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.
Plant-Based Protein with BCAAs
Quick nutrition refresher: Carbohydrates are your muscle's first choice for fuel when working out at a high intensity. While your body can burn protein and fat for energy, it will do this only after carbs have been depleted, or during less intense endurance workouts. Protein, on the other hand, plays the key role in repairing and rebuilding muscle. Thus, after a workout, drinking an easily digestible, plant-based protein shake will help repair and strengthen – and increase the size of – your shredded muscles. You'll also recover faster, which means you're able to train again sooner. That's a good thing: More training in less time means reaching your goal faster.
BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids) are made up of leucine, isoleucine, and valine, three of the essential nine amino acids. They play an integral role in muscle growth, hemoglobin formation, maintenance of energy levels, and protein metabolism. And since they are metabolized in the muscles, BCAAs have an anabolic affect and help prevent muscle tissue loss during times of aerobic training. For this reason, it's common practice among elite endurance athletes to take them during mileage buildup to prevent their body from eating into its own muscle in search of fuel.
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