How to Reduce Belly Fat

A Guy's Guide to Get Rid of Your Gut for Good

Marili Forastieri/Getty Images

Guys, is it time to get rid of your beer belly?  Is your waistline expanding beyond your control? If the answer is yes, you’re not alone.  Men often hold weight in their midsection and trying to reduce belly fat can be challenging.

So what’s the best way to get rid of your gut?  I scoured through research and went to my Men's Guide to Weight Loss panel of experts to get the best advice for men (and women too!)  As you might expect, the best program to slim down your belly involves diet and exercise.

But what you might not expect is that your program should start with a trip to your doctor.

Why Belly Fat Matters Most

If you are overweight, reducing your overall body size is probably a good idea.  But belly fat deserves special attention.  Research has shown that holding abdominal fat can be particularly problematic to your health.  Numerous research studies have shown an association between an increased waist circumference and an elevated risk for heart disease and other conditions, including metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. 

So how big is too big?  If you measure your belly just above your hipbones and your measurement is over 40 inches (35 inches for ladies) then you are at an increased risk for certain conditions, according to the National Institutes of Health. One study even showed that waist measurements as low as 33 inches in men and 28 inches in women can be used to help identify people who are at greater risk for heart disease.

Think you’re off the hook if you’re not overweight? Think again! Even if your BMI is normal, some studies still suggest that holding excess weight around your midsection can be problematic, especially as we age.  An evaluation of over 100,000 men and women aged 50 and over showed that regardless of BMI, an elevated waist circumference was associated with a higher risk of death in older adults.

Of course, your waist circumference is only one measurement that your doctor will use when evaluating your overall risk for different medical conditions. But if you and your physician determine that belly fat puts you at higher risk for heart disease or even death, then it may the motivation you need to get rid of your gut.

How to Reduce Belly Fat

So what’s the best way to erase that beer belly?  I went to several expert sources to find out.  Not surprisingly, the solution requires careful attention to both diet and exercise.  But which component matters more?

Several recent studies suggest that exercise plays a more important role in maintaining a lean belly.  One study identified aerobic activity as a key factor.  Researchers found that men who had higher levels of cardiovascular fitness (also called aerobic fitness) were more likely to have leaner midsections, even if those men were overweight.

But of course, that doesn’t mean you should use exercise as an excuse to ignore your diet.  You can’t eat whatever you want and still expect to get rid of your paunch.  Book author and fat-loss expert Tom Venuto says that one of the most common workout mistakes made by men is to ignore the important relationship between diet and exercise in reaching weight loss goals.


Coach Calorie’s Tony Schober agrees.  He says that a healthy diet is essential and that people who want to lose abdominal fat should eat more protein.  Tom Venuto’s book, Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle, provides a helpful guide for creating a personalized diet plan that is higher in protein and full of healthy carbs and essential fats to reach a healthy weight.

So what kind of fitness training should you do to get rid of belly fat?  New York trainer Matt Griffin works at a gym where the clientele is mostly men.  He says that getting a lean body requires a combination of cardiovascular training and lifting weights.  “The mix of weight training and cardio keeps the body guessing and reacting to the stresses being put on it.”  Both Griffin and Schober say that high intensity interval training (HIIT) is particularly effective for burning fat and targeting the gut.

So does this mean you should ignore those popular abdominal curls?  Not exactly, says Griffin. “Getting great abs is about more than just doing a bunch of sit ups.”  He says that abdominal training should engage the whole body.  He recommends functional training to his clients.  “Core training that incorporates movement of the entire body is more relevant to everyday life,” he says.  He specifically prefers Pilates and Gyrotonic training for men who want to get flatter abs.

But Griffin and all of the experts emphasize the importance of a comprehensive program for losing weight and getting rid of belly fat.  It’s not just about the diet or just about the gym. Trimming your waistline could impact your longevity. Take the time to talk to your doctor, and develop a lifelong plan of healthy eating and vigorous exercise to get lean and stay fit for life.


Aim for a Healthy Weight. Assessing Your Weight and Health Risk. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Accessed: December 2, 2013.

Alan J. Flint, Kathryn M. Rexrode, Frank B. Hu, Robert J. Glynn, Hervé Caspard, JoAnn E. Manson, Walter C. Willett, Eric B. Rimm. "Body mass index, waist circumference, and risk of coronary heart disease: A prospective study among men and women." Obesity Research & Clinical Practice July 2010.

Eric J. Jacobs, PhD; Christina C. Newton, MSPH; Yiting Wang, PhD; Alpa V. Patel, PhD; Marjorie L. McCullough, ScD; Peter T. Campbell, PhD; Michael J. Thun, MD; Susan M. Gapstur, PhD. "Waist Circumference and All-Cause Mortality in a Large US Cohort." JAMA Internal MedicineAugust 2010.

Mayo, Melissa J. Grantham, Justin R. Balasekaran, Govindasamy. "Exercise-Induced Weight Loss Preferentially Reduces Abdominal Fat." Medicine & Science in Sports & ExerciseFebruary 2003.

Rosane Ness-Abramof, MD, Caroline M. Apovian, "Waist Circumference Measurement in Clinical Practice." Nutrition in Clinical Practice August 2008 .

Samuel Klein, David B Allison, Steven B Heymsfield, David E Kelley, Rudolph L Leibel, Cathy Nonas, and Richard Kahn. "Waist circumference and cardiometabolic risk: a consensus statement from Shaping America's Health: Association for Weight Management and Obesity Prevention; NAASO, The Obesity Society; the American Society for Nutrition; and the American Diabetes Association." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition May 2007.

Wong, Suzy L.Katzmarzyk, Peter T. Nichaman, Milton Z. Church, Timothy S Blair, Steven N Ross, Robert. "Cardiorespiratory Fitness is Associated with Lower Abdominal Fat Independent of Body Mass Index." Medicine & Science in Sports & ExerciseFebruary 2004.

Zhu S, Wang Z, Heshka S, Heo M, Faith MS, Heymsfield SB. "Waist circumference and obesity-associated risk factors among whites in the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey: clinical action thresholds." American Journal of Clinical NutritionOctober 2002.

Continue Reading