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May 4th, 2010

A Sports Nutritionist’s View: Sculpting Great Abs!!

Taking a look around the gym you’ll notice all shapes and sizes, young and old, short and tall, skinny, muscular and fat.   Most habitual exercisers are trying to improve one aspect of fitness.  Whether it be to increase strength, climb stairs without becoming winded, increase flexibility or fit into that wedding dress, the most successful exerciser has a goal.  It is a promise they made to themselves when they started.  If it is a sincere goal, it drives them to continue to exercise as well as other things that steadily move them in a direction closer and closer.  Even when they don’t feel like they have the energy to continue or the time to fit their workout in, their goal has a deadline and that drives a successful person to reach down inside and push themselves further than they thought they could go.

If you don’t have that kind of attitude in the gym (or in your life for that matter) it is going to be difficult to achieve goals, what ever they are.  We have to realize it takes more energy to go somewhere than to stand still.  It takes more effort to walk up stairs than to walk around the third floor.  Therefor, achieving this goal is going to take effort, more effort than your current exercise plan.  Have you noticed that the majority of people exercising in the gym have not really changed in the last year.  Their bodies are at the same point when they started or slightly better.  Why?  Either they have no goal to change or they don’t have the information to get there.  The information presented here will develop lean muscular abdomen in everyone.

You have to be committed to apply the information for it to work and you have to set a date to have this accomplished.  Without a timeline you’ve effectively entered a race with no finish line.  No thank you.  I want know when I’ve arrived.  The light at the end of the tunnel is what drives me through the tunnel.  The choice is yours.  Are you going to be one who uses good effective nutrition and exercise to improve the quality of your life or are you going to be part of the gym membership that pays their monthly dues and it doesn’t make a difference whether they show up or not.?

There Are Less Trim Waistlines Now Than In The Past!!

It is common knowledge obesity is a rising epidemic in the United States. In a world of advanced medical knowledge and technology, why is this?  The accepted and promoted modern lifestyle is bad for our health.  The style of eating and the activity generally accepted as healthy is not.  We need to rethink and reorganize the way we live from the time we get up in the morning t the time we fall asleep.

The Science Behind Great Abs.

What are the physiological changes that need to occur in order to have a lean muscular waistline?  The first is to lower the levels of fat over the top and around the abdominal wall.  This will make the muscle underneath more visible and trim inches off your waist.  The second step is to simultaneously grow defined, tight abdominal muscles underneath.   This will taper your waistline further, promote good posture and relieve lower back pain.  This is the general plan.  Now let’s work out the specifics

STEP1: Lowering Abdominal Fat.

Client after client have said no matter what ab exercise they try, they can’t reduce their waist.  Even my elite athletes who’s athletic performance is outstanding speak of immovable waistlines despite strong abdominal muscles.  The problem here is in most cases is that there ab muscles, developed or not, are hidden behind a thick curtain of subcutaneous fat.  Removing that fat will thin the skin and expose the muscle underneath.  This fat is easier to burn than visceral fat.  Visceral fat is deep fat that accumulates underneath the abdominal wall.  This is commonly referred to as a “beer belly.”  Intestinal fat as well as liver fat can stretch the trunk and abdominal muscles.  This can thin the abdominal wall increasing the chance of abdominal hernia.  It can also increase the pelvic tilt, causing back pain and low back strain.  Drinking alcohol is not the only cause of visceral fat accumulation.  Genetics also influence the rate and areas of the body you store fat.  Men are more likely to store around the waistline causing an apple shape, while women are more likely in the hips causing a pear shape.  Apple shapes have been shown to increase the chance of developing heart disease.  Therefor, it is not only a matter of looking good and feeling better.  Triming your waistline is now a matter of disease prevention and longevity.

No matter where you store your fat, the process of eliminating it is the same.  Removing fat from one specific area of the body is impossible except in the case of surgery and even that is not effective for the best results.  At conception the rate of storage and location of your fat stores is genetically determined.  This means your body has an image of how you are going to look at age ten, twenty, thirty and so on throughout your life.  Environmental factors such as lifestyle influence this picture either positively or negatively.  If you are genetically lean but, binge constantly on high fat, high sugar foods, eventually you will become fat.  If you are born on the fat side and have been overweight most of your life, through proper diet and exercise, you can lose a significant amount of body fat.  Fact of life no. 1: In most cases, it is very difficult but not impossible to appear genetically lean or even genetically fat if you are not born that way. Fact of life no. 2: You cannot spot reduce.  This means that in order to remove fat from your abdomen, your total body fat percentage must drop.

The Fat loss Plan:

The first step is to cause your body to use your stored body fat as a fuel source.  The only way to lower body fat is to burn it.  It cannot be released through sweat.  It cannot be urinated out or excreted.  Forget the fallacies marketed to you.  Burning body fat as a fuel source is the only way.  The first step in causing your body to look inside itself for a fuel source is to eat slightly less than what you burn.  This means using more calories than you eat over the course of the day.  Your body is a perpetual furnace.  It must constantly burn calories to sustain life.  If you stop burning calories for an instant, you stop life.  If you eat less than you need, your body is resourceful enough to look inside itself to make up the difference.  It will sustain life this way in the case of lack of available food.  It is our goal to cause your body to choose fat tissue to make up the calorie difference.  This means limiting the size of the meals you eat in order to prevent a “calorie overflow” and subsequent fat storage.  Limiting meal size could also limit the amount of nutrients you consume.   If you are malnourished for a couple of meals, your body will be more likely to use nutrient rich, lean tissue to make up the difference and satisfy its need for nutrients for metabolic processes.  This is why starvation diets do not work.  Loss in lean tissue decreases fat burning capability in the body because, lean tissue is where fat is burned.  Therefor, frequent, small, well balanced meals are key principles in “Great Ab Nutrition.”  It is difficult to obtain all your nutrient needs at a calorie deficit.  This is why people utilize the talents of a sports nutritionist.  We need to “nutrify” the lower calorie menus your eating.  It is impossible to do this without supplementation, specifically sports supplements that balance nutrient intake as if you were consuming  enough calories without a deficit

Cardio for Fat Loss

The second step to burning abdominal fat is specific cardiovascular exercise to improve your bodies ability to burn fat and to put your body in a state where it is primarily using a significant amount of fat for fuel.  Without proper nutrition at a negative energy balance (calorie deficit).  You will not lose body fat no matter how good your body is at burning fat.  This is because you will be burning dietary fat rather than adipose tissue.  For this reason, it is of primary importance first set your body in a nutrient rich energy deficit.

The first type of cardiovascular training is interval training.  This is hill type exercise where your heart rate continues to rise and recover, rise and recover.  This improves cardiovascular fitness levels, making your heart and lungs more efficient at burning fat.  A fit athlete can burn more calories at a steady pace, jogging longer and faster than an untrained individual.  The second type of cardio is sustained steady pace cardio.  This type of cardiovascular exercise uses fat as its primary fuel source.  As long as you can maintain a steady heart rate, you will be burning a significant number of calories, the majority coming from fat.

STEP 2: Increasing Abdominal Tone and Shape

There are four different sets of muscles that make up the abdominal wall.  They are, from deepest to most superficial, the internal obliques, the external obliques, the rectus abdominus and the transverse abdominus.  Each muscle group must be trained progressively in order to “sculpt” or hypertrophy the muscle.  This means that all movements of the trunk should be executed under resistance and then slowly returned to the starting position.  The most basic trunk movement is flexion commonly known as a crunch.  The key to this exercise is to recognize proper muscle contraction and then do it at an optimal pace.

Proper flexion of the trunk occurs when the bottom of the front of the rib cage moves closer to the top of the front of the hip bones.  You are not contracting the “six pack muscles” if this does not occur.  This should be executed at a slow two count pace each direction.  This will ensure no momentum influences the force of the movement.  Don’t be like the guy in the gym that looks like he is having a seizure every time he does his crunches.  The last concern in toning and sculpting abdominal muscle is to vary the resistance of the exercise.  Just doing crunches for hundreds of repetitions will not effectively define your waistline.  Challenge your abs to do various sets at different resistance.  This maximizes muscle fiber involvement and ensures that you are training the whole muscle effectively.  This means that some of those ab machines are an effective part of ab development.  They just definitely aren’t the only part.

To sum up the best way to develop a sexy, strong trunk, you need to combine proper nutrition at an energy deficit with proper cardiovascular and strength training that challenges your strength and endurance as you develop.  Good luck and I hope to see those abs this summer.  If your willing to show them off, you’ve probably done well (unless your proud of your fat)!  Be healthy and be lean.

Jeff Kotterman is the recommended Sports Nutritionist for several fitness based businesses, nationwide.  He  is an experienced instructor whose research has benefited the health of over 2,000 clients.   If you have questions or would like a program developed specifically for you call (858) 694-0317, e-mail:  jeff@TriSystem.com or at www.TriSystem.com.

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