‘Abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym’ – Is this true?

We know that people use the gym for a whole range of different reasons. Some people want to stay in shape, some might want to build large amounts of muscle, and others may just want to spend time helping to motivate their friends. 

One popular aim is to reduce the amount of fat inside the abdominal cavity, also known as visceral fat. So, why is this so popular? Well it’s fairly simple – reducing your visceral fat helps expose those abdominal muscles and demonstrate defined abs. Biology tells us that we all have abs, and we all have a six pack, it’s just a case of exposing them from beneath our abdominal fat.

Obviously, if it was as simple as it sounds everybody would be walking around with six pack abs. You may have heard of the phrase ‘abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym’, let’s face it, who hasn’t? Now that doesn’t mean you should abandon all work in the gym, but it does pose an interesting point.

‘Spot reduction’ is a term used in health and fitness that refers to exercise that specifically focuses on one area of the body to help reduce fat. Unfortunately however, over time spot reduction has been proven to be little more than an old wive’s tale. Of course, any exercise you do tends to be beneficial, but if you plan to do one hundred crunches-a-day and hope that a six pack will appear, I hate to tell you it won’t.

This isn’t to discredit abdominal, or even core training, both are incredibly valuable. What you need to remember is that whether or not you do all the abdominal exercises in the world, if your body fat percentage is too high then abs will not become visible. Again, this doesn’t mean you should never do abdominal exercises. Abs are like any other muscle, train them once or twice a week, and then given the time to rest, they will begin to strengthen.

Abs become visible at varying percentages of body fat, but generally we tend to notice abdominal visibility at around 12% body fat.

This helps us to understand that adage, ‘abs are made in the kitchen…’. As with any sort of cliché, despite their obvious overuse, they often possess some element of truth, and this is no exception. Work in the gym is essential, strengthening and toning of your abs is imperative. What needs to be realised though is that a reduction in fat is needed if you find yourself doing the work in the gym and abs don’t seem to be visible.

Don’t believe me? Take a look around, there are plenty of people walking around with flat stomachs that don’t go to the gym. Then look at the people in the gym. Notice how the ones with the flat stomachs also have the six packs. Basically, if you eat correctly and maintain regular exercise then you will get your body fat percentage down low enough to allow abs to become visible. Supplement this with training and you’re going to strengthen your abdominal region and find that your abs become more visible and you will get that six pack you may have always wanted.

Whether you are a male or a female the same concept applies. Gender doesn’t affect the body fat percentage required to make abs visible, and it doesn’t change the fact that a healthy diet needs to be complimented with consistent work in the gym.

The market for gym equipment targeting the abdominal region is huge. Companies cleverly picture a model with ‘washboard abs’ using their equipment and consumers believe that if they use it they can achieve the same results. In reality this can be seen as clever marketing. Working out daily using all sorts of weird and wonderful equipment doesn’t guarantee accomplishment. What you need is a lifestyle that encompasses all aspects required to achieve the abs you want. Maybe you don’t want a hugely defined six pack, that’s fine, but remember – abs are made in both the kitchen, and the gym.

Ollie Lawrence
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