A lot of fitness videos promise beer belly exercises to help you lose weight around your middle, but that's not exactly how weight loss works. Here's what you need to know about beer bellies and how you can shed those excess pounds.
You need to follow a healthy diet and do a combination of cardio exercise and strength training to lose weight, including extra fat around your middle.
Read more: The Health Effects of Two Beers Per Day
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How Beer Bellies Are Caused
Whether you call it a beer belly, a beer gut, a pot belly, a spare tire or a dad bod, that excess fat around your middle is dangerous to your health, says the Cleveland Clinic. Abdominal fat is linked to a number of health problems, including heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, fatty liver disease and erectile dysfunction.
Why does drinking beer cause weight gain, though? A February 2013 study published in the journal Nutrition Reviews found that there is a link between a high intake of beer and increased risk of obesity. The Cleveland Clinic attributes this connection to two factors.
The first is the additional calories, according to the Cleveland Clinic. A beer can have anywhere between 100 and 350 calories per 12-ounce serving. When you consume more calories than your body can burn, it stores the excess calories as fat. Depending on your diet, beer may not be the only culprit behind the excess calories; highly-processed foods, fried foods, sugary foods and drinks and large portion sizes may also play a role.
The second factor is the fact that alcoholic beverages like beer also interfere with the body's metabolism. Your liver normally burns fat for energy, but when there's alcohol in your system, your liver relies on the alcohol for energy instead. Your body therefore burns less fat when you're drinking.
Read more: How Bad Is Alcohol for Weight Loss?
So, what's the connection to your belly? Does the beer you drink go straight to your middle and set up camp there? Is there a special spot, designated maybe, for doughnuts? Not exactly. Harvard Health Publishing explains that genetic factors and hormones determine how and where your body stores fat.
In general, however, the Cleveland Clinic notes that women tend to store fat in their thighs, buttocks, arms and bellies, whereas men tend to store more of it in their bellies. Both men and women store more fat around their middle as they get older and their hormone levels decrease.
Do Beer Belly Exercises Work?
Despite all the beer belly exercises marketed by fitness franchises, fat loss doesn't exactly work that way. The American Council on Exercise clarifies that spot reduction, or the belief that you can lose weight in one part of your body by exercising that part, is a myth. Harvard Health Publishing adds that doing a lot of crunches and sit-ups will tighten your abdominal muscles, but may not cause you to shed abdominal fat.
Your body has its own unique way of burning fat, so to lose weight on your belly, you need to start losing weight overall. How do you do that? A February 2019 study published in the journal BMC Public Health concluded that the best way to lose abdominal fat is through a combination of a diet and regular exercise.
In terms of your diet, the Mayo Clinic explains that in order to lose 1 to 2 pounds of weight a week, you need to eat 500 to 1,000 fewer calories per day. The type of calories you eat is also important. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health recommends incorporating unrefined, minimally processed foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats into one's diet. These foods provide the fuel your body needs, unlike junk foods that have a lot of calories but very little nutrition.
In terms of exercise, Harvard Health Publishing says you should get 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise per day, ideally a combination of cardio and strength training.
Some common cardio exercises you can easily do at home include jogging in place, running up and down the stairs, dancing, kickboxing, jump rope, jumping jacks, burpees and squat jumps. Push-ups, planks, crunches, sit-ups and squats are among the strength training exercises suited to home workouts. If you like, you can also invest in a set of weights and use those for a strength-training workout.
- Cleveland Clinic: “Q&A: The Truth About That Beer Belly”
- Nutrition Reviews: “Is Beer Consumption Related to Measures of Abdominal and General Obesity? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis”
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It”
- American Council on Exercise: “Myths and Misconceptions: Spot Reduction and Feeling the Burn”
- BMC Public Health: “Effect of Diet With or Without Exercise on Abdominal Fat in Postmenopausal Women – A Randomised Trial”
- Mayo Clinic: “Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics”
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “The Best Diet: Quality Counts”
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Calorie Count — Alcoholic Beverages”