Myth or Fact: Crunches Lead to Flat Abs

The hot weather is here and so are the bare bellies, but most are far from the ideal so many of us long for. What woman wouldn't kill for a firm, flat front or a guy for a perfect six-pack?

"In survey after survey, men and women are saying that abs are the ultimate symbol of sex appeal … not biceps … not pecs … not butt. It's abs," fitness and health expert David Zinczenko said.

But great abs don't come easy. There is, after all, a whole industry cashing in on toning your midsection. Videos and special equipment promise to trim your tummy. You must have to do hundreds of crunches to flatten your stomach, right?

Zinczenko said, "Wrong. If getting abs were all about doing crunches, we would all have them."

Eat Your Way to Great Abs?

Because most of us don't sport six-packs, but want to, Zinczenko has become a best-selling author. His book "The Abs Diet" was such a hit that he released a new book tailored just for women.

So what's the secret? Zinczenko says that great abs are "made in the kitchen, not in the gym." He says a healthy diet is the only way to get rid of that abdominal fat. You should power up with protein and good carbohydrates, like whole grains and in-between meals, good fat like a handful of almonds or a fruit-filled smoothie.

Brandee Bratton of Victoria, Texas, says that he's right. She started Zinczenko's plan after she turned 30 and discovered a little extra flab on her belly. She said, "I just didn't have that overall confident feeling that I looked tone and lean."

So she went on the Abs Diet with her husband, Joe, who was also unhappy with his growing waistline.

Today, more than two years later, the Brattons have dropped a total of more than 30 pounds in fat, while firming up their lean muscle mass. The couple that used to routinely skip meals now eats six times a day.

"Three meals, three snacks and what that's doing is it's sending to your body a message that there is no famine. Food is plentiful. We can now start to get rid of, you know, the fat that we're keeping around the stomach just in case of famine," said Zinczenko.

Add Exercise

Zinczenko says a healthy diet is about 80 percent of the equation for great abs. Once the fat is stripped away, then the exercise can kick in and build up the muscle. Zinczenko says there's no need to do hundreds of crunches. He says three sets of eight to 12 crunches will suffice.

In fact, he says, don't work your abs every day. Treat them like other muscles and work them two to three times a week so there's time to rest and grow.

Brandee Bratton says it worked so well for her that she decided to become a personal trainer. Now, she's passing along Zinczenko's low-fat diet tips to her clients: You can't just sweat your way to a hot-looking tummy. The bottom line: It all starts in the kitchen.