Stacey Frattinger, RD, CHFS, Certified Integrative Health Coach, currently resides in Sparks, NV. She owns a virtual health coaching and nutrition counseling practice, mainly focusing on one-on-one, individualized whole body wellness practices.
Zinczenko’s 6-week diet plan outlines 12 "power foods" which correspond to the acronym “ABS Diet Power”. These 12 specific foods are: almonds or nuts, beans and legumes, spinach and other greens, low-fat or fat-free dairy, instant oatmeal, eggs, turkey or lean meat, peanut butter, olive oil, whole grains, extra protein in the form of whey protein and raspberries and other berries. Although the Abs Diet stresses the importance of these particular foods, consider this plan to be a high-fiber version of the former Food Guide Pyramid. You will be asked to eat six small meals daily, and a one week meal plan can be found in the Abs Diet book. As part of your daily meal plan, you are encouraged to drink as least a protein shake in place of one meal or snack daily, using whey protein powder, berries, and/or peanut butter to easily incorporate 1-3 servings your power foods daily. Zinczenko also recommends drinking at least 64 fluid ounces of water daily to help alleviate hunger, flush waste, and properly transport nutrients back to your muscles.
The Abs Diet, designed by editor-in-chief and contributor to Men's Health magazine David Zinczenko, is a plan designed with the male population in mind. It has been touted as a weight-loss solution that combines nutritional recommendations with an exercise plan, leading to noticeable improvements in your abdominal area. Because an elevated waist circumference carries with it an increased risk of chronic illness, mainly heart disease and diabetes, this particular diet and exercise program is tailored to the reduction of abdominal fat. The Abs Diet is essentially a high-fiber, moderate-fat plan that is fairly straight-forward. If you are a male, looking to improve your physique, longevity, and sex drive, you fall into Zinczenko’s target market.
Because Zinczenko believes that calorie counting makes people lose focus and decreases motivation, you do not have to adhere to a limited number of calories each day. Given that you eat to hunger, compliance will be increased with respect to the nutritional component of the Abs Diet. Considering that this plan combines dietary advice along with an exercise routine, making two lifestyle changes at the same time could make the plan a bit more difficult to adhere to. You might find it easier just to focus on the nutritional component or the exercise component before combining the two together if you are struggling to comply.
In the world of supplements, a good quality protein powder can run upwards of $40-55. If you are supplementing with protein powder daily, this could lead to a rise in your typical spending. Since there are no hard and fast rules to follow, other than adding in the 12 power foods daily, you can easily customize this plan to fit your grocery budget. Frozen fruits and vegetables, a jar of peanut butter, and instant oatmeal can keep in your pantry and freezer for quite some time.
If you are a fan of protein shakes or smoothies, there is very little time involved in making a delicious, satisfying shake. If you are pressed for time and need to eat out or grab something in a hurry, a rotisserie chicken with a side salad could easily fit into this plan. Grab-n-go snacks, including jerky and almonds, can be real time savers for quick snacks.
A quick scan of the meal plan provided suggests that the Abs Diet is a fairly safe plan to follow, free from much risk of the developing of nutritional deficiencies. Considering, however, that this plan incorporates a specific exercise routine, there is always the potential for some sort of exercise-related injury. Proceed with caution after considering your level of fitness and abilities before engaging in any exercise routine.
The days of believing that “spot reduction” is possible, or having the ability to lose fat from one specific area of your body, is not backed by evidence nor supported by research. In addition, some very well respected nutrition professionals feel that Zinczenko makes some outlandish statements to grab the attention of the reader, only to temper these statements with partial facts and incomplete truths.
Benefits: In general, the Abs Diet is a healthy, balanced plan. Zinczenko does a good job of stressing the need for a balanced exercise program as an integral part of lifestyle change. Given that this is basically a high-fiber, moderate-fat approach to nutrition, this could very well lead to lifelong weight maintenance. For those who feel a sense of deprivation when following a strict plan, the Abs Diet does allow for having an off plan meal once a week, which allows for occasional indulgences, in moderation.
Downsides: Zinczenko does take some liberties with the science and research, perhaps due to the fact that this plan has been designed with the male population in mind. On that note, a healthy diet is not necessarily gender-specific, though hormones definitely play a part in weight loss. Although there is a separate version of this plan, called The Abs Diet for Women, for men and women looking to partner to lose weight together, it may be a bit frustrating to have slightly different plans to follow.
The Bottom Line: If you are a male, looking to improve your body composition while losing weight, the Abs Diet is a balanced approach that allows for an occasional treat to help keep you on plan for at least 6 weeks. If after 6 weeks, you haven’t noticed abdominal definition, at least you will have the foundation for a healthy diet and know more about the power of superfoods.