We’ve all heard it…..
“Abs are made in the kitchen.”
“It’s 20% training and 80% diet.”
“You can’t out-train a bad diet.”
There’s tons of generic fitness clichés that love to remind us that food is more important than working out when it comes to seeing our abdominal muscles.
But is this really true?
You may not like my answer, but I’m going to say yes. Yes, it is. But working out is important too.
Unlike biceps, abs are in an area that often carry more body fat – abdominal fat to be specific. That means that you need to be very lean in order to see them.
That doesn’t mean if you can’t see abs you don’t have a strong core or even well-defined muscles, it’s just that abdominal fat is a trickier fat to lose. For most of us it very well may be the last place you lose it on your body.
Check out this infographic, and what it really takes to be very lean and see abdominal muscles.
In order to be in a body fat percentage range that you’ll probably see abs, and still remain healthy, men will be between 6-9% and women between 16-19%.
This will require eating mostly whole foods, exercising daily and getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night.
So abs aren’t only made in the kitchen, they’re also made while you’re sleeping. This could actually be where a lot of fitness enthusiasts fall short.
To be at this low of a body fat percentage you’ll have to make quite a few sacrifices as well.
It may take manipulating macros and cutting out carbs at times, you’ll rarely have processed foods or desserts, and only have an alcoholic drink once every 1-2 weeks. Not easy right?
Back to the trickiness of belly fat…
This fat is often times more dangerous than your general subcutaneous (beneath the skin) fat; the combination of subcutaneous fat and visceral fat can lead to higher chances of health conditions and disease as it places more stress on vital organs.
We do require some visceral fat, otherwise our organs would be unprotected and get all mashed together inside of us. But like everything, we don’t want too much.
Fun Fact: Sumo Wrestlers have an excessive amount of body fat (subcutaneous) and very little visceral fat. So overall, they’re very healthy individuals.
So if getting rid of our visceral fat doesn’t reveal our six packs, why should we even bother?
I’m glad you asked.
The visceral fat around your organs can cause more health problems than the stingy fat hanging out around your hips or under your arms.
Visceral fat is linked to insulin resistance, heart problems, high blood sugar and fat levels, sleep apnea, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Visceral fat isn’t something we can see or even feel, so how do we go about changing it? And more than that, how would we know that what we’re doing is working?
There was a study done [you can read more about it in detail here] that showed that women who dieted and were consistent with weight training for 16 weeks lost more fat around their liver, which is visceral fat.
Their weight training routine wasn’t crazy either – only twice a week, but they still saw solid results.
Weight training is vital in losing the visceral fat and becoming healthier. In order to see abs, though, you’ll have to be at a body fat percentage that is low enough which often comes from a tight eating routine.
That’s not to say that exercise isn’t important as it takes an attack from all angles. Abdominal-specific exercises may not really be that important or the best bang for your buck. Check out this article where my buddy Josh has killer abs (yes, he is shirtless in that link) but never does “ab” exercises.
To go back to our main question – are abs really made in the kitchen?
Yes, they are… plus the gym. It takes a consistent combination of strength training and eating clean to get to a low enough body fat percentage to see your six pack.
What role does cardio play in this whole equation? Well that’s a topic for a different day but let’s just say that burning more calories isn’t going to hurt…so we can throw it in there somewhere as well.
Want to get started on your six pack journey but now sure how?
Click here to schedule a strategy session with one of G+O Fitness Coaches or to schedule a one-on-one nutrition coaching schedule here.