Want washboard abs? James Duigan's latest book shows you how.
A flat stomach is not reserved for the genetically gifted. You can have one too. all you need to do is follow a few simple guidelines.
In your 20s, your body is close to its prime. You can get away with more (such as drinking alcohol, eating carbohydrates) and your youth will soak it all up for the most part. But if you overdo it, you will get fat. Being a 20-something doesn't give you immunity against stomach fat. You can get great results at this age, though, and for very little effort. The biggest thing to avoid is refined sugars (alcohol, sweets, biscuits) and complex carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, rice).
Ideal exercise : If you stay flexible, your abs will remain strong and your stomach flat, so try yoga or Pilates. Learn and practise good posture (if you haven't already) and keep your overall body fat down. This will keep your stomach flat with minimal effort.
At this age you need to focus on the best choices because your metabolism starts to slow down a bit. Thirty-somethings need to eat mainly vegetable-based meals with a palm-sized serving of protein (such as chicken. fish. eggs or meat ). Too many complex carbohydrates or refined sugars at this age will cause an increase of insulin in the body, which will lead to an increase of fat around the sides. And fish-oil supplements are a must - if you didn't take them in your 20s, definitely start taking them now (just to remind you, they help your body to burn fat around your middle).
Ideal exercise : Exercise-wise, people who have normally been very active in their 20s (either playing sport or going to the gym) tend to slow down as they reach their 30s. Because they have less free time thanks to a more demanding job or a family, their activity levels often take a dip. Yet, crucially, their eating habits stay the same (or often deteriorate), which equals weight gain. This is just a general observation of some of my clients, and is not always the case. I also have clients who buck this trend and discover exercise in their 30s, having spent their 20s avoiding it.
Thirty-somethings should really vary their exercise - you need a mix of cardio (such as running, swimming, aerobics), weight training and flexibility (such as yoga or Pilates). Relaxing exercises are really important in your 30s, as your cortisol (the stress hormone) levels rise, causing belly fat. Regular massage (though not strictly an exercise!) is also a good habit to get into in your 30s, as it reduces cortisol build-up and stress.
Once you head into your 40s, your lean muscle mass starts to decrease. You get lean muscle mass by eating the right foods and working out, and it makes you look firm and taut, and speeds up your metabolism. So what you eat now is even more important because the less lean muscle mass you have, the fewer kilojoules you need.
Avoiding complex carbohydrates and refined sugar (yes, those two again) will help to reduce your insulin levels which, in turn, will help to slow down the amount of lean muscle mass you lose. You also need plenty of protein at this stage, as it provides the building blocks of lean muscle mass. Only eat red meat twice a week, though, as it's harder to digest; the rest of the time stick to chicken,
fish and eggs.
Fish-oil supplements will help to regulate insulin levels and, at the same time, reduce inflammation. Whether from stress, too much caffeine or acidic foods, inflammation will cause fat to accumulate on your tummy and all over your body, so increasing your fish-oil consumption is an easy way of keeping your stomach as flat as possible.
Ideal exercise: Strength training and flexibility exercises (such as Pilates ) are very important at this age, as both increase lean muscle mass and will help to keep your stomach flat. The abdominals and pelvic-floor muscles need to be focused on now more than ever, so Pilates is the ideal choice, especially if you have had children. You should also take a fibre supplement, because your digestive system won't be as strong as it used to be.
50s and beyond
The things you do in your 50s will also work for you in your 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. Meals should be small, with as many coloured vegetables as possible, along with some lean protein. Red meat should only be eaten once a week. You need lots of calcium-rich foods to reduce your increased risk of the brittle-bone disease osteoporosis.
Ideal exercise : The majority should now be resistance based (using weights and pulleys) as this increases your lean muscle mass, as well as releasing serotonin (the feel-good hormone). It will also leave you with a strong core, which will protect your hips, back and knees from injury, as well as keeping your stomach flat.
Interview with James Duigan by Donna Duggan
When Elle Macpherson's personal trainer of 10 years writes a book on how to get a flat tummy fast, we are going to take notice.
What is even more tantilising is James Duigan's promise that with a few small tweaks to your diet and exercise, anyone can have a flat stomach at any age. And he has thousands of clients through his London-based gym, Bodyism, plus his celebrity followers, to prove it.
It is also good news that Duigan's eating plans are not too restrictive and his exercise routines can be done at any time, any where.
"Not everyone has an hour to go to the gym, but most people can wake up 10 minutes earlier and do some basic exercises in their lounge room," he says.
"Your body wants to be lean. When you work with your body and give it the food it needs and the exercise it craves, you can see results fast. It's when you try and work against your body, for example by exercising in a hot room for two hours or having a poor diet, that you will have excess weight and feel lethargic."
Duigan provides solutions for specific problems, such as a bloated belly or a post-baby tummy, as well as general exercise and nutrition tips.
"If your digestion isn't working properly it's hard to burn fat," he says. "If you have had a baby you need to work with your muscles in a specific way. If your quality of sleep is poor, chances are you have excess tummy fat. In my book, I try to deal with every obstacle that prevents a flat stomach.
"Even slim women can have problems with a little 'pooch' tummy, and this could be caused by sleep disturbances or poor nutrition. My nutritional, exercise and lifestyle guidelines can work for anyone."
This is an edited extract from Clean & Lean:Flat Tummy Fast! by James Duigan (Kyle Cathie, $27.99).