Tears welled up in my eyes as looked down at the blurry twenty-three. Twenty-three inches. Sweat dripped down onto the measuring tape as I had just finished round two of cardio. In 48 hours I'd step on stage to fight for my professional athlete status as a figure competitor. And in this sport, the waist-to-shoulder ratio (also called the V-taper) is the money maker! As an average-sized athlete, who's played sports all her life, and even had my waist measured for the Air Force Physical Fitness Test, I had never seen my waist this small.
Whether you want washboard abs or to melt away your love handles, the execution plan is the same. This measurement is very important, and not just to look sharp in uniform. Waist girth is more directly correlated to medical problems than most PFT measurements, so as I doctor, I always encourage fat loss around the belly. I know there are others of you not worried about the PFT or doctor recommendations. You just want that 6-pack for summer! Whatever your motivation is I can assure you the first step is to realize this takes patience and persistence.
The secret to a smaller, more cut waist can be broken into two points of execution: The right nutrition, and the correct exercises.
Nutrition for 6-Pack Abs
- Drink 3 liters to 1 gallon of water per day. This will help flush your body's toxins that can accumulate in the fat tissues and cause inflammation. Inflammation = bad.
- Cut down daily fruit intake. Eating extra fruit is a common habit of many people when they are focused on a fitness goal. The issue is fruit has sugar and sugar limits the ability for your little ab muscles to pop through. Limit fruit to 1-2 servings per day and get the rest of your nutrients through vegetables.
- Combine a protein and carbohydrate every time you eat. Yes, eat carbs! Good protein sources include egg whites, chicken breast, turkey, white fish, and protein powder. Some good carbohydrate sources include oatmeal, sweet potatoes, brown rice, polenta, rice cakes, and starchy veggies.
- Eat plenty of calories. The men and women I've created customized diets that require 1800-2500 calories per day depending on body habitus and goals. Undereating will make your body go into starvation mode and store every morsel of food you give it. You want to optimize your metabolism so your body doesn't store any extra fat. The best way to do this is to eat enough.
Correct Exercises for 6-Pack Abs
- Establish a strong good core. By working on your core first, you are establishing the foundation. Try isometric/balancing exercises such a planks.
- Train abs like any other body part. You have to build the muscles so that as the fat melts away the muscles are ready for presentation! Do 3-5 sets of 3-4 different ab exercises 1-3 times per week.
- Go hard! If you aren't sore the next day, you aren't working hard enough. Increase the intensity by increasing the weight, the number of reps or the number of sets.
- Avoid obliques/side movements. If your oblique muscles are thick and large, that will make your waist thicker/wider. If your goal is a smaller waist, then stick to straight up and down movements without twisting. Some exercises I like are the hanging leg raise, sit ups on the Bosu ball, reverse crunches, and flutter kicks. (Note: If your fitness goals are functional in nature and size is not important then avoiding oblique exercises is not necessary for you.)
What Doesn't Work
- Sitting in the sauna and just sweating. Sweat is not fat and this will not get your waist smaller.
- Wearing waist cinchers/corsets. These will bring in your waist temporarily (hours), but as your tissues in that area relax when the item is removed, the waist returns to your normal size.
- Fat burning creams. These creams may help you to sweat but it's scientifically impossible to spot reduce fat without surgery.
- Fat burning pills. Nutritional supplements that are labeled as "supplements" have not been tested to confirm the contents in the bottle are actually in the bottle. So, you might pay for nothing or double the dose that's listed – no one knows! If you want to crank up your metabolism just stick with caffeine the natural, guaranteed way and brew a good 'ol cup of joe!
Full disclosure: My waist doesn't stay twenty-three inches year round. That size takes an amount of commitment I don't currently have as a resident physician. But what I do have is a small waist and a flat tummy I can take to the beach any day. I've adapted this execution plan as a lifestyle because there is no quick fix.
Now watch Simone's workout: