Similar to the adage that an army marches on its stomach, there's a saying in the fitness world that abs are made in the kitchen. And it's largely true. Both strength and aerobic exercise are certainly necessary to build muscle and melt away body fat. But well thought out nutrition has the most significant impact on our ability to develop strong, and – yes, we'll say it – visually appealing abdominals. We assembled six key foods that will complement your strength training and fat-burning exercises and are crucial for the path to a six-pack. But first here are two quick but important tips for gaining results faster:
1) Stress reduction
Cortisol is a stress-triggered hormone triggered which actually encourages your body to hold on to fat – especially around the midsection. Eating a nutrient-dense, plant-based, whole-food diet – fresh fruit, vegetables, raw nuts and seeds – will help significantly reduce nutritional stress, and therefore overall stress.
2) Nutritional timing
Since carbohydrates are your body's primary fuel source, they are best eaten earlier in the day so that they'll get burned off as fuel throughout.
Eating two large medjool dates as a pre-workout fuel as opposed to starchy carbs is an excellent way to efficiently power through a workout. Dates are almost pure glucose, which the body absorbs quickly, and give you a quick burst of easily used fuel instead of getting stuck with excess carbs, which take more time to break down and can lead to weight gain. Getting most of your carbs from glucose-rich fruit such as dates is a wise strategic pre-workout approach when trying to shed abdominal fat.
Note that it's worth thinking of dates and other high glucose/GI foods the same way that drag racers look at nitrous. They're great for a quick burst of energy, but they should only be eaten if you have regular slower burning fuel handy throughout the day or you'll conk out (or crash). Overall, grazing on glucose-rich foods during endurance sports is a good fueling strategy, because glucose burns extremely efficiently and requires little digestive energy.
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