As a personal trainer and health enthusiast, I see TONS of people spending tireless amounts of time doing “ab workouts”.  It’s pretty amazing how good some people are at being able to all those exercises, but strangely disappointing to see how it isn’t paying off.

Here’s the truth: You can do all the abdominal workouts in the world, but it won’t get you the definition you want unless you’re eating correctly.  You can still develop those muscles, but a poor diet will keep the fat packed right on top!!!  Don’t get me wrong, cardio exercise can help, but only to an extent.  There are some misconceptions with cardio an fat loss that I won’t get into in this post, so back to the kitchen!

Let me preface by saying when I say diet, I’m not referring to Paleo/Zone/atkins/South Beach etc.  I am using the word to mean more of a “lifestyle diet”.

Your Diet should be a consistent daily intake of:

Lean, healthy-sourced proteins, loads of nutrient-dense vegetables, some fruits, nuts/seeds, and little grains.  The two nutrients I can’ emphasize enough for you are the lean proteins and vegetables.  Both will help keep your blood sugar levels down, keep you ‘regular’, and provide the necessary anti-inflammatory properties your body needs to perform at its best.

“Healthy-sourced proteins”

These consist of finding your proteins from the best possible source.  I always tell my clients that you are what THEY ate, meaning that it’s important to know the type of food, and quality of food the animals were eating when they were alive.  Let’s take beef as an example.  Traditionally, the lower grade beefs are in compact feed lots eating tons of corn and grains loaded with steroids and hormones.  All Natural and even Organic beef are still fed all natural, hormone free, and/or organic grains & corn.  Here’s the problem…grains aren’t what cows naturally eat!!!  Free range cows roam the fields eating GRASS!!  Which brings me to my next type of beef…Grass-Fed beef.  This is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT animal because they ate nothing but grass, a naturally occurring dietary source for cows.  Grass-fed beef has a completely different nutritional makeup.  It is much leaner than any “lean” beef you can find.  It’s loaded with CLA, an omega 3 fatty acid that has been show to help with fat loss in studies.  It also contains a better source of vitamin and minerals.  I hope you can see where I’m going with healthy-sourced meats, and how much it matters to become an informed consumer about this.

What’s this about anti-inflammatory?

Vegetables, among other fruits, oils and spices, are highly anti-inflammatory.  The inflammation we’re talking about isn’t a swelling of the knee or ankle, but rather the internal organs and arteries.  Processed foods and sugary/starchy foods are highly pro-inflammatory because they aren’t a naturally occurring part of our diet, so the body can’t process it as efficiently.  As a result, inflammation of the arteries, intestines, etc. begins to set in, making it harder for nutrients to become absorbed.  The more vegetables you have throughout the day will help with keeping that inflammation down and will help you feeling leaner and more energized.

Here’s a quick story:  One year I held a Biggest Loser event for my clients and challenged them to have 6 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruits a day.  All 18 of my participants noted that they felt leaner and much more energized throughout that week!  It’s amazing how simple that was!  No magic pill, just clean eating!

Lastly, I will add a quick note that most people tend to lean more towards eating more fruits than vegetables, which is why I emphasize eating little fruits.  While fruits have healthy vitamins and minerals, and are naturally occurring, they are also loaded with sugar, and when it comes to getting those abs we’ve been talking about, we need to limit all types of sugar, including that which is in fruits.

Grains…..

I’m not the biggest fan of grains…for cows or for humans.  I personally don’t believe they are as important of a nutrient as our government and dieticians are claiming.  Our food pyramid is JACKED up, and no one should be eating the amount of grains that it recommends.  The food industry is a scam too!  You think you’re buying “whole grain” bread, bhttp://www.functionalsportstherapy.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/six_pack_abs1.jpgut really it’s some of the most processed crap on the shelf!  Limit the grains as much as you can, and get your non-fruit/veggie carbs from gluten free breads/pastas, quinoa, and steel cut oatmeal.

I CHALLENGE YOU!

I challenge you to find a journal and log your food for one week.  How much protein are you having?  What quality is it?  How many servings of fruits and vegetables are you having?  How much starchy carbs are you eating (bread, cereal, pastas, potatoes)?  You would be shocked how unbalanced everything can get!

Allow yourself a cheat day  each week, and enjoy it! Unless, of course,  you’re training for a highly competitive event.

I’d also love to hear your feedback on this post, so feel free to comment, ask questions, or give your story about your journey to 6-pack abs!