Pros & Cons
- Indulging allowed
- Frequent meals and snacks
- Lack of specific research
- Fewer days of menus than other plans
Do's & Don'ts
|Weight Loss Short-term|
|Weight Loss Long-term|
|Easy to Follow|
|For Heart Health|
Scores are based on experts' reviews
Resembles these U.S. News-rated diets:
Lose weight, flatten your stomach.
You’ll drop up to 12 pounds of belly fat in two weeks and (maybe) boast a six-pack in six weeks.
The Abs Diet is built around 12 nutrient-packed foods thought to provide all the vitamins, minerals, and fiber you need to thrive, while also triggering lean muscle growth and helping the body burn fat. Eating six times a day, as required, keeps energy levels high and hunger at bay, says Abs Diet creator David Zinczenko, editor in chief of Men’s Health. He argues against calorie-counting, since overly-restrictive diets often lead to binging and falling off the wagon. Menu plans emphasize protein with every meal and snack, since it fills you up for longer than carbs, spurs lean muscle growth, and hastens fat burn.
How does the The Abs Diet work?
The Abs Diet is a six-week plan. You eat six times a day. No calorie-counting; portion-control is built into the program. Dieters alternate larger meals with small snacks; typically you’ll have a snack two hours before lunch, another one two hours before dinner, and one more two hours after dinner. Each meal must contain at least two of the 12 Abs Diet Powerfoods, such as almonds, beans, spinach, instant oatmeal, eggs, peanut butter, raspberries, olive oil, and whole grains. Ample meal plans and recipes are provided, all emphasizing protein, fiber, calcium, and healthy fats. Refined carbs, saturated and trans fats, and high-fructose corn syrup are discouraged. You get a “cheat meal” once a week, when you can forget the diet and chow down on whatever you’re craving. Exercise is as important as nutrition. A weekly schedule and visual explanations are included in Zinczenko’s The New! Abs Diet (Rodale, 2010).
The building blocks of the Abs Diet are the 12 Powerfoods. Toss out sugary cereals, packaged dinners, cookies, and crackers, and start preparing snacks and meals with these ingredients. The more Powerfoods you eat, says Zinczenko, the more successful your body will be at raising lean muscle mass and cutting down on fat storage. Almonds, for example, are touted as muscle-builders and craving-fighters, while instant oatmeal boosts energy and sex drive, reduces cholesterol, and maintains blood sugar levels. Whole-grain breads and cereals slow the rate of fat storage. Add two or three Powerfoods to each of your three major meals, and at least one into each of your three snacks.
You’ll drink lots of smoothies. They don’t take much time to make, and adding Powerfoods like berries, flavored whey powder, or peanut butter satisfies sweet-tooth cravings. Their bulk also takes up a lot of space in the stomach, which helps fend off hunger. Aim for an 8-ounce smoothie for breakfast, as a substitute for a meal, or as a snack before or after a workout. Beyond smoothies, the best drinks are skim or low-fat milk, water, and green tea—or, if you must, two glasses of diet soda a day.
The New Abs Diet for Women (Rodale, 2010) highlights the same 12 Powerfoods, and keeps calories at 1,400 to 1,600 daily. It includes a section about using the diet to manage hormones, a stress-busting workout, and tips for women who are pregnant or trying to lose baby weight. It can be tailored for women who are vegetarians, lactose intolerant, on antidepressants, or have irritable bowel syndrome.
Will you lose weight?
No research has specifically studied the Abs Diet, but it’s based on concepts supported by good evidence.
- People in a study who ate smaller meals more frequently—four to six times a day—were half as likely to become overweight as were those who ate three or fewer larger meals. Regular snacks and meals help keep blood sugar levels stable and control the release of insulin, a hormone that causes the body to store fat, according to findings published in 2003 in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Eating fewer, larger meals, on the other hand, spikes insulin levels. That’s why the Abs Diet calls for a total of six meals and snacks spread evenly throughout the day.
- Researchers at Purdue University found that people feel fuller longer when they drink thick drinks (like the Powerfoods smoothies in the Abs Diet) than when they drink thin ones, even when calories, temperatures, and amounts are equal. And another study found that women who drank skim milk after exercising lost 3.5 pounds in 12 weeks, while a group of women who drank sports drinks gained weight. Abs Diet smoothies typically include 1 percent or skim milk.
- The value of all 12 Powerfoods is supported by research. A 2009 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, for example, found that eating almonds suppresses hunger, aiding weight loss efforts. Extra-protein whey powder, which can be added to Abs Diet meals and smoothies, is another diet tool. Research suggests that people who eat more protein are more likely to stick to their diets for a year than are those who eat more carbohydrates.
Does it have cardiovascular benefits?
Abs Diet research is lacking. But the program reflects the medical community’s widely accepted definition of a heart-healthy diet—it’s heavy on fruits, veggies, and whole grains and light on saturated and trans fats. Such an approach is considered the best way to keep cholesterol and blood pressure in check and heart disease at bay.
Can it prevent or control diabetes?
No research has studied the potential of the Abs Diet to prevent or control diabetes. However, some of the Powerfoods are backed up by studies that suggest they may protect against the disease, and being overweight is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. If the Abs Diet helps you lose weight and keep it off, you’ll almost certainly tilt the odds in your favor. In fact, experts generally consider an approach like the Abs Diet’s to be the gold standard of diabetes prevention—it emphasizes the right foods, discourages the wrong ones, and mandates physical activity.
Are there health risks?
No indications of serious risks or side effects have surfaced. However, if you have a health condition, check with your doctor to ensure the Abs Diet is right for you.
How well does it conform to accepted dietary guidelines?
Fat. You’ll have no problem sticking within the government’s recommendation that between 20 to 35 percent of daily calories come from fat. A sample daily menu provided 27 percent.
Protein. Within the acceptable range for protein consumption—28 percent compared with the recommended 10 to 35 percent.
Carbohydrates.The government recommends that between 45 and 65 percent of daily calories come from carbs. A sample Abs Diet menu provided 47 percent.
Salt. The majority of Americans eat too much salt. The recommended daily maximum is 2,300 milligrams, but if you’re 51 or older, African-American, or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, that limit is 1,500 mg. A sample daily menu provided 2,200 mg.
Other key nutrients. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines call these “nutrients of concern” because many Americans get too little of one or more of them:
- Fiber. Getting the recommended daily amount of 22 to 34 grams for adults helps you feel full and promotes good digestion. Veggies, fruits, beans, and whole grains—all major sources—are encouraged on this diet, so you should easily meet the recommendation. A sample daily menu provided 32 g.
- Potassium. A sufficient amount of this important nutrient, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, counters salt’s ability to raise blood pressure, decreases bone loss, and reduces the risk of developing kidney stones. It’s not that easy to get the recommended daily 4,700 mg. from food. (Bananas are high in potassium, yet you’d have to eat 11 of them a day to get enough.) The majority of Americans take in far too little. A sample daily menu came up short at 2,398 mg.
- Calcium. It’s essential not only to build and maintain bones but to make blood vessels and muscles function properly. Many Americans don’t get enough. Women and anyone older than 50 should try especially hard to meet the government’s recommendation of 1,000 to 1,300 mg. You can meet the goal with low-fat dairy products like cheese and yogurt. A sample daily menu provided an impressive 1,522 mg.
- Vitamin B-12. Adults should shoot for 2.4 micrograms of this nutrient, which is critical for proper cell metabolism. Fish like salmon and trout, along with eggs and yogurt, are good sources. A sample daily menu provided plenty of B-12: 5 mcg.
- Vitamin D. Adults who don’t get enough sunlight need to meet the government’s 15 microgram recommendation with food or a supplement to lower the risk of bone fractures. A sample daily menu fell short of the requirement. But making a meal of just 3 ounces of sockeye salmon, which packs almost 20 micrograms of vitamin D, will satisfy the requirement. Since the Abs diet emphasizes fish, it is possible to get enough with some planning.
Supplement recommended? A multivitamin is good insurance, Zinczenko says. Look for one that includes chromium, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. (Research suggests that chromium helps build muscle, and working out depletes your B vitamins.)
How easy is it to follow?
You won’t go hungry—no calorie-counting is required, and you eat frequently throughout the day. Ample meal plans and recipes are provided, and you can mix and match to suit your palate. Plus, one “cheat meal” a week is required, permission to forget your diet and eat those wings or pizza you’ve been craving.
Recipes are available, though preparing meals may be time-consuming. Eating out is doable, and splurging is mandatory. Online and printed resources may be helpful.
Recipes. The New Abs Diet Cookbook includes more than 200 recipes, ranging from fig and prosciutto tortilla bites to grilled salmon with pineapple, to blackberry parfait martinis. There’s a section on meals that take less than 5 minutes to prepare, a guide to food-prep basics, and a portion-distortion “decoder”—a list of visual cues that quickly tell you what a real serving looks like. Three ounces of lean meat or poultry, for example, looks like a deck of cards, while 1 tablespoon of butter is like a poker chip.
Eating out. Allowed—but you should look for menu items that include the Powerfoods. The Abs Diet Eat Right Every Time Guide pinpoints the best and worst choices at fast-food joints, sports bars, sandwich shops, bagel shops, and more. In addition to describing the menu items, you’ll see the calories, fat, and sodium in each.
Alcohol. It’s best to stay away from alcohol for the 6-week plan, but if you absolutely can’t, limit yourself to two or three drinks per week.
Timesavers. Meal plans and recipes are provided.
Extras. Online membership at absdietonline.com provides customized eating and workout plans, and includes features like a printable grocery store list. You can also study interactive graphs that display how your weight, measurements, body composition, clothing size, and cholesterol levels are changing.
Nutrition experts emphasize the importance of satiety, the satisfied feeling that you’ve had enough. You shouldn’t feel hungry on the Abs Diet—you’ll eat six times a day, and there’s no need to count calories.
Recipes range from grilled cheese sandwiches to buffalo meatball hoagies; snacks include smoothies and popcorn sprinkled with Old Bay seasoning. For dessert, try chocolate mousse, berry cheesecake, or grilled fruit kebobs.
How much does it cost?
Online membership costs $14.95 per month, or $34.95 for three months. The New Abs Diet, an essential guidebook, is $25.99. Optional books include The Abs Diet Ultimate Nutrition Handbook ($15.99), The Abs Diet Eat Right Every Time Guide ($7.99), and The New! Abs Diet Cookbook ($27.99).
Does the diet allow for restrictions and preferences?
Most people can customize the Abs Diet to fit their needs—pick a preference for more information.
Doable, but it takes work. Menus in the book do not include meatless options. However, many of the Powerfoods—like beans, spinach, instant oatmeal, whole grain bread, and raspberries—are suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Emphasize these and make sure you get enough protein by loading up on beans, soy products, nuts, and low-fat dairy.
People who can’t tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, may have a tough time. No gluten-free recipes or tips are included.
Doable, but it’s up to you to check the nutrition information on recipes and keep track of your sodium intake.
Yes, you can make sure your diet is kosher.
Yes, but it’s up to you to ensure your food conforms.
What is the role of exercise?
Required. The weekly schedule calls for three strength-training workouts and two abs workouts. Additional cardiovascular exercise is optional, but Zinczenko suggests an interval workout once a week and a lighter activity like walking in between strength-training days. You warn up for 5 minutes before starting to exercise with light jogging, pedaling a stationary bike, jumping rope, or doing slow jumping jacks. The regimen leaves at least 48 hours between weight workouts of the same body parts, since muscles need time to recover and repair themselves. And one day a week, no exercise is on the schedule. While elements of the workout are aimed at achieving a boastworthy six-pack, Zinczenko acknowledges that it won’t happen for everyone—and it will take longer for some than for others to succeed.
Last updated by Angela Haupt | January 02, 2013
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