Stop doing so many crunches
Most people think that to achieve a flat, toned stomach you need to do a thousand crunches every morning before work, but that’s just not true. The surprising secret is that doing lots of ab specific exercises will only help you tone that area on a short-term basis, if at all.
To get the flat stomach you want, you have to work your entire core, building up its strength and flexibility. Doing exercises like Pilates or stability ball work will help you do this. Working your core is the key to achieving a flat stomach because it works all of the muscles in your stomach area, such as the rectus abdominis, your internal and external obliques and your transversus abdominis.
Stock up on whole grains
A study that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered a surprising secret for a flatter stomach. The study gave participants a healthy diet to eat, consisting of fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, meat and fish. However, they gave one set of participants wholegrain foods to eat and the other set of participants refined grain foods.
At the end of the study those participants who had eaten the wholegrain foods had lost more weight from their stomachs than those who ate the refined grain foods. The researchers believe that the participants who ate more whole grains and ate less refined carbs lost more from their waistlines because this change in diet mobilised people’s fat stores because of a shift in their glucose and insulin response. If you want to swap refined grains for whole grains, eat less yeast-based breads, pasta and cakes or cookies and eat more foods such as oats (which contains as many antioxidants as broccoli and spinach), brown rice and wheat berries.
Get some sleep
It may seem as though sleep has nothing to do with your dream of having a flat stomach, but it does. If you don’t get enough sleep then your hormone levels change, which can make you feel hungry and can also make you feel less satisfied once you have eaten. This can lead to overeating. Plus those late nights watching TV or going out with friends gives you more time to snack and reach for unhealthy foods.
So, how much sleep should you be getting? The Mayo Clinic advises adults that they should sleep for no less than seven hours a night. If you struggle to get this much sleep make sure you are exercising regularly, that you don’t nap during the day and that you eat foods that contain tryptophan (an amino acid that helps you sleep), such as chicken, milk and yoghurt.
Time your meals
If you eat food quickly then you might find that you are eating more than you actually need to. Slowing down the pace you eat meals at will help you to achieve a flatter stomach because you will eat smaller portions. Also a study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that eating quickly did not allow the hormone that makes you feel full to kick in. Therefore when eating quickly you are far more likely to eat more than is necessary.
To stop eating so quickly you should make sure you eat at your dining table and do not eat in front of the TV. Concentrating and savouring what you are tucking into will help slow down the rate you eat at. You could also set a timer and try to consciously slow down so that you eat the last bites of your food when the timer goes off. Also, a study found that soft lighting and gentle music helped participants eat less quickly so you could always dim the lights and put on some Enya too.
Tuck into some enzymes
An enzyme that will help you achieve a flatter stomach is called bromelain and it can be found in pineapples. The bromelain enzyme digests protein and is called a proteolytic enzyme. It is useful for those who want a flatter stomach because it aids the digestion of foods that are high in fibre, such as beans or vegetables. By aiding the digestion of these foods this enzyme eases bloating, which is a major obstacle that stands between many people and their flat stomachs.
If you want to get a flat stomach and think the bromelain enzyme might help you to achieve this then you should eat some fresh pineapple before a meal to aid your digestion. The enzyme can also be taken as a supplement.