When you spend too many nights indulging in the delights of happy hour or make a habit of knocking back a few after you get home from work, the results can show up as excess fat around your midsection.
And while you don't need to make sweeping, radical lifestyle changes to rid yourself of the beer belly, you should take some steps to incorporate healthier habits that can help you reduce that bulging midsection. Because it not only makes your shirts fit a bit tighter, but extra abdominal fat can put you at risk for a whole slew of health problems.
1. Slow Down on the Beer
Presumably, you got that beer belly from drinking beer. And even if you didn't, alcohol is not your friend if you're trying to cut down on belly fat. According to WebMd, both sexes start out with nearly the same patterns of body fat storage, but once puberty hits, women begin to store fat more under the arms, thighs, buttocks, and bellies, while men store it primarily in their bellies, period.
Alcohol contributes to that belly fat because once alcohol is introduced to the system, your liver burns the alcohol instead of your stores of body fat. This being the case, one big way to start losing abdominal fat is to limit your booze intake or stop drinking altogether.
The first way to do that: Cut down on the number of beers (or other alcoholic drinks) you're consuming each night or the number of nights in a week you drink. Another way: Change the type of beer you're drinking. An IPA can contain 130 calories per bottle, according to LIVESTRONG's food database MyPlate; a light beer, meanwhile, may have 95 calories. If you're aiming to have more than one beer, going the light route is friendlier to the waistline.
2. Track Your Overall Calories
Losing body fat involves reducing overall calories. To lose one pound of fat, you have to create a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories. Drinking fewer pints of beer is one way, but you can also look to reduce your total caloric intake.
If you have a smartphone, try downloading a weight-loss app like MyPlate to track calories be aware when you've consumed more than your daily goal. If you don't have a smartphone, there are websites that do the same thing.
3. Replace Junk Food With Real Food
Now that you know how many calories you're eating each day, you should not only cut back on calories, but also improve the quality of calories you're eating.
Toss out processed junk foods and replace them with healthier options like fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats. You'll notice that not only will you drop belly fat, but you'll also feel more energized. Which is great, since you'll need that energy for steps four and five on this list.
4. Do Fat-Burning Cardio
Reducing calories is beneficial, but exercise is also important to healthy living. If you're currently sedentary, start out easy and try walking for 15 to 30 minutes a day. Add more time as you get in better shape.
If you're ready to try something more intense, choose exercises that you enjoy, so you'll keep doing them day after day. Running, swimming, aerobics, cycling or jumping rope are all viable forms of exercise that burn a lot of calories — but anything that gets your body moving is going to help your cause. According to CalorieLab, for a 200-pound person, running can burn almost 1,000 calories an hour depending on the intensity; swimming can burn over 800; aerobics can burn 500; cycling can burn over 600; and moderate rope jumping for an hour can burn about 820.
But to get the most fat-burning bang for your buck, give high-intensity interval training (HIIT) a try. Pick a mode of exercise — running, cycling, rowing, jumping rope, etc. — then after a brief warm-up, alternate between a burst of all-out activity and slower paced recovery bouts. In just 20 minutes of a HIIT routine, you can expect to burn anywhere from nine to 16 calories a minute; after a full hour, that would amount to 960 calories. HIIT routines are great for keeping your body guessing, as well as an after burn effect where you continue to burn calories after the routine finishes.
5. Perform Ab-Strengthening Exercises
In order to trim down your waist, you have to do exercises that burn overall body fat. However, a few abdominal exercises will help you tighten your abdominals and build the muscles that can lead to a "six-pack" look.
Some of the most effective abdominal exercises include bicycle crunches, leg lifts on a captain's chair, reverse crunches and crunches on an exercise ball, according to the American Council on Exercise. Do abdominal exercises at least two days a week, performing two to three sets of 10 to 20 repetitions of each exercise.
What Do YOU Think?
Are you trying to lose your beer belly? What steps have you taken so far? Was any of this advice helpful? What's your plan of attack now? Share your thoughts, suggestions and questions in the comments below!
More About MyPlate
The free LIVESTRONG MyPlate calorie tracker app for iPhone and Android has helped millions of people lose weight the healthy way — by getting support from an active community as they track their eating and exercise. Consistently a top-rated app, MyPlate offers the latest technology in an easy-to-use tool that includes millions of foods and recipes, 5-minute in-app workouts and a robust support community.