THE 12-WEEK DIET PLAN TO REVEAL YOUR ABS

This three-month plan can help you move toward your ab goals.

Doing hundreds of crunches won’t give you the abs you want, but a well-thought-out workout program performed over a sustained period combined with a diet structured with fat loss in mind will. To attain the holy grail of a lean, tight midsection, you must progressively make your abs stronger, burn the flab hiding them and dial in your diet. This program will help you do that.

The training regimen is broken down into three four-week phases. In Phase 1, you create the basic foundation that lets you proceed to more advanced routines in Phases 2 and 3. And as you progressively work your abdominals harder, you’ll refine your diet each week to prepare for the unveiling of those fabulous abs come summertime. The guidelines listed here help you ease into and fine-tune your existing diet, but to really rev up the fat-burning furnace, it’ll take plenty of dietary discipline as well.

This program is designed to fit into your current workout schedule; just do your regular training and cardio routines as prescribed and swap out your usual ab work for these targeted routines three days a week, resting at least 48 hours between sessions.

Now pull out your calendar, mark your unveiling day and start the countdown to fab abs.

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Abs Agenda

MONTH 1: CREATING THE FOUNDATION

This month is about adapting to the exercises that form the foundation of this program. Perform your regular weight-training routine while using the workout below to train your abs three times a week, resting at least 48 hours between sessions. Do cardio at a moderate to high intensity 4—5 days a week for 30 minutes.

MONTH 2: MAKING PROGRESS AND MUSCLE DEFINITION

Time to build some muscle. This month, add weight to the exercises from Month 1. Just like last month, do the program below in the order listed three days a week, resting at least 48 hours between workouts. In addition, perform your regular weight-training routine and increase your cardio to 45 minutes per session 4—5 days a week.

MONTH 3: THE FINAL STRETCH

Welcome to the last four weeks of your fab ab journey. This month’s goal is to build muscle endurance. Just as you did in Months 1 and 2, perform the program below three days per week, resting at least 48 hours between workouts. In addition, do your regular weight-training routine and increase your cardio to 4—5 days a week, 45—60 minutes per session.

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Weeks Out: Write It Down

Research shows that people who keep a food journal are more successful at losing and maintaining weight. It simply makes you more accountable: When you write down every morsel you put in your mouth and note how certain foods make you feel or affect your performance mentally and physically, you can easily make adjustments. Continue doing this throughout the program.

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Weeks Out: Carry Water

Regular water keeps digestion, nutrient absorption, temperature regulation and waste elimination running smoothly. Plus, a 2003 study found that drinking a half-liter of cold water increased metabolic rate by 30% for more than an hour after drinking.

To calculate your water-intake goals, take your bodyweight in pounds and divide that number by two. That gives you the minimum number of ounces of water you should drink daily.

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Weeks Out: Eat Protein at Every Meal

Eating protein makes you feel satisfied, therefore decreasing hunger sensations. If you eat only carbs, you’ll crave more; more carbs can turn into a vicious cycle leading to poor energy and weight gain because of increased calorie intake. Aim to consume 20—30 grams of protein at every meal.

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Weeks Out: Make One New Recipe Per Week

Doing this accomplishes a few things: It eliminates eating out (when you can’t control portions or ingredients), it introduces a variety of foods into your diet, and did we mention portion control?

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Weeks Out: Load Up on Fruits and Vegetables

Consider the colors of your fruits and vegetables as your map to beneficial phytochemicals and antioxidants. Each color represents different phytochemicals that work in different parts of your body’s cells. Consuming a rainbow of foods during the day helps fight off the cell damage that intense exercise can provoke.

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Weeks Out: Forget Late-Night Munchies

Avoid eating three hours before bed. However, if you must, eat protein like low-fat cottage cheese, a part-skim mozzarella cheese stick or a boiled egg. Do not eat carbs during this three-hour period since any food intake is more easily stored as fat when you’re asleep.

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Weeks Out: Avoid Drinking Your Calories

Consider this: Drinking a 10-ounce glass of fruit juice each day can add 51,100 calories in a year, or nearly 15 pounds. Tired of water? Drink green tea or coffee; both benefit your health and training without calories. Green tea contains antioxidants and can help burn fat. Coffee has been shown to improve performance in the gym when consumed before training.

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Weeks Out: Eat Whole Grains

Whole grains are higher in fiber, protein and other important nutrients, and they make you feel satisfied and full longer. Research also shows that women who eat whole grains weigh less than those who don’t. Choose 100% whole-wheat bread, brown rice and whole-wheat pastas. This step will help you avoid sugar and refined wheat, preparing you for next week’s goal.

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Weeks Out: Eat “Clean”

Start eating clean, which means you need to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, and lean meats and fish. Minimize the intake of foods with preservatives, artificial ingredients, chemically altered fats and high sodium.

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Weeks Out: Subtract Added Sugar

Consider that the average American consumes 20 teaspoons of added sugar daily—in the forms of corn syrup, glucose and table sugar added into processed foods—and that adds about 320 calories per day. Cutting these unwanted calories can help you lose the fat that seems to be holding onto your midsection.

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Weeks Out: Revisit Your Journal

Two weeks to your goal, how’s your diet? Look over your food journal entries. Have you been eating enough protein? How’s your vegetable intake? Can you crank each up a notch? Identify the areas in which you might have been a bit lax and renew your commitment.

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Week Out: Eliminate Salt

At this point, you have only seven days until it’s time to reveal your abs at the pool, beach, park or gym. So if you’ve been using frozen meals for portion control, canned vegetables to get your five-a-day or deli meat for your protein fix, say no to them this week because they contain higher levels of sodium than fresh foods. Too much of this mineral can promote water retention and bloating—two things that can hide your hard-earned ab definition. Look at your journal to identify the sneaky ways salt gets in your diet and cut back. It may mean breaking up with your saltshaker.

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