You’ve heard the line “Abs are made in the kitchen.” But what does that mean? “You can’t exercise away the effects of a poor diet, particularly for an area that hangs on to fat and gets bloated,” says Kasey Brixius, RDN, a nutritionist at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona. Read on for tips on how to keep belly fat at bay and make your abs stand out.
Stave Off Fat
Blood sugar and hormone imbalances can play a role in the concentration of fat in the belly area, says Brixius. This advice can help you control both.
Stay Balanced: Make sure meals have three blood sugar–stabilizing macronutrients: a lean protein, a quality carb, and a healthy fat.
Eat Regularly: Blood sugar tends to dip every four to five hours, says Brixius. “So don’t go more than four hours without a meal or snack.”
Manage Stress: Studies have shown a correlation between high levels of the stress hormone cortisol and abdominal fat.
Gas and puffiness can also conceal a toned tummy. Here’s how to keep belly swell to a minimum.
Eat Mindfully: ”The body can’t efficiently release digestive enzymes to properly break down food when you eat distracted, stressed, or on the go, compared with when you’re eating in a more relaxed state,” says Brixius.
Fill Up On Fiber: Eating fiber-rich foods, like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, can stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut that may help tame bloat.
Get More Potassium: Eat more foods containing the mineral—such as bananas, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, beans, and lentils—to help balance out any bloat-causing sodium in your diet; potassium helps counter fluid retention.
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Feed Your Muscles
The last component of chiseled abs is building up the core enough to display some definition. Eat like this (and get those planks in, of course) to help them show through.
Pick Protein: Have a snack with 20 to 25 grams of protein within 30 minutes of working out to help kick start muscle recovery and growth.
Zero In On Leucine: Eat protein foods that are high in leucine, “an amino acid that helps synthesize protein and stimulate muscle growth,” says Brixius. Good sources of leucine include dairy, lean meats, seafood, soy, and nuts.
Hydrate Hard Core: Aim to drink at least two liters of water a day, three or more if you’re working up a sweat. Dehydration can compromise your workout performance.