GOOD LIFE: Beating the belly bulge

Photo: SIMONE DE PEAK
Photo: SIMONE DE PEAK

A beer gut may well save your life in a car accident, but carrying all that extra weight around isn't good for you in other ways.

University of Wisconsin academics, who analysed data from more than 22,000 accidents, found men with a spare tyre were more likely to survive a crash than those with washboard abs.

Apparently, the layers of fat help cushion the impact in a crash.

But that's probably the only thing a beer gut is good for.

Carrying extra weight can lead to a range of health issues like diabetes and high blood pressure, says personal trainer Lukas Chodat of Chodat Fitness.

"For men, if you've got too much fat around your vital organs then those organs have got to work so much harder," he says.

"Your heart's got to work so much harder if it's got to pump blood around all that extra fat.

"It causes problems in terms of blood pressure and cholesterol and it's so important to keep those numbers down.

"To keep yourself in normal function you need to get that weight down."

Chodat says a beer belly is no different to fat accumulated from other sources. Also, what is colloquially referred to as a beer belly has probably been built with the help of a range of substances.

"It's about the amount of excess energy consumed, whether it comes from beer, food or wine," he says.

"The beer does contribute because it has a large amount of calories, but there are additional factors too - and food can accelerate it.

"The chips and whatever you eat with the beer or even the late-night snack after all those beers - the kebab - adds to it as well.

"It's definitely not beer alone but people still do think of it as a beer belly.

"At the end of the day it's energy in versus energy out and if people are consuming too much energy and not burning enough off, then they're going to be storing that energy.

"For males that energy will be stored in the abdomen region."

To lose that beer gut it's the usual weight-loss approach - aerobic exercise and some form of resistance training, says Chodat.

"If they're not used to activity, then walking is a good start," he says.

"If you're walking at least three or four times a week, starting off at 35-45 minutes and then progressing onto a jog, or there's low-impact styles of exercises like the cross-trainer or rowing or cycling, or swimming - any of those activities will be brilliant in terms of reducing the size of the stomach."

One exercise that probably won't be brilliant in terms of melting off the weight is crunches.

"You might get strong abs but they'll be lying underneath that fat.

"People have the misconception that if they get down and do 100 crunches it gets rid of it," he says.

"That doesn't get rid of that beer belly on its own. If you combine it with some other exercises - rowing, running, walking, boxing - then it does.

"But trying to spot reduce by doing crunches is a real common misconception.

"What I say to clients is it's like a Ferrari behind a showroom curtain.

"The Ferrari's there but you've got to pull away the curtain to see it."

While you're doing all that exercise to get rid of the gut, Chodat says it's just as important to watch how many beers you're drinking.

He says you don't have to go cold turkey but recommends limiting yourself to four standard drinks a week.

"At the end of the day weight-loss is two-thirds diet."

"If your diet's out of whack you can be doing all the training in the world but if you're eating crap each week and drinking heaps with the boys on the weekend, it's like digging a hole and filling it back up again.

"If every beer is setting you back 150 calories then you've got to look it and go 'well, if I have five less, then that's the same as an exercise-session-and-a-bit's worth of calories."