exercises on their own are enough to give you six-pack abs that "pop."  Never mind the number of reps or the frequency with which you do them. As long as there is a layer of body fat in front of them it will always be impossible to see your ab muscles. 

To see your abs you need one thing and one thing only: a lower body fat count. 

To achieve low body fat you need to burn calories and create a calorie deficit.  Sound simple?  Actually once you grasp the concept, it is.

But simple does not necessarily mean easy.

The Problem with Belly Fat: Science and Genetics

For men, the story sounds familiar.  When we put on any weight at all the first place it seems to want to go is onto our bellies, particularly the lower abdomen.  And whenever we lose any weight, it seems to be that same place where the fat wants to stay. If we are truly interested in shedding off that layer of fat and revealing to the world our well crunched, sculpted six-pack abs, it is helpful to understand a little bit about why fat tends to accumulate there in the first place.

The fact is that there are good reasons why your lower ab fat is like that perennially annoying party guest: the first to arrive and the last to leave. 

The first of these reasons is genetics.  Each of us has a hereditary tendency to store fat in certain places, much like our hereditary tendency towards eye or hair color. These hereditary patterns along with hormones cause our body to stockpile excess fat in specific places.  This is why some people get double chins, love handles, etc.  For most men, however, the main fat depository is our lower abdomen.

And the reason for this is as much down to science as it is hereditary. 

Fat cells have both Beta 1 (B1) and Alpha 2 (A2) receptors.  The B1 receptors are on our side.  They help to activate lipase, the enzyme that breaks down fat and lets it loose into the bloodstream to be burned.   A2 receptors on the other hand, inhibit the fat releasing enzymes, encouraging body fat formation.  In men there is a higher concentration of A2 receptors in the lower abdomen.  This is one possible explanation for why men accumulate fat on their lower abdomens that is hard to get rid of.  Women, incidentally, have a higher concentration of A2 receptors in their hips and thighs.

Think of your ab fat as being like the deep end of a swimming pool.  Now matter how you try, it is impossible to drain the deep end before you drain the shallow end. 

The Secret to Six-Pack Abs Success
So to get back to the main question at hand, how do you achieve those rippling, well-defined six-pack abs?

Ok first and foremost, remember it's not all about the crunch.  Even a thousand ab reps a day won't give you a Bruce Lee six-pack if your diet is unhealthy.  They will tone your muscles and also help somewhat in the fat they burn.  But ab exercise reps alone will never do the trick.

To lose the body fat around our bellies that inhibit our perfect six-pack abs we need to burn calories and create a calorie deficit. There are two good ways to do this.  One is decreasing food intake.  The other is increasing activity.  Of course, the fastest, most direct road to that lean, youthful physique is to do them both.

Diet is Key

There's a saying in the fitness community that “abdominals are made in the kitchen, not in the gym.”  There's a lot of truth to that.  Here are a few simple dietary tips that will help you attain the youthful physique so many strive for:

        1. Cut 15-20% from your calorie maintenance level.  Using a more aggressive cut of 25-30% is okay, but only for a very limited time period.  Once you are where you want to be, you can build your intake back up to maintenance levels

        2. Spread your calorie intake into 5-6 smaller meals instead of 2-3 big ones.  And never eat too much of anything, even “healthy food.”

        3. Eat a source of complete, lean protein with every meal (fish, egg whites, lean meat, protein powder etc.)

        4. Avoid refined simple carbs containing white flour or white sugar

        5. Keep total fats and saturated fats low.  Ideally between 20-30% of your entire calories.  And remember that a little bit of “good” fat like flax seed oil, nuts, seeds or fish fat, is better than no fat as essential fatty acids actually assist in the fat burning process.

        6. Drink water, about a gallon a day if you are physically active.

No Magic Bullets
There's no magic bullet, and no miracle exercise or exercise machine that's going to give you six-pack abs and a lean, youthful physique.  You can do hundreds of crunches a day every day and achieve outstanding development in your ab muscles.  But with that layer of fat there no one will ever be able to tell. 

The secret to six-pack abs and a youthful physique lies in reducing your body fat.  Reducing your body fat comes from cutting your calorie intake and creating a caloric deficit.  And that can only come from diet and exercise.

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