Excerpt: 'The Abs Diet Get Fit, Stay Fit Plan'

ByABC News via via logo

Jan. 3, 2006— -- Dave Zinczenko's book, "The Abs Diet," was a hit that inspired videos, magazine articles and a Web site where people shared their success stories. But all workout programs need to be modified in order to continue to produce results, which is why Zinczenko has added a third book to his "Abs Diet" series -- "The Abs Diet Get Fit, Stay Fit Plan."

You can read the introduction from "The Abs Diet Get Fit, Stay Fit Plan" below.

Time for a Change: You Have to Make Up Your Mind If You Want to Make Over Your Body

Change, they say, is good for us.

But like most everything else that's good for us--cough medicine, fiber supplements, the programming on PBS--change can sometimes be a little hard to choke down. The grown-up world is an unsettling place, and when we find a comfort zone--in our jobs, in our relationships, or in our sofas and easy chairs--we like to stay there.But the most comfortable place isn't always the healthiest place.

Sixty-two percent of Americans today are overweight or obese. And most of us who struggle with our weight would like to make a change. But change has always been hard.

Until now.

When I developed the Abs Diet in 2004, I did it with that very thing in mind: I wanted people to change. I wanted to start a program that would inspire people to eat better, live healthier, be leaner, and develop stomachs flatter than a plasma screen TV. And that's really what the Abs Diet is all about. It's about changing the way you eat, and the way you think about nutrition and exercise. It's about changing your body--and your health.

And here's the amazing part: It's easy.

If you read the success stories of the people featured in this book--as well as the original Abs Diet and The Abs Diet Eat Right Every Time Guide--you'll find one common theme. The people who lose fat with the Abs Diet say it isn't a diet. It's a change in philosophy, a change in lifestyle, a change in a healthier, leaner direction. I've read the stories of so many men and women who've written to tell me how the Abs Diet has changed their lives: contributing more energy, lower cholesterol numbers, smaller pants, and a more powerful sex drive. The Abs Diet is not only changing America's bodies--it's changing our lives.

What most people find so amazing about the Abs Diet is its simple nutritional principles.

The Abs Diet is built around 12 delicious food groups--I call them the Powerfoods.These 12 Powerfoods will make you over faster than those guys from Queer Eye. (You can read more about the principles of the Abs Diet and how the Powerfoods will work for you by turning to Chapter 5 of this book.) But the right diet is only so effective. If you truly want to make over your body and your life--if you truly want change--you need to unleash your body's real potential with the secret ingredient found in this book: exercise.

Now, hold on, hold on. Remember what I said at the beginning of this chapter: Change is good, but sometimes it seems hard. Well, listen, while the idea of changing your body through exercise seems hard, it isn't--at least, not when you incorporate the principles of the Abs Diet Get Fit, Stay Fit Plan.

For example, I bet the first thing you thought when I mentioned exercise was, "I have to burn off calories in the gym." Well, guess what? You're wrong. The Abs Diet Get Fit, Stay Fit Plan isn't about burning calories in the gym. In fact, let's go back to that comfort zone, the sofa, the easy chair. How would you like to burn off life-altering quantities of calories while you're lounging in your recliner? Or, how about while you're lying in bed? Driving your car? Checking your e-mail? Eating?

That's what this plan is designed to do: to train your body to burn calories all the time, everywhere, even while you're at rest--heck, even while you're asleep. The key is to reset your body's metabolism, to teach it to burn more calories, all the time, not just when you exercise. And you do that by building muscle. Not governor-of-California muscle. Not Rambo-covered-with-leeches muscle. Just lean, firm, powerful muscle that fights fat even while keeping your body safe from injury.

How can building muscle actually fight fat? It's simple: For every pound of muscle you build, your body needs to burn an extra 50 calories a day just to maintain itself. So even a modest increase of three pounds of muscle means another 150 calories a day you're burning just by sitting around, staring at the walls, pondering the big questions like "What is the nature of God?" and "Why is Paris Hilton famous?"

In The Abs Diet, I presented the Abs Diet Workout, a program to reshape your body and replace unsightly flab with lean, healthy muscle. And the workout has been a phenomenon, spawning videos, magazine articles, and even a Web site that attracts loyal adherents who have seen their bodies change almost effortlessly--and who want to share their success stories with others.

But all workout programs--even the very best of them--are like those little tape recorders Mr. Phelps used to listen to at the beginning of Mission: Impossible. Even the very best workout plans are designed to self-destruct--maybe not after five seconds, but after five weeks or so, definitely.

That's because our bodies are incredibly adept at adjusting to the demands we place on them. Like toddlers, our bodies learn and adapt. And when we exercise using the same routine day in and day out, our bodies adapt too. Over time, we begin to lose the benefits of even the best workout program, simply because our muscles are like Bill Clinton: They mean well, but they just can't help cheating.

And that's why I wrote this book. I wanted those who had already seen tremendous success with the Abs Diet to keep improving, to keep reshaping their bodies the way they wanted. And I wanted those who were new to the Abs Diet to have a head start, to have at their fingertips a whole collection of easy, effective exercises.

With hundreds of exercises, I want this guide to serve as your ultimate training manual.

You'll be equipped to develop many different Abs Diet training programs. Best of all, I've given you options no matter what your situation--whether you belong to a gym or work out at home, whether you lift dumbbells or Junior, whether you have to exercise in a hotel room or cell block H. Even with thousands of exercise combinations, there's one thing that won't change when it comes to the Abs Diet Workout: that's the overarching principle about how to build your body and flatten your stomach so that throughout your life you can continually challenge your muscles and keep your body in the best possible shape. In short, the Abs Diet Workout system has its foundation in this acronym:


The ABS3 system works because it allows you to put emphasis on the kinds of exercise that research has shown to be effective for speeding metabolism, burning fat, and building muscle. The book details how the principle works, shows dozens of different programs that you can immediately start using, and gives you the tools to mix and match exercises so that you can do what we're all wired to do: Keep changing. In short, ABS3 stands for:

A = Abdominal muscles. You'll work your abdominal muscles twice a week to develop a strong, lean, flat, 6-pack core of muscles.

B = Big muscle groups. You'll do strength-training that emphasizes the largest muscles in your body because those are the muscles that best help you burn fat.

S = Speed intervals. Interval training (cardiovascular work that mixes high-intensity effort with low-intensity effort) has been shown to be more effective for losing fat than steady-state cardiovascular exercise.

3 = 3 times per week. You can achieve results in just three workouts a week.Woody Allen once said that 90 percent of success is just showing up. That's probably not true for most things in life, but when it comes to the Abs Diet Get Fit, Stay Fit Plan, Woody's philosophy actually holds true. The program is so easy, all you have to do is make time for it.

But, ah, there's the rub: making time for it. That's why I've designed this program to be completed in just three sessions of 20 minutes each. Sixty total minutes a week--if you can find time to watch an episode of Desperate Housewives, you can find time for this.

And make no mistake, though it may seem to take no time at all, your results from this program will be dramatic.

I'll go into depth about the ABS3 plan a little later in the book. But before I do, I want to tell you a little bit about how I view exercise--and why I truly believe that anyone can use it to reshape their body and recharge their life.

See, I didn't grow up as some star athlete or superfit aerobics addict. I was an overweight kid who spent more time watching sports than playing them. I was so fat and sloppy that when I finally did get involved in sports by joining the wrestling team, the coach used me as the "stopper"--essentially, I would go into the ring and just flop down on top of my opponent until the buzzer rang. I wasn't really a wrestler. I was a 200-pound bag of suet with a jock strap.

Then I graduated high school (early photos of what scientists believed to be a black hole were, in fact, pictures of me in a graduation gown) and joined the Naval Reserves. Suddenly, things changed. For the first time in my life, I was made to exercise. And the pounds came off. When I left the Navy, I joined Men's Health magazine, where I learned even more about the importance of fitness and made it a permanent part of my life. Today, my career is dedicated to helping people live healthy, active lives. Exercise fends off diseases from diabetes to stroke to heart disease; prevents injuries and osteoporosis; increases your energy while diminishing your stress; and inspires your sex drive (and the sex drives of those around you). And if better health, a longer life, a sexier body, and a stress-proof existence sounds good to you… well, the chance for change is now. Seize it.

Now, you might be thinking to yourself, "This guy works for Men's Health. He gets paid to curl dumbbells with one hand while typing out e-mails with other. Of course he has time to exercise." Well, I have one word for you: baloney (which, you'll discover, is not a Powerfood.)

My philosophy is that exercise can't be like a jealous boyfriend or girlfriend--high-maintenance and more trouble than it's worth. It has to be like the perfect partner in that it complements the rest of your life. Otherwise, there's no incentive to keep to the program, and you'll just end up breaking up with it in the long run.

I know the all the obstacles to getting into a regular exercise routine. You have jobs. You have overtime. You have schedules. You have family. You have a couch that swallows you as soon as you sit down. You have Jimmy the toddler hanging off one arm and JoJo the terrier tugging on the other. You have lots of reasons not to exercise. But the Abs Diet is a program that anyone can do, because it's one that you can do at the gym, at home, with equipment, without equipment. Whatever your lifestyle, you can employ the ABS3 principles.

I'll leave you with this one last thought. I wish people would stop thinking of exercise like it's scrubbing tile. Sure, in the beginning, it can feel like hard work; it can feel like a chore. But I want you to think of exercise as a little bit like merging onto an interstate. Yes, it's going to take you a little gas to build up some steam, and you may hit a curve here and there as you get going. But once you accelerate into a program, once you find your groove, once you start seeing results, you'll be on exercise cruise control. That's because it's much easier to maintain good fitness with regular workouts than it is to get there in the first place. And that's what helps trigger the cycle of lean living. Once you're able to teach your body to speed your metabolism--through the proper food and exercise--you'll teach it to burn fat all day. And that's really our goal, isn't it?

Get fit.

Stay fit.

Live fit.

Do those three things, and you'll reach your ultimate destination: Pants fit.

How close are you to the stomach you've always wanted?

So what if the last test you took was of the paternity variety; you can fly through this one, which will gauge your potential for developing a flat stomach and a 6-pack. Don't worry if your score plunges lower than one of Mariah Carey's necklines. Follow the ABS3 principles and Abs Diet Workout for 6 weeks, then take the test again--and see how far you've come.

Add up your total points.


Your metabolism slows with age. The older you get, the less fat you burn at rest.

Younger than 25 +2

25?35 +1

Older than 35 -1

Body Fat

The higher your fat level, the longer it'll take to see your abs (see "Size Yourself Up" on page 4 for instructions on determining your body fat percentage).

Below 10 percent +2

10?15 percent +1

Higher than 15 percent -1


If you skip workouts regularly, you won't make as much progress.

Consistently work out 3 or more times per week +2

2 times per week +1

Fewer than 2 times per week -1


High amounts of bad-for-you fat will derail your program.

Less than 30 percent of daily calories from fat +1

30 percent or more of daily calories from fat -1

Weight Lifting

Strength training is proven to help raise your metabolism and build muscle mass, including the abdominals.

Strength training with challenging weights 3 or more times per week +2

Light weights 3 or more times per week +1

No weight training -1

Interval Training

Sprinting is a high-intensity workout, burning more calories and raising metabolism.

At least one interval session per week +2

No intervals 0


Walking or doing light steady cardio exercise at least 2 days a week +2

Doing less than 2 days a week 0


High levels of the stress hormone cortisol may make you pack on abdominal fat.

Low stress +1

Some stress 0

High stress -1


The classic ab exercise, but doing too many too often can work against you.

2 or 3 crunch sessions per week +1

Crunch infrequently 0

No crunching -1

More than 3 sessions per week -1

Your Score

8 points or higher: On your way to a 6-pack, if you're not there already.

3?7: Getting close

2 or lower: Gut may look like the beer truck instead.

This At-a-Glance Guide summarizes the principles of the Abs Diet: the 6-week plan to flatten your stomach and keep you lean for life.


The ABS3 exercise program is optional for the first 2 weeks. Base your plan around these components for the most effective fat-burning plan.

A = Abdominal muscles

B = Big muscle groups (strength training)

S = Speed intervals (high-intensity cardiovascular exercise mixed with periods of low-intensity)

3 = 3x/week

At-home workout: Gym workouts and at-home workouts are both detailed to excuse-proof your fitness plan.

Abdominal workout: At the beginning of two of your strength-training workouts. One exercise for each of the five different parts of your abs.


Number of meals: Six a day, spaced relatively evenly throughout the day. Eat snacks 2 hours before larger meals.

The ABS DIET POWER 12: Base most of your meals on these 12 groups of foods. Every meal should have at least two foods from the list.

Almonds and other nuts

Beans and legumes

Spinach and other green vegetables

Dairy (fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese)

Instant oatmeal (unsweetened, unflavored)


Turkey and other lean meats

Peanut butter

Olive oil

Whole-grain breads and cereals

Extra-protein (whey) powder

Raspberries and other berries

Secret weapons: Each of the ABS DIET POWER 12 has been chosen in part for its stealthy, healthy secret weapons--the nutrients that will help power up your natural fat burners, protect you from illness and injury, and keep you lean and fit for life!

Nutritional ingredients to emphasize: Protein, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, fiber, calcium.

Nutritional ingredients to limit: Refined carbohydrates (or carbs with high glycemic index), saturated fats, trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup.

Ultimate power food: Smoothies. The calcium and protein in milk, yogurt, and wheypowder combined with the fiber in oatmeal and fruit makes themone of the easier and more satisfying options in the diet. Drink themregularly.

Portion control: There's no counting calories, measuring food, or weighing portions.Focusing on the Power 12 foods should regulate your hunger so thatyou don't feel the need to have big portions. Still, it's always smart tohave reasonable portions -- that is, cover your plate with good proteins,grains, vegetables, and healthy fat, but remember that aheight restriction is in effect.

Cheating: One meal a week, eat anything you want.

ABS3: The Ultimate Exercise Plan

The Equation for a Lean, Fit, and Strong Body Lies in These Three Factors

In health circles, everyone talks about the obesity epidemic. We're a fat society. We eat too much. We eat badly. We deep-fry perfectly good vegetables, for God's sake. And it's one of the main reasons we're a country with bellies the size of Jupiter. But there's something lost in all the talk about creamy sauces, grease-laced buffets, super-sized fries, and exotic coffee drinks that are the caloric equivalents of Big Macs. We're not just in an obesity epidemic. We're in an inactivity epidemic.

A recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics found that only 19 percent of the population regularly engages in "high levels of physical activity." And by "high levels", they mean only 1 hour per week. That means 4 out of 5 of us aren't getting the amount of exercise we need. (And consider this: 1 hour a week--or 1 percent of the time you're awake every week). Now, the problem isn't that we don't know what we need to do. In fact, 63 percent of Americans--about the same percentage who are overweight--believe that exercise would help them live healthier and leaner. What we need is a plan that really works--without really feeling like work.

Having worked at Men's Health magazine for more than 10 years, I've seen more dumbbells than an American Idol tryout. I've seen all the trends (uh, electrodes on my abs, no thanks). I've talked to trainers. I've tried hundreds of exercises. In a lot of ways, my workout is part of my work. But I also know what it's like to be slammed with calls, meetings, writing e-mails, and all of the daily stresses and responsibilities that go into any job. So I know exactly what you want out of an exercise plan: You want a program that fits into your life--not one that is your life.

That's why I've constructed ABS3: to help you burn fat at the highest levels possible in the least amount of time. I want this plan to be flexible and convenient--an excuse-proof program that gives you the tools to work it around any schedule. My overriding philosophy: Keep the workout short and keep it simple, and you'll stay focused and motivated. Oh, you'll work up a sweat and you'll breathe heavier than a 900-number operator. That's the only way you'll see results--by challenging your body. But you won't have to claim squatter's rights at the gym to do so. Ab for ab, it's the best workout to flatten your stomach, lose fat, build muscle, and change your body forever.

Abs are a little like distant cousins. Everybody has them, but hardly anybody ever really gets to see them--or even remembers what they look like. Typically, that's because ab muscles are smothered in a layer of belly fat called visceral fat. It's the most dangerous fat there is because of its proximity to your body's organs. So, one order of business is to remove it. That does not happen with abdominal exercises. That happens with diet, with training your big muscle groups (the B in ABS3), and with the speed interval training (the S).

So, can't we just skip the ab work? Uh-uh. You've still got to crunch away like a CPA in April. By working your abdominal muscles twice a week, you'll build them so that when you do burn fat, your abs will, in fact, stand out like Michael Moore at a GOP meeting. But even more importantly, abdominal exercises help you build a center of strength that not only turns heads but also makes you healthier. For example, gaining strength in your core--that is, your entire trunk, not just the visible 6-pack muscles in the front--has more benefits than a CEO's annual contract. Maybe the most convincing data is this: In a recent Canadian study of more than 8,000 people, researchers found that over 13 years, those with the weakest abdominal muscles had a death rate more than twice as high as that of those with the strongest midsections. Pretty amazing, huh? Of course, there's a very strong link between smaller waist sizes and better health; in short, when you develop your abs and strip away fat, you make your entire body healthier--by reducing your risk of everything from heart disease to diabetes. (And that's not to mention that having a strong midsection has also been shown to improve your sex life because less fat helps improve blood flow, which is important for both male and female sexual satisfaction.) But just in case improving your health, your looks, and your sex life isn't enough for you, developing your core strength with abdominal exercises has many other benefits, such as the following:

Abs protect you. A U.S. Army study linked powerful abdominal muscles to injury prevention. After giving 120 artillery soldiers the standard army fitness test of situps, pushups, and a 2-mile run, researchers tracked their lower-body injuries (such as lower-back pain and Achilles tendonitis) during a year of field training. The subjects who cranked out the most situps (73 in 2 minutes) were five times less likely to suffer lower-body injuries than those who barely notched 50. But that's not all. Those who performed well in the pushups and 2-mile run enjoyed no such protection--suggesting that upper-body strength and cardiovascular endurance had little effect on injury prevention. It was abdominal strength that did it. Unlike any other muscles in your body, a strong core affects the functioning of the entire body. Think of your midsection as your body's infrastructure. You don't want a core made of dry, brittle wood or straw. You want one made of solid steel, one that will give you a layer of protection that belly fat never could. And that's what abdominal exercises help do--build that foundation of steel.

Abs prevent back pain. Most back pain is related to weak muscles in your trunk, so maintaining a strong midsection can help resolve many back issues. The muscles that crisscross your midsection don't function in isolation; they weave through your torso like a spider web, even attaching to your spine. When your abdominal muscles are weak, the muscles in your butt (your glutes) and along the backs of your legs (your hamstrings) have to compensate for the work your abs should be doing. The effect is that core weakness destabilizes the spine and eventually leads to back pain and strain--or even more serious back problems. As you'll see in the next chapter, this program provides exercises that work your entire core--your abdominal muscles--from many different angles, so that you can develop a strong and balanced midsection.Abs help you excel. If you play golf, basketball, tennis, or any sport that requires movement, the essential muscle group isn't your chest, biceps, or legs. It's your core. Developing core strength gives you power. It fortifies the muscles around your whole midsection and trains them to provide the right amount of support when you need it. So if you're weak off the tee, strong abs will improve your distance. If you also play stop-and-start sports like tennis or basketball, abs can improve your game tremendously by helping you get from point A to point B faster than your opponent. In essence, your legs don't control speed; your abs do. When researchers studied which muscles were the first to engage in these types of sports movements, they found that the abs fired first. The stronger they are, the faster you'll get to the ball.

THE PLAN: Work your abdominals in a circuit routine two or three times a week. I recommend that you do them before your strength-training workouts.

Muscles are what allow grooms to carry brides, football players to make tackles, and moms to carry three children, a bag of groceries, a cell phone, and car keys in one hand. But while lean muscle mass allows you to function every day and helps give your body a strong appearance and shape, muscles are also your body's oven--they broil fat at high heat. How does it work? Your muscles feed like little piranhas. They need to scour the body for calories in order to keep themselves well-nourished and growing, so they end up churning and burning the calories you're ingesting. So by adding a little more muscle mass to your body, you'll burn more calories throughout the day. In fact, each pound of muscle you have uses up to 50 calories a day just to maintain itself. So if you add just 3 pounds of muscle, you'll burn up to an extra 150 calories a day. That may not seem like much, but at that rate, you'd burn off 15 pounds of fat in a year--simply by doing nothing!This program focuses on working your big muscle groups--your legs, chest, back, and shoulders--because that's where you can build the most muscle in the least amount of time. Plus, when you work your larger muscles, you fire up your metabolism by creating a longer calorie afterburn--meaning that you'll burn calories until the next time that you do a strength-training workout.

But, hey, I'm not interested in turning you into the size of a Hummer, or even an H3. I think most of us want to be lean and strong, but still muscular and toned. A Porsche of a body, perhaps? So this plan isn't about spending as much time in the gym as you spend at your keyboard. It's about spending enough time to build a solid base of lean muscle mass--enough to change your shape and enough to build some muscle that will burn fat by itself. So that's why you'll be using two primary strength-training principles that maximize muscle growth and fat-burning and minimize the time you spend exercising.Circuit training. It's a simple program: Perform different exercises one right after another with no more than 30 seconds of rest (1 minute in some cases). For example, you'll do a set of leg exercises followed immediately by a set of an upper-body exercise, until you do a number of different exercises in a row (some programs will contain 8 to 10 different exercises; some only 4 or 5). There are two reasons circuit training works. First, by keeping you moving and cutting down the rest periods between exercises, circuit training keeps your heart rate elevated throughout your training session, maximizing your fat burn and providing tremendous cardiovascular fitness benefits. Second, circuit training keeps your workout short--you won't waste time resting between sets of an exercise.

Compound exercises. These are the exercises that call into play multiple muscle groups rather than just one. For example, with the Abs Diet workouts, I don't want you to exercise your chest on Monday and then your shoulders on Tuesday, your triceps Wednesday, and so on, the way some programs recommend. I want you to hit many different muscles at the same time and within one circuit. One study showed that you can put on 6 pounds of muscle and lose 15 pounds of fat in 6 weeks (6 weeks!) by following an exercise program that employs the compound exercises found in the Abs Diet workout. Not only do compound exercises make your workouts more fun and more challenging, but they will also increase the demands on your muscles--even though you're not actually doing more work. For instance, the squat hits a whopping 256 muscles with just one movement. These big-muscle exercises are what will lead to big-time calorie burns.THE PLAN: Do a strength-training circuit three times a week, focusing on compound exercises that work many muscle groups.

Your body reacts to cardiovascular exercise the way you react to music. If you hear a long, slow piece of music, you'll get lulled into zone-out mode. But if you hear something that's high-energy, you can't help but jump, bob, and mosh. Sure, there are some wonderful benefits to long, slow music--anybody who's ever brought Marvin Gaye along on a date will testify to that--but your body reacts better in terms of fat loss when you engage in cardiovascular exercise that's high-energy and high-intensity. That is, the most effective cardiovascular workouts are ones that mix periods of high intensity (going close to all out) with periods of low intensity (think light jog). Bottom line: You want a Ludacris workout, not a Chopin one.

Time and time again, research has shown that higher-intensity workouts promote weight loss better than steady-state activities like running 3 or 4 miles at the same pace (Bo-o-oring!). In a Canadian study from Laval University, researchers measured differences in fat loss between two groups of exercisers following two different workout programs. The first group rode stationary bikes four or five times a week and burned 300 to 400 calories per 30- to 45-minute session. The second group did the same, but only one or two times a week, and they filled the rest of their sessions with short intervals of high-intensity cycling. They hopped on their stationary bikes and pedaled as quickly as they could for 30 to 90 seconds, rested, and then repeated the process several times per exercise session. As a result, they burned 225 to 250 calories while cycling, but they had burned more fat at the end of the study than the workers in the first group. In fact, even though they exercised less, their fat loss was nine times greater. Researchers said that the majority of the fat burning took place after the workout. (See "A Running Debate," opposite, for more on steady-state cardiovascular exercise.) And that's really what makes it so effective--you'll keep your fat-burning mechanisms revved not only during your exercise but after it as well.

THE PLAN: Do one 20-minute interval workout per week to complement your strength training. Pick a traditional cardiovascular exercise (running, swimming, biking, cardiovascular machine), and alternate between periods of high intensity and periods of lower intensity. On your off days, I'd encourage you to do 30 minutes of brisk walking or a light workout with the cardiovascular exercise of your choice--as a way to increase your weekly calorie burn. As you advance, you can add another weekly interval workout.

Go back to the study where subjects added 6 pounds of muscle and lost 15 pounds of fat using compound exercises. Their workout? They followed an exercise plan for only 20 minutes three times a week. That's it. In order to make this work, that's all the time you need. Of course, you can spend more time if you want--and as you get stronger. You'll maximize your fat burn by adding one other interval workout to your schedule, for instance, and you'll also see a speedier weight loss by doing something light--like brisk walking--on your off days. And if you're like the many other people who have succeeded on the Abs Diet, you'll find that exercise is a little bit like a bag of potato chips--once you've dug in, you won't want to stop. Once you start seeing results, you'll push to accelerate them even more. But you have to be careful, because exercise is like a bag of chips in another way, too: You can OD on it, which will negate all the gains you've made. For instance, you don't want to strength train any more than three times a week (your muscles grow when they're at rest). Plus, by keeping your workout schedule balanced throughout the week, you'll achieve one of the main goals you should have with any exercise program: Finish one workout looking forward to--not dreading--your next one.

I have the same goal with ABS3 as yogis do with Downward Dog--maximum flexibility. I want you to be able to make choices under the framework of the ABS3 guidelines--to be able to adapt workouts based on your own life. When you construct your schedule, make sure to:

The three components of your weekly schedule include:

A = Abdominal Exercises

Twice a week. I recommend doing them before your strength training or interval workouts.

B= Big Muscle Groups

Strength training three times a week. These are total-body workouts, with one workout that puts extra emphasis on your legs.

(S) = Speed IntervalsOnce a week.

For suggested weekly schedules, see the next page.

This At-a-Glance Guide gives you suggested options for planning your training programs.

Monday: Abdominal workout (10 minutes)

Strength-training circuit (20 minutes)

Tuesday: Off, or brisk walking for 30 minutes

Wednesday: Strength-training circuit (20 minutes)

Interval training (20 minutes)

Thursday: Off, or brisk walking for 30 minutes

Friday: Abdominal workout (10 minutes)

Strength-training circuit (20 minutes)

Saturday: Off, or brisk walking for 30 minutes

Sunday: Brisk walking for 1 hour

Monday: Abdominal workout (10 minutes)

Strength-training circuit (20 minutes)

Tuesday: Off, or brisk walking for 30 minutes

Wednesday: Strength-training circuit (20 minutes)

Thursday: Interval training (20-30 minutes)

Friday: Abdominal workout (10 minutes)

Strength-training circuit (20 minutes)

Saturday: Off, or brisk walking for 30 minutes

Sunday: Brisk walking for 1 hour

Monday: Abdominal workout (10 minutes)

Strength-training circuit (20 minutes)

Tuesday: Interval training (20-30 minutes)

Wednesday: Strength-training circuit (20 minutes)

Thursday: Interval training (20-30 minutes)

Friday: Abdominal workout (10 minutes)

Strength-training circuit (20 minutes)

Saturday: Off, or brisk walking for 30 minutes

Sunday: Brisk walking for 1 hour

38.8: The average man's waist circumference

33.5 The average woman's

An exercise novice? Follow these rules for an easy transition into ABS3

If you're new to strength training, the biggest mistake you can make is jumping in head first. Exercise doesn't have to be intimidating, but if you rush into it, you'll increase your chance of failing by becoming too frustrated, too tired, too sore, too overwhelmed. Instead, follow these guidelines:

The best way to keep track of your progress is by taking a few key measurementsWhen you're winning at the craps table, you keep rolling. And when you're winning in an exercise program, you keep rolling. Seeing results--whether it's in pounds, inches, or body fat percentage--can be one of your best motivators. I recommend taking readings of key measurements every 2 weeks. That's enough distance so you'll see some results, but not so close together that you'll be frustrated if you don't see a great change. Here's a look at the four major barometers you can use to see just how effectively the Abs Diet will work for you. But for a complete picture, do all of them. Many of the standards are misleading, so your best assessment is a complete one.

200 x 703 = 140,600

Next, we calculate your height in inches squared, meaning we multiply the number by itself.72 x 72 = 5,184

Now we divide the first number by the second.

140,600 ÷ 5,184 = 27.1

A BMI between 25 and 30 indicates you're overweight. Over 30 signifies obesity. This measurement, too, has flaws. It doesn't take into account muscle mass, and it also leaves out another important factor--weight distribution, that is, where most of the fat on your body resides. But BMI can give you a pretty good idea of how serious your weight problem is.

38 ÷ 40 = 0.95

You want a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.92 or lower. If you were to lose just 2 inches off your waist--something you can do in just 2 weeks with the Abs Diet--you'd find yourself in the fit range.

36 ÷ 40 = 0.90

19.7: The average man's body fat percentage

28: The average woman's

"Off Came the Inches"

Name: Brandee Bratton

Age: 31

Height: 5'1"

Starting weight: 113

Six weeks later: 106

For Brandee Bratton, it was the perfect team approach: She would plan the food and meals and her husband would plan the workouts. What started out as a diet actually became more of a hobby, as the two made the program something they could do together. Starting at 113 pounds, Bratton didn't need to lose a lot of weight, but she still wanted something out of the Abs Diet.

"It's one thing to be petite, another to be strong, fit, healthy, and petite," she says.

So Bratton and her husband jumped on the program (he lost 10 pounds in 6 weeks), and Bratton wound up as a top-10 finalist in the initial Abs Diet Challenge--based largely on the way she transformed the shape of her body.

"For the first 2 weeks, I didn't notice much of a change in terms of weight. What started changing was the inches, and then the pounds just came off at the end--mostly in the thighs and hips area," says Bratton, who also dropped from about 18 percent body fat to 12. "And that was when I really got excited."

Bratton, who enjoyed the interval training and healthy eating, says that the Abs Diet is one that anyone can follow because you're always satisfied.

"This diet isn't a fad diet; it follows all the scientific rules in terms of what to eat and how to eat," she says. "I can say that there's no food deprivation you feel through this. By eating six times a day, you feel satisfied. When it's time to eat, your body gets used to eating at that time, and your body lets you know--almost like it's talking to you, 'Hey, it's been 2 hours, give me something to eat.'"

Now, Bratton, who feels healthier and stronger and likes the new toned look of her body, is studying to become a personal trainer.

"Women often look for solutions through pills, milk in a can, and gadgets," she says. "I advise this program for any woman to invest in her body."

8-12: Percentage of body fat that a man needs in order to see his abs

5: Percentage of body fat that's too low--that's the level where you may start to damage your immune system

The cardiovascular-exercise camp squares off against the metal heads

You're used to seeing people sweat on machines, sign up for marathons, and cycle across Iowa as a means to getting in better shape. It's true: Cardiovascular exercise--steady-state endurance exercises, like running, biking, and swimming--burns a lot of calories. In fact, it often burns more than other forms of exercise like strength training or soul-soothing workouts like yoga. And cardio helps control stress, improves your cardiovascular fitness, lowers blood pressure, and improves your cholesterol profile. I run all the time.

But when it comes to weight control, aerobic exercise builds little (if any) muscle--and muscle is the key component of a speedy metabolism. Here's the problem with low-intensity aerobic exercise: Just like a car can't run without gas or a kite can't fly without wind, a body can't function without food. Generally, during exercise, your body calls upon glycogen (the stored form of carbohydrate in muscles and the liver), fat, and, in some cases, protein. When you're doing low-intensity aerobic exercise like jogging, your body primarily uses fat and glycogen (carbohydrates) for fuel. When it continues at longer periods (20 minutes or more), your body drifts into depletion: You exhaust your first-tier energy sources (your glycogen stores), and your body hunts around for the easiest source of energy it can find--protein. Well, guess what your muscles are made of? To feet itself during a long aerobic workout, your body actually begins to eat up muscle tissue, converting the protein stored in your muscles into the energy you need to keep going. Once your body reaches that plateau, it burns up 5 to 6 grams of protein for every 30 minutes of ongoing exercise. By burning protein, you're not only missing an opportunity to burn fat but also losing all-important and powerful muscle. So aerobic exercise actually decreases muscle mass. Decreased muscle mass ultimately slows down your metabolism, making it easier for you to gain weight.

Now here's an even more shocking fact: When early studies compared cardiovascular exercise to weight training, researchers learned that those who engaged in aerobic activities burned more calories during exercise than those who weight trained. You'd assume, then, that aerobic exercise was the way to go. But that's not the end of the story.

It turns out that while lifters didn't burn as many calories during their workouts as the folks who ran or biked, they burned far more calories over the course of the next several hours. This phenomenon is known as the afterburn--the additional calories your body burns off in the hours and days after a workout. When researchers looked at the metabolic increases after exercise, they found that the increased metabolic effect of aerobics lasted only 30 to 60 minutes. The effects of weight training lasted as long as 48 hours. That's 48 hours during which the body was burning additional fat.

2: Percentage of women with a model's body

"Finally Happy About My Shape"

Name: Mike Mendoza

Age: 30

Height: 5'8"

Starting weight: 185

Six weeks later: 167

Current weight: 156

Starting waist size: 37"

Current waist size: 30"

Mike Mendoza struggled all his life with weight issues. He wasn't extremely overweight, but he was always the kid who was 15 or 20 pounds heavier than the rest of them.

"I always knew I carried a little extra, but people figure that's just your build. My wife would always say, 'That's just the way you're built,'" he says. "But I was flabby and I was hoping to eliminate fat in the chest area. That was really embarrassing growing up, not wanting to take my shirt off."

Mendoza used to lift really hard--up to 2 hours a day. But all he did was put on muscle under the fat because he wasn't watching his diet. So he was never really able to get lean.

When he read about the Abs Diet, he decided to try it because it gave him the ability to eat six meals a day--and still have things like bread and sandwiches. Ever since, he's stuck to it. He's found the recipes he really likes and stuck to them.Now, he does the circuit routine, and he says it's helped him add muscle, because it keeps him moving through a workout. "You hit all the body parts at one time, and it works because you keep working all the different muscle groups. I love the circuit routine."

Mendoza says the key to his success is his preparation. Every Sunday, he makes smoothies and chili and packs bags of almonds--so he's well-organized and it's easy to eat right throughout the week.

He says the Abs Diet has helped identify his bad eating habits, and he realized he didn't have to make every meal a Thanksgiving dinner in order to get enjoyment out of food. He was eating for the wrong reasons--because he was tense or stressed."I've learned a lot about myself," he says. "I've finally been able to be happy with the shape I'm in and steer my energy into other areas of my life and not worry about how I look. And that's just been one of the great things that's come of this."

20: Percentage drop in heart-disease risk by burning 1,000 to 2,500 calories a week exercising

Reprinted from: The Abs Diet Get Fit, Stay Fit Plan by David Zinczenko with Ted Spiker © 2006 by Rodale Inc. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098.

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