The term “beer belly” seems so innocent. It brings up images of Santa Claus, golf legend John Daly, and maybe even your dad flipping burgers at a family barbeque. But lurking behind this endearing phrase is a lengthy list of health hazards—and men over 30 are at the highest risk.
A beer belly, also known as central obesity or truncal obesity, is an official medical condition characterized by excessive abdominal fat. And while guys are worried about how a beer belly looks on the outside, it’s health problems inside that can cause the most trouble.
There are more than 35 million obese men in America alone, but why is all their fat concentrated in their gut? And more importantly, how can you get rid of it?
What Causes a Beer Belly?
As it turns out, beer bellies have nothing to do with drinking beer per se, or alcohol consumption in general. Here are the three most common culprits for an ever-expanding waistline:
1. Your Diet Sucks
There’s an easy recipe for belly fat, and too many guys follow it: sugar, refined carbs, and too much booze. Specifically, researchers found evidence that people who ate refined grains like white bread, bagels, and pancakes had more visceral body fat than those who ate whole grains like brown rice and oatmeal.
2. You Don’t Exercise Enough
We get it: coronavirus took a wrecking ball to your gym routine. But if you want to prevent or burn off a beer belly, you gotta find a way to incorporate more physical activity in your life. If you’re stuck at home, try this minimal-equipment prison workout plan.
3. You’re a Dude
Fat storage is largely determined by sex. That explains why ladies usually pack on the pounds around their hips and thighs while you grow a spare tire around your midsection.
Are Beer Bellies Genetic?
You might have noticed your dad’s beer gut protruding from his t-shirt at your last family cookout. Does that mean you’re destined to follow in his footsteps?
It’s important not to confuse correlation with causation. If you and your old man are both booze-guzzling, burger-binging couch potatoes, you’ll both be at a higher risk of having beer bellies. But that has nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with lifestyle choices.
Researchers have identified genes that may influence how your body fat is distributed. But don’t let that be your excuse for health problems that you can fix on your own.
Big Belly, Big Health Risks
If your waist measures more than 40 inches, it may be a sign that your belly fat may be entering into the danger zone. Research dating back to the 1980s has consistently linked excess stomach fat to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and even cancer.
In some cases, a buildup of visceral fat gets packed so tightly around your organs that it pushes your abdominal wall outwards, which makes your gut feel hard. This is different from subcutaneous fat (the jiggly stuff) and it's deadly.
"Having a hard belly is like having a ticking time bomb in your body," says Jean-Pierre Despres, Ph.D., a professor of human nutrition at Laval University in Quebec City. "It increases your chances of heart disease and diabetes, and it's worse than smoking or having high cholesterol."
The sooner you take action, the sooner you lower your risk for long-term health issues. But before you order some sketchy weight loss supplements online, start with the basics.
How to Burn Off a Beer Belly
We don’t have any earth-shattering news here, but we’re gonna give it to you straight nevertheless.
If you have a medical complication such as insulin resistance or low testosterone, it’s worth a trip to your doctor to treat the underlying factors of weight gain. But for the rest of you dudes, the formula for shrinking your beer belly is simple: burn more calories than you consume. A beer belly is no match for the gym and a healthy diet.
As mentioned earlier, beer bellies aren’t necessarily related to beer. Any caloric surplus will contribute to belly fat. So yes, technically you could drink beer every week without growing a beer belly as long as you crank out enough sit-ups to burn off the excess calories.
Although we advise against that, mainly because of explosive hangover poops.