It depends. Some guys are fortunate enough to have those visible abs by eating a smart diet and exercising regularly. But for other men, it’s harder than that, especially if you want to look “contest” lean.
In fact, depending on your genetics, achieving and sustaining a chiseled midsection could be like taking on a part-time job.
While the quest for abs alone can impart benefits—like teaching work ethic and dedication—it can also spiral into an obsession that sucks some of the fun out of living.
Do you want it? Go for it! But first, know what you could be in for, and what you will and won’t gain from doing so. We found 6 guys with ripped abs who tell you what it’s like for them.
Life Is Not a Body Spray Commercial
If increasing your attractiveness to the opposite sex is a goal, it’s worth knowing just how important your abdominal definition is to women.
So I conducted a totally unscientific survey of 100 women and discovered that this isn’t Jersey Shore, and life is not a body spray commercial.
Only 2% of the ladies said visible abs were a “must” for being attracted to a man, and just 21% said he had to have a flat belly, leaving 79% more or less cool with the Will Ferrell frame.
What’s most important? The top three answers were face, personality and moderate-size muscles. Abs came in fifth.
If you’re looking for a muscle group that impresses women, start pumping your guns. They take much less work, are easy to show off anywhere, and in a Western Illinois University survey of the sexiest muscles on a man, women rated the biceps second only to abs.
“Just Say No to Alcohol” Just Got Real
I love beer. Alas, a six-pack of cold ones and six-pack abs are mutually exclusive—you can’t have both.
“I have about 20 drinks a year,” says David Kimmerle, a 37-year-old professional fitness model in Los Angeles. (That’s averaging one every 18 days!) “You don’t work if you drink,” he says, referring to his ability to book photoshoots.
Food Is Fuel—and Only Fuel
Unlike alcohol, you can’t give up food entirely. But it may feel like you are.
“To maintain my six-pack before photo shoots, I would spend weeks feeling constantly hungry—even after eating meals,” says Ben Carpenter, a trainer and fitness model in Oxford, England.
“I gave up on the idea that food should be delicious,” says Gino Caccavale, a personal trainer and physique competitor in New York City.
In terms of achieving abs that are “stage” worthy, an actual doctor told us this: “At the office, cookies and candies surround me every day,” says Spencer Nadolsky, D.O., a family physician and occasional bodybuilder in Suffolk, Virginia. “I turn my nose up to it all.”
Training Takes Precedence—Always
Not only are these men with enviable abs more-or-less in a state of constant hunger, they also have to train like maniacs.
Kimmerle works out about 10 hours per week—including weight training and 35 miles worth of cardio.
And if you’re already juggling a packed schedule of work and family, finding all of that time is going to be like trying to come up with $100 by looking for change between your couch cushions. But find the time you must, week after week, if sustained abs is your goal.
Especially since ab work seems to be entirely thought consuming. “For as long as I can remember—since my early teens—I try to flex my core to engage the muscles from the second I wake up until I go to sleep at night,” claims Stephen Hughes-Landers, an six-pack bearing athlete in Estbourne, United Kingdom.
On top of his regular workout, Caccavale performs at least 500 reps of ab work each day, an amount that even most regular gym goers don’t do in an entire week.
Progress Can Be Painstaking
The closer you get to visible abs, the slower your fat loss gets until it’s finally at a crawl.
A 2005 study published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology found that there is a maximum rate of fat loss for those final pounds, and beyond that you’re burning muscle. That means you have to rev your metabolism, but not too much, if you want your size and strength to stick around.
So in addition to being tolerant of a soul-destroying diet, you need to have the patience of a life-long Cubs fan.
Abs Don’t Come with a Side of Health and Happiness
While abdominal obesity is proven to have negative health consequences, the amount of body fat difference between a flat belly and six-pack abs isn’t going to make you any healthier.
Sure, exercising more and eating a strict diet will help you improve your health, but the loss of those last ab-revealing pounds alone won’t add years to your life—although the loss of cheeseburgers and beer could definitely make it seem like a lot longer.
Losing those last few pounds may also make your face look gaunt and your waist look waif-thin, prompting people who see with your clothes on to ask you if you’re sick. This depends on a number of factors, of course, but it’s a real effect for some men.
Stephen Power, a personal trainer and fitness model in London, England laments that all of the restrictions and time spent in the gym can be isolating, too. “Having ab definition often means having to turn down invitations, saying no to friends.”
Your Six-Pack Is Often Under Wraps
Finally, even if you’re not in it for the health benefits, how often can you show the results of your hard work? With clothes on, it’s extremely difficult to discern the man who has visible abs from the one with the flat belly.
Well, not really. The flat-belly guy is the one who will join you for drinks after work.
Text by James Fell