If a sculpted stomach wasn’t already a fitness goal of yours, one look at Halle Berry’s rock-hard abs on Instagram just might have bumped it to the top of your shortlist. Almost as inspiring as the image itself was the caption that accompanied it, in which the actress acknowledges how much freaking effort it took to carve her core.
As you probably already know, it’s insanely hard to create muscle definition in your midsection — even if it’s super strong. But if you want to set a high bar for yourself á la Berry, these top tips for how to get abs and keep them from trainers can help you level up.
The first thing to know is that not all of the factors that influence whether or not you can actually see your abs are under your control. For example, body composition (or the ratio of body fat to lean muscle mass you have) is impacted by diet and exercise, sure, but also genetics. Plus, belly fat, in particular, can be impacted by hormones such as cortisol, a.k.a. the stress hormone. In fact, stress has been linked to higher levels of abdominal fat in non-overweight women, according to research.
Bottom line: “Every woman’s body is built differently, so it varies, but generally speaking it takes a lot of time and dedication to get those abs to show,” says Amanda Butler, certified personal trainer and instructor at The Fhitting Room in New York City. “It can take anywhere from three months to a year to get a six-pack, and it’s not just about doing a ton of abs exercises.”
So what does it take exactly? Scroll down for intel on how to get abs, asap, according to certified trainers and research.
1. Crank up the cardio
It’s hardly surprising that one of the things Kourtney Kardashian’s trainer had the reality TV star start doing to get in the best shape her life (visible abs and all) was incorporate cardio into every workout.
Why? Because aerobic exercise triggers fat burning. The more cardio exercise you do, the move belly fat you stand to lose, according to a review of 16 clinical trials that looked at the connection between the two.
So, when you do cardio consistently as part of a fitness routine that’s also focused on core and muscle building, you’ll start to see your body composition shift and more tone and definition from head to toe — core included.
2. Add HIIT workouts into the mix
What is HIIT? Well, for starters, it’s short for high-intensity interval training, might just be the fastest track when it comes to how to get abs. That’s because the fitness technique combines cardio AND strength training in one quick, effective workout.
“The beauty of a HIIT class is that it gives you the benefit of body fat loss, as well as putting on lean mass,” says Steve Uria, certified trainer and founder of the HIIT-based fitness studio Switch Playground. “I would say, if you start doing HIIT three to four times a week you will see a noticeable difference in your body.”
3. Exercise your abdominal muscles on the reg
“Every workout should involved core training, says certified trainer Anna Kaiser, founder of AKT Fitness and the woman behind the abs of stars like Kelly Ripa and Shakira. Just know that exercise alone isn’t enough to give your muscle definition because core workouts won’t decrease belly fat necessarily, according to a small study that looked at 24 women who did abs exercises five times per week for six weeks; you need to also follow a healthy diet.
Still, the only way to get muscle definition is through exercise. When working out your abdominal muscles, it’s important to not just focus on your six-pack, or rectus abdominis. You want to strength train your entire core, which includes your internal and external obliques, transverse abdominals, and internal stabilizers.
4. Eat more protein
If you’re already active, chances are you’ve likely heard that protein is an important part of the recovery process between workouts as it helps your muscles rebuild and get stronger. But did you know that increasing your protein intake could also help you change your body composition by decreasing body fat?
It doesn’t even take a whole lot of extra protein to make a big difference. Adding just 15 percent more protein into your diet could do the trick, according to one study. Here are the best high-protein foods to start eating now if you’re not already.
5. Hit your daily H2O goals
Staying well-hydrated isn’t just good for your skin and system overall, some research suggests that it can actually help you burn more calories and lose more body fat too.
Drinking approximately 500 ml of water can boost your metabolic rate by up to 30 percent for anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes as it boosts your energy expenditure, according to research. The same study found that you burn 23 calories for every 500 ml of water you drink, just FYI.
6. Stop eating refined sugar and processed foods
As Kaiser puts it, you can do all the core workouts you want, but if you regularly eat sweet foods or drinks, you won’t have the abs to show for all your hard work. “Sugar and wine will quickly add a layer of belly fat over your stomach,” she says.
Same goes for processed foods that are high in calories, fat, sodium, and sugar, but low in nutritional value. Focus on filling up on whole foods instead, with an emphasis on protein and fibre.
7. Keep the refined carbs to a minimum
Here’s some more food for thought: Refined carbohydrates, like white bread, flour, and rice, can send your blood sugar levels on a roller coaster ride making you feel hungry and reaching for food to balance yourself out.
What’s more, people who ate higher levels of refined grains vs. whole grains also had higher levels of belly fat than those who didn’t, according to research, while the opposite was true for people who consumed higher quantities of whole grains vs. refined options.
8. Fill up on fibre
Eating a high-fibre diet is good for your overall health. But if you are specifically interested in how to get abs and your six-pack to pop, adding just 10 extra grams of soluble fibre daily can reduce belly fat.
Study participants who did so saw a 3.7 percent reduction in abdominal fat over five years without doing anything else.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthsa.co.za
Image credit: iStock