Written By Gracie. Guest Writer Niki Bird.
Lets be honest, most of us want a flat stomach… but let’s be realistic….we don’t all have the time or money to hit the gym every day or jet off on some sunny fitness retreat.
SO with both our weddings fast approaching and very little time on our hands we turned to personal trainer, athlete and all round marvel Niki Bird to find out what her top tips are on achieving a toned tummy in a simple, affordable way.
Follow Niki: @itsnikibird (Instagram).
Niki’s Top Tips for a Toned Tummy
For most people I’ve trained, a flatter more ‘toned’ tummy or a six-pack usually ranks quite highly on their list of fitness priorities. And as with most things in fitness, I tell them it comes down to more than just what you’re doing in the gym. No fancy pieces of machinery are needed, or any sort of radical (usually unsustainable) juice cleanses or diet plans. Just a few basic principles, a healthy well balanced diet and little bit of self-discipline …
The average person should be drinking around 2-3 litres a day depending on their weight, more if they are exercising.
A lot of people underestimate the importance of water to the body, but it is one of the most important nutrients in health, growth and development.
It helps with brain function, digestive systems, energy levels and water crucially helps to increase our body’s ability to metabolise stored fat (like the kind we have stored round our tummies!).
Find something you can do a few times a week that helps you to de-stress from the daily grind. Things like yoga, stretching, massage or foam sessions are all great options as they encourage us to focus on diaphragmatic breathing, release tension in the muscles and activate our parasympathetic nervous system (the one which helps us relax).
Stress means increased levels of a hormone called cortisol, which makes it harder to burn fat. And unfortunately because our tummies are an area that has an increased amount of cortisol receptors, it’s a prime spot for fat to be stored!
- MAKE SURE YOU HAVE GOOD QUIALITY FISH OILS/OMEGA 3’S
Some of the best natural whole sources of omega 3’s are commonly found from fish sources like mackerel, salmon and herring, but can also be found from other sources like walnuts, chia seeds and flax seeds. However if you’re not fond of the above foods or are struggling to get them in your diet, a good quality supplement can be another alternative.
Omega 3’s found in fish oils are essential fatty acids that our body needs, but doesn’t produce on its own. Amongst its other beneficial properties, fish oils are a powerful anti-inflammatory, which is the principle reason it can help you to lose fat.
- KNOW YOUR CARBS
Everyone’s nutritional needs vary, depending on their genetics, to their lifestyle and fitness goals. And yes, some people will benefit from a lower carb diet, but as a general rule of thumb, carbs are not your enemy and should not be cut out of your diet completely. It’s just about knowing which types carbs to eat and when.
Fibre rich carbs such as vegetables, legumes and beans absorb slowly because of their high fibre content and help to control blood sugar levels, hunger cravings and are great to eat throughout the day.
Starchy carbs like potatoes and grains are best reserved for post exercise and are an important part of our muscle recovery process. Just don’t go overboard on your portion sizes!
I generally would not recommend having any or very little of your sugary refined carbs if you’re serious about getting that 6 pack, but if you were going to treat yourself, right after your workout would be the time to do it (in moderation)!
- CUT THE CRUNCHES
When are ready to hit the gym, switch to exercises like deadlifts, weighted squats, pull-ups and even medicine ball throws. As with all exercises, start off lighter and build proper technique before increasing your weight. Try to get yourself to the gym 2/3 times a week.
Compound, multi-joint, total body movements will promote more total fat loss than crunches and sit-ups ever will and require your abs to constantly be engaged to stabilise the rest of your body. And why not work out the rest of your body whilst working on that 6 pack?
Studies say that for the general public 7-8 hours a night is optimal.
Yes you’ll have heard it before, sleep is good for you and you should do more of it. But what has that got to do with getting a flat tummy? Well, other than needing this recovery time to repair the torn muscle tissues from your workouts, we come back to cortisol levels again. In simple terms, the less sleep you get, the longer your cortisol levels stay higher for, and we all know where fat likes to store itself when cortisol levels are high!
There really are so many areas you could address or concern yourself with when trying to achieve that ‘toned’ tummy or six-pack. What works for a fitness model or body builder or your favourite instagrammer may not be right for you.
My advice is keep it simple, listen to your body and hopefully the tips I’ve shared will help as some basic principles to get you going!
Sport has always been Niki’s passion in life. From her home town Singapore to the UK, Niki has spent over 10 years studying sport and working alongside world class coaches and mentors, as well as representing England as an international athlete for the past 7 years at European and World Championships, picking up her 50th cap for England just this season. Niki’s wealth of sporting experience has given her the tools to to work with a wide range of clients both privately and at the Workshop Gymnasium London, tailoring to individuals needs and inspiring positive lifestyle changes that extend far beyond the gym.
- Active IQ Certificates in the following –
- Level 2 Fitness Instructing
- Level 3 Personal Training
- Circuit Training
- Gym Based Boxing
- Indoor Cycling
- Sports Nutrition
- Soon to complete the following courses (December 2016):
- Level 1 & 2 FMS (Functional Movement Screen)