Happy Sunday, everybody! This evening’s post has been dedicated to exploring a phrase I hear and see frequently used across different forms of media: abs are made in the kitchen. The big question is, well, are they? The answer is yes. Yes, they absolutely are, and I write from personal experience.
I have never really been overweight, but have always lacked that desirable definition around my stomach. Abs like slabs, that’s what I wanted, that was my (recurring) dream. Now, we all know the struggles of university life, you’re out boozing at least twice a week and, more often than not, stumbling out of the cloob and into the closest kebab shop for cheesy chips. And even when you vow that this is a new you, no more buying food after nights out, drunk you decides otherwise, and orders a burger, chips and a large Diet Coke, because, you know, you don’t want to get fat. Ultimately, for us students, the world is not on our side; you make your healthy lunch before going to the library, you’ve forgotten your fork, so go to the coffee shop to get one and BAM!, sandwiches, baguettes, crisps and sweets, as far as the eye can see. No wonder it is so hard to get abs, when there are so many temptations left right and centre.
Throughout my years at uni, I have been a regular gym goer and sports player. Yet there was never even a hint of ab definition. However, during this past year, my placement year, I have been living at home and finding it much easier to maintain a healthy diet and still indulge when I want (which isn’t often, otherwise it wouldn’t be called indulging, would it?). I eat a lot of meat and vegetables, and healthy food in general, but I also treat myself to the odd Krispy Kreme doughnut on special occasions. Such as the weekend. As long as you keep it healthy during the week and don’t eat crap everyday, you should be good to go. If you’re eating Kettle Chips for lunch and a cookie for dessert every evening (‘just the one’, said no one ever), and THEN going for pizza on Saturday before Sunday’s fry-up to cure your hangover, not forgetting the few glasses of wine and pints of beer along the way, then NO SHIT SHERLOCK, that is probably why you’re still more flab than fab ab. Being overly strict is not necessary, it’s just important to stay disciplined. If you are gymming most days, then eating a slice of bread here and there won’t make much of a difference; my sound advice would be to indulge when needed (notice the word needed, not wanted); eat three big healthy meals every day, and gym 4/5 times a week. If you follow this simple formula, it doesn’t matter so much if you eat some crap along the way.
Here are my top tips for getting abs:
1. Avocado should be your best friend.
Avocado is very nutritious and a source of ‘healthy fats’. I have a nut allergy so I can’t be eating cashews and shit otherwise my stomach swells and I look like a ballon. Not exactly helpful on the quest for defined abs. So avocado is something I like to eat on a regular basis as it contains a lot of fibre, both insoluble and soluble, which is good for your digestion and slows the breakdown of carbohydrates, keeping you full for longer. Avocados are also high in oleic acid. Long story short, oleochemicals acid activates the part of your brain that makes you feel full. So that green, smushy, annoying fruit (yes it is a fruit) is actually doing me a lot of favours and stopping me grabbing a packet of Marylands on my lunch break. Try having this with your meat at lunch or with egg in the morning. Added bonus, avocado is good for your skin as it has a lot of folic acid, vitamins and antioxidants. Like mother used to say, eat your greens!
2. If you go to the gym, go hard or go home.
Right, I am a girl, so I know the tendencies of the classic girly gym routine. If you run on the treadmill half heartedly for 10 minutes, and then saunter over to the weight machines, do 2 sets of 10 reps on 5kg not really knowing what you’re doing, then you may as well not have gone. I know this, because that is exactly what I used to do, and I ended up leaving the gym realising I’d done f*ck all and wasted 40 mins scrolling through my Instagram.
What I have found to really help me this year is planning exactly what I am going to do in the gym before I go, so that I’m not fannying about when I get there trying to remember different exercises. Plan your gym session beforehand so you know exactly what you are doing and can work hard for a full hour. You are better off doing this 3/4 times a week than going every day for half an hour checking out the fit boys bench pressing. I know the weights section can be really intimidating for some people (mostly girls!), especially if you don’t know exactly what you are doing, but I say go for it. That way, you can even ask the fit boy you’ve been checking out how to do a bench press.
So warm up, stretch, and do some damn weights!
3. Do not shop when you’re hungry, I repeat, Do not shop when you’re hungry.
So this is a major mistake I have made for years, and I am sure you can relate: when you shop when you are hungry, you end up buying stuff that is delicious but not healthy. You go out with the best intentions and the healthiest list, kale, chicken breasts, quinoa and you come back with chips, dip and a bottle of wine. I would recommend doing an online shop, so that you can look up some nice healthy recipes either online or from a cookbook as you shop. Of course you need some naughtiness in your life, so by all means buy some minstrels for the weekend, but do not do a food shop when you haven’t eaten and craving some double chocolate fudge brownies.
If you are on a tight budget, healthy is do-able. Get frozen veg, frozen meat and lots of eggs. I don’t go so strict that I can’t have sauces and garnish (what is life without garnish). Yes I eat ketchup and mayo and put dressings on my salad because who the hell wants to eat curly kale with avocado dry…. it’s just boring.
4. Try and stay off the booze..
I have never really been a boozie Suzie, but a night out with the netball girls at uni is not something you do sober. Cameo Wednesday, please, it would be rude not to drink. But it wasn’t doing me any favours. As I’ve said, it’s not just the drink, it’s the inevitable drunk food that is the aftermath of a night out. Getting drunk and socialising go hand in hand, however, alcohol does not promote abs like slabs. Beer, lager, cider and wine are very fattening and sometimes have up to 250 calories which is the same as a small chocolate bar. Alcohol is also scientifically proven to increase your appetite so overall not too great.
Lads, getting crunk is worse for you as you tend to drink more, predominantly beer, so you could actually end up drinking your whole day’s worth of calorie intake (2,500) in one night. And thats without the doner kebab on the way home.
Basically, don’t drink. If you can. Otherwise, just try and cut back. I can count on one hand how many times I drunk alcohol whilst I was living abroad for 9 months and I felt so much better. Fun fact: to burn off an 180 calories pint of lager, the average man would have to run for 13 minutes.
5. Work your abs most gym sessions.
For definition, your ab muscles need to be worked hard and often. Always push yourself to your limit to the last rep. I have veered away from the standard sit ups, because although of course they are helpful they are generic and only work the same muscles. I tend to use Instagram to find inspiration for alternative ab workouts and a variation of exercises to work the different abdominal muscles. Doing 20 sit ups at the gym on Monday and Friday, quite frankly, gets boring. To be completely honest, I am not an ab expert but from my own experience, variation is key. Try doing a circuit of 8 ab exercises, 3/4 sets. I have posted a few of my favourite ab exercises on instagram however, I will post some more! If you wake up in the morning, and your abs don’t ache like hell, either you didn’t push yourself hard enough or your muscles are already pretty strong, you absolute lad.
I do like working out alone, but I find training with a gym buddy really helps me work harder. Not only does it prevent me from slacking, but it’s always good to have some encouragement to finish my last set. And also I make it a secret competition between me and them. One that I have to win.