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What you need to know about losing your beer belly for good

Drinking beer isn't the only culprit that causes a beer belly.

Written by
Lucinda Starr
Medically reviewed by
Last updated
October 16, 2023
6
7
min read
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What you need to know about losing your beer belly for good
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There's nothing wrong with enjoying a frothy every now and again. However, there's a reason why beer-loving blokes can develop a thing called a 'beer belly'.

But, drinking beer isn't the only culprit that causes a beer belly. There are many factors that cause men to develop excess belly fat, aside from enjoying a pint or 2.

To get to the truth about whether your alcohol intake can increase belly fat, we're rounding up your ultimate guide on what you need to know about beer bellies, what causes them and how to get rid of your beer belly for good.

What is a beer belly?

A beer belly is a slang term used to describe an increase in belly fat, typically linked with drinking large amounts of alcohol. A beer belly a.k.a visceral fat or hidden fat is stored deep inside the belly. Most fat in the body is stored underneath the skin (known as subcutaneous fat) which is visible and the fat that you can feel.

Since visceral fat is stored deep in the belly it causes the stomach to stick out giving you a beer belly or a beer gut. Visceral fat makes up one-tenth of all stored fat in the body and produces chemicals and hormones that can be toxic to the body [1].

Essentially, a beer belly or visceral fat is caused by excess calories from a poor diet, drinking heavily, and little or no physical activity.

Why does alcohol cause a beer belly?

Calories from alcohol consumption are 'empty calories' meaning they don't have nutritional benefits [2]. This basically means that alcohol intake plus our regular calorie intake throughout the day can cause weight gain.

Drinking alcohol also prevents your body from burning fat because the body prioritises burning alcohol instead of fat stored in the body.

Whether from sugary drinks, beer consumption or other alcoholic beverages, men tend to gain weight and store fat around the middle part of their body, which is why the term beer belly is used.

Alcoholic drinks contain roughly 7 calories per gram and contain almost as many calories as pure fat [3]. Many alcoholic drinks are also high in sugar and too much alcohol can lead to weight gain as a result of consuming too many empty calories.

Why are men prone to developing a beer belly?

You may have heard that women are more shaped like a pear and men are more shaped like an apple.

While men and women start with similar fat storage patterns, with age these can change. Men tend to accumulate and store fat around their abdomen as they age, so they are more likely to develop an apple-shaped body, meaning they develop beer bellies [4].

Women, on the other hand, tend to have pear-shaped bodies, meaning their fat is stored around their thighs and bum. Women are also more likely to have subcutaneous fat, whereas men are more likely to have visceral fat which shows in the stomach and leads to the development of a visible beer belly.

Why is upper belly fat firm?

Generally, 90% of body fat is subcutaneous fat which lies beneath the skin and feels soft. The other 10% of body fat is visceral fat which lies beneath the stomach and surrounds the liver, intestines and other organs [5].

Visceral fat is also stored in the omentum (a large flat tissue layer) which lies under the stomach muscles and blankets the intestines [6]. As the omentum fills with fat, it gets harder and thicker causing firm fat or a hard beer belly.

Unlike soft fat, visceral fat is located behind a thick muscle wall which is why it can appear as a hard beer belly meaning it doesn't feel soft and you can't pinch it as you would with soft fat.

What else can cause weight gain around the stomach?

Abdominal fat isn't just caused by drinking beer. In fact, there are various other factors at play from a poor diet to a lack of exercise and even genetics.

Poor diet

The obvious answer is a poor diet which can lead to excess visceral fat in the stomach area.

Consuming too many calories from sugary foods and drinks, fried foods and not enough lean proteins in your diet can slow down your metabolism, reduce the body's ability to burn fat and lead to weight gain.

Lack of physical activity

We all know that to lose weight you need to incorporate an exercise routine into your lifestyle. When you consume more calories from food or alcohol than what you're burning off, it makes it really difficult to get rid of fat, particularly stomach fat.

Smoking

Aside from the obvious negative health risks of smoking, a 2012 study found that smokers had more visceral and belly fat than non-smokers.

The effects of smoking lead to increase body fat, waist circumference and visceral fat and those who had quit smoking for a long period of time reduced abdominal obesity to a similar level to those who had never smoked [7].

Genetics

Unfortunately, genetics play a role in weight gain around the stomach. Men are more likely to be apple-shaped, meaning they tend to have less subcutaneous fat and are more likely to store extra calories in their abdomen. This also means it's harder to lose belly fat.

Is a beer belly fat or bloating?

Although bloating is a common effect of drinking, a beer belly is not simply due to bloating. A beer belly results from extra fat calories which can be due to drinking beer. However, this belly fat also is also linked to consuming too many calories, eating a poor diet and not exercising enough.

But, it's also important to know that alcohol can cause inflammation in the gut which can make the appearance of a beer belly more prominent.

What's wrong with a beer belly?

A beer belly does more than just get rid of your 6-pack. It can come with serious negative health risk factors including an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome (a cluster condition that occurs together including high blood pressure, excess body fat and high blood sugar [8]) and even erectile dysfunction.

Another harmful reason for excess visceral fat is because it's stored near the portal vein which carries blood from the intestinal area to the liver. Substances that are released by visceral fat (like free fatty acids) enter the portal vein and travel to the liver [9].

This can increase the production of blood lipids and too many blood lipids can cause fat deposits in your artery walls which increases the risk of heart disease [10]. Visceral fat is also directly linked to higher cholesterol and insulin resistance.

What's the best way to treat weight gain and a beer belly?

Weight loss is never easy, particularly when drinking beer and alcohol is part of your daily routine. Alcohol calories can be a big reason for gaining weight even if you're eating a nourishing, balanced diet.

Let's dive into some healthy ways you can start your weight loss journey and get rid of those a beer belly for good.

A balanced diet and increasing daily exercise

We're not here to tell you to ditch booze altogether. Instead, it's worth looking for less calorie-dense drinks. Why not swap your regular beer for light beers or other alternate drinks that don't have added sugar? Engaging in mindful drinking and eating can also be helpful.

Plus, it's worth doubling down on your diet at the same time. Focus on eating lean proteins, whole grains and vegetables to keep you fuller for longer and lower your calorie intake. Incorporating exercise into your routine is also important, whether that's a daily walk, lifting weights at the gym or a beach swim after work.

Holistic weight loss programs

Weight loss should always involve holistic, lifestyle changes in order to achieve long-term results. It's pretty hard to cut beer out for good or stop drinking any alcohol altogether, after all, there's nothing wrong with a couple of beers at your work drinks or on the weekend. But you should avoid binge drinking not only for weight loss but for your overall health.

Pilot's Metabolic Reset Program takes a holistic approach to weight loss with a combination of targeted weight loss and medical science. Pilot's Metabolic Reset Program uses breakthrough medication that introduces hormones that are naturally produced in your gut to decrease your appetite.

In addition to weight loss medications, we provide community support from our medical team, Australian practitioners, coaches and like-minded men to help you on the journey to losing weight. We also personal goal-setting and health coaching to help you make healthy lifestyle changes, lose weight and keep it off.

Science-backed weight loss shakes

If you haven't heard of weight loss shakes before, they are basically a liquid meal replacement that typically replaces 1 or more meals out of your day.

Pilot's Weight Reset Shakes are meal replacement shakes that are formulated to actually support your dietary needs and rely on science to aid in weight loss. Our shakes are packed with 20 vitamins and minerals, high-quality protein, and pre and probiotics and come with fibre to keep you fuller for longer.

There's nothing wrong with drinking beer with your mates on a sunny Sunday or after work. But rather than consume booze mindlessly, it's important to understand what role alcohol plays in weight gain.

We're not here to tell you to not drink beer. Instead, we want to help you make smarter, healthier choices like swapping your normal beer for a light beer. With sustainable lifestyle changes, a balanced diet, and the right support, you can reduce unwanted belly fat for good.

Photo credit: Unsplash + Blake Wisz

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