Everything You Need to Know about Beer Belly Fat
Beer belly is a running gag among people. As the name suggests, it is having a protruding belly due to overconsumption of alcoholic drinks, specifically beer. I mean who hasn’t seen their friend chugging on a glass of beer while their tummy is prominent through their shirt. However, we might be laughing at the moment, but beer belly fat has serious consequences on our health, and one should lose it as much as possible.
The issue with beer belly stems not only from the health hazards brought by overdrinking alcohol, but it is also linked with health issues due to weight problems. Beer is said to accumulate visceral fat, the most dangerous type of body fat, around the belly area. One bottle of beer does not make you gain excessive weight immediately, of course. It is when drinking becomes habitual and you are exceeding your average limit. Every bottle you consume can accumulate to a larger beer belly.
In Singapore, the weight problem is a national health concern. According to the records from the Ministry of Health (MOH), 36.2% of Singaporeans aged 18-69 are categorized as either overweight or obese. To associate those numbers with beer consumption alone would not be substantial, though it would not be surprising if it contributes to it. Singapore is a foodie country. It is not unusual to see individuals or groups of people dining together. On some occasions, alcohol may be a part of the festivities. It’s the balance of your food and alcohol consumption that will determine your future health.
Even so, it would be difficult to combat something that you know little to nothing about. Sure, it’s a consensus that beer causes your belly to bloat. What other factors contribute to forming a beer belly?
Misconceptions on Having a Beer Belly
Before we go any further about discussing facts about a beer belly, let us first debunk some myths and misconceptions regarding the subject. As we’ve established, beer belly fat is a common laughing matter among many people. A lot of them still do not consider it as a symptom for more concerning health issues. So, what’s true and what’s not? Let us break it down:
You do not have to be obese/overweight to have a beer belly.
As you see on TV, the common representation of a guy with drinking habits is huge men with big tummies. Yet, this doesn’t always apply in real life. Men, both overweight and slim can have a beer belly. Even the health risk for both men is similar. An oversized guy may have the risk for heart disease and so do slimmers individuals. The fat formed into the midsection of the body causes conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and insulin resistance, which eventually can be the cause of heart disease.
Beer belly is not entirely caused by the intake of beer, it can be from an increase in bigger food portions, sugary beverages, etc.
Another common myth about beer bellies is that the reason behind them is not even beer at all. Some people point the real cause of their protruding tummy to poor eating habits, too much fat, sugar, and not enough nutritional packed food. Not having enough exercise is also a factor for having a beer belly. All of these are true.
However, you should not count beer out of the equation. Beer causes the body to stop the person’s metabolism, disrupting the process of burning fat. Each type of beer does contribute to gaining more sugar into your body.
There is a study that compares different types of beer. Here, it says a pint of Pilsner equals a packet of crackers. A Trappist beer, with its nice caramelized malts, has the same calories as a plate of pasta, and drinking a Barley is like eating one chocolate. It means that, most likely, beer does have sugar in it. However, again, each beer has different contents, including the number of calories. So, if you want to watch over your health and drink beer, consider limiting the amount of beer consumed and how much calorie is in the beer you are drinking.
Beer belly can also be caused by high soju intake.
Soju is not healthier compared to beer. So, if you think drinking Soju is a better option, you may want to think again.
Soju is high in calories because of its high alcohol content. One shot of fruit Soju, for example, has 64 calories and 1 bottle (360 ml) has 540 calories. Compared to beer, it has 69 calories in 150 grams (355 ml).
Engaging in core exercises that focus on your abdomen will not get rid of your belly fat, you have to lose weight.
Sit-ups or any other core exercises won’t help you get rid of a beer belly. If you have a large belly and start doing ab exercises incorrectly, you could end up pulling muscles and not help your core strength at all. Instead, a better solution to trim those fats is to lose weight. Eating small portioned meals and doing aerobic exercises is the best way to cut down the excess calories/fat.
What Causes a Beer Belly?
Now that we have got some of those things out of the way, we are now ready to lay down the facts about having a beer belly. First, let’s find out what causes a protruding belly in the first place.
Again, as we have established, drinking beer alone does not make you gain weight. Much like other cases of weight gain, it is because you are consuming too many calories. That can be said with any other type of beverage including sugary beverages or oversized portions of food. With that said, alcohol in particular has a strong association with belly fat around the midsection. Here are some reasons why you may be forming a beer belly:
An Unhealthy Diet
As mentioned earlier, Singapore is a country of foodies. Everywhere you look there is a food stall offering the most delicious treats. That is why it is easy to get caught up in indulging your food cravings, anywhere at any time.
Here is the thing, if you have a regular habit of drinking beer, but you eat healthy regularly, while it still may affect your health negatively, it can soften its toll as your body is equipped with the nutrients it usually needs. However, if you top a habitual drinking habit to an already unhealthy and imbalanced diet, you might be fighting a losing game.
If you consume in excess highly processed or sugary foods and drinks regularly, drinking beer does not help in maintaining your weight in check. Much like other food items, beer increases your calorie intake. Beer contains as many calories as a soft drink, gram for gram. So, drinking the alcoholic beverage on a regular basis contributes to a significant amount of calories you gain. Even if you do not eat an excessive amount of food, you are making up for it with your drinking habits.
Furthermore, it is said that alcohol increases your appetite within the short term, causing you to eat more than you normally would. We don’t normally associate “beer food” with something healthy. Who eats their salad with a side of beer? Whenever we drink, we tend to crave salty, sugary, and fatty foods such as pizza, wings, burgers, onion rings, chips, and other unhealthy food items.
It does not stop there. Let’s say you drank too much and experienced a hangover the next day. You’ll most likely want to eat something to cure it. So, you would grab foods like white bread, white rice, muffins, bagels, or pancakes. This causes you to add on more calories. Refined grains- as those mentioned- are found to cause more visceral fat around the belly.
A Stagnant Lifestyle
As we all know diet and lifestyle come hand in hand. If you don’t let your body move and break a sweat every once in a while, it’s more likely you’ll accumulate a beer belly. You do not burn that many calories when living a sedentary lifestyle.
Drinking alcohol does not help either. Beer can prevent your body from burning fat. The reason behind it is that the body prioritizes breaking down the alcohol over burning off calories. As a result, if you do not burn it through exercise, you end up increasing your amount of body fat. Again, some studies show that moderate drinking does not lead to a beer belly. Regardless, drinking puts you at risk of gaining weight.
Is a beer belly hereditary? To some extent, I guess you can say that is true. Genetics can greatly influence your body type. For instance, let us say your father is overweight. Your genetics can play a huge role in where you store fat, determining whether or not you become overweight. So, if you have weight problems running in your family, you can be a vulnerable target of forming a beer belly.
This rings true for men rather than women because of the way our body stores up fat. When gaining weight, women tend to store fat in their thighs, arms, and backside. On the other hand, they tend to store visceral fat in their bellies. So, as you accumulate calories from drinking beer, all of that goes to your midsection, thus, forming a beer belly.
It gets worse when you grow older. If you are not physically active, you tend to lose muscle as you age. Losing muscle mass then slows down the body’s ability to burn calories, making it hard to lose them as we become older. Men in their 50s require 200 calories less dairy than in their 30s due to muscle loss. A continued drinking habit as you grow older makes your beer belly more protruding as you’re consuming more calories than you need.
With that said, women are not completely off the hook when it comes to a beer belly. Biologically, women have more body fat than men. At a regular weight, women have 25% body fat content, while men have 15%. That is why women need fewer calories per day compared to men. So, if you have a drinking habit, you’ll end up accumulating more calories, and, much like men, form a beer belly.
Health Risks for People with a Beer Belly
If we haven’t emphasized it enough, we will say it again. Beer belly is a health concern. It is not just an aesthetic problem where your gut is visible from your clothes. Beer belly is associated with visceral fat, which is the most dangerous type of body fat. Accumulation of visceral fat in the body can lead to various health risks, including the following:
Risk of developing diabetes
Diabetes usually occurs when the blood sugar levels in your blood are higher than they should be. There are two major types of diabetes-related to blood sugar. Type-1 and Type-2. Type-1 is usually diagnosed in young adults and is a result of the body not making insulin, the hormone that transports glucose into cells for use as energy. Type-2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and is referred to as insulin resistance.
Too much alcohol may cause chronic inflammation of the pancreas, which can impair its ability to secrete insulin and potentially lead to diabetes. Moreover, the visceral fat caused by drinking habits can also result in insulin resistance. As your body is unable to regulate and process sugar, it increases your risk of developing diabetes.
Diabetes occurs most commonly in middle-aged and older people and more likely occurs if the person is overweight or obese. However, according to a clinical research unit at the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) in Singapore, people under the age of 30 years old are potentially at risk of getting diabetes in their 30s if they have a beer belly.
Chance of Getting Heart Disease
One of the most common medical conditions associated with alcohol consumption is heart and cardiovascular diseases. There is a term specifically used for heart disease related to alcohol. It is called alcoholic cardiomyopathy. It is a form of heart disease caused by alcohol abuse.
If a person has long-term alcohol abuse, it causes the heart muscle to weaken, affecting its ability to pump blood to the body. When the heart can’t pump blood efficiently or weaken the flow of blood pumping, the lack of blood flow disrupts all your body’s major functions. This can lead to heart failure and other life-threatening health problems including death.
The belly fat you accumulate from drinking does not help either. A higher volume of body fat can contribute to raising your blood pressure, spiking blood sugar levels, increasing the presence of fat around the organs. At the same time, visceral fat lowers the presence of good cholesterol in the body through a process known as metabolic syndrome. As a result, it creates a huge risk of several heart diseases.
While alcohol does not contain cholesterol itself, it may affect cholesterol levels in the blood. Alcohol is filtered through the liver, the same place where cholesterol is made. Drinking alcohol can raise cholesterol levels because alcohol is processed through the same organ that is responsible for making cholesterol.
Beer contains carbohydrates and alcohol. These substances can result in a rise in your triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are another form of fat, found in your blood, that contributes to your total cholesterol. High levels of triglycerides increase the risk of heart diseases.
High blood pressure or hypertension is the most common alcohol-related health problem. Many people don’t realize they have it. Similar to patients who are already experiencing obesity, they are yet to become aware that they have hypertension.
Drinking a lot of alcohol can affect the muscles in your blood vessels and blood flow. The more alcohol consumed, the higher the risk of developing hypertension. For people who already have existing high blood pressure conditions, one drink a day can increase further health risks. As blood vessels become narrower, the heart has to work harder to push blood around your body. This makes your blood pressure go up.
High blood pressure is related to many other risks such as stroke, vascular dementia, and chronic kidney disease.
Higher Mortality Rate
Every year, numerous counts of death are reported because of alcohol consumption. All over the world, about 3 million deaths every year result from harmful use of alcohol, which makes up for 5.3 % of all death cases. Alcohol consumption is the common denominator in more than 200 disease conditions.
Drinking alcohol is associated with a risk of developing health problems such as major non-communicable diseases such as liver cirrhosis, few related cancers, and cardiovascular diseases. It can also be a factor in mental and behavioural disorders, including alcohol dependence. The rate mentioned above also includes road accidents and road rage incidents that cause fist fighting and gunshots.
What are Some Ways to Lose Beer Belly Fat?
By now, you might have more urgency to lose your beer belly. No worries, losing your beer belly can be as easy as gaining it, as long as you stick to the following guidelines:
Go on Routine Exercises
Adding in some extra movement every day can add up to a lot of calorie burn and can contribute to increasing your metabolism over time. It only takes10 minutes each day, at any time. It is long enough to work out a release of excess fat and body toxins.
If you’re already getting enough workouts each week such as weights and aerobic workouts, set a goal for yourself on how many calories you want to burn. Setting a goal can help you look forward to something.
Be Conscious of Your Diet and What You Eat
Beer has a lot of sugar and consuming too much is sure to put a toll on your health. By increasing your protein intake and decreasing your carbohydrate intake you’ll help yourself reduce fat loss. Fewer carbs will help burn fat as fuel and reduce the amount of water you may be held from all of the beer consumption. On the other hand, increasing your protein intake will have more effect on your metabolism, helping you reduce hunger and improve your ability to build muscle instead of fat.
Cut Down on Your Overall Alcohol Intake
Reduce the amount of your beer intake if it is impossible for you to stop immediately. Gradually reducing the amount of beer may help your mind and body be trained into eventually quitting alcohol. Drink alcohol with a lesser alcohol percentage to cope with the sudden drop of alcohol in your body. It may also help if you check the calories of the alcohol to also control the amount of beer you will take.
Another trick that could work is to keep on drinking water after every bottle of beer. It can help you reduce the urge of drinking more beer and hydrating your body at the same time.
Replace Beer with Lighter Drinks
It’s not fun to replace water with beer, especially when you’re used to drinking daily. But there are similar drinks that can be replaced with beer that might satisfy your thirst for alcohol.
Sparkling drinks like wine and sparkling water might be a good substitute, with little to no alcohol percentage. If you’re open to exploring, try kombucha, a sparkling drink made from tea.
Good times are not just about drinking beer. Over the years, the good times might turn into bad when you don’t control yourself as soon as possible. Make sure to have limits when drinking beer. It’s not just about the beer belly but it’s also the habit of eating too much while drinking. We know it takes discipline, but your efforts will be worth it once you experience a worry-free life when it comes to your health. While at it, you can lose beer belly fat without feeling too restricted in controlling your beer intake.
Besides, it’s not about losing out on any of the fun. It’s all about moderation and balance. Work out, and practice a healthy lifestyle. Schedule cheat days if you need time to pleasure yourself with alcohol. But again, always remember to drink responsibly.