Flat, firm rippling abs. For many, this is the Holy Grail of fitness and looking good. Arguably they are the most difficult element of physical accomplishment to achieve, and for those that manage it a career as an underwear model is surely the only way to live their life from now on.

Before we come on to what you shouldn’t, and should, be eating to give yourself the best chance there is something important to point out. Abs might not happen for everybody. Your genetic shape may simply not allow you to develop defined ‘six pack’ abs. If you are someone that traditionally doesn’t carry much muscle anywhere on your body, you are going to need to do even more work to build that muscle around your core whilst attempting to make yourself more lean.

It’s also worth pointing out that it’s something of a myth that some foods simply create belly fat. It is true that some foods are going to make you fat, and it is also true that fat is often stored around the belly. But to say that some foods specially create belly fat isn’t particularly accurate. To achieve flat abs you need to become leaner everywhere and the most rewarding results will be seen on your stomach. What this does mean is that fat around your core is often the most difficult to shift as that, for most, is often where it is stored by the body. So after weeks or months of trying if you’ve lost fat from everywhere else except your belly, do not be disheartened. The body is a trained survival machine that always assumes the worst! How does your body not know that a famine isn’t just around the corner? It is only thinking of your best chances to survive by storing some energy for a rainy day. By eating little and often, over time, you’ll convince it that food is in good supply and you WILL start to burn that belly fat.

However, if you don’t achieve six-pack abs you can still (very realistically) achieve a flat stomach. Combine the right exercises, with eating right you’ll definitely be dropping belt sizes and gaining confidence.
But what to be eating and what not to be eating to give yourself the best chance?

Top 5 foods to avoid

1) Candy and soda. They are simply full of calories. Empty sugary calories that unless you are an ultra-endurance athlete, you simply won’t be burning off. Unused calories = fat. You could switch to sugar-free alternatives BUT be warned. As mentioned, your body is clever. So after a spell of trying to trick it with sweet tasting but calorie free foods or drinks, it will begin to realise that tasting sweet no longer means there are calories to burn and your metabolism will plummet. Not what you need when trying to burn fat.

2) Alcohol. Two main problems with this. Firstly, it is also full of calories that offer zero nutritional benefits. Secondly, one or two drinks lowers your resistance to temptations and three, for, five, six, seven drinks will follow. Plus a pizza on the way home. Not to mention the comfort food the next day when hungover.

3) Fruit juices and smoothies. Yes, there are nutritional benefits to fresh juices, that’s obvious. But they are still full of sugar. Admittedly not processed sugars like in sweets and soda but sugars nonetheless. Limit your juice in-take.

4) Bread and pasta. Avoiding these types of carbs are keys to becoming leaner. Carbohydrates are complex sugars, so once digested they release sugars in to the blood that a) you’re not likely to burn off, and b) are going to cause a crash in energy once the sugar high fades, leaving you wanting to eat more than you ever did.

5) Fast foods. Calories, fats, and processed elements that the body can’t make use of. Avoid them. You knew that though. I promise you that after a period of eating right and exercising, the idea of a greasy processed burger will become less and less appealing.

So that’s what not to eat. However, starving yourself is never the way to go. Your metabolism will slow right down as your body preserves what energy supplies it has making it even more difficult to burn fat. What should you eat?

Here then are 5 foods to make part of your diet.

1) Nuts and seeds. These regulate your blood sugar levels meaning a crash is less likely and you won’t crave stodgy carbs. For example, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, linseed – great for helping fight the belly bulge and have some many nutritional benefits. If you’re a peanut butter fan make sure you’re getting the wholenut stuff with no added sugar.

2) Whole grains and wild grains. You’re cutting out bread and pasta – good. What can you replace them with though? Grains of this type release their energy much more slowly, again meaning you’re less likely to crave a sugar hit. Get hunting for recipes including the likes of couscous, quinoa, oatmeal, brown rice.

3) Skyr yogurt. Traditionally from Iceland, this is a yogurt packed with protein and much lower in fat that most other dairy. Thick, gloopy and delicious, the protein helps you feel more full for longer whilst being a key part of building the muscle needed to achieve abs.

4) Green tea. OK, perhaps not the nicest tasting tea in the world (although a lot now come with natural sweetening flavors to take the edge off!). But there is a lot of evidence to suggest it really sends your metabolism in the right direction. So a few gulps of the green stuff can really help achieve your goal.

5) Good fats. Sounds stupid doesn’t it, but to lose belly fat you need to eat fat! The right fat though. The right fats oil up the system and are a key part of a balanced diet. Avocado, nuts, salmon and eggs. The key thing is that is natural and not processed – a cheese slice is full of fat but that doesn’t mean its ok!

All the above should give you a few ideas and maybe highlight where you’ve been going wrong. Keep note of your progress – take measurements or even just a selfie in the mirror pulling your shirt up! There’s nothing like noticing a difference to make you feel good and keep the momentum going. Have fun!

Author's Bio: 

Tyler is an NASM certified personal trainer with over 10 years of experience and a B.S. In Exercise Science. In addition to training a wide variety of clients, Tyler is also the founder and senior editor of PTPioneer.com; a website designed to help people become industry leading personal trainers.