There comes a day in many a man’s life when he finds himself standing in the shower, realising that he can’t see the bottom half of his body past his bulging midriff.
A beer belly, though not always caused by excessive beer consumption, frequently catches men by surprise: as we get older, less physically active and our metabolism changes, extra fat tends to accumulate into a less-than-attractive protruding potbelly.
But tummy fat doesn’t just mess with your good looks, it also comes with considerable medical dangers, including an increased risk of:
All of these should provide sufficient motivation for you to want to get rid of your extra-sized gut. The good news is that with a bit of determination and time you can do just that. Here are five top tips to help you fight and win the battle of the bulge.
1. Drink in moderation
Beer might be a lot of fun, but it also contains loads of empty kilojoules. The alcohol and sugar in beer tend to slow down your metabolism, resulting in a growth in stomach fat. To add to the beer drinker’s woes, the hops in your favourite brew contains an oestrogenic compound which can lead to hormonal imbalances and contribute to fat gain. Alcohol is known to be able to slow down your ability to burn fat by more than 30%.
Far be it from me to suggest that you should stop drinking beer and other alcoholic beverages altogether, but you should definitely consider moving to light beer and cutting down on your overall consumption if you want to see results in your waistline.
2. Cardiovascular and aerobic exercise
Before you start building muscles and toning your abs you need to get rid of the flab. The most effective way to lose fat all over your body, including your tummy, is by starting and sticking with a regular cardiovascular and aerobic exercise programme. Anything that will get your heart pumping, your blood flowing and your breath going will do: walking, swimming, running, cycling, soccer, tennis, squash, jumping rope, spinning, interval training, rowing… your options are endless.
Try to establish a 30-minute exercise plan three to five days a week. Weight loss exercises are only going to be effective if you make them a regular part of your life, so choose exercises that you actually enjoy doing. Keep it interesting and mix it up – you’re unlikely to stick with the programme if you end up doing the same old routine. You may want to find an exercise partner or even a group of people to keep you motivated.
Incorporate simple exercises into your everyday life by parking your car a bit further from the office in the morning, taking the stairs instead of the escalator or lift and going for a brisk walk at lunchtime.
3. Build your abs
Once you’re starting to lose weight around your middle as a result of your cardiovascular and aerobic programme, it’s time to include some abdominal strength exercises in your daily workout routine to strengthen and tone your stomach muscles. Think crunches, sit ups and the ab machine at the gym. While strength training is not effective at removing belly fat that is already there, it will help to prevent the accumulation of new, deep abdominal fat.
4. Improve your diet
All the exercise in the world isn’t going to get you a flatter tummy if you don’t combine it with a healthy and balanced diet and a reduced kilojoule intake. Rather than embarking on crash diets, make a concerted effort to permanently change your eating habits for the better. Here are some basic suggestions:
reduce your portions – no need to feel bloated after every meal;
drink 8 to 12 glasses of tap water, spread throughout the day to help your metabolism;
cut down on sugary, fatty, fried and processed food (white bread, chips, pizza, fast food, cool drinks, chocolate bars, cake, etc.);
eat more wholegrain cereals, breads and pastas;
eat more raw and fresh fruit and vegetables;
choose lean, low fat meats and grill or roast rather than fry them;
eat five balanced, smaller meals through the day rather than three large ones – it’ll improve your metabolism; and
eat more soluble fibre (unpeeled apples, oats, cherries, etc.).
5. Relax and give it time
Let’s not kid ourselves, loosing your beer belly and getting back into shape takes time, commitment and patience. Set yourself realistic goals and don’t panic if nothing seems to be happening after the first week. Regular exercise and a better diet do really work, but you need to stick to your programme to see results.
Make sure to take time out and relax on a regular basis. Stress has been shown to lead to hormonal imbalances, especially involving the hormone cortisol, which is released during stressful situations and appears to stimulate the storage of fat around the abdomen and stomach.
Andrew Luyt, Health24, updated October 2011