One area that the talking heads on infomercials seem to skim over with little emphasis (unless they happen to be selling the latest "fat-reducing" grilling machine), it's nutrition. Spot-reducing abdominal training will shock your midsection into taking on more of a washboard appearance, but – sorry to break the bad news – not without the proper eating plan. You simply cannot prioritize training over nutrition, or vice versa, and expect to achieve your lofty goals. Both are critical, so consider this article not Part II of our comprehensive Spot-On Abs program, but rather Part Ib.

The Spot-On Abs Diet is designed to maximize the total amount of bodyfat lost, especially around the midsection. It's a high-protein diet, which is something M&F always promotes to maximize both muscle growth and fat loss. While we've been the stalwart on diets high in protein for years, growing research has shown that such diets are beneficial for numerous reasons, which has finally turned on a great number of scientists, medical doctors and nutritionists to our line of thinking. One of the more recent studies on high-protein diets pertains particularly well to the Spot-On Abs Diet.

As reported in a 2006 issue of the International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism, subjects getting 40% of total daily calories from protein, while also following a weight and cardio exercise program, lost more than twice as much bodyfat and – more important for both aesthetic purposes and reduction of heart disease risk – more than twice as much abdominal fat as those getting just 15%-20% of total daily calories from protein and following a cardio-only exercise program. So, as we've always recommended, a high-protein diet combined with weight training not only helps you gain muscle but lose fat, particularly abdominal fat. Hence, this six-week diet maintains a high intake of protein, around 50% of total daily calories.

Furthermore, keeping protein high is a good way to shed bodyfat because it typically means you're replacing some of your carbohydrates with sources of protein. Research shows that diets high in protein significantly reduce hunger, maintain steadier levels of insulin (insulin spikes from carb intake enhance fat storage at most times of day) and raise your metabolic rate.

High on Protein

When you replace carbs with protein, it also forces your body to burn more bodyfat for fuel; therefore, the fewer carbs you consume, the more bodyfat you burn. So to maximize the amount of abdominal fat you use for fuel, you'll drop your carbohydrate intake very low on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays when you train abs (see "Spot-On Abs" on page 122) and Sundays, when you don't train. On these days, only about 20% of your total daily calories will come from carbs, or about 0.5 gram per pound of bodyweight, which totals around 90 grams for the 180-pound individual.

Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays will be your high-carb days. You'll take in about 40% of total daily calories from carbs, or about 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight. That's roughly 270 grams of carbs for the 180-pounder. The one problem with low-carbohydrate diets is that if you go low carb for too long, your leptin levels fall, which slows your metabolic rate. Staggering low-carb days with high-carb days will prevent this from happening and keep your metabolism revving while maximizing the melting of abdominal fat.

For both low-carb and high-carb days, total calories stay about the same, around 14 per pound of bodyweight. Protein also stays the same throughout at approximately 1.75 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. For the 180-pound person, that's roughly 2,500 calories and 300 grams of protein per day. In essence, we're simply seesawing your intake of carbohydrates and fat each day. When carbs are low, fat increases to 30% of total daily calories with more healthful fats such as peanut butter, salmon and egg yolks. When carbs are high, you'll consume mostly slow-digesting carbs from sources such as oatmeal, whole-wheat bread and sweet potatoes, with fat comprising just 10% of your total daily calories.

On weekends (when you don't train), consume your pre- and postworkout shakes as snacks on Saturday (a high-carb day); on Sunday (a low-carb day), drop the preworkout shake and have just the postworkout one, minus the additional carbs (in our sample diet, a bagel).

Although the sample meal plans that follow are designed for an 180-pound individual, they'll work for those weighing 160-200 pounds. If you're under or over this weight, use the calories-per-pound and grams-per-pound calculations in "Ab Stats" above to determine the amount of calories, protein, carbs and fat you need daily.

So the next time someone comes up to you in the gym and asks you which is more important for attaining a six-pack – training or diet? — tell them the truth: Neither. Actually, let's make that both.


Our dietary recommendations apply to a 180-pound person. Of course, not everyone fits this description, so here are the macronutrient ratios you should follow for the Spot-On Abs Diet.

  Protein 1 Carbs 1 Fat 1 Calories 2
High-Carb Days 1.75/50% 1.5/40% < 0.5/10% 14
Low-Carb Days 1.75/50% 0.5/20% < 0.2/30% 14

1 Grams per pound of bodyweight per day/percentage of daily calorie intake
2 Per pound of bodyweight per day