With so many men now looking overweight or obese, developing a set of man boobs (or gynecomastia to give the condition its proper name) is alarmingly easy these days.
Unfortunately, getting rid of the dreaded 'moobs' is a lot more difficult, and it's certainly not a simple case of pounding your chest with specific exercises. Melting away this unsightly phenomenon requires a finely tuned diet and, crucially, the right fitness programme.
But don't despair, with a great deal of hard work you can banish man boobs for good. Here's everything you need to know.
Why do some men get man boobs?
If you are self-conscious about your body and, in particular, are embarrassed about your so-called 'man-boobs', then don't be, you're certainly not alone and with the right attitude and expert advice, they'll soon become a thing of the past.
Personal trainer, Gavin Walsh, says: "Gynecomastia is a serious cause of embarrassment for many men. There are a number of causes, the most common of course being overweight. However, others include hormonal imbalances, medication and taking illegal drugs."
How do I determine the cause of mine?
For the majority of you out there, carrying excess body fat is most likely the cause of your man boobs. Walsh says: "To be classed as healthy, your body fat should be less than 22%, and anything above this will begin to contribute to man boobs."
For others, however, there could be a more serious issue that needs to be addressed. Walsh continues: "The female hormone oestrogen, for example, is sometimes overproduced within the male body, causing growth in the chest area similar to that of females during adolescence. Elevated levels of oestrogen could be caused by excess fat, but it could also be caused by any medication you are taking. And if you smoke a lot of cannabis and have suddenly sprouted breasts, this could be the reason why."
What's the first step to getting rid of them?
As with any fitness or weight loss goal, losing your moobs is all about commitment and willingness to adopt a healthier lifestyle for longer than just a few weeks.
Walsh says: "If the moobs have been caused by poor food choices and little physical activity then, in theory, they should be easy to get rid of. However, sticking to an exercise programme and eating healthily for several months might prove difficult for many men who have neglected their bodies over the years. When it comes down to it, it's a question of how badly you want to lose your moobs. If you want it enough and can commit to making the necessary changes, then you will find the diet and exercise programme a lot easier to stick to."
What should be my approach to exercise?
Working out regularly is obviously going to be key to staying flat-chested, but forget about doing nothing but chest exercises.
Walsh says: "Don't be fooled into thinking you can reduce man boobs by doing lots of press-ups or chest presses unfortunately it's not that easy. Instead I recommend an exercise programme combining cardiovascular exercise and weight training 3-5 times a week for at least 12 weeks to establish if your weight is the issue. Measure your chest at the start and every few weeks from then on to monitor your progress. If the cause of your moobs is your weight, then a dedicated 12 weeks of exercise should yield results and you will know that you are on the right track. Keep it going and it'll be moobs no more!"
Are any exercises particularly good?
Your workout schedule should be a sweaty mix of high-tempo cardiovascular training, like interval training or spinning classes, mixed in with weights to promote muscle growth.
Bench presses, press ups and other chest exercises will of course feature, but you should make sure your training in the gym targets the entire body. Building up your back muscles, for example, will help your posture and it's amazing the difference standing up straight can have on your the appearance of your chest.
Toned arms, shoulders and stomach will, when combined with low-body percentage due to all the fat-burning cardio you have been doing, also help to give you an overall torso which most men would kill for.
What should I do about my diet?
To say goodbye to your moobs forever, regular exercise and, just as importantly, a healthy, balanced diet needs to become something you adhere to every day, not just when you feel guilty or down about your body.
Walsh says: "A good healthy diet is perhaps more important than exercise when it comes to restoring any hormonal imbalances. Foods that will help reduce oestrogen levels include berries, grapes, melons, pineapples, broccoli, cabbage, corn and green beens. However, if the moobs are simply a result of being overweight then plenty of exercise combined with a healthy diet will work best. A drastic reduction in alcohol, sugar, and refined processed foods will go a long way, as will eating more fresh fruit, vegetables and lean meats."
What if it's not because of my weight?
For some men it may just be a case of losing the excess weight and the man boobs will vanish. If this isn't the case for you, however, then you still have options.
Walsh has this advice: "If you have given exercise a serious go and it hasn't helped, then you should visit your GP to discuss the possibility of a hormonal imbalance and perhaps elevated levels of oestrogen. It's also worth speaking to your doc if you have recently prescribed new medication and ended up with moobs."
How do I keep my chest a moobs-free zone?
Once your exercise and diet regime has taken effect, it's important that you don't slip back into your old lifestyle, which will only undo all your hard work.
Walsh says to think of it as a case of 'if it's not broken, don't fix it'. "If you've changed your diet and started an exercise programme that has delivered real results," he says, "then keep it going. They key is to accept that this is a lifestyle change rather than a short-term fix, especially if you don't want to wake up with another pair of moobs six months from now."
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