Let’s face it; having defined abdominal muscles (abs) may take some work, but the payoff is worth it. Besides improving one’s physical looks, being in top shape can reduce the risk of heart disease and other health conditions. Maintaining optimum health can prolong one’s life and reduce or eliminate the aches and pains associated with poor health. Defined abs aren’t possible without eating healthy, getting exercise for the entire body (not just those abs), and getting the sleep our bodies demand in order to regenerate and function properly.

Here are seven tips for how to get amazing abs and how to keep them:

1.       Eat healthy. Yes, changing your diet is that important—not just to develop amazing abs but also for staying strong and healthy. Eliminating non-nutritious foods, reducing “bad” fats, and being mindful of carb and protein intake is an excellent start. If you work with a nutritionist, they can help you tailor your diet for optimum health and pave the way for well-defined abs.

2.       Supplement with vitamins, healthy beverages, and snacks that provide nutrition rather than empty calories. Thoroughly research products that promise easy or fast results for getting defined abs and see if they’re right for you.

3.       Stay hydrated. It’s easy to become quickly dehydrated, especially during a workout session or while exerting energy during almost any activity. Another downside to not staying hydrated is that if it is habitual, the body will store water under the skin for when needed. This can make the body appear fat, even when it’s not. When the body has the right amount of water on a consistent basis, this can also reduce unhealthy cravings. The daily amount of water you need will depend on your weight and other factors, so it will vary from one person to the next.

4.       Perform workouts for your abs at least three times every week. Ab-focused, intensive workouts are necessary in order to get the most defined and rock solid muscles possible. A three-time a week routine will provide you the ability to focus on each area of the abs to maximize your results. Eventually, you may even wish to increase your abs workouts per week to everyday. The key is to not try to achieve too much too fast as it will be nearly impossible to meet your expectations. This can kill your motivation and cause you to abandon your goal of getting the perfect abs. Start out small and work your way up—this is how you can be successful.

5.       Increase the weight used in your abs exercises over time. Just as you should slowly increase your workout times, you should slowly increase the weight you use to add resistance. As the abs build up muscle, they will be able to handle more and more weight which in turn while add muscle density. Weighted abs exercises can pave the way to deeply-defined abs.

Get well-defined abs on your way to optimum health, and keep them.