Here's How Long It Really Takes To Get Abs

You may have heard the phrase "Abs are made in the kitchen,and according to exercise physiologist and fitness adviser for Bowflex, Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, CISSN, there's a lot of truth behind that. The phrase means that "when it comes to achieving a flat midsection, diet is the most important factor" (via POPSUGAR). You can build abs in the gym, and you may even have a six-pack already. However, you might not be able to see those muscles because of the fat covering them.

According to Healthline, most people do have ab muscles, some just under the subcutaneous fat layer (which is at the surface of the skin) and others deep within the visceral fat (which is behind the abdominal wall). By lowering your body fat level, you are more likely to make those abs visible. The more body fat you have, the more time it will take to reveal the six pack. 

Registered dietitian Erin Coates, RDN, LD, says "We are all capable of having a leaner body type with proper diet and activity." She also acknowledges that it can be challenging to create a chiseled mid-section.

Exercises for showing off that six pack

Exercise is critical for building muscle and burning fat. However, according to Holland, abdominal exercises should be last on your list. "Spending more time on crunches is taking time away from burning calories and building lean muscle," he says. Cardio is essential for burning calories, which will help reduce fat, and studies show that cardio may even help curb your appetite (per POPSUGAR).

According to Healthline, a sprinting or cycling HIIT routine three times a week can also help reduce body fat, along with strength training. Holland calls the blend of cardio and weight training a "multipronged approach," excellent for reducing excess body fat and moving closer to showing off those abs. 

For strength training, personal trainer Leigh Clayton prefers large compound movements. When a six pack is the goal, she tells Women's Health that "Training the abs can obviously affect how prominent they can become, but compound moves such as deadlifts and squats will both increase core strength and improve ab thickness over time."

Nutrition and other factors

According to Healthline, you can lose up to one pound a week by cutting 500 calories a day. However, since weight loss can also mean muscle loss, so it is important to increase your lean protein intake to approximately one gram per pound of body weight to maintain those ab muscles. Furthermore, Coates tells POPSUGAR that choosing healthier foods like those on the Mediterranean diet, which include vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and healthy fats, can help promote fat loss.

Clayton shares with Women's Health that "If you are eating a realistic calorie controlled macronutrient balanced diet and following a progressive training programme that you increase every week, then you will increase the likelihood of your abs showing sooner." Clayton goes on to say that "It's very hard to quantify the exact amount of time needed to drop body fat and in turn, show abdominal muscles, as there are so many factors that can influence that." In addition to nutrition and fitness, she says these other factors include sleep quality, stress levels, and your current state of health.

The takeaway — because each individual is different, it will take some longer than others to show off that six pack. But with a healthy nutrition and a balanced fitness plan, you can get closer to reaching your goal.