THERE are two types of six-packs.
One consists of half a dozen cans of lager, the other is a set of rock hard abs.
And if you’re a lover of the former, it’s unlikely you’ll have the latter.
Men are most familiar with the “beer belly”, but is it true they are more likely to carry them than women?
Tom Opper, an online personal trainer at Top Fitness, says: “Men are often more likely than women to have a beer belly for a couple of different reasons.
“Firstly, men tend to favour beer as their go-to drink more than women, and are also more likely to binge-drink than women.
“Secondly, where we store excess body fat is determined by our genetics, and men generally tend to hold body fat around their belly, while women more often store body fat around the hips and thighs.”
Tom said clients ask him every day how to get rid of the “dreaded ‘beer belly’”.
It’s impossible to target fat loss in one area, so Tom says you’ll need to focus on losing weight more generally.
“You need to regulate your calorie consumption and – ideally – increase your activity levels in order to ensure your body is burning enough calories.”
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The good news is you don’t have to cut pints out entirely. The bad news is, even if you did, your belly won’t simply vanish.
These are Tom’s top tips for shifting belly fat:
Drink LESS beer
First, you need to know a pint of beer is 240 calories, while a lager is around 180.
“If you’d usually drink five pints of 5% lager on a Friday night, this would equate to just under 1,200 calories, which roughly equates to about five Mars Bars,” says Tom.
Unsurprisingly, Tom says reducing the amount of beer you drink will help shift your middle tire – but you don’t have to cut alcohol out entirely.
“Cutting down to just two pints of a lower-calorie alternative, such as a gin and slimline tonic (56 calories for a single measure) or even a zero-calorie soft drink such as Diet Coke, can instantly mean more than 500 calories saved.
“Over the course of a month, that’s 2,000 calories, and over a year that’s 24,000 calories saved – the equivalent of 120 Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts.”
Stick to a calorie deficit
Tom says the overriding principle governing all body fat loss is consuming fewer calories than you burn in a day.
Calorie counting can get miserable, but Tom says you can use a strategy known as “calorie borrowing” to lose weight while also enjoying the things you love.
Cutting down to just two pints of a lower-calorie alternative can instantly mean more than 500 calories saved
Instead of sticking to a daily allowance of calories per day – say 2,000 – you give yourself a weekly “budget” of 14,000 instead.
“You can then plan ahead and schedule in a couple of lower-calorie days at 1,500 calories to give yourself an extra 1,000 calories to use how you like,” explains Tom.
“It’s perfect for being able to fit in a meal out at the weekend, or an extra couple of pints at after-work drinks, while still dropping fat.
“For lower calorie days, prioritise protein-rich foods – which are more filling than carbohydrates or fats – and vegetables, which are both low in calories and extremely rich in the important nutrients.”
When the belly fat starts to melt off, you’ll want to make sure there is some muscle behind it.
Weight lifting will help you avoid the flabby look, instead creating lean muscle as you lose weight.
“Resistance training is key for this, helping you to sculpt a lean, powerful physique that losing weight will allow you to showcase,” he says.
It’s also a great fat burner – more so than cardio, as Tom argues the impact of high intensity training (HIIT) is “very minimal in terms of extra calories burned”.
“When weight training, try to ensure you’re hitting all the major movement patterns (squat, hip hinge, horizontal push/pull, vertical push/pull and rotation), either in a session or across a week of training,” suggests Tom.
“Where possible, build your sessions around compound exercises – exercises that work multiple joints or muscle groups at a time – which give you the most bang for your buck in terms of both your time spent in the gym and calories burned.”
Don’t forget “NEAT”
“The real determinant of how many calories you burn through activity is not how many times a week you work out, but rather how much you move throughout the day,” says Tom.
This is known as Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, or NEAT, which is essentially all the movement we do outside our scheduled gym session.
It “accounts for far more calories burned in comparison,” says Tom, and includes activities such as steps or carrying the shopping.
“If you hate the idea of going for a long run or pushing yourself through a gruelling HIIT session, increasing your activity levels across the day can be a far easier, more accessible option that will still significantly increase the number of calories you burn if done regularly,” he says.
“You can do it for free, it doesn’t require any special exercise kit or a monthly gym membership.”
We often forget about sleep as being crucial for fat loss.
“Getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night, and establishing a regular sleep pattern, comes with a tremendous number of physical and psychological benefits,” says Tom.
You naturally crave sugary, fatty and highly-calorific foods the day after a night of bad sleep
He warns that when you’re sleep-deprived, “your levels of a hormone called Ghrelin, which is responsible for controlling and stimulating hunger, increase, which makes you feel hungrier throughout the day”.
“This issue is exacerbated by a hormone called Leptin, which essentially tells your body when it’s full, being suppressed when you don’t get enough sleep, meaning you’re likely to eat more,” says Tom.
“Furthermore, you naturally crave sugary, fatty and highly-calorific foods the day after a night of bad sleep, to give you a much-needed energy boost when you’re tired.”
This can all lead to a perfect storm of overeating and weight gain.
Be consistent, not perfect
Aim for consistency rather than perfection, which cannot be maintained for very long. And when you slip up, don’t throw the towel in.
“In the vast majority of cases, making healthy lifestyle changes does not mean turning your life upside down,” says Tom.
“Rather, incorporate one or two healthy habits that do not need a great deal of motivation to stick to consistently, making them a part of your everyday routine, and building from there.
“When incorporating any new habit, ask yourself whether you could genuinely see yourself sticking to it for the rest of your life or, at the very least, for six months.
“If the answer is no, the habit won’t work for you long-term, and you run the risk of backsliding into the old behaviours that brought about the beer belly in the first place.
“Rather than daily gym sessions, could you commit to hitting 6,000 steps a day?
“Instead of committing yourself to a restrictive Keto diet, could you simply aim to hit a daily calorie and protein target, using the foods you already eat.”