Two things are true in life: you can’t have the sweet without the sour, and you can’t have the beer without the beer belly. So how do you get rid of your beer belly? Easy: stop drinking beer.
That said, let’s talk about the relationship between beer and beer bellies, because it’s more complicated than that (thankfully).
For the record, beer bellies aren’t specifically a direct result of too much beer. Just maybe too many calories and not enough movement. Alcohol in general – yes, that means wine and spirits too – can result in weight gain because your liver will burn the alcohol first, instead of fat. Also, beer tends to be carb-heavy and it’s easy to binge, resulting in a calorie surplus.
Men also tend to store more fat in our bellies than women and belly fat or visceral fat is lined to a variety of health issues from diabetes to heart disease and high blood pressure.
Now that we’ve covered what you shouldn’t do, let’s move on to what you can do: diet and exercise. Oh, but that sucks too? Sorry, it’s a fact of life, brother. However, what I will do is tell you how to make a big difference with a five easy changes to blast belly fat.
EPOC stands for excess post oxygen consumption and is oftentimes referred to as exercise “afterburn.” Basically, this refers to the period of time after exercise during which your body is still working to get restored to a resting state. This effect was popularised with high intensity interval training (HIIT). For example, although 30 minutes walking on the treadmill may burn more calories than five minutes of interval runs on the treadmill, the amount of time it takes your body to get back to baseline after is much longer, which means you will be burning calories for a longer period of time after your workout. So for the sake of getting your workout started, you can begin with some intervals on the treadmill.
To start, you can begin with a 1:1, work:rest ratio and move on to 2:1 and so on, increasing from there. Ideally you should aim to get your heart rate to approximately 90% or more of your estimated max (220 bpm subtracted by your age), but if you don’t have access to a heart rate monitor just think about the intervals being at about a 9/10 on the difficulty scale. Perform these before you lift on an AirDyne, rower, stairmill or treadmill. Aim for the intervals to be about 5-10 minutes long in total, as we don’t want to tap too much into your energy stores before an ensuing lift.
2. Strength Training
You don’t want to lose a bunch of weight only to reveal a bunch of saggy skin do you? Of course not. The answer to avoiding this is to make it so the bulk of your workout revolves around compound strength movements. Compound movements that require multiple joints and muscle groups (i.e. squat, deadlift, pull-ups) give you more bang for your buck than the dollar menu, helping to build muscle and burn fat. (See: How to Build Your Best Weekly Workout Routine)
These exercises give your body a strong stimulus to build muscle and burn energy (energy = fat for the slow learners). In fact, lifting heavy and using compound movements and free weights increases essential male hormones, and will leave you with more testosterone and growth hormone than Sylvester Stallone’s suitcase.
Your goal is to go heavy and build strength in these movements, so week by week these lifts should be getting stronger. Speaking of efficiency, the workout should follow a “super-set” format to maximise your time spent in the gym. An example of a pairing you can follow is a heavy squat with an overhead press. Other good pairings include bench presses with heavy dumbbell rows, and pull-ups with deadlifts.
OK, so you refuse the run and you firmly believe the treadmill is possessed. That’s fine. But if you want to ditch that beer belly, it’s important to get your heart rate, and your feet, jumping. This type of speed rope, used by boxers, MMA fighters, CrossFitters and athletes of all types, is perfect from the beginner to advanced athlete. It even has a built-in punishment mechanism because when you fail on a rotation, getting whipped by the rope stings! But when you’re ready to start hitting double-unders, criss crosses and other jump rope workouts and variations, you’ll need a rope that moves.
3. Metabolic Conditioning
You’ve probably seen those fitness classes where a group of people are doing a bunch of strange and unusual movements nonstop. No, not Zumba. And no, I’m not talking about CrossFit either. The one thing they’re doing right is the nonstop part; but the fact that this goes on for upwards of 30 minutes could be a bit of a problem when it takes away from time better spent strength training and building muscle.
Your “met-cons” (metabolic conditioning) should be made up of self-limiting movements which aren’t dangerous when taken to failure, such as push-ups, medicine ball slams, and farmer’s carries. These should be done in a circuit fashion with little or no rest between sets. These are similar to high-intensity interval sprints, and when done at the end of a workout, are kind of like the icing on the cake. Keep these between 5-10 minutes to finish things off and further increase EPOC.
In fact, all three of the above items – sprints, heavy lifting with supersets, and metcons – hit the “EPOC button” harder than you hit the elevator’s “door-close” button when you’re late for a meeting.
I know what you’re think: “I knew this was coming.” Well what would you like me to do? Weight loss and weight gain is primarily a simple equation of calories in vs. calories out. If you consume more than you expend, you’ll gain weight, and vice versa. This doesn’t mean you need to be married to the scale though. Muscle is denser than fat, so you could be gaining lean mass and losing fat without much change in your weight.
When it comes to diet though, it’s important to stick to whole, mostly unprocessed foods that are nutritionally dense (“Whole” and “dense” does not mean an entire deep dish pizza, wise guy). Furthermore, foods that are rich in protein (like meat, bro) contribute to feelings of satiety, which is one way to curb overeating and late-night snacking on that box of Golden Grahams while watching Fight Club. Stick to these foods 80 to 90% of the time and you will be golden like a President’s shower.
NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis represents another way you can get rid of your beer belly outside of the gym. Isn’t that neat? NEAT is the amount of calories you burn in activity that isn’t exercise, such as walking to work or roving around the office during the day. Unfortunately, living a sedentary lifestyle means that NEAT is low, which does not go well with a high-calorie diet. It’s an equation of calories in and calories out, and this scenario calories in is higher than calories out, which leads to weight gain.
There is an easy way to combat this and increase NEAT, though. If you’re chained to a chair all day, find ways to get moving and start walking more on a daily basis. Yes – get up and go bother Debbie in accounting every hour on the hour. And after HR tells you to stop, try simply taking stairs and/or parking far away on purpose. Adding these simple habits will increase your NEAT and your daily calorie burn.