"Dad bod" is a phrase used to describe men who work out but still eat pizza and drink beer, giving them a soft, round belly. While this may apply to many men, a "beer belly" can lead to health problems later in life.
Lindsay Yau, a registered dietitian and wellness education specialist with Sharp Rees-Stealy, says that what we often call a beer belly is a type of abdominal fat also known as visceral fat — found deep within and around our organs.
Visceral fat is more dangerous than subcutaneous fat — the fat that lies directly underneath our skin, typically found on the hips and buttocks. Visceral fat is more metabolically active than subcutaneous fat and is associated with an increased risk of several chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, dementia, asthma and some cancers.
One of the main culprits of a beer belly is none other than … well, beer. Studies have shown that alcohol, especially drinking in excess can contribute to abdominal weight gain.
According to Yau, reducing the intake of alcohol and calorically dense foods - foods that are fried or loaded with cheeses and creamy sauces — can limit the accumulation of abdominal fat. Still, filling up on snack-sized fruits and vegetables; lean protein such as beans, poultry or seafood; whole grains; and low-fat dairy can provide a feeling of fullness without the excess calories. However, Yau notes that hormones and genetics —not just what we eat — also influence the way our bodies accumulate fat.
Putting that dad bod to work
Tom Dodsworth, ACE-certified exercise specialist with the Sewall Healthy Living Center at Sharp Coronado Hospital, suggests a focus on the "big five" exercises to help slim that soft belly:
- Overhead press
- Bench press
"I can't stress enough that focus on compound movements and major muscle groups is key," says Dodsworth. "Keep it simple, keep rest breaks short and use a challenging weight. If you're a dad, then you don't have an abundance of time or energy and the payoff will be worth the extra effort."
He shared his "Push Day Pull Day" workout, perfect for dads, moms or anyone else looking to boost their fitness.
Dodsworth's Dad Bod Workout
Reps: 6 to 8 reps for each exercise
Rest: 15 to 20 seconds
Push Day — Mondays and Thursdays
- Bench press (with bar or free weights)
- Barbell back squat or free weight squat
- Overhead press (with bar or free weights)
Pull Day — Tuesdays and Fridays
- Deadlift (with bar or free weights)
- Bent-over row (with bar or free weights)
- Lat pulldowns
- Seated cable row
Wednesdays and weekends
Rest, take a walk, stretch while playing with the kids, and do some sporadic movements like push-ups or chin-ups on the monkey bars.
Leave the chips and soda at the grocery store. "Remember, exercise is necessary, but no amount of weightlifting can burn off poor food choices. Strong, lean bodies are built in the kitchen, not the gym," Dodsworth says.