Turns out abs really are built in the kitchen. While most of us focus on the fitness side of body transformations by hiring a personal trainer, learning more ab exercises to work our core muscles (like the endless leg raises, mountain climbers, and planks), and hitting the gym more days a week, we’re likely putting our efforts in the wrong place. Achieving six-pack abs has more to do with your diet than anything else.
Take it from these fitness pros who make a living on their shredded, toned physique. We asked ten athletes what helped take their body to the next level and every single one of them credited good nutrition.
Here are their top tips to backed by science and social proof, to help you finally get abs.
1. Learn How to Get Lean
The best thing you can do to reveal your abs is to learn how to lower your body fat percentage. And the easiest way to go about this? Get your heart rate up by moving more and eat fewer calories than you burn to help you lose weight.
“We all have a “six-pack”! Yes, you read correctly. Everyone has abs underneath their belly fat! Strength training the abdomen muscles will surely help in building muscles & sharpening them, but the key to having them be visible and having “abs” is lowering overall body fat through proper diet (caloric intake) while exercising (caloric expenditure)." - Arash Rahbar
"If you workout all day long but you don’t practice portion control or eat the right foods you will never “be in shape” or lose the body fat needed to have abs!” - Arash Rahbar
"Developing that rock hard six-pack is a major fitness goal for many and requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and patience. Regularly incorporating cardio to lower body fat, properly training my abdominal muscles, and maintaining a healthy diet helps maximize my results in getting those chiseled abs." - Latorya Watts
Check out these 10 tips to get shredded through diet and exercise.
2. Eat to Train, Don’t Train to Eat
So many of us go into a new diet focused on eating for results when what we should really be focused on is eating to fuel our bodies.
Once you start learning what your body needs to thrive and feeding it accordingly, everything starts to fall into place. Healthy eating becomes easier and more enjoyable and your body responds with desirable side effects - aka results.
“I was a collegiate swimmer and at the time I knew very little about how to fuel my body properly and what/when I should be eating to optimize my performance and recovery. When it comes to abs it's so much about what you're putting into your body. Not to say that what you do in the gym doesn't help but the choices made throughout the day with food, water, and sleep are huge factors.” - Colleen Fotsch
“Having the proper nutrients is vital because consuming the correct number of calories and macronutrients based on our goals is what helps us lose those extra few pounds of body fat that cover up those hard to see abdominal muscles.” - Kai Greene
Calculate your daily nutrition needs using the free online macro calculator.
3. Eat Less Processed Foods
The perfect weight loss diet can look different for each of us, but we do know that nutrient-dense, whole foods tend to be some of the best options to reach for no matter what fitness goal you’re working towards.
“I noticed becoming leaner when I started eating cleaner and eating more "real food" throughout the day, avoiding too many foods that are processed. I also started to be more aware of when I was eating and trying to have my last meal or snack two hours before going to bed to give my body adequate time to digest my food. So for me when it comes to abs it's about consistency and eating clean!” - Colleen Fotsch
“I achieved getting lean by eating the right foods - clean, lean, and organic foods!”- Jon De La Rosa
4. Forget Willpower, Build Discipline
Willpower is fleeting, but well-built routines and systems can help you stick to your goals even when motivation is gone. Also known as “healthy habits”, routines are the building blocks for real change. And the more seamlessly you can make these changes fit into your lifestyle, the easier they are to maintain.
“The number one thing that really transformed my diet was staying disciplined. As far as achieving abs it’s the combination of staying on a routine week to week. The longer I remained disciplined the better my results were.” - Steven Cao
Learn how to be more discipline by setting SMART goals and creating a solid plan you can stick to.
5. Focus on Your Full Body
If you’re lifting weights or working out to target individual muscle groups, you’re going about it all wrong. It takes more than crunches to get abs, you’ve got to work on your full-body, from the inside out.
“We see so many people make the mistake of going to the gym to only focus on cardio and ab workouts. I’ll be the first to tell you, this is not how you get abs! To develop a strong core we have to be dedicated to training and sculpting our WHOLE body and properly fueling it with the right nutrients.” - Kai Greene
6. Give Yourself Time
No matter what the internet has promised you, you can’t get the body of your dreams by following a 30-day crash diet or continuing on with old habits that got you where you are today.
“A nice set of abs won’t show up overnight. A lean, strong set of abs comes from weeks, months, and sometimes even years of proper training, nutrition, and lifestyle principles that we have to incorporate as a part of our philosophy.” - Kai Greene
Be patient. Change won’t happen overnight, but with enough time and consistency, you’ll see results that stick around.
7. Be Consistent, Not Perfect
Consistency is everything! You can change a little here or there, but if you aren’t repeating these behaviors on a regular basis, you aren’t being consistent, and your results won’t be consistent either.
“For me, the number one thing for transforming my body was consistency.” - Finn Balor
You don’t have to stick to your goals 100% of the time. Forget the all or nothing mentality and aim to get it right most of the time by emphasizing consistency.
“The key to reaching any fitness goal is consistency. If you don‘t workout and eat healthy every day, then you‘ll never know how fit and athletic you really could be. For me, the 80/20 works best. What that means is that I understand that some days might be off days, but I never let a bad day shape the outcome of my goals, I keep showing up with NO EXCUSES!!” - Wioletta Pawluk
8. Get Into the Right Mindset
“Nutrition will always be the main key factor to really creating those ab muscles you desire. And that starts first with mindset.” - Melissa Gonzales
Mindset is crucial to helping you focus on the right things and keeping you going for the long haul. Step one is believing in yourself, then learning how to be kind to yourself along the way.
“The #1 thing that transformed my body was deciding it was going to happen. We walk around with so many "false assumed truths" - beliefs that we can’t have something happen. Like we are too old, too late, our genetics, we had kids so our bodies won't, etc. Once we decide that those are false and decide results are happening, we lift that glass ceiling and take different actions.” - Natalie Jill
9. Keep it Simple
Achieving your fitness goals takes lifestyle changes. And the more difficult you make your goals, the harder they are to stick to long term. Keep it simple and set yourself up for a series of wins with small goals that fit into your lifestyle.
“We‘re all busy, but the key is to drop the things that don‘t work for you. Make a note to yourself that minimalism is your friend. When you start to cut out the things that don’t better the outcome of your goals you’ll notice an immediate change in alignment towards bettering the outcome of your goal.” - Wioletta Pawluk
“It's about finding a plan that is sustainable and fits well into your lifestyle and not one that takes over your life.” - Colleen Fotsch
Get more out of your workouts and see results faster by dialing in your nutrition. Download this free meal prep toolkit for fat loss and get a step by step guide on how to plan meals, hit your calorie and macro goals, and get shredded.