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Maximum Potential Calisthenics

How To Get a Six Pack – Diet

Dave Mace shows his six pack whilst doing leg raises

Before we jump into this post I would like to make one thing clear, I train for strength first and foremost, I’d rather have a functionally strong core with no six pack, than a weak one with an impressive six pack; the aesthetics are a bonus and that goes for all my muscles.

With that out the way, I’ve been getting a few questions recently about how to get a six pack, so I’ve decided to make a post about it.

Diet is the most important part of obtaining a six pack, you can have the strongest abs in the world, but if there’s a few layers of fat over the top then all you’ll have is a big belly.

I haven’t had my body-fat measured in nearly two years but I think I’m probably around the 10% mark. If I wanted to see a full six pack then even I would need to lose a bit more fat.

Calories In, Calories Out?

Is it is as simple as eating less calories than the amount you burn? I’m a firm believer that this model is over-simplified and not very helpful. Is 100 calories of sugar really the same as eating 100 calories of salad; no chance! If that isn’t the case, then what food should we cut down on and which should we eat more of to lose body fat, here are a few guidelines.

Cut Down on Refined Sugar

Every time we eat carbohydrates, especially simple carbohydrates such as sugar, our body experiences an insulin spike. When our insulin levels are high, our body’s ability to use fat as an energy source is inhibited. Furthermore, there have been numerous studies that have demonstrated that processed sugar has multiple health risks, even going as far as to suggest that it is more dangerous to us than alcohol and tobacco.
Quick Tip: Soft drinks typically contain up to 10 teaspoons of sugar, replacing your drinks throughout the day with water is a great start to reducing your sugar intake.

Don’t be Afraid of Eating Fat

Eating fat does not make you fat, in fact this is such a common myth that I’m going to say it twice Eating Fat Does Not Make You Fat! Good, natural fats such as those found in Nuts, Avocados, Grass-Fed Meat, Eggs etc. are all excellent sources of energy and nutrition. I despair when I hear people not eating the yoke of an egg, or the skin off a chicken, both of which are the healthiest parts.

Further Reading:

Quick Tip: Don’t buy low fat versions of foods. Typically these foods have undergone more processing and to get some of the taste back they often have more sugar or chemicals; both of which will cause you to store more fat than the fat from the food.

Learn to Cook

Cooking your own meals is really important for losing fat. Not only will you know exactly what has gone into your meal, but it will strengthen your knowledge of food and make you want to eat that healthy meal you’ve spent time cooking.

Quick Tip 1: Learn some quick and easy healthy foods for those nights when you don’t feel like cooking (stir fry is my favourite).
Quick Tip 2: Cook enough food to last multiple days or that can be used for lunch the next day, I cook a Sunday roast that is large enough to eat for lunch for the next two days.

Drink Plenty of Water

Adding lemon to a jug of water gives it improved flavour
My water jug at work, with added lemon for flavour

Studies have shown that consuming 8 glasses of water a day can increase your metabolism rate. Whilst I’m at work I typically get through 1 – 2 jugs of water; I add lemon for the flavour, but lemon has also been shown to increase your metabolism rate.

Futher Reading:

Quick Tip: If you work in an office like myself then get yourself a jug, it really does encourage you to drink more as it’s so convenient.

Eat Naturally

Whenever I’m trying to figure out if something is good for me or not, I ask myself if we would have eaten it 1000 years ago, or go even further and get a little Paleo and consider if we would have eaten it 10,000 years ago. After-all, we are a product of millions of years of evolution, whereas most fast food has only been around for the last few decades.

Further Reading:

Keep a Food Diary and Make Small Adjustments

If you’re wanting to improve your diet then a good place to start is a food diary. Write down all food and drinks for a week and then assess where you can make small changes. Why small changes? I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t radically overhaul your diet overnight, this will just lead to giving up after a few weeks. Here is a rough idea of how I’ve made incremental changes to my diet over the last couple of years:

  • Started eating free range meats whenever I could.
  • Started eating free range eggs in the morning for a snack.
  • Started eating organic meat and dairy where possible.
  • After realising that wheat causes me digestive problems, cut bread down to just a few times a week.
  • Removed bread from my lunch during week days.
  • Removed pasta from my dinners during week days.

This is just a small sample, I’ve made many other minor changes to my diet over the years but I think it gives you an idea. If I’d simply done all of those things in one go I would be fed up straight away and have just gone back to eating what I wanted; as it is now I really enjoy my food and have never felt healthier.

Live a Little!

Dave Mace drinking a beer
It’s possible to enjoy a beer and still have a six pack!

I’m going to end this post by saying that you shouldn’t get too caught up in your diet. You may have noticed that I removed bread and pasta during the week; this is because on the weekends I generally eat and drink how I please.

As I have cut down on sugar so much, I don’t really get that many cravings to eat that badly on the weekends but I do love a good pizza, I also enjoy going out for drinks with my mates.

If I took this really seriously I could probably eat the way I do during the week on the weekend, cut out alcohol and this would probably get my body-fat down enough to have a ridiculous six pack.

However in my opinion, it simply isn’t worth taking it that seriously for my current lifestyle.

If you would like to read further on this subject, I highly recommend Danny Kavadlo’s Diamond-Cut Abs. Probably the easiest to read guide to healthy eating I’ve read.

  1. Diet
  2. Exercises
  3. Sleep, Stress and Food Plan

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