If your goal is to have fab abs, the formula requires exercises, as well as smart food choices. Crunches, planks, side-to-sides and reverse crunches are part of core training, but your food choices also need to complement your workouts.
Even though many diets promise flat abs, the plans may be extreme and put your body and health in a state of neglect by shortchanging nutrients, relying upon diuretics and laxatives or recommending too few calories, leaving you depleted and defeated.
What Exercise Is Best for a Strong Core?
The recipe for core training is a combo of exercise and proper eating. When the goal is weight loss, we tend to zero in on cardio activity such as running, walking, spinning, swimming. While these are all great to burn calories and fat, they don’t really train your core. To create a strong mid-section you need to do abdominal exercises, as well as strength training. Although those movements are not big calorie burners, they do help to secure a strong core that’s important for balance, stability and injury prevention.
Does What You Eat Matter?
We tend to focus more on what not to eat rather than what we should eat. For example, low-carb diets are incredibly appealing because when you cut carbs, you do lose water, and that shows up as success on the scale.
However, carbs help with fluid balance, which is important for gut health, as well as being a source of fiber for regularity as well as satiety. So how can you lose the extra around the middle without compromising health?
Weight loss typically occurs from the inside out, so the first place people tend to lose is in their mid-region. I have had patients who have not lost a lot of weight according to the scale, but do report feeling lighter and leaner when they eat a gut-friendly diet.
That feeling of bloat and heaviness can often be due to inadequate fluid and fiber, so focusing on getting enough of both of those rather than focusing on restricting foods can be physically and psychologically beneficial.
What Not to Eat
Avoid the following for a happier gut:
- Skipping meals.
- Chewing gum.
- Eating fiber without drinking fluid.
- Restricting carbs.
Being sporadic and erratic with eating is a recipe for gut disaster. If you skip meals, you may be overly hungry and eat to excess, which can also cause GI distress. Chewing gum can cause you take in more air, which can make you feel gassy, and if you chew sugarless, the sugar alcohols in the gums, as well as mints, can lead to bloating or gut discomfort.
Drastically increasing fiber without increasing fluid can make your gut feel heavy, bloated or even constipated. Going on a carb-restricted diet can also make your gut feel bloated and sluggish because you have eliminated the fiber. In addition, carbs are important for fluid balance.
To get your gut in tip-top shape do make an effort to include the following types of foods in your daily diet:
Fermented foods: Also known as probiotics, these foods include yogurt and kefir, as well as refrigerated sauerkraut, pickles and kim chi. The dairy versions provide protein as well as probiotics. The cabbage and pickles are low calorie, while the savory vegetables in kim chi and other fermented veggies add some pizzazz to the plate and palate. Stick the the real food. A probiotic pill supplement is not a replacement and cannot make up for a deficient eating plan.
Fiber: For women, the daily fiber goals are 21 to 28 grams a day. For men, 30 to 38 grams a day. Sure you could take a fiber supplement, but why not eat fiber-containing foods and get the added benefit of the macro, micro and phytonutrients in these items. Fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and high-fiber whole-grain items such as oats, whole wheat, corn and bran should be part of your daily diet. And do make sure to include enough fluid as you increase your fiber.
Aim for your gut-friendly plate to be:
- 50% produce from a combination of fruits and vegetables in a raw, grilled, roasted and sauteed form.
- 25% protein, which could include legumes, as well as lower-fat protein foods, such as veggie burgers, tofu, lentils, edamame, tempeh and seitan.
- 25% whole grains, such as whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, oats and bulgur, or carbs such as corn or potatoes.
Be a Gut Detective
If you suspect that you may have a problem with certain foods, don’t self-diagnose. Do make an appointment with your PCP who may recommend that you see a specialist to rule out any underlying digestive disorders. You may benefit from working with a registered dietitian who specializes in digestive disorders to help you customize an eating plant to optimize your health and goals.
If you eliminate foods from your plate for a long period of time you may experience digestive distress when you add them back in, especially if the quantity is large. For instance, if you remove dairy without a medical reason to do so, and then decide to splurge on a milkshake, you may feel uncomfortable. If you have been on a low-carb diet and sit down to a plate of pasta, you may not feel so great after that meal. So rather than eliminate, try to discriminate when it comes to your carb choices and quantities. Sometimes higher fat foods can cause indigestion, so take a look at your quantities of avocado, nuts or bacon. And if spice is not so nice, there are other ways to season foods such as herbs and aromatic spices.
When it comes to taking care of your core, do be aware of the consistency, quality and quantity of your food choices. Do the ab work and tighten those core muscles when you are at rest by sitting up. But remember, food plays a role too. If your gut doesn’t feel good, nor will you.
Author: Leslie Bonci
Source: MSN: Foods for 6-Pack Abs