If you can’t see your abs, don’t assume it’s because you’re missing out on a magical abdominal exercise or secret supplement. Blame your mindset.
You see, losing belly flab is a boring process. It requires time, hard work, and most important, dedication. Take the right steps every single day, and you’ll ultimately carve out your six-pack. But if you stray from your plan even a few times a week—which most men do—you’ll probably never see your abs.
The solution: six simple habits, which I teach to my clients to help them strip away their lard for good. Think of these habits as daily goals designed to keep you on the fast track to a fit-looking physique. Individually they’re not all that surprising, but together they become a powerful tool.
The effectiveness of this tool is even supported by science. At the University of Iowa, researchers determined that people are more likely to stick with their fat-loss plans when they concentrate on specific actions instead of the desired result. So rather than focusing on abs that show, follow my daily list of nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle strategies for achieving that rippled midsection.
The result: automatic abs.
Wake Up to Water
Imagine not drinking all day at work—no coffee, no water, no diet soda. At the end of an 8-hour shift, you’d be pretty parched. Which is precisely why you should start rehydrating immediately after a full night’s slumber. From now on, drink at least 16 ounces of chilled H2O as soon as you rise in the morning. German scientists recently found that doing this boosts metabolism by 24 percent for 90 minutes afterward. (A smaller amount of water had no effect.) What’s more, a previous study determined that muscle cells grow faster when they’re well hydrated. A general rule of thumb: Guzzle at least a gallon of water over the course of a day.
Eat Breakfast Every Day
A University of Massachusetts study showed that men who skip their morning meal are 4 1/2 times more likely to have bulging bellies than those who don’t. So within an hour of waking, have a meal or protein shake with at least 250 calories. British researchers found that breakfast size was inversely related to waist size. That is, the larger the morning meal, the leaner the midsection. But keep the meal’s size within reason: A 1,480-calorie smoked-sausage scramble at Denny’s is really two breakfasts, so cap your intake at 500 calories. For a quick way to fuel up first thing, I like this recipe: Prepare a package of instant oatmeal and mix in a scoop of whey protein powder and 1/2 cup of blueberries.
As You Eat, Review Your Goals . . .
Don’t worry, I’m not going all Tony Robbins on you. (I don’t have enough teeth.) But it’s important that you stay aware of your mission. University of Iowa scientists found that people who monitored their diet and exercise goals most frequently were more likely to achieve them than were goal setters who rarely reviewed their objectives.
. . . And Then Pack Your Lunch
My personal Igloo cooler just celebrated its 19th anniversary. I started carrying it with me every day back in college. Of course, it often housed a six-pack of beer—until I decided to compete in the Purdue bodybuilding championship. (Second place, by the way.) Once I knew I’d have to don a banana hammock in public (the world’s best motivator), I began to take the contents of my cooler seriously. And so should you. In fact, this habit should be as much a part of your morning ritual as showering. Here’s what I recommend packing into your cooler.
• An apple (to eat as a morning snack)
• Two slices of cheese (to eat with the apple)
• A 500- to 600-calorie portion of leftovers (for your lunch)
• A premixed protein shake or a pint of milk (for your afternoon snack)
By using this approach, you’ll keep your body well fed and satisfied throughout the day without overeating. You’ll also provide your body with the nutrients it needs for your workout, no matter what time you exercise. Just as important, you’ll be much less likely to be tempted by the office candy bowl. In fact, my personal rule is simple: I don’t eat anything that’s not in the cooler.
Exercise the Right Way
Everyone has abs, even if people can’t always see them because they’re hidden under a layer of flab. That means you don’t need to do endless crunches to carve out a six-pack. Instead, you should spend most of your gym time burning off blubber.
The most effective strategy is a one-two approach of weight-lifting and high-intensity interval training. According to a recent University of Southern Maine study, half an hour of pumping iron burns as many calories as running at a 6-minute-per-mile pace for the same duration. (And it has the added benefit of helping you build muscle.) What’s more, unlike aerobic exercise, lifting has been shown to boost metabolism for as long as 39 hours after the last repetition. Similar findings have been noted for intervals, which are short, all-out sprints interspersed with periods of rest.
For the best results, do a total-body weight-training workout 3 days a week, resting at least a day between sessions. Then do an interval-training session on the days in between. To make it easy on you, I’ve created the ultimate fat-burning plan.
Skip the Late Shows
You need sleep to unveil your six-pack. That’s because lack of shut-eye may disrupt the hormones that control your ability to burn fat. For instance, University of Chicago scientists recently found that just 3 nights of poor sleep may cause your muscle cells to become resistant to the hormone insulin. Over time, this leads to fat storage around your belly.
To achieve a better night’s sleep, review your goals again 15 minutes before bedtime. And while you’re at it, write down your plans for the next day’s work schedule, as well as any personal chores you need to accomplish. This can help prevent you from lying awake worrying about tomorrow (“I have to remember to e-mail Johnson”), which can cut into quality snooze time.