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Review: The New Abs Diet by David Zinczenko

The New Abs Diet: The 6-Week Plan to Flatten Your Belly and Firm Up Your Body for LifeThe New Abs Diet: The 6-Week Plan to Flatten Your Belly and Firm Up Your Body for Life by David Zinczenko
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked the nutritional info in this practical guide for busy people. Despite the title, it’s not just about superficial six pack abs; it’s a holistic approach to diet and exercise. The author, editor-in-chief of Men’s Health, provides nutritional research and studies, recipes, a meal plan, and an exercise regimen. The book’s basic equation: more food + more muscle = less flab.

I read this for its nutrition guidelines, not its exercise advice, but I picked up a few tips in the exercise chapters. The diet is practical and realistic; it explains the role of the right fats and carbs in a healthy diet. The Abs Diet is structured around 12 power foods (and close substitutes) represented by the acronym ABS DIET POWER. My diet already includes most of these foods, excluding protein powder; I'm not trying to increase muscle mass or lose fat. Below is a cheat sheet including these foods and other tips from the diet. I agreed with most of the book's nutritional guidelines, but I’m sticking to my 3 meals a day and no snacking, not adopting the book's 6 meals/snacks a day.

Why focus on the abs? As Zinczenko says, a flat stomach is the hallmark of people in control of their bodies and health. The benefits of a flat belly: reduced risk of life-threatening disease, better sexual performance, protection from injury, a stronger back, reduced joint pain, and better sleeping.

I’m a fan of Zinczenko's work in Men’s Health and the Eat This, Not That! books, so I wasn’t surprised that I liked this one too.

The New Abs Diet Cheat Sheet
Eat six meals (including snacks) spaced evenly throughout the day.
Plan most meals around the ABS DIET POWER 12 food groups. Each meal should contain at least two of the following:
• Almonds and other nuts
• Beans and legumes
• Spinach and other green vegetables
• Dairy (fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese)
• Instant oatmeal (unsweetened, unflavored)
• Eggs
• Turkey and other lean meats (lean steak, chicken, fish)
• Peanut butter (all-natural, sugar-free)
• Olive oil [or canola, peanut, sesame; not vegetable oil or margarine]
• Whole-grain breads and cereals
• Extra-protein (whey) powder [or ricotta cheese]
• Raspberries and other berries

Emphasize protein, fiber, calcium, and healthy fats (mono- and polyunsaturated).
Limit refined carbohydrates like baked goods, sugar, white bread, rice and pasta, saturated fats, trans fats, and high-fructose corn syrup.
Drink mostly water. Limit yourself to two or three alcoholic beverages per week..
Cheat once a week by eating anything.
Exercise for 20 minutes 3 days a week. Total-body strength workouts can be done at the gym or home. Add interval training programs. Two of the strength-training workouts should contain abs exercises.

Restricting carbs forces the body to burn fat, not sugar.
High carb foods that flood the body with sugar calories, not just sugary foods, lead to diabetes.
Don’t eliminate carbs, just aim for low- to moderate glycemic load. Choose foods with high fiber, especially whole grains.
The body needs carbs and fats; low carb and low-fat diets aren’t healthy, and don’t work long-term.
Fats are filling and add flavor. Shoot for 0.5 g of fat per pound of desired body weight.

Protein fills you up, digests more slowly than carbs, spurs lean muscle growth, and elevates fat burn.
Refried beans are often high in saturated fat. Look for fat-free versions.
Broccoli florets have 3 times more beta-carotene than the stems.
Take an Omega 3 supplement even if you eat fish.
HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) is dangerous because it shuts off natural appetite control, and it’s in so many foods.

Exercise to alter your basal metabolism. The calories burned during exercise aren’t important.
Strength training is better than aerobics for long-term weight management. Aerobic exercise only burns calories during the workout; strength training causes the body to burn long after.
Aerobic exercise burns calories, controls stress, improves cardiovascular fitness, lowers blood pressure, and improves cholesterol profile.
Keep abs firm throughout the day to develop muscle memory. Flex your abs for 1 minute per hour when sitting. Walk tall.
A short, fast, high-intensity workout is better than a longer, steady workout for weight loss.

The New Abs Diet Workout
Strength training: 3 times a week. Total-body workouts with 1 workout emphasizing legs.
Additional cardio: optional, on non-strength training days. Do an interval workout 1 day a week and light cardio like walking on 2 of the 3 off days.
Abs exercises: twice a week, before strength training or interval workouts.

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