How to get rid of a beer belly with diet and exercise
A beer belly isn’t just a holdover from college days. Even if you’re not chowing down on Bud Lights (or calorific IPAs) like you used to, chances are your beer belly has gotten bigger. Age, stress, eating habits and lack of exercise are all to blame, of course. But even if you reverse all of that, regaining a flat stomach can be nearly impossible. Getting rid of excess fat, however, is worth the effort. Because IWhatever name you give your belly fat – beer belly, pot belly, spare tire – too much belly fat is downright unhealthy.
“The problem with beer belly, or abdominal obesity, is that it’s correlated with many health complications like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, erectile dysfunction, and fatty liver,” explains Pouya Shafipour, MD, family medicine specialist at Paloma Health. “Belly fat is also associated with a higher mortality risk. So, it may be a physical characteristic that you are not thrilled with, but also that can shorten your lifespan. Here is your game plan.
What causes a beer belly
Abdominal obesity is a two-pronged problem, with some factors you can control and some you can’t. First, one cause is aging, which unless you’re Benjamin Button, there’s not much you can do about it. “As we reach a certain age, the distribution of body fat changes in men and women,” Shafipour explains. “It’s also much easier to store extra energy as fat.” This fat transfer can happen sooner than you think, with increase abdominal fat accumulation from the age of 30.
Lifestyle choices can also impact belly fat, and which ones you have some influence over, says Abby Grimm, RD, registered dietitian at FWDfuel sports nutrition. “This can include poor blood sugar management by eating too many refined carbohydrates found in cookies, chips, crackers, and white bread,” says Grimm. “If these carbs aren’t used up by exercise and movement, they’re stored as fat.” Stress can also increase belly fat because it stimulates cortisol, a hormone that stores fat, into overload.
And of course there is beer and other spirits. “Alcohol not only causes excess calorie intake, but it forces the liver to work hard to detoxify itself, so it spends less time burning other fat stores,” Grimm says. “It inadvertently leads to belly fat.”
How to Get Rid of a Beer Belly
There’s no magic formula that will automatically make your beer belly go away. As with general health and wellness, all roads lead to diet and exercise. Try these strategies to reduce your height.
“Sugar is a major culprit of belly fat,” says Shafipour. “It’s easy to say ‘cut the sugar’, but putting it into practice is difficult. Instead, start by not making sugar available to you by not buying sugary foods and storing them in your kitchen. If you physically have to fetch ice cream, it takes a lot more effort and may deter you from doing so.
In addition to watching your sugar intake (which includes alcohol and beer, by the way), Shafipour says a simple tip is to be careful during meals. Sit down, don’t rush, and multitask (i.e. scroll through your phone at the same time) so your digestive system and brain can get in sync. This can prevent you from overeating and losing weight with minimal effort.
If you’re looking for inspiration for your meals, Grimm advises turning to high-protein foods (eggs, nuts, lean chicken and beef), non-starchy vegetables (squash, asparagus, dark leafy greens, tomatoes ) and complex carbs like quinoa and brown rice, to make up your plate.
Replace whiskey with water
What you drink can be just as important as what you eat. Along with limiting beer and alcohol, Grimm says staying hydrated is key to avoiding excess fat. Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day. As for coffee, limit yourself to no more than two cups a day because caffeine can increase cortisol levels.
Get off your butt
“Being sedentary is arguably one of the biggest health issues people face today,” Shafipour says. Aim for 30 minutes of movement per day. It can be anything – a jog, walk, bike ride, or whatever else you like that gets your heart rate up and keeps you active (check out our extensive archive of the best exercises for men to get started). A walk after dinner can also be a helpful tactic for reducing belly fat and keeping you out of the kitchen for a late-night snack, Grimm says. Once you get into a rhythm, increase your activity level to 60 minutes a day, three times a week.