The Truth About a Beer Belly

The Truth About a Beer Belly

I’m mad!!! I’m 37 and I’ve come to the harsh reality that the older I get, the easier and easier it is to get that beer belly that every man dreads. Growing up, I was truly blessed with great genes and I somehow always had six pack abs all the way through college. Now, with my metabolism slowing down, my taste palette craving finer foods, and my love for micro brews and great wine increasing, maintaining a decent looking body is becoming harder and harder.

I hate to say it but being a “foodie” is slowly going to morph my six-pack abs into a keg if I don’t keep an eye on it. Are any of you feeling the same way in that one weekend of eating and drinking at a bar will take 2 weeks worth of dieting and working out? Now if you’re like me and slowing seeing that “beer belly” developing, you’re not alone. It seems beer drinkers across the globe have a tendency to grow bellies, especially as they get older, and especially if they are men. But is it really beer that causes a “beer belly”? Not all beer drinkers have them — some teetotalers sport large ones. So what really causes men, and some women, to develop the infamous paunch?

What Causes a Beer Belly?

It’s not necessarily beer but too many calories that can turn your trim waistline into a belly that protrudes over your pants. Any kind of calories — whether from alcohol, sugary beverages, or oversized portions of food — can increase belly fat. However, alcohol does seem to have a particular association with fat in the midsection.

“In general, alcohol intake is associated with bigger waists, because when you drink alcohol, the liver burns alcohol instead of fat,” says Michael Jensen, MD, an endocrine expert and obesity researcher with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Beer also gets the blame because alcohol calories are so easy to overdo. A typical beer has 150 calories – and if you down several in one sitting, you can end up with serious calorie overload. There’s a reason why beer is sold in 6 and 12 packs as I know I can’t just have one beer when grilling outside. There are weekends where I’ll have 3-4 a day or other weekends I can do 6-8 beers a day. Multiply that by 150 calories and you’ve just realized how fast empty calories can add up.

Oh yeah, don’t forget about all those calories from the foods you wash down with those beers. Braised short rib poutine, deep fried cauliflower, pork belly buns, and hot wings don’t help your cause. There’s no secret that alcohol can increase your appetite but I also feel as though great food increases my appetite for more beer as well.

Why Does Fat Accumulate in the Belly?

When you take in more calories than you burn, the excess calories are stored as fat. Where your body stores that fat is determined in part by your age, sex, and hormones. Boys and girls start out with similar fat storage patterns, but puberty changes that. Women have more subcutaneous fat (the kind under the skin) than men, so those extra fat calories tend to be deposited in their arms, thighs, and buttocks, as well as their bellies. Because men have less subcutaneous fat, they store more in their bellies.

Beer bellies tend to be more prominent in older people because as you get older, your calorie needs go down, you often become less active, and gaining weight gets easier.

As hormone levels decline in men and women as they age, they’re more likely to store fat around the middle. Menopausal women who take hormone replacement therapy tend to have less of a shift toward more belly fat than those who do not.

Studies suggest that smokers may also deposit more fat in their bellies, Jensen says.

What’s Wrong With a Beer Belly?

Belly fat in the midsection does more than reduce your chances of winning the swimsuit competition. It’s linked to a variety of health problems, from type 2 diabetes to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Hell guys, I’ll say it on behalf of the ladies…..it’s flat out not sexy at all. Why do you think women go crazy over The Rock, Chris Hemsworth, Ryan Gosling, and Jason Momoma? Trust in that it ain’t their personalities.

Further, visceral fat within the abdominal wall is frequently measured by waist circumference. “When waist circumference exceeds 35 inches for women and 40 for men, it is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and overall mortality,” Jensen says. He cautions that these numbers are simply guidelines, and recommends keeping your waist size below these numbers.

Losing Your Belly

There is no magical way to tackle belly fat other than the tried-and-true method of cutting calories and getting more physical activity. Monounsaturated fats and so-called “belly fat” diets won’t trim your belly faster than any healthy, low-calorie diet, Jensen says.

Because of the link between alcohol calories and belly fat, drinking less alcohol is a good place to start. Avoid binge drinking, which puts you at risk for liver damage and other serious health problems. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting alcohol to one serving per day for women and two for men. Beer lovers should opt for light beers with 100 calorie or less, and limit the number they drink per day. Another option is to drink alcohol only on weekends, and to alternate alcoholic drinks with low-calorie, non-alcohol beverages. Don’t forget to have a healthy meal before or with your drinks to help you resist the temptation of high-calorie bar food. But if you’re like me and enjoy a beer or two during the week, here’s a few activities that may help with controlling that belly fat.

1. Increase Physical Activity

Increasing your amount of daily physical activity can help reduce belly fat. Your tummy might be the first place on your body that you’ll start to see improvement when you shed pounds and tone muscles. Harvard Medical School suggests doing cardio for at least 30 to 60 minutes every day and incorporating strength training on two days.

2. Strengthen Abdominal Muscles

Spot exercises that target your tummy can give your belly a more toned appearance. For the lower abdominal muscles, try pulling your navel in toward your back as you exhale. Hold the contraction for 10 seconds while you breathe as normal, and then relax. You can also try pelvic lifts and sit-ups to strengthen stomach muscles and flatten your midsection.

3. Adjust Eating Habits

Skipping meals and drastically cutting calories can slow your metabolism and trigger an increase in belly fat. Harvard Medical School notes that crash diets may make your body believe it’s starving and lead it to store fat to survive. If you’re hoping to lose weight, the publication recommends reducing portion sizes, eating lean proteins and complex carbohydrates and choosing foods with trans fats instead of saturated fats.

4. Change Bad Habits

Habits that negatively affect your health can lead to an increase in belly fat and visceral fat, according to Harvard Medical School. Smoking, for example, can lead your body to store more fat in your stomach instead of storing it in your thighs and hips. Getting less than five hours of sleep each night and feeling stressed can also increase visceral fat, because excess cortisol — a stress hormone — can cause an accumulation of visceral fat.

 

This is not easy! I’m sure that I’m not the only one struggling with this topic. It truly is frustrating to know that I workout “just so that I can have a cheat day or two” but it’s the harsh reality that I am faced with. But understanding what it takes and where the sources come from will allow me to better monitor my physique. I love food, there’s no doubt about that, but with everything in life, moderation and being aware of the situation will help in the long run. I encourage everyone out there to know your limits but also know when it’s time to put your health before your habits. Feel free to reach out to us if you need any help or need some encouragement!

Blayne

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