We all know guys who sweat it out in the gym every day but still can’t get a six-pack. You can work out all you want but if your diet’s not on point, you won’t see results. As they say, abs are made in the kitchen. The problem is, many of us don’t know what the recipe is.
To create chiselled abs most of us need to cut back on calories. However, to do this effectively you need to start tracking both calories and macros (carbohydrates, protein and fat) to ensure you’re getting enough protein to fuel your workout recovery, but not eating so much that you’re unable to shift that layer of flab separating you from your dream body.
Generally, a good rule of thumb is to cut right back on sugar, simple carbs (such as bread and pasta), fried foods and alcohol, and to replace them with plenty of vegetables, lean proteins, foods rich in healthy fats (such as oily fish, avocado and nuts), and wholegrains and pulses.
Start by building your diet around your protein intake. Not only will tossing in a few chicken breasts, some low-fat milk and protein shakes to fill in any gaps in your diet keep you full for longer, your body actually burns more calories breaking down protein than it does other foods. Additionally it’ll help fuel your muscles, which raises your metabolism and helps you burn fat more efficiently.
Remove the guesswork by pre-planning your meals it to fit your macros and, where possible, cook them yourself so you know exactly what you’re eating and can ensure no six-pack-sabotaging extras – such as added sugar and fat – are creeping in to your diet. Pre-planning also means you’re always prepared and are less likely to find yourself stuck for healthy meal options. Tupperware is your friend.
Even in social situations you can make smart swaps that will keep you on track. Since it’s picnic season, here are some easy ways to keep your calorie intake low without becoming a hermit.
Swap breadsticks for crudités because raw veg is rich in fibre and vitamins. They also provide very few calories, while breadsticks are surprisingly high in them – and easy to overeat.
Swerve quiche and opt for a Spanish omelette to get all the eggy, carby satisfaction of a quiche without the high-fat pastry casing. Add as many fresh ingredients as you can find for an added vitamin boost.
Avoid crisps and go for nuts as small handful of unsalted mixed nuts provides stomach-filling healthy fats and many essential trace minerals. Processed potato slices are little more than excess energy.
Replace cheese dips with hummus. The chickpea dip is high in protein and heart-healthy unsaturated fats, so favour it over highly processed and higher-calorie cheesy dips.
And finally, swap a gin and tonic for a gin and diet tonic. Hey, if the sun shines we should celebrate, but drink 50% fewer calories by mixing your gin with a slimline tonic for just 60 calories per single-measure drink.
Now you understand the basics, start adding these ingredients to your diet to burn fat, boost your metabolism and reduce stress.
1. Broccoli is a low-calorie food that’s packed with fibre, which will fill you up and help you to lose weight, according to research from the US Department of Health & Human Services.
2. Cinnamon can help to blunt insulin response in the body, stopping you from storing fat, says an American study.
3. Cheddar is a good source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which helps you to lose weight and build muscle, a Swedish study found.
4. Mushrooms are a great low-calorie way to add bulk to stews and pasta sauces, according to American research.
5. Sweet potatoes are a low-GI food and research from the US found they don’t promote fat storage by causing your insulin levels to spike, unlike normal potatoes.
6. Apples contain antioxidant polyphenols, which help to prevent your body from storing fat, according to a German study.
7. Green tea contains molecules called catechins, which have thermogenic properties and improve metabolism, a study published in the Chinese Journal Of Integrative Medicine found.
8. Chilli peppers are a great source of capsaicin, which helps to ramp up your metabolism, says a study in the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition.
9. Blueberries can help to inhibit the formation of new fat cells by altering lipid metabolism, according to research from the Texas Woman’s University.
10. Grapefruit contains chemicals that reduce insulin levels, which in turn can cause increased metabolism, American research discovered.
11. Milk contains a protein called lactium, which helps reduce cortisol and lower blood pressure, according to a number of studies.
12. Oats are rich in carbohydrates, which boost serotonin levels in the brain and create a calming effect, according to research from Indiana University East.
13. Oranges contain high levels of vitamin C, which can help to reduce levels of stress hormones in the blood, American research has found.
14. Walnuts are high in fibre, antioxidants and unsaturated fatty acids, all of which can help to lower blood pressure and stress levels, says research from Penn State University.
15. Salmon is a great source of magnesium, which helps to control cortisol levels, according to the Capital Region Medical Center in the US.
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Eating plenty of protein is crucial if you want to build your abdominal muscles. These are all great sources, as shown by the amounts of protein they contain per 100g
16. Chicken 24g
17. Pork 27g
18. Lamb 20g
19. Duck 19g
20. Turkey 22g
21. Beef 24g. Grass-fed, free-range beef has the most reliably high levels of protein and other nutrients.
22. Tuna 25g (canned)
23. Parmesan 32g
24. Pumpkin seeds 30g
25. Eggs 13g
26. Peanuts 28g
27. Soy beans 36g
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