What exactly is a beer belly?
A beer belly is simply an excess of fat stored around your abdomen. Usually the consumption of beer or alcohol is blamed, however this is not entirely true. As with any weight gain, the beer belly is basically caused by more calories consumed than calories burnt. If you consistently eat or drink more calories than you burn, you gain weight and this weight can cluster around your belly region. But why does alcohol get singled out then I hear you say? Good question! Your body cannot store calories from alcohol. Your body must use alcohol as its primary energy source instead of burning fat stores. So until your body has burnt off all the alcohol in your system, your body is in a 'weight gaining' state. Extra calories consumed along with that yummy beverage get stored for later use. If that wasn't alarming enough, alcohol consumption lowers your blood sugar, making you want to eat more. So those oily chips and late night kebab after a night on the beer are headed straight for your storage unit!
Just one beer is OK though.........right?
Having the occasional drink is not going grow a beer belly over night. However it is important to remember the effect alcohol can have on your waist line. Drinking in moderation is without a doubt best practice. Before reaching for that tasty beverage, consider the following:
1 beer = 1 small block of chocolate = 50 minute jog
175ml glass of wine = 4,167 steps = 2.5km walk
1 shot of spirits = 1 hour bouncing on an exercise ball (Adding a sugary mixer significantly increases your bounce time!)
Why is the beer belly a problem?
There are some serious health issues linked to carrying a little extra padding in your belly. Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and cancer are all tied to belly fat. Research also suggests that having high stores of abdominal fat reduces your life expectancy.
How do I say goodbye to my beer belly?
Apart from making wise choices about your alcohol consumption, here are other top tips for keeping that beer belly at bay:
1. Watch what you eat
The best way to lose an unwanted beer belly is simply to lose weight, and the best way to lose weight is to watch what you eat. Be mindful about what you're eating and make decisions that align with your weight loss goals. Making small substitutions are an easy way to start transforming what you eat. For example, instead of a packet of crisps for an afternoon snack, have unsalted nuts or veggie sticks with hummus. Once you have kicked the crisps cravings, introduce another small change. You'll be surprised at how much of a difference these little changes will make.
Aerobic exercise or 'cardio' such as jogging, swimming, cycling or tennis significantly improves your weight loss potential. Adding cardio exercise to your daily routine will help you burn fat stores faster. Your body also continues to burn calories for some time after you've finished exercising. In addition to weight loss, your respiratory health, heart health and diabetes risk also improve - win!
3. Build muscle
The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn - simple! Engaging in weight baring exercises will increases your muscle mass. Try to work your largest muscle groups first eg legs, to increase muscle building and calorie burning. Weighted squats and lunges are basic exercises you can do to build muscle. Don't have a gym membership or weights at home? No worries! Simply use a container of rice, an old heavy textbook or bucket of water as an alternative.
4. Core strength
Beer belly or not, core strength is an important part of any exercise program. Core strength exercises help to flatten the stomach and also reduce back pain by establishing a strong support system. The king of all core exercises is The Plank. Regardless of what fitness level you are at, The Plank has a variation that will challenge you and improve your core strength immensely.
Tried out our tips? Let us know your thoughts, suggestions or results @SiSUWellness
Written by Perri Simon
SiSU Wellness Nutritionist
Myers, J, et. al, Physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness as major markers of cardiovascular risk: their independent and interwoven importance to health status. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2015 Jan-Feb;57(4):306-14. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2014.09.011. Epub 2014 Sep 28.
Feb Fast - Alcohol
NHMRC - Alcohol Guidelines