Eating Clean: Are You Cheating On Your Abs?

Lisa Hostetter
Written By: Lisa Hostetter
September 11th, 2012
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Categories: Articles Fat Loss
193.9K Reads
Eating Clean: Are You Cheating On Your Abs?
Stop wasting your time and finally get those elusive six pack abs you are after by cutting back on sugar intake, high frequency cheat meals and processed foods.

Depending on your goal, you can’t have your cake and eat it too! Step slowly away from the cake. If your goal is to see your abs pop, then I will let you in on a little secret. Abs are not made in the gym; they are made in the kitchen.

If you are doing countless hours of cardio and ab crunches and seeing no results, it’s time to reevaluate your program. Everyone wants the secret to a six pack; well this truth may's your diet. Until you clean up your diet you will never see the lusted after six pack.

I speak with people all the time who are frustrated. They tell me that they ‘eat clean.’ Really are you?

What is your idea of eating clean? Think about this for a moment: if you can’t kill it or grow it, you shouldn't eat it. I told you this may hurt, but how bad do you want those abs?

The key component to losing body fat is not only being in a caloric deficit, but also having good nutrition. This means avoiding processed foods. If you can’t pronounce it, don't eat it.

The less processed a food is, the better it is for you. Read labels and remember, the fewer ingredients the better.  Canned foods are processed. Deli meats are processed and full of nitrates; avoid them both.

When reading labels be aware of ingredients such as minerals and vitamins. If they appear on the label they have been added, and the product is processed and not a good choice. This rule applies with 2% and low fat milk, as they both have added ingredients. Avoid them.

Better choices would include almond, goat or rice milk. If you are thinking, “what about my soy milk?” Soy produces estrogen and estrogen produces fat!

The body can only process 3-6 grams of sugar at one time (maximum 6). More than 6 grams turns to fat. Look at simple sugar as poison in the body.

It takes 3 weeks to withdraw from simple sugars. You will experience withdrawals; it is a chemical. Sweet-n-low and Splenda are chemicals. Choose Stevia, 1 TBSP honey or 1 TBSP sugar (no more!) A fruit by itself is a sugar!

Six pack abs

Everyone wants the secret to a six pack; well this truth may's your diet. Until you clean up your diet you will never see the lusted after six pack.

As for carbohydrates, select from complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, old fashioned oatmeal and sweet potatoes. Avoid simple carbohydrates including white rice, white bread and white bagels.

Some excellent choices include Ezekiel bread, Kangaroo whole wheat pita pockets, and Gia Russia whole wheat angel hair pasta. Ezekiel bread can be found in the freezer section of most grocery stores. The Kangaroo pockets can be located near the deli section. Select a grain with 3 grams of fiber or more.

Cheat Days And Six Pack Abs

Now what about those cheat days? I have found out through trial and error what worked best for me, and that was setting aside the cheat days.

For a long time I heard it was okay to have a cheat meal once a week, and that this would help my metabolism. I used this practice for quite a while, using different variations including a single cheat meal on a Friday, or an entire day of cheating once a week. Then I decided to stick to my meal plan do a cheat day or cheat meal only once a month.

Then it got to the point where I really wasn’t interested in cheating. It was almost too stressful to figure out what I really wanted! It was easier to stick to the plan. It was right after I had this epiphany that my abs started showing.

If you are eating clean, but still in a caloric surplus, your abs will not show. You not only have to eat clean but also be in a caloric deficit with relatively low body fat for your abs to really show. A higher amount of clean calories on training days and a lower amount of clean calories and carbs on non train days.

Now this does not mean if I was super duper hungry on leg day, I would not have an extra cup of oatmeal. I would, but the calories would be clean. No ifs, ands or buts about it!

Of course there is always an exception to every rule (post-workout nutrition) but this is a topic for another day. Your body also tells you what it needs. After a while you get so used to eating clean you stop craving junk, it is just a mindset.

This gave me the best results, the most muscle, and very little fat deposit. When you start to incorporate cheat meals or indulge in sugar, no matter how you cut, too much sugar equals belly fat. Simple as that!


When you whine and say you are not reaching your goal, take a look - I mean a REAL look at how clean you are eating. I bet you will answer your own aren’t eating as clean as you could be.

Again it all depends on your goals, but if you are on a quest to see the illusive six pack, ditch those cheat meals, eat clean and watch your abs pop! That is the secret.

Posted on: Sat, 05/30/2015 - 19:20

had my body composition tested and body power expo and it came back 85/100 at 8% body fat! and i disagree with a lot in this article! it always amazes me that its wrote with such conviction but would love to see some evidence and research on the bro science? why do I read these articles wrote by people who preach 6 pack abs at 15% body fat? if you want a 6 pack train hard and smart had balance your diet! please eat your fruit guys and white rice and white potato!

Posted on: Sat, 03/14/2015 - 19:45

Hi just wondering What fruit can I have if any? Can I have peanut butter?

Lisa H
Posted on: Sun, 03/15/2015 - 02:09

Hi Phil,
If you're going to have fruit, I would save it for post workout. Peanut butter is fine; just make sure it's not filled with junk. I would consider getting it from a health food store where you can crush it yourself.

Posted on: Sat, 02/21/2015 - 01:21

hey how can I eat clean if I don't cook, what can you suggest? Thanks

Posted on: Sun, 02/22/2015 - 02:43

If your serious about your physique you'll eventually want to take up cooking. In the mean time you could go with fresh vegetables, nuts, oatmeal, canned tuna etc.
For even more help check out my e-book, Pantry Raid; it will really help you get started in the kitchen!
Best of luck to you!

Posted on: Thu, 12/04/2014 - 01:14

Im wondering if i go on a all veggie smoothie diet do you think it will get my sixpack to show?

Posted on: Fri, 02/20/2015 - 23:13

I thought I was eating healthy by having just Cottage Cheese for dinner. 3 Cups - 660 Cals, 24 Carbs, 30 g of Fat and 78 g of Protein. I guess it does have 24 g of sugar from Lactose. Oh well.

Posted on: Sun, 11/02/2014 - 20:26

Take this *** off. I used to drink SOY MILK with my whey protein and NEVER got fat. Dumbass **** spreading around lies.

Posted on: Mon, 07/14/2014 - 06:29

Great info, I just have to know how many calories do you recommend for a healthy 52 year old male, 6'1" tall, 235 pound? Thanks

Lisa H
Posted on: Wed, 07/16/2014 - 12:32

Hi Ken,

Thanks! Here's a helpful link Make adjustments as needed, but if you like where you're at currently, just listen to your body. Days when you train you might find your hungrier.

Posted on: Tue, 07/08/2014 - 09:33

My name is Jot. my height is 176 cm and my weight 78.8 out of which 40.5 is muscle and my fat is 8.7. the diet i have been having is as follows:
- 8am: 1 serving of whey protien with a banana
- 10 am: 1 apple and 1 banana
-1pm: 330g of cooked turkey or chicken breast with 3 cups of salad with no oil
- 4pm: 1 banana with one serving of energy & endurance
-4:15 - 6pm: i do two types of work outs. I start out with T25 (basically 25 min of core cardio) and then do the p90x session depending on the program i have during that day.
- 6pm: i take one serving of whey and one serving of recovery drink
- 8pm: 224g of chicken breast with 270 grams of sweet potato or a cup of steamed rice with salad no oil.
- 10pm: 1 serving of casein.

this is my everyday routine. i have a question though; for instance today i ate a big piece of cake which i do once a month or so. does that affect my abs. my abs are already showing a bit but not as popped as i would like them to be. is there anything i should do to my routine that would make it better. the number of abs i do per day is an approximation of 600 abs excluding the T25 core cardio. I have been working out every single day for the past 110 days with out rest. I also would like to mention that i do incorporate an additional hour of tennis twice a week. i would really appreciate some tips on where i can improve to get the abs i am looking for.

Posted on: Tue, 05/06/2014 - 15:33

This is probably the worst article on here. Go read information about IIHYM nutrition and ditch this crap. Fruits and low fat dairy are essential to your diet. You can't get your macro needs by eating chicken breasts, broccoli, and rice for every meal contrary to what "broscience" tells you. If you're abs aren't showing it's probably because your portion control sucks.

Posted on: Sun, 05/31/2015 - 10:22

I totally agree Jake! most information on this site is great! this article is terrible!

Posted on: Wed, 04/16/2014 - 01:28

Hey! really good article.
I would love to give this a try as I have been trying to out-excersize my diet and have been gaining muscle but not loosing fat! Only query I have is that I am a female, type one insulin dependant diabetic which throws things out a little. Will this approach still work for me? thanks again for posting!

Lisa H
Posted on: Fri, 04/18/2014 - 14:30

Hi Chaumonty,

Thanks! Eating clean and minimally processed will be beneficial for you too. Just keep track of the carbohydrate content in the food and monitor your blood glucose levels.

Best wishes.

Posted on: Sun, 04/13/2014 - 13:14

just to clarify, if i want my abs to show, does that mean i shouldn't be eating lots of fruit?

Lisa H
Posted on: Tue, 04/15/2014 - 05:37

Hi Jake,
I would consider limiting the fruit to pre/post workout. Fruit has fructose which is considered a form of sugar and if you want to get lean then you must reduce or eliminate the amount of sugar in your diet.

Posted on: Wed, 01/08/2014 - 12:33

This is completely ridiculous. Track your macro intake and you can eat whatever you want. I eat pop tarts and ice cream every day day and went from 230 lbs of skinny fat to 185lbs with 8% bf looking like a greek god eating whatever I wanted. Some people are just trying to get glory wherever they want. Open your eyes and your mind.

Posted on: Tue, 05/06/2014 - 15:37

Interested to know how long it took you Jerry while eating ice cream and pop tarts. That being said, I agree with the notion that you can eat what you want if it meets your macros (within reason of course). Meeting your protein, carb, healthy fat, and macro needs are the most important thing above everything else. This is the type of article that makes people go insane trying to figure out what to eat.

Aidan Heath
Posted on: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 15:17

hi lisa im stuck what do i do i am 15 years old and sporty and athletic but my body just looks plain and skinny so i have been working out and eating as clean as i can but i havent been getting the slightest results what do i do ?

Lisa H
Posted on: Tue, 10/29/2013 - 05:35

Hi Aidan,

I would suggest increasing your daily calories. It sounds like you are very active and if your goal is to add some muscle than you have to eat a lot more. You could start by adding more calories to both your pre and post. Also I would increase your carbohydrate intake at each meal. Keep track and make adjustments as you go; use the mirror as your guide.

Train and eat consistently and over time you will see your hard work pay off.
Best of luck to you.

Posted on: Thu, 09/12/2013 - 15:37

I am a 24 yr old female and I really want to slenderize my body. I am already very slender but I would really like to go for the runway model look. Will I not achieve that look if I am doing weights in the gym? Or will it help? I do not want my muscles to grow mass but I want to look super toned and slim with slim muscles.

Lisa H
Posted on: Tue, 10/29/2013 - 14:25

Hi Alex,

I think lifting weights will enhance your overall figure. Since you are looking more towards runway/fashion I would discuss it with other girls that are already working in the industry. But it can never hurt to be in great shape.
Best of luck to you!

Posted on: Fri, 08/30/2013 - 17:17

It is pretty depressing and discouraging how easy it is to over do the sugar. Completely eliminating these things and by the sound of it basically making it to where they are never eaten again seems so impossible to me. I am greatly committed to my fitness and nutrition and work out religiously. Also much of my daily diet is clean but yes I certainly eat more processed sugars than I should. I can see myself giving up candy but completely eliminating processed food in every single aspect is just not going to happen. So, I suppose this means I am doomed to have some extra body fat forever?

Yavuz Turk
Posted on: Thu, 08/29/2013 - 07:38

But how they say as long as u eat clean is no problem and they say if u wanna get big eat more more calories tho

Lisa H
Posted on: Tue, 10/29/2013 - 14:32

Hi Yavuz,

If you are looking to bulk up and increase your overall muscle mass, I would suggest eating more calories. You can add quality muscle by eating clean, just increase your daily caloric intake and do it slowly. Keep track of what your eating and use the mirror as a guide.

Hope that helps.

Posted on: Sun, 08/18/2013 - 22:19

Hi, I was just wondering about fresh lemon in hotwater? I thought because lemons are not very sweet that they would not have much sugar and hopefully wouldn't hinder my results?
I have it in the morning but was thinking of having it through the day also.
What do you think?

Lisa H
Posted on: Wed, 08/21/2013 - 05:45

Hi Felicity,
I don't think lemon in hot water will hinder your results. And it is far better for you than drinking cola or juice.

Best of luck,

Lisa H

Posted on: Wed, 07/31/2013 - 10:51

Hey , i eat like 3 apples a day and a few grapes , maybe a bannana , and i workout 6 days a week ,,
Should i stop eating them?

Juan D
Posted on: Sat, 07/13/2013 - 00:46

Hi Lisa, Great article! Do I have this straight?
1) Eat no more that 6 grams at any one time ( anything more the body turns to fat)
2) You can go over the grams IF and only you eat this after a workout

So for example, If I want to I eat a protein bar that has 9 grams of total sugars, the best thing to do is slice it in half and eat one half now and other half later in the day? Each half I will consume 4.5 sugar grams. Is that they way to do it for this and all foods over the 6 grams sugar threshold?

Or alternatively, if I just worked out I can eat the whole bar?

Lisa H
Posted on: Tue, 07/16/2013 - 06:33

Juan D,
Thanks! Yes, I would use that as a general guideline to follow. Everybody's body react a little differently, so you could experiment and keep track. I would save that sugar for post w/o if getting lean is your ultimate goal.
You might also want to rethink the protein bars. Most bars are hard to assimilate, full of chemicals and sugar alcohols too. Check your label. Those little changes can make a big difference.
Let me know how it goes.
Best of luck.

Posted on: Sun, 07/07/2013 - 10:11

Best article on this! Very informative. Though i have heard the ans are made in the kitchen phrase countless times you really broke it down right down to the sugar facts. Chicken breast, sweet potato And green beans/ broccoli is my main go to meal. I dont have cheat days or cheat meals but I do have cravings some days and when I am not prepared it can be a pain in the ass!

Lisa H
Posted on: Sat, 07/13/2013 - 06:38


Thanks so much! It sounds like you are well on your way.
Good luck to you.

Ana Lee Rosas
Posted on: Fri, 06/28/2013 - 14:47

I absolutely love this post! Thank you for all the information, I actually learned something new about the way I was eating! I have been on a healthy fitness journey for about 6 months now and have been trying hard to get rid of my stubborn belly fat! I've lost about 20 lbs and have been gaining muscle since I started weight training in January-but gained a few pounds back (muscle mass) but no progress on my tummy area! I was starting to think it just wasn't in the books for me to have abs, but then I checked MyFitness Pal to see my sugar intake from this past week and holy cow.... NO WONDER I HAVENT BEEN ABLE TO GET RID OF THE BELLY! I have seen progress in my legs, arms, even my shoulders-but never my stomach. I realized my sugar intake ranges from 40-60g a day! Aghh SO glad I came across this, I will be tweaking my diet to incorporate only the sugar intake my body needs. I am pretty sure a trainer once told me to cut out sugar, but I didn't listen (of course). Thank you so much for this, again!

Would love to keep getting fitness/health tips from you!

Lisa H
Posted on: Sat, 06/29/2013 - 14:53

Ana Lee,
You are very welcome. It sounds like you are on your way! Please let me know how you do. You can checkout some of my healthy recipes at
Best of luck!
Lisa H

Posted on: Fri, 05/31/2013 - 06:42

As a clean sugar substitute, is C&H organic blue agave nectar a good choice?

Lisa H
Posted on: Sat, 06/01/2013 - 05:16

Hi Ted,
To be honest I have no experience with it. It is lower on the glycemic index. I would give it a try and see if it works for you.

Posted on: Wed, 05/15/2013 - 19:28

This was the dumbest thing i read you can eat whatever you want just gotta be in a deficit. And for your information all carbs convert to sugars so im guessing we should stay away from them sincd we cant eat fruit cause its sugar. Only reason to eat clean is for health issues

Posted on: Sat, 08/31/2013 - 10:03

Stephen, I don't claim to know everything about nutrition, but it seems a little ridiculous to me as well that anything past 6 grams of sugar in a meal turns to fat. This means that almost basically every meal we eat a portion of it turns to fat! Unless we consume absolutely zero carbs. Doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

Posted on: Fri, 04/19/2013 - 17:12

This link has foods that has sugar, fruits, yogurt..etc
Could you please suggest what would be ideal diet/meals to cut down on sugars?

Lisa H
Posted on: Mon, 04/22/2013 - 12:32

Hi Leah
Your best bet is to limit or eliminate the amount of sugar at each meal. Read the labels. The cleaner your food choices the less sugar they will have.
Good luck to you.

Posted on: Mon, 04/08/2013 - 09:27

The only sugar i m taking is 2 scoops of protein and 1 dozen bananas daily.
Am i eating right?

Posted on: Tue, 04/02/2013 - 22:44

Let me be honest here.a few years back a used to be fatty, but i started eating things such as those mentioned in the article while working out mute, and i had a six pack in a year and a half.before, when i first started,i was very strict on regards to what i are. Now it had gotten to the point where i eat whatever i want to, and it doesn't change my figure.last week i are two large pizzas on consecutive days, didn't work out, and still woke up in the morning with a six pack. So yes, always be aware of what you eat, but don't stress yourself about it, results will come with time.results will

Lisa H
Posted on: Fri, 04/05/2013 - 03:29

Congratulations to you. So true, if you stick with it and give it time it will come.

Posted on: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 15:56

Where can I get a good meal plan?

Lisa H
Posted on: Mon, 04/01/2013 - 13:14

Hi Chasity,
I think this will help you get started!
Best of Luck to YOU!
Lisa H

Runner girl
Posted on: Fri, 03/08/2013 - 14:07

Thanks for the article! Like many who have wrote before, I workout 6 days a week with cardio, some weights, core workouts, and eat pretty well. I do love my fruits and have been eating more of it (grapes, melon) which may be why I don't see much ab progress lately. What do you suggest for a daily fruit in take? Should i A banana and an apple?

Lisa H
Posted on: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 06:14

Hi Runner Girl,
I like that name!(: Everything in moderation, but if your looking for a six pack, limit your fruit intake to postwork out. Fruit = Fructose and Fructose = sugar! Good to see you are weight training and doing cardio too. If you still aren't seeing the results you desire make sure you diet is in check eating 'pretty well' and eating clean are two different things. Eating clean in the long run will provide you with the results you are looking for!
Best of luck to you!(:
Lisa H

Posted on: Tue, 03/05/2013 - 22:36

Hi, im jessica.
Im vegan. And im trying to define my abs !
This article means i cannot eat fruits?!
I want to lose like 5 kilos to define abs.

Lisa H
Posted on: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 06:09

Hi Jessica,
If your are trying to define your abs and get lean you must reduce or eliminate sugar from your diet. I would limit the fruits also make sure you are in a calorie deficit to see those abs pop!
Hope that helps you!
Lisa H (: