Guys: We hate to be the ones to tell you this, but your gut is killing you.
If you carry your weight around your middle, a 2012 study says your chance of dying is doubled compared to those of a normal weight. Your risk of cardiovascular disease is 2.75 times higher than someone of normal weight.
According to a 2015 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a normal weight male with more fat around the middle had an 87 percent increased risk of death during the study period compared to a man who was normal weight without extra belly fat. Even more powerful? Compared to overweight or obese men (as measured solely by BMI, without specific waist size information), a normal weight man with extra belly fat had more than twice the risk of dying early, the study revealed.
Sick of carrying excess weight around the middle? Beat belly fat in men with these simple tips.
According to a Norwegian study, for every 10 centimeters of excess waist size, your risk of heart failure increases by 30 percent. Much of this risk is due to visceral fat. Unlike subcutaneous fat, the squishy fat just under your skin, visceral fat is the rock-hard kind that most associate with a beer belly. It lies much deeper, sitting very close to your organs, and is associated with increased risks of heart disease, cancer and death.
Weight Loss for Men: 10 Reasons Nutrisystem is Your Best Bet
Chances are, if you’re overweight, you’re packing quite a bit of visceral fat. As you consume more calories than your body can use, those three critical macronutrients from your food (carbs, proteins and, of course, fats) are converted to fat. This fat is stored throughout your body–all types of it.
The good news is that visceral fat around the belly responds more efficiently to diet and exercise than fat on the hips and thighs. So, whether you decide to go it alone, or turn to Nutrisystem for Men (designed to help men lose up to 15 pounds and seven inches overall in their first month!*), you’re not doomed to a big belly for life.
Here are three simple steps to beat belly fat in men:
1. Give your diet an overhaul.
Nutrisystem’s recipe for Black Bean and Rice Salad is an easy way to add in a bit of fiber using the eight-gram containing Nutrisystem Black Beans & Rice entrée you might already have on hand! Belly fat in men: Gone.
One of the best ways to get rid of your gut is to lose weight. And the best way to lose weight is to eat better. If you’re trying to shrink that belly, pay closer attention to portion sizes (check out our easy guide to portion sizes here), and work more of these foods into your diet:
- Fiber-rich, plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains (A study funded by the NIH suggests that for every 10 grams of fiber you eat, you’ll have as much as four percent less fat around your belly!)
- Lean sources of protein such as fish and low-fat dairy products
- Moderate amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (Monounsaturated fats—like those found in nuts, seeds, olive oil and fatty fish—have actually been shown to help reduce belly fat, according to 2013 research presented by the American Heart Association. Swapping in these healthy fats at meals can help you reduce your risk for rock-hard fat. Consider changing out mayo in your tuna or egg salad for mashed avocado, or eating a few almonds instead of a handful of chips.)
At the same time, work on limiting these foods:
- Foods higher in saturated fat, like cheese and butter
- Processed meats
- Sugary beverages
- Simple carbohydrates like white bread, refined pasta, etc.
Feel a bit overwhelmed? Check out Nutrisystem for Men, our easy-to-follow weight loss program designed specifically for guys like you—guys who want to lose weight and live healthy without all the work. With this program, you’ll lose weight (lose up to 15 pounds and seven inches overall in your first month!*), improve your health and have more energy. Plus, you’ll love having perfectly portioned, easy-to-prepare foods delivered right to your door. No thinking, no counting, no label reading. No fads, no gimmicks. Just safe and effective weight loss.
2. Walk for 30 minutes per day.
No matter what the latest infomercial may tell you, specifically exercising one part of the body won’t spot-reduce fat. A study from way back in 1971 found that tennis players who exercised one arm quite a bit more than the other didn’t show a major difference in fat deposits between their two arms. This belief has sustained the test of time and is widely accepted today. The implication: You’ve got to lose fat all over to get that gut down.
However, there’s good news. A “fat-burning workout” doesn’t have to be complicated or even high-intensity. In a study published in the journal Obesity, people who were “moderately active” reduced their visceral fat levels by more than seven percent compared to inactive study participants. The standard for “moderately active” is engaging in about 30 minutes of walking, five days per week.
If you vary your pace just a little—speeding up for short bursts—you can increase the overall calories you burn during your walk. Ohio State scientists have discovered that by walking with faster speed in short bursts, it is possible to burn 20 percent more calories than walking at a constant pace.
3. Get seven (or more) hours of sleep:
When University of Chicago scientists studied dieters and sleep, those who were sleep-deprived lost just as much weight as those who got a full night’s sleep—but not as much fat. Those who slept for just five hours per night lost 55 percent less fat during the study than those who slept seven hours or more.
Getting shut-eye can even help with your appetite when you’re awake: In the same study, participants on the shorter sleep schedule saw increases in ghrelin, a hormone associated with hunger, increased food intake and retention of fat. So, after your 30-minute walk and high-fiber meal with monounsaturated fats, go to bed! Your belly will thank you, and you might just live longer.
And if you haven’t kicked off your weight loss journey yet, you’ve got one more reason to start now. Make eliminating belly fat in men easy: Click here to sign up for Nutrisystem >
*Expect to lose 1-2 lbs. per week. Results vary based on starting weight and program adherence.
The Long Answer
Subcutaneous fat is the kind that flops over your jeans and adds to your chin count. It comes from the Latin word for “under the skin,” and it covers most of your body. It builds up in different places in different people, although women often build it up in their thighs and rear ends, much to the appreciation of Sir Mix-A-Lot, Queen, Nicki Minaj, and Spinal Tap.
When it comes to getting rid of belly fat, you can’t spot-reduce subcutaneous fat. So if you have a problem area, you have no choice but to burn fat all over your body until your genes decide to focus on that area. Also, keep in mind that subcutaneous fat is found between skin and muscle. Sometimes, especially if you’re new to exercise, your muscles will firm up, pushing this fat out and creating the illusion that you’re gaining more fat. If this happens, just be patient—the illusion will eventually vanish and your legs will become thinner.
Generally speaking, subcutaneous fat isn’t the most dangerous kind of fat. That’s not to say that this type of fat isn’t hard on your joints or that it can’t lead to chronic health issues. But when you read about fat being linked to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, chances are you’re reading about visceral fat.
Visceral fat is found deep inside your gut, and it builds up primarily around your stomach, intestines, and liver. Unlike subcutaneous fat, you can’t pinch it unless you get all medieval on yourself. Some people call it “deep belly fat” and it’s been linked to all kinds of issues including insulin resistance and cardiovascular issues.
A little visceral fat is normal. We tend to accumulate more of it later in life thanks to a dated bit of evolution that assumes we have less muscle as we age, causing fat to build up to protect our internal organs. The problems start piling up when you have too much of it. The most precise way to measure visceral fat is through an MRI or CT scan, but your waist circumference can also give you an indication of how bad (or good) the situation is. Red flag numbers are more than 35 inches for ladies and more than 40 inches for the guys. Here are some tips on how to get red of stubborn belly fat (of the visceral variety).
Here are 6 Things You Can Do to Lose Visceral Belly Fat
If you want to get rid of belly fat, the obvious answer is to stop eating so much junk and to get some exercise, for Pete’s sake! Beyond that, you can start to lose visceral fat through these basic lifestyle tweaks.
- Sleep longer. Catching more zzz’s might be one of the most enjoyable ways to lower belly fat. One 6-year study, on 293 adults ranging in age from 18 on 65, showed that when people increased their sleep from less than six hours a night to between seven or eight hours, they experienced a significant drop in visceral fat.
- Exercise harder. If you’re looking for belly fat burning exercises, you’re going to need something that’s high intensity. A study on middle-aged obese women with metabolic syndrome showed that high intensity exercise did a better job of banishing visceral fat than low-intensity exercise (such as sustained jogging) or no exercise at all. (Duh.) The women also experienced a reduction in abdominal subcutaneous fat. (Double duh.)
- Eat more soluble fiber. It’s true – eating more of certain foods can actually help you get rid of belly fat. A five-year study on minorities ranging in age from 18 to 81 showed that if you add soluble fiber to your diet, and combine it with exercise, you can accelerate visceral fat loss. You’ll find soluble fiber in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables, including apples, pears, and Brussels sprouts.
- Cut out excess carbs. While you can eat more soluble fiber to lower belly fat, you’ll want to reduce the amount of carbs you consume to slim down your stomach fat. One study on people with type 2 diabetes showed that a low-calorie, low-carb diet burns more visceral fat than a low-calorie, high-carb diet. That being said, the researchers’ version of low-carb meant that 40 percent of total calories came from carbohydrates, as opposed to 65 percent for a high carb diet. In my opinion, 40 percent is not particularly low for most people, unless you’re really active and need to eat more carbs for fuel.
- Lean towards unsaturated fats. Not all fats are created equal when it comes to slimming down your stomach. Researchers in Sweden fed 39 young men 750 extra calories daily for seven weeks in the form of very big muffins. One group were fed muffins with saturated fat in the form of palm oil and the second group ate muffins with polyunsaturated fat in the form of sunflower oil. Not surprisingly, the group fed saturated fat gained more visceral fat (as well as subcutaneous fat and liver fat) than the group fed polyunsaturated fat. Given that there are many types of both saturated and unsaturated fat, it’s unfair to categorically condemn all saturated fats, but it’s still worth considering or at least reducing. Regardless, no good has ever come from adding a giant muffin to your daily meal plan—so don’t do that.
- Stop stressing so much. If you’ve changed your diet and started doing fat-burning workouts, but you’re still not getting rid of belly fat like you want, you might need to look at another part of your lifestyle. Stress triggers the production of cortisol, which increases visceral fat. The link is that simple. A little stress, like the kind your body experiences working out, is fine, but chronic stress can be problematic. Studies on both humans and monkeys confirm this. Admittedly, telling someone to stop stressing is a little like telling someone to “be funny” or “don’t look at the giant mole on my forehead” (i.e., it’s easier said than done), but de-stressing your life is possible. You just need to be patient. Look into things like meditation or yoga, or just take a couple minutes each day to stop and breathe deeply.