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Six-Pack Abs Are Sweet, But Not Always Best For Your Body

Sometime around the late 1980s and early 1990s, a “six-pack” stopped referring to just cans of beer and started serving as a term that would describe visible abdominal muscles. According to some data, this is when the term’s popularity grew exponentially.

Quickly, the six-pack became the gold-standard body aesthetic. This led to many products and workout programs that people bought as they chased a flat stomach and the infamous abs. 6-Minute Abs, Abs of Steel, and P90-X were all targeted at our obsession with visible abs. 

And how can you forget the ab stimulation belts? Building a six-pack while you watched TV?! Zap the fat away while you read a book?! It was too good to be true, yet so many of us fell for it. 

So what does the actual science say about reducing belly fat to make your ab muscles more visible?

First and foremost, it is incredibly important to stress that visible abs are not an indicator of optimal health. For some people, especially women, having visible ab muscles requires a body fat percentage that is lower than optimal. An optimal body fat percentage for women would fall in the range of 20% – 25%, but for ab muscles to be visible, women would need to reach a body fat percentage of 14% – 20%. 

The body only shows its six-pack abs after comprehensive fat loss

Does this mean that women with visible abs aren’t healthy? Absolutely not, but it does mean that chasing a lean physique can be a counter-productive and unrealistic goal for the average woman looking to optimize her health. 

Men, on the other hand, can aim for a much leaner body fat percentage while still promoting optimal health, but in both cases, the aesthetic standards we see from fitness influencers and celebrities on social media shouldn’t be seen as the holy grail of health. Excess fat, especially around the midsection, is something we should all be looking to avoid, but getting to the point where your ab muscles are visible is not a necessary or realistic endpoint for the average person. 

That said, the quickest way to a flatter stomach is not crunches and other ab-specific exercises. Studies have made it clear that abdominal exercises have no effect on abdominal fat. You can’t spot-reduce fat in any specific area of your body. The best way to reduce belly fat is with a combination of exercise and a diet that promotes overall fat loss. 

The key takeway? Six-pack abs are nice, but they aren’t necessary if you want to be healthy. If you want to reduce belly fat, it might be best not to set unrealistic and counterproductive goals. Instead, you should focus on proper nutrition and consistent exercise that will improve all health markers while also reducing belly fat in a way that is healthy and sustainable.

**The Daily Tonic is a two to five minute read sharing science backed health news and tips, all while getting you to crack a smile or even lol on occasion. Click HERE to sign up today!**

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