How to Sculpt a Flat Belly: Part 1 of 10

I’m going to start 2019 by doing something a little different.

I normally like to write long articles.  Sometimes really long ones- at 27 pages long, my Booty Bible had to be released as a downloadable ebook rather than an article on my blog.

Two months ago I wrote a guide to sculpting a flat belly.  At 18 pages long, it’s not quite up there with the Booty Bible, but it’s close.  It could easily take over an hour to read.  So I’ve sat on it for the last couple months, debating how to publish it.  And I’ve decided that instead of going the ebook route this time, I’ll split it up into ten short articles, releasing them one at a time on my blog and newsletter.

So…this is article one of How to Sculpt a Flat Belly, a ten-part series that covers all the angles vis-a-vis losing belly fat, getting a flat belly, and even building a sixpack if that’s your thing.  I wrote it for a novice audience, so the science is simplified quite a bit, with the focus being on giving you the one-two punch tactics that will cut down your waistline.

Throughout the ten lessons of this course, you’ll learn how to eat for a flat belly, how to train the abdominal muscles, how to shed excess water weight and eliminate abdominal bloating, and how to cut down on the main hormone that causes excess belly fat storage. 

For the first lesson, I want to start this course off by explaining to you exactly what it takes to sculpt a flat belly.  Here are the five requirements for a flat belly, roughly in order of priority. 

First, you need to have a low overall level of body fat.  This is far and away the most important requirement- if you’re overweight, you there are no tricks or strategies that will flatten out your gut.  Your midsection simply can’t be that much leaner than the rest of your body. 

Since it’s the most important requirement, nearly have this course is devoted to overall body fat loss.  More on that in the second part of this lesson. 

Second, your hormonal environment needs to support low belly fat levels.  Primarily, this means maintaining low levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.  We’ll discuss that in lesson six. 

Third, you need to eliminate intestinal bloating.  This is mainly a matter of avoiding certain foods that are loaded with anti-nutrients- or else preparing them in a way that neutralizes those anti-nutrients.  More on that in lesson eight. 

Fourth, you need to keep water retention under control- especially if you’re female, or tend to eat a lot of salty foods.  This will be covered in lesson nine. 

Fifth, you need to build decent ab muscles.  Yes, this is the least important requirement- at least for having a flat belly, the titular goal of this course.  If your goal is instead to have visible abs, or a sixpack, it jumps up to being the third most important requirement- ahead of water eight and bloating, but still behind fat loss.   

Now that we’ve covered the requirements, let’s discuss the most important: overall fat loss.  What body fat percentage do you need to be at for a flat belly?

It varies between individuals, depending on how your body fat is distributed. 

For men, a flat belly and visible abs usually occur between twelve and sixteen percent body fat. Sixpack abs will appear between eight and twelve percent body fat, depending on how well-developed the abs are.

Because they store more fat in the breasts and hips, women can have a flat belly at higher body fat percentages- usually between sixteen and twenty-two percent.  Visible abs will show up between fourteen and eighteen percent body fat.  A full sixpack happens around twelve percent, but it isn’t healthy for women to be that lean. 

Now, how do you measure body fat percentage?  There are a few good options.

Don’t use one of those body fat scales that runs an electrical pulse through your body- they’re very inaccurate and easily affected by hydration status. 

The best method is DEXA- a body scanner machine that is accurate to within one percent.  It costs anywhere from forty to a hundred dollars to get a DEXA scan.

The best free methods are body circumference and calipers.  Body circumference formulas are more accurate for overweight people; I recommend the Navy formula.   

Calipers are prone to user error, but generally outperform circumference measures for lean people- I use the Jackson/Pollock 3-site (yes that’s really what it’s called) formula.

Calculators for both formulas can be found on this page.  You’ll need a tailor’s tape measure for the Navy formula, and a body fat caliper for any of the caliper formulas.

Regardless of which of the two you use, take your measurements first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach.

That’s it for today.  Tomorrow I’m going to tell you how to eat to lose fat. 

-John

 

P.S.  My online coaching program is currently open and has room for about 10-15 new clients, depending on which coaching program people pick.  I’m also taking on a few new personal training clients in the Los Angeles area this month.