Models featured on fitness magazine covers and in supplement ads wield that standard example of a fit, strong body: the six-pack. Not every fit person has one, though; sometimes even those models are airbrushed into seeming perfection. Precise, diligent dieting and regular time at the gym are required for you to achieve the low body-fat level required to display your ab muscles. Your ability to achieve a six-pack in 12 weeks also depends on your current physique, fitness level and genetics.
What is a Six-Pack
The superficial abdominal muscle, known as the rectus abdominis, makes up your six-pack. The linea alba, a sheath of tendon, separates the fibers that make up this muscle into right and left sides. Three tendinous creases split the muscle horizontally to create definition. Everyone has this muscle and the segmentation within it, but whether or not it’s apparent depends on how much fat covers it.
Doing crunches and other abdominal exercises may strengthen the rectus abdominis as well as the other important functional ab muscles — the internal and external obliques and the transverse abdominis — but does nothing to burn the fat covering them. Your six-week, six-pack strategy must target fat loss to be effective.
To achieve a six-pack in just 12 weeks, you’ll need to achieve a body fat level of approximately 6 to 9 percent for men or 16 to 19 percent for women. If you’re male and currently have a body fat greater than 13 percent or 20 percent if you’re a woman, losing enough body fat to reveal a six-pack may take longer than 12 weeks. You can really only expect to safely lose about 1 percent body fat per month, notes the American Council on Exercise.
Eating to Achieve a Six-Pack in 12 Weeks
It’s often said that abs are made in the kitchen. Adopt a clean eating regimen, which focuses on whole, unprocessed foods and shuns refined grains, sugar, saturated fat and excess sodium. Meals consist primarily of 4 to 5 ounces of lean protein and fresh vegetables. Protein helps support your efforts at the gym and prevent the loss of muscle as you trim calories to lose fat.
Eat just 1/2 cup to 1 cup of whole grains or starchy vegetables at a few meals during the day, especially around the time of your workout. Also include small servings — a tablespoon or two per day — of healthy unsaturated fats to make you feel satisfied and support good health.