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It’s not just a cliche saying when you hear that “abs are made in the kitchen.” What you eat and drink makes a huge difference in whether your six-pack is showing or not. That’s why a focused meal plan for abs can help you finally get that washboard look you’ve been striving for.
Although there a plenty of factors that go into getting the physique you want (like activity level, stress levels, and genetics), there are some key things you can do while meal planning to help you maximize your ab game.
Why Nutrition Matters for Your Abs
Getting great abs means you need to focus on overall lean body mass – working on just one part of your body (AKA, spot reducing) doesn’t yield results, because it’s not a thing that you can actually do. You could do all the crunches and ab workouts in the world, but if those muscles are hidden under a layer of fat, they’re not going to show.
Everyone carries their fat a bit differently, but there are certain threshold levels that you would need to reach to get abs to show. For men, this is typically 12 percent body fat or less, and for women it’s 22 percent body fat or less.
Seattle-based registered dietitian Ginger Hultin, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and Owner of ChampagneNutrition, agrees that diet is key to having visible abs. “Many people have developed abdominal muscles but their body fat is too high to be able to see the definition. There is evidence that diet plays a role in fat around the waist, or belly fat, which could hide your ab muscles, so focusing on what you eat makes sense if this is important.”
The Best Foods to Eat For Abs
There’s no one magic food that helps with weight and fat loss, but there are ways to eat and build your meals that will help put you on the right track to not just great abs but great health. For starters, meal planning can help you stay on track with consistently eating healthier.
When you’re building your meal plan, focus on incorporating these foods into your meals.
- Veggies: They’re low in calories, high in fiber, and filled with nutrients your body craves. Aim for 1-2 cups of vegetables in every meal. If you do this one thing, you are much more likely to get leaner, faster. (Just keep in mind that gassy cruciferous veggies like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale may cause you to bloat. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat them, since they have so many great nutrients, but you may want to avoid them before putting on a bathing suit or tight dress.)
- High-quality protein: Protein has been shown to help keep you fuller longerand requires the most energy to digest thus lending a slight boost to your metabolism. Look for lean proteins, like chicken, eggs, turkey, and fish. And there are plenty of great plant proteins, too! Add some organic tofu, edamame, or chickpeas into your next meal prep for an animal-free protein source.
- Whole grains: Instead of choosing refined, white grains, opt for whole grains. They’re packed with more vitamins and minerals, and also fiber, which helps to fill you up and regulate healthy blood sugar levels.
Foods to Avoid
Minimize foods that quickly raise your blood sugar levels and can lead to fat deposits around the midline, if eaten in excess. These include processed items, such as:
- white bread
- sugary drinks like soda or juice
You don’t have to completely cut these foods out of your diet forever, but limiting them to once or twice a week can help you get to your goals faster, in a healthier way.
Recipes for Your Meal Plan for Abs
Ready to get cooking? Check out our list of healthy recipes that can help you eat your way to poppin’ abs. Here are some specific recipes to get you started:
- breakfast recipes
- lunch recipes
- dinner recipes
- meal prep snack ideas
If you want a bit more guidance, follow our pre-planned weekly meal preps. They include 5 days of meals that you can easily prep at once, and then enjoy all week long:
- vegan meal prep
- paleo meal prep
- Xtend Barre meal prep
- T-Minus 30 meal prep
- Rough Around the Edges meal prep
Other tips for great abs
Along with good nutrition, exercise is another key piece of the puzzle to getting great abs.
Hultin, who is also a certified personal trainer, states that “in order to develop visible abdominal muscles, you need to incorporate strength training for this muscle group into your routine.”
And that means more than just crunches. You want to work all the muscles of your core, including your rectus abominis (your “six-pack” muscles), transverse abdominis (your deep-lying core muscles) and your obliques (on the sides of your torso). You can accomplish this by incorporating a variety of exercises that work your core from all angles into your weekly workouts.
Getting great abs takes work but if you incorporate the tips above you will be well on your way.