Belly fat isn’t exactly alluring. But it can hurt more than your pride—it can also be dangerous for your health. And that’s an unfortunate double-whammy for guys, who are more likely to gain belly fat than women. Yep, unless they’re genetically predisposed to gaining weight in their midsections, women tend to gain weight around their thighs and hips. For men, it pretty much goes straight to the gut.
So why is belly fat such a problem?
Well, unlike its friendlier and more benign cousin, subcutaneous fat—that squishy fat that forms a nice little cushion right under your skin—belly fat (called visceral fat by scientist types) is tightly formed and nearly solid to the touch. This stuff actually makes its way deep into your abdomen and envelops your internal organs. And, as if that weren’t freaky enough, belly fat gives off hormones that can disrupt your metabolic system and make you more vulnerable to serious health risks, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and some forms of cancer.
So how do you get rid of the dreaded midsection bulge?
Well, we have good news and bad news. The bad news? Fellas, no matter what anyone told you, you can’t “spot treat” belly fat. It just doesn’t work that way. The good news? Belly fat is pretty responsive to aerobic exercise—more so than subcutaneous fat, which is notoriously stubborn. So basically, you lose belly fat the same way as you lose overall weight—by eating a balanced diet rich in lean meats, fruits, veggies and whole grains and adopting a regular exercise plan that involves at least 30 minutes of moderate cardio at least four days a week.
While it’s true that you can’t crunch your way from a jelly belly to a washboard stomach, you can definitely benefit by strengthening your abdominal muscles while you are in the process of losing weight. Then, once you’ve lost the belly fat, you’ll have a great muscular foundation to work from, which and toning and sculpting your abs will be easier. Keep in mind that while sit ups and crunches are great for toning, they only work a portion of your abs. It’s best to do a variety of ab exercises, including twisting, leg lifts and bicycle maneuvers, so that you engage all your abdominal muscles evenly.
If you’ve lost most of your belly fat but are still struggling with a little pudge, it’s likely that you’re dealing with subcutaneous fat. To rid yourself of that, you’ll have to step up your exercise routine even further, keep an even closer eye on what you’re eating, and faithfully keep up with the toning and strengthening exercises.