At the completion of yet another 30-day ab challenge, the abs you’ve been working so hard for are non-existent. You can feel the hard abs under your stomach, but they’re covered by a layer of fat. It just doesn’t add up, you’re working out regularly, drinking eight glasses of water a day, taking all your vitamins. But where are the abs?

There’s this old saying, “abs are made in the kitchen” and honestly, it’s entirely true. Think of it this way, you’re working out every day, but coming home and eating leftover pizza. You’re toning your body by working out, but also adding fat by eating unhealthy. All the ab workouts in the world won’t make your abs visible if you’re eating junk food.

That isn’t to say that you need to rule out junk food completely. In fact, many fitness gurus actually swear by satisfying their cravings in order to have rockin’ bods. In the words of Kayla Itsines: “I eat really healthy all the time. I’d always choose the healthy option, and if I want to have a piece of cake, I’ll have it. I won’t be like, I can only have one piece of cake for the whole week.”

But when it comes to healthy eating, there is one thing you must understand: all calories are not created equal. Where your calories come from is undoubtedly the most important factor in getting visible abs.

Carbohydrates

You may be shocked that carbs is even on this list. It’s true, carbs get a bad rep for making us feel bloated, or causing us to, dare I say, “get fat.” While this is partially true, (think the pizza mentioned prior), like all food groups there are good carbs and there are bad carbs. One of the best carbs you can choose to eat is a piece of fruit. Yes, fruits (and vegetables) have carbs and that’s not a bad thing.

When you want to eat a bread, try to pick a whole grain option (such as these whole wheat blueberry muffins) Typically, your carb consumption will be based upon how much activity you’re doing, but regardless you need to eat carbs each and every day.

Protein

cereal
Kathleen Lee

In order to have visible abs, you must have muscle, meaning it’s essential to have protein. Try and aim to have protein at every meal. This doesn’t mean you need to have meat at every meal, actually there are tons of meat-free sources of protein

Another added perk from eating protein, it keeps you full longer. Aka you’ll be much less likely to snack.

Sugars and Fats

sweet, vegetable, guacamole, avocado
Julia Maguire

Much like there are good carbohydrates and there are bad carbohydrates, there are good sugars and fats and there are bad sugars in fats. Sugars are good when they are natural, for example from fresh fruits. While there are good types of fats too.

It’d be easy to say to stop eating sugars and fats all together, but that isn’t going to help you get visible abs either. You need healthy sugars and healthy fats to maintain a healthy diet. Scientists have actually argued that fat-free diets are contributing to the obesity epidemic in America. Same goes with sugar-free diets. 

Water

Drinking water will allow for your body to stay hydrated all day long. Have fun with it, add some lemon or other flavoring, #TreatYoSelf. The absolute worst thing you could drink if you want visible abs is alcohol.

The reality of a beer belly is all too real (and you can get one from other liquors and wine). It’s hard to accept the fact that alcohol is poison, which slows your metabolism, and contains high sugar contents. Plus, drinking can lead to some pretty hard-hitting drunchies. Beer bacon potato chip bars, anyone?