By David Zinczenko with Ted Spiker
Photographs by Jonathan Kantor
Seeing a woman with hard-as-steel abs might make you think of starvation diets, airbrushing, and a workout regimen so time-consuming it would violate labour laws.
But according to The Abs Diet for Women getting a Jennifer Hawkins-worthy core doesn’t have to be painful (or require Photoshop). Our extract of the book includes a week’s worth of meals and an abs centric workout to boost your metabolism. Let the belly flattening begin.
FOR GOD’S SAKE, EAT!To get the number on the scale to go down, you have to chow down. (And work out – but more on that later.) Between 10 and 30 per cent of the kilojoules you use each day get burned by just digesting your food. But not all foods are created equal. Your body uses more kilojoules to digest protein (about 100 burned for every 400 consumed) than it does to digest fats and carbohydrates (40 to 60 burned for every 400 consumed).
That’s why The Abs Diet focuses on adding lean, healthy proteins. Eat more of them, sensibly, and you’ll torch more kilojoules. Protein is also the nutrient that helps build muscle – and the more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism. When you lift and lower weights, you create microscopic tears in your muscles. To mend the tears, your body parachutes in new protein to assess the damage and repair the muscle. Proteins fortify the original cell structure by building new muscle fibres.
This wonder child of the nutrition world also makes you feel fuller faster. In a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, subjects downed one of four kinds of shakes – 60 per cent protein, 60 per cent carbohydrates, 60 per cent fat, or a mixture with equal amounts of all three. Then they were offered lunch. Those who drank either the high-protein or the mixed-nutrient shake ate the least. The protein made participants feel fuller and eat less later.
An eating plan that emphasises lean proteins will also accelerate weight loss from your midsection first. In a study published in The International Journal of Obesity, researchers put 65 subjects on a 12 per cent protein diet, a 25 per cent protein diet, or no diet. While the low-protein dieters lost an average of more than 5kg, the high-protein participants lost an average of 9kg and ate fewer kilojoules than the low-protein group. More amazingly, the high-protein dieters lost twice as much abdominal fat.
The plan is simple: stick to the six guidelines and follow the workout here. You can burn up to 5.5kg of fat – from your belly first – in two weeks or less.
MAKE THESE 12 POWERFOODS YOUR DIET STAPLES
The foods below are among the best sources of protein, fibre and all the other nutrients that help fight fat. They’re so good for you that they’ll just about single-handedly exchange your fat for a lean body. You can base entire meals around them, but you don’t have to. Just follow these simple rules:
- Incorporate two or three of these foods into each meal and at least one into each snack.
- Diversify your food at every meal to get a combination of protein, carbohydrates and fat.
- Sneak a little protein into each snack.
Almonds and other nuts (with skins intact)
Superpowers Builds muscle, reduces cravings
Fights Obesity, heart disease, muscle loss, wrinkles, cancer, high blood pressure
Beans and legumes
Superpowers Builds muscle, helps burn fat, regulates digestion
Fights Obesity, colon cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure
Spinach and other green vegetables
Superpowers Neutralises free radicals, molecules that accelerate the ageing process
Fights Cancer, heart disease, stroke, obesity, osteoporosis
Dairy products (fat-free or low-fat milk, yoghurt, cheese)
Superpowers Builds strong bones, fires up weight loss
Fights Osteoporosis, obesity, high blood pressure, cancer
Instant oatmeal (unsweetened, unflavoured)
Superpowers Boosts energy, reduces cholesterol, maintains blood- sugar levels
Fights Heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, obesity
Superpowers Builds muscle, burns fat
Turkey and other lean meats
Superpowers Builds muscle, strengthens immune system
Superpowers Boosts testosterone (which can help you build muscle and bone density)
Fights Obesity, muscle loss, wrinkles, cardiovascular disease
Superpowers Lowers cholesterol, boosts immune system
Fights Obesity, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure
WWholegrain breads and cereals
Superpowers Prevents body from storing fat
Fights Obesity, cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease
Extra protein (whey) powder
Superpowers Builds muscle, burns fat
RRaspberries and other berries
Superpowers Protects heart, enhances eyesight, improves balance, coordination, and short-term memory, prevents cravings
Fight Heart disease, cancer, obesityGUIDELINE TWO
DRINK SMOOTHIES ON A REGULAR BASIS
Smoothies – blended mixtures of milk, low-fat yoghurt, whey protein powder, ice and other good stuff from the Powerfoods list – can act as meal substitutes and potent snacks. They require little time; berries, flavoured whey powder, or peanut butter will satisfy your sweet tooth; and their thickness takes up space in your stomach. So get a blender and whip up a smoothie for breakfast or have one before or after your workout.GUIDELINE THREE
By eating the 12 Powerfoods and their relatives, the foods themselves will, in a way, count your kilojoules for you. They’ll keep you healthy and satisfied. Plus, the most energy-efficient foods are almost like bouncers at a nightclub: they won’t let any riffraff in without your approval. That said, it’s wise – especially when adjusting to a new way of eating – to focus on portion control by limiting the servings of some foods, particularly those with fat (like peanut butter) and carbs (like rice or bread). A good rule: stick to one or two servings per food group and confine the contents of each meal to the diameter of your plate.GUIDELINE FOUR
EAT SIX TIMES A DAY
KEY CONCEPT: “energy balance” – how many kilojoules you burn versus how many you take in. Researchers at Georgia State University found that, if you keep your hourly surplus or deficit within 1250 kilojoules to 2100 kilojoules, you will best be able to lose fat and add lean muscle mass. So alternate larger meals with smaller snacks and eat every few hours. It also reduces the likelihood of a diet-destroying binge.GUIDELINE FIVE
KNOW WHAT TO DRINK
Alcohol encourages your body to burn up to 36 per cent less fat and makes you store more of the fat you eat. And it can inhibit your body’s production of hormones that help burn fat and build muscle. Water, on the other hand, keeps you satiated, flushes your body’s waste products and transports nutrients to your muscles to keep your metabolism clicking. Otherwise, the best drinks you can have are low-fat milk and green tea.GUIDELINE SIX
ONCE A WEEK, FORGET THE FIRST FIVE GUIDELINES
We would never advocate cheating on your partner or your taxes. But we want you to cheat on this diet. Take one meal during the week and forget everything about good carbohydrates and fats. Have pizza, a Kit Kat, pad Thai, whatever it is you miss the most. Think of this as the carrot at the end of a good week of eating. Enjoy the gluttony – and please, don’t take “carrot” literally.
FLAT ABS WORKOUTIt’s simple: To show off your abs, you have to burn fat. To burn fat, you have to stoke your metabolism by building muscle. Replacing just half a kilogram of fat with muscle will force your body to fry up to an additional 210 kilojoules a day. These straightforward moves work major muscle groups – with an emphasis on your midsection – without adding bulk.
Do this workout three times a week: Complete 1 set of each ab exercise (designed to work key regions of your core: upper abs, lower abs, obliques and lower back), then do the rest of the circuit twice. On other days, do light cardio like swimming, walking or cycling. Make sure you take 1 day completely off. Find a weight you’re comfortable lifting – not too easy, but not one that tortures your body either. And get pumped!
|Medicine ball blast||12 to 15||None||1|
|Seated ab crunch||12||None||1|
|Saxon side bend||6 to 10 each side||None||1|
|Back extension||12 to 15||None||1|
|Squat||10 to 12||30 sec||2|
|Military press||10||30 sec||2|
|Leg curl||10 to 12||30 sec||2|
|Triceps pushdown||10||30 sec||2|
|Biceps curl||10||30 sec||2|