I’ve been training for 10 years and have 3 children, I really want to start competing as a fitness model, but I have a couple of areas that need more work – these are my lower abs, aren’t bad, but not as hard I would like. And my thighs don’t seem to respond despite all the workouts I’ve tried. I want those nice deep lines in my abs and quads. Any advice? Crystal

Dear Crystal,
When it comes to muscle definition, it’s all about your body fat percentage – the lower it is, the more visible, for example your abs will be. It’s not about doing more and more abdominal exercises, you need to really adjust your diet and master your cardio training.

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Great muscles are made in the kitchen – so when I go for a great six-pack, I lower my carbohydrates intake and follow a carbohydrate cycling method. I’ll often also eat all my carbs for breakfast and before my workout and then won’t eat anymore after 3 pm – see following:

Natalia Muntean’s weekly carb consumption, per day – when preparing for a fitness model competition
Note: this in preparation for a competition and relevant to my weight
Monday: 110g
Tuesday: 70g
Wednesday: 30g
Thursday: 0g

I have one zero carb day a week and this is one week out from the competition. At this time I’m also doing less training and require less energy. If you’re not planning to compete then you should not follow this protocol
Friday: 30g
Saturday: 70g
Sunday: 110g

You’ll need to adjust your cardio routine accordingly – so on your highcarb days, when you have more fuel, do high intensity interval training, such as sprinting and plyometrics (jumping exercises) and on your low-carb days do low intensity steady cardio, for example 30 minutes on an elliptical machine. On zero-carb days I don’t train.

I find that eating and training such as this as I prepare for a competition reduces my body fat to reveal my muscles. Please note that I don’t follow the carb routine outlined for longer than two weeks and only when I’m preparing for a competition. It’s a good way to break through a training plateau and progress my physical appearance.

Away from competitions I go for 110-140g of carb each day. Carbohydrate timing is very important. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for me, it boosts my metabolism and provides my body with energy. I’ll then include carbs with every other meal, but don’t consume any more after 6pm.

The key is to let the carbs ‘burn out’ as a fuel source otherwise it can be stored as fat on the body. Note: it is also important to include good fats in your diet as these serve valuable bodily functions. However, I’ll try not to consume foods containing fat around my workouts as carbs and protein are far better at kick-starting the recovery and muscle rebuilding process.

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