How many times have you scrolled through your Instagram feed to be faced with a picture of somebody’s ripped abs accompanied by the caption ‘abs are made in the kitchen’? You follow that advice, eat well, your diet consisting mainly of whole, unprocessed foods but still no sign of those 6 little squares of muscle popping beneath your skin. That’s because the Instagram caption isn’t strictly true and this article is going to explain the reasons why.
Your Abs Are a Muscle
This means that they need training too! Like many other muscle in the body that you’re trying to develop and shape, think your butt (glutes), shoulders and arms for example, the same principles of resistance training apply. No matter what you eat, if your abs aren’t well developed to begin with then it’s going to be difficult to see any visible sign of the muscle, no matter how low your body fat is.
Shona Vertue, yoga teacher, PT, creator of the Vertue Method (and just a beautiful and inspiring woman!) said on Instagram…
“Abs are not made in the kitchen, they are made with the same principles of resistance that apply to many other muscles in the body. Sometimes that means heavy resistance, sometimes that means higher repetitions. Of course, what you eat is going to effect your overall body composition, but so does hydration, stress, hormones, sleep and genetics.”
Some of the best exercises for developing your abs include TRX pikes, hanging leg/knee raises and ab wheel roll outs. Try adding these in to your workout program a few times per week, varying between high and low reps for the best results!
You can eat the cleanest diet possible and lower your body fat percentage but sadly we can’t dictate which area our body loses fat from. Life would be much easier if we could pick and choose where we wanted to drop fat but the fact is, we can’t. With proper training to develop your ab muscles and reducing body fat over all you stand the best chance of them becoming visible, but patience is key here for a lot of people.
Stress encourages the release of cortisol within the body, a hormone responsible for our ‘fight or flight’ instincts. Unfortunately for us, high levels of cortisol can make the body store more fat, particularly in our midsections. Water retention around the waist and bloating can also be stress induced symptoms which can only be reduced by lowering stress levels. Cutting out processed foods and refined sugars will help prevent further inflammatory responses within the body, but it’s obvious here that nutrition alone isn’t going to reduce your stress levels and make your abs appear! If you think you are prone to getting stressed, meditation, yoga and spending less time on electronics like mobiles, TV’s etc can really help promote relaxation and lowering your cortisol levels.
It’s in The Genes
As individuals we are all completely unique and that includes the make-up of our abdominal muscles. It’s possible that not everybody is physically capable of revealing a solid 6 pack because of their genetics, no matter what they eat no matter how hard they train. In these cases, a good diet may help an individual to see some abdominal definition but they may never have popping abs. If you think this might relate to you, the key here is to accept who you are and the way your body is, focus on the positives and work hard on being the best version of yourself that you can be. Don’t let it bring you down! Remember, health is your greatest wealth… it shouln’t be about the physical reflection you see in the mirror.
So where does the kitchen come into the equation of visible abs? Well, to achieve abdominal definition, body fat levels have to be low enough for them to be revealed. Eating a diet high in nutrient-dense, whole foods is always going to benefit body composition and limiting sugar intake can prevent the body from storing excess fat because insulin levels are lowered. However, as we have outlined, nutrition alone isn’t always the only factor that comes into play when trying to get the abs you’re after. Time to hit the gym!
Words by Isobel Lee, Personal Trainer, Online Coach and Fitness Blogger