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Getting a flat, toned stomach will take consistent effort over a few months.
Getting a toned, flat stomach requires a combination of careful nutrition, select exercises, and a few lifestyle adjustments. These 10 methods will work best in combination with each other, but will each have a small impact if used on their own. These techniques will improve the appearance of your whole body -- spot reduction is a myth -- but will have a particular impact on your stomach area.
Ditch The Junk Food
First things first: if you're eating low-quality food, it's going to be very difficult to get a lean abdominal area. Remove junk food, including pastries and baked goods, confectionary, fast food, sugary drinks and fruit juices from your diet as completely as possible. Focus on eating lean meat, nuts and seeds, fruit and vegetables, and small amounts of whole grain and dairy.
Choosing the right vegetables is also important. Go for leafy, fibrous green vegetables, as they will boost your fiber intake. This will improve your digestion, and reduce bloating. Vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, spinach, bok choy, celery and kale are excellent options. Aim to eat at least two cups of these vegetables every day -- preferably three or four cups.
Drink More Water
Drinking plenty of water each day will help flush your system of environmental toxins, preservatives and chemicals from your food, as well as stress hormones -- all of which contribute to puffiness in the abdominal area and cause you to hold fat there. According to MayoClinic.org men need a base level intake of three liters of water per day, while women need about two liters. They recommend adding 400 to 500 ml extra if you do a short bout of exercise, and at least an extra liter to two liters if you do sustained endurance exercise, such as running or a long weight-lifting session.
Experiment With Elimination
Many people suffer from sensitivities to grain and dairy products -- but may not be aware of it. This can lead to bloating and an appearance of fat around the stomach. If you suffer headaches, irritability, upset stomach, flatulence or mood swings on a regular basis, it may be an intolerance. Try removing one food group -- such as dairy products -- and see how you feel after three to four weeks. If the symptoms have cleared and your bloating has reduced, continue to avoid the food. If not, move on to the next experiment.
Use The Plank
The plank exercise, and its many variations, is effective for tightening and toning the stomach muscles. The starter plank -- on your knees -- the standard plank, side plank and rocking plank will target each of the muscles in your abdominal region, strengthening and toning them over time. Start out with short intervals of these exercises, 20 to 30 seconds, if you are new to exercise, and increase the amount of time per exercise as you get stronger.
Hit The Weight Room
Weight training is a highly effective way to tone up your stomach. While most of the popular weight exercises aren't focused on the stomach, they do require stabilization from your core -- leading to greater strength and tone in your stomach muscles. Exercises such as the squat, deadlift, bent over row, overhead press and bench press all rely on your core for stability and proper range of movement. Other resistance exercises you can add include bicycle crunches, stability ball crunches and crossover crunches.
Like weightlifting, sprinting requires a high degree of core engagement. Your abdominals are forced to work very hard in order to maintain your balance, keep you upright, and keep all your internals organs from moving around too much while you are running so fast. This causes significant increases in tone and strength. Sprinting also burns high amounts of stored fat for energy, helping your stomach to look even more flat and toned.
Take A Walk
Walking is a much lower-intensity form of exercise, but can also be very useful for flattening and toning your stomach -- for a number of reasons. Keeping your stomach muscles tight as you are walking will improve your posture and help the muscles to tighten and flatten. Walking is a simple way to burn extra calories and control your weight, particularly if you are injured or limited in your exercise options. Finally, it also reduces the amount of fat-retaining stress hormones that get stored in your gut.
Careful With Your Booze
Limiting your alcohol intake will speed up the process of getting flat, toned abs. If you choose to drink, limit it to one or two drinks once or twice a week. Choose red wine or clear spirits with soda water; these have far fewer calories than other options. Avoid beer or premixes, and don't add sugary fizzy drinks or fruit juice as mixers.
Get Some Rest
Finally, getting plenty of sleep will improve your rate of fat loss and toning. Lack of sleep translates to a high concentration of stress hormones in your body, as well as a slowed rate of fat loss. The Harvard School of Public Health considers getting enough sleep -- seven to nine hours per night -- essential for maintaining a healthy weight and to help avoid significant fat gain in the abdominal region.