I have been coaching clients for 10 years. Until 4 years ago, I found myself asking the same question, “Why aren’t my clients seeing their abs?” I trained my clients hard. They got stronger, faster, and fitter; but they never seemed to have the abs to show it off.
I’m not talking about getting a “body builder’s 6 pack.” I just wanted my clients to have flat, defined midsections. So I did what every good coach does. I went to the drawing board and adjusted their training programs, added more sets, wave loading, more complexes, tempo sets…But no matter what I did, my clients’ abs were still hidden. What the heck was wrong?
I was determined to solve the “no-abs” phenomena with my clients. There I sat, looking over my clients’ programs, checking off how many workouts they averaged a week, how many workouts they missed, everything I could think of. I was looking for any reason to blame for why their abs refused to show themselves. Then it hit me! I asked myself, “What the heck is everyone eating?”
A legitimate, solid training program will indeed accelerate fat burning and enhance your abdominals, but without eating the right foods, for the right body type, and for the right metabolic profile, you won’t see squat! Think about it. Do you really think eating Lucky Charms, fast food, and pizza regularly is going to get you washboard abs? Not a chance!
Abs are Made in the Kitchen
Abs are totally made in the kitchen! After studying nutrition for 4 years, I decided to earn my Master’s degree in Holistic Nutrition. With each course that I took, it only further acknowledged that diet is truly the ultimate way to burn fat!
I have learned many fascinating things about diet and how certain foods impact the body, but there’s one key fact I want to point out: Everyone’s biochemistry is different, but nutrition, hormones and physiology will always tell the tale. Essentially you aren’t just what you eat, you’re also what you metabolize.
There isn’t ONE healthy universal diet that everyone should eat; however, there are universal dietary principles that everyone needs to follow if they want to lose fat and get your six pack abs. As mentioned earlier, your training can definitely assist in fat loss, but if you are eating Cheetos and drinking beer, don’t expect to look shredded and have any sort of abdominal definition!
So what are these universal dietary principles? They are chemical and physiological responses to the type of foods that we eat. Think of the “cause and effect” model, whatever you eat (cause) will result in a specific response (effect).
Here are 5 Physiological Responses:
1.) Carbohydrates and sugar raise your blood sugar
2.) High fructose corn syrup is metabolized by the liver as FAT
3.) Excess carbs and sugar that aren’t used immediately are stored as FAT
4.) Insulin is a lipogenic hormone, so it causes you to store FAT
5.) Protein and dietary fat have no significant impact on raising blood sugar
*For the record, there are biochemical individualities to consider but nonetheless, these 5 responses are true for everyone!
1. Carbohydrates and Sugar Raise Your Blood Sugar
It’s a fact that carbohydrates raise your blood sugar and these foods include: starches, non-starches, legumes, fruit, refined foods, sugar, and in some cases, EXCESS protein.
Some of these foods are obviously more aggressive than others, but to put it simply, if you are not seeing your abs then there is a pretty good chance you are eating a diet that’s raising your blood sugar. Look at your midsection then look at your diet. You will see just how well or not you are controlling your blood sugar.
2. Unused Carbs and Sugar are Immediately Stored as FAT
Your body metabolizes carbs and sugar as glucose. In short, glucose is stored in two places (1) your liver and (2) your muscles. The storage form of glucose is called glycogen. Unfortunately you only have limited storage space, so any metabolized excess sugar will have nowhere to go. But it’s got to go somewhere, so it gets converted to fat.
This happens because high levels of free glucose in the blood are toxic so your body is actually trying to help you by storing it as fat. However, unlike glycogen, your body will continue to store fat and eventually, it’ll turn into love handles and muffin tops.
3. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is Metabolized by the Liver as FAT
It is true that your body can metabolize and handle low doses of HFCS. This however, is only true with high level athletes and not the average mom, dad, or weekend warrior. Elite athletes are at another level in terms of fuel utilization and metabolism. It has been shown that athletes can tolerate some HFCS and, in turn, utilize it as energy, but exercise physiologists can’t really agree on the exact dosage for athletes to use.
However, HFCS has NO nutritional value for your body so why consume it? HFCS is a manmade toxic substrate that will only get metabolized by the liver as fat. This newly converted fat can fatten up your liver or be stored subcutaneously as body fat. It is found in many processed foods, sport drinks, juices, and energy bars. Avoid it at all costs.
4. Insulin is a Lipogenic Hormone
Insulin is the hormone responsible for controlling blood sugar. When you eat any type of carb, insulin gets secreted via the pancreas. Insulin’s role is to remove glucose from your bloodstream. Basically, insulin binds to your cell membrane, activates “glucose transporters” within that cell, ultimately allowing glucose to come into the cell. The more carbs you eat that raise your blood sugar, the more you start to desensitize your cells and your cells get worse at hearing insulin’s signals. When this happens, glucose stays in your bloodstream longer and has nowhere to go. Excess glucose is converted into fat.
Bottom line: don’t over-stress insulin secretion. Your cells’ receptors like to work part time and you will piss them off if you start trying to make them work overtime! I recommend eating non-starchy vegetables as your main source of carb consumption because they have the least impact on stimulating insulin.
5. Protein and Dietary Fat Has No Significant Impact on Blood Sugar
In terms of blood sugar, both protein and fat have an insignificant relationship with raising blood sugar. Carbohydrates and sugar are the MAIN culprits. Protein will convert into glucose, but ONLY when it is consumed in EXCESS. So don’t get out of control and start chomping down on pounds of protein.
When you are designing your meals, it is crucial to include fat, protein, and either non-starchy or starchy carbs (depending on your body type and current metabolism) in this order. By doing this, you will ensure that you are eating a meal that is LOW in raising blood sugar and will get you one step closer on getting those six pack abs!
Putting It All Together
Don’t kid yourself. Look at your diet. You can train all you want, but unless you are eating a diet that triggers the right metabolic and hormonal responses, you’ll be running in circles trying to get those abs.
I have seen clients and trainees make the same mistake over and over again. Don’t let this be you. Now you know. There’s no escaping the “cause and effect” of eating the wrong types of foods.
Eat pure, my friends!