There is an old bodybuilding adage that states, “Great abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym”. It’s a catchy little saying and when I say it, most people pause and then say, “Oh, I get it!” After all, it’s a really simple concept. But adages, just like clichés, become what they are because of the truths they contain. Another way of conveying this truth is “you can’t out exercise a bad diet”. Consider this common example: Julie is a woman of average height and weight that goes to the gym with her friends. Feeling strong one day, she decides to push it on the treadmill at 6 mph for an entire hour. One sweaty hard worked hour later she looks down and the treadmill reads “Calories Burned: 661”. “Sweet!” she says. Feeling fantastic, Julie and her friends decide to grab a bite to eat and hang out for a bit before heading home. They decide to go to their favorite local deli and get something “light” since they are in that healthy frame of mind. Julie orders her favorite bagel with light cream cheese and a 16-ounce fruit smoothie.
Riding on her exercise high, Julie enjoys her bagel and smoothie while visiting with her friends. As their lunch is winding down and realizing they still have a lot to do that day, the girls decide to grab a quick “pick-me-up” to head into the second half of the day. It’s hot outside so Julie orders her favorite ice-blended coffee drink and heads home. Entering her house, she tosses her keys on the counter, drops her empty coffee cup into the recycling bin and heads into the shower. And this is where we need to press pause in our little story. Something has happened. Little does she know it, but Julie has already consumed more calories in that quick trip to the deli and coffee shop than she burned in that sweaty one-hour workout at the gym! That is how quickly it happens.
- Bagel: 320 calories
- Light Cream Cheese: 100 calories
- Fruit Smoothie: 240 calories
- Blended Mocha: 280 calories
- Total Calories: 940
And you can add another 100-200 calories to that total if she chugged down a sports drink while exercising. It’s a difficult thing to digest (pun intended) but it’s a vital thing to truly understand if we are going to educate ourselves on the process of shedding unwanted pounds.
Along with the above example, there is something of equal importance to understand when it comes to getting those ripped 6-pack abs. YOU ALREADY HAVE THEM! We all do, anatomically speaking. It’s just a matter of making them visible. As evidence to this, just spend a little time at your local municipal pool and you will see droves of kids walking around with perfect 6-pack abs who have never done a crunch in their life! So often in training sessions you will hear a person say, while clutching a piece of their belly fat, “Can we do a lot of abs today, because I gotta get rid of this”. This is a misnomer, though common to all trainers, which has persisted in the public eye for years.
The majority of the reason for this is that whenever we are shown someone in a fitness magazine or TV spot discussing how to get those ripped abs, they are typically doing some sort of abdominal exercise or using some type of equipment they want to sell you. The marketing process is simple. Show someone with great abs using a product and the consumer ties the image of great abs to the use of that product. And it works. The sales of ab equipment is a multimillion dollar business. But the truth lies in your refrigerator.
This certainly isn’t meant to devalue the benefits of abdominal or core training but let’s be honest here. The overwhelming majority of people busting their butts doing hundreds of crunches are doing them primarily for aesthetic purposes. Heck, I’d bet looking better is a close second only to health for the main reason most people work out at all, and in an honest survey it may be #1! Although this may hint that our priorities are slightly out of line, the fact is, when we look better we feel better and our health is likely to follow.
In my next article, we are going to take a closer look at how we can make changes in our daily routine to effect change in our dietary habits. After all, like most things in our life, for better or worse, they are done out of habit. But we must first understand that when it comes to 6-pack abs or getting that bikini-ready tummy, it’s what you do in the kitchen that matters most. So the next time you’re reaching for the phone to order that fancy piece of exercise equipment, while eating a box of Bon Bons, press pause in your little story and remember that great abs are made in the kitchen and NOT in the gym.