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In order to get defined abs, experts recommend a three-tiered approach. The first is to practice proper nutrition to eliminate the layer of fat that can conceal the rectus abdominis muscle. Next is to practice a regular, full-body strength-training regimen rather than simply perform crunches. Finally, experts recommend consistent cardiovascular exercise for the extra calorie-burning activity necessary to eliminating body fat.
Perhaps the most important step to achieving defined abs, eating a balanced diet is considered the quickest way to reduce abdominal-concealing body fat. Proper nutrition is key to maintaining a lean midsection because it is believed that certain kinds of calories — namely sugars found in simple carbohydrates and alcohol — are stored as fat in the body if they are not burned off through activity. Although any calories taken in excess can contribute to stored fat in the abdomen, avoiding excessive amounts of alcohol, sweets, and refined-flour products is the first step toward flattening one’s belly.
Instead, it is recommended to consume a diet rich in complex carbohydrates, as in whole grains, brown rice, and oatmeal, and plenty of vegetables and legumes like beans. Other recommended foods for getting defined abs include lean proteins like chicken, fish, eggs, and low-fat dairy, and unsaturated fats, the kind found in fish, olive oil, nuts, and avocados. This latter part is especially important: Studies show that consuming plenty of mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) may help prevent fat from accumulating in the abdomen.
The next step toward defining the abdominals is to engage in regular strength-training exercise; experts recommend lifting weights a minimum of two days per week. They also stress full-body training over isolated abdominal exercises alone. This is not only because a full-body strength workout burns plenty of calories, but also because having more overall muscle increases one’s metabolism and boosts the ability to burn body fat. In addition, including a variety of exercises for the abdominals — not just crunches, which primarily work the rectus abdominis or “six-pack” muscle — is recommended for getting defined abs. Yoga planks, reverse crunches, and core rotations are examples of exercises that work a variety of muscles in the abdomen.
Regular cardiovascular exercise is also stressed as a key component of fat burning, particularly for sedentary individuals. While cardio is primarily intended for exercise the heart and lungs, it is an important means of increasing one’s daily calorie output and therefore essential for burning extra body fat. It can also, however, be counterproductive if performed in excess, as this increases the risk of injury from overtraining as well as burns precious muscle, which is essential for maintaining an elevated metabolism. Experts suggest engaging in regular cardio sessions, ideally five days a week, lasting roughly 30 minutes as well as balancing these sessions with regular strength training for achieving lean and defined abs.