One Simple Change you can Make to Get Better Abs

I’m not a bodybuilder, six-pack owner or fitness competitor. I’m just a girl who loves working out and being fit. Most days I run for about 45 minutes and strength/core train for an additional 45 minutes. I love living a healthy lifestyle and seeing results from my hard work. Within the past year, I have made a simple change in my diet and love the results it has had on my abs.

My whole life I’ve been an active person, playing just about every sport there is. During middle and high school I ran cross country and track, and it kept me in great shape. I ran 40-50 miles a week and strength trained for an hour six days a week, so being in shape was never a problem. I was burning hundreds of calories a day and I ate relatively healthy food.

But I never had defined abs. For a while, I thought it was just a genetic thing or something that I would need to give up all good food for. I knew I wasn't going to eat salad every meal because that sounds awful. My diet already avoided most fried foods, soda and sugary drinks. It basically consisted of lean meats, fruits and veggies, milk and whole grains, some sweets, healthy snack foods and a lot of bread. Runners need carbs — what can I say?

I carb loaded because I was running for 45 minutes or more every single day, and typically it was white bread and other snacks with refined flour. I was convinced my body needed it. The day before cross country races, my teammates and I would polish off a fresh loaf of French bread.  Bread was my favorite food. I would eat it as an after-school snack, breakfast, a pre-race meal or basically whenever I wanted.

When I went off to college in the fall, the dining hall didn’t have good bread, and I didn’t have the time to go buy some from a bakery. I stopped eating so much bread, and I varied my diet. I thought, why not? It was a good time to try something new. I tried brown rice, whole wheat noodles, whole grain light bread and Cheerios in place of white refined bread. I did about the same amount of working out in college as I did in high school, or maybe even less, to be honest. I was no longer training to win and perform, but rather running just to stay fit and enjoy it.

Within a few weeks, my abs started to get more defined. I had more energy. I was fuller for longer. I knew I had eaten around the same meals and amounts, simply switching out white bread for brown rice. White bread and brown rice have around the same calorie amount per serving, and I wasn’t expecting a big change, but this completely changed my core. Throughout the entire year I continued to see improvement in my abs. Now I love my abs, so I eat a balanced and healthy diet to maintain my current fitness level.

I wondered what had made such a big difference. I started to research my discovery and found out that refined flour is correlated with higher levels of visceral adipose tissue, a.k.a. belly fat.

Refined flours also have a higher glycemic index than whole grains. They spike your blood sugar, which increases your insulin levels (much like a candy bar) and then crashes it back down quickly (making you hungry after a shorter period of time). After your sugar crashes, you then eat more food to once again satisfy your hunger.

Many people worry about counting carbs and eating carbs in general, but it’s more about what type of carbs you eat.  Reach for whole grains like brown rice, plain popcorn or whole-wheat noodles or crackers. These alternatives have a lower glycemic index, will keep you fuller longer and are also correlated to less belly fat.  

Trust me — I'm not one of those crazy diet people. I promise, I eat normal things. Cookie butter and animal crackers are my current go-to when I need dessert. I had mashed potatoes and ate from the breadbasket at dinner. But all things should be done in moderation, and that defintitely includes your eating habits I mainly stick to a healthy diet with whole grains for meals, and I treat myself for daily dessert and other occasions. I make eating white bread an occasion, not a habit. Just like everything else in life, moderation is key.