January 24, 2007

ab workout

The easiest, most effective workout ever

By: David Zinczenko & Ted Spiker

If you want to find your abs, you have to burn the fat. Eating right is critical, and by following the nutrition principles of the Abs Diet and centering your meals around the Abs Diet Powerfoods, you’ll lose fat pretty effortlessly. But to maximize your weight loss and turn your fat into muscle, you need an exercise plan. Exercise will not only make you healthier; it’ll make you lose weight faster. It’ll make you stronger. Most important, it’ll make your body turn fat into muscle — by converting energy that’s stored in fat into energy that feeds muscle.


The Abs Diet Workout Principles

Having worked at Men’s Health for more than 10 years, I know all the latest trends in exercise, but I also scour the latest and most credible scientific research measuring the effectiveness of various workout plans. With that knowledge, I’ve constructed the exercise portion of the plan to help you burn fat at the highest levels possible in the least amount of time.


I know you don’t have time to spend hours a day exercising, so I want you to get the most out of every workout. And I know that flexibility and convenience are the keys to formulating a plan you can stick to, so I’ve created a workout you can do in your local gym — or in your living room. This plan allows you to keep your workouts short and focused, while still keeping you on target for your ultimate goal. Pound for pound, it’s the best workout possible for finding your abs. These are the workout principles.


Focus on Your Diet First

The first 2 weeks of exercise are optional. If you already exercise regularly, you can jump right into the Abs Diet Workout, and you should, because you’ll burn even more fat than with the Abs Diet alone. But if you’re a beginner or you haven’t exercised in a long time, take the first 2 weeks to adjust to your new eating plan before starting the workout. If you’re champing at the bit to begin maximizing your weight loss, start getting in the exercise habit by walking briskly for up to 30 minutes a day.

Focus on Muscles

I used to work with a guy who was about 30 pounds overweight. He decided he’d enter a race as motivation to help him lose weight. He ran 6 days a week and followed his running program religiously, but he didn’t lose a pound. Sure, he was able to run farther than he ever had, but his body stayed the same. Why? First, because he still based his diet around pizza, pasta, and wings, and second, because steady-state cardiovascular exercise doesn’t burn fat the way strength training does. (Incidentally, when the same guy went on the Abs Diet and started a weight-lifting program, he lost nearly 20 pounds in less than 2 months.)


Your muscles are hungry little suckers, and in order to keep themselves well nourished, they want to churn and burn those calories you’re ingesting. So the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn — in the gym, on the job, even in bed. This program focuses on working your large muscle groups — your legs, chest, back, and shoulders — because that’s where you can build the most muscle in the least amount of time. Plus, when you work your larger muscles, you fire up your metabolism by creating a longer calorie afterburn — one that can last right up to your very next workout!


Think about the small fraction of time you spend exercising. Even if you work out four or five times a day for an hour at a time, that’s nothing compared to the amount of time you’re not exercising every day. So in order to gain the most metabolic benefit, you want to maximize the calories you’re burning when you’re not working out.


Focus on spending less time in the gym. The Abs Diet Workout employs two simple concepts to maximize muscle growth and fat-burning and minimize the time you spend exercising.


Circuit Training

This term refers to the practice of performing different exercises one right after another. For example, we’ll have you do a set of leg exercises followed immediately by a set of an upper-body exercise, until you do 8 to 10 different exercises in a row. There are two reasons circuit training works. First, by keeping you moving and cutting down the rest periods between exercises, circuit training keeps your heart rate elevated throughout your training session, maximizing your fat burn while providing tremendous cardiovascular fitness benefits. Second, circuit training keeps your workout short — you won’t waste time resting between sets of an exercise, which means you can get on with the rest of your busy life.


Compound Exercises

Another key part of the strength-training program is compound exercises, that is, exercises that call into play multiple muscle groups rather than just focusing on one. For example, with the Abs Diet Workout, we don’t want you to exercise your chest, and then your shoulders, and then your triceps, and then your forearms. We want you to hit many different muscles at the same time and then get out of the gym. One study showed that you can put on 6 pounds of muscle and lose 15 pounds of fat in 6 weeks by following an exercise program that employs the compound exercises found in the Abs Diet Workout. What’s even better is that those subjects followed an exercise plan for only 20 minutes three times a week.


Not only do compound exercises make your workout more fun and more challenging, they will also increase the demands on your muscles — even though you’re not actually doing more work. (For instance, the squat hits a whopping 256 muscles with just one movement!)


Greater muscle demand triggers your body to produce more human growth hormone — a potent fat burner.


If the only weight you’ve ever picked up is around your gut and not in the gym, don’t worry that you’re not familiar with working with weights. You can start by lifting any amount of weight that you’re comfortable with — whether it’s a pair of light dumbbells or a couple of cans of beans. Even if you start small, you’ll grow stronger, start to build muscle, and keep your metabolism revved. As you progress, you’ll build and burn more.

Focus on Intensity

Time and time again, research has shown that higher-intensity workouts promote weight loss better than steady-state activities.


The Abs Diet Workout recommends that you add one simple interval workout per week to complement your strength training. These are workouts of traditional cardiovascular exercise (running, swimming, biking) in which you alternate between periods of high intensity and periods of rest. (Click here  to find out more about high intensity interval training.)

If You Don’t Already Exercise

The best part about the 6-week Abs Diet Workout is that, for the first 2 weeks at least, you don’t actually have to exercise. If you’re not doing anything right now, it’s not critical that you start immediately. Instead, I want you to concentrate on acclimating your body and your schedule to the Abs Diet.


On the other hand, why wait to fire up your fat-burning mechanisms? If you want to start a light strength-training program, do this workout three times a week: Alternate between three sets of pushups and three sets of squats with no weight. Both exercises use your body weight as resistance and will get your body accustomed to a strength-training program. Do 8 to 10 repetitions of pushups, followed by 15 to 20 repetitions of squats. When that becomes too easy, increase the repetitions of pushups, and hold on to some form of weight — light dumbbells are best — while doing squats. This light workout, especially in combination with 30 minutes of brisk walking, will really fire up your fat burners.

If You’re Already in the Exercise Habit

Maybe you lift weights once or twice a week. Maybe you jog a few miles every morning. Maybe you’re favored to win the gold in the decathlon this summer. No matter what your workout is now, you’re probably going to build more muscle, and burn more fat, if you switch to the Abs Diet Workout.


Even if your current exercise program has been working well for you, experts agree that mixing up your workout every month or so is the best way to maximize your results. That’s because gains in strength and overall fitness come from challenging your body to perform in ways it’s not used to. Performing the same workout over and over again doesn’t train your body to reach its potential; it just trains your body to be really, really good at performing that one workout. So I want you to consider switching your current workout over to the Abs Diet Workout, at least for a few weeks. I guarantee the results you’ll see will be astounding.

The Abs Diet Workout: Suggested Weekly Schedule

You can mix and match the different workouts to meet your lifestyle needs. When you construct your schedule, make sure to:

  • Leave at least 48 hours between weight workouts of the same body parts. Your muscles need time to recover and repair themselves after a workout.
  • Take 1 day each week to rest with no formal exercise.
  • Warm up for 5 minutes before starting to exercise, either through a light jog, riding on a stationary bike, jumping rope, or doing slow jumping jacks.


The three components of your weekly schedule include:

1. Strength training: Three times a week. These are total-body workouts with one workout that puts extra emphasis on your legs.

2. Additional cardiovascular exercise: Optional, on non-strength-training days. Examples are cycling, running, swimming, walking, and using cardio machines. An interval workout is recommended for 1 day a week, and light cardiovascular exercise like walking is recommended for 2 of your 3 off days.

3. Abs exercises: Twice a week. I recommend doing them before your strength training or interval workouts.

Your day-to-day workout plan with exercise photos and descriptions

When you construct your schedule, make sure to: Leave at least 48 hours between weight workouts of the same body parts. Your muscles need time to recover and repair themselves after a workout. Take 1 day each week to rest with no formal exercise. Warm up for 5 minutes before starting to exercise, either through a light jog, riding on a stationary bike, jumping rope, or doing slow jumping jacks.

The three components of your weekly schedule

1. Strength training: Three times a week. Below are total-body workouts with one workout that puts extra emphasis on your legs.

2. Additional cardiovascular exercise: Optional, on non-strength-training days. Examples are cycling, running, swimming, walking, and using cardio machines. An interval workout is recommended for 1 day a week, and light cardiovascular exercise like walking is recommended for 2 of your 3 off days.

3. Abs exercises: Twice a week. I recommend doing them before your strength training or interval workouts.

(If you need to familiarize yourself with the different parts of the Abs Diet workout, click here.)

Your Weekly Workout Schedule

Here, you’re going to do circuit training to optimize your muscle-building potential. That is, you’ll perform one set of an exercise and then move immediately to the next exercise, with just 30 seconds of rest. Follow the order of the exercises here; that will allow you to work different body parts from set to set. (Click here  for a complete set of exercise descriptions and instructional photos.)


By alternating between body parts, you’ll keep your body in constant work mode and be able to perform the movements back-to-back without rest. Here’s why circuit training works so well: You’ll save time because you’ll cut the amount of rest you need when you alternate muscle groups. More important, you’ll keep your heart rate elevated throughout the workout, so you’ll burn even more fat while you’re exercising — whether it’s in the gym or in your own living room.


In the first 2 weeks of the program, do the circuit twice. Move from exercise to exercise with no more than 30 seconds of rest in between. When you complete one circuit, rest for 1 to 2 minutes, then complete the second circuit. After the first 2 weeks, when you’ve become comfortable doing two complete circuits during a workout, increase your workload to three circuits per workout. In every exercise, use a weight that you can handle comfortably for the number of repetitions noted. When that becomes too easy, increase the weight on each set by 10 percent or less. Here’s a sample schedule of how you might arrange your workouts.


Total-Body Strength Training Workout with Ab Emphasis

Complete one set of each ab exercise*, then complete the rest of the circuit twice.

Exercise  Repetitions  Rest   Sets
Traditional Crunch* 12–15 none 1
Bent-Leg Knee Raise* 12–15 none 1
Oblique V-Up* 10 each side none 1
Bridge* 1 or 2 none 1
Back Extensions* 12–15 none 1
Squat 10–12 30 seconds 2
Bench Press 10 30 seconds 2
Pulldown 10 30 seconds 2
Military Press 10 30 seconds 2
Upright Row 10 30 seconds 2
Triceps Pushdown 10–12 30 seconds 2
Leg Extension 10–12 30 seconds 2
Biceps Curl 10 30 seconds 2
Leg Curl 10–12 30 seconds 2



Tuesday (Optional):

Light Cardiovascular Exercise Such as Walking

(Try for 30 Minutes at a Brisk Pace)




Total-Body Strength Training Workout with Ab Emphasis

Complete one set of each ab exercise* once, then complete rest of circuit twice.

Exercise  Repetitions  Rest   Sets
Traditional Crunch* 12–15 none 1
Pulse Up*   12 none 1
Saxon Side Bend* 6-10 each side none 1
Side Bridge* 1 or 2 each side none 1
Back Extensions* 12–15 none 1
Squat 10–12 30 seconds 2
Bench Press 10 30 seconds 2
Pulldown 10 30 seconds 2
Military Press 10 30 seconds 2
Upright Row 10 30 seconds 2
Triceps Pushdown 10–12 30 seconds 2
Leg Extension 10–12 30 seconds 2
Biceps Curl 10 30 seconds 2
Leg Curl 10–12 30 seconds 2


Go on to the next page to see the rest of the week’s schedule…

Thursday (Optional):

Light Cardiovascular Exercise Such as Walking

(Try for 30–45 Minutes at a Brisk Pace)




Total-Body Strength Training Workout, with Leg Emphasis

Repeat entire circuit twice.


Exercise       Repetitions   Rest Sets
Squat 10–12 30 seconds 2
Bench Press 10 30 seconds 2
Pulldown 10 30 seconds 2
Traveling Lunge 10–12 each leg 30 seconds 2
Military Press 10 30 seconds 2
Upright Row 10 30 seconds 2
Step-Up 10–12 each leg 30 seconds 2
Triceps Pushdown 10–12 30 seconds 2
Leg Extension 10–12 30 seconds 2
Biceps Curl 10 30 seconds 2

 Leg Curl

10–12 30 seconds 2


Saturday (Optional):

Abs Workout Plus Interval Workout

Complete one set of each ab exercise, then choose one interval workout from our selection.


Exercise   Repetitions  Rest  Sets
Traditional Crunch 12–15 None 1
Bent-Leg Knee Raise 12 None 1
Oblique V-Up 6–10 each side None 1
Bridge 1–2 None 1
Back Extension 12–15 None 1



Sunday: Off



Traditional Crunch
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your hands behind your ears. Slowly crunch up, bringing your shoulder blades off the ground. 12 – 15 repetitions, 1 set

Bent-Leg Knee Raise
Lie on your back with your head and neck relaxed and your hands on the floor near your butt. Your feet should be flat on the floor. Use your lower abdominal muscles to raise your knees up toward your rib cage, then slowly lower your feet back to the starting position. As your feet lightly touch the floor, repeat. 12 reps, 1 set

Oblique V-Up
Lie on your side with your body in a straight line. Fold your arms across your chest. Keeping your legs together, lift them off the floor as you raise your top elbow toward your hip. The range of motion is short, but you should feel an intense contraction in your obliques. 10 reps each side, 1 set

Start to get in a Pushup position, but bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms instead of your hands. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Pull your abdominals in; imagine you’re trying to move your belly button back to your spine. Hold for 20 seconds, breathing steadily. As you build endurance, you can do one 60-second set. 1 – 2 reps, 1 set

Standing Crunch

Attach a rope handle to a high cable pulley. Stand with your back to the weight stack, and hold the ends of the rope behind your head. Crunch down. 12 – 15 reps, 1 set

Pulse Up

Lie with your hands underneath your tailbone and your legs raised and pointed straight up toward the ceiling, perpendicular to your torso. Pull your navel inward, and flex your glutes as you lift your hips just a few inches off the floor. Then lower your hips. 12 reps, 1 set

Saxon Side Bend

Hold a pair of lightweight dumbbells over your head, in line with your shoulders, with your elbows slightly bent. Keep your back straight, and slowly bend directly to your left side as far as possible without twisting your upper body. Pause, return to an upright position, then bend to your right side as far as possible. 6 – 10 reps on each side, no rest between sets

Side Bridge

Lie on your nondominant side. Support your weight with that forearm and the outside edge of that foot. Your body should form a straight line from head to ankles. Pull your abs in as far as you can, and hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds, breathing steadily. Relax. If you can do 30 seconds, do one repetition. If not, try for any combination of reps that gets you up to 30 seconds. Repeat on your other side.

1–2 repetitions on each side

Back Extension

Position yourself in a back extension station, and hook your feet under the leg anchor. Hold your arms straight out in front of you. Your body should form a straight line from your hands to your hips. Lower your torso, allowing your lower back to round, until it’s just short of perpendicular to the floor. Raise your upper body until it’s slightly above parallel to the floor. At this point, you should have a slight arch in your back, and your shoulder blades should be pulled together. Pause for a second, then repeat. 12 – 15 reps, 1 set

Go on to the next page to see the core exercises…



Hold a barbell with an overhand grip so that it rests comfortably on your upper back. Set your feet shoulder-width apart, and keep your knees slightly bent, back straight, and eyes focused straight ahead. Slowly lower your body as if you were sitting back into a chair, keeping your back in its natural alignment and your lower legs nearly perpendicular to the floor. When your thighs are parallel to the floor, pause, then return to the starting position.

Home variation:

Same, but with one dumbbell in each hand, your palms facing your outer thighs. 10 – 12 reps

Bench Press

Lie on your back on a flat bench with your feet on the floor. Grab the barbell with an overhand grip, your hands just beyond shoulder-width apart. Lift the bar off the uprights, and hold it at arm’s length over your chest. Slowly lower the bar to your chest. Pause, then push the bar back to the starting position.

Home variation:

Just do standard pushups: Get in a Pushup position with your hands about shoulder-width apart. Bend at the elbows while keeping your back straight, until your chin almost touches the floor, then push back up. 10 reps


Stand facing a lat pulldown machine. Reach up and grasp the bar with an overhand grip that’s 4 to 6 inches wider than your shoulders. Sit on the seat, letting the resistance of the bar extend your arms above your head. When you’re in position, pull the bar down until it touches your upper chest. Hold this position for a second, then return to the starting position.

Home variation:
Bent-Over Row: Stand with your knees slightly bent and shoulder-width apart. Bend over so that your back is almost parallel to the floor. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, let your arms hang toward the floor. With your palms facing in, pull the dumbbells toward you until they touch the outside of your chest. Pause, then return to the starting position. 10 reps

Military Press
Sitting on an exercise bench, hold a barbell at shoulder height with your hands shoulder-width apart. Press the weight straight overhead so that your arms are almost fully extended, hold for a count of one, then bring it down to the front of your shoulders. Repeat.

Home variation:

Sitting on a sturdy chair instead of a bench, hold one dumbbell in each hand, about level with your ears. Push the dumbbells straight overhead so that your arms are almost fully extended, hold for a count of one, then return to the starting position. Repeat. 10 reps

Upright Row
Grab a barbell with an overhand grip, and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Let the barbell hang at arm’s length on top of your thighs, thumbs pointed toward each other. Bending your elbows, lift your upper arms straight out to the sides, and pull the barbell straight up until your upper arms are parallel to the floor and the bar is just below chin level. Pause, then return to the starting position.

Home variation:
Same, using one dumbbell in each hand. 10 reps

Go on to the next page for more arm and leg exercises…

Triceps Pushdown

While standing, grip a bar attached to a high pulley cable or lat machine with your hands about 6 inches apart. With your elbows tucked against your sides, bring the bar down until it is directly in front of you. With your forearms parallel to the floor (the starting position), push the bar down until your arms are extended straight down with the bar near your thighs. Don’t lock your elbows. Return to the starting position.

Home variation: Triceps Kickback
Stand with your knees slightly bent and shoulder-width apart. Bend over so that your back is almost parallel to the ground. Bend your elbows to about 90-degree angles, raising them to just above the level of your back. This is the starting position. Extend your forearms backward, keeping your upper arms stationary. When they’re fully extended, your arms should be parallel to the ground. Pause, then return to the starting position. 10 – 12 reps

Leg Extension
Sitting on a leg extension machine with your feet under the footpads, lean back slightly, and lift the pads with your feet until your legs are extended.

Home variation:
Squat Against the Wall. Stand with your back flat against a wall. Squat down so that your thighs are parallel to the ground. Hold that position for as long as you can. That consists of one set. Aim for 20 seconds to start, and work your way up to 45 seconds. 10 – 12 reps

Biceps Curl
Stand while holding a barbell in front of you, palms facing out, with your hands shoulder-width apart and your arms hanging in front of you. Curl the weight toward your shoulders, hold for a second, then return to the starting position.

Home variation: Same, only use a set of dumbbells instead. 10 reps

Leg Curl
Lie facedown on a leg curl machine, and hook your ankles under the padded bar. Keeping your stomach and pelvis against the bench, slowly raise your feet toward your butt, curling up the weight. Come up so that your feet nearly touch your butt, and slowly return to the starting position.

Home variation:

Lie down with your stomach on the floor. Put a light dumbbell between your feet (so that the top end of the dumbbell rests on the bottom of your feet). Squeeze your feet together, and curl them up toward your butt. 10 – 12 reps

Most guys who are embarking on a new mission begin with one fundamental question: When do we eat?

By: David Zinczenko

Let the Dinner Bell Ring

Most diets are all about what foods you’ll cut out. This one is all about what you’ll include. And that’s good news, because if you want to emerge on the other side of this plan with a new body, you must have the flexibility and freedom to keep yourself from getting hungry, and the knowledge that you can eat well no matter what.


So let’s get right to it, because eating more of the right foods more often is the basis of the Abs Diet. Remember:




That’s why the Abs Diet isn’t a diet you’ll feel you “have to” stick to. It’s one you’ll want to stick to.


See, I’ve talked to lots of men who’ve tried diets, and many of them describe trying to stick to a strict diet plan as sort of like standing waist-deep in the ocean and being pummeled by one wave after another. Those waves come in the form of doughnuts the boss brought in, the office vending machine you’re stuck with when the boss makes you work late, and the happy hour to celebrate the firing of the boss who gave you all those doughnuts and late vending machine nights.


When you’re staring at a wave that’s clearly bigger than you, you have three choices. You could run back to shore or try to jump over it, but those options will leave you with a suit full of sand. But if you dive through the wave head-on, you’ll emerge unscathed. Same with a diet. You can try to run away by avoiding restaurants, parties, weddings, or anyplace that’s likely to tempt you with nachos grande. You can also try to take the high road, but ordering a salad and water after a softball game hardly feels right. If you want a diet to work — if you want to emerge on the other side of this plan with a new body — your only choice is to have the flexibility and freedom to keep yourself from getting hungry and the knowledge that you can eat well no matter what.


You’re about to dive into the Abs Diet.


GUIDELINE 1 – Eat Six Meals a Day

We’re so used to hearing people talk about eating less food that it’s become weight-loss doctrine. But as you remember from the physiology of metabolism, you have to eat more often to change your body composition. The new philosophy I want you to keep in mind is “energy balance.”

Researchers at Georgia State University developed a technique to measure hourly energy balance — that is, how many calories you’re burning versus how many calories you’re taking in. The researchers found that if you keep your hourly surplus or deficit within 300 to 500 calories at all times, you will best be able to change your body composition by losing fat and adding lean muscle mass. Those subjects with the largest energy imbalances (those who were over 500 calories in either ingestion or expenditure) were the fattest, while those with the most balanced energy levels were the leanest.


So if you eat only your three squares a day, you’re creating terrific imbalances in your energy levels. Between meals, you’re burning many more calories than you’re taking in. At mealtimes, you’re taking in many more than you’re burning. Research shows that this kind of eating plan is great — if your dream is to be the next John Candy. But if you want to look slimmer, feel fitter, and — not coincidentally — live longer, then you need to eat more often. In the same study, subjects who added three snacks a day to three regular meals balanced out their energy better, lost fat, and increased lean body mass (as well as increased their power and endurance).


In a similar study, researchers in Japan found that boxers who ate the same amount of calories a day from either two or six meals both lost an average of 11 pounds in 2 weeks. But the guys who ate six meals a day lost 3 pounds more fat and 3 pounds less muscle than the ones who ate only two meals.


There’s science to support the fact that more meals work, but the plain-speak reason it works is because it does something that many diets don’t do: It keeps you full and satiated, which will reduce the likelihood of a diet-destroying binge.


How it works: For scheduling purposes, alternate your larger meals with smaller snacks. Eat two of your snacks roughly 2 hours before lunch and dinner, and one snack roughly 2 hours after dinner.


Sample time schedule:

8 a.m.: breakfast

11 a.m.: snack

1 p.m.: lunch

4 p.m.: snack

6 p.m.: dinner

8 p.m.: snack


For a complete 7-day meal plan, click here. It’s not something you need to stick to religiously, just a suggestion for how you can make the Abs Diet work for you. It also shows

how to incorporate the recipes into your everyday life.


GUIDELINE 2 – Make These 12 Abs Diet Powerfoods the Staples of Your Diet

The Abs Diet will teach you to focus on (not restrict yourself to) a handful of food types — the Abs Diet Power 12 — to fulfill your core nutritional needs. These foods are all good for you. They’re so good, in fact, that they’ll just about single-handedly exchange your fat for muscle (provided you’ve kept your receipt). Just as important, I’ve designed the Power 12 to include literally thousands of food combinations. There are hundreds of dairy products, fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and other choices to satisfy your tastes. Incorporating these Powerfoods into your six meals a day will satiate your tastes and cravings and keep you from feasting on the dangerous fat promoters in your diet.


For now, I just want you to remember:


Almonds and other nuts

Beans and legumes

Spinach and other green vegetables


Dairy (fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese)

Instant oatmeal (unsweetened, unflavored)


Turkey and other lean meats


Peanut butter

Olive oil

Whole-grain breads and cereals

Extra-protein (whey) powder

Raspberries and other berries




Go on to the next page to find out why you should drink smoothies regularly…

GUIDELINE 3 – Drink Smoothies Regularly

With schedules the way they are today, it’s no wonder that your definition of a kitchen gadget is the one with a team logo that can open bottles. You need to make one exception for the kitchen gadget that won’t fit on a key chain: the blender. I don’t care how many speeds it has or how it looks, and I couldn’t tell you the difference between a mince and a frappe. All I care about is how much stuff I can put in it and how good the stuff tastes when it comes out. (One thing I do recommend: Get a blender with at least 400 watts, which will give it the power to handle chopping ice and shredding fruit and to outlast any Jimmy Buffett fans who might drop by unexpectedly.)


When you consider that changing your body takes time, motivation, and knowledge, consider your blender to be one of your most powerful tools in this plan. Smoothies made with a mixture of the Abs Diet Powerfoods can act as meal substitutions and as potent snacks, and they work for a few reasons.

  • They require little time.
  • Adding berries, flavored whey powder, or peanut butter will make them taste like dessert, which will satisfy your sweet cravings.
  • Their thickness takes up a lot of space in your stomach.


I don’t cook much. When I want a quick, healthy meal, I dump milk, low-fat vanilla yogurt, ice, uncooked instant oatmeal, peanut butter, and a couple of teaspoons of chocolate whey powder into my blender and press a button. You can mix and match ingredients, depending on your tastes (see these recipes), but use the milk, yogurt, whey powder, and ice as the base. Here’s the evidence showing these blended power drinks will help you control your weight.

  • Researchers at Purdue University found that people stayed fuller longer when they drank thick drinks than when they drank thin ones — even when calories, temperatures, and amounts were equal.
  • A Penn State study found that men who drank yogurt shakes that had been blended until they doubled in volume ate 96 fewer calories a day than men who drank shakes of normal thickness.
  • In a study presented at the North American Association of the Study of Obesity, researchers found that regularly drinking meal replacements increased a man’s chance of losing weight and keeping it off for longer than a year.
  • A University of Tennessee study found that men who added three servings of yogurt a day to their diets lost 61 percent more body fat and 81 percent more stomach fat over 12 weeks than men who didn’t eat yogurt. Wow! Researchers speculated that the calcium helps the body burn fat and limit the amount of new fat your body can make.

How it works:  Drink an 8-ounce smoothie for breakfast, as a meal substitute, or as a snack before or after your workout.

GUIDELINE 4 – Stop Counting

Though calorie burning is paramount to losing fat, calorie counting will make you lose focus and motivation. By eating these 12 Abs Diet Powerfoods and their many relatives, the foods themselves will, in a way, count your calories for you. They’ll keep you healthy and feeling full and satisfied. Plus, the most energy-efficient foods are almost like doormen at a nightclub:


They’re not going to let any of the riffraff in without your approval.


Of course, that doesn’t give you license to speed down the road of monstrous portions. Most of us claim that we watch what we eat, but most of us don’t have a clue. A U.S. Department of Agriculture study asked men what they ate, then checked it against reality. The truth: Men ages 25 to 50 were eating twice the grains, fats, and sweets that they estimated. If you eat six well-balanced meals, your body will regulate portions through things like fiber, protein, and the sheer volume of the smoothies.


That said, it’s always wise — especially in the beginning of the plan, when you’re most vulnerable and adjusting to a new way of eating — to focus on portion control by limiting the servings of some foods, especially the ones with fat (like peanut butter) and carbohydrates (like rice or bread).


A good rule: Stick to one to two servings per food group, and keep the total contents of each meal contained to the diameter of your plate. A height restriction is in effect.

Go on to the next page to find out what you can drink and when you can cheat…

GUIDELINE 5 – Know What to Drink — And What Not To

I drink beer. I drink wine. I like to drink beer and wine, and gin and tonics on a hot summer day, and a lot of other things. There are health benefits to having one or two drinks a day, but there are many ways that alcohol can get you into trouble. Most important, alcohol — like soda — adds calories that you don’t need right now. These calories are empty calories because they don’t actually help make you full or decrease the amount of food you’ll eat. In fact, alcohol makes you eat more and encourages your body to burn less fat.


When Swiss researchers gave eight healthy men enough alcohol to exceed their daily calorie requirements by 25 percent (five beers for someone who eats 3,000 calories a day), they found that booze actually impaired men’s ability to burn fat by as much as 36 percent. Booze also makes you store fat. Your body sees alcohol as a poison and tries to get rid of it. So your liver stops processing all other calories until it has dealt with the alcohol. Anything else you eat while you’re drinking most likely will end up as fat. In some more indirect ways, alcohol can inhibit your body’s production of testosterone and human growth hormone — two hormones that help burn fat and build muscle.


I hate to tell you to drink water, but drinking about eight glasses a day has a lot of benefits. It helps keep you satiated (a lot of times what we interpret as hunger is really thirst). Water flushes the waste products your body makes when it breaks down fat for energy or when it processes protein. You also need water to transport nutrients to your muscles, to help digest food, and to keep your metabolism clicking.


If you’re serious about shedding belly flab, I’d encourage you to stay off the booze for the 6-week plan. At the least, limit yourself to two or three alcoholic drinks per week. The best drinks you can have are fat-free, 1%, or 2% milk; water; and green tea (or, if you must, two glasses of diet soda a day).


GUIDELINE 6 – For One Meal a Week, Forget the Guidelines

I would never advocate cheating on your spouse, your employer, or your taxes. But I want you to cheat on this diet. I want you to take one meal during the week and forget everything about good carbohydrates and good fats. Have half a pizzabuffalo wings, or whatever it is that you miss the most while you’re on this plan.


Have it, savor it, and then dig back in for another week. I want you to cheat for a couple reasons. One, I want you to control when you cheat. Plan your cheat meal for the week — whether it’s Saturday night out, during a football game, or whenever. But if you keep it planned, you’ll stick to it. The way to control your cravings is to satisfy them every once in a while. If you can make it through 6 days, you reward yourself and know that 6 days of good eating is a regimen you can stick to over the long term.


And there’s another important reason. I want you to cheat: because it’ll actually help you change your body. A successful diet plan is about how you eat most of the time, not how you eat all of the time. In fact, a high-calorie day of eating can rev up your metabolism. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health found that men who ate twice as many calories in a day as they normally did increased their metabolism by 9 percent in the 24-hour period that followed.


But here’s where you have to show control. I think that this diet plan allows you to have plenty of foods that are both good and good for you, but I know you will crave other foods that don’t fit into our guidelines. Think of this cheat meal as the carrot at the end of a good week of eating. I encourage you to enjoy your meal of gluttony, and please, don’t make the carrot literally a carrot.



Meet the powerfoods that will shrink your gut and keep you healthy for life

By: David Zinczenko

The Power of Food

These 12 foods make up a large part of your diet. The more of these foods you eat, the better your body will be able to increase lean muscle mass and avoid storing fat.

They have been proven to do one or more of the following:

Builds muscle

Helps promote weight loss

Strengthens bone

Lowers blood pressure

Fights cancer

Improves immune function

Fights heart disease

Though you can base entire meals and snacks around these foods, you don’t have to. But do follow these guidelines.

  • Incorporate two or three of these foods into each of your three major meals and at least one of them into each of your three snacks.
  • Diversify your food at every meal to get a combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
  • Make sure you sneak a little bit of protein into each snack.

Here’s an easy way to remember what’s good for you. The first letter of each food group spells: A.B.S.D.I.E.T.P.O.W.E.R 12

Click the recipe links on the right to find out different ways to use the powerfoods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Or click here for an entire listing of all the Abs Diet recipes we have on our site.

1) Almonds and Other Nuts

Eat them with skins intact.


Building muscle, fighting food cravings

Secret weapons Protein, monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, folate (in peanuts), fiber, magnesium, phosphorus

Fight against Obesity, heart disease, muscle loss, cancer

Sidekicks Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, avocados

Impostors Salted or smoked nuts. High sodium spikes blood pressure.

These days, you hear about good fats and bad fats the way you hear about good cops and bad cops. One’s on your side, and one’s going to beat you silly. Oreos fall into the latter category, but nuts are clearly out to help you. They contain the monounsaturated fats that clear your arteries and help you feel full. All nuts are high in protein and monounsaturated fat.

But almonds are like Jack Nicholson in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest: They’re the king of the nuts. Eat as much as two handfuls a day. If you eat 2 ounces of almonds (about 24 of them), it can suppress your appetite–especially if you wash them down with 8 ounces of water.

For a quick popcorn alternative, spray a handful of almonds with nonstick cooking spray and bake them at 400 degrees F for 5 to 10 minutes. Take them out of the oven and sprinkle them with either a brown sugar and cinnamon mix or cayenne pepper and thyme.

2) Beans and Other Legumes

Including soybeans, chickpeas, pinto beans, navy beans, kidney beans, lima beans.

Superpowers Building muscle, helping burn fat, regulating digestion

Secret weapons Fiber, protein, iron, folate

Fight against Obesity, colon cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure

Sidekicks Lentils, peas, bean dips, hummus, edamame

Impostors Refried beans, which are high in saturated fats; baked beans, which are high in sugar.

Most of us can trace our resistance to beans to some unfortunately timed intestinal upheaval (third-grade math class, a first date gone awry). But beans are, as the famous rhyme says, good for your heart; the more you eat them, the more you’ll be able to control your hunger.

Black, lima, pinto, navy–you pick it. They’re all low in fat, and they’re packed with protein, fiber, and iron–nutrients crucial for building muscle and losing weight. Gastrointestinal disadvantages notwithstanding, they serve as one of the key members of the Abs Diet cabinet because of all their nutritional power. In fact, if you can replace a meat-heavy dish with a bean-heavy dish a couple of times a week, you’ll be lopping a lot of saturated fat out of your diet and replacing it with higher amounts of fiber.

3) Spinach and Other Green Vegetables

Superpowers Neutralizing free radicals (molecules that accelerate the aging process)

Secret weapons Vitamins including A, C, and K; folate; beta-carotene; minerals including calcium and magnesium; fiber

Fight against Cancer, heart disease, stroke, obesity, osteoporosis

Sidekicks Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts; green, yellow, red, and orange vegetables such as asparagus, peppers, and yellow beans

Impostors None, as long as you don’t fry them or smother them in fatty cheese sauces.

You know vegetables are packed with important nutrients, but they’re also a critical part of your body-changing diet. I like spinach in particular because one serving supplies nearly a full day’s vitamin A and half of your vitamin C. It’s also loaded with folate–a vitamin that protects against heart disease, stroke, and colon cancer. Dress a sandwich with the stuff, or stir-fry it with fresh garlic and olive oil.

Broccoli is high in fiber and more densely packed with vitamins and minerals than almost any other food. If you hate vegetables, hide them. Puree them and add them to marinara sauce or chili. The more you chop, the less you taste, and the easier it is for your body to absorb nutrients. With broccoli, sauté it in garlic and olive oil, and douse it with hot sauce.

4) Dairy Products

Fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese.

Superpowers Building strong bones, firing up weight loss

Secret weapons Calcium, vitamins A and B12, riboflavin, phosphorus, potassium

Fight against Osteoporosis, obesity, high blood pressure, cancer

Sidekicks None

Impostors Whole milk, frozen yogurt

Dairy is nutrition’s version of a typecast actor. It gets so much good press for strengthening bones that it garners little attention for all the other stuff it does well. Just take a look at the mounting evidence that calcium is a prime belly-buster. A University of Tennessee study found that dieters who consumed between 1,200 and 1,300 milligrams of calcium a day lost nearly twice as much weight as those taking in less calcium. Researchers think the mineral probably prevents weight gain by increasing the breakdown of body fat and hampering its formation. Low-fat yogurt, cheeses, and other dairy products can play a key role in your diet. But I recommend milk as your major source of calcium. Liquids take up lots of room in your stomach, so your brain gets the signal that you’re full. Sprinkling in chocolate whey powder can help curb sweet cravings.

5) Instant Oatmeal

Unsweetened, unflavored.

Superpowers Boosting energy and sex drive, reducing cholesterol, maintaining blood-sugar levels

Secret weapons Complex carbohydrates and fiber

Fights against Heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, obesity

Sidekicks High-fiber cereals like All-Bran and Fiber One

Impostors Sugary cereals

Oatmeal is the Bo Derek of your pantry: It’s a perfect 10. You can eat it at breakfast to propel you through sluggish mornings, a couple of hours before a workout to feel fully energized by the time you hit the weights, or at night to avoid a late-night binge. I recommend instant oatmeal for its convenience. But I want you to buy the unsweetened, unflavored variety and use other Powerfoods such as milk and berries to enhance the taste. Preflavored oatmeal often comes loaded with sugar calories.


Oatmeal contains soluble fiber, meaning that it attracts fluid and stays in your stomach longer than insoluble fiber (like vegetables). Soluble fiber is thought to reduce blood cholesterol by binding with digestive acids made from cholesterol and sending them out of your body. When this happens, your liver has to pull cholesterol from your blood to make more digestive acids, and your bad cholesterol levels drop.


Trust me: You need more fiber, both soluble and insoluble. Doctors recommend we get between 25 and 35 grams of fiber per day, but most of us get half that. Fiber is like a bouncer for your body, kicking out troublemakers and showing them the door. It protects you from heart disease. It protects you from colon cancer by sweeping carcinogens out of the intestines quickly.


A Penn State study also showed that oatmeal sustains your blood sugar levels longer than many other foods, which keeps your insulin levels stable and ensures you won’t be ravenous for the few hours that follow. That’s good, because spikes in the production of insulin slow your metabolism and send a signal to the body that it’s time to start storing fat. Since oatmeal breaks down slowly in the stomach, it causes less of a spike in insulin levels than foods like bagels. Include it in a smoothie or as your breakfast. (A U.S. Navy study showed that simply eating breakfast raised metabolism by 10 percent.)


Another cool fact about oatmeal: Preliminary studies indicate that oatmeal raises the levels of free testosterone in your body, enhancing your body’s ability to build muscle and burn fat and boosting your sex drive.

6) Eggs

Superpowers Building muscle, burning fat

Secret weapons Protein, vitamins A and B12

Fight against Obesity

Sidekicks Egg Beaters, which have fewer calories than eggs and no fat, but just as much of the core nutrients

Impostors None

For a long time, eggs were considered pure evil, and doctors were more likely to recommend tossing eggs at passing cars than throwing them into omelette pans. That’s because just two eggs contain enough cholesterol to put you over your daily recommended value. Though you can cut out some of that by removing part of the yolk and using the white, more and more research shows that eating an egg or two a day will not raise your cholesterol levels.

In fact, we’ve learned that most blood cholesterol is made by the body from dietary fat, not dietary cholesterol. That’s why you should take advantage of eggs and their powerful makeup of protein. The protein found in eggs has the highest “biological value” of protein–a measure of how well it supports your body’s protein need–of any food. In other words, the protein in eggs is more effective at building muscle than protein from other sources, even milk and beef. Eggs also contain vitamin B12, which is necessary for fat breakdown.

7) Turkey and Other Lean Meats

Lean steak, chicken, fish.

Superpowers Building muscle, improving the immune system

Secret weapons Protein, iron, zinc, creatine (beef), omega-3 fatty acids (fish), vitamins B6 (chicken and fish) and B12, phosphorus, potassium

Fight against Obesity, mood disorders, memory loss, heart disease

Sidekicks Shellfish, Canadian bacon, omega-3 rich flaxseed

Impostors Sausage, bacon, cured meats, ham, fatty cuts of steak like T-bone and rib eye

A classic muscle-building nutrient, protein is the base of any solid diet plan. Turkey breast is one of the leanest meats you’ll find, and it packs nearly one-third of your daily requirements of niacin and vitamin B6. Dark meat, if you prefer, has lots of zinc and iron. One caution, though: If you’re roasting a whole turkey for a family feast, avoid self-basting birds, which have been injected wth fat.

Beef is another classic muscle-building protein. It’s the top food source for creatine–the substance your body uses when you lift weights. Beef does have a downside; it contains saturated fats, but some cuts have more than others. Look for rounds or loins (that’s code for extra-lean); sirloins and New York strips are less fatty than prime ribs and T-bones.

To cut down on saturated fats even more, concentrate on fish like tuna and salmon, because they contain a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids as well as protein. Those fatty acids lower levels of a hormone called leptin in your body. Several recent studies suggest that leptin directly influences your metabolism: The higher your leptin levels, the more readily your body stores calories as fat. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin found that mice with low leptin levels have faster metabolisms and are able to burn fat faster than animals with higher leptin levels. Mayo Clinic researchers studying the diets of two African tribes found that the tribe that ate fish frequently had leptin levels nearly five times lower than the tribe that primarily ate vegetables.

A bonus benefit: Researchers in Stockholm found that men who ate no fish had three times the risk of prostate cancer of those who ate it regularly. It’s the omega-3s that inhibit prostate-cancer growth.

8) Peanut Butter

All-natural, sugar-free.

Superpowers Boosting testosterone, building muscle, burning fat

Secret weapons Protein, monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, niacin, magnesium

Fights against Obesity, muscle loss, wrinkles, cardiovascular disease

Sidekicks Cashew and almond butters

Impostors Mass-produced sugary and trans fatty peanut butters

Yes, PB has its disadvantages: It’s high in calories, and it doesn’t go over well when you order it in four-star restaurants. But it’s packed with those heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that can increase your body’s production of testosterone, which can help your muscles grow and your fat melt. In one 18-month experiment, people who integrated peanut butter into their diet maintained weight loss better than those on low-fat plans. A recent study from the University of Illinois showed that diners who had monounsaturated fats before a meal (in this case, it was olive oil) ate 25 percent fewer calories during that meal than those who didn’t.


Practically speaking, PB also works because it’s a quick and versatile snack—and it tastes good. Since a diet that includes an indulgence like peanut butter doesn’t leave you feeling deprived, it’s easier to follow and won’t make you fall prey to other cravings. Use it on an apple, on the go, or to add flavor to potentially bland smoothies. Two caveats: You can’t gorge on it because of its fat content; limit yourself to about 3 tablespoons per day. And you should look for all-natural peanut butter, not the mass-produced brands that have added sugar.

9) Olive Oil

Superpowers Lowering cholesterol, boosting the immune system

Secret weapons Monounsaturated fat, vitamin E

Fights against Obesity, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure

Sidekicks Canola oil, peanut oil, sesame oil

Impostors Other vegetable and hydrogenated vegetable oils, trans fatty acids, margarine

No need for a long explanation here: Olive oil and its brethren will help control your food cravings; they’ll also help you burn fat and keep your cholesterol in check. Do you need any more reason to pass the bottle?

10) Whole-Grain Breads and Cereals

Superpowers Preventing your body from storing fat

Secret weapons Fiber, protein, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc

Fight against Obesity, cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease

Sidekicks Brown rice, whole-wheat pretzels, whole-wheat pastas

Impostors Processed bakery products like white bread, bagels, and doughnuts; breads labeled wheat instead of whole wheat

There’s only so long a person can survive on an all-protein diet or an all-salad diet or an all-anything diet. You crave carbohydrates because your body needs them. The key is to eat the ones that have been the least processed—carbs that still have all their heart-healthy, belly-busting fiber intact.

Grains like wheat, corn, oats, barley, and rye are seeds that come from grasses, and they’re broken into three parts—the germ, the bran, and the endosperm. Think of a kernel of corn.

The biggest part of the kernel—the part that blows up when you make popcorn—is the endosperm. Nutritionally it’s pretty much a big dud. It contains starch, a little protein, and some B vitamins. The germ is the smallest part of the grain; in the corn kernel, it’s that little white seedlike thing. But while it’s small, it packs the most nutritional power. It contains protein, oils, and the B vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and pyridoxine. It also has vitamin E and the minerals magnesium, zinc, potassium, and iron. The bran is the third part of the grain and the part where all the fiber is stored. It’s a coating around the endosperm that contains B vitamins, zinc, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and other minerals.

So what’s the point of this little biology lesson? Well, get this: When food manufacturers process and refine grains, guess which two parts get tossed out? Yup, the bran, where all the fiber and minerals are, and the germ, where all the protein and vitamins are. And what they keep—the nutritionally bankrupt endosperm (that is, starch)—gets made into pasta, bagels, white bread, white rice, and just about every other wheat product and baked good you’ll find. Crazy, right? But if you eat products made with all the parts of the grain—whole-grain bread, pasta, long-grain rice—you get all the nutrition that food manufacturers are otherwise trying to cheat you out of.

Whole-grain carbohydrates can play an important role in a healthy lifestyle. In an 11-year study of 16,000 middle-age people, researchers at the University of Minnesota found that consuming three daily servings of whole grains can reduce a person’s mortality risk over the course of a decade by 23 percent. (Tell that to your buddy who’s eating low-carb.) Whole-grain bread keeps insulin levels low, which keeps you from storing fat. In this diet, it’s especially versatile because it’ll supplement any kind of meal with little prep time. Toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, with a dab of peanut butter for a snack. Don’t believe the hype. Carbs—the right kind of carbs—are good for you.

Warning: Food manufacturers are very sneaky. Sometimes, after refining away all the vitamins, fiber, and minerals from wheat, they’ll add molasses to the bread, turning it brown, and put it on the grocery shelf with a label that says wheat bread. It’s a trick! Truly nutritious breads and other products will say whole-wheat or whole-grain. Don’t be fooled.

11) Extra-Protein (Whey) Powder

Superpowers Building muscle, burning fat

Secret weapons Protein, cysteine, glutathione

Fights against Obesity

Sidekick Ricotta cheese

Impostor Soy protein


Protein powder? What the heck is that? It’s the only Abs Diet Powerfood that you may not be able to find at the supermarket, but it’s the one that’s worth the trip to a health food store. I’m talking about powdered whey protein, a type of animal protein that packs a muscle-building wallop. If you add whey powder to your meal—in a smoothie, for instance—you may very well have created the most powerful fat-burning meal possible. Whey protein is a high-quality protein that contains essential amino acids that build muscle and burn fat. But it’s especially effective because it has the highest amount of protein for the fewest number of calories, making it fat’s kryptonite.


Smoothies with some whey powder can be most effective before a workout. A 2001 study at the University of Texas found that lifters who drank a shake containing amino acids and carbohydrates before working out increased their protein synthesis (their ability to build muscle) more than lifters who drank the same shake after exercising. Since exercise increases bloodflow to tissues, the theory goes that having whey protein in your system when you work out may lead to a greater uptake of amino acids—the building blocks of muscle—in your muscle.


But that’s not all. Whey protein can help protect your body from prostate cancer. Whey is a good source of cysteine, which your body uses to build a prostate cancer–fighting antioxidant called glutathione. Adding just a small amount may increase glutathione levels in your body by up to 60 percent.


By the way, the one great source of whey protein in your supermarket is ricotta cheese. Unlike other cheeses, which are made from milk curd, ricotta is made from whey—a good reason to visit your local Italian eatery.

12) Raspberries and Other Berries

Superpowers Protecting your heart, enhancing eyesight, improving memory, preventing cravings

Secret weapons Antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C, tannins (cranberries)

Fight against Heart disease, cancer, obesity

Sidekicks Most other fruits, especially apples and grapefruit

Impostors Sugary jellies


Depending on your taste, any berry will do (except Crunch Berries). I like raspberries as much for their power as for their taste. They carry powerful levels of antioxidants, all-purpose compounds that help your body fight heart disease and cancer; the berries’ flavonoids may also help your eyesight, balance, coordination, and short-term memory. One cup of raspberries packs 6 grams of fiber and more than half of your daily requirement of vitamin C.


Blueberries are also loaded with the soluble fiber that, like oatmeal, keeps you fuller longer. In fact, they’re one of the most healthful foods you can eat. Blueberries beat out 39 other fruits and vegetables in the antioxidant power ratings. (One study also found that rats that ate blueberries were more coordinated and smarter than rats that didn’t.)


Strawberries contain another valuable form of fiber called pectin (as do grapefruits, peaches, apples, and oranges). In a study from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, subjects drank plain orange juice or juice spiked with pectin. The people who got the loaded juice felt fuller after drinking it than those who got the juice without the pectin. The difference lasted for an impressive 4 hours.