This month’s question from my 21 year old son…
Why do people who drink beer sometimes have a beer belly?
Not all beer drinkers have a “beer belly”. So what causes men, and some women, to keep that extra weight around the midsection?
Of course as a dietitian I understand it’s the extra calories not the beer per se. Any extra calories in our diet whether from sugar, alcohol or lack of portion control will lead to weight gain. But why the midsection. For this I had to refresh my understanding…
When you consume more calories than your body uses, the excess calories are stored as fat. Where your body stores excess fat is determined in part by your age, sex, and hormones.
From WebMD: Boys and girls start out with similar fat storage patterns, but puberty changes that. Women have more subcutaneous fat (the kind under the skin) than men, so those extra fat calories tend to be deposited in their arms, thighs, and buttocks, as well as their bellies. Because men have less subcutaneous fat, they store more in their bellies.
As we age, we also burn fewer calories and our activity also tends to decrease – the double whammy for gaining weight. That is why as we age we tend to see more bulging bellies.
As if that is not enough, there are hormonal changes that signal the body to store the excess around our mid sections.
This is a concern as we do have many studies linking the visceral fat to increased risk for diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure & Cardiovascular disease.
So how do you lose it? It’s calories in and calories out that matters the most.
Alcohol calories are a good place to start when decreasing excess calories in the diet. The guidelines for healthy Americans recommends limited alcohol to 1 serving per day for women and 2 servings per day for men.
I also recommend looking at the extra calories in your day that are coming from sugars – sweets, treats, beverages & foods with added sugars.
Lastly, for cutting calories, consider your portion sizes. Eating less at meals and snack and eating more often is a great tactic for weight loss. All foods can fit with this approach to eating.
Of course, increasing your activity is also good for that calories in and out equation. Good news and bad news when exercising to spot reduce that mid-section. The body does prefer utilizing visceral abdominal fat first BUT genetics determines where the fat comes from first.
Ab exercises are great but will give you a six-pack without necessarily taking fat from the ab section. The best exercises to do for fat loss is cardio exercises such as running, swimming, cycling, tennis and brisk walking.
Hope this helps you understand “beer bellies” better now.
I’m Laura Poland, for Dietitian In Your Kitchen, let’s get healthy one habit at a time!