One of the most common questions I have heard in regards to getting in shape is:

 “How do I get a flat stomach??”

The truth is there is no secret formula to getting a flat stomach. The good news is that it isn’t impossible to achieve but it takes discipline and determination just like any other goal you would like to accomplish.

To be clear, everyone may not be able to get a perfect six-pack and that just has to do with your individual body composition and your ability to build muscle. However, a flatter stomach is definitely possible for anyone! One thing to remember on your journey to a flatter stomach is to not compare yourself to anyone else.  

Focus on being the best YOU!!!

For starters, there are no amount of crunches or abdominal exercises that will make your stomach magically flatter…….period. I’m not saying these exercises will not help to provide definition but they shouldn’t be the only thing you are doing.

Why Not??? Well, if you have multiple layers of fat on top of your abs then it doesn’t matter how many abdominal exercises you do! The key is to burn away the fat covering those muscles, then and only then will you get to your desired look.

If you haven’t heard this before then here it goes…….Abs are made in the Kitchen!! That may be the last thing you want to hear but nutrition is the key component in getting a flatter stomach.

Fitness professionals recommend using the DCBA approach. Essentially you want to first focus on your diet, cardio second, then building lean muscle and lastly abdominal exercises.

Diet-Eat Clean

Clean eating is truly the secret to all your health goals, but it is easier said than done. This is something I even struggle with from time to time. It truly takes a mental shift to commit to clean eating consistently. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the occasional splurge day but it does mean you will have to resist temptation on a regular basis. It may be hard but it is totally worth it when you get the results you want!

In order to clean up your diet:

  • Avoid processed foods and stick to fresh fruits, veggies and complex carbohydrates like whole grain pasta, sweet potatoes and brown rice.
  • Avoid greasy fatty foods but do consume monounsaturated fats (MUFA). MUFA’s help to increase your basal metabolic rate or the number of calories your body burns regardless of physical activity. They also help to keep you satisfied longer helping to prevent overeating.
  • Foods containing MUFA’s include olive oil, avocados, peanut butter and many nuts and seeds. These fats are still 9 calories per gram so be sure not to overdo it.  
  • Avoid consuming excess calories from sugary beverages and stick with water. Another good option would be green tea which has been shown to boost metabolism and fat burning. Just be sure not to add a bunch of sugar otherwise this will defeat the purpose. Also be careful of store bought bottled green tea drinks as they typically have a lot of added sugars as well. It is best just to brew your own so you can control the sugar content.

Cardiovascular Exercise (Cardio)

Cardio is anything that raises your heart rate. Performing cardio requires your body to produce energy in order to fuel the exercise. As a result, your body will access its energy stores such as glycogen (stored glucose) and fat to produce the energy needed to be physically active. This will lead to loss of fat and a slimmer waist.

There are many different forms of cardio to choose from so choose something that you enjoy or can at least tolerate. Exercises to choose from include walking, jogging, jump roping, biking, stair climbing or high intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT is a form of exercise that alternates between short periods of maximum intensity (effort) and rest periods.

It is best to use a combination of cardio exercises to prevent getting stuck in an exercise plateau or getting bored. Whatever mode of exercise you choose be sure to incorporate cardio at least 3 to 5 times a week. One thing to note is that the more intense you work out the less time you have to put in.

Building Muscle

Muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue. This means that your body composition or the ratio of fat to lean muscle tissue can affect the number of calories you burn even while resting. Building lean muscle tissue will not only help to give you a leaner appearance it will also help burn more calories leading to fat loss.

In order to build lean muscle tissue you want to incorporate strength training into your workout routine. Don’t be afraid of bulking up ladies, women will not naturally just bulk up without some form of supplementation.

Perform resistance training at least 2 times a week, with 8-10 exercises completing 8-12 repetitions. Be sure to work all areas of the body such as your legs, glutes, back, arms and chest. Try to perform exercises that work multiple muscle groups simultaneously as this will give you more bang for your buck. Exercises like, squats, lunges, deadlifts, chest press and the back row will work multiple muscle groups.

Abdominal Exercise

Once you have worked on your diet, performing cardio and building lean muscle tissue your abdominal exercises will be the last step in getting a slimmer waist.

One thing to note is that you want work on all of your abdominal muscle groups. Most individuals will perform exercises that only focus on one group which is the rectus abdominus or the six pack. You actually have 4 groups of abdominal muscles: the rectus abdominus, internal obliques, external obliques and the transverse abdominus. In order to work all sets of muscles you want to perform exercises that incorporate all planes of motion in the body: frontal, transverse and sagittal.

  • Frontal Plane: Performing movements that are side to side or leaning from left to right. Perform lateral bends or bending to the side with a dumbbell.  
  • Transverse Plane: Performing rotational movements or twisting. Perform exercises such as bicycle crunches and russian twists with a medicine ball.
  • Sagittal Plane: Performing movements that are forward and backwards. Perform exercises such as sit-ups, crunches and flutter kicks.

As you can see achieving a flatter stomach will require effort on your part but as the saying goes, “Anything worth having is worth working for!” The question is do you really want it? If you truly want it, believe you can, and remain disciplined you can have a flatter stomach.

Just remember to be your best YOU and don’t compare yourself to others!

Find Health in Every Day,

Dr. Lindsay