A six pack abs diet is an art where you eat in a way to lose fat and build muscle at the same time. Lose enough fat and build enough muscle then you will get ripped.
When I decided to get six pack abs, I had no idea about how to diet for getting ripped abs. I did a lot of research, tried and failed many diets until I finally figured it all out and got myself a ripped body with six pack abs. In this article, I will share with you everything I learned so that you don’t waste your time with the same mistakes I made.
Do Calories Matter?
I wasted years following the diet advice of popular diet gurus who claimed that calories don’t matter for fat loss. They made compelling arguments about glycemic index, insulin, leptin and a bunch of other useless bullshit. I foolishly followed their advice to cut the carbs and eat a high-fat diet, hoping to get six pack abs. Although I endured the painful ordeal of not eating carbs for months, I didn’t get any closer to my goal of trimming by body fat down to the level of unearthing my abs.
My trip to South East Asia during those times has been an eye-opener. I traveled to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and the Philippines and spent time with the locals. Rice is the staple of South East Asian diet. They eat rice with every meal. Rice has a high glycemic index, so it’s supposed to increase their insulin levels and make them fat. But the people of South East Asia are some of the leanest people on the planet. I realized that I was fooled. Carbs weren’t the enemy. I started eating more carbs and counting my calories. That was the best dieting decision I made in my quest for getting ripped. I got my six pack abs after a few months of counting calories. Not only that but the quality of my life skyrocketed after going back to eating carbs. Low-carb diets suck and training while not eating enough carbs is exhaustive.
Your body regulates your body’s weight depending on the calories you consume. All the popular diets1 are sneakily trying to help you achieve a caloric deficit while telling you that calories don’t count. The truth is that calories do count2. A caloric deficit is a must for weight loss. Weight loss doesn’t always equal to fat loss, though, especially when you are training to build muscle when you are losing fat.
Can You Lose Fat and Build Muscle at the Same Time?
In the case of getting a ripped physique with six pack abs, things get complicated because merely losing fat and getting lean isn’t enough to get ripped. You must build muscle too. Bodybuilders go through periods of bulking and cutting. They first go through a period of bulking where they eat more calories than they burn with the purpose of adding muscle to their frame. They inevitably gain some body fat along with muscle so they go through a period of cutting to burn the fat they gained during their bulk.
The bodybuilders’ bulking strategy isn’t suited to newbies (unless they are already lean) because the average man isn’t lean by the standards of bodybuilding. The standard of bodybuilding is 6-10% of body fat lean which is similar to the standard of being ripped. In order to have a ripped body with a visible set of six pack abs, your body fat percentage must be at around 8-10%. According to Wikipedia, the average male is at 18–24%. An average newbie who is interested in starting to build muscle is fat by bodybuilding standards. Excited with the prospect of building muscle, many a newbie starts his strength training journey with a bulk and gets fatter (and frustrated) as a result.
This is one of the reasons why I recommend newbies to start building muscle with bodyweight training. When you are a newbie, you can take advantage of a phenomenon called “newbie gains”3 to gain muscle fast while you are losing fat at the same time. Bodyweight training is a great way to build muscle fast and build an excellent muscular foundation.
Build enough muscle and lose enough fat then you’ll get a ripped physique with six-pack abs. Technically, you can build muscle and lose fat at the same time without a caloric deficit but for this to happen you have to build the same amount of muscle as the amount of fat you lose. This is an inefficient strategy, though, since the muscle growth rate is a lot slower than fat loss rate. This is the reason why the people who lost 30+ pounds of fat are dime a dozen but the people who managed to build 30+ pounds of muscle are ultra-rare.
There’s a better and more efficient way of doing things: Create a caloric deficit which is enough to lose fat at a reasonable rate but eat enough calories to build muscle at the same time. You must also take into account the type of calories you eat because you will need to eat enough protein to feed your muscles, enough fat to optimize your muscle-building hormones, and enough carbs to avoid ketosis and fuel your training.
How Much Caloric Deficit Should You Create for Getting a Ripped Physique with Six Pack Abs?
How much of a caloric deficit you can create depends on your body fat percentage. There are many ways to measure your body fat percentage ranging from utilizing a cheap skinfold caliper to an expensive DEXA scan but comparing a body picture of yours to the following image is more than enough for a fairly good estimate on where you stand bodyweight percentage-wise:
Next, find out your estimated daily calorie expenditure by entering your gender, age, weight, height, and activity level in this TDEE calculator (free). Choose “moderate exercise” as your activity level because I recommend you to train 4 times a week.
After you find out your daily calorie expenditure and body fat percentage, use the following chart to determine the daily caloric deficit you need to create:
Creating a caloric deficit more than indicated on the table will accelerate your fat loss but since I recommend you to keep training while you are dieting, it’s not a good idea to go below a certain level of calorie intake. If you eat too little calories then you will be too exhausted to train. Note that if your body fat percentage is below 13% then you don’t need to create a caloric deficit at all.
As you keep losing fat (and building muscle), your daily calorie expenditure and body fat percentage will keep changing. Adjust your calorie intake according to the changes in your body composition. You don’t need to overthink this. It takes only a minute to find out your body fat percentage and daily calorie expenditure. Weekly or even monthly adjustments to your diet will be more than enough to get you moving towards your goal of getting ripped with six pack abs.
Six Pack Abs Diet Macros: How Much Protein, Fat, and Carbs Should You Eat to Get Ripped?
First, you need to eat your animal protein. Eating enough animal protein will accomplish a few things:
- When you are building six pack abs, you need to keep your existing muscles and add muscle mass to your body. Protein is the building block of muscles so you need to eat your protein not only to retain your muscles while you are in a state of caloric deficit 4 but also to add muscle to your frame.
- Training when you are eating fewer calories than you burn will be tough. Trust me, you will feel hungry. Protein is the most satiating macronutrient5. Eating more protein will make you feel less hungry.
- Protein has the highest thermic effect among all macronutrients6 which means that it speeds up your metabolism. Your metabolism will slow down when you are in a caloric deficit. Protein will help increase your metabolic rate which will make it easier to lose fat.
If you were bulking you would need at least 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight in order to build muscle. Here, you are not bulking. You are cutting, which means you must eat more than 0.8 grams of protein per pound of your body’s weight. Typically, you need more protein when you are losing fat. You need even more protein when you are losing fat and building muscle at the same time. While you are training 4 times a week and dieting for six pack abs, I recommend you to eat 1-1.2 grams of protein per pound of your body’s weight every day.
Fat is an essential nutrient which means that you can’t survive without eating fat. The problem with dietary fat is that when people find out that dietary fat not only isn’t harmful but also it’s beneficial and necessary, they end up eating too much fat and gaining unnecessary body fat. Fat is the most calorie-dense nutrient. 1 gram of fat contains a whopping 9 calories. I am extremely vigilant about my fat intake because it’s so easy to go overboard with dietary fat. Add an extra tablespoon of olive oil into your salad and you just added 120 extra calories to a supposedly diet-friendly meal. Measure your fat intake meticulously.
In terms of a six pack diet, I recommend you to eat 0.2-0.3 grams of fat per pound of your body’s weight every day.
After eating your protein and fat, the remaining calories on your daily budget should be spent on carbs.
Carbs aren’t essential for survival but that doesn’t make them unnecessary. When you don’t eat carbs, your body produces ketones (through a process which is called ketosis) to make up for the lack of carbs. Ketones are an inferior substitute for carbs and they should be avoided. Just because your body has a workaround to compensate for the lack of carbs doesn’t mean you should abuse it. Low-carb diets are deadly. Even on your non-training days, you should eat enough carbs to avoid ketosis.
Carbs will provide quick energy for your training sessions so planning your carb intake around your training times is a good idea.
I recommend you to eat 1-1.2 gram of carbs per pound of your body’s weight on your training days. Off your training days eat approximately 100 gr of carbs to avoid ketosis.
Eggs, egg whites, beef, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, squid, shrimp, cottage cheese, low-fat yogurt and skim milk are all excellent sources of protein.
I mostly ate eggs, beef, chicken, and tuna during my 6 pack diet. You are free to pick your favorite animal protein source.
Warning: Understand that different cuts of meat have different fat content. Since you don’t have a generous calorie budget, aim for lean cuts of meat. See the table below to have an idea about how different parts of animals have different content of fat and calories;
Full fat cheese, yogurt, and milk are too high in fat content so if you want to consume them, aim for low-fat versions.
You will inevitably eat some fat from your animal protein sources. Don’t forget to count those calories. Additionally, you can add some butter, olive oil, fish oil, flaxseed oil or coconut oil to your diet. I don’t recommend vegetable oils as they are heavily processed.
You don’t have too much of a fat budget so use it carefully. Remember, it’s too easy to eat too many calories from fat because one gram of fat contains 9 calories. Always measure your fat intake meticulously. I love olive oil and butter and I use a tablespoon to measure how much I eat them. 1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil contains approximately 120 calories.
Since I love eating eggs, I prefer to mix eggs and egg whites to avoid eating too many calories from fat. Eggs have their fat content in the yolk so egg whites will not hurt you. 4 egg whites and 1 whole egg can make a fairly tasty omelet. Supplementing with fish oil is a good idea because of the omega-3 content.
Fruits, vegetables, potatoes, rice, pasta, wheat, and oats are all good sources of carbs.
I find potatoes more filling than pasta, wheat or rice but that’s just me. Choose the carb source of your liking and don’t go over your calorie budget.
Potatoes, rice, pasta, wheat, oats contain starch. Fruits contain fructose. Vegetables are fiber-rich.
I prefer to eat potatoes, bananas, apples, tomatoes, cucumber, radish and lettuce for my carb requirements. Vegetables are low in calorie content so it’s a good idea to eat lots of vegetables. Some vegetables -such as peas- can contain too many calories so be sure to include those calories in your calorie budget.
Eating vegetables will help you suppress your hunger with relatively lower calories. They will also add color and flavor to your meals. There’s a lot to love about vegetables, especially when you are on a six pack diet. Use them to your advantage.
Sample Daily Meal Plan for Six Pack Abs
Here’s my typical daily six pack diet:
- 5 egg whites (85 calories)
- 1 whole egg (78 calories)
- 3 small size tomatoes (33 calories)
- 1 medium-sized banana (90 calories)
- 300 grams of chicken breast (495 calories)
- 300 grams of potatoes (231 calories)
- Vegetable salad with tomatoes, cucumber, and radish (80 calories)
- 1 medium-sized apple (84 calories)
- 300 grams of 5% fat ground beef (408 calories)
- 200 grams of potatoes (154 calories)
- Lettuce salad with olive oil (155 calories)
- 1 medium-sized banana (90 calories)
Total: 1983 calories (200 gr protein, 47 gr fat, 187 gr carbs)
PS – I was around 15% of body fat when I ate like this. Adjust your macros and calories according to the Table 1 above.
My 5 Extra Tips on Dieting for a Six Pack
- Learn to cook a few delicious meals. An oven, a grill or a slow cooker can do wonders for cooking low calorie, high nutrient dishes.
- Coffee suppresses hunger and has zero calories. Drink some black coffee when you feel hungry.
- Use condiments to add color and flavor to your meals. Sprinkling some black pepper, chili, cumin etc. on your meals make them tastier. You can also add low-calorie sauces such as salsa to your dishes.
- Remember that this is temporary. Cravings are your body’s tricks to make you eat more calories. Maintaining six pack abs is easy once you get them. The rewards of getting six pack abs are enormous. When the going gets tough, imagine the rewards you will receive. Visualize yourself looking in the mirror with your six pack abs looking back at you.
- Follow my simple tips on reducing your calorie intake.
Six Pack Abs Diet Questions & Answers
Isn’t training enough? Why should I diet?
You can’t out-train a bad diet. Training doesn’t burn as many calories as you think.
How many meals a day should I eat?
Hitting your macro (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) goals and the total number of calories you eat is all that matters. I eat 2-3 meals a day. You can prefer to get your calories with 6 small meals or 1 giant meal a day. You’ll be fine as long as you stick to your daily calorie budget.
Will it hurt me if I eat at night?
No. When I’m on diet, I prefer eating close to my sleep time because I can’t sleep when I’m hungry. The total number of calories you eat is what matters, not the time of the day you eat them.
Is protein shake OK for my abs?
Yes. Just check the carb and fat content of your protein powder and count those calories too, along with the protein calories.
What about cheat meals?
I believe in getting things done as fast as possible so I recommend you to eat as little cheat meals as possible. You can eat cheat meals here and there but don’t forget to count your calories. Don’t go overboard with your cheat meals. The fewer calories you eat, the better.
Do I need to eat the vegetables raw or cooked?
Whichever you like.
Can I eat canned tuna?
Can I eat or drink eggs with every meal?
Can I use salt?
Can I eat nuts?
I don’t recommend nuts when dieting for a six pack because they are too high in calories. If you must eat them, don’t exceed your daily calorie budget. I never eat nuts when I’m dieting.
Can I drink alcohol?
1 gram of alcohol contains 7 calories. Alcohol is not a nutrient so when you drink alcohol you are getting empty calories. If you must drink then drinking once a week will not hurt you as long as you stay within your calorie budget. Don’t forget to count alcohol calories too. Spirits have fewer calories than sugary wine or beer. Eat less fat and carbs on your drinking days to compensate for the extra calorie intake by alcohol. If you want to drink every day then you have more urgent problems to attend than getting six pack abs.
I have a flat stomach but no abs. Is this normal?
Yes. Your ab muscles are still muscles so you need to train and build them too.
Do I need supplements?
No. I take vitamin D and fish oil semi-regularly but they are not necessary for a six pack diet. I use them for better nutrition regardless of whether I’m losing fat or not.
I am below 10% of body weight, what should I do?
You need to eat at maintenance calories.
How long does it take to get six pack abs?
Can you recommend a six pack abs workout plan?
I built six pack abs by bodyweight training, without stepping foot into a commercial gym. I put together a solid training routine for you to get a ripped body with six pack abs, which you can find in my book.
Do I need cardio?
No. Do 150 burpees or 200 push-ups and come back to ask me again if you still need cardio.
Can I spot reduce fat on my stomach?
No. Spot reducing fat is a fool’s daydream. Your body decides where to store fat, it’s genetic and there’s nothing you can do about it. To lose fat on your stomach you must lose fat all over your body.
Can I get six pack abs by only dieting? I mean, I heard that abs are made in the kitchen.
“Abs are made in the kitchen” is a myth designed to sell diet products to gullible masses who want to believe that they can get six pack abs without having to train.
A proper diet is a must for getting ripped but a proper training is a must too. Abs are made of muscles. If you don’t expect to grow the muscles in any other part of your body without training them, you can’t expect to get six pack abs without training your ab muscles. I don’t understand why this is so hard to believe.
It’s not an “abs diet” if strength training isn’t involved with it. If you are not training your abs then it’s only a diet, not a six pack abs diet.
P.S. My book Ripped with Bodyweight includes both the training routines and the accompanying diet information to build muscle and burn fat at the same time and get six pack abs as fast as possible. Feel free to check it out.