"Six packs," the colloquial term for a set of well defined abdominal muscles, seem to be coveted by many, but had by few. Many people diet and exercise like crazy, yet wonder why they don't develop a toned core. Experts have outlined specific guidelines for diet and exercise that help the body increase lean muscle mass while avoiding storing extra fat. The length of time necessary to achieve a six pack is different depending on the individual. A person's body fat percentage is the primary indicator of how much work needs to be done to make that magical six pack appear.
To find out your body fat percentage, you can use an online calculator such as the one listed below under Resources. You will need a measuring tape to measure around different parts of your body. The average American male has 22% body fat, while the average American female has 32% body fat. Abdominal muscles usually appear when body fat falls below 8% for men, or 14% for women. Where you fall on this scale, and how much effort you are willing to put into your exercise and diet, will determine how long it will take to have a six pack.
To lose one pound of fat, you have to burn 3,500 calories.The good thing is that your metabolism is always burning calories, and you want to fuel that fire rather than starve it. Eat six small meals a day, including lean protein and good fats, such as almonds, beans, yogurt, eggs, avocado and olive oil. These will help keep your metabolism up. Drinking plenty of water helps to keep things moving, as does eating fiber. By keeping your blood sugar levels steady, it is easier for your body to use fat as fuel and not add fat. Avoid processed, refined foods, as they are easily metabolized into fat. Overall, the goal is to burn more calories than you eat, and to make those calories come from quality sources that help to build lean muscle.
While diet will get you so far in your quest for a six pack, exercise is also an essential part of the equation. By combining weight lifting (especially emphasizing your core) and short, hard cardiovascular workouts, you can achieve your optimal abs. Cardiovascular exercise should be done for at least 20 to 30 minutes each session in order to burn fat. Prior to this, your body will be running on stored energy, resulting in little fat loss. Weight lifting should always include at least three types of core exercises: forward flexion exercises (sit-ups, crunches), side flexion exercises (planks, side bends) and rotational exercises (bicycle twists, standing twists). Vary exercises to work different muscles. You can incorporate a Swiss ball or medicine ball to mix up the routine.
Building a strong core can improve your energy and confidence, strengthen your back, and limit other aches and pains. By making a commitment to lower your body fat ratio percentage, you are committing to a new level of health and fitness.
Achieving a six pack is a worthy goal, but don't let yourself get too hung up on having defined abs like the models in Abercrombie & Fitch ads. And don't expect it to happen overnight;it will take time. Ultimately, you should base your level of health on how you feel and not how you look.