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Burn the fat and show off your abs

The key to sculpted abs is burning off the belly fat that's hiding them and for that men need to drop down to at least 10-14% 'lean' body fat level. 'Very lean' is under 9% and competition level ('ripped') is 3-6%. Sit-ups, crunches or expensive exercise machines alone will not get rid of the 'ab flab' and build that six-pack. Diet is just as important. Here are 5 tips to help you get there:

1. Eat more protein

For serious bodybuilders around 2.5g of protein per kg body weight is needed to maintain muscle bulk with extreme training. If you’re starting on a bodybuilding approach an initial protein intake around 1.5g per kilogram body weight is a good starting goal. Chicken breasts, lean red meat, fish, eggs, soya, low fat yoghurt, cottage cheese and nuts are all protein-rich foods. Fill up on micronutrient-dense foods, like green vegetables, that don't pack a lot of calories.

2. Eat more fibre

Soluble fibre is found in grains such as oats, barley and rye, fruits like bananas and apples, and also in beans and pulses and root vegetables. Insoluble fibre is found in high-fibre breakfast cereals, wholemeal breads and pasta, brown rice and other wholegrains, vegetables, potatoes with skins, nuts and seeds. Both types of fibre are important for bowel health.

3. Carbs have had a bad press recently

It’s true that sugar and sugary drinks just add calories and little else to your diet, which isn’t necessarily useful if you’re trying to keep your weight in check, but too little carb can impair strength training. Resistance training uses glycogen stored in the muscles as the main source of fuel, but low carb diets will reduce this. Carb requirements for sports involving muscle strength, such as bodybuilding, are around 4-7g of carbs per kg body weight, per day.

4. Drink more – water that is.

There’s little, if any, need for ‘sports drinks’. Go easy on the alcohol and reduce or cut out fizzy and soft drinks. Not keen on water? How about finishing your training session with some ice-cold skimmed milk instead? Skimmed milk provides protein, carbs and essential minerals like calcium. Studies have shown it’s effective at helping support muscles – and may even help control calorie intake for the rest of the day!

5. Exercise – building a six-pack needn't mean hours in the gym

Add a high intensity cardio session to the end of your workouts. 10 minutes of high intensity interval training (HIIT) can easily burn 150-250 calories. Fast jog or run for 10 minutes, or sprint for 30 seconds, then walk for 30 seconds, repeating for 10 minutes, or cycle with a high level of resistance for 10 minutes.

Dietitian reviewed by Catherine Collins RD


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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on March 14, 2017

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