8 Things Every Woman With Great Abs Does
1. Instead, they do these 5 Pilates moves: the 100, the rollup, the double leg stretch, the crisscross and the teaser (see how to do them here). "They force you to squeeze your abs the whole time, pulling your belly up and in. You do a set of 8 reps of any of them and your abs are toast," says Michele Olson, PhD, professor of exercise science at Auburn University, in Montgomery, Alabama.
2. When they only have time for one thing, they choose weight training. Men who did just 20 minutes of daily weight training gained less abdominal fat than men who spent the same amount of time doing cardio-based activities, according to a study in Obesity (the researchers believe the findings apply to women too).
3. When they do cardio, they do HIIT, but not for the reason you think. "It increases the amount of adrenaline in your bloodstream," Olson explains. "And that hormone knocks at the door of your fat cells and tells them to release fat that you'll burn for energy." Aim for three 20-minute HIIT sessions per week, alternating between 1 minute at a moderate intensity (a 5 on the 1 to 10 scale, 1 being resting and 10 being all-out effort) and 1 minute at high intensity (an 8 on the 1-to-10 scale).
At work and at home, they don't munch mindlessly.
4. They choose foods rich in carotenoids like beta-carotene and lycopene (pigments that give foods like carrots, red peppers and tomatoes their hue) because they may help reduce the oxidative stress that's linked to abdominal obesity, suggests research in the Journal of Nutrition.
5. They eat more fiber. Research in Obesity found that for every 10-gram increase in dietary soluble fiber (which slows digestion), visceral fat dropped by 3.7 percent over five years. Nuts like almonds are particularly beneficial—eating 1.5 ounces of them daily helped reduce weight around the midsection, and they're a good source of polyunsaturated fats, which, unlike saturated fat, may help build lean tissue rather than visceral fat.
6. They don't skip meals. Doing so makes you super hungry and liable to binge later, which could promote fat storage in your stomach, suggests a recent mouse study in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.
7. They sleep for 7 to 9 hours per night. Regularly dipping below 5 hours was linked to greater BMI and abdominal fat among people younger than 40 in a study in Sleep. Aside from messing with the hormones that regulate your appetite, your sleep-deprived body releases cortisol that prompts you to store fat—particularly in your midsection.
8. They don't sit idle for long stretches. More-frequent breaks from sitting are linked to smaller waistlines, according to research in the European Heart Journal. When you do have to sit, do so with good posture—it'll help you build better abs because you have to engage them to keep your body in the ideal position, says Olson.