February 22, 2024

Sefood

Where Flavor Meets Feelings

Six-Pack Diet: What To Eat To Reveal Your Abs

7 min read

No matter how hard you work in the gym, you’re unlikely to get a six-pack if you don’t pay just as much attention to your diet. You’re probably going to have to cut back on calories, but eating less isn’t the only important part of a six-pack diet. For expert advice on how to get a six-pack, we spoke to Mark Bohannon, a personal trainer at Ultimate Performance.

About Our Expert

About Our Expert

Mark Bohannon

Mark Bohannon is a certified personal trainer with Ultimate Performance, which specialises in body transformations. Bohannon has more than 15 years of experience of training clients and was named personal trainer of the year at the UK Fitness Awards in 2017.

How hard is it to get a six-pack?

Most people don’t understand, or at the very least underestimate, how hard it is to get visible abdominal muscles. Technically speaking, everyone has a six-pack, but for most people they are hidden underneath a layer of fat, or they’re not strong enough, or most likely both. 

Unless you’re blessed with incredible genetics, you’re going to need to get your body fat percentage as low as 8-9% for your abs to be visible. That’s low. And to achieve that, you’re going to have to diet hard. 

If we take a typical client who starts at 20-25% body fat, getting them to 13-14% is no problem. Most clients can get there through following a good diet, training hard regularly and staying consistent. Going from 13-14% to 8-9% requires a much greater investment of time and effort.

Is a six-pack mostly down to diet?

That is largely true. The best way to achieve such a low level of body fat is to put yourself into a long-term calorie deficit and exercise regularly. Diet will help you reduce body fat, but to speed up the process by which you burn fat and build muscle, you will need to do resistance training. 

What should you eat to get a six-pack?

Achieving a six-pack means applying the same dietary principles as you would if you were looking to strengthen any muscle. There’s no special abs diet that is different from the fundamentals of how to lose fat and build muscle. 

The first thing you need to do is put yourself in a calorie deficit – consuming fewer calories per day than you expend. Working out what this calorie deficit looks like, day to day, is where a lot of people stumble. 

There are all sorts of formulas available on the internet that allow you to enter your current bodyweight and how sedentary your lifestyle is, and it will work out how many calories a day you need to consume to maintain your weight – this is known as your calorific maintenance.

It is not an exact science, but a general rule would be to subtract 500 calories per day from your calorific maintenance level so that you are in a deficit. However, it is important to note that as time progresses and your body fat levels drop, you may need to tweak your diet and increase the calorie deficit if you want to avoid plateauing. 

The other main stumbling block people have is calculating their macronutrients – how many grams of protein, carbohydrates and fats – to consume. This can be a minefield unless you have an experienced personal trainer in your corner, but if you want to get a visible six-pack, you’re going to need to get this macronutrient breakdown right. 

My advice would be to use an app such as UP Transform, which will do all the work for you. Once you’ve entered your current bodyweight levels and the body composition you want to achieve, the app will automatically work out your daily calorific needs, your exact macronutrient breakdown, and a timeline of how long it will take to achieve your goals. It will also provide meal suggestions. All you need to do is then stick to these targets. 

Woman drinking a protein shake in gym

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As to what type of foods to eat, as a general rule, base your diet around protein. My recommendation is to aim for 2.2g to 2.8g of protein per kg of lean body mass. Foods such as chicken, turkey, beef, oily fish and eggs, as well as protein shakes, are all great sources of protein. I would stay away from most protein bars though – they tend to have very high amounts of sugar and fat, and they can play havoc with your digestion. 


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