What does it take to get 6 pack abs? It is one thing that folks ask about often. It's easily one of the most sought after goals in fitness today.
People want 6 pack abs for a host of reasons.
First, it shows off their love for their own bodies. They take care of it, and the results are clear. It gives them confidence. After all, you wouldn't feel shy about pulling off your shirt on the beach with if you had a ripped midsection, would you? I didn't think so.
Which brings us to the second reason. They look good. Not only in the mirror, but to the opposite sex as well. They grab attention. They turn heads.
Clearly, then, the desire for 6 pack abs is there. So what's missing? The "know how." The recipe, so to speak.
That's where this post comes in.
What are 6 pack abs?
Well, your abs run up and down the front of you belly. They are two muscles separated by a small band of tissue called the "linea alba." 6 pack abs are the most commonly seen variation for abdominal muscles, there are occasionally 8 pack abs and even 10 pack abs seen on the beach.
At a very basic level, seeing these muscles is simple. I didn't say "easy." I said "simple," and those two things are very different.
What do I mean?
If you want to see your 6 pack abs, you need to lower the amount of body fat you carry. For guys, your body fat percentage needs to be less than 10% to even start to see your abs. For gals, that number should be less than 14%. (At these body fat levels, you may see what are sometimes referred to as 2 or 4 pack abs.)
Simple enough, right?
Now, to put that into perspective, the mean body fat percentage for men is 17 to 19%. The average for women is 22 to 25%.
This means the most folks must lose 40% (or more) of their total body fat to even start to see their abs. (Source: National Institutes of Health)
How do you do that? How do you make sure that you look great when you take off your shirt? How do you get abs that turn heads?
That is what the rest of this article focuses on.
To burn fat, especially belly fat, you must focus on the calorie balance equation.
Simply put, when you eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight, and when you burn more calories than you eat, you lose weight. This is done through diet and exercise.
To get started, you must calculate how many calories you need to burn fat. Wouldn't it be amazing if there was a calculator that did this for you? Of course it would! That's why I created this calorie calculator.
Of course, if you're a numbers nerd (like me) you may still use the "how many calories should I eat to burn fat" formula.
You're probably wondering if that's all there is to it - just eating less. Face it, if it were that easy, everyone would have 6 pack abs. And they don't, do they?
Here's the bottom line... what you eat is as important as how much you eat.
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This is why they say, "6 Pack Abs are Made in the Kitchen."
If you don't eat the right things, you will likely carry those few pounds of fat that are hiding your 6 pack abs.
Imagine building your dream home, but when the building materials arrive, instead of granite and marble, you get a pile of sand and some water to mix it with. Your dream house will not end up being so dreamy. Instead, will just be a pile of wet sand!
The same is true of your body. The most important part of learning how to get a 6 pack is making sure that you have you have the correct building materials to build the sexy, sleek body of your dreams.
Let's take it step-by-step:
Your body uses carbs as its main source of energy. When you have used up all of your carb stores, your body turns to fat for energy. It burns muscle last. That is why low carb diets are so effective.
By cutting carbs, you not only reduce calories, but you shift your body into fat burning mode, literally.
Generally speaking, when shedding fat, less than 40% of your calories should come from carbs. Each gram of carbohydrates has 4 calories.
To calculate your daily carbs, first, multiply your daily calorie needs by your target carb percentage. Let's say that your daily calorie need was 2,500 calories. You would calculate calories from carbs
2500 x .40 = 1000 calories.
Now, recall that each gram of carbs has 4 calories. To determine your target carb intake in grams, divide the result by 4
1000 / 4 = 250 grams of carbs per day.
As you might imagine though, just like all calories aren't created equal, neither are carbs. To get the best results, you should move to eating mostly low glycemic index (GI) carbs.
The GI measures how much a particular food causes a spike in insulin. Insulin spikes cause your body to store more fat, which is clearly not good if you want 6 pack abs.
Low GI Carbs:
Let me show you how else low GI carbs can help you burn fat. Most of these foods are high in fiber. This means that they digest more slowly. This means that you feel full longer and you eat less. It's a win-win.
Rule of thumb: Look for sources of carbs that get 20 to 30% of the total from fiber.
Advanced Trick: Carb Cycling
Here's a fact for you: One gram of fat has 9 calories. That's more than twice as much as a gram of carbs or protein (each has only 4 calories per gram).
Clearly, you get more bang for your calorie dollar for cutting a gram of fat than you do cutting carbs.
Certainly, then, you should cut as much fat as possible from your diet, right? Well, not exactly.
You see, the fact is that you need fats to, well, burn fat. Specifically, you need to eat "good" fats while avoiding "bad" fats.
You may have heard bad fats referred to by their more nerdy sounding names such as saturated fats and trans fatty acids. These bad fats raise cholesterol levels in your blood.
On the other hand, good fats have lots of health benefits. There are these cool fats called essential fatty acids (EFAs) that are used for stuff other than energy. Best of all, they're not usually stored as body fat.
EFAs increase your metabolic rate. This results in fat loss. This makes EFAs great for getting your 6 pack abs.
Now, with that said, you should keep fat to 20% of your total calories. Of that 20%, almost all of it should be from good fats.
Let's work through the math. Again, starting with 2500 calories...
2500 x .20 = 500 calories,
which is equal to...
500 / 9 = 55.56 grams of (good) fat per day.
Below is a list of a few "good fat" foods:
Of course, you can eat good carbs and fats and still fall short of your 6 pack abs if you don't eat enough protein.
When you are in a calorie deficit, you run the risk of losing muscle as well as fat. But, a getting ripped abs requires keeping as much lean muscle as you can. Protein helps you keep muscle as you're shedding ugly, unwanted fat.
Around 40% of your daily calories should come from protein. Because each gram of protein has 4 calories, you can use the same math that you used for carbs:
2500 x .40 = 1000 calories
1000 / 4 = 250 grams of protein
For a 200 pound person, that comes out to about 1.25 grams of protein per pound.
OK, now you know what to eat. What do you drink? To burn fat and get 6 pack abs, there's only one answer: water.
Scientific Fact: Your body is made of 70% water. This means that if you want your body to work properly, you must drink enough water.
When you don't drink enough of the clear stuff, your body reacts by holding on to as much of it as it can. Holding this extra water can leave you looking (and feeling) bloated.
What this all means is that if you want to rid yourself of excess water, you have to drink more water! Drinking more tells your body that there's no need to store extra water for later.
As a matter of fact, water also keeps your kidneys working at its best. This lets your liver metabolize fat more efficiently. When you don't get enough water, your liver picks up some of the slack for your kidneys. This, or course, causes your body to use its fat stores less effectively.
This begs the question: how much water should you drink? The most common answer is 8 glasses per day. If each glass is 8 ounces, that is 64 ounces each day - a good start.
But, if you really want to kick your belly fat burning into high gear, you should shoot for 64 ounces per 100 pounds of body weight. For a 200 pound person, that is 128 ounces - 1 full gallon of water each day.
Sure, this might not be easy to start with, but you should try to gradually work up to it.
To figure out how much water you should drink, use this formula:
Body Weight x 0.64 = Optimal Water Intake in Ounces
Thus far we've focused on your 6 pack abs diet. There is another side of the equation you must think about as well. Exercise.
I'm sure you're expecting a long list of 6 pack abdominal exercises and workouts. You know, lots of sit-ups and crunches.
While we'll get to the 6 pack abs workout in due course, you have to get one thing straight. You can do 1,000 crunches per day and never see your 6 pack abs. That's a stone cold fact. You have to burn the belly fat covering them to see them.
Chances are you current 6 pack abs workout is good enough. Assuming that you do some sort of 6 pack abdominal exercises, that is.
However, if you need an ab workout routine, keep reading. I'll get into those below.
Before that, though, let's talk about blow-torching your belly fat.
If you're one of those folks who say "I want 6 pack abs!", then this section is for you.
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To get 6 pack abs fast, one of the best ways to do this is by lifting weights. Yes, weights. You might be surprised to hear that even chest workouts and leg workouts can help you get 6 pack abs fast.
You get two benefits with weight lifting (other than the muscle building benefits, of course). First, you burn calories and lots of them. This clearly tips that calorie balance in favor of fat burning.
Second, your metabolism stays jacked up (you keep burning fat) for up to 36 hours after you leave the gym.
Really think about that for a minute. You keep melting fat after you leave the gym. How cool is that? Heck, if you hit the gym hard enough and often enough, you might even get those mythical 8 pack abs!
This boost occurs because your body is rushing to repair your muscles after your workout.
And what's just as cool is that intense weight training uses up your carb stores. As you learned earlier, once your carb stores are gone, next in line for energy is fat. That means for a while after your workout, not only does your metabolism stay elevated, you're literally burning fat. Whoa!
If you're like most folks, when you think about fat burning workouts, you think about long, slow cardio.
You may have even heard the rumors that long, slow cardio was dead. Not so.
Well, recall that, at the end of the day, you lose weight when you are in a calorie deficit. Now, we talked about eating less in the 6 pack abs diet section above. That dealt with the "calories in" side of the balance. Now let's deal with the "calories out" side.
Cardio exercise is a great way to burn extra calories after your weight workout. But, do not - I repeat, do not - sacrifice weights for cardio. Ever.
Note: You will often hear some folks use the term "aeorbic" in place of cardio. They usually mean the same thing.
I like to do my cardio workout first thing in the AM. It helps set the tone for the day. Also, and there is some debate here, your carbs stores are low after a night of sleep. Therefore, you should burn fat as your primary source of fuel if you do cardio in the morning.
If you're not a morning person, the next best time to do your cardio is right after your weight workout. Again, you carb stores should be low from the weights, meaning that you'll burn fat as your fuel for the workout.
Of course, what's most important is that you do your workout consistently, no matter what time of day you do it. Just get it done.
Imagine what it would be like if you could burn the same number of calories in a fraction of the time. Believe it or not, you can!
It's called interval training.
Without going into too much detail, during interval training, you follow a basic process:
These intervals of high and low intensity keep your body guessing. This causes your metabolism to work harder. Of course, this leads to more calories (and fat) burned in less time!
You probably already know this, but you actually do need to do some abdominal work if you want to really make your abs "pop" when you take off your shirt. I mean, seriously, just imagine taking off that shirt only to have flat abs. All of that hard work melting fat for nothing. You must do some 6 pack abs exercises.
Don't worry, I have you covered.
You need these exercise, like abdominal crunches, to add some definition to your abs. To do that, you want to target your midsection from three different angles: upper and lower abdominals as well as your obliques (sides). (Yes, I know that the abs are all one muslce - but you can work them from different flexion points).
You can create a simple ab workout routine with these three 6 pack abs exercises:
Abdominal Crunch (upper abdominals)
Hanging Leg Raise (lower abdominals)
Side/Oblique Crunch (obliques)
Click on the link below to get the exact sets and reps to sculpt your 6 pack abs.
You can also find other core workouts - including lower ab workouts and oblique workouts in our workout plans section.
Close your eyes and imagine how awesome it will feel to pull your shirt over your head to reveal your ribbed abs.
Now work backwards from that moment in time. Picture what it will take to make that moment happen.
The key ingredient is what I call "want to." You have to "want to" make it happen. You have "want to" so badly that nothing will stand in your way. Not a thing.
You must be focused. You must be dedicated. You must be relentless. And only then, will you see your 6 pack abs.
If you follow this guide, the only thing standing between you and your 6
pack abs is the "want to." And you do want to, don't you?
Look. Let's face it. There are many reasons to want 6 pack abs, not the least of which is to look great for the opposite sex. To turn heads. To have that confidence.
But to do that, you're going to need to make some changes to your diet and exercise plans.
You need to throw your calorie balance equation to a deficit. You'll need to lower your carb and fat intake overall. What carbs and fats you do eat should come from sources of low GI carbs and good fats. You'll need to eat plenty of protein.
Also, you'll need to start lifting weights. And, you'll need to burn extra calories through long cardio and/or interval training.
Finally, you'll need plenty of dedication and focus. You need to "want to." If you put all of those ingredients together and you put the tips and tricks from this site to work for you, you too can have 6 pack abs.
What should you do next? Glad you asked!
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