Losing Weight and Building 6-Pack Abs
Losing weight is a billion dollar industry in America, there are thousands of devices and programs you can buy that promise to get you “6-pack abs fast” but they don’t work! If it were as easy as buying a pill, shake, or ab machine then the shopping malls across America you would see all men with rippling washboard abs and all women with flat tummies but what do we see instead? Obesity everywhere!
Lets clear up one huge misconception right now, ab machines and ab exercises will NOT get you 6-pack abs! 95% of the work in getting 6-pack abs is losing bodyfat and no ab exercise will do that. If you have a beer belly, you could do ab exercises all year long and still never get 6-pack abs. You can have rippling muscular abs but if they are covered with an inner tube of fat then nobody is going see them.
You can’t buy 6-pack abs but I will give them to you for free! Are you ready for the secret? Losing weight and getting 6-pack abs is as easy as one, two, three:
It’s not that hard and its not that complicated. The changes you need to make to lose weight and reduce your bodyfat are much smaller than you fear and they are easier to live with than you could possibly imagine! A common sense approach involving exercise and nutrition is all that is required to get ripped, washboard abs. When most people think about losing weight, what comes to mind is words like “hunger”, “deprivation”, “diet”, and “agony”. No! Losing weight properly will not result in any of these, the key is in the above two words “common sense”. Most of the fad diets out there are unhealthy, dangerous or both and lead to deprivation and hunger which eventually leads to binging and guilt – the typical unhealthy yo-yo weight loss pattern. What we want is permanent weight loss! Yo-yo dieting is way too much work, just learn to make a few simple healty substitutions and and the weight comes off and stays off for good!
Smart nutritional choices + exercise = ripped abs
There is no such thing as spot fat removal despite what the late night infomercials try to sell you. You cant ‘target’ fat removal unless you are using a machete or liposuction. All you can do is lose weight and let the body decide where the fat is coming off. When you have lost enough weight, the belly and love handles will disappear. Lets talk about expectations, you cant get ripped in 10 days or even 30 days. A good weight loss program will let you lose the weight gradually, a pound a week is a good rate – 2 pounds a week max. If you are 50lbs overweight count on 6 months to a year to remove it. Losing fat at this gradual rate means you will never be hungry or feel deprived. Another reason to lose the weight gradually is so that you don’t burn off muscle – who wants to lose muscle? Nobody!
By the way, I’ve tried hard here to give you all the information you need to know in order to lose bodyfat and get 6-pack abs in one single, concise page. If for some reason it doesnt make sense to you, then consider buying the excellent book from Tom Venuto Burn The Fat – Its a well written book which you can read in 6 hours which covers this topic in much more detail than I do here.
Its important to note that there are reasons that some people may not want visible 6-pack abs as their top priority.
Step 1 for fat loss: Exercise More
Lets look at what its going to take to lose that bodyfat and get abs, remember I said “eat less and exercise more”, lets start with the ‘exercise more’ part. You lose fat by burning off more calories than you eat, pretty simple huh?. To burn off the calories you need to do at least 30 min of cardiovascular exercise every day. Why every day? Well for one, the American Heart Association says its what you should do to help avoid heart disease – very boring reason. The real reason you should exercise every day is much more exciting. You obviously burn off lots of calories while you are exercising, what isn’t so obvious is that even this small amount of cardio elevates your metabolic rate so that your body burns off more calories the other 23 hours of the day too! This is called the fat afterburner effect. What a bargain! Exercise 30 minutes and you get the next 23 hours of fat loss at no additional charge! And don’t worry, cardio does not burn muscle, in fact, it can help you gain muscle. What constitutes cardiovascular exercise, good question. Good cardio is anything that elevates your heart rate to 70%-85% of your maximum for at least 20 minutes. What is the best cardio for losing weight? For most people, walking is the best form of cardio! Easy, enjoyable, and low risk of injury. For a young person in good health, jogging or swimming are other great choices for cardiovascular exercise. Cardio doesn’t just mean jogging either, there are many types of cardio and it doesn’t need to be boring! You can use HIIT, hybrid workouts, or play sports for your cardio workouts too.
By the way, its a very good idea to consult your doctor before starting any exercise program, your target rates may differ from the chart above if you have medical conditions. For a young person in good health, jogging or swimming is a great form of cardiovascular exercise. Walking and cycling can be good cardio but you need to push yourself to walk really fast, no sauntering strolls – wearing a heart rate monitor while walking or cycling can help keep you from lollygagging. Cardio doesnt just mean jogging, there are many types of cardio and it doesnt need to be boring! You can use HIIT, hybrid workouts, or play sports for your cardio workouts too.
Its not just cardiovascular exercise that is important, weight lifting is just as important in my opinion in the quest to lose bodyfat. Weight lifting burns off calories too but more importantly it helps increase your muscle masss which increases your basic metabolic rate so you burn off more calories 24hrs a day. Muscle is very “expensive” for the body to maintain and the more muscle you have, the more calories that are burned off every hour maintaining it. The more muscular you become, the easier it is to stay ripped.
Caution: You can always out-eat your exercise!
A word of warning, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that because you are exercising so much you can eat what you want – you cant. No matter how much you exercise, you can eat more than you burn off and end up gaining fat rather than losing it unless you accompany your cardio program with good nutrition.
People often ask if they can skip the cardio if they have really, really good nutrition – NO! You need to do your daily cardio! Cardio is one of the most important things you can do to keep your body healthy, inside and out.
Step 2 for fat loss: Eat Less (Good Nutrition)
The second part of losing fat is eating less, and remember this does not mean hunger and deprivation! Most people fail to achieve their weight loss goals not because they eat too much but because they don’t eat enough! The starve themselves then end up binging! If you are hungry then you are doing something very wrong. If you have cravings for your favorite food, then you are human – I address how to handle cravings at the end of this section. If you dont understand my nutrition section then consider buying the book Bodybuilding Revealed which has the best coverage of bodybuilding nutrition I have seen (Read my review).
The #1 easiest way to lose fat is to eat your calories rather then drinking them, this simple tip can help you lose 5lbs fat a month or more without any additional changes to your nutrition. There are many nutritional methods of weight loss and all of them will work, at least in the short term. Where they differ is in how healthy they are and if the results are long term and lasting or not. Here are some of them with the ones I recommend at the top:
Nutritional Methods for Losing Weight
|Education alone can help you lose weight. Learn what foods are healthy and eat them. This method is a lot of work, not only in study but at the store and in the kitchen. Eating healthy is a lot of work but it is the best method of all. If you can cut out all foods with artificial flavors, sugars, simple carbs, fat, and salt for one month your taste buds will recover so that natural foods like vegetables, legumes, and whole grains are flavorful and tasty again. For this technique to be effective, you need to become a nutritional expert. You need to be able to look at something in the store or on a plate in a restaurant and tell within 10% how many grams fat, how many grams carbohydrate, how many grams protein and how many calories. You have to be an expert at reading nutritional labels. Most people just have no idea where the calories are in their diets. This is a good option for bodybuilders and professional athletes who need to maximize their performance. Unfortunately this method is not a realistic option for the general public because of the work it requires|
|This technique can work for many and its the easiest of all. Its recommended by the American Heart Association and it works great for the general pubic (but not serious bodybuilders). This method doesn’t result in any deprivation feelings or require any study or hard thinking, just simple substitutions. Just make one or two healthy substitutions in a day and in a year it will result in losing tens of pounds of fat! How easy is that? Have mashed potatoes instead of french fries. Have a grilled chicken sandwich instead of a cheeseburger. Drink water instead of coke. None of these sacrifices is too great but yet they have a powerful effect over time.|
|Calorie Counting (Portion Control)||Recommended|
|Calorie counting and portion control is a great technique that works for virtually everyone, the general public and bodybuilders alike. Portion control doesn’t mean diet and deprivation, it means eating enough so that you are not hungry but not so much that you gain fat. One caveat here, simply calorie counting alone will not work. Although you will lose weight if you eat only Twinkies and stay within your calorie limits, you will lose lots of muscle too – not to mention the serious and potentially life threatening health issues this may cause. With the advent of smart phones and websites like mine, calorie counting has become easier than it used to be. Just go to my calorie calculator, answer 5 questions, and it will plan a perfect and healthy weight loss meal for you! There are great iPhone apps like “Lose It” where you just select the food item and quantity you ate and it tracks the calories.|
|There are many national companies that can help you lose weight, for some people these are an awesome way to lose weight. Weight watchers is not necessarily any better than the above free methods of weight loss but its a lot easier. Many people find the weekly meetings very helpful because the sense of accountability helps them stick to their nutrition. The reason that weightwatchers is successful for people long term is that it teaches them about nutrition and what is good food! IMO, education is the #1 most important factor in being able to keep the fat off long term. With their program you can eat your own foods using their point system or you can buy their premade TV dinners. You can argue that counting calories is as easy as counting “points” but many find the weightwatchers method much easier to use. There are other commercial programs but the reason I dislike those is that they require you to eat their pre-made food. This makes it much easier to lose the weight but because no education is involved, the weight balloons back up after getting off their pre-made meals because their clients have not learned how to eat in the real world. FYI: I dont get any kickbacks from weightwatchers nor do I have any association with them.|
|The carb cycling nutritional method can be as effective at burning fat off quickly as the low-carb diets with none of the harmful effects but its not for everyone. When done properly, this nutritional method has plenty of vegetables and fiber and is very healthy. It does contain more protein that I personally think is healthy for long term use though but its fine for short term weight loss. In my opinion, this technique is not appropriate for teens and people who are over 10% bodyfat – I would instead recommend the previous technique, calorie counting. I just did a book review of “Burn the Fat” by Tom Venuto and was kind of embarrassed. Although I present most of the same concepts here on my website, his book does a much, much better job. If you don’t feel like the information I present here on losing fat makes sense to you, I highly recommend his book Burn the Fat.|
|Low Carb||Not recommended|
|Low carb diets are very effective in losing fat fast which is why they have been so popular in the past – people use these all the time to get ready for high school reunions and weddings. So why don’t I recommend them? First, the poor long term results speak for themselves. 89% of people who lost weight with low carb diets have gained it back within 18 months. Second low carb diets are very unhealthy, the human body is not build for low carb nutrition and it causes an array of nasty health issues. Its about as healthy as feeding a cow hamburgers|
|Yes, fasting results in very rapid weight loss but it is dangerous and can result in death. More important than death (at least to a bodybuilder) is that fasting results in muscle loss as much as fat loss – nobody wants to lose muscle, fat is what people want to remove. I am not referring to religious fasts here like Ramadan that are fasts from sunrise to sunset. What I am referring to here is total nutritional fasts where the person consumes no calories (or minimal calories) for days or weeks on end. I would define any diet where you consume less than your BMR (Basic Metabolic Rate) as a fast. To find out what your BMR is, use my calorie calculator. Most fad diets (like the grapefruit diet below) fall into this category.|
|Grapefruit Diet||Not recommended|
|A dangerous fad diet utilizing the “magical and mysterious” ingredients in grapefruit. The only magic here is figuring out how so many people were duped into this dangerous diet. Its a very low calorie diet (800-1000) which qualifies it as fasting in my book. The grapefruit has nothing to do with the weight loss, if you eat 800-1000 calories in Twinkies you will have the same results. Fasting is very dangerous and should only be done under a direct doctors supervision. Again, for those of you who care – fasting burns off as much muscle as fat.|
Lets start with something basic that applies to all the above nutritional methods of fat loss – eat many small meals. The reason is that you are likely to be less hungry if you spread your calories into 5 meals than if you have them all in two huge meals. If you are trying to gain muscle at the same time you are losing fat then you need 3-6 meals a day. I know your are thinking already, “I CANT eat 6 time a day, I don’t have time!” Well, I cant cook and even I can eat 6 healthy meals a day. Check out my quick healthy meals section for help with quick recipes or no cook recipes. If those dont appeal to you then consider buying this bodybuilding cookbook (read my review).
The 6 small meals a day you are eating need to be well balanced – what does that mean? It depends a bit on which nutritional plan above you are following but the bulk of every meal will be probably vegetables and whole grains, some form of lean protein (beans, dairy, meat), and a small amount of fruit. If you are trying to add muscle too, remember that your body doesn’t store protein well, you cant just have a big steak at dinner and call that your daily protein. Every one of you meals should have 1/6 of your daily protein! How much protein do you need in a day? If you are working out hard and trying to gain muscle while losing fat, I recommend 1.0 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day – a 180lb person would eat 180g of protein a day. If you are just trying to lose fat, you could reduce this to 50-% – 75% of that – so 0.5 to 0.75 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. So how many calories should you eat so you can lose weight without burning muscle or being hungry? Please use my calorie calculator and set your goal in step 6 to “20% caloric reduction”. From my calculator, you know how much protein and how many calories each of your 6 meals can have. Now, what to eat? Can you eat whatever you want as long as it has the protein required and doesn’t exceed the calories in the above chart? No! The quality of every calorie counts!!! Again, it depends a bit on which nutritional weight loss plan you are following but each meal should:
- should contain a good chunk of daily protein protein (20-35%)
- should contain lots of veggies without sauces (fresh or steamed), the more the better. Vegetables fill you up with just a few calories, this is the key to avoiding hunger!
- should have no more than 25% of the calories from good fats like flax, avocados, olives, nuts, fish oil. Minimize bad fats.
- should have whole grain carbs for energy like oats, brown rice, or quinoa. Minimize simple carbs like sugar, alcohol, or white flour products
- should have a small serving of fruit
Its very important that you recalculate your caloric needs every few weeks using my calorie calculator to avoid weight loss plateaus. The reason is as you get lighter, the amount of energy your body uses every day drops. The amount of food that let you drop from 250 pounds to 240 pounds would make you get fat if you weighed 150 pounds.
People ask all the time what some healthy snacks are. Well, a healthy snack is anything that fits into your nutritional plan for the day without making you exceed your calorie allotment or the number of grams fat, protein and carbs that you have decided is appropriate. Only you can determine what is a good snack. There are very few things that are good snacks for every person on the planet but these would probably include: carrots, celery, and air-popped popcorn without butter or salt.
Lets talk about supplements and protein powders and their use in weight loss. If you follow the nutritional suggestions on this page, you don’t need any supplements or protein powders – you will get plenty of protein and vitamins in the meals suggested here. If you have trouble eating 6 real meals a day then protein powder can be a valuable dietary aid because it lets you get the protein you need without any calories from fat or carbs. In a pinch, mix the protein powder(or organic protein powder) with nonfat milk, soy milk, rice milk or orange juice for an inexpensive meal replacement. Remember though, real food with all its fiber, vitamins, and minerals is always best! I am a pseudo-vegetarian - I only eat meat/fish/chicken about once a week. Because of my low meat consumption, protein powder in the form of dairy whey is my most important source of protein. I like dairy whey without any artificial stuff in it, the product from optimum nutrition is the one I have been using for seven years.
Here are some easy nutritional meals, all these are really quick and have only two or three ingredients. If I can make these meals then you can too.
Step 3: Drink Lots of Water
Drinking lots of water can help you lose weight! There are several ways this works, the main way is that the two glasses of water you drink before your meal makes your stomach feel full so you eat less. In rough numbers, it looks like drinking those two 8oz glasses of water before every meal can help you lose an additional 20lbs a year. That’s a very easy way to lost weight! The other way that drinking lots of water helps you lose weight is that it appears to reduce the energy intake (EI), that is, it reduces the number of calories energy you body extracts from the food you eat. It appears that those two 8oz glasses of water before each meal make you lose fat 44% faster! Pretty incredible! Bear in mind the 44% number in this research was obtained with older folks, it may or may not be the same for younger people. Want another reason to drink lots of water and stay well hydrated? Being dehydrated by just 3% can decease your strength by 19%! You wont be able to do your cardio or make any progress lifting weights if you are dehydrated!!!
Another very important point about drinking. Don’t drink your calories! Eat them! This simple tip can make a huge difference in your weight loss! It takes longer to eat calories than drink them. The reason this is important is that your body has a feedback mechanism that is used to tell you when you have eaten enough food but it can take 10 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain to turn off that conveyer belt to your mouth. Now I can polish off those two huge glasses of OJ in about 2 minutes when I’m thirsty and the brain cant react fast enough to shut down the drinking at the proper time. Our bodies were not designed for high calorie beverages, cavemen didn’t have OJ and coke, they had to work hard to gather their meager calories.
The second reason that eating your calories is better than drinking them is fiber. Fiber is good because it physically jams up your stomach and makes you feel full without adding any calories. Most juices have no fiber at all. Even if you get the OJ with “lots of pulp” it has only a small fraction of what you would get by eating a fresh orange. Part of what tells your brain that you have had enough to eat is the amount of bulk in your stomach, juice has no bulk so it takes a lot more.
The worst part about drinking your calories is that most people don’t think about them or think they are important – they are hidden calories. Those two spoons of sugar and those two tablespoon of half and half in your coffee just cost your 70 calories. 70 calories doesn’t sound like much but if you eliminated the sugar and cream in those two cups of coffee, you could lose 15 pounds of fat in a year!
Step 4: Sleep!
OK, I know I said that losing weight and getting 6-pack abs was as easy as 1-2-3, but there is a fourth element as well. The fourth critically important thing for losing fat and getting 6-pack abs is getting enough sleep! If you are sleep deprived, you will burn off muscle instead of fat – nobody wants to do that! If you are sleep deprived you will lower your metabolic rate which means you wont be burning off as many calories. Sleep deprived people also are hungrier and eat more! The message is clear, if you are trying to lose bodyfat and get 6-pack abs you must get enough sleep. What is “enough” sleep? My definition is that you have slept enough when you awake naturally and feel rested. If an alarm clock wakes you up then you did not get enough sleep. [references coming].
Cravings are a very common problem when people try to lose bodyfat, almost everyone has them regardless of what nutritional plan they are using. Everyone has their own particular vice, mine is sugar. Lets talk about some methods you can use to effectively deal with cravings.
- Iron-will method. If you have the iron-will and devotion of a Monk, you can just repress your cravings. For the other 99.999% of this, this method will result in binging. We will be able to refrain from eating our favorite food a week or two then in one eating-orgy we will chow down so many calories that we will undo all of our progress to date. Not a recommended method.
- Temptation avoidance method. Do not allow any unhealthy food in your house or office. Swap chores with your spouse so that they do the shopping, don’t allow yourself into any store or restaurant where there might be a temptation. This technique only works slightly better than the above “Monk” technique. The problem is that eventually you will be faced with a situation where your favorite bad-food is available to you. A work party, a restaurant meal with out of town relatives, etc. At least with this method, you only need to exercise your iron-will for very short periods and not 24hrs a day. This method will probably fail for 90% of the population, again not the best technique
- Cheat meal method. This is the best option and can work for almost everyone. You have your good nutrition and stick to your plan most of the week but have regularly scheduledcheat meals – maybe one or two a week. Several important points here. First they are regularly scheduled, you cant have one whenever you want. Pre-decide which meals on which days are cheat meals so you can look forward to them. Its easier to hold binging off when you know that in 36 hours you have your cheat meal coming. These are not cheat days, they are cheat meals. They are not license to pig out, they are a chance to have the foods you crave. Have a double cheeseburger a shake and fries but don’t supersize it! The other key is to take your cheat meal even if you don’t feel you need it. If you skip it then a few hours later you might get those cravings and then everything goes to pot. Last point, its best if the cheat meal is not dinner. Make it earlier in the day if you can so that you have a chance to burn those calories off before you go to bed.
Getting 6-Pack Abs
By now you have noticed something odd, the title of this page is “Losing Weight and Building 6-Pack Abs” and yet I haven’t even mentioned any ab exercises yet. The reason is that 95% of getting 6-pack washboard abs is losing the bodyfat. Most people already have abs and if they reduced their bodyfat they would see washboard abs. Here are three great videos to watch about ab workouts:
Ab Workout Videos
Gain muscle and lose fat at the same time!
Yes! You can simultaneously gain muscle and lose fat, especially if you are beginning or intermediate bodybuilder – its tougher for advanced bodybuilders. Don’t believe those bulker/cutters who claim that you have to get fat to gain muscle, that’s a myth! To gain muscle at the same time as you are losing fat follow exactly the same nutritional advice as above – no difference. To add muscle, all you need to do is add a good resistance training program.
Overview Videos On How To Lose Fat
|Ripped Abs Fast! In this video I illustrate many useless and humorous “fat loss” products, don’t waste your money on these! You can’t buy abs, you have to earn them!|
|6-Pack Abs By July 4th! This video gives you a quick overview of what’s required to get 6-pack abs. In short, you need to do daily cardio and watch your nutrition carefully|
|Resolution:Lose weight and get in shape Are you completely new to fitness? You want to get in shape but don’t have much time and have no idea where to start? This video is for you!!!! I will show you how to achieve your resolution of losing weight and getting stronger with a simple 30 minute home workout.|
|6-Pack Abs Fast! Part 1: This video “6-pack abs fast” gives an introduction and some of the basics you need to know for losing fat and gaining muscle. There is no such thing as “6-pack abs fast”. You cant buy 6-pack abs from an infomercial or get them from a bottle.|
Ab Exercise Videos
|Crunches! The crunch is the premiere ab exercise, if you only do one exercise this is the one to do. Most people do it incorrectly, this video illustrates proper form|
|Killer Ab Workout! This is a complete advanced ab workout.|
|Side Crunches For Obliques, this variant of the crunches is good for the obliques|
|Bicycles for Obliques, I like these because it works abs and obliques at the same time.|
|Four most common ab mistakes, Learn what NOT to do when working toward ripped, washboard 6-pack abs.|
|Quick meals for students and other busy people In this video I show you how to eat 6 inexpensive, nutritious meals a day without cooking or shopping. This video is in response to the hundreds of people who have written me saying they knew their nutrition was horrible but felt powerless to improve it because of the schedule constraints of their work, school, or life.|
|6-Pack Abs Fast! Part 2: This video goes into depth on nutrition for muscle gain and weight loss. I show you 8 very healthy meals that you can make in 3 minutes or less .|
|Reading Nutritional Labels is critical if you are going to be successful, if you don’t know how to figure out if a particular food is good for you or not then please watch this video!|
|What Is Good Cardio? Is biking good cardio? How about running in place? How about martial arts? How about sex? This video explains how to tell what is good cardio and what is not.|
|Quinoa, easy quick meal. Easy meal with a high protein grain|
|Easy 2min healthy meal. Beans and salsa, the perfect meal!|