I chose this topic because of a trend I have noticed in social media. A big fascination with abs has developed in the past few years. We’ve always considered abs a part of the elite fitness community but now the average joe can be found posting on Instagram about his pursuit of abs. At some point we decided that abs were the epitome of health. Many trainers jumped on the opportunity to make money and started developing “ab blasting workouts” and promising “abs in 10 minutes!” I want to share some truth bombs with you today.
Abs are more about body fat than exercise
You could have the most amazing abs in the world, but if you carry a certain amount of body fat you are not going to see them. They are going to hide under a layer of fat. This layer of fat might be a healthy amount that your body enjoys having. A lot of ab visibility also depends on where you carry your fat. I’ve known people with decent abs but thicker thighs. I’ve also knows people with belly fat who have skinny legs. On average men need to achieve a body fat percentage of less than 10% for visible abs and women need to achieve a body fat percentage of less than 20%. This varies person to person. While I do believe these are healthy percentages, they take a very committed and health minded person to achieve. Even then depending on body type you might be better off without them!
Just because you have abs doesn’t mean your fit
When I was ill, and underweight, I had abs. At 110lbs my stomach was supermodel ready. I felt terrible. I was skin and bones. The only reason you could see my abs was because I was 11% body fat, not because I worked hard. My core is much stronger now but my abs aren’t as visible. I am fitter than I have ever been but my abs don’t look like they did when I weighed 110lbs. We see this in sports all the time. The leanest person isn’t always the fittest person. Our bodies need a certain amount of body fat to be healthy and sometimes abs aren’t worth it. I do believe most people can have visible abs and still be at a healthy weight but there are always outliers.
Abs are made in the kitchen
When it comes down to it, your body fat percentage is most affected by what you eat. So many of the bodies problems can be sorted out with proper nutrition. When your nutrition is on point it makes exercising easier. Your body is better equipped to make adaptations when it is given the right fuel. This is unique to each person but here are some general guidelines for maintain a health body fat percentage:
- Vegetables should be your main food group. Vegetables are full of micronutrients and fiber. Fill up your plate!
- Always include a protein and a fat. Both these nutrients can help maintain hormones and blood sugar levels.
- Choose healthy carbs. Whenever possible choose a good source of carbohydrates such as fruit, sweet potato and squash. When choosing a grain, buy organic and whole grain as much as possible.
If abs are one of your goals I want to encourage you to earn them. Don’t starve yourself or exercise 5 hours a day hoping they will show up. It is more important that you find a balanced approach to health. Keeping your heart, lungs and muscles healthy should be a priority over the visibility of your abs. I’m going to be more impressed that you can do a pull-up then I am ever going to be by the aesthetic of your body. When your 80 years old your not going to care if you have abs, but you are going to care if you are too weak to pick up your great-grandchildren.
Eat Your Veggies!