The so called beer belly is a common ailment in our society, particularly in men, but what can you do to get rid of your beer belly and why does this type of fat pose such a high risk to our health?
What causes a beer belly?
Contrary to its name, a beer belly is not necessarily caused by excess beer consumption, although this can definitely contribute.
A protruding belly can be caused by any extra calories from any source that are surplus to your requirements, although there does seem to be some link between alcohol and belly fat as when we drink a lot, the body metabolizes alcohol in preference to fat.
Alcoholic drinks also tend to be very high in calories and often provide calories that are surplus to requirements. It is also common to eat more and make poor nutritional choices whilst under the effect of alcohol, so this may also contribute to extra calories and therefore fat gain.
When we consume more calories than we burn we gain fat. In women this fat tends to be distributed more evenly over the body, but in men it is more commonly stored in the belly region, although this depends on genetics to some degree too.
As we age, hormone levels decrease and we generally become less active, contributing to higher levels of belly fat as we age.
Why is it unhealthy to have a beer belly?
Aside from the negative visual aspect of a beer belly, there are also numerous health risks associated with the accumulation of fat in the belly area.
Studies have linked high levels of belly fat and large waist circumferences with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. A waist circumference greater than 35 inches in women and 40 inches is men are associated with increased risk of disease and death.
How to get rid of a beer belly
Unfortunately there is no magic cure for a beer belly. There are no specific workouts that will target this area and whilst abdominal exercises such as crunches will strengthen your core, they will not reduce fat in the area.
The only way to reduce waist circumference is in fact to achieve a state of negative energy balance, where you are burning more calories than you are consuming.
The best way to do this is to increase your level of physical activity to burn more energy, eat less calories or, ideally, a combination of both of these strategies.
The good news is that belly fat tends to be the first to go when you do lose weight.
Ways to reduce you calorie intake
If you are an alcohol drinker, this can be a good way to cut your calories easily and reduce your beer belly. If eliminating alcohol completely is too challenging, try to choose lower calorie options such as wine or spirits with a low calorie mixer.
When drinking, try to have one low calorie drink, ideally water, between each alcoholic beverage to limit your intake.
Choose low energy density foods
Filling up on foods that provide few calories is a good way to reduce your overall energy consumption. Vegetables and fruit are ideal for this and are also highly nutritious.
Try to make half of your plate vegetables at each meal if possible and choose fruit as a lower calorie snack.
Avoid high calorie drinks
Aside from alcohol, there are plenty of other drinks that can contribute to your calorie intake, often without you noticing as people as generally less aware of the calorie content of what they are drinking than what they are eating.
Avoid sodas, juices, cordials and milk drinks where possible and choose water and herbal teas as the best way to hydrate yourself with minimal calories.
Reduce portion sizes
Excessively large portion sizes are a common source of excess calories that can cause weight to creep on. To avoid this, measure out serve sizes according to the nutritional information label so as to be sure as to how many calories you are consuming.
Eating off a smaller plate can also help to reduce portions. When eating out share a meal with a friend or choose an appetizer as an entrée as restaurant meals tend to be very big.
Avoid high sugar and fat foods
Sugar and fat both contribute a large amount of calories and by reducing these you can cut calories from your diet.
Of particular concern are foods that are high in sugar and unhealthy fats that provide no nutritional benefit. Pastries, cakes, candy and fried foods should all be avoided where possible.
Avoiding eating too many processed foods is also a good way to cut your fat and sugar intake as these foods often contain these ingredients for preservation and to improve taste.
References used in this article