There’s a lot more to losing fat and building muscle than just working out. In fact, you may have had trouble developing your abs in the past, not because you were doing the wrong kinds of exercises, but because you were not able to combine them with the other elements of a workable fat-burning plan. You might even have fantastic abs already, but if they are covered by a layer of fat, who’s going to see them? Once you know a few secrets to blast fat from your mid-section, you’ll be much better equipped to develop a stomach that you’ll be proud of and others will envy.
The Basic Fat Facts
Not all fat is bad for you. The health industry has made fat out to be this big bad guy that destroys our health but the truth is nowhere near this simple. A man who is in ‘good’ shape has about 14 to 17 percent body fat. The body fat percentage typical for an average man is between 18 and 25 percent.
These numbers are a little different for women because they naturally require more body fat to carry out certain bodily functions. An athletic woman will have between 21 and 24 percent body fat, while an average woman will be in the 25 to 31 percent range. That’s right, no matter how healthy you think you are, you’re body is loaded with fat – and it’d better stay that way because as soon as you start to lose it, you get dangerously close to starvation.
Body fat percentage is good information to have. It can tell you a lot about your fitness level and overall health, but it is a difficult measurement to come up with on your own. Your doctor can help you find out what your body fat percentage is and they may be willing to recheck it from time to time. The main thing to keep in mind, though, is that fat is normal and not necessarily a bad thing. You just want to make sure you don’t have too much and that the fat you do have comes from the right sources.
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Lean Body Mass and Metabolic Inferno (Metabolic Rate)
You may have heard a lot of talk about lean body mass and metabolic rate, but what does this all mean? This talk of calories and metabolism will make more sense if you understand a little more about the forces you’re actually dealing with. Your resting metabolic rate (which I’ve been calling your metabolic inferno, because that’s what it will be once you’re done with this course), also sometimes referred to as your basal metabolic rate, is the speed at which your body burns through calories when you are doing nothing at all.
The higher your resting metabolic rate, or RMR, the more calories you are burning on a regular basis, and so the easier it’ll be for you to lose weight. The easiest way to influence your basal metabolic rate (metabolic inferno) is to add lean body mass, also known as our good friend muscle. Muscle takes more calories to maintain than fat does, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn regardless of what activities you’re engaged in. In fact, for every pound of muscle, you’ll burn 50 calories a day without any effort!
This is convenient because its muscles you were after to begin with. It can also be a double-edged sword though. The fact that muscles need more calories to sustain themselves is also why your body will dump muscle first when it goes into starvation mode. When you understand how all of these factors influence each other, it’s easier to see why some diet and exercise plans work and some don’t.
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Common Misconceptions and Tips for Success
There are a few other things you should keep in mind before you begin working out. Trust me in that you’re going to have a lot easier time than you think in following a steady diet. You don’t just need to know what you can and can’t eat, but what you actually need your food to do for you. Cutting out fat alone will not help you lose weight in any substantial way. In fact, some fat is good, but it has to be the right kind and come from the right sources.
Calories are important, but they are just one part of your food. There are a ton of other little details you should keep in mind when selecting what kinds of foods to eat every day. Just like your weight is only one way to track your progress towards your fitness goals, calories are not the only important factor in creating and sustaining weight loss. The type of foods the calories come from are at least as important, if not more so, especially in the beginning when you are first unlocking your metabolic inferno.
Simple sugars, for instance, either burn off right away or turn into fat. More complex carbohydrates take more effort for your body to break down, and so are preferable. Similarly, cutting calories is a good way to lose weight, and is often necessary, but you need to know how far to go. Since you are looking to put on muscle (and craft a killer 6 pack) you will be able to eat more because your body will naturally burn more fat. Besides, if you limit yourself with too few calories per day, you may wind up actually gaining weight because your body will begin to think you’re starving and will begin to store everything you eat. This why those other “diet” fads fail often, they ignore our natural metabolic inferno (which burns calories like paper in a flame) and they wreak havoc on your hormonal system to manipulate hunger at the expense of your health.
It gets worse though if you’re a diet fanatic. You will also begin to burn muscle instead of fat in this type of situation, meaning that you will be doing exactly the opposite of what you had intended. Imagine actually removing what abs you already have because you don’t eat enough food. This sounds backwards, but that’s the way your body works. You need food – just make sure it’s good food and you’ll be set.
The same type of thing will happen if you let your food intake fluctuate too much from one day to the next. The more regularly you can take in calories, the more smoothly and efficiently your metabolism will work. Crash diets and dramatic caloric restriction may seem to work at first, but you will almost always gain back the weight you lost. Often you will gain even more. Don’t ignore your metabolic inferno any longer!
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Processed Bad, Fresh Good
This is the most important diet rule to remember. Staying away from the highly processed foods and using more fresh ingredients is the best way to make all your food healthier. You don’t need to drastically alter your lifestyle to eat healthier. You just need to know what you are looking for so that you can put together a menu for weight loss.
This type of eating will easily fit into your daily routine. In fact, it shouldn’t alter it at all, and that’s why this is a diet plan you’ll be able to stick with as well. You’re likely to find that your food tastes better too. Most overly processed foods rely on salt to provide flavor. With fresh ingredients, you’ll be getting the full natural flavor of the foods you’re eating.
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No Time for Special Meals
This lack of time argument is often the very same one that most people use for why they can’t follow a special diet. It takes too much time to prepare a bunch of extra, special food, particularly when you have to make a regular meal for everyone else. You can kiss this argument good-bye too, because following a healthy eating plan will take you no extra time at all. Plus, what’s wrong with feeding your family the same healthy, tasty meals you’re eating?
Besides, now you’re going to see food as metabolic inferno fuel. You aren’t going to be so picky about types of food and caloric intake — but rather how strongly you can get your autopilot fat burning system working from your muscular 6 pack abs.
With this program, you don’t need to cook up a bunch of special foods or deny yourself whole sections of the food pyramid. What you do need to do is learn which foods will help you burn the most fat and satisfy your cravings. This aspect is particularly important because it’s the part that keeps you from gorging on anything. In general, you will be able to make and enjoy most of the meals you always did. You’ll just need to choose your ingredients a bit more carefully.
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Your Workout and the Rest of Your Life
It’s easy to take a cursory look at your schedule and say that you have no time to work out. The gym is too far away. You need time to cook dinner. You’ve been on your feet all day and have no more energy. All of these things are a part of everyday life and they can make it very easy to talk yourself out of exercising.
What you probably never take into account, though, is that a meaningful workout does not have to take that long and you can do it without leaving your home. You don’t even have to do it every day. This may sound too good to be true. Once you’ve read the following chapters though, you’ll understand why working out every day or for extended sessions isn’t necessary. It’s not even the best way to get results.
Making a Habit of Working Out
Particularly when you first begin to work out, it is best if you only do it three or four times a week. Your muscles need time to recover. Exercising any more frequently than this will make it hard to get in shape any faster, and it may even hinder your progress. You also don’t have to do every type of exercise every time you work out. Squeezing in a brief cardio workout one day and then some strength building exercises a couple of days later is really all it takes.
A half an hour four days a week is only two hours a week. There really is no reason that you can’t find that kind of time. This may not seem like it could possibly be enough to make a difference, but it is. And that’s why there is no reason you can’t come up with a workout schedule you can stick to. Getting up a half hour earlier in the morning may seem horribly inhumane, but odds are you won’t even notice the difference once you are out of bed.
If you really can’t handle parting with the warm comfort of your bed any sooner than absolutely necessary, consider running through your workout while you are watching TV at night. There’s no reason you can’t work out and watch TV at the same time. It’ll probably even make the workout go by much faster. Don’t even try to tell me you don’t watch at least a couple hours of TV a week.
Head this advice to speed up your path to getting 6 pack abs.
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The Right Range
In order to come up with a range, the easiest thing to do is sit down with a calendar and write down what you’d weigh at the end of each week if you were losing weight at the rate of a pound a week. Next, go back over the calendar and write down what your weight would be at the end of each week if you were losing at a rate of 3 pounds a week. It’s that simple; now you have a range to shoot for. Some weeks you will still not fall within the range, but you will have your BMI and hip to waist ratio to fall back on for reassurance. And lest you forget, there’s always next week to look forward to.
I can see you right now. You’re sitting at your computer and groaning, wondering how long it is going to take to reach your goals. But, once you start working and seeing the results every week or two, you’re going to have a much more positive attitude. As long as you feel that you are working towards something and making progress, you’ll keep from getting discouraged.
You may even be surprised how quickly you can see a positive change in your body. This is another reason straight weight loss is a distortion of your overall fitness level. You will quickly be able to see the difference that toning your muscles has on your appearance regardless of how quickly (or not) the pounds are coming off. Stop expecting change overnight and BAM, it starts to sneak up on you.
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Give Yourself a Chance
Jumping on the scale every day expecting a change will only frustrate you more, especially in the beginning. And the last thing you need when you’re getting started is frustration. You may also find that you lose a lot of weight at first but that as time goes on, your rate of weight loss lessens. This is because you are building muscle at the same time you’re losing fat, and muscle is a whole lot denser than the fat it is replacing.
That’s also why it’s a good idea to have more ways to measure your progress than just a scale. You don’t want to think you’re failing when you’re in fact being highly successful — so be sure to look at your muscle tone and your killer 6 pack as signs of success.
When you’re replacing your fat with muscle mass, you’re on the right track (and unlocking your metabolic inferno), but your scale won’t tell you that. Your hip to waist ratio will be more reflective of this type of progress and as long as your BMI is within a normal range, you will know that you’re doing okay.
Once you know how much you want to lose, you can begin to come up with a timeline for meeting your goals. Because your weight loss will likely not be consistent from week to week, you need to have a range in mind for each week rather than a particular number. Try to average it out in your mind – if you lose 3 pounds one week, great, but don’t fret if you only lose 1 pound the next week or if you gain a pound or two the week after that.
It’s like driving: you look down the road, not at the street right in front of the car (because then you start to wobble from side to side). But you still need to check the road ahead to make sure your going in the right direction!
Looking at the total effect rather than the day to day or week to week results is the best way to go about tracking weight loss. Giving yourself a range to work with also makes it easier for you to feel good about what you’ve accomplished over a particular period of time. As long as you’re within the range you set out, you’re doing okay and on your way to a healthy set of 6 pack abs.
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Charting Your Course
Now it’s time to chart your course so you know where you’re headed. The first thing you should do when you sit down to map out your exercise plan is to record your weight, BMI, and hip to waist ratio. These are your starting points. It’s good to always have them handy to see how far you’ve come. Once you have done that, you want to come up with your ultimate goals.
These will be the numbers for each category that you want to be able to reach and maintain over the long term. Your long-term goals help you remember where you’re headed and what you’re ultimately working towards. It’s important that you be realistic, sincere, and truthful about what you can and should expect from your body.
Many Milestones Along the Way
Now that you have your goals in mind, you need to set your first milestone. To do this you’ll need to take into account both how quickly you can lose weight healthily and how often you want to be able to see where you are. You can set your milestones as close together or as far apart as you would like, but within reason of course. The most important thing is that you are able to see steady improvement at a rate you can live with. You need to give your body time to get there though.
Let’s start with your 60 day goal! Set it now here: “I want to weigh ___ lbs and have a visible 6 pack after 60 days”
Beginning by giving yourself a 60 day time frame to reach your milestones is a good idea. You can adjust it later if you find you are more comfortable with 90 days or 6 montha or whatever time frame best fits your lifestyle and schedule. If you can stick with your workout and diet plan for two weeks, though, you’re well on your way to making it a part of your routine. When you then get to see the results of your hard work at the end of that period, it will make it even easier to keep going.
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Hip to Waist Ratio
Knowing your hip to waist ratio can also be a good way to set your fitness goals and track your progress along the way. To obtain your ratio, measure your hips and your waist and then divide your waist by your hips. The optimal numbers for this ratio are different for men than for women because women naturally have proportionally larger hips. For a woman, a good hip to waist ratio is 0.7, while for a man it is 0.9.
This can be an especially useful measurement when you are focusing your workout on building your abs because the progress you make in toning those muscles will have a direct correlation to your hip to waist ratio. The better developed your abs are, the slimmer your waistline will be, and so the better hip to waist ratio you will have.
You’ve got to like when it’s that simple (and as you move forward, you’ll see just how easy it is to manipulate those numbers without causing any undue health risks). There are quite a few other measurements that you can use to help you come up with good workout goals, like body fat percentage. In order to get these measurements, however, you will usually need the help of a doctor or professional trainer.
While it is always good to have that kind of information, all you really need to set up your workout goals and track your progress are your weight, BMI, and hip to waist ratio. For anyone interested in the fancy, complex numbers, keep in mind that you need to be very specific with your trainer or doctor in regards to what you’re going to be doing.
Knowing this will help you get that killer 6 pack.
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Body Mass Index
Your Body Mass Index, or BMI, is one useful way to measure your overall fitness level. In order to calculate your BMI on your own, you will have to convert your height and weight into meters and kilograms respectively. Once you have these numbers, multiply your height by itself and then divide your weight by that number. If you don’t want to deal with these types of equations, you can ask your doctor for help. You can also find many easy to use BMI calculators online.
If your BMI comes out to be between 18.5 and 24.9, you are within a normal weight range for your height. With a BMI of between 25 and 29.9 you are considered overweight, while a BMI over 30 will classify you as obese. It is relatively common for people who feel like they need to lose weight to wind up with a BMI within the average range. If you find yourself in that position, all it means is that you need to focus more on replacing fat with muscle than with losing weight.
Because muscle is more dense than fat, it is possible to significantly alter the shape of your figure without changing your weight much. This is a good example of why BMI numbers can give you a good idea of where you are, but they can’t give you the whole picture. They can only relay the information that your weight is within a healthy or unhealthy range, but they can’t evaluate your overall fitness level.
Knowing your BMI, however, is a good place to start when you are trying to map out your fitness goals. It’s just a very preliminary test that points you in the right direction. There are a few other good tests I like to use that will show you where and how to focus your workout plan as you go forward.
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So Where Are You?
The first thing you need to know when you are setting fitness goals for yourself is where you’re starting from. You’ll have a hard time seeing how far you’ve come if you don’t know where you started. You also won’t be able to set realistic goals if you don’t know what you’re starting with. There are several ways to evaluate your fitness level, and all of these can be useful when it comes to creating fitness goals.
There’s 2 things required to reach a destination: where you are and where you are going. So you need to tell the truth — as the truth will set you free! What is true about you right now? Ok good, that’s the “is” line. Where do you think you can go in the next 60 days? Ok good, that’s the “ought” line. Now you’re ready to make some serious progress!
Remember: the goal is not to “fix” your life, but to constantly improve it! So in 60 days, you’re going to have a killer 6 pack, but in the 60 days after that, it’s going to look even more stunning!
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Understanding Weight Loss (and how it relates to your 6 pack abs)
The first thing you need to understand when you’re setting up your exercise plan is that you’re not going to lose weight overnight. You’d better have a clear idea of how long it will take or you’ll never be able to properly measure it. Because one of the easiest ways to track your progress is with a scale, you should lay out clearly in your exercise schedule where you are now, where you want to be, and how long you have to get there.
Setting unrealistic goals for weight loss is the first trap many people fall into when they’re trying to start exercising. To avoid falling into this trap yourself, you need to know how to come up with a good timeline for healthy weight loss. A good rate of weight loss for the average person is about 2-3 pounds per week. If you are very overweight to start with, you might start cutting off weight a tad faster at first. After that initial burst, however, don’t expect to maintain a high rate. Settle into a nice healthy reduction rate of 2-3 pounds a week. More than this will be unhealthy and will also be too hard to sustain.
You need to get under 10% body fat in order for your 6 pack abs to be seen. As such your first goal needs to be realistic. If you have a lot of fat you need to focus on losing some of that fat first and then focusing on building muscle. Of course you can do both at the same time, just understand that your 6 pack abs goal depends on you reaching your weight loss goal.
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How to Come Up With Reasonable Goals
We’ve been doing a lot of talking about how important it is to set good short-term and long-term goals, but what exactly does that mean? One important thing to keep in mind is that what may be a good goal for one person may not be a good goal for you. You need to take into consideration the just how well your own body works and the situation you’re throwing yourself into. This will help you map out a schedule of goals that will allow you to make steady progress at a healthy rate.
While all of the technical aspects of weight loss and fitness like caloric intake, body mass index, metabolism, and muscle groups are important, the most important thing is your state of mind. You must always feel comfortable with your goals. This is the key to keeping your outlook positive and your motivation in the right place. Without the right set of goals in place you might as well kiss your chances of getting a smoking six pack goodbye!
You need to begin setting goals that are not too difficult, but also ones that are not too easy. If your goals are too easy, you may become just as disheartened as if you were setting the bar too high. While you technically reach the milestones you’ve laid out quickly enough, you won’t have to try very hard when you do it. This just makes it seem like you’re not accomplishing anything at all. In order to feel productive you need to feel like you’re exerting yourself.
What you really need to focus on doing is setting up a system that makes you feel that you’re putting in a reasonable amount of effort and getting an equivalent return. If you don’t have to put in any effort, you won’t feel like you’re doing anything of value. And when that happens, you feel a whole lot more willing to give it all up. If you don’t have anything to reach for though, you won’t have much motivation to keep going either. That’s why it’s important to find the right balance between the two.
One of the hardest things about setting goals for weight loss and fitness is that there are so many misconceptions about how weight loss happens and what it means to be fit. Your weight is the number you automatically fall back to when you want to gauge your fitness level. The problem is, your weight isn’t really a reflection of how in shape you are at all.
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