Health, Wellness: How Men Can Lose Belly Fat - And Keep It Off

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"Beer belly," "spare tire," and "pot belly," are just a few of the commonly heard terms when talking about weight gain around the waist. While lifestyle does contribute there are other reasons for the abdominal weight gain.

Men are more prone to getting belly fat compared to women. According to this Frontiers in Physiology research, this is mainly because their abdominal visceral fat takes up more dietary fat. Other factors can also contribute to this, including genetics, eating habits, aging, lifestyle, and stress.

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While a cause of concern appearance-wise, the more serious concern with belly fat is the increased health risks associated with it. The danger lies in the fat surrounding the organs inside the abdomen called visceral fat. Increased visceral fat has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and metabolic disorders. Losing fat, especially belly fat, will thus bring significant health benefits.

Here are some ways to lose belly fat and keep it off:

Exercise is essential in losing weight and fat. This PLoS One meta-analysis showed that exercise, especially aerobic exercise of moderate or high intensity, has a significant effect on visceral fat.

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General recommendations for adults to maintain a healthy weight include 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise training and strength training at least twice a week. Men with greater waist circumference may need to exercise more than the recommended guidelines. Avoiding a sedentary lifestyle will also help in keeping the fat off.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Focusing on food quality, rather than restricting diet based on calorie count alone, is better for achieving a healthy weight. WeightWatchers notes that weight loss for men is more effective when they don't restrict what they eat. Instead, they should make healthier choices while considering their food preferences. This can lead to more satiety when eating and make it easier for men to reach their weight goals.

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A more customized approach which takes into account individual needs and preferences matches the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. A recommended dietary approach is one focused on getting more protein, more fiber, and more healthy fats such as those found in this 'Top 25 Heart-Healthy Foods' post.

Limit Alcohol and Sugary Drinks

A man's beer belly may not be due entirely to drinking alcohol, but excess alcohol does contribute to it. Aside from the extra calories consumed, alcohol also increases fat storage, calorie intake, and cortisol. Cortisol has been associated with more visceral fat, which also increases cortisol levels, creating a vicious cycle.

Excess sugar in the diet also promotes fat storage and causes insulin resistance which also causes more belly fat. Limiting these drinks will help in losing and maintaining not only a healthy weight and less belly fat but also help in stabilizing hormones.

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Get More Sleep

Studies have shown that poor sleep quality increases the risk for obesity. Poor sleep is also linked to increased hunger. In this 2022 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, restricted sleep also promoted excess food intake and accumulation of more visceral fat. On the other hand, better sleep quality has been associated with weight loss, especially belly fat.

In general, adults need at least 7 hours of sleep per night. Factors affecting the need for more sleep include age, sleep quality, previous sleep deprivation, and other health issues.

In collaboration with Jacob Parkes.

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