6 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight

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Diet Mistakes Causing Your Weight-Loss Plateau

Food journal? Check. Regular workouts? Yes, indeed. Enough fiber to keep an entire army regular? You got it. I know how to lose weight. I’ve been writing about the topic for more than a decade. That’s why it was so frustrating when the pounds clung to me like a codependent boyfriend, no matter how hard I tried. A lot of women have this problem, the experts tell me. “Body weight can fluctuate by up to five pounds on any given day, so the amount you shed can easily get lost,” says Pamela Wartian Smith, MD, the author of Why You Can’t Lose Weight. I combed through research and grilled diet gurus to pinpoint little-known reasons that your efforts — and mine — haven’t been showing up on the scale. Who knew?

You Don’t Drink Enough Water

We’ve all heard how important H2O is when it comes to shedding pounds. It helps to suppress appetite, so you’re less likely to overeat. But that’s not all: When you’re dehydrated, your kidneys can’t function properly, so the body turns to the liver for additional support. Because the liver is working so hard, more of the fat you consume is stored rather than burned off.

What surprised me most, though, is that if you’re upping your fiber intake but not also hitting the bottle hard, things tend to get a wee bit, er, backed up. “It’s important to add fiber gradually and increase water intake at the same time. Otherwise, instead of helping with digestion, fiber may actually lead to constipation,” notes Anna-Lisa Finger, RD, a personal trainer for the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center in Baltimore. I often consume nearly double the recommended 25 grams of fiber daily. Gulp.

Just how much water should I be drinking? “About one-half your body weight in ounces every day, especially if you’re exercising,” Dr. Smith says. So the eight-cups-a-day rule applies only to sedentary women who weigh 128 pounds (sure as hell not me!). “If you consume an aggressive amount of fiber, another eight to 16 ounces a day is a good idea,” Dr. Smith adds. H2OMG! That amount of liquid — for me, 12 cups a day, minimum — requires serious effort. I fill up with about a liter at each meal, and I’m a peeing machine.

You Skimp on Protein

Several studies show that high-protein diets result in more pounds shed, at least initially. Protein enhances the feeling of satiety and prevents your losing muscle as you lose fat. You also have dietary thermogenesis, which is the energy you burn to process and use the food you eat, on your side. “Your body expends more energy to metabolize protein than carbs or fat,” says Cari Coulter, RD, the program director for Wellspring Weight Loss Camp in Kenosha, Wisconsin. “So higher-protein diets make you burn slightly more calories.”

So how much protein do I need a day? “It depends on your weight, but most women should get 40 to 80 grams,” Dr. Smith says. To accomplish that, I have Greek yogurt (18 grams) or a couple of eggs (13 grams) for breakfast, and I eat a few ounces of lean poultry (25 grams) or fish (22 grams) or a heaping helping of black beans (15 grams) or lentils (18 grams) at lunch and dinner. I snack on a handful of raw almonds (6 grams). As a result, I feel fuller — sometimes so full I don’t even sneak a bite of my son’s ice cream (the way I used to whether I was hungry or not) — so it’s easier to keep daily calories in check.



More Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Weight

You Sit at a Desk All Day

I log a solid hour of exercise almost every day, but outside of that, my time is mostly spent sitting in front of a computer. Much to my dismay, research finds that dedicated workouts simply can’t compensate for being sedentary the rest of the time. According to one University of Missouri-Columbia study, sitting for just a few hours causes your body to stop making a fat-inhibiting enzyme called lipase. Getting up and walking for just two minutes during each of those hours burns an additional 59 calories a day, according to recent research from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Experts recommend setting a timer on the computer to remind you to move every hour, but what’s helped me is the Fitbit One ($100, fitbit.com). I keep this activity tracker clipped to my bra 24-7, and I won’t go to bed until I’ve logged 10,000 steps a day. To accomplish that, I heed some of those recommendations we’ve all heard a million times (“Take the stairs instead of the elevator,” “Park far away from the mall”). I even jog in place while brushing my teeth and watching TV. At first my husband and son laughed their skinny little butts off at me, but now seeing me hopping around the living room strikes them as normal. Walks are part of my family’s evening routine, and “How many steps do you have now?” has become the new “Are we there yet?” I’ve even given Fitbits to friends and family as gifts so we can see who takes the most steps. Move-more mission: accomplished.

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Your Numbers Are Off

I’ve always considered myself a math whiz, so I assumed that I had the whole calories-in, calories-out formula down pat. Here’s how I determined how many I should eat a day: I got my basal metabolic rate (BMR, or the amount of calories I need to maintain my weight) using the online calculator at fitnessmagazine.com/weight-loss/bmr, and I entered “moderate” for my activity level, because I exercise regularly. That gave me about 2,400 calories a day. Then I added whatever calories I burn during my workouts (usually about 500), according to my heart-rate monitor. That meant I could eat almost 3,000 calories a day without gaining a pound (or nearly 2,500 a day to lose a pound a week). Sure, it seemed high, but I had used a calculator. It had to be right!

Not so fast, Coulter says. “The BMR calculator already factors in the calories you burn with your workouts, so you shouldn’t add them in again,” she explains. Math club membership revoked! All this time I had thought my daily needs were 500 calories higher than they really were. No wonder I’d been maintaining instead of losing.

You Work Out Regularly

I know, I know. How can an exercise routine make you gain? For starters, people tend to eat more when they work out, either because they feel they’ve earned it or because they’re overestimating how much they’ve burned — or both. “This is especially true in the early stages of a fitness program, when your body is getting used to the decrease in calories consumed and the increase in calories burned,” Finger says. (Read: You’re freaking hungry.)

But here’s the real shocker: Working out can make you retain water. “To ensure that you don’t get dehydrated, the plasma in your bloodstream will store an extra two to four pounds of water,” explains Michele S. Olson, PhD, a FITNESS advisory board member and professor of exercise science at Auburn University at Montgomery in Alabama. “You’ll always carry that extra water unless you become inactive; it’s not fat or muscle, but simply superhydration. It’s a good thing.” It’s also a good thing to keep chugging H2O, which can, counterintuitively, help minimize additional water retention. So I’ll take Olson’s advice and stay active, well-hydrated…and off the scale.



You’re a Stress Case

I’m a lot like the lab rats — and humans — who turn to comfort food and pack on pounds when they’re under duress. “The stress hormone cortisol triggers the fight-or-flight response, which is an appetite stimulant,” Dr. Smith says. “In addition, it steps up the production of a certain brain chemical, neuropeptide Y, which increases cravings for carbohydrates.”

Even when I don’t give in to cravings, stress can stall my slim-down. “Too much cortisol slows metabolism,” Dr. Smith says. “Even worse, excessive stress causes fat to be stored in the abdominal area, where weight is harder to lose.” Ugh! I can practically feel my belly expanding every time I have a meltdown over something, including my weight-loss efforts.

Luckily, a lot of the things I’m doing to whittle my middle should also ease my angst. “Exercise reduces stress,” Dr. Smith notes. “Balanced, nutritious meals can repair the damage that stress does to the body, and a social support network also helps.” So my team of Fitbit-wearing friends and fam is helping me beat belly bloat in more ways than one.

Get Weight-Loss Results

Scale Serenity

It’s been three months since I embarked on this adventure, and I’ve lost 12 pounds — a solid pound a week. I’ve increased my water and protein intake, I move more throughout the day, and I’m trying to stress less. But one of the best things I’ve done has been — go figure — not weighing myself, at least for a little while, as Olson suggested. I was tempted in the beginning, but I stuck to my scale embargo for a month. Now I weigh in weekly, but the fluctuations don’t bother me. Really. Because I know I’m creating a daily calorie deficit, and I’ve found other ways to measure my progress (see “Beyond the Numbers,” below). I know the fat is coming off, no matter what the scale says. I feel enlightened — in more ways than one.

Beyond the Numbers

When the scale bums you out, here are three other ways to gauge your progress.

How do your clothes fit? Try on the same pair of jeans and shirt every six to eight weeks.

How do you feel? You should have more energy, sleep better, and feel less stressed.

How much can you do? Keep a workout log and track how much weight you can lift and how many miles you can walk or run.




6 Moves for a Six-Pack, An Isometric Core Workout from Tony Horton

Here it comes boys and girls, a core-tastic workout! We’re going to use isometrics, balance, and core strength all together and moves from P90X2. Core is everything. We talk about the core all the time because it connects the legs and the upper body, and when your abs are strong and tight you’re preventing injury, improving your lower back, and it’s awesome for your general athletic ability. Engage, pull your abs in, and let’s begin!




7 Myths About Six-Pack Abs

7 Myths About Six-Pack Abs

We all know at least one person who eats for three and rarely lifts a weight, but somehow still sports ripped six-pack abs. Along with giving the majority of us a reason to curse like drunken pirates over their genetic gifts, those cases also highlight why it’s so difficult to offer hard-and-fast rules for getting a six-pack.

Things like genetics, gender, and stress can all play a part in weight loss (or weight gain), so offering step-by-step instructions for a shredded midsection can be tricky. However, adhering to myths and hearsay on your quest for visible abs will absolutely hold you back.

So whether you’re a workout Jedi or a padawan looking to score abs 101 tips, allow us to dispel fact from fiction when it comes to achieving those washboard abs.

7 Myths About Six-Pack Abs

Myth #1. You Can Out-Crunch A Bad Diet

Consistently feast on garbage foods and your stomach (and arms, and teeth, and legs, and arteries, and skin, etc.) will look like garbage. Building abs starts in the kitchen with a clean diet. But even when your food choices are on point—including cutbacks in sodium intake to reduce bloat and water retention—your portions sizes are vital since it’s still possible to overindulge on healthy foods. This is a universal truth: Consume more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight. Read: No six-pack for you!


Myth #2. Carbohydrates Kill Abs

Carbohydrates are an essential nutrient that your body uses for fuel. So, no, carbs don’t destroy abs. However, fast-digesting carbs like white bread, sports drinks, and potatoes can initiate an insulin spike that can hinder fat loss. (Consuming those types of carbs is best reserved for post-workout because they’ll aid in recovery.) Instead, get your carbs from sources like fruits, veggies, legumes, brown rice, whole-grain pasta, beans, and oatmeal. When possible, omit lab-created mutant foods with ingredients you need an interpreter to pronounce.

7 Myths About Six-Pack Abs

Myth #3. Crunches and Sit-Ups Are Must-Dos

They’re the two most popular abs exercises, but they’re far from your only options. If you don’t want to get horizontal, try these: Russian twists, Scorpion Tails, dip bar knee raises, hanging leg or knee raises, standing rope crunches, and side bends. Vary your exercises and reps, and add resistance and weights to create a stronger midsection and more defined abs.

Myth: #4: Supps Will Cover My Abs Shortfalls

Supplements like caffeine and green tea do have fat-burning properties to them, but they won’t go all Criss Angel on your belly fat and make it vanish. Sadly, for most of us, there are no shortcuts to acquire head-turning abs. We need a rigorous training regimen, low bodyfat, and adequate rest.

7 Myths About Six-Pack Abs

Myth #5. Slower Reps Are Better For Abs

According to a Spanish study, faster reps enabled the muscle activity in the recutus abdominis, external obliques, internal obliques, and spinal erectors to increase. However, mixing up your rep speeds is a more effective approach.

Myth #6. You Can Train Abs Daily

Well, you certainly can, but you’d be overworking them. Abs are a muscle, so treat them with the same respect you would after torching your biceps, or deltoids, or quadriceps, or—you get the idea.

7 Myths About Six-Pack Abs

Myth #7. Spot Reduction Works For Abs

Doing crunches from here till the Rapture won’t guarantee your abs will show when Judgment Day arrives if there’s a layer of fat covering them. As mentioned, a strict diet paired with steady training is an excellent way to reduce bodyfat. But keep in mind that outside factors also come into play. When you’re stressed, for example, cortisol levels rise. That can impede your ability to lose weight. Also, a recent study that appeared in the Journal of Sleep involving 225 adults found that people who stayed up later were found to eat unhealthy foods during those late-night hours. This, not surprisingly, led to weight gain.




Everything You Need To Know About Getting a 6-Pack

6-pack-abs-trainingI’m just gonna go ahead and start where we need to start…

Ab training is overrated.

It’s true.

We train our abs too much.

In gym culture, I see more ab work than ANYTHING.

I’ve seen 7 days of ab training. 7 DAYS. All abs. I’ve seen guys walk into a gym, do an hour of ab work and go home. Entire DVD’s have been made about ab training. And nobody seems to consider a workout complete without ab specific work. Everyone is training abs. Evreryone.

Now I get it – there are few things in this world more coveted than a shredded 6 pack, but here’s the problem…we’re too fat for it to matter.

Our abs sit under our belly fat and the two aren’t related.

You have your abs. ….And then you have you belly fat.

It doesn’t matter how perfect your ab development is if they’re always covered by fat. It’s like spending hours on your ’65 Mustang GT but never taking it out the garage. What the hell is the point??  


And so for most of us, here is the most effective 6 pack workout EVER written:

Warm up) Walk to grocery store

A1) Buy some green vegetables

A2) Buy some yellow vegetables

A3) Buy some white vegetables

B1) Buy some red vegetables

B2) Buy some meat

B3) Cook meat

C1) Cut up green, yellow, white, red vegetables

C2) Add some balsamic vinegar and olive oil to your colorful vegetable salad

C3) A lil’ splash of lemon too

Finisher) Eat

Repeat 100 times. Flex your 6 pack in the mirror.

Nutrition is the foundation of leanness. Leanness is the foundation of a visible 6 pack. So if you want a rockin 6 pack the first and most fundamental step is a thoughtful nutrition plan.

Okay. Glad we got that clear.

And that makes the SECOND step to a rippling 6 pack metabolically demanding full body resistance training.

Sweaty, aggressive challenging resistance training will do more for your mid section than crunches. This type of work burns a butt ton of calories, builds lean mass, and has a profound effect on your hormone profile, all of which help make shreddedness attainable.

And since we’re on a roll here, the THIRD most effective step to getting a 6 pack is probably rest and recovery – the unsung heroes of fat loss.

I’m seriously not trying to mess with you here. The first three most effective steps to getting a 6 pack have nothing to do with ab training. Zilch. Zero. Nada.




So if you’ve perfected your nutrition, you’ve established a periodized and challenging full-body resistance routine, and your rest and recovery is on-point AND you want to incorporate a reasonable amount of ab training into your routine, I’m cool with that. Molding your abs into the perfect specimen of delectable sex-appeal is a perfectly noble pursuit.

And so, long preamble aside, let’s actually talk about your abs:


The primary 6-pack muscle is the rectus abdominis. It’s the vertical muscle that attaches your rib cage to the anterior portion of your pelvis. That means it can tips the pelvic up, it can tip the rib cage down, or it can do both at the same time. It can also prevent movement by engaging in order to stabilize.

The rec abs are divided into 6 or 8 “packs” by tendinous inscriptions. These are the horizontal lines that subdivide a 6 pack. Genetics will determine the configuration. Some of us have 6 packs, some of us have 8 packs, some abs line up evenly, some don’t…not a whole lot you can do about any of that except love it and embrace what your momma gave you.

That’s the rectus abdominis.

The other power player of the 6-pack world is your V. The sex-V. The arrows that point to your…..

This is where the most inferior portion of your external obliques meet up with your inguinal ligament. Remember that ligaments attach bone to bone. The inguinal ligament attaches the anterior superior iliac spine to the pubic tubercle (just in case you cared.) The internal obliques are also hanging out in there (as the names imply, the internal obliques sit underneath the external obliques.) Because even the slightest amount of body fat tends to preferentially be stored in the lower abs, ultra leanness is necessary for the sex-V to pop (which is why it’s so coveted.)

Rectus abdominis and your sex-V. Got it. Okay, so how do we train them to make them beautiful?

First of all, we DON’T train them everyday. Overtraining our ab muscles 1) can make them hypertonic and 2) simple isn’t the most effective approach.

Hypertonic adj. – having a greater degree of tension.

This means that our ribs are constantly being pulled down and our pelvis is constantly being pulled up. We lose your lumbar curve, we tend to develop some degree of kyphosis (rounding of the upper back) and pretty soon we’re dealing with back pain or an injury.

The muscle fiber makeup of our abs also tells us that they shouldn’t be trained everyday. Our rectus abdominus is roughly equal parts fast and slow twitch muscle fiber, just like our arms and thighs for example. With proper training, they’ll need time to recover.

All of this is to say…don’t overtrain your abs. Did I mention that? Don’t overtrain your abs. Oh, that’s right. I just did. Five times. Depending on our phase that means training them once or twice per week on non-consecutive days.

The composition and general complexity of our abs also tells us that they’ll responds well to a variety of training. The idea that abs only response to high repetition, high frequency training is a misunderstanding of, you know, everything.

So when you do train your abs, be sure to include a variety of stimulus. Clarification: this does NOT mean every-movement-every-workout…this means your OVERALL routine should be well balanced.

A nice way to categorize ab training:

  1. Upper flexion (a weighted crunch.)
  2. Lower flexion (hanging knee raises.)
  3. Double flexion (row boats.)
  4. Rotation (Russian twists)
  5. *Anti-movement/stability – (planks, Pallof Cable Press)

*Stability exercises are often neglected but from an athletic perspective, a primary function of the abs is to help maintain the relationship between the pelvis and the rib cage, even under enormous force. If you want to be a badass, don’t neglect stability.

Additional ab considerations

The simplest and most effective way to develop the ultra coveted lower abs is to concentrate on full range of motion training. For example, if you’re doing an incline leg raise, initially the exercise is going to work the illopsoas, tensor fascia lata, and rectus femoris (of the quad) – all hip flexors. In order to work your abs, you have to change the relationship between your pelvis and your rib cage. In other words, you have to curl your bum off the mat. As you contract into an absolute full range, you’ll feel the infraumbilical portion of your abs (the abs that are below your belly button) really start to engage. The take home message: Make the exercise easy enough that you’re able to perform a full range of motion in the prescribed set and rep range.

You should also know that your upper abs and lower abs are an extension of the same muscle. That means they work together. Always. More than likely, your lower abs are not underdeveloped. They just have more fat on top of them. If you want to see your lower abs, you need to get leaner.

So, despite the piles and piles of mis information out there, having an outlandish 6 pack really comes down to a few simple steps:

Step 1) Get lean by focusing on big money methods – nutrition, full body metabolic resistance, rest and recovery.

Step 2) Don’t overtrain your abs (1-2 time per week, non-consecutive.)

Step 3) When you DO train your abs, make sure your training program is balanced and intense.


Eat Your Way to Great Abs with These 7 Tips




When it comes to creating incredible abs, even the most effective workout programs can only bring you so far. That’s because you can’t get a flat, hard midsection without losing body fat. No matter how much effort you put into creating a six-pack, no one’s going to see it if it’s covered by a layer of flab.

If you’re following the dietary guidelines of a Beachbody fitness program, you’ll automatically be eating the right foods to lose fat as you get in shape. But the following seven principles can give you an extra edge, and will help ensure that the effort you’re putting into your abs will bring you the results you want.

1. Get plenty of protein
Eating enough lean protein promotes fat loss and muscle gain, the two most important elements for developing great abs. It also helps keep you from getting hungry while you’re eating right. You don’t have to gobble down 12-ounce steaks—just eat a normal portion of lean meat, fish, low-fat dairy, or vegetarian protein with every meal, and make sure your snacks contain some protein, too. If you still have a hard time getting enough in your diet, a daily Shakeology shake can be a perfect addition.


By the way, protein is especially important in the morning, when a lot of people don’t get as much as they should. A protein-rich breakfast will help keep your blood sugar steady for hours, preventing the dips that can lead to cravings later in the day. (Try some low-fat chicken sausage, or an omelet with one whole egg and three egg whites, along with fruit or whole-grain toast.)

2.Reconsider your carbs.
Despite the popularity of low-carbohydrate diets, the average American meal is still too high in sugar and fast-burning starches to bring body fat down to ab-baring levels. It’s time to say goodbye to sweetened soda, ditch the Doritos, and save the cake for your birthday. If your fitness plan calls for a sports drink before a long cardio workout, or a carb-and-protein recovery drink after resistance training, that’s fine. But the rest of the time, stick with foods that are on the low end of the glycemic index (refer to GlycemicIndex.com for more information)—these foods burn more slowly, so they won’t spike your blood sugar and insulin levels.

3. Have fun with fiber.
Something about the word “fiber” just doesn’t sound appetizing. But high-fiber foods can actually be quite delicious: fresh berries and other fruits, salads loaded with colorful produce, your favorite steamed vegetables or vegetable soup, stews or chili made with beans, chewy whole-grain breads and cereals…You get the picture. (These foods just happen to be loaded with nutrients as well.) High-fiber foods keep you fuller with fewer calories, and they help keep your digestive system working at its best—a double-whammy for getting rid of belly bulge.

4. Enjoy some yogurt.
Probiotics, the healthful bacteria found in yogurt and other fermented foods, have been proven to help reduce belly fat. In a recent study in Finland, new mothers who took probiotic supplements averaged smaller waist circumferences—and lower body fat in general—than those who didn’t take probiotic supplements. And while the topic is still controversial, studies have found that eating lots of calcium-rich dairy foods like yogurt may increase overall weight loss.

5. Don’t forget to eat.
Tempted to lower your daily calorie count by skipping meals? Don’t. Going hungry can raise your levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol, which research has found can increase belly fat even in otherwise thin women. And eating too infrequently can lower your metabolism and energy levels, while increasing the chance that you’ll get too hungry and decide to chuck your meal plan entirely. If you’re eating the right foods, regular meals and snacks will keep your body fueled while you’re working toward that strong core.

6. Drink more fluids. Hydration is important when you’re on a fitness plan, but drinking plenty of water has particular benefits for your midsection. It helps keep your stomach full, so you don’t overeat, and it helps flush out excess sodium to prevent belly bloating. (Eating more potassium-rich foods, such as tomatoes and bananas, will also help in this area.) Plain ol’ H20 can’t be beat, but you can also switch it up with flavored waters, iced tea, and anything else you like to drink that isn’t full of sweeteners. How much do you need? The old rule of 8 glasses a day is a good start, but everyone is different: drink more if you’re exercising or it’s hot out, and drink less if you’re running to the bathroom every 5 minutes.

7. …With two exceptions.
It’s time to cut down on those mood-altering substances, coffee and alcohol. Too much caffeine raises your cortisol levels and can impair your sleep, which can lower the production of fitness-promoting hormones. Meanwhile, the proverbial “beer belly” isn’t just the result of extra calories—alcohol actually makes it more difficult for your body to metabolize carbs and fat. Booze also stimulates your appetite and lowers your inhibitions, which can lead to bingeing. The best road to flat abs is no alcohol at all, but if you really like a drink now and then, just have one at a time (and no more than a few a week), and stay away from higher-calorie beers and sugary mixed drinks

If you add these rules to your fitness plan, you’re sure to see faster improvements in your midsection. Of course, there’s an added bonus to eating this way: it’ll keep you healthier, too. That may not be as big an inducement as great abs, but we’re throwing it in for free.

How to Lose Those Last Few Pounds


By Steve Edwards

Question: “I have been working hard to be healthier and more fit, but I can’t seem to lose the little bit of belly fat that I have carried for years. I eat right, have done P90X, P90X2, INSANITY, and now P90X3…but my one-pack is still there…Help!”—Jeff R.

The beginning and the end of your fitness program are the two most difficult times, with the latter being by far the most frustrating. Losing those last few pounds, whether it’s off of your stomach, hips, thighs, shoulders, or triceps, can be brutally hard. Let’s take a brief look at why, and then we’ll go into some strategies you can employ that will guarantee you’re ready for summer.

First, your trouble area can’t be “spot reduced.” You’ve likely heard this before but let’s be clear. We all hang onto our last vestiges of body fat somewhere. It varies, but the process to get rid of it remains the same for all of us: You must reduce your overall body fat percentage. This means all of your training (i.e., working out or exercising) should work the whole body, and you’re going to need to turn the screw a notch when it comes to diet.

Weight Loss 101

The beginning of a weight loss program is pretty straightforward. If you eat less and exercise more, you tend to drop pounds at a fairly consistent clip. This is because when you instill healthy habits, you bring your nutrient and hydration levels back to normal and this creates a flushing effect on your body. This results in dumping excess water and undigested food, generally leading to good results out of the gate.

Next, under-feeding your body and exercising simultaneously trains your body to use its fat stores for energy more efficiently. For a while, this results in increased performance, which leads to further weight loss.

But then something counterintuitive happens. Your body composition—ratio of muscle to fat tissue—changes, further increasing your metabolism. While as logical as 1, 2, 3, the process results in a situation where you need to eat more in order for your weight loss to continue, something that’s always hard for first-time dieters to adjust to.

This can happen long before you’re at your final stage of weight loss, but that’s irrelevant. Once your state of fitness indicates you need to eat more, follow the steps below in order to keep the weight falling off and your six-pack chiseling into form.

1. Lose weight slowly. You probably lost weight quickly when you began working out but you need to redesign your attack on the last hurrah. By targeting a 1 to 2 pound per week loss, you can eat enough to fuel workout performance and recovery, which will keep your metabolism revving, which is the key to everything you’re after. Shoot for a caloric deficit of 300–600 calories a day. Sometimes less, but never more.

2. Zigzag your calories. Also called “refeeding” in bodybuilding lexicon, zigzagging means eating more calories on some days and less on others to determine that number of calories that works best for your goals. For example, if you’ve been eating a low-calorie diet you can assume you need to add calories. To find out how many, try increasing by 300–600 a day (depending on your size). Eat that way 4 days per week while keeping calories where they are now on the others. Pay very close attention to your body’s performance and keep zigzagging up (or down, it works both ways) until your performance and recovery feel right (workouts are great, sleep great, weight moving how you’d like, etc.). This will mean you’re at your weight loss (or gain) sweet spot. Keep in mind that, as your fitness increases, so do your caloric needs. Zigzagging should be done periodically (every month or so) as your training and fitness is increasing (or decreasing, but we’re not talking about that here).

3. Train on an empty stomach. Work out three to five hours after your last meal (depending on the size of your meals). This ensures you’ve been able to convert that meal to muscle glycogen, so you can train your hardest and maximize your body’s ability to use fat for fuel. A University of Birmingham study bolstered the effects of this long-time sports practice in 2010.

4. Eat small meals often. One of the oldest weight loss tricks in the book is to eat less, more often, to keep your blood sugar steady in order to stave off bingeing. In spite of the proven effects of different methods, particularly intermittent fasting, it’s still the go-to protocol when weight loss is the be-all-end-all goal.

5. Train easy after a longer fasting period. Adding some morning exercise on an empty stomach also improves fat mobilization and is a good way to burn some extra calories and not negatively affect your hard training session of the day. When you’re looking to cut the last few pounds, this “trick” is effective, but be careful. Too much exercise, especially when your diet is lean on calories, can make you catabolic (burning muscle as well as fat) and that’s something you probably don’t want. The catabolic risk means that this is probably not a great tactic for those with figure and bodybuilding goals, and should be saved for those whose ultimate goal is weight off of the scale. Note that this is the reason we have an FAQ for what to do when you’re bonking when you do your hardest workout upon waking up (small carb snack before or more complex carbs at dinner is the answer).

6. Get enough protein. Not only is protein vital for muscle building; high-protein diets increase the body’s ability to burn fat for fuel. While the notion of needing a gram of protein per pound of body weight has been disproven for performance, it’s a good strategy for cutting diets or last hurrahs, as Tony Horton likes to call them.

7. Don’t cut out carbohydrates. Strategic use of carbohydrates for fuel is vital for performance, and performance is how you gauge how your diet is working. While dramatically cutting down your carb consumption can be helpful in the initial stages of weight loss because your body isn’t fit enough to train very hard, it’s a huge mistake to cut carbs once you’re fit. Carbs fuel both your muscles and your brain. They are also more muscle-sparing (slowing muscle breakdown) than either proteins or fats when you’re training, so you need them so that you don’t go catabolic (see tip #5). Carbohydrate intake should be strategic, however, since excessive carbs are stored in adipose tissue (visible body fat). Somewhere in the 40% area, depending on your training, is best for this stage in your nutrition arsenal.

8. Don’t cut out fat. Dietary fat is vital for performance-enhancing hormone production, which is key for both muscle gain and fat loss. Studies indicate that diets consisting of less than 15% fat can inhibit testosterone production (the male gold standard in natural PEHs), and a safe range for dietary fat seems to be the 20–25% range. Since fats have more than double the calories of proteins and carbs, keeping them this low means your diet should hyper-focus on the healthiest choices: fish, avocados, olives, nuts, and seeds.

9. Do cut out junk. Look, there’s just no simple way to get your body to weigh less than it naturally wants to, which is what you’re attempting when you go for a chiseled look, without some sacrifice. Notice I just cited the importance of every macronutrient food group. Junk foods have no importance, except (arguably) for pleasure. If you want to nail the tips above, something’s got to go.

10. Periodizationally diet. Periodizational dieting is eating differently throughout the year with different goals. Essentially, don’t keep your diet super-lean all the time. Like your fitness training, it’s good to have some variation. Periodizational dieting is eating for what you do, and you’re not always competing (which is what you’re doing when you’re trying to be a chiseled as possible). Make sure there are periods in each year when you eat more. Using this example, adding carbs and reducing protein is where you’ll start. All athletes spend at least part of the year eating all they want (within reason), perhaps even more than they need, to ensure they have the reserves to train as hard as they can. Fighting weight, race weight, or competition shape is a phase. Bodybuilders and fitness trainers don’t walk around in contest shape all the time. It’s not because they’re lazy. In a recent online chat Shaun Thompson said he doesn’t like the feeling of being in ASYLUM shape all the time as it’s too draining. Six-packs look awesome in photos and impress your friends at reunions, but your body functions better with a little more “reserve.”





7 Flat-Ab Tips for Men

absEven when you exercise extra hard for “six-pack” abs, you might not get the results you want. That’s because it’s hard to lose abdominal fat, especially if you’re not exercising correctly.

Make sure you’re following these 7 training to-dos.

1. Go Beyond Crunches and Sit-Ups

There’s a good reason these exercises are a go-to for abdominal training — they work!

But your muscles adapt quickly to certain exercises. If this happens, they may stop responding altogether.

Changing your workout every 4-6 weeks will ensure the results keep coming.


It’s also important to do a variety of movements to fully target all of the ab muscles, not just the “six-pack” — aka the rectus abdominis. Other muscles include the external and internal obliques, which are located on the side of the trunk. Try side bridges, planks, hip-ups, bicycles, and Pilates for variety. You can also incorporate stability devices, and do crunches on a Swiss ball for an advanced move.  Beachbody is offering a new program that really targets the core.  It’s called PIYO it mixes Yoga and Pilates.  LEARN MORE HERE!!

2. Give Your Abs a Break

When it comes to training your abs, the more you do does not mean the more results you’ll get. As a matter of fact, doing too much can actually increase the risk of injury to the lower back.

If you’re working your midsection on a daily basis, you’re probably overdoing it. Like all other muscles in your body, your abs need rest to fully recover and repair from a strenuous workout. A good abdominal workout should only be performed on 2 to 3 nonconsecutive days per week.

3. Include Cardio

The biggest mistake men make when attempting to lose belly fat? Avoiding cardiovascular exercise. No matter how hard you try, you can’t spot-reduce. You must burn stored calories.

If a layer of fat is covering your abs, there isn’t any ab-specific workout that will show results without help from cardio training.

Strive for at least 30 minutes 5 days a week. But an even better way to torch belly fat is with vigorous exercise like jogging or an indoor-cycling class. And it’s a great time-saver too, giving you the same benefits in just 25 minutes 3 days a week.

To trim the layer of fat over your abs even faster, throw in high-intensity intervals.

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4. Practice Resistance Training

Remember to train your other muscle groups, which are just as important for strengthening your abs.

Your midsection includes parts of muscles from other parts of your body. Tendons from other muscle groups (such as the latissimus dorsi and trapezius in the back and the hamstrings in legs) extend into and across the trunk area. The rectus abdominis is one long muscle rather than six individual muscles. What gives it the “six-pack” appearance are tendons that extend from other muscle groups and intertwine in this area.

The muscles surrounding your waist help to stabilize your body. Anytime you exercise with weights, your abdomen must activate to stabilize the body.

Total-body resistance training workouts will burn more calories than ab-only exercises. WEIGHT TRAINING like what you can find with BODY BEAST can burn about 6 to 10 calories for every minute you exercise, helping to burn fat that is stored around your waist. Alternate muscle groups with little to no rest in between (for example, do dumbbell bench presses followed by dumbbell squats) to burn maximum calories.

5. Eat Right

It’s very difficult to burn the amount of calories you get from a triple cheeseburger and fries (more than 1,000). Exercise will greatly improve your overall health; but if you want to lose belly fat, you’re fighting an uphill battle if you don’t eat the right types of foods.

One pound of fat contains about 3,500 calories. So, if you want to lose 1 pound of fat per week, then you must burn or eliminate 500 calories each day.

For example, if you replace a 20-ounce bottle of regular soda with water (saving 250 calories) and walk 2 to 3 miles (burning about 250 calories) every day, then you could lose 1 pound of fat per week.

For advice on eating healthy, ask your doctor to refer you to a registered dietitian. A certified personal trainer can also help.


6. Create a Balanced Routine

Keep in mind, too, that relying on diet alone is a recipe for disappointing results. Although you can lose a significant amount of weight just by changing what you eat, a large portion of what you lose may be lean muscle and not fat.

But when you combine exercise with a healthy diet, you burn additional stored calories, ensuring that the weight you lose will come primarily from fat. Additionally, precious lean muscle will be enhanced.

7. Seek Help

If you feel that you’ve tried everything but still don’t see the results you’re after, you may want to consider getting advice from a certified personal trainer who is skilled in helping people achieve their fitness goals.

Choose a trainer who has a degree in exercise science or kinesiology and is certified by a respected organization such as the American Council on Exercise (ACE) or the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

A trainer can also help you prevent injury and identify any health issues you may have that could stand in the way of your success. And if you’re new to exercise and over age 45, check with your doctor before jumping in abs first.

6 Tips for Flat Abs

flat abs


Like the quest for the Holy Grail, most of us are always on a mission to improve our abs.

For a while, people coveted the washboard abs gracing runways, the pages of fashion magazines, and billboards in Times Square. Now everyone is after Beyonce’s flat, tight stomach.

So what does it take to get there?

WebMD talked to fitness experts Ellen Barrett and Liz Neporent to find out the best way to achieve great abs and a tighter midsection. Here are their top six tips.

Flat Ab Tip No. 1: Improve Your Posture

Poor posture is a huge issue for many people, says celebrity trainer and star of numerous exercise DVDs Ellen Barrett.

Barrett says she frequently sees people walking in Manhattan with their ears in front of their bodies and shoulders in front of their hearts.

“If people slouch, their stomachs pooch,” Barrett says.

For better posture while standing, align your ears over your shoulders, shoulders over hips, hips over knees, and knees over ankles. Keep the fronts of the shoulders open like a shirt on a hanger, instead of a shirt on a peg. Draw your navel to your spine and keep your weight even on the balls and heels.

The result: Without doing any abdominal exercise, you can look much leaner by simply standing up straight.

“With your shoulders back and chest up, the abs pull themselves in,” Barrett tells WebMD. “Your energy level improves when you have good posture. Your lung capacity is better. You’re open and more awake.”

Flat Ab Tip No. 2: Think Whole-Body Exercise

When it comes to abdominal strength, you shouldn’t train the body in isolation, says Liz Neporent, president of Wellness 360, a corporate wellness consulting firm in New York.

“People have this misconception that the best way to strengthen the abs is to get on the floor and do a thousand crunches,” Neporent tells WebMD.

“If we could spot reduce, our jaws would be hollow,” Barrett adds. “We probably work the jaw muscle in talking and eating more than any other, and none of us have hollow jaws.”

“You have to see the abs as a 360-degree core,” she says. “You want to develop strength and flexibility around that core.”

“Fitness needs to be intelligent,” says Barrett. “Do slow, high-quality exercise.”

Neporent recommends Pilates “because the focus is the core, but it doesn’t just work the abs in isolation,” she says. That means you’re using your abdominals, but you’re also using your arms and legs, back muscles, and glutes.


“Crunches are fine, at first, but relatively quickly, you’ll have to progress to something else to get that area worked,” she says.

Pilates focuses on developing not just the rectus abdominis (top abdominal muscle layer) as a crunch does, but the internal and external obliques (the side abdominals) and the transversus abdominis (the deepest abdominal muscle).

“Work your core in 3-D, hitting the sides, back, and middle,” Neporent says.

Plank: Start on your hands and knees and come up into a push-up plank position, balancing on hands (or elbows) and toes (or knees). Align wrists under shoulders; keep your back straight and the abs and glutes tight (to keep the back from sagging). Hold the position and breathe out for 10 seconds, exhaling to tighten the abs and draw the navel to the spine.

Leg Lowers: Lying supine, curl the upper body, chest over ribs, with your hands behind your head. Lift the legs up with knees bent at 90 degrees, knees over hips, ankles level with knees. Keeping the hips down, slowly lower the legs toward the floor without changing the bend in the knees, then lift them back up.

Seated Rotations: Sitting up, bend knees and legs together and place arms across the chest or in front of you. Tuck the tailbone and roll back slightly as you alternate rotating the spine right and left.

Flat Ab Tip No. 3: Examine Your Diet and Digestion

“If you have abdominal fat you can have great ab strength and great posture, but you won’t have a flat abdominal or a six-pack,” Barrett says.  “You have to change your diet and increase your energy output.”

n other words, eat less and move more.

“You need to burn off more calories than you take in to reduce body fat,” Neporent adds.

Unfortunately for many people, the abdominals are a place where fat tends to accumulate, Barrett says.

“No matter how many ab exercises you do, you’re still going to have an extra layer [of fat] covering the abdominals [if you’re carrying excess weight],” Neporent says.

Flat Ab Tip No. 4: Props Are Optional

Stability balls and Bosu balls, straps and bands, even those fancy MBT Masai walking shoes are not necessary to achieve flat abs.

Props are wonderful, and they may help you work your core more readily, elevate you to a different level or simply mix it up, but you don’t need them to meet your fitness goals.

“Gimmicks or fancy gym memberships aren’t necessary. You don’t need space, you don’t need sneakers, you don’t need fancy clothes,” Barrett says.

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For instance, strengthen your abdominals when you’re at the park, raking leaves, taking a walk.  Even while socializing at a cocktail party you can stand straight and exhale to draw the navel to the spine.

Flat Ab Tip No. 5: Take Things Slow

There are no fast fixes, Barrett says. Even the promised quick fixes end up being temporary. “It’s a goal. You have to plan on a slow and steady progression,” she says.

Barrett says most people will experience set backs, roadblocks, and utter frustration along the way. Rewards come with time and consistency.

Flat Ab Tip No. 6: Set Realistic Goals

Though it’s not an excuse to explain away a soft midsection, your genes do play a role, Neporent says. For better or worse, you stand a chance of inheriting Mom’s thick wavy hair and her dark circles. Same goes for other parts of the body.

“Sometimes, even very thin people can’t get washboard abs,” Neporent says. “Genetically their bodies want to hold on to the extra layer on the top.”

That doesn’t mean you can’t improve your appearance, but it does mean you need to set realistic expectations. Not everyone can look like Beyonce, but you won’t stand a chance if you’re still sitting around with one hand in the candy jar.

More Exercises for Flat Abs CLICK HERE

Ellen Barrett is a proponent of standing abdominal exercises, which integrate balance, coordination, and body awareness and also tone the core. Here are a few from her DVD Fat-Burning Fusion.

Canoe Twist: Stand upright, feet apart. Interlace all 10 fingers to the webbing of your hands to create a solid grip. Exhale, and sweep the interlocked hands, arms, shoulders, and chest to the left, as if “rowing a canoe.” Simultaneously lift the left knee up and to the right. Inhale and return to the starting position. Exhale and perform the movement to the right. Alternate for 20 repetitions.

Cat Kick: Stand with feet together, arms extended out like airplane wings. Exhale, and lift the right leg forward and up. At the same time, sweep the arms forward at shoulder level and round the spine, like a cat. The navel should feel as though it’s pressing toward the spine. Inhale, and open back up and return to the starting position. Repeat with the left leg, alternating for 20 repetitions.

Pilates Zip Up: Stand upright with the heels together, toes slightly turned out. Bring the arms up, into an “upright row” position, hands just underneath the chin. Exhale, press the arms down (as if pressing down on a box of dynamite), keeping the hands and arms very close to the body. Simultaneously, lift your heels off the ground onto your tiptoes. Hold for two seconds at the “top” and inhale and return to the starting position. The abs go “in and up” and the arms go down. Perform 20 repetitions.