Women aren’t the only ones who are constantly bombarded with seemingly unattainable body images. You only need to turn on your TV or flip open a men’s magazine to see shirtless guys with bulging biceps and washboard abs.

First of all, remind yourself that those guys spend hours at the gym every day and have expensive personal trainers on speed dial – and their photos are probably retouched. When you see an instagram pic of a guy with a crazy hot body, how many other photos do you think he took and didn’t use (hundreds, that’s how many)?

However, in honor of the beginning of summer, let’s touch on some ways you can shed a few pounds and maybe start to show some definition around those abs.

The right nutrition and exercise plan can take you a long way in your quest for stronger, more defined muscles. Here are some scientifically-validated six-pack diet techniques.

 

Consider Intermittent Fasting

Restricting your feeding window to 8 hours not only promotes longevity, but it helps you decrease calories. The important thing is to eat healthy within those hours. Some people see the restriction in time as license to eat anything – but that doesn’t work out so well. Minimize sugars, juices, alcohol and grains and maximize filling whole foods including vegetables and fruits. Which leads me to…

 

Eat The Rainbow

If you want your body to look and perform like a well-oiled machine, you need to give it the right fuel. This means incorporating a variety of colorful veggies and fruits into your six-pack diet plan. These foods are packed with nutrients like antioxidants that your body needs to function at the high level you’re striving for.

 

Drink Lots of Water

We all know that water is necessary for, well, survival, but many of us don’t drink enough of it. It’s always important to maintain hydration, but this is especially true when you’re working up a sweat at the gym. Opinions vary on how much water people should consume every day, but making sure to drink when you’re thirsty is a good place to start. And remember, coffee and other caffeinated beverages can have a dehydrating effect, so they’re not going to help you meet your hydration goals.

 

Pack in a Post-Work Out Punch

When you’re trying to build muscle, it’s essential that your diet includes a large amount of quality protein. So, on those days when you do a big resistance training workout, don’t fast – refuel with a mix of carbs and protein within a couple hours of finishing your workout. In fact, to build muscle, every one of your meals will center around a protein of some sort. What kind is best? Quality is generally more important than quantity when it comes to protein. While red meat is an excellent source of protein, it’s also high in saturated fat and has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease and cancer. On the other hand, healthy protein like the kind found in fish and plant sources has been shown to lower disease risk. Confused about how much protein you really need? I offer a simple explanation of protein intake here.

 

Snack Well

When you’re working on a six pack, you’re going to get hungry. And that’s okay! You can snack and still stick to your six-pack diet plan—as long as you make healthy choices. Instead of potato chips, crunch on a handful of nutrient-rich almonds, Brazil nuts, carrots and hummus. Craving something sweet? Make yourself a smoothie with frozen fruit and a scoop of protein powder. You don’t have to deprive yourself, you just need to make sure you’re not wasting calories on nutritionless junk. Click here for more smart snack ideas.

Avoid Refined Sugar and Processed Foods

Refined and processed foods are loaded with empty calories that won’t get you any closer to a six pack, and they contain very little in the way of nutrition. To give you extra motivation, know that in addition to being bad for your waistline, these foods may increase your risk of developing diseases like cancer. Pasta, bagels, and other refined “white” carbohydrates have a high glycemic index (GI), meaning they more rapidly elevate blood sugar levels. A recent study showed people whose diets had a high GI had a 49 percent greater risk of being diagnosed with lung cancer. To learn more about common foods that cause cancer and how to avoid them at the grocery store, see my post here. Try going completely wheat-free.

 

Top 3 Techniques to Shred for Summer

Just to summarize – I’d say the top ways I have seen guys get closer to a six-pack in a hurry (summer is already here) is by cutting out completely:

  1. Alcohol
  2. Grains
  3. Sugar

Give it a try for a month. And let me know how it goes.

Looking for more scientifically-validated health tips? Sign up for my newsletter, Dr. Spar’s Performance Health Bulletin. You’ll get cutting-edge information delivered straight to your inbox, starting with a free copy of my “Top 10 Supplements for Men” guide.

Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has traveled with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on Dr. Oz, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times.

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