In October, I was a month away from turning 30. Jumping from the 20s to the 30s is a big psychological milestone. I decided that I’m going to enter my 30s in style—with a six pack. Now, I’ve been somewhat fit for a while—a regular at the gym or the running track, and I run a website (www.fitho.in) that customizes diet and fitness plans—but I’ve never had a six pack. I had wanted one for a while, so this was the perfect incentive.

I had only 24 days, and those too were packed with festivities and weddings. Getting a chiselled tummy at such a time was like sprinting through a minefield, but sprint I did.

The plan in place

Make it public: Keep your family and friends in the loop, like Dhruv Gupta did, as they can help you stay on track. Pradeep Gaur/Mint

My workout and diet plan, designed by fitness experts at www.fitho.in, was simple (the website charges 3,950 for a monthly plan). It started with core muscle work (planks) to strengthen the overall body, and then a short 5-minute run to warm up all the muscles; then some weight training. The idea was to hit each body part twice a week, and two body parts per session. To keep it time-efficient, the weights I lifted were heavy, and the repetitions fewer (four-six). As a result, I ended up doing work, burning more calories, growing more muscle and burning more fat. I also dropped steady-state cardio (jogging, for example) and did fast sprints instead to burn calories faster.

The diet schedule

Athletes or movie stars often stick to a six-meal-a-day plan, with smaller portions spread over the day, which they say is the most efficient way of getting nutrition while keeping your weight in check. But this was tough for me and would have taken too much planning. Besides, it would have been impossible to stick to this when I was in meetings or travelling. So I decided to follow a three-meal plan with some tea and coffee between the sessions. I ate everything except sugar and oily foods, and tried to get my carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables instead of rice or bread. I was eating a lot of vegetables and one or two fruits a day. I ate fish oil and vitamin B supplements every day, and also the occasional whey protein shake at breakfast instead of eggs—no other supplements. Overall, the key was to control portions, and not eat too much.

The mission and the challenges

To make sure I stuck to the plan and achieved my goal, I decided to make myself publicly accountable. I set up a website (easy for me, I’m in the Internet industry). Every day, I would wake up, take a photo of my shirtless torso and post it online. Then, I sent a link to friends and family. To keep the focus on the goal of getting a six pack in 24 days, the website (www.24daysixpack.com) contained no information about me.

Losing fat during the festival or wedding season is a nightmare. I faced a problem controlling portions sometimes at weddings, because often you have nothing to do and time to kill, so it’s very easy to drink, or just keep eating—first the snacks, and then dinner. And wedding food is just absolutely unhealthy.

At the first wedding I attended after starting on my mission, I had no problem leaving the alcohol untouched. I stood at the venue for hours and did not eat any of the delicious fish fingers, deep-fried mutton kebabs, chicken malai tikka or the stuffed paneer tikka. This was tough. So I hit the bar and got some fresh lime soda. Eventually I downed three of them. All that soda and fresh lime totally filled my stomach, and helped me get through the wedding.

Every time I failed to stick to my plan, I tried to compensate the next day by eating really healthy meals—fruits, vegetables, grilled fish, egg whites, sprouts, yogurt, and also by upping the intensity of my workouts.

Work pressure, of course, was the most difficult thing to negotiate. There was always some reason to stay late at work and not hit the gym. On days when I was dead tired, I would force myself to the gym, and thankfully I love my time at the gym. So, within 5 minutes of starting my workout, my tiredness would disappear. My wife was also a constant source of support and inspiration for me—she would talk me into hitting the gym or sticking to my nutrition plan. Even on days when I just had no time to hit the gym, I would do plyometrics, which are designed to get your heart racing and burn lots of fat through short sessions of intense movements. I also focused on engaging my core muscles by sitting up straight at work or while watching TV.

The food at office cafeterias and office meetings was a major hurdle. I tried to steer clear of eating at these places, because the food is unhealthy. When I had no choice, I would eat very small portions.

The end result

Did I get a six pack? Yes, I could see my abs. But they were not exactly where I wanted them to be, because I had my days of indulgence catching up with me. The progress was zigzag. Most days I moved ahead, but there were some days when I moved backwards or just remained stagnant. But it was still a joy to get muscle definition on my stomach.

What did I learn? As in business, it helps to track your goals. Also, like a public company is forced to share results, so sharing your fitness goal helps, since your friends and family help you stay on track.

At the end of the 24 days was my 30th birthday, and yes I celebrated—no gym and an unlimited feast with friends.

Dhruv Gupta is a director with Fitho Venture, a wellness and fitness company.

THE EXERCISE PLAN

• Start each gym workout with 4-5 minutes of core exercises: 1 minute each of side planks, 2 minutes of regular planks, two sets of renegade rows—no crunches.

• 1-2 body parts per day. Heavy lifts. Three-four exercises per body part, five sets per exercise, target reps: four-six

• Sprints: two-three times a week

• Static stretches post-workout: 10-15 seconds

Golden rule: Use your core when doing any big lift: shoulder press, squats, etc. Even while sprinting. It increases the amount of power you can generate, reduces the load on your back, and helps you develop better abs.

LEAN, MEAN ABS DIET

Morning

Always start the day with a litre of water. For breakfast, have a smoothie (one cup low-fat yogurt/milk, one scoop whey, one fruit and cinnamon) or scrambled eggs (six whites, two yolks, 1tsp olive oil). Six-eight almonds daily.

• Mid-morning

Green tea/black tea/coffee, no sugar

• Lunch

Keep it light: A bowl of sautéed sprouts and a fruit, and sautéed vegetables

• Evening/pre-workout

Green tea/black tea/coffee, no sugar

• Dinner/post-workout

Sautéed vegetables and grilled chicken/fish. Chicken or tuna salad with 1tsp mayonnaise and mustard. A big bowl of home-cooked vegetables or chicken with one cup dal/yogurt. Chicken/fish kebabs .

• Supplements

With breakfast: fish oil capsules and vitamin B, whey protein

Diet rules: Total calorie target was 1,500-1,600 calories (about 22 calories per kg of body weight at 12% body fat). If I ate too much at one meal, I would compensate at the next, to manage overall calorie intake. One cheat meal a week, preferably at lunch, was allowed. I ate low-fat meals after workouts, and always tried to eat foods high in nutrition—whether it was protein, healthy carbohydrates, vitamins or minerals.

For a detailed account, log on to www.24daysixpack.com

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