Are beer belly’s really from drinking too much beer?
While the beer certainly isn’t helping, there’s much more contributing than just alcohol consumption — it all comes back to hormones. If you’re a man — or you have a man in your life — who’s struggling with a beer belly or man boobs, let us explain what might be going on.
Testosterone and it’s Function
Typically, when we think of hormone disruptions, we think of women. But men have this issue, too. (In fact, men can even go through their own version of menopause called Andropause!) The main culprit for men is testosterone, the dominant male sex hormone. Testosterone naturally lowers as men age, which can affect the many important roles it has in the body: Testosterone is in charge of red blood cell production, muscle growth and maintenance, energy, sex drive, cognitive function and more.
In addition to testosterone naturally lowering, there are a number of other potential factors that can also cause it to decline, including blood sugar imbalances, high stress, a poor diet, too many toxins or too little sleep — or maybe even a combination of them all.
When testosterone is low, your hormones are no longer balanced. And you may experience the not-so-fun side effects of that imbalance, including the internal ones listed above as well as physical ones like a beer belly or man boobs.
3 Common Hormone Imbalances
Let’s take a closer look at beer bellies, as an example. If
this is you, you likely have fat storage deep in your abdomen, called visceral
adipose tissue. This is the most inflammatory tissue in your body and tends to
grow due to three primary hormone imbalances: cortisol, due to excess stress,
insulin, due to poor blood sugar balance, and estrogen, which testosterone is
converted to when you have too much of an enzyme called aromatase (this is
actually made in the deep belly fat).
It really is a cycle: Issues with any of these three hormones can be the start of the problem, as well as lead to another also becoming a problem.
For example, say you’re under a lot of stress, whether that’s mental stress or from something like poor food choices, excess toxin exposure or a chronic illness or injury. Your body will steal from its sex hormones to make more cortisol (the stress hormone). This not only results in lower testosterone, but it also can cause your body to store more belly fat and create more inflammation. Then, we’re right back in our three-hormone imbalance cycle.
So, with such complicated hormones, how do you know where to begin to balance them? The best thing to do is to tackle what you believe may be at the root of your hormone cycle imbalance — take a look at the actions below and see what areas you could use some improvement in.
1. Manage your insulin (and blood sugar)
- This can be really individualized, but a good general rule is to include protein, fiber and healthy fats into all of your meals while also limiting your concentrated carbohydrates like sugary drinks, desserts, fruit, and processed grains. Ideally, half of your plate should be filled with colorful, non-starchy veggies. A great blood sugar-stabilizing meal may look like this: a bun-less burger (grass-fed beef, bison, turkey or plant-based protein) topped with sautéed onions, mushrooms, and fresh avocado (fiber and fat) and a colorful salad (fiber and healthy carbohydrates).
- Add in regular activity. Strength training can have the biggest impact on boosting testosterone, but aerobic exercise such as walking, running, biking or swimming are also great ways to manage your blood sugar so long as you don’t do too much. (There’s a correlation with long-duration cardio and low testosterone levels.)
2. Avoid — or limit — toxin exposure
- Environmental toxins are all around us, but some common places to lookout for them are in plastics, can linings, receipts, personal products, and cleaning supplies. For more information on these, check out this article.
- Prioritize buying organic produce. The Environmental Working Group puts out a list called the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen every year — the Dirty Dozen are the most contaminated fruits and veggies and the ones you want to buy organic whenever possible, while the Clean Fifteen are the cleanest, so less important to prioritize buying organic. And buying seasonally is easier on the wallet.
3. Make sleep a priority
- If you don’t sleep enough, it puts stress on your body — which creates more cortisol, which reduces testosterone. The night is also when your body makes anabolic hormones (enter testosterone). Strive to sleep seven to eight hours a night between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. (It’s not only how much you sleep, but also when that makes a difference.)
4. Manage your stress
- It’s not the stressor that creates the problem, but our response to it. This really just means slowing down and smelling the roses. There are so many ways to do this, so pick what works for you. Some options include meditating, journaling, going for walks, listening to music, taking deep breaths or spending time with loved ones.
Even though our hormones are complex and intertwined, the good news is we are in control of them and there are things we can do to help keep them balanced. If you feel like you could use some extra or personalized help in this area, reach out to us.