If you’re looking to carve out a six pack in time for summer, you’re likely devoting a good amount of time to the gym. You’re doing ten different types of crunches, lifting heavy using compound exercises, and getting your cardio in – without fail.
You’ve got it all covered, right?
Not so fast. Don’t overlook the importance of your diet. When it comes to getting six pack abs, diet is really the biggest piece of the puzzle. If you aren’t eating right, you’ll be hard pressed to shed the excess fat from around your waist, leaving you with results you’re less than proud to show off at the beach.
Here, the five most common diet blunders made by those on the hunt for a six pack and what you can do to avoid them.
Diet Blunder: Cutting All Carbs
Think a very low carb diet is the fastest route to ripped abs? It’s time to rethink that game plan. While cutting carbs is likely necessary, if you go too far, your metabolic rate will tank and you’ll hit a serious plateau.
Time your carbs and choose wise sources. Sure, if you eat cookies, cake, and crackers all day long, abs will not be in your future. But if you focus on wholesome, unprocessed varieties that contain as little sugar as possible, timed around your workouts, you’ll be revving your metabolism. You’ll also provide much-needed energy to fuel your workouts and staying psychologically more satisfied as well.
Another approach to consider is carb cycling, which is an excellent way to avoid the metabolic decline that traditionally takes place when carbs are cut back too low for too long. Either way, keeping some carb content in your weekly meal plan is beneficial in the long run.
Diet Blunder: Neglecting Post Workout Nutrition
You’ve just finished a hard workout in the gym and can practically feel the fat melting off your body. Think you should skip eating for a while to promote further fat loss? Definitely not!
Eating post workout will not only help boost your metabolic rate, but it will also help you recover faster so you can hit the gym again sooner. Combining lean protein with a quality source of carbohydrates is your best bet here. Remember, food eaten at this point in your day has the lowest chances of converting to body fat as your muscles are hungry for nutrients.
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Instead, you’ll use that energy to rebuild and repair the muscle tissue that was just taxed during your workout. This is the one point in the day where you really want to fuel up.
Diet Blunder: Only Tracking Calories
The If It Fits Your Macros approach (IIFYM) is all the rage right now as people think as long as they track calories and macros they can see great success. This may work for general weight loss, but when it comes down to losing those final few pounds and really getting your abs to pop, food choices matter.
Focus on wholesome, unprocessed foods to see superior results. At this point, if you take in too much sodium with too little water, processed foods containing wheat, or too much dairy, you may notice water retention and bloating that will make it harder to see your abs.
A ‘clean’ diet—foods in their most natural state—will be most beneficial for your goal. Right now, this will make a big difference. As an added benefit, it’ll also help boost your overall health.
Diet Blunder: Not Utilizing Refeed Days
Refeeds are one of the most underrated strategies as far as fat loss dieting goes. Whenever you put yourself on a reduced calorie intake, you’re going to get some slowing of the metabolism. A refeed can help you offset this effect, speeding up your metabolism again to help you reach your optimal results. Research published in the Molecular Metabolism journal noted that short-term overfeeding of carbohydrates dramatically increased fibroblast growth factor 21, which is important in metabolism regulation.
Failing to use this strategy may result in a slowing of fat loss over time until it comes to a complete halt and frustration sets in.
As you get leaner, you’ll need to be doing refeeds more often. At the beginning of your plan, one every 3-4 weeks is likely sufficient, but as you get down to the final 10 pounds and have quite a low level of body fat, you may need to bump it up to once per week or every two weeks, depending on progress.
For your refeed, you should double your carbohydrate intake. This will mean your calories increase, however, this is part of the process. You can lower your fat intake slightly on your refeed day to help balance out the additional calories. You’ll still want to eat some fat, but keeping it around 0.2-0.25 grams per pound of bodyweight should be sufficient for one day. This can help prevent any unwanted weight gain.
Diet Blunder: Lacking Patience
You must remember, Rome wasn’t created in a day. The same thing goes for your physique. Patience is important. You’ll need to stick with your plan for weeks—if not months—to see results. With more time dedicated to training intensely, you’ll also see your abs change and results may come a little easier, but it takes patience and dedication to get there.
If you’re looking for a quick-fix, or are expecting to see results after a week of dieting, reconsider your approach.
Give yourself a realistic deadline. Account for a weight loss rate of around 1-2 pounds per week, allowing a few extra weeks as you get down to your goal as fat loss will slow as you get closer.
For example, if you need to lose around 10 pounds of body fat to get lean enough to see your abs, consider a 12-week program or so. This is probably about how long it will take you. By setting proper expectations off the start, you’ll avoid falling into the trap of becoming frustrated if you don’t immediately see results.
Also, allowing yourself enough time to make progress in a healthy way will yield more maintainable results.
Keep these common diet blunders in mind as you work towards uncovering your abs this season. Are you currently committing any of these errors that could be holding you back from making progress? If so, take our tips to turn things around and get yourself back on track.
Lundsgaard, A. M., Fritzen, A. M., Sjoberg, K. A., Myrmel, L. S., Madsen, L., Wojtaszewski, J. F. P., … Kiens, B. (2017). Circulating FGF21 in humans is potently induced by short term overfeeding of carbohydrates. Molecular Metabolism, 6(1), 22-29.