We have seen it a million times. The guy drinking a Busch with a big old beer belly and skinny arms. But why do people get beer bellies in the first place? It’s a combination of genetics, terrible choices, and time.
In this article we will discuss what it is going to take to get a beer belly and how to avoid that. What you will find is that you are going to have to try really hard to get a beer belly.
I quit drinking in 2015, but one thing that I remember was that I was always afraid I would spontaneously grow a beer belly. Knowing what I know now, that idea was silly. And I know I am not the only one who thought that thought.
It wasn’t until I started learning about fitness that I really started to understand the distribution of calories throughout the body. Some people get beer bellies, and some people don’t. Let’s figure out why people get beer bellies, and what we can do about it.
Before we get started, I encourage you to download our app All Workouts: Personal Trainer (iOS | Google Play). If you are eating right and working out 3-4 days per week, you are guaranteed to not get a beer belly.
Eat at a caloric surplus to get a beer belly
It is fairly simple. If you eat at a caloric surplus, you are going to gain weight. And yes, drinks that have calories count as consumption. This could be a soda, or of course a beer.
The problem I have with alcohol is that it contains what we call empty calories. Empty calories are calories that contain zero nutritional value. So no fats, no carbs, and no protein. You might be thinking “wow, that sounds like it is free calories.”
No, the way this works is by adding these empty calories to your daily total. So for example, a 12oz beer is on average about 150 calories. Therefore, if you drink 6 beers in an evening, that is going to add 900 total calories to your daily caloric intake.
Now, if you throw in some buffalo wings at the bar, and a late night taco bell run on the way home, you are now probably at over 2,000 calories when you combine that all up.
Calories matter. And when you start going over your maintenance calorie threshold, your body is going to react. I always tell people that weight gain adds up over time. You aren’t going to spring a beer belly overnight.
But if you continue to eat at a caloric surplus, you will slowly gain weight. If you are not working out enough to combat your caloric surplus, those extra calories are going to turn into fat, and that adds up.
Even drinking once per week can affect muscle gains. So if you are going to drink, make sure you are being calculated and not reckless. Why do people get beer bellies? As you can see, it adds up over time due to an extended period of caloric surplus.
Fat distribution genetics
One of the main reasons that people end up getting a beer belly is because of their genetics. Specifically, their fat distribution genetics. Everyone has different fat distribution genetics, but the majority of people gain fat on their belly first.
Like I said, everyone is different though, and some people might gain fat in their legs, in their arms, or maybe even their face and neck first. I am one of those people whose neck sees fat before anything.
If you are in the majority, you are going to see your belly grow first. This also means that when you start losing weight, you will notice that your belly fat goes last.
Think about this for a second. You cannot lose belly fat while in a caloric surplus. Knowing this, what do you think about the previous section? There is no way that you can physically combat 2,000 extra calories per day with exercise. It is just not going to happen.
That is why I will always advocate for knowing exactly what you are putting in your body. You can use an app like MyFitnessPal to track what you are consuming. You can even track every beer!
And yes, it is possible to lose weight even as a drinker. The key here is to make up for it in other areas. If you are going to have 6 beers tonight, you are going to want to restrict your calories throughout the day and make sure that you don’t binge on food while drinking.
For example, if I knew I was going to drink 6 beers tonight and my maintenance calorie number is 2,500, I would make sure that I only consumed a maximum of 1,600 calories throughout the day.
How to avoid getting a beer belly
You now know how people get beer bellies, but how can you personally avoid getting one. The answer is simple. Don’t drink in excess, workout regularly, and restrict calories if necessary.
But how many people are willing to follow that formula? It is true that 73.6% of our population is overweight. So that tells you right now that many people would rather have a beer belly than be in shape.
If you are in the small percentage of people that are willing to do what it takes to avoid getting a beer belly, here is what you can do.
First of all, if you are already overweight, you can start by eating at a caloric deficit and working out 3-4 days per week. Our app can guide you through great workout routines.
If you are underweight, you should probably eat at a caloric surplus and workout regularly until you hit your ideal weight. Then it is time to level out at maintenance.
It is actually really simple to understand, yet not many people are willing to put in the work to make it happen. Remember, getting a beer belly takes years of being in a caloric surplus and neglecting your body.
As long as you workout regularly and know how many calories you are eating, you are not going to have any issues keeping the fat at bay.
One more thing I would like to mention. Every person has a different number of what is considered a caloric surplus. This is why I encourage everyone to learn how to calculate their maintenance calorie number.
Once you have this number, you will know exactly how much you need to eat to lose weight, gain weight, or stay at maintenance.
Main Point: Why do people get beer bellies?
By now, you understand the answer to our question. Why do people get beer bellies? It comes from years of neglect and overeating. And yes, when I say overeating, alcohol counts in your overall calorie intake.
When you eat at a caloric surplus for so long, your body has to store those extra calories somewhere. It either gets turned into fat or muscle. If you are working out the whole time, you will be building muscle.
But, depending on how far over your maintenance calories you are, you might also be gaining fat. The sweet spot to building more muscle than fat is by eating 500 calories per day over your maintenance calorie number.
If you are the type of person who eats 2,000 calories per day over your maintenance, it doesn’t matter what you do to try and combat that, it’s not going to work. Your body is going to re-assign that extra 1,500 calories and turn it into fat.
Don’t be delusional and think that there is no way this can happen to you. Be vigilant and know what you are putting into your body.