How do I get six-pack abs?

Splattered across every health magazine cover, coveted by all fitness enthusiasts, and the reason millions of dollars are made every year in new workout products and DVDs: the ever-elusive six-pack abs. The burning question we all have is: how do I get them? The important first thing to note is everyone’s body is different and will react differently to different exercises and diets – there is no one-size-fits-all plan. What I can tell you, is there are two main factors involved in ab definition. Hopefully, this isn’t a huge shock, but they are diet and exercise.

The good news is, we all have abs! The even better news is as a CrossFitter you are leaps and bound ahead of the average person. In CrossFit, we use our core constantly. All power and movement start from our core so even when we aren’t doing an ab-centric movement like sit-ups, we are working our core. However, the reason many people cannot see their abs is that there is a pesky layer of fat covering them up. Like any muscle, abdominal muscles can be grown by exercising them in the gym, but there is no amount of sit-ups that will grow your abdominal muscles enough to show through a layer of fat that is being fed by a poor diet. So the real question isn’t how to I get six-pack abs, it’s how do I reveal them? The simple answer is fat loss.

Fat loss can be attacked from two directions, the first one is exercise. CrossFit training is the perfect mix of cardiovascular training and weight training to promote fat loss. A CrossFit workout will elevate your heart rate, make you sweat, and burn fat as the fuel to complete the work. If you are attending a CrossFit class 5-7 day a week and working at a high-intensity level, you are meeting your exercise quota. 

The second (and more important) method of attacking fat loss is through diet. Some common phrases you may have heard are “you can’t out-exercise a bad diet”, “weight loss is 20% exercise and 80% diet”, and “abs are made in the kitchen”.  I’m here to tell you, the reason we hear these phrases so often is because they are true! When we look at diet, the two key factors to look at:

  1. WHAT we are eating
  2. HOW MUCH we are eating. 

As far as the “what”, there are hundreds of diet options out there from Keto to Paleo to counting macros; all of which have their own set of guidelines and accompanying set of pros and cons. The general CrossFit diet protocol is the following: Meat and Vegetables, Nuts and Seeds, Some Fruit, Little Starch, and no Sugar. Regardless of which guidelines you follow, we should always try to remember KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid!) when considering what we put in our body. We all know processed, canned, and fried foods have no place in any healthy diet and foods high in protein and nutrients like lean meats and vegetables are good for us. A great general rule of thumb is to do your grocery shopping primarily on the perimeter of the grocery store, limiting the amount you buy from the isles. Foods found along the perimeter tend to be fresh foods like meat, produce and dairy, while the isle house processed foods like crackers, cereals, snack bars.

The second key factor when looking at the diet is being mindful of “how much” we eat. Our bodies are machines; we put calories in to fuel the work we need to do. The more we work we do, the more fuel we will need. However, the problem is most people are intaking far too much fuel for the amount of work they are doing. This results in a calorie surplus and weight/fat gain. To lose fat and reveal our abdomen muscles, we must consume fewer calories than we burn in a given day. It is possible to over-eat healthy foods! How many calories you should be eating in a day can be calculated based on your lean body weight. 

While these tips will help you reduce fat and become healthier, fixating on a specific visual goal (six-pack abs) is never a good measure of overall health. There are plenty of extremely fit CrossFit Games athletes who do not have abs popping through their shirts, because as previously noted; we all carry and lose weight in different places.  There is no guarantee your body will look like someone else’s, regardless of how much weight you lose. Don’t be fooled into thinking your six-pack is on the other side of more ab wheels, more sit-ups, or waist training belts. Rather, through consistent diet and exercise over time you will begin to lean out your core area and be on your way to revealing the abs you’ve had all along! 

Camille Leblanc-Bazinet during the Run-Swim-Run event at the 2017 CrossFit Games

If you are unsure of where to start and would like to do a comprehensive body composition assessment (daily caloric intake can also be calculated with the information the InBody collects) then schedule a No-Snack consult with our very own Nutrition Coach Martine TODAY! Schedule by clicking HERE.