Getting abs can take as little as 4-6 weeks for leaner individuals who are very active, to months, depending on your age, starting point, diet, and exercise regimen.
To get abs you need to decrease body fat levels and build the abs through weight training. Losing body fat comes from being in a slight calorie deficit through calorie restriction and exercise. Training abs directly to build muscle can improve definition and help you get abs quicker (when paired with fat loss).
If you have struggled to get abs in the past, and are wanting to lose fat around the midsection, increase the definition of your abs, this article will lay out everything you need to know to get abs quicker.
- Factors that Impact How Long It Takes to Get Abs
- Detailed Timeline on the Results You Can Expect When Trying to Get Abs
- 7 Quick Tips to Get Abs
Factors That Go Into How Long It Takes To Get Abs
Getting abs depends on several factors, some of which are within your control, and others not so much.
The good news is that the ones within your control (diet, exercise, compliance) are often the most significant driving forces of getting the results you want.
Below, we will discuss seven of the most influential factors that determine the total time it takes you to get the abs you are after.
Males typically carry adipose (fat) around the midsection, whereas females tend to carry it around the hips and thighs. Males also tend to have lower body fat percentages than females making it often easier to get visual abs quicker.
Generally speaking, males may be able to get abs quicker than females just because they tend to start with lower body fat percentages, however this is very specific to the individual and their stated body fat levels.
Older individuals will find it takes longer to get abs than when they were young.
As you get older, hormones decrease (testosterone and growth hormone), metabolism drops, and muscle loss often occurs due to aging(and increased sedentary lifestyles). All of these can contribute to increased fat accumulation, especially around the midsection in men over the age of 40.
If you are older it may take more time to get abs than a younger version of yourself, but it can be done. You will need to focus on your diet, increasing physical activity, lifting weights, and being consistent for longer periods of time.
Genetics do play a large role in your overall body composition or predisposition to gaining fat and/or remaining lean. While genetics do play a large role in physical appearance and body shapes, diet and exercise can actually be done to improve fat loss in most populations.
If you are someone who genetically loses weight with ease, and is naturally a leaner build, you can expect to get abs quicker than someone who struggles to lose weight and is not naturally as lean. With consistent diet and exercise, you can get abs, it may just take more consistency and patience.
Some medical conditions can slow down the rate of weight loss and fat loss, such as hormonal imbalances, diabetes, and other metabolic diseases.
If you are someone who has a medical condition, you need to make sure you are cleared for physical activity.
If you have a medical condition that impacts your hormone production and/or are on medications that impact hormones, you will find it more challenging to get abs quickly as it will take longer and often require more consistently.
Current Body Fat Levels
The more body fat you have to start with, especially the more abdominal fat, the longer it will take you to get abs.
As a general rule, if you are on the leaner side and already have soft, maybe slightly visible abs and want to make them more pronounced, you should aim to lose 0.5-1lb per week, which will allow for fat loss and minimal muscle loss.
If you are someone who has more body fat, you may be able to lose 1-2lbs per week, however anything faster than that may suggest you are losing 1-2lbs of fat per week, and the rest of the weight loss is coming from muscle and water loss.
When looking to lose body fat from the abs, slow and steady is the name of the game.
How Compliant You Are to Diet and Training
Diet adherence and exercise compliance simply means how well you stick to your diet and workout program. Cheat meals, skipping logging foods, or taking “weekend diet breaks” will all derail your success in getting abs.
If you want to get abs quickly, you need to be methodical in your diet adherence and aim to achieve 85-90%, or higher, success rates on your daily diet.
Individuals who take cheat days (or even a few meals a week), or are inconsistent with their diet and workout schedule will find it very difficult to get abs, and may not even get them. If this is the case, you need to be more strict with your diet to get abs quicker.
The more experienced you are with dieting and weight training, the easier it may be for you to adhere and comply with a workout and diet plan.
While this is not always the case, the more you train and diet properly, the easier it will be for you to commit to the process, develop better will power, and strengthen your ability to not cave into social/peer pressures.
The more experience someone has with meal planning, calorie/macro counting, following a diet, combating social pressures, and working out regularly, the quicker they tend to get abs. Beginners can get abs quickly, they just need to make sure they follow a good diet program and workout plan.
Related Article: Should I Lose Weight Before Building Muscle?
Results That You Can Expect: Getting Abs Timeline
The table below provides a brief overview of the results you can expect within various time frames when you’re trying to get abs.
|One Day||You will not see a significant amount of progress after just one day. In fact, anything within the first two weeks is typically caused by hydration, food in the gut, waste (excrete), and/or eating fewer calories or more calories the day before.|
|One Week||One week is also not enough time to see any major body composition changes. Some say, you may be able to lose 1-2lbs of fat or gain 0.25-0.5lbs of muscle in that time, however most of your weight fluctuations will still be due to water weight/loss and/or food wastes.|
|You may notice that your abs are starting to have some definition, or at least your pants/shorts are fitting differently. At this point, you may have even lost a few pounds, which for most people the rate of fat loss is between 2-8lbs in a one month period (more advanced, leaner individuals lose fat slower, since they have less fat to lose).|
|Two Months |
|If you were already fairly lean (starting already with visible abs or slightly visible abs), you may be able to see more definition after two months, assuming your training and nutrition have been on point. If you started less lean, and had more fat to lose, you may or may not see visible abs yet but you will have noticed your waist gets smaller and you lost anywhere between 8-16lbs. If you have lost more weight than that and still do not see your abs, keep going, and make sure you are eating enough to support hard weight training. If you have not lost that much in the two months of dieting, then you need to focus on your adherence to your diet and be more consistent.|
|Six Months |
|Six months is enough time to start seeing results, especially if you spent 12-16 weeks in a calorie deficit and you’ve been successfully maintaining your weight since then.|
|One Year||One year is enough time to see significant body composition changes if you were compliant during fat loss phases throughout the year and stayed consistent with your training routine.|
|Two Years||After two years, you’ve likely been able to achieve the physique you want or have made a very significant change in your lifestyle as long as you haven’t had any extended periods where you’ve neglected your workouts or healthy eating habits. You’ll likely find it harder to continue to lose belly fat at the same rate as when you started, however that is because you have less to lose now. The same rules apply this time around, however your total rate of loss will be slower.|
How To Get Abs Quickly: 7 Tips
1. Lose Body Fat
The most obvious solution to getting abs is to lose body fat, which comes from being in a calorie deficit.
When losing body fat, you want to make sure that you do it by decreasing caloric intake, increasing physical activity in the gym, and also increasing your activity outside the gym.
Increasing your physical activity outside the gym (the other 23 hours of the day) can play a big role in losing fat, especially when paired with eating less and working out.
To determine how many calories to eat, you will need to determine your total daily energy expenditure, and then decrease that number by 5-10%. This is your starting point.
From there, you will track your body weight twice per week (Mondays and Fridays work best). Every week, compare your weight to the prior week (compared Mondays to Mondays, and Fridays to Fridays).
For the first two weeks, eat the same number of calories as you started (TDEE – 10%).
Starting the third week, you will need to probably start decreasing your food intake by 5-10%.
You will continue to slowly decrease your food intake 5-10% until you are at a scale weight loss of 1-2lbs per week.
If you get to a point where you are losing 1-2lbs a week consistently, then DO NOT continue to eat less and less, but rather eat the same amount of calories per day as the week prior until your weight loss stalls, then you can decrease another 5-10%.
This will help ensure you are not losing scale weight too fast, which would suggest muscle loss.
After 12-16 weeks of this, you will want to transition into a maintenance diet. It is not recommended to lose more than 10% of your starting body weight in a single diet phase, as you will run the risk of regaining weight back after your diet.
Taking 6-8 weeks after a long diet to maintain your new body weight range (often by eating slightly more food, and making sure that you do not gain more than 1-2% of the weight you lost) is key.
This will help you in the long term teach your body how to maintain a leaner physique indefinitely.
Related Article: Ab Day At The Gym: How To Do It Properly + Sample Program
2. Train Abs Directly
Training abs directly will help you increase muscle hypertrophy and definition.
It is important to note that if you train abs directly, and do not adhere to a diet, you will still get stronger abs, however you will not have the desired definition you are looking for. This is because to have visible muscle definition, you need to lose body fat.
Endless amounts of abs workouts will not outperform a good diet.
Most people can get away with training abs a few times a week and have amazing results if they stick to a diet, with some individuals not even needing to train them directly (or if they do, it’s very minimally) as long as they eat properly.
3. Get Enough Sleep
The harsh reality is lack of sleep can result in decreased ability to lose fat.
This doesn’t mean you can’t lose fat with a poor sleep schedule, but it does mean you will have a tougher time doing so than if you got enough sleep.
The participants adhered to the same moderately caloric restriction diet protocol (adjusted based on the individual). This goes to show that poor sleep, despite your best efforts in the gym and diet, can 100% make fat loss more challenging.
4. Manage Stress Properly
A study also found that when a high fat, high sugar diet is paired with a lifestyle that also produces high stress (such as work, lack of sleep, relationship, etc), fat gain and specified obesity risk increases even more so.
The takeaway here is that it is sometimes difficult to remove all the stress from your life, but you can change your eating habits.
If you do not change your eating or your stress, you are really putting yourself at risk for weight gain and metabolic issues down the road.
Focusing on your diet, working out to relieve stress, and taking more walks are all great ways to combat this.
5. Decrease Calories, But Don’t Crash Diet
As discussed above, losing fat is necessary to getting abs.
Crash diets often have the individual solely focus on losing weight on the scale, and doing so as rapidly as possible.
This comes from a drastic restriction in calorie intake, and can also be coupled with an increase in physical activity.
While the principles here apply to all fat loss programs (eat less, move more), the accelerated process can do more harm than good.
Excessive weight loss can result in muscle loss, decreased metabolism, and a higher risk of regaining weight, especially fat tissue after the crash diet ends.
In addition to those potential negative outcomes, research has found that crash dieting can cause psychotic disturbances in some individuals, and can create an unhealthy relationship with foods, eating, and mental health.
6. Don’t Neglect Weights
One of the biggest issues with individuals who are dieting is that when losing fat, you also run the risk of losing muscle mass as well.
As discussed throughout this article, you want to lose weight on the scale slowly, and focus on training hard with weights to maintain as much lean muscle mass as possible to ensure you are only losing fat (or the highest proportions of weight loss is coming from fat loss).
In this study they found that while restricting calories alone results in weight loss, it also resulted in higher proportions of muscle loss when compared to groups who restricted calories and lifted weights.
If you are looking to achieve a lean, muscular physique with defined abs, you need to make sure you eat less AND lift weights (cardio is not lifting weights).
Related Article: What Is The Best Cardio For Abs? (13 Examples)
7. Increase Protein Intake
In one study, they found that sedentary and older individuals should eat 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram per day.
Adults who are more physically active can benefit from eating evenmore, upwards of over 2x (1.2-1.6 grams per kilogram) the recommended amount by the RDA.
When you consume higher protein during a period of calorie restriction, you can help preserve muscle mass and help recovery, which are two key issues to be aware of when you are placing your body in a calorie restricted phase.
Looking for a workout program? Try using the Fitbod App, which will design your program based on your logged training data and goals. The workouts will adapt automatically to your levels of recovery and rate of progress. With over 600 movements and exercises videos, you can be sure to perform the movements correctly for optimal results. Take the guesswork out of your workouts. Try 3 free workouts on Fitbod.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do You Need To Do Abs Every Day to Get Abs?
The abs are like most muscles, meaning to train them properly you should train hard and let them recover. Training them a few times a week with rest in between will help you get great results.
Is It Possible To Get Abs Without Training Abs Directly?
Yes, it is 100% possible because getting abs comes down to losing body fat through your diet. If you do not have a lot of muscle mass to begin with, your abs will not be as defined or muscle as you may want. Training the abs directly a few times a week, and eating properly are your best bet for getting abs.
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About The Author
Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting Advanced Coach, and has over 10+ years of experience working with collegiate athletes, national level lifters, and beginners alike. Mike is Founder of J2FIT Strength and Conditioning, a growing global training company with gyms in New York City, Cincinnati, and online offering personal training, online custom coaching programs.