It’s true. Losing belly fat may be easier than you think. And for men the benefits go way beyond your good looks.
For one, too much “shelter over the playground” can interfere with your love life. Recent studies have shown an association between belly fat and erectile dysfunction (ED).
Also, fat that accumulates within the abdominal area – known as belly fat, poses the greatest risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer.
Motivated yet? The following three tips will help you get rid of belly fat, improve your health and put a little “spice” back into your life.
Lose the booze.
Men of all ages are prone to develop belly fat, but drinking moderate to high intakes of alcohol can also affect body fat distribution.
In the presence of alcohol and fat, the body chooses to rid itself of the toxic alcohol first by using it as the preferred source of energy. The body will then store the fat – which it perceives as being harmless. As a result, alcohol promotes fat storage – particularly around the abdominal area, causing the “beer belly.”
“Drinking alcohol stops fat metabolism in the liver causing it to build up around the waistline,” says Manuel Villacorta, a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and author of eating free™ The Carb-Friendly way to Lose Inches.
Villacorta suggest men “make a drinking policy” and have no more than two drinks a day. If you’re looking to “chill” after work, that’s all it should take to elevate your mood and spare you from long term harm to your health.
One drink is equal to a 12 oz beer, alcoholic lemonade, or alcoholic carbonated drink; 10 oz wine cooler; 5 oz wine; or 1.5 oz of hard liquor – such as 80 proof whiskey, gin, brandy, rum or vodka.
Eat three squares a day.
Studies show that people who skip breakfast and eat fewer times during the day tend to be heavier than those who eat a minimum of three meals daily. This is likely because those who skip meals tend to feel hungrier later on, and eat more than they normally would.
“Skipping and delaying meals increases the release of the hunger hormone ghrelin,” says Villacorta, “it makes you emotionally hungry and leads to craving high calorie foods like pizza and fries.”
To help his patients control their appetites and keep ghrelin in check, Villacorta advises them to eat every three to four hours. These meals should be “balanced with carbohydrate and protein to knock down ghrelin” he notes.
Learn to reduce stress.
Villacorta cautions that “stress throughout the day can lead to increased cortisol and fat disposition around the waist line.”
Cortisol – often referred to as the “stress hormone,” is excreted during times of stress. And research has shown that stress and elevated cortisol levels trigger fat accumulation around the abdominal area.
So how do you reduce stress?
First and foremost learn to relax – it allows the body to regenerate itself. Aim for eight hours of sleep daily and then find time to relax during the day. A leisurely walk in the park or on the beach can be very relaxing. Many men find listening to smooth jazz or just sitting quietly helps them to relax. Figure out what helps you to relax, and then practice it daily.
Villacorta offers a suggestion: “Do some deep breathing exercises throughout the day,” he says. “Just close your eyes in front of your computer and take ten deep breaths. It’s that simple.”
Studies show that deep breathing is actually one of the best ways to lower stress. So men, start breathing!
Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD is an award winning registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is the author of The African American Guide To Living Well With Diabetes and Eating Soulfully and Healthfully with Diabetes. Follow Brown-Riggs on twitter @eatingsoulfully.