You can do all the exercises for sculpting your abdominal muscles, but if your diet isn’t right you will never get to see that “six-pack” you have sweated blood and tears for. Here’s all you need to know:
1. Eat after exercise
Training seriously depletes your body of energy reserves and vital nutrients, so you’ll need to replenish your system with protein rich foods, fast-acting carbs and nutrient dense foods to fuel and repair muscles.
2. Drink plenty of water
Don’t just drink before, during and after exercise. Try to hydrate yourself throughout the day. Dehydration slows down your metabolism and will also have a dramatic impact on your energy levels. Water is required for transport of nutrients, hormones, and other messengers in the body. It is also required for many chemical reactions within the body. Digestion, nerve transmissions, muscle contractions, energy production, and joint lubrication all require water, as well.
3. Always have Breakfast
Changing your habits is easier than changing your thinking. Thus kicking off your day with a healthy breakfast sets the trend for the whole day, “I started great, I need to continue like this”. A breakfast based around complex carbohydrates and protein (eggs) helps cut craving for sweet or starch food throughout the day as well as boosting your metabolism. A good breakfast to get your day off to an ideal start would be a bowl of porridge (slow release energy), eggs (protein) w/ rye bread (fibre), and a piece of fruit (Vit C).
4. Eat a high-protein bedtime snack
Have some cheese or a low-fat yoghurt before you go to bed. They are full of slow-acting protein which will help regenerate your muscles while you rest and recover during sleep.
5. Eat fat
Don’t get too excited as I don’t mean the fat in the form of cakes and take-aways. The essential fatty acids found in oily fish, nuts, avocados and olive oil will prevent muscle breakdown and replenish the fat stores that are needed to sustain your lengthy training sessions.
6. Eat little and often
The most effective way to sustain even energy levels across the day is to “eat little and often”. By eating lots of small meals you’ll keep your metabolism burning and your blood sugar levels stable, hence the body functions more efficiently throughout the day.’ When we eat a big meal, the sugar level in our blood rises, but once that meal is digested that blood sugar level falls, taking your energy and mood with it. The bigger the meal, the bigger the crash – and the higher your need for sugary snacks to refuel your body. And it’s not just energy and sugar levels that stay stable, eating regularly also prevents fat storage, keeps hunger at bay, and encourages muscle recovery.
7. Ditch the booze or at the very least don’t binge drink
The average pint of lager contains 200 empty (no nutrients) calories. Empty calories that offer nothing to the body in terms of nutrition are stored as fat around the belly, hence the “beer-belly”. If you are after a chiseled midsection, keep your sessions in the pub to a minimum.
8. Take a rest day to recover
Just as vital as a workout is to muscle building, rest and recovery is equally important. Not only will rest and recovery restore tired muscles and maximise your gain it will also lower your levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol does the opposite to testosterone as it is a catabolic hormone that reduces protein synthesis and prevents tissue growth. Because muscle grows when you’re resting (and not while you’re in the gym), and cortisol levels are at a low and growth hormones are at a high when sleeping, hence make sure you’re getting enough rest and recovery.
9. Get your five a day
Your body needs to be well stocked with nutrient-dense foods and minerals to keep your energy levels up and boost your immune system. Post exercise you need to restore vital nutrients used up during exercise.
10. Indulge occasionally
Once you feel you’ve got the hang of eating a well balanced and nutritional diet, you can occasionally indulge in forbidden foods in order to satisfy your cravings and have something to look forward to.