The snow has ended (finally!) and it's time to start looking forward to beach season. And with that shift, many of us are starting to pay a little more attention to our mid-sections, working hard to get that Summer Stomach.
Now, you can do crunches until the cows come home but that's not necessarily going to get you where you want to go. The first problem is technique: most people bully through crunches the way they were taught in fourth-grade gym class. Poor technique will not only frustrate you with a lack of result, it could possibly lead to pain and irritation in your lower back
Next week, we'll tackle technique. But this week, I want you to focus on the Five Favorites for a Summer Stomach. If all you do is build muscle, you may just be building that washboard under a wall of belly. In order to see those abs, the belly must come off (to see a washboard, you'd need an eighth of an inch of fat or less!). So here are the Five Faves:
- Get rid of the soda! I don't care that it's diet and has no calories. Sugary sodas are a mine field of extra calories and wondrous additives that do nothing but help you pack on the pounds. And artificial sweeteners -- they're not helping. Odds are the powerful sweet taste is only programming your brain to find other sweet things during your travels.
- Eat! Starving yourself for bathing suit season isn't the answer. Pace yourself with small meals and snacks throughout the day (I try to eat every two-and-a-half to three hours). This way, you'll never be so famished that you binge or eat the wrong things, your energy level will stay constant throughout the day, and the fat-burning engine that is your metabolism can really go work effectively.
- Fiber! Increase your fiber intake with fruit, vegetables (especially leafy greens) and whole grains. I start my day with steel-cut oatmeal. It helps me feel more full longer so I am less likely to have hunger pangs. Ideally, you should be getting 30 to 45 grams of fiber per day. Most Americans are lucky if they get half that amount. If you are worried you won't have the chance to get that much, try a fiber supplement like psyllium husk.
- Water! Yeah, yeah, I know -- you hear this all the time. But try two full glasses of water before each meal. Studies have found that the pre-meal hydration can lead to up to 100 fewer calories consumed during the meal. That's 300 calories a day! Ooh, what's that I see on the horizon? Looks like results!
- Put the damn candy away! Seriously! Do you want results or are you just talking? An occasional sweet is fine -- say, a piece of cake to celebrate a friend's birthday. But watch out for that habit of reaching for the sweet. That's called addiction. Instead, keep a pack of peppermint gum on hand. It will give you something to chew on and the peppermint acts as an appetite suppressant. Win-win.
Be smart. Follow the Five Faves and have that fantastic Summer Stomach you've been waiting all winter for. Now's the time! Get going!
Michael Feigin, MS, CSCS, is the owner of The Fitness Guru, a DUMBO, Brooklyn-based health and fitness company. For the last 25 years, Michael has helped thousands of New Yorkers (and folks from other parts of the world) achieve their health and fitness dreams.