Fit Focus: Revealing those Abs

For those of you who came to read the Fit Focus post yesterday, I’m sorry. I wasn’t able to post due to a busy schedule and some internet problems. So here is your Friday Fit Focus post on a Saturday, hope you enjoy it!!

Recently a friend asked me, “how do I get rid of this tummy fat?”

Source: Fit Sugar

Now, I’m not a personal trainer or educated fitness expert, but I decided I would do a post on what I know, and what has worked for me. Everyone is different, everyone’s body responds differently to certain types of training and diet tweaks. However, I hope something that you read here helps you, or at least inspires you to learn more about your body, and how you can feel better, have more energy, and live a fuller, healthier life. Okay…now on to abs.

I hope you don’t think I’m insane…but I would have to say that my abdominals are one of my favorite muscle groups to train. Yes, I know…cray cray over here. ūüôā When my core is strong, and my tummy feels flat and tight, I just feel good. I feel fit. And heck, I feel confident even if I’m wearing a baggy t-shirt, and capris that I bought a size too big at Savers. (Which is pretty much what I wear on the daily basis here.) When I go back to the U.S. anyone volunteering to help style me? Maybe I’ll just wear workout wear everyday…

workout wear

Nike yoga pants and sweatshirt, the evening outfit of choice.

Do you ever feel like you are exhausting yourself, crunching your life away, and the muffin top and love handles are still there? You are putting in the time, doing the training, so why no results? Because it is about so much more than just training.

There are many factors to obtaining and sculpting a tight, toned mid-section. In fact, having flat, tight, and toned abs has much more to do with the absence of abdominal fat, than it does with well sculpted stomach muscles. That pouch that stores the extra cookies, yep, your abs live behind that. ¬†Ever heard the saying “Abs are made in the Kitchen?” It’s true. And that kitchen doesn’t have a cookie jar.

So…what does it take?

1.) Cleaning up what we EAT
Evaluate what you are putting into your body each day. Food is fuel for our workouts, and fuels our daily energy level to take care of our children and families, to do our jobs, and it is what either makes us feel healthy, or sluggish.
Focus on eating healthy sources of protein
Protein helps your body recover and build lean muscle, which is a non negotiable when it comes to sculpting your abdominals. It is recommended that a person needs anywhere from 1g-2g of protein per kg of body weight per day. So, a person weighing 60kg would need between 60 -120g of protein per day. Personally, I aim to eat around 70-90g of protein per day.

 Source 

~Fish, chicken, seafood, eggs, quinoa, beans, edamame, lean red meat, and greek yogurt are all great, healthy protein sources. Another protein option is protein powder. Make sure you look for one with no added sugars, and ingredients you don’t know what they are. Do your research.
I recommend Sunwarrior, Energyfirst, and TrueNutrition proteins.

– Focus on eating healthy fats
We’ve been taught that fat is bad. Which can be true. Too much fat in our diet can be problematic, especially if it’s the wrong kind of fat. However, for optimal health, and to develop sculpted abs we need to be eating “good” fats.
~ Avocado, nuts, almond butter, tahini, olive oil, all contain monounsaturated fat which should be part of our regular diet. Also, a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats should be eaten. Try hemp, it is a perfect balance of these fats. Hemp seeds are a delicious topping for yogurt, or salads, and taste yummy added to a smoothie.

Focus on eating “quality” carbs
Carbs are not bad. Like fats, you need to be choosing the right carbs to put into your body. Give high sugar foods and desserts, processed foods, refined carbs like white bread, white rice, and sugary drinks the boot! Focus on eating more fruits and vegetables, and high fiber foods. Also, focus on your portion sizes. People tend to overload their plates with refined carbohydrate rich foods that are low in fiber, and you end up eating more because they don’t help you feel full or satisfied. They are empty calories with little to no nutritional value.

When I feel my mid-section getting a little “squishier” than I would like I cut out all sugar, and try to eat my whole grain carbs like brown rice, millet, whole wheat bread, and oatmeal at breakfast or right after I workout. I try to keep my evening meal to proteins and fiberous veggies.
This works for me, but everyone is different. Try keeping a food journal of when you ate certain foods and how your body responded. This is the way you learn what works best for you.

Focus on drinking more water
Water helps to flush toxins from our body. Whenever my system feels off, I chug like nobody’s business, and I feel SO MUCH BETTER. Enough said.
I aim to drink 80-100 oz. of water per day.

Focus on eating smaller meals more frequently
This strategy works for many people. Eating around 5-6 smaller meals per day versus 3 larger ones. ¬†Personally I don’t practice it day in and day out because my life is too “unscheduled” to keep up with it. Some days I do, and some days I don’t. It just depends.
For me eating a healthy snack, between meals helps me keep my other meals light and I feel satisfied throughout the day.

2.) Lift heavy weights
 Doing heavy weight bearing exercises a few times a week in conjunction with a clean diet and cardio will help us to not only build lean muscle, but to burn fat at the same time.

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This is what The Metabolic Effect has to say about pumping heavy iron:

“Lifting heavy weights to the point of muscle failure, in general, enhances the release of testosterone, which when increased naturally through weight training will increase fat-burning in women (one of the reasons men are leaner than women).¬† Lifting heavy enough to generate a strong burning in the muscles enhances the release of human growth hormone, which also aids in fat burning and has anti-aging benefits.

Finally, adding lean muscle mass will enhance your fat burning potential while you are not working out.¬† A pound of muscle burns 15-30 calories per day at rest, while a pound of fat burns 2-5 calories; it‚Äôs a no-brainer of which composition is more desirable.¬† More muscle makes us more metabolically active. Furthermore, a pound of fat takes up more physical space than a pound of muscle.¬† So, burning fat and increasing lean muscle will NOT create bulk, but instead strip inches creating a lean, tight, defined physique, not to mention your clothes hanging off you.”

Fantastic site by the way, lots of great articles and fitness advice for women. Check it out.

3.) Vary the intensity of our cardio routine
When we spend day after day on the elliptical or treadmill just chugging along reading the latest health mag or watching our favorite sitcom on television we are doing nothing for our ability to burn fat while maintaining muscle. Our body will soon get comfortable with our ho hum cardio routine and settle in for the long winter…which is why we plateau with our weight loss goals and muscle toning goals.
While a day or two per week of low intensity cardio exercise is good, (working at bout 70% of your maximum heart rate) varying our cardio workouts to incorporate higher intensity intervals for shorter amounts of time is essential to fat burning and muscle maintenance.
Plus, we get more bang for our buck with quick and intense cardio workouts. We burn more calories in less time by making ourselves work harder (85-90% of our maximum heart rate) for an interval with a recovery interval immediately after.

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High intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts are some of my favorite, and they don’t have to subsist solely of cardio exercises. Check out my 31 Tabata workout for a mix of cardio+weights in a higher intensity interval form.

Also you can make your treadmill session or outdoor run into a HIIT workout. Try warming up at a steady pace for about 5-8 minutes, then run fast for 30sec, recover running steady for 1 minute, run fast/30sec., recover steady/1min.
Repeat for 20 minutes, then cool down at a steady pace or brisk walk for 5 minutes. Your heart rate will go sky high during this workout, and you will burn tons of fat, and set your metabolism to burn calories like crazy for hours after your workout is done!
Here is another great workout for varying your intensity during cardio.

If you are committed to sculpting a tight, toned tummy, focus on these things. Put them into practice and I know (from experience) if you are faithful you will see results. It takes dedication, motivation, and will-power, but I know personally that when I am eating clean, lifting weights, and pushing myself in my cardio routine consistently, I feel tight, toned, healthy, and full of life. My mind even feels clearer, and I’m able to focus better in all areas of my daily routine…including learning my third language, which is like my full time job right now.

I know this post is wordy, and has a lot of tough stuff in it, but I hope it has also motivated you to get out there and push yourself towards overall better health.

As always, contact me if you have any questions, I love hearing from you, and have an awesome weekend!

~ Liesl

2 thoughts on “Fit Focus: Revealing those Abs

  1. Awesome! I really enjoyed this post. I didn’t know how much lean protein I should be having. I plan on trying HIIT training. Have been doing weight training every day for the last week. The scale is already moving and I am feeling GOOD ūüôā

    • I lean more towards around 1.5g per kg of my body weight. But protein is one thing that I try to keep in check as it is very important for building lean muscle and muscle recovery.

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