Abdominal Madness

Well-defined abdominal muscles impress both men and women, but how important are they to have? It depends on how visible they are and others' expectations. If you are in your twenties and playing shirtless volleyball on the beach while attractive women watch, yes, they are important. Under normal circumstances in which you are fully dressed, it only matters to not have bad abs, by which we mean a big stomach or poor posture. Strong abdominal muscles help posture and protect against injury, but the abs craze is mostly a money-making ploy that is designed to exploit natural insecurities. Ah, but you still want great abs? Okay, since it cannot hurt your image to have them . . .



The following tips are good for your abs, as well as your general health.



Dietary


Follow a diet that is divided into several small or mid-sized meals and is high in protein and fiber and low in fat and carbohydrates. (Please consult a doctor or nutritionist to make sure this advice is safe for you.) Do not starve yourself. Skinniness is not attractive.


Severely restrict the intake of simple carbohydrates like white rice and white bread and try not to consume any of them near bedtime. The exception is right before and after exercising. Please continue consuming fresh fruits.


Be particularly vigilant about saturated fat, which is found mostly in animal products and will be found at your waistline if you consume it. Avoid trans fats (and the processed foods from which they come), too.


Get adequate calcium (1000 milligrams, according to US standards). Evidence shows that it can burn fat and limit storage of new fat. Its effectiveness might depend on vitamin D levels.


Cut way back on your salt intake, for you probably consume much more than the body requires. Address other possible dietary causes of bloating.


Drink plenty of cold water, which speeds metabolism. Consume green tea, too. Avoid carbonated drinks, and limit intake of beer.


Keep your weight stable. That way, the skin around your abdominal muscles is likely to remain taut enough to highlight the abs.


Air


To avoid swallowing air, don't smoke and keep the nasal passages open


Exercise


Regularly do cardiovascular exercise, like riding a bike.


Lift weights regularly. The more muscle you have, the faster you will burn fat. Muscle instead of fat also will lessen water retention.


Full sit-ups are believed to be the most effective abdominal exercise.



Know that stress can directly lead to storage of fat on the abdomen.




For more specific tips about building great abs, read Men's Health or other fitness magazines for men and consider reading the Kurt Brungardt book The Complete Book of Abs.

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