It has come to my attention that many of you may be feeling on top of your diet: you are eating clean, working out regularly, drinking lots of water, etc., but you still don’t have visible abs. So what gives?! Well, just because you are following an 80% (or better) Paleo lifestyle does not automatically = abs and a lean body. It’s much more than that. I am going to explain potential reasons why your abs aren’t showing and discuss the importance of macros if you are wanting to get leaner and have visible abs. I will also address a few specific food items you should eliminate from your diet if you want to get lean! These are also foods I never eat, so, you won’t be alone in doing so 😉
Plain and simple: visible abs = low body fat. Abs truly are made in the kitchen. In order to get the abs showing, you gotta get rid of the layer of fat that is covering them. Sure, it’s great that you are eating really clean (probably not as clean as you think, however), drinking water all the time, and working out religiously, but if you are still consuming more calories than you are burning, you will not reduce the body fat enough to have visible abs. The first thing you must do is learn how to count your macros. (MACROS = protein, carbs, fat) Rather than explain to you all how to count your macros, I recommend you read this article here that does an awesome job of doing so. So, go ahead and read and calculate your macros (use the awesome calculate here) and then we will move forward. My macros are below:
- Moderate activity days I need to eat 1,972 cals to maintain weight (add more or less if I want to gain/lose)
- Very active days (Days that I workout are these days because my workouts are SUPER intense): 2,194 calories. So I round up to between 2,000 to 2200 calories most days as I am trying to gain muscle, but slowly over time, and my abs are already visible.
- Protein: 96 grams
- Fat: 61 grams
- Carbs: 317 grams (Note: I don’t like to eat a lot of carbs…I probably don’t even eat 200g per day…I eat more protein and healthy fat)
So after you calculate your macros, if you are wanting to lose weight/drop fat but maintain muscle, per the article, you should cut your caloric intake by 20%. Learning how to track your macros can help you succeed in sculpting the body you want! Once you get the hang of it, you won’t have to count or track everything on a daily basis. I don’t count mine – I have a general idea of where I need to be/how much I need to eat and I just ensure that I am eating enough of the clean food I love throughout the day. I eat less on days I don’t workout (usually fewer carbs). If you are new to eating clean/paleo, I do recommend you track your food intake – if you are consuming too many calories (although clean calories) you will still gain weight!
Other things I want to mention cutting out if you are really wanting to get LEAN:
- Dairy (all of it. No cheese no milk no yogurt. Cut it out)
- Alcohol (essentially a sugar/carb)
- Starchy carbs (gluten/wheat, bread of any kind, limit sweet potatoes and rice too- cut rice out, actually, if you are really wanting to get lean and choose sweet potatoes instead since they’ve low glycemic index)
- Eliminate vegetable oils (duh, you should already eliminate these- and eliminate them forever) – very rich in omega-6 fatty acids which we do not need more of
I never eat dairy. I don’t even like it because of how it makes me feel. Dairy is very inflammatory and we don’t process it well at all. Also read about that here. I HIGHLY recommend you cut it out. This includes almond milks and things of that nature too (most almond milk has fillers and thickeners such as carrageenan which will bloat you and make you puffy and cause other gastrointestinal horrors). Sugar should be obvious. You should cut it out as much as possible – including limiting “clean” (raw honey, pure maple syrup etc.) sugars. This is so important if you are wanting to reduce body fat. Alcohol is also obvious…if you have a lot of body fat to lose I would cut it out for a few months since it does nothing beneficial to your body. Or you can have 1 drink on the weekends…just keep it to a minimum and remember that once you get to the lean body size you desire, you can introduce alcohol again in moderation! ANY AND ALL BREAD/GLUTEN/WHEAT…cut it out 100%. No moderation here. There is a reason it’s not in the paleo diet – because it’s so inflammatory. I would cut back on all carbs for that matter, too! Limit your carb intake and don’t consume carbs after lunchtime OR consume your carbs solely around your workouts. Eat more vegetables and lean meats and be patient.
I maintain my lean physique because I never eat dairy, I never eat bread or vegetable oils, I never have added sugars and I limit my alcohol consumption. This is simply what has to be done if you want to be (and stay) lean and fit – focus your diet on water, vegetables, lean meat, raw nuts, fresh fruit. Simple foods and meals are best. Read ALL your labels. Additives like carrageenan wreak havoc on your system and can make you bloated and puffy. Start to write down and track your food: write down your fats, protein, carbs, and add it up throughout the day. Create “notes” on your iPhone like I used to do until I got the hang of everything. Keep track of it and you may find that you are simply eating too much of one thing, and not enough of the other. Follow the macro guidelines and figure out how much you need to eat. Also be honest with yourself – your workouts probably are not falling in the “very active” category unless you are burning 800 calories and really killing yourself in the gym for an hour or more. So be realistic with yourself or you will not see results. I also recommend you lift more weights, lift heavy, and do less cardio if you are currently doing ONLY cardio. Make weights your cardio (more muscle = burn more calories throughout the day)- lift heavy, intense, take short breaks between sets.
In sum, to get visible abs and reduce body fat:
- Figure out your macros and cut back on total calories consumed & write down everything you eat daily
- Increase physical activity: but focus on weightlifting and HIIT and not steady state cardio
- Ensure you have removed all dairy, gluten/wheat, sugar, and limit alcohol to 1 day per week
- Reduce carbohydrate intake: focus more on starchy vegetables and limit carbs after lunch; focus on carbs around workouts
- Ensure you are eating adequate lean protein (but not too much, 1 g per lb of body weight or a little less is fine)
- Continue to drink tons of water
- Continue to eat more vegetables
- Continue to swig Bragg’s ACV throughout the day, also starting your day with warm lemon cayenne water
Follow steps 1-5 for at least a month and see what kind of progress you make. Also, let me know how it goes! Remember, it takes discipline to see results so you must be realistic with yourself and what you are eating. Write everything down and don’t cheat as that is only hurting yourself in the long run!
Another interesting article discussing how to build muscle mass or lose fat, here! This is very interesting and he talks about when you should eat carbs, how much you should cut back if you want to lose fat, etc.