They say that abs are made in the kitchen. But if it were that simple, six-pack abs would only be an 18-meal Factor subscription away. As great as that would be for our customers and us, defining your core muscles and lowering your body fat takes quite a bit more than that. If you want a sculpted six-pack, you’ll need a sound plan that incorporates well-established fitness and nutrition practices.
If you’re striving to sculpt a six-pack in time for the summer season, here are six science-backed health and fitness tips to optimize your efforts:
1. Perform Compound Exercises
There are two primary types of strength training exercises: isolation exercises and compound exercises. While isolation exercises zero in on just one muscle, compound exercises recruit multiple muscle groups. Some common examples of compound exercises are squats, deadlifts and bent over rows.
So, how are compound exercises relevant to your abs? Compound exercises activate your core muscles to help stabilize your body throughout the entire movement. That additional muscle activation stimulates muscle growth and increases definition in your core muscles. What’s more, since compound exercises utilize more muscle, they also burn more calories than isolation exercises.
2. Practice Abdominal Bracing
One way to hasten your journey to a summer six-pack is to introduce abdominal bracing into your core workouts. Abdominal bracing involves contracting your entire core, similar to the way you would if someone poked in the stomach.
Working abdominal bracing into your ab exercises helps activate more muscle fibers in your core. In fact, the results from one study showed that ab workouts that incorporate abdominal bracing are one of the most effective ways to activate your deep abdominal muscles. As such, this is a great way to get those stubborn, bottom four ab muscles to pop out. 
3. Drink Catechin-Rich Green Tea
Green tea has been a mainstream health topic for quite some time. But often lost in the over-advertised health benefits of green tea is the fact that it can help you lose fat in your midsection. In fact, green tea has shown to increase exercise-induced abdominal fat loss and improve your metabolism. That boost to your fat loss efforts will serve you well on your quest to a summer six-pack.
However, not all green tea is created equal, as its mainstream popularity has led to sugary versions sprouting up on store shelves all over. To make sure you’re drinking the right type, be sure to check that any green tea you drink contains green tea catechins (GTC), the ingredient credited with these fat loss benefits. Also, be sure you’re getting about 600 mg per day of GTC for optimal benefits.  
4. Add Instability to Your Strength Training
While it may initially sound counterintuitive, incorporating instability into your strength training workouts can help you sculpt six-pack abs. Adding instability to an otherwise normal exercise requires your core muscles to stay consistently engaged. This activates additional muscle fibers in your core making normal exercises more ab-friendly.
Instability can be worked into your strength training routine in a multitude of ways. In fact, there’s equipment designed to add instability (e.g., BOSU balls, balance disks) available at most gyms. Incorporating this equipment into an otherwise normal exercise is an easy way to add instability into your workout. For example, when performing a standing dumbbell shoulder press, stand on a BOSU ball rather than the flat ground. Alternatively, if your gym doesn’t have instability equipment or you’re working out from home, simply stand on one leg instead of two. 
5. HIIT the Ground Running
In order to see your abs, you need to have a low body fat percentage. One of the best ways to do that is through repeated bouts of high-intensity training with intermittent recovery times, referred to as High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). HIIT offers comparable fat-loss benefits to long-duration moderate-intensity cardio without imposing the same time demands. It also increases excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which causes your body to burn additional calories – as much as 6 to 15 percent – after workouts.
Typical HIIT workouts often last about 20 to 30 minutes and are performed at 70 to 90 percent of your max heart rate. However, those numbers can vary depending on your fitness level. HIIT workouts aren’t restricted to any one type of cardio workout either, as they can range from outdoor cycling to running on the treadmill. So, no matter your preferred method of cardio you can reap similar benefits.  
6. Follow a Structured Nutrition Plan
There’s no magic diet for abs, but as always, a healthy balanced eating pattern will help you lose fat to reveal the abs hiding underneath! To do that, you’ll want to fill your plate with half non-starchy vegetables, one-fourth protein and one-fourth starch.
Some key nutritional components to focus on for weight loss are fiber, protein and water. Fiber not only keeps digestion moving but also keeps you feeling full longer. Protein is vital for holding on to lean body mass, satiation and building muscle, all of which you’ll need to reach your goal. Finally, staying hydrated will help you keep your appetite in check and support many other critical bodily functions. 
Want to make meal prepping more convenient? Try Factor’s home-delivered, dietitian-approved meals today and get $40 off over your first two weeks of orders!