It’s no secret that getting a visible abs is a common goal for many gym-goers. For better or worse, popular culture often frames a shredded 6 pack as the epitome of fitness.
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In a nutshell:
Training your six-pack as a component of a strong core and bringing your body fat levels low enough for visible abdominals are two separate goals — and they should be thought of as such. The strength and appearance of your six-pack are influenced by a variety of factors. In terms of having a strong rectus abdominis, regularly training this muscle directly through core exercises can help your six-pack be more effective at moving your spine. The biggest underlying factor regarding six-pack visibility is how much subcutaneous body fat you store around your stomach.
It`s important to know that not having visible six-pack abdominals doesn`t mean your core is weak, or even that you are carrying excess weight. Generally, visible six-pack abs require a body fat percentage much lower than that needed for general health benefits. Your genetics also play a big role in where you store body fat, which greatly influences the specific body fat percentage at which your abs will be visible. If you tend to store more fat in your hips, your abs will be visible at higher body fat percentages and vice versa.
Lifestyle factors, such as sleep and stress levels, also affect fat gains, which will affect the visibility of your abs. For example, one study found that regularly sleeping fewer than 7 hours was associated with greater rates of obesity and weight gain. Beyond the above factors, a surplus calorie intake will typically lead to fat gains over time, which will decrease the visibility of your six-pack — independent of any other factors. It`s OK if your goals for core training do not include a visible six-pack.
Yet, if they do, the following are a few tips to help you see visible abs. While there`s no one-size-fits-all method for revealing abdominals, some principles can help you reduce body fat in the long run. As mentioned, not sleeping enough is associated with weight gain and obesity. Getting 7–8 hours of sleep each night will be a good foundational step toward long-term fat loss.
Independent of other factors, regular exercise can reduce your body fat. Studies support the use of both aerobic and resistance training for reducing body fat percentage. Eating a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables is associated with weight loss and weight maintenance. For example, a recent meta-analysis found that fruit and vegetable intake in women was directly correlated with losing weight and body fat.
Ensuring adequate protein intake is also important for fat loss and weight maintenance. In fact, one study found consuming protein beyond the recommended dietary intake was associated with decreased body fat percentages and maintained amounts of lean muscle mass throughout the duration of the study. While the evidence is mixed as to whether drinking more water in general aids weight loss, recent research supports the conclusion that replacing sugary drinks with water can aid weight loss, potentially helping you burn fat and reveal your abdominals. That said, even replacing one or two drinks a day with water will help support weight loss.
Crunches or situps, although they make muscles burn, aren`t going to help athletic performance because the body isn`t put in an unstable environment where the upper and lower abs are engaged together.
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