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What Should Your Body-Fat Percentage Be If You Want A Six-Pack?
By Mens Health Staff | May 1, 2021
Sure, six-pack abs will help you get the girl.
But if you’re after a chiseled washboard, you might have to reconsider that extra square of chocolate or give Friday drinks a miss.
And when you do finally ditch the junk food or up your training regime, you’re probably interested to know how low you need to get your body-fat percentage to get that elusive six-pack.
Unfortunately, it’s not so simple, explains Men’s Health Fitness Director Todd Liubinskas.
What is the target body-fat percentage to get a six-pack?
“Firstly, your body-fat percentage is the reflection of the total amount of body fat divided by the total body weight,” explains Liubinskas.
“A good example of body-fat percentage where we can see abs and muscular movement in the stomach region would sit at 10-12 per cent body-fat.”
However, Liubinskas also notes that age can play a part as well.
“Most men carry fat and excess weight in their stomachs. All Men’s body shapes are different and they have various dietary road blocks which retain fat stores in parts of the body.
“Body-fat percentage measurements will reflect a higher body-fat level as we get older,” he continues.
“For example, a 20-year-old male and a 55-year-old male could have the same body-fat measurement, however the 20-year-old may have 15 per cent and the 55-year-old could have 18 per cent.
“Age plays a factor as to where we can carry excess fat, and retaining fat in those areas depends on our fat around the organs (visceral) and within the muscle.”
How can we lower our body fat percentage to get that dream sick-pack?
Avoiding foods that are high in sugar and fats
They weren’t wrong when they said abs are made in the kitchen. Bad fats and sugars will contribute to a growing a waistline – Liubinskas recommends keeping an eye on how much processed food you’re eating.
“Foods that are high in saturated fats are not good for you as they hold fat around the body a lot longer and makes it harder to process out of your body,” he says.
“Avoid hot chips, margarine, packaged foods as well as fried fast food.”
Calorie deficit so your body uses fat storage as energy
While working out can burn more calories, nutrition also plays a vital role in creating a deficit. Cutting back on junk food not only stops the build up of visceral fat, but it also forces your body to use stored fat as an energy source.
Like it’s name suggests, a calorie deficit is when your calorie expenditure is greater than your intake. And you don’t have to starve yourself to get there.
Liubinskas suggests managing your energy levels efficiently by consuming the right foods – good carbs and good fats. That way you won’t be so dependant on extra calories to get a quick burst of energy.
“We should be consuming unsaturated fats. These foods will allow your body to retain energy levels for longer, and unsaturated fats are able to process through your body in a natural and efficient process,” he continues.
“Make sure you are including avocados, olives, vegetables, walnuts and salmon in your diet.”
HIIT to increase calorie expenditure
For many, this is the best option to get that elusive six-pack. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) not only burns calories, but also builds muscle which will improve the definition of your abs.
“High intensity interval training (HIIT) enables your body to function at a higher heart rate for periods of time. Allowing higher work rate, higher fat burn opportunities, and increases fitness levels.
“The best form of HIIT training I have experienced is E.M.O.M (Every Minute On The Minute),” he adds. “It’s all about pushing your body every minute, on the minute – hence the name EMOM – 18 min E.M.O.M.”
Here’s a sample 18 min E.M.O.M workout to get your heart racing:
- Even Minute complete 10 box jumps (your rest is determined by how fast you can complete the box jumps e.g. finish in 40 seconds, you have 20 seconds rest)
- Odd Minute complete 14 hang clean and press (your rest is determined by how fast you can complete the clean and press e.g. finish in 50 seconds, you have 10 seconds rest)
- Benefit of having minimal rest allows your body to maintain a high heart rate and workload, therefore increasing blood flow and work capacity under duress.
- This workout will force you to activate abs when taking off and landing on the box for effective and efficient technique.
- The hang clean and press is primarily controlled via your core, and maintaining body position through the clean movement is vital for moving safely through the movement.
- Calories in each workout will vary based on the individual, however you could aim for 300-400 Calories for a 20-minute workout.
The best thing about running? It won’t just burn body-fat around the abs, it’ll give you total definition head to toe. Cardio is a great form of exercise if you want to lose weight and take off a couple inches of belly fat.
“Whether you are running, walking, shuffling, whatever your pace is, getting your heart rate to sit at 70-80 per cent when you are moving is an ideal work rate for fat burning.”
Reduce bloating and water retention
While this isn’t technically body fat, we’ve included it on the list because bloating and water retention can contribute to a growing waist line.
“Water retention occurs when fluids build up inside your body, and commonly known as edema,” says Liubinskas. But fear not, there are countless options to help deal with bulge around the belly.
Here’s what Liubinskas recommends:
- Exercise on a Regular Basis – 30 min per session, 3-4 times per week
- Aim for 8 hours sleep on average
- Manage stress through guided meditation
- Take Electrolytes when training or during the day with your water intake
- Avoid excess salt on your food and salty foods in general
- Take a Magnesium Supplement, preferably before bed
- Aim for 4-5L of water per day
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