Ab Envy

Swimsuit and summer season are right around the corner. So it is that time of year when I tend to see many fitness articles that revolve around abs and the workouts that are suppose to miraculously chisel them into the defined, envious muscles that most of us like to see. I have to say that I too, am one who envies a lovely set of abs. Obviously these articles sell magazines and some do have great exercises, but I always tend to laugh at how people get sucked into the myths that surround getting a nice set of abs.

I once read a metaphor that described perfectly how to view ab definition-- Think of a lovely mountain. I envision Mt. Rainier in all its mass and beauty. During the late summer you can see the beautiful jagged peaks and the definition of all the valleys with sharp and precise lines. During the winter, the snow blankets that mountain and seems to soften and smooth out all those lines and definition. Relate this to our abs- We can do all the ab exercises in the world and have a phenomenal, strong, and defined set of abs, but we will never see the wonder if it continues to be blanketed by a layer of fat.

Now females have a little more challenge in unveiling those abs because 1. we tend to carry higher levels of body fat and 2. if our body fat is low enough to unveil those abs, it is usually not healthy for most of us to maintain it at that low level for long periods of time.

Now some of you are genetically blessed to have lower levels of body fat naturally, or do not tend to carry fat in your abdomen, but some of us have to work REALLY HARD in keeping a fit level of body fat, and hopefully showing off the hard work in our ab definition. The key to this success is CLEAN EATING! Eighty plus percent of your success in showing off those lovely muscles will be because of your healthy food choices.

With that said, I recently read an article on ab myths. I discuss these same misconceptions with my clients on a regular basis so I thought I would summarize for you.

Myth #1- "Targeting the abs burns away belly fat."
You can do hundreds of reps, but you cannot spot reduce fat from any area. Fat will come off where it wants to and each individual carries it more in different areas of the body. Hey, that is part of why we are all unique individuals, right?

Myth #2- "You can isolate specific areas of the abdominal muscles."
Just as you cannot spot reduce fat on any area of your body (without surgery), you cannot spot enhance certain sections of your abs (ie obliques or "lower abs"). Your ab muscles collectively work as a single unit. Some exercises may trigger a part of the muscle more than another but it does not single it out.

Myth #3- "Getting awesome abs requires expensive equipment."
The best pieces of equipment will be clean eating and a complete fitness program including cardio and weight training. The bicycle ab exercise has repeatedly been found to fire up the most muscle fibers and be the most effective out of the most common ab exercises. No equipment required.

Myth #4- "Ab muscles are different from other muscles."
Muscle is muscle. Besides location, your abs are no different than your quads or biceps as far as voluntary skeletal muscle goes. Some individuals think you can train abs every day and for hundreds of reps. Treat your abs like any other body part. 2-3 times per week is sufficient. Quality, not quantity.

Myth #5- "Carbs make you fat."
They do not make you fat. It is true simple carbs in excess- we are talking sugary and processed, do not have any nutrients and should be avoided. But one should focus on complex carbs- think fruits, veggies, and whole grains. You need complex carbs for energy. Without them you become tired and sluggish. Make sure every meal is healthy, balanced, and includes complex carbs, protein, and healthy fats.

Oxygen Abs Collector's Issue- Spring 2010

Now you know the real deal with abs. Here's to cleaning up the diet and fine tuning those workouts so you can show off those hard earned abs.

Best in health-

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