Abdominal muscles are comprised of the rectus abdominus (or abs), the transverse abs, the intercostals and the obliques. They all work together to form a strong core and a flat belly. The transverse abdominus pulls your belly inward. The “Six-Pack Abs” most often targeted in fitness infomercials is formed by the rectus abs.

Though our genetics do play a role, almost all of us have the potential to have a lean and toned Six-Pack, also known as the “international benchmark of a fit physique.” They just need to be revealed and sculpted through a combination of proper diet and exercise.

But you can’t spot-reduce fat! So, we have to work to reduce our overall body fat percentage to about 9 percent or less to reveal our Six-Pack.

Beer bellies are not caused by drinking beer; they’re caused from a cumulative combination of poor lifestyle factors and excess calories. Alcohol is not a sugar and is metabolized by the liver for energy. In no way does alcohol directly cause fat gain or a bulging belly. Poor diet, lack of exercise or sedentary lifestyle combined with excess calorie consumption result in fat gain and eventual belly bulge.

Fat cannot be spot-gained either. However, fat can be stored both subcutaneously (under the skin), or viscerally (internally among and around your organs), and intra-muscularly. Subcutaneously is the healthiest way to store fat, while viscerally is the most dangerous way. High-sugar diets, sedentary lifestyle, aging past 40, chronic stress, poor sleep quality or lack of sleep are all factors that contribute to fat being stored viscerally rather than subcutaneously.

The way a person has their body fat distributed and how they carry it says a lot about the state of their health. Guys with huge bellies are actually at higher risk for early-death and many obesity-related diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and estrogen dominance. It’s not only body mass index and body composition that can be used as markers to determine health but also fat distribution.

Calories aren’t always equal from a lean-body, flat-belly standpoint. As far as energy is concerned, a calorie is a calorie, especially if you are a very active person or an athlete. But the more sedentary your lifestyle, the more your calorie sources matter.

Ultimately, the more active we are, the more glucose-tolerant and insulin-sensitive we are. Also the more we can handle carbohydrates and sugars, metabolize them and use them efficiently for fuel. The less active we are, the more insulin-resistant and glucose-intolerant we become, almost instantly. Insulin goes from being a glucose-shuttle hormone to a fat-storing hormone when we are sedentary. Glucose (blood-sugar) is absorbed less easily into the muscles and liver for energy storage as glycogen.

So the solution is obvious: Unless you’re a competitive athlete where performance is critical, you should limit your sugar intake and always choose nutrient and fiber-dense, complex carbohydrates that are low on the Glycemic Index scale (less insulin trigger), along with lean proteins and unsaturated and essential fats.

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