The following is part of an interview conducted with Nick Mitchell by Kevin Braddock of the national newspaper The Daily Mail in which he discusses the dreaded beer belly and some of its causes and solutions…
The Beer Belly
Q: It is true that the beer belly is actually created by binging on beer? What else can cause one?
Nick Mitchell: (First of all you need to make it clear that a beer belly is a classic pot / pregnant belly, not necessarily a stomach with a thick layer of fat hiding any abdominal muscles.)
Yes, bingeing on beer can cause a beer belly – always look for the most logical answer first when dealing with the human body. Several pints of beer drunk frequently are going to swell up and distend the stomach regardless of an individual’s body fat levels. Some men regularly imbibe six pints plus in one evening – the pressure of retaining pints of high calorie-containing fluid are going to swell even the leanest person’s belly.
However, there are further reasons why beer can cause a “beer belly” that we often have to address with our London personal training clients.
The classic beer belly is also commonly caused by high levels of visceral fat. Fat under the skin, the “cosmetic” fat we are all aware of is subcutaneous fat, but visceral fat is internal fat, and can be thought of as “gut fat.”
It is actually underneath your abdominal muscles surrounding your organs and can cause the look that we refer to as central obesity. All people with high levels of visceral fat are also VERY insulin resistant and need to avoid sugary, processed and starchy foods wherever they can.
Q: Why do men store fat around the waistline?
Nick Mitchell: Let’s be clear here – fat stored around the waistline is different from a beer belly as a “beer belly” means a swollen and distended stomach. This is different from having a “fat belly.”
Classic male fat pattern distribution is to store fat around the belly button area. The reasons for this are due to very complex hormonal interactions that are likely far beyond the remit of this article. The potted version of why men are more susceptible to umbilicus (belly button) fat storage is due to the increased sensitivity of the male to the hormone cortisol. Cortisol causes excess calories to be stored as fat around the belly button. Note that by reducing stress (and therefore cortisol) I often get clients a lot leaner – it can be as simple as losing fat by doing less.
The beer belly look is due to visceral fat, and visceral fat has been linked to elevated androgen (for simplicity’s sake androgen = testosterone) levels. For example, women with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) often have beer/pot bellies due to higher testosterone levels.