A lean, toned tummy is something everyone wants. Especially when summer heats up and swimsuit season is happening. But the hard truth is, few people get the sculpted stomach of their dreams. Not because they lack the motivation, but because they don’t have the right strategies.
And if you’re one of these people, it’s not your fault. There’s a lot of false information out there about toning up. As a result, people end up wasting their time and efforts on strategies that simply don’t work.
So, if you’re frustrated with a lack of results, this 5-step guide to a lean tummy will be a breath of fresh air. Each step is supported by scientific evidence and basic physiology. Which means you can finally get real results.
If you talk to any knowledgeable physical trainer, they will tell you “abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym.” It’s true.
What you eat has a huge impact on your body composition. You can do countless crunches, but if you don’t eat right, you won’t reveal the abs that are hidden under a layer of fat.
Eat too many processed, sugar-filled foods and your body will just retain those calories as fat. Eat plenty of veggies and plant protein, and your body will become leaner and more sculpted.
To quickly shed off those extra pounds, cut back on refined sugar and carbs. Excess sugar is one of the biggest causes of fat accumulation (1).
Along with limiting your intake of refined sugars, make sure to add in more plant-based protein. Without enough healthy protein, you can actually lose muscle mass (muscle atrophy), which is bad news if you want chiseled abs (2).
Scientists are just now beginning to understand the importance of a healthy gut—specifically the balance of healthy bacteria that live there.
Recent studies even suggest that if your gut bacteria are out of balance, it can significantly increase your risk of obesity (5).
So, if you are struggling to get a sculpted tummy, unhealthy gut bacteria could be making it harder to lose the extra weight.
That means gut health is key to a lean tummy. Take care of your gut by using proven probiotic strains, consuming fermented foods, and eating prebiotic foods (fiber-filled veggies). It’s also a good idea to keep an eye out for the common signs of an unhealthy gut. That way, you will know if you need to put your gut-healing efforts into high gear.
While exercise of any form or duration has health benefits, some exercises create a lean, toned look better than others.
The best approach is to focus on exercises that can activate fat-burning. And then incorporate those exercises with core (abdominal) movements for optimal results.
For the best fat-burning results, try HIIT or high-intensity interval training (6). HIIT involves short intervals of intense exercise combined with rest and has multiple benefits (7). It works for any type of exercise (running, biking, jumping). Just workout hard, then rest, then repeat.
Compound resistance training, which uses multiple muscle groups in one exercise, is another great choice because it triggers your body to burn fat long after a workout (8). Examples of compound resistance training include weighted squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, and bench presses.
If you tend to get sore from your workouts, you can use proteolytic enzymes to recover faster from exercise. Less muscle soreness means better workouts and more fat burned!
What does stress have to do with your abdominals you ask? Quite a lot, it turns out. Stress releases the hormone cortisol in the body.
Studies suggest that elevated cortisol levels can increase the accumulation of fat around your midsection, even if you are not otherwise overweight (9).
That means when you get stressed out, your body deposits more fat around your stomach—the complete opposite of what you want for a toned tummy.
To manage your stress levels, try these seven proven stress-busting strategies.
And last, but certainly not least, you need to drink enough water.
Proper hydration is important because when you don’t drink enough water, your body releases something called the antidiuretic hormone (10). This causes your body to retain water.
The problem is, when you retain water, it can make the skin appear puffier and bloated. It will make you look like you are bigger than you really are and conceal any tone in your midsection.
Watch out for the signs of dehydration, and drink lots of filtered water throughout the day. Aim to keep your salt intake under control since that can also cause your body to retain extra water.
A toned and slim tummy is one of the most obsessed over body parts among both men and women. But it can be incredibly difficult to get the sculpted look you’re going after if you don’t take the right approach.
So, if you want to get a toned tummy, follow all five strategies for a lean look. This includes optimizing your diet, taking care of your gut, choosing fat-burning exercises, managing your stress levels, and proper hydration.