We’ve all been there. You’re rocking the training schedule, keeping active on your off days and drinking your protein shakes. But you’re just not getting the muscle definition you expect.
The answer might not be to just spend more time in the gym, but to also spend more time in the kitchen. Body fat percentage can hide the muscle definition you’re looking for. Even when you’re eating well, consuming too many or the wrong type of calories can produce extra body fat. Remember, your body’s defense mechanisms stores extra calories as fat, in case it needs the energy later on.
Fat Burning Foods
For beginner and intermediate athletes especially, one of the areas they struggle with the most is their abs. They crunch away and still don’t get the six pack. Unfortunately you can’t pick and choose the body areas where you want to lose fat. Eating clean, fat burning foods like almonds, berries, eggs, lean meats and fish will contribute to a decrease in body fat. Increasing the amount of cardio in your workout program will also help lower your overall body fat percentage, getting you closer to seeing those abs.
Breakfast is for Champions
It’s a huge mistake to skip breakfast thinking it will reduce the total calories you consume in a day. Countless studies show that, in the vast majority of cases, skipping breakfast leads to an increase in calorie consumption. The problem happens when your body tries to compensate for the missing calories by getting you to eat more later in the day.
Why is Breakfast so important? The word itself explains its importance: “break-fast”. When you sleep, your body fasts and goes hours without food. This is why it’s important to eat within 1 hour of waking up. It stops the fast and prevents the breakdown of muscle tissue for energy.
An example of a well-balanced breakfast is scrambled eggs with spinach or peppers, and a piece of fruit or whole grain toast. You get protein and healthy fats from the eggs, fiber from the veggies and carbs from the fruit or toast. (*please note that this is just an example and may not be right for everyone.)
Eat Right Before AND After Workouts
Another myth that gets between athletes and the muscle definition they want is that it’s best to workout on any empty stomach. That idea is totally false. In fact, starving yourself before a workout can be harmful to your body. Eating the right pre-workout and post-workout food can drastically change your workout experience and it gives your body the energy it needs to maximize the benefit of the workout.
So what should you eat and when?
- Pre-Workout Food: Have a snack with Carbs and Protein 45 minutes to 1 hour before your workout. Carbs will give you the sustained energy you need to power through your workout and the protein will help feed your muscles.
Example: Rice cakes with natural almond butter and all-in-one pre-workout powder supplement
- Post-Workout Food: Refuel with Protein & Carbs within 15-20 min of your workout. Protein is especially important if you are weight training. Carbs will replenish your glycogen and glucose (energy) and help you feel full so you don’t go home and devour the pantry.
Example: Creatine protein shake and a banana (if you need something quick) or Greek yogurt with berries.
More Time in the Gym
The kitchen might be the missing link to more definition, but don’t be afraid to continue to build muscle either. The more lean body mass you have, the more efficient your body becomes at burning calories, making it easier to maintain a leaner build.
The Bottom Line:
Any athletic training process puts your body through stress. It needs the right nutrition and energy to stay healthy and produce the results you want. There’s no straight line to get the abs or muscle definition you want. You must develop a workout routine, schedule and diet that works for you.