Face it: After this winter, your abs may look less like a six-pack and more like a beer keg. But whether you want to get chiseled like vegan ultra-endurance athlete Rich Roll or just fit into your slim jeans again, these tips will help you de-flab your abs:
1. Cut out empty calories.
No matter how ripped your abs are, no one’s going to see them if they’re buried under a layer of fat. If you’re serious about getting shredded, you’ve got to stop eating junk. Filling up on empty calories (don’t tell me you grabbed a Pop-Tart on your way out the door this morning!) makes you pack on paunch and deprives your body of the nutrients that it needs to get into shape. You can make every bite count by choosing foods that are low to no fat, high in fiber, and rich in nutrients. Load a whole-wheat tortilla with black beans, seasoned brown rice, fresh veggies, and salsa, or throw a whole grain pizza crust on the grill and top it with sauce and grilled peppers, onions, mushrooms, and even broccoli. Power-packed plant-based foods are always a solid bet, and they’ll help keep you fit for life: Adult vegans are, on average, 10 to 20 pounds lighter than adult meat-eaters!
2. Get below 150 without the meds.
Cardio workouts torch fat and keep your ticker strong. You can run, swim, or take a long brisk walk—the key is simply to elevate your heart rate for more than 30 minutes. Choosing plant-based foods is the other key component of a healthy heart: The average vegan has a cholesterol level of 133—that’s 77 points lower than the average meat-eater’s—and there haven’t been any reported heart attacks in people with cholesterol levels below 150. There’s not much point in carving killer abs if you won’t be around to enjoy them, so try this site for more tips on how to preserve one of your vital organs.
3. Put your core to work.
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Exercise machines may look hardcore, but they don’t help build a hard core. Machines act as a stabilizer, which gives your midsection a free pass. For a total-body challenge that strengthens abs and improves posture, you can’t beat good old-fashioned pushups. You can build up quickly if you do them when you get out of bed and before you get back into it. And doing dumbbell rows from a plank position is an excellent way to work your back and core at the same time.
4. Drink up.
It seems counterintuitive, but the best way to avoid water retention that makes you feel like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is to drink water throughout the day. Keeping your sodium intake low, eating whole foods with lots of fiber, and exercising also help.
5. Fight inflammation.
Chronic inflammation—which is caused by eating processed foods, refined sugar, and saturated and trans fats—is not your best bud when you’re trying to flatten your midsection. In addition to causing illness and premature aging, it can cause swelling and weight gain. Eating fiber-rich, nutrient-dense vegan whole foods and getting regular exercise will help keep inflammation at bay. Try noshing on a bowl of oatmeal and an apple (with the peel on) for breakfast, lentil soup and a spinach salad for lunch, and a big helping of brown rice and veggie stir-fry for dinner to fight inflammation and feel full all day long.