FLATTEN AND STRENGTHEN YOUR ABS
LET'S BEGIN WITH
(Excerpts from an article by Shawn McKee; eDiets Staff Writer; Originally publilshed Tuesday, November, 27, 2007)

Look at the food you're feeding your body and replace some of the belly busters with slimming stomach staples (as in crucial diet ingredients, not invasive surgery fasteners). You know you can't eat 4,000 calories a day and get great abs, but it's not just about the calorie count when it comes to a flat stomach - it's also about the food. "All things being equal, if your daily caloric intake is set at 1,400 calories, a diet of nutrient-rich foods is going to keep you fuller longer, reducing your cravings and giving you more energy, compared to the same number of calories of less nutritious food, which will help you on your road to a better body," says Tracey Ryan, MS, RD.

According to a report from the experts at Framingham Nutrition Studies, certain foods lend themselves to bigger bellies. The study reported that women who ate 400 fewer calories per day, but chose less nutritious foods than the participants that made better selections, had a higher risk of abdominal obesity by nearly 2 1/2 times. Those making poor food selections also had a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart attacks according to the study's director of nutrition research. The five foods you'll need for flatter abs will help you be healthier and leaner, plus, you'll be pleasantly surprised by some of the suggestions. Now start eating yourself skinny!

    Orange you glad you get to eat carbs?
    Replace carbohydrates from sugar and refined grains (like white bread) with carbs from fruits and vegetables. Orange-hued foods were found to be the most effective substitutes. Since fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, they keep you feeling full longer and researchers believe the high levels of antioxidants like vitamin C and beta-carotene fend off the belly fat. Get a good dose of beta-carotene from carrots, cantaloupe, squash and peaches. You can get your vitamin C from oranges and berries, but remember that fruit juice is not a good substitute for the real thing.

    How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?
    You should be getting about 25 percent of your daily calories from protein, but make sure to choose lean sources like low-fat yogurt, fat-free milk, fish and poultry to keep calories down. Nuts are also high in protein, but can also be high in calories, so eat them in moderation, like about a handful a day. Protein helps to keep you feeling full and boost your energy -- aiding in your weight-loss efforts.

    . Selenium: One marvelous mineral.
    A recent survey found that this cancer-fighting mineral also seemed to lower rates of abdominal obesity. Several foods contain selenium, so it's hard to know if you're getting your recommended 55 mcg per day. The best sources are whole grains, nuts (especially Brazil nuts), poultry, red meat and seafood. Foods rich in vitamin E, such as nuts and seeds, will increase the effectiveness of selenium in the body. Your best bet to get enough selenium is to eat a varied, balanced diet or try a supplement containing the mineral.

    Booze it and lose it!
    Several studies suggest that light drinking, compared to teetotaling, protects against weight gain around the waistline in women. Data reviewed by the National Center for Health Statistics points to one 4-ounce glass of wine most days as the best bet. Remember the "less is more philosophy". While one glass has great health benefits, having more is just going to add inches to your waist and cause you to think you're funnier, smarter and better looking than you really are. The only 6-pack you should be having is the one under your shirt.

    5. FISH: Me and Fatty McGee: Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.
    There's a difference between good and bad fats. Eating good fats like monounsaturated and omega-3s make it easier to stay slim, according to recent research. "The healthy fats, like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated are found in fish, nuts, olive oil and avocado, while the bad fats, like saturated and trans are found in butter, shortening, pre-packaged cakes and cookies," Ryan says. A Wake Forest University study found that over a 6-year period, participants whose only source of fat was trans fats gained 30 percent more fat in their abdominal region and had early signs of diabetes. You don't have to fear fats if you know which are good and bad.

Exercise and follow these simple guidelines and you'll be on your way to an abs-olutely amazing midsection!

SPEAKING OF EXERCISE, TRY THESE:
The time has come. Oh yeah---time to get ready to plop down on your floor for a belly-busting ab workout.

Before we get to the actual workout, let's get something straight. You will not achieve great looking abs unless you reduce body fat and adhere to the following guidelines:

    1. Nutrition -- This is one of the most important components to achieving a flat stomach. You'll need to be in a slight caloric deficit (less than maintenance) and you'll need to control blood sugar levels. This is the most efficient and healthiest way to lose body fat. eDiets has over 20 meal plans to choose from, so finding the most enjoyable program won't be hard. In fact, we'll help you to choose the best
    2. Cardiovascular Exercise -- Perform three to four days per week of cardiovascular exercise for approximately 25-30 minutes. Find an activity that's fun such as aerobic video tapes, belly dancing classes, walking with a friend, etc.
    3. Weight Training -- Just two to three workout sessions lasting no more than 30-40 minutes will do the trick. And once you start losing fat, you'll see some lean and defined muscles.
    4. Consistency -- You'll need to be consistent most of the time. I'm not suggesting perfection and a life of constant denial, but let's face it, if you want to make changes you have to make some sacrifices.
Now, plop on that floor and let's work your abs. Once your body fat begins to reduce, you'll start to notice a tight set of abdominals forming from the result of this program.

First of all, this won't last long---no longer than about 12 minutes because endless amounts of abdominal exercises are simply not necessary. However, it will be a tough 12 minutes. Now, plop on that floor and letís work your abs. Once your body fat begins to reduce, youíll start to notice a tight set of abdominals forming from the result of this program.

THE WORKOUT

The first thing to do is warm-up for 5 minutes by walking, stretching, dancing, playing with thge kids, or a little strenuous housework. Then, yous'll do better if you psychologically prepare yourself for a non-stop ab workout that will have you huffing and puffing.

The training method youíll be using is referred to as "timed sets". You should perform each exercise below for as many repetitions as possible. Once you cannot complete another rep, go immediately to the next exercise and continue the cycle. There is no waiting between sets.

When beginning, set yourself a goal, say 5 reps and then increase by 1 or 2 each day or so. Donít forget to time your workout and please -- no more than 12 minutes! Although it may seem necessary to perform the workout daily, performing the workout on three alternate days per week will suffice. Don't forget to count and write down the total number of reps performed for each exercise during the workout. The final goal should be 64 total reps for each workout.

LET'S GET STARTED:

    1. Double Crunch

    If the double crunch is performed correctly, you can isolate the lower and upper region of the abdominals. Please note, contrary to popular belief, we do not have separate upper and lower abs.

      Starting Position:
      Lie on the floor face up. Bend your knees until your legs are at a 45 degree angle with both feet on the floor. Your back should be comfortably relaxed on the floor. Place both hands behind your head.

      Movement:
      Contracting your abdominals, raise your head and legs off the floor toward one another. Slowly return to the starting position stopping just short of your shoulders and feet touching the floor.

      Key Points:
      Exhale while raising up. Inhale while returning to the starting position.

    2. Reverse Ab Curl

    This exercise isolates the lower region of the abs. Donít worry if you canít perform a lot of them. Just keep practicing.

      Starting Position:
      Lie on the floor with your back relaxed and your hands on the floor by your hips. Keep the upper back pressed into the floor throughout the exercise.

      Movement:
      Contracting your abs, raise your butt and gently roll your hips off the floor stopping when you feel a full contraction of the abdominals and can no longer lift your hips. Slowly return to the starting position.

      Key Points:
      Exhale while lifting your hips. Inhale while returning to the starting position. Keep your eyes on the ceiling to avoid pulling with your neck. Your hands should not be used to lift the head or assist in the movement.

    3. Vertical Scissors

    Time to get off the floor!

      Starting Position:
      Sit on a chair or bench with your legs extended in front of you. Your hands should be under your glutes for balance.

      Movement:
      Contracting your abdominals, lift your right leg as you lower your left leg. Reverse the positions of your legs by lowering your right leg and raising your left leg, mimicking a scissor

      Key Points:
      Breathe rhythmically throughout the exercise. Squeeze your glutes and hip muscles as you switch legs, but make sure to focus on contracting your abs (this is not a leg exercise).

    4. BONUS: Abdominal Vacuum

    This exercise is based on time and not reps. The Transverus Abdominis muscle is muscle that holds your abs tight and flat. Itís a thin sheet of muscle running along the sides of the abs and joins connective tissue behind it and is your bodyís natural corset. When you suck your stomach in, you have just used your Transversus. This is the only muscle that can help pull the stomach inward.

      Position yourself on the floor on all fours. Keep your back flat and maintain this position throughout the exercise.

      Start by exhaling absolutely every bit of air from your lungs. Then, relax your abdomen and let it hang like a loose sling, but don't increase the arch in your lower back. Next, pull the navel in as if I just told you to suck in your stomach as tight as possible. Continue to breathe lightly through your nostrils, but make sure youíre pulling your navel in as tight as you can. Hold the contraction for 40 seconds but make sure itís very tight. In time, youíll notice the abdominal area pulled in and looking flatter. This exercise provides benefit with no repetitious movement.

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