When you’re working to get great abs, it’s best to know where to go to get your best results. Let’s solve the debate of whether abs are made in the gym or in the kitchen.
Of the many physical attributes we seek through exercising, eating well, and living a healthy lifestyle, few are more coveted than a lean, tight midsection. Even if you don’t have an impending trip to a beach or pool planned, a tight midsection can change the entire shape of your physique, even with clothes on. And with fat stored around the abdomen being closely tied to the risk of developing numerous chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, a lean midsection is appealing for more than just aesthetic reasons. Even though visible abdominals are sought by so many, how to obtain them is far from agreed upon, and there seem to be two major camps in the discussion.
(1) You’ve got to train core 8 days a week to bring those abs in
(2) Visible abdominals are just a function of body fat levels, so your diet is all that matters
So . . . are abs really made in the gym, or in the kitchen?
The answer, of course, is to some degree: both. Without developing the muscles there will be little to see at any body-fat level, and without shedding the excess body fat, any amount of muscle will still be obscured underneath. But which is more important? In my opinion, nutrition far outweighs core training in its ability to slim your waistline. It can easily be demonstrated that at a caloric surplus, someone would have a nearly impossible time shedding enough body fat to get visible abdominals, and it can likewise be easily shown that with no training at all someone on a strict calorie deficit and eating nutritious, high-fiber foods would still be able to get quite lean. Plus, what and how much you eat are strong determinants of how much body fat you will store around your midsection, which is the opposite of what we want and also as mentioned is the most dangerous way to store fat for your long term health.
So as I see it, nutrition should absolutely be the focus if you are looking to maximize your lean waist potential while simultaneously improving your long term health. Eating a balanced diet rich in whole plant foods and low in fat and excess calories will get you a slim midsection over time. If you are consistent in your efforts and meticulous in maintaining a slight calorie deficit, you will certainly get lean. However, there are a few things exercise can do to benefit your quest for abs that nutrition simply can’t.
While nutrition holds the ultimate power of getting you lean and healthy, training will make getting lean faster and easier. It will improve how you look and will give you a strong, functional core in addition to an attractive one.
If your quest is to get leaner, adding some metabolically demanding exercise to your healthy diet and slight calorie deficit will make progress much faster and easier. Whereas a gradual decline in calories over time will slow your metabolic rate (making weight loss harder), adding metabolically stimulating activities such as strength training and high-intensity interval cardio will mitigate the effect and may actually increase your metabolism even while dieting. This means the body fat will come off faster and easier for longer. Sign me up!
Likewise, while you can get very lean with diet alone, how you look at a given body fat depends largely on how much muscle mass you have. Getting lean without any sort of training will make you thin, but getting lean while improving your muscle tone will transform the way you look because muscle is what gives your body its shape. So training your core intensely and consistently may not be zeroing in on the body fat you carry there, but it is giving you a much tighter and firmer midsection to reveal once your body fat levels become low enough!
Finally, training your core is vital for more than just aesthetic reasons, just like eating well is. By strengthening your core, you will improve your performance in any exercise or daily activity, and also great reduce your risk of injury, especially to the vulnerable lower back region. If you’ve ever suffered from back pain, then you don’t need me to tell you how important this is!
So, while I believe abs are in fact made in the kitchen rather than the gym, hopefully, I’ve illustrated why both nutrition and training are important if your goal is to look vital and attractive with a toned and tight core. Remember that no changes will come overnight, and anything worth achieving is going to take some consistent hard work, but if a strong, healthy attractive midsection is truly your goal, then now you know not to neglect your diet or training!
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