Everyone gains fat here and there, but men are more likely to store it in their stomachs, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Making lifestyle changes, however, such as doing high-intensity exercise, reducing stress and avoiding alcohol, can help trim stomach fat from a man's midsection.
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The Risk of Stomach Fat
All bodies, male or female, need some fat to function properly. However, the fat that accumulates around the abdominal region can be problematic, particularly when there's too much of it. The belly fat just underneath your skin that you can pinch is known as subcutaneous fat. It might be unpleasant to look at, but it's not as concerning as the stomach fat that's deep within your abdomen.
This is known as visceral fat, and it's more troublesome, according to the Mayo Clinic. This type of fat surrounds your internal organs and increases your risk of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and certain types of cancers.
If you have any belly fat, it's worthwhile to try to decrease it through exercise, a healthy diet and stress management. However, the Mayo Clinic notes that men with a waist measurement of more than 40 inches have the greatest risk of health problems, no matter what their overall weight might be.
Start Moving More
At a minimum, a man should meet the exercise recommendations set out in the Physical Activities Guidelines for Americans, which states that adults should move more and sit less. There's no good way to get trim fast but, for health benefits, the guidelines recommend at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week.
However, if you specifically want to trim stomach fat, try incorporating high-intensity interval training into your routine. As stated by the American College of Sports Medicine, this is the practice of alternating bouts of high-intensity exercise with a brief recovery period. .
For example, this might mean sprinting for 30 seconds, walking for 90 seconds and then repeating. A review of 39 studies published in February 2018 in Sports Medicine noted that HIIT, particularly running, reduced participants' total fat, as well as their visceral fat mass.
Reduce Unhealthy Carb Consumption
When it comes to reducing abdominal fat, a diet that's lower in unhealthy carbohydrates might be a better option than other types of eating plans. A study published in June 2017 in Hepatology Research examined how effective it was to educate participants on low-fat versus low-carbohydrate diets.
The study concluded that the lower-carbohydrate group had less abdominal fat at the end of the eight-week study. Additionally, LDL cholesterol — also known as "bad" cholesterol — and blood pressure levels decreased a significant amount in the low-carbohydrate group, making it an overall healthier option.
However, it's probably not a good idea to cut out carbs entirely, as they're part of a healthy diet when consumed in the right fashion. Instead, you can take measures to decrease your consumption of unhealthy carbohydrates and added sugars that are often found in soda, candy and baked goods, while keeping the healthy types of carbs, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
Unhealthy carbohydrates are often found in processed foods, which are also high in trans fats and added sodium — additional belly bloaters — so Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends avoiding packaged goods and snack foods.
Read more: 15 Reasons to Kick Sugar
Increase Your Fiber Intake
Fiber, a type of indigestible carbohydrate, can play a role in reducing stomach fat. A study published in February 2012 in Obesity determined that, over a five-year period, the more fiber a person ate, the less likely they were to accumulate visceral fat.
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) notes that men who are 50 years old or younger should have at least 38 grams of fiber per day, while men age 50 or older should consume at least 30 grams of daily fiber. It's not as hard as you might think to increase your intake without drastically boosting your carbohydrate consumption because fruits and vegetables are some of the best sources of fiber.
The AAFP recommends eating at least 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of veggies each day. It also suggests replacing refined white bread with whole-grain versions and adding cooked beans to your diet.
Cut Back on Alcohol
If you've heard the term "beer belly," you know that excessive alcohol consumption can be a cause of stomach fat. Therefore, it stands to reason that cutting back on alcohol could help you trim stomach fat. Research published in August 2017 in the Nutrition Journal examined the association between waist circumference and alcohol intake, finding that the two were linked. Alcohol consumption was also found to be associated with a higher total body weight.
A man shouldn't drink more than two alcoholic beverages a day, according to University of Michigan Medicine. To cut back on drinking, consider setting specific goals. Instead of simply saying you want to drink less, make a goal of only having two drinks per day or only drinking two days a week. Additionally, pay attention to why you start drinking — sometimes, it's a habit to crack open a beer at 6 p.m., but habits can be broken with effort.
Decrease Your Stress
Too much stress increases the likelihood of accumulating belly fat, according to the American Institute of Stress, thanks to the increase in production of a hormone called cortisol. It's a cycle, unfortunately: stress increases cortisol levels, which can lead to belly fat, while high levels of abdominal fat can also increase cortisol levels. Additionally, people who are stressed might be more likely to reach for comforting, high-calorie foods, which also plays a role in weight gain.
Reducing your stress can decrease cortisol levels, which can help with abdominal fat. Tactics to decrease your stress, according to the Mayo Clinic, include getting regular exercise, working on relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing or meditation, indulging in hobbies such as reading and having healthy friendships.
- Mayo Clinic: "Belly Fat in Men: Why Weight Loss Matters"
- Obesity: "Lifestyle Factors and 5-Year Abdominal Fat Accumulation in a Minority Cohort: The IRAS Family Study"
- American Academy of Family Physicians: "Fiber: How to Increase the Amount in Your Diet"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Q&A: The Truth About That Beer Belly"
- Nutrition Journal: "Alcohol Consumption and Its Interaction With Adiposity-Associated Genetic Variants in Relation to Subsequent Changes in Waist Circumference and Body Weight"
- Sports Medicine: "Effect of High-Intensity Interval Training on Total, Abdominal and Visceral Fat Mass: A Meta-Analysis"
- Hepatology Research: "Comparison of Efficacy of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diet Education Programs in Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Randomized Controlled Study"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, Second Edition"
- American College of Sports Medicine: "ACSM Information on... High-Intensity Interval Training"
- University of Michigan Medicine: "Quick Tips: Cutting Back on Drinking"
- American Institute of Stress: "Stress, Cortisol and Abdominal Fat"
- Mayo Clinic: "Chronic Stress Puts Your Health at Risk"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "8 Ways to Lose Belly Fat and Live a Healthier Life"