As a personal trainer and weight-loss coach, I am constantly answering health and fitness questions from my clients, on social media and in our Start TODAY Facebook group. In this column, I address some of the most common questions and roadblocks that trip people up on their journey to establish a health and fitness routine.
How can I get abs by summer?
One of the most common questions I hear all year long is: How can I lose belly fat? But this time of year especially, with bathing suit season around the corner, people want to know how to tone their abdominals — fast.
As a personal trainer and weight-loss coach, I’ve never aspired for a six pack. I’ve always wanted to have a curvy shape and to be able to eat like a regular person and not follow the stringent diet of a fitness model. So, my approach to helping people tone their abs for summer is very holistic. I want you to be able to reduce bloating and inflammation, work the core muscles for definition, and burn fat all over (including in the midsection.)
I always stress this to my clients: Achieving that six-pack ab look requires a rigorously strict diet and isn’t sustainable for the average person. Plus, there are so many reasons beyond having a chiseled physique to focus on building your core strength. But a goal we can all achieve is slimming and toning the midsection, and most importantly, shedding extra body fat in the area which can decrease our risk of certain health issues.
When toning the abdominals is a goal for my clients, these are the dietary and fitness recommendations that I make.
Do a diet check
First, pay attention to what you’re eating. The saying “you can’t out-exercise a bad diet” is very true, especially when it comes to weight loss and bloating. Ditch the processed snacks and heavy takeout meals and focus on lean protein, whole grains and colorful produce. Making just this change alone will have you feeling lighter around the middle within a week or two!
I also encourage my clients to pay attention to how certain foods make them feel. I once had a client who was having two servings of Greek yogurt and one cup of whole milk per day. Aside from that, she ate a mostly protein and vegetable-based diet that was very lean, but she always felt bloated. When we had her eliminate dairy for five days, she shrunk two pant sizes! Clearly, she had a reaction to dairy. This doesn’t mean that she had to cut it out completely, but it did provide her knowledge and awareness as to what dairy does to her body.
So take inventory: Are you consuming certain foods on a regular basis that your body has a hard time digesting? Inflammatory foods can be anything that you regularly consume (even healthy foods like cruciferous vegetables and beans can cause people trouble!) and every body is different — but the most common culprits are dairy, gluten and corn. (For me, it’s pizza!) If you suspect a food may be causing you uncomfortable symptoms like bloat or indigestion, eliminate it for five days and take stock of how you feel. If you identify a food that causes you bloat, it doesn’t mean you can never eat it again. But you’ll have the knowledge to avoid those foods when you want to look and feel your best.
Adjust your exercise routine for fat loss
After you evaluate your diet, it’s time to re-think your exercise routine. If your current routine is cardio heavy, it’s time to add some strength training. Building and maintaining muscle is important for everyone to be doing. But if you are overweight, the combination of full-body strength training and cardio is the best plan of attack for total body fat loss — and since you can’t target belly fat specifically, losing body fat overall is the goal here. This could look like a long walk, jog or bike ride 3-4 times a week, with a full-body strength routine 3 times a week.
Remember: You can work your core every day!
While the large muscles in our arms and legs need at least one day of rest in between strength training, the smaller muscles of our core can be worked daily.
Committing to a five-minute ab routine every day can help build muscle and bring definition to your midsection. I recommend a core routine where you focus on ab exercises that work your core from all angles: on the ground on your back (like when doing a Pilates ab crunch), on your stomach (like when pushing up into a plank), and standing up (like when doing standing side crunches). Working all of these angles will make for a well-rounded routine that help targets every muscle in the core.
More of your questions, answered!