You've all heard about eating better and training hard to look good and shed the pounds, but ever wondered what's behind you fattening up in the first place? Read on for the simple reasons why men pile on the pounds, and how you can help yourself combat the spread.
1) Drinking energy and sports drinks
With millions of litres of sports drinks consumed each year, it could suggest we are a healthy bunch.
Except many people are drinking them while sitting at their desks. Unless you run marathons for a living, you don't need all those sugary carbs.
Joe Warner, deputy editor of Men's Fitness magazine says, "Sports drinks can be a great source of instant energy when undertaking serious long-distance challenges, but for most gym-goers it's better to stick to water.
"You'll stay just as hydrated but not take on board all those calories, which can undo all your hard graft in the gym." Plus, it's free.
2) Eating late at night
While occasionally gorging on a chilli sauce-drenched doner is perhaps inevitable, any form of twilight action for your stomach is a no-go. Personal trainer Jon Lipsey says "During the night your body starts to snack on fat as fuel.
"About nine hours after dinner, your easily available fat stores have been used up and your body will start to access fat stored in problem areas, such as your stomach. If you eat dinner at 8pm and breakfast at 8am you'll get that benefit. If you snack at night, it re-sets the clock so you won't access those fat stores for another nine hours."
Even if exercising regularly, drinking can slow your metabolism down by around 30%, so you'll have to work even harder at keeping your gut at bay.
"Alcohol consumption increases your cortisol levels the hormone responsible for waistline fat. The more cortisol you have in your body, the harder it is to shift your belly," says elite personal trainer Gavin Walsh.
And continuing to booze while training is counterproductive, as "drinking heavily during the weekend means that you won't be back to your optimal level of training until mid-week, especially when you're in your 30s and beyond," warns Walsh.
4) Too much caffeine
Caffeine is vilified and praised in equal measure for its many side effects, but it's hard to argue with hormones.
Slurping down high-caffeine drinks all day causes a rise in our old friend cortisol, also a stress hormone, which can scupper your attempts to trim down. "You may struggle to get your day started without a cup of coffee, but it causes your body to store more of the energy from the food you eat as fat. It also lowers your levels of testosterone, creating a vicious cycle where it's hard to add muscle but easy to add fat," advises Warner.
5) Skipping breakfast
It's not called the most important of meal of the day for nothing: "People who eat breakfast have more balanced diets than those who skip this meal, are less likely to be overweight, lose weight more successfully and have reduced risk of certain diseases."
Walsh recommends "a protein breakfast scrambled eggs with ham, for example is a great option for those trying to maintain or lose weight. Steer clear of starchy carbs like toast and muffins, as these give a huge boost to your insulin levels, opening you up to storing more fat."
6) Insufficient sleep
Now you've shunned those late-night ventures to the kebab van, turn your attention to getting some hearty shut-eye. Once again and there's definitely a trend here cortisol is the main protagonist.
"If you're not hitting the hay for at least seven hours per night then your body won't have the time it needs to recover. This results in more cortisol being released, which tells your body to store more of the food you eat as fat.
"Getting enough sleep also ensures growth hormones are released, which help your body build muscle and burn fat," says Lipsey. If you're having trouble switching off, The Sleep Council suggest keeping to a regular pattern of going to bed and getting up at the same time, avoiding stimulants like caffeine and cigarettes in the evening, and ensuring your bedroom is as quiet and dark as possible before attempting to catch forty winks.
7) Using protein supplements
It's simple if you aren't training, you don't need extra protein. Protein builds muscle mass, but you should aim to lose excess weight before bulking muscle or the results won't be as visible. You'll need to create a calorie deficit in order to burn fat; by loading up on protein shakes and bars, you're actually throwing extra calories and sugar into your body that it doesn't need.
Walsh advises: "Protein supplements should only be considered after reviewing the results you get from a combination of more natural protein in your diet and maintaining a regular training regime."
8) Too many simple carbs
Refined, or simple, carbs white bread, pasta or rice are typical examples may make up the bulk of what you eat, but you need to ditch them if you want to ditch the belly. Joe Warner says, "Simple carbs cause a sudden rush of energy into your body, which quickly subsides leaving you feeling hungry all over again. If you can't avoid carbs all together then eat brown or wholemeal, and add some lean protein to the dish to slow down the release of energy."
9) Excessive stress
Stress can do a lot of damage, but did you know it can make you fatter? "When you get stressed you get a surge in the hormone adrenaline. Over time, too much stress wears out your adrenaline receptors and means that you develop adrenaline resistance, the result of which is increased fat storage," Lipsey explains.
Reducing stress isn't easy but the first step is to identify what's causing the stress, then you can work out how to avoid it or cope better. Planning your day is a good place to start, as not only will you feel more on top of things, but it can help you include mealtimes, training and socialising to keep you focused and on track.
10) Too much sugar
Sugar is perhaps the biggest culprit in soaring obesity rates in the Western world. Sugary foods often contain an abundance of calories but a gaping hole where the nutrients should be. Warner says. "Just like white bread and other refined carbs, sugar sends your blood-sugar levels into the stratosphere and the resulting crash makes you hungry, tired and irritable.
Don't put all the blame on fizzy drinks, chocolate and doughnuts though: ready-meals, fruit juice and jars of cooking sauce can also be packed with sugar so always check the label if you want to go from fat to fit." Lookout for 'carbohydrates (of which sugars)' on nutrition labels over 15g of sugars per 100g is considered high.
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