Gaining Belly Fat? Here’s what you should know...

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A slower metabolism, a growing reliance on takeaways, increased stress from work and life commitments, and perhaps some not-so-healthy coping mechanisms are some examples of factors that may lead to weight gain. As men get older, they may notice their waistline creeping up on them because of these life changes. Let’s look at some key lifestyle habits that may be contributing to increased belly fat, and more importantly, what you can do about it!


Perhaps you have found yourself winding down after a long day of work with a cold beer (or several) becoming a more common occurrence than before. Men are more likely than women to drink excessively which can contribute to several poor health outcomes, including contributing to fat gain for several reasons. One reason for this is the sheer number of calories in alcohol. There are 7 calories in a gram of alcohol, which is roughly 300 calories in a bottle of beer. If you’re having several drinks in a day and across the week, these calories can certainly add up. Alcohol can also be high in sugar which further adds to these calories.

In addition to the poor nutritional value of alcohol, it can also affect our eating habits and lifestyle choices. Alcohol can increase our appetite and lead to poor judgement, resulting in choosing less nutritious foods and having more of it. It can also make us less likely to be physically active, result in poorer sleep, and increase cortisol levels, all of which may promote fat storage [1].

We recommend limiting your alcohol to 10 standard drinks in a week at most, and less than 4 standard drinks in any one occasion. You can also limit your alcohol to the weekends and set a limit on how many drinks you will have. Being mindful of low-calorie options can also help, such as low-calorie beer or a choosing a low-sugar mixer if drinking sprits. Alcohol-free alternatives also provide a great option nowadays. For more information on alcohol guidelines, check out our blog here!

High Sugar Diet

A diet high in added sugars can contribute to belly fat [2]. Foods high in added sugars, like cakes, sweet biscuits, and sugar-sweetened beverages tend to be energy-dense and nutrient-poor. This means that they can increase our calories without providing us with nutrients, such as fibre, that helps us feel full and satisfied. Instead, try making water your drink of choice more often and limit the amount of ultra-processed foods in your diet.

Lack of Protein

Protein helps us feel satiated, and research has found that having a higher protein intake may help reduce abdominal fat [3]. Try to choose lean protein sources more often such as oily fish, poultry, eggs, extra lean beef, and legumes. 

Poor Sleep

While nutrition is certainly an important influence on weight gain, the effect of other lifestyle factors shouldn’t be overlooked! When we don’t get enough sleep or have poor quality sleep, we are more likely to select nutrient-poor options and may increase our food intake to compensate for our lack of energy [4]. Lack of sleep can also influence our hunger hormones, increase inflammation, and make us less likely to exercise, all of which can contribute to fat gain.

If you struggle to fall asleep, try to incorporate a night-time routine to help you wind-down such as avoiding lights, meditating, and using relaxing scents. Caffeine can also affect our quality of sleep as it stays in our system for a long period of time. Try to limit caffeine and keep your last cup before noon!

Sedentary Lifestyle

Whether it’s a shift to remote working, a lack of time to commit to a fitness class, or a lack of motivation to make it to the gym, these changes in our lifestyle can all contribute to weight gain [5]. Try gradually increasing your exercise by going for walks on your lunch break, doing workouts at home, joining a gym, or perhaps organising a sports team with your mates. Ideally, try aiming for 150 minutes of physical activity throughout the week!

The Bottom Line

While there can be many factors that contribute to gaining belly fat, some key factors that men should be aware of include excessive alcohol intake, poor sleep, a diet high in sugar and low in protein, and a sedentary lifestyle. Through making the above lifestyle changes, men may find that they are able to reduce their waist size. If you’d like personalised advice on weight loss, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team of friendly Accredited Practising Dietitians!


[1] Traversy G, Chaput JP. Alcohol Consumption and Obesity: An Update. Curr Obes Rep. 2015 Mar;4(1):122-30. doi: 10.1007/s13679-014-0129-4. PMID: 25741455; PMCID: PMC4338356.

[2] Malik VS, Schulze MB, Hu FB. Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Aug;84(2):274-88. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/84.1.274. PMID: 16895873; PMCID: PMC3210834.

[3] Moon J, Koh G. Clinical Evidence and Mechanisms of High-Protein Diet-Induced Weight Loss. J Obes Metab Syndr. 2020 Sep 30;29(3):166-173. doi: 10.7570/jomes20028. PMID: 32699189; PMCID: PMC7539343.

[4] Papatriantafyllou E, Efthymiou D, Zoumbaneas E, Popescu CA, Vassilopoulou E. Sleep Deprivation: Effects on Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance. Nutrients. 2022 Apr 8;14(8):1549. doi: 10.3390/nu14081549. PMID: 35458110; PMCID: PMC9031614.

[5] Park JH, Moon JH, Kim HJ, Kong MH, Oh YH. Sedentary Lifestyle: Overview of Updated Evidence of Potential Health Risks. Korean J Fam Med. 2020 Nov;41(6):365-373. doi: 10.4082/kjfm.20.0165. Epub 2020 Nov 19. PMID: 33242381; PMCID: PMC7700832.

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