If you want to know how to get rid of a beer belly, without going on a special diet that you can’t stick to for more than a week, doing endless sit-ups or hours of cardio, or even having to give up drinking beer, this page will show you how.
First things first, what causes a beer belly in the first place? Does drinking beer really make you fat? And why is having a beer gut so bad for your health?
Does Beer Make You Fat?
Beer, in and of itself isn’t necessarily making you fat. Beer certainly has the potential to lead to fat being gained, for the reasons I’ll explain in a moment.
However, not everyone that drinks beer has a large gut. And not everyone with a large gut drinks a lot of beer.
In one study, for example, men who drank more than 30 grams of alcohol per day were at a significantly greater risk of metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar levels and abdominal obesity .
However, most research that shows an association between alcohol intake and excess belly fat is observational in nature.
So what does that mean exactly?
You might, for instance, observe that cars with a Ferrari badge have a higher top speed than most other cars without a Ferrari badge. But that has less to do with the badge than it does with the massive engine sat under the bonnet.
The fact that two things are connected in some way doesn’t necessarily mean that one is causing the other.
It’s the same with beer consumption and abdominal fat. Research may well show a link between the amount of beer you drink and an increase in your waist circumference.
But that doesn’t automatically mean drinking beer is responsible for that increase. Just that the two things are linked in some way.
What Causes a Beer Belly in the First Place?
A beer gut is caused by consistently eating too many calories relative to what you’re burning off.
That is, a surplus of calories, whether that surplus comes from beer, hyper-palatable junk food, or even from eating too many so-called “healthy” foods, is what’s really behind your growing midsection.
In that sense, excess calories from beer are no different to excess calories from carbohydrate or fat.
One of the big problems with any source of liquid calories, not just beer, is that they don’t fill you up in the same way as solid food. This makes the passive overconsumption of calories very easy.
You get around 150 calories from a typical 12-ounce bottle of beer, which can quickly add up if you get through several bottles in one sitting.
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Alcohol Intake & Weight Loss
Where beer (or for that matter any alcoholic drink) differs from other sources of liquid calories is in the way it affects your behavior.
In other words, it’s not just the extra calories in the beer itself that’s the problem. It’s the knock-on effect the alcohol in the beer can have on your eating habits.
Put differently, the calories you get from the beer itself are only half the story. You also need to take into account all the extra food you’re going to eat as a result of drinking that beer.
Here’s what I mean:
If you’re drinking beer at a bar or party, you’ll often be surrounded by calorie-dense foods like nachos, chicken wings, burgers and pizza. These foods taste very nice, and are very easy to overeat, even if you’re not particularly hungry.
An increase in the availability of hyper-palatable calorie-dense foods paired with an alcohol-fueled decrease in your ability to resist temptation is a potent combination, making it very easy to end up eating far more calories than you need.
What’s Wrong With a Beer Belly?
There are two main types of fat in the stomach area.
Visceral fat, sometimes called intra-abdominal fat, is stored deep inside the abdominal cavity. It surrounds and protects the liver, intestines, and other internal organs. You can’t actually see visceral fat, as it’s underneath the abdominal wall.
Subcutaneous fat, on the other hand, is stored just under your skin. It’s the stuff you can pinch.
Although intra-abdominal fat makes up a relatively small proportion of the total amount of fat stored in your body, it’s responsible for more than its fair share of health problems.
Back in the day, body fat was seen as little more than a lifeless depot of chemical energy waiting around to be burned off. That all changed in the 1990s with the discovery of leptin, a hormone that’s produced by your fat cells.
Since then, researchers have discovered that fat cells — visceral fat cells in particular — are biologically active, pumping out hormones and other molecules that can have damaging effects on other parts of your body.
Visceral fat appears to promote inflammation, which in turn increases the risk of chronic disease .
Besides the fact that it doesn’t look great, carrying too much visceral fat is linked to a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, and even certain types of cancer .
Why Does a Beer Belly Get Hard? Is It Muscle?
While the typical beer belly feels hard to the touch, this doesn’t mean that it’s muscle.
Visceral fat is stored behind the abdominal muscles, rather than in front. It surrounds and protects the organs found in your abdominal cavity, such as the intestines, pancreas and liver.
As it builds up, it pushes your abdominal wall outwards. Visceral fat itself isn’t hard, but the abdominal wall – made up of muscle and tough connective tissue – is. That’s why your gut feels solid.
Subcutaneous fat, on the other hand, is found underneath the skin but in front of the muscles. It doesn’t feel hard to the touch because it’s located on top of muscle tissue, rather than behind it.
Belly Fat: Best & Worst Foods
Are there any special foods that you should eat to get rid of your beer belly? Any that you should make a particular effort to avoid?
In fact, the whole concept that certain foods (blueberries, dark chocolate, avocados or certain vegetables) will somehow fight belly fat is complete nonsense.
But it’s the sort of nonsense that seems to pop up every so often on daytime TV or in the happy-clappy health magazines when they’ve got no more “declutter your life” or “I’m okay and you’re okay” articles left to publish.
Most people like to have things laid out in black and white terms. This food is “bad” so I shouldn’t eat it. This food is “good” so I should eat it. Getting rid of the excess weight from your belly area involves eating less of the bad ones and more of the good ones.
In truth, losing fat from any part of your body, be it your belly or anywhere else, requires an energy deficit. It’s your overall diet rather than any individual food that determines whether fat is lost or gained.
Bottom line: There’s no such thing as a food that fights belly fat, nor is there any food you have to avoid in order to lose fat.
Can Exercise Get Rid of Your Beer Belly?
In general, exercise is overrated as a means of weight loss. When it comes to weight loss, the food you eat (or rather, that you don’t eat) is a lot more important than what you do in the gym.
Brad Pilon, author of Eat Stop Eat, once came up with an interesting thought experiment on this very subject.
“I want you to STOP thinking about exercise as a way to burn calories and lose fat.
“Stop it. In fact, I want you to pretend that it’s not even possible, that somehow workouts don’t burn any calories at all.
“Think of your workouts as a way to build or maintain your muscle, and think of your diet as how you lose body fat and maintain low (but healthy) levels of body fat.
“That’s it. No cross over. Because from my experience that’s when the trouble sets in. Mindlessly killing yourself in the gym to burn fat, then purposefully overeating to ‘feed the machine’. This becomes a vicious cycle of doing a LOT of HARD work, but never really accomplishing anything.”
And that’s exactly what I suggest you do – treat your workouts as a way to put on muscle, and your diet as a way to get rid of stored fat.
While it may not be entirely accurate, pretending that it is will give you much better results in the long run.
Can you turn a beer belly into muscle?
You can’t turn fat into muscle, or muscle into fat. The two things are completely different substances. However, body fat is a reservoir of chemical energy, which can be used to fuel muscle growth.
The way to go about doing so is to put yourself in a calorie deficit, lift weights 3-4 times a week and make sure you’re eating enough protein each day. That will allow you to lose some of the fat stored in your belly while gaining muscle at the same time.
SEE ALSO: How to Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle
How Long Does It Take to Lose a Beer Belly?
The length of time it takes to lose excess belly fat depends on how much fat you have to lose in the first place. Everyone is starting from a different place, and will lose fat at different rates.
However, what I can tell you is that losing your beer belly is going to take longer than 10 days, two weeks or whatever ridiculously short time frame that some people are claiming.
Fat loss is a slow process, and most people are doing well to lose a pound or two a week (and not all of that fat is going to come from your midsection).
So, be prepared for the fact that getting rid of your beer belly is going to take time, patience and a lot of hard work.
Drinking beer won’t automatically make you fat. In fact, you can drink beer and still lose your gut, just as long as your overall diet is set up properly, and you’re sensible about the amount of beer you drink.
Obviously there’s a balance to be struck. You don’t need to cut out beer completely. But if you’re trying to get rid of your beer belly, reducing your alcohol consumption by around 50% would be a good place to start.
If you want less flab and more muscle when you look down at your abs (or where they should be), check out The Flat Belly Cheat Sheet.
It's a quick guide, which you can read online or keep as a PDF, that tells you exactly how to lose your gut and get back in shape. To get a FREE copy of the cheat sheet sent to you, please enter your email address in the box below, and hit the “send it now” button.