We've all heard of the 'dad bod' phenomenon sweeping the media recently. In fact we've published an article about it in this months' edition of ShortList magazine, but what exactly is it and how can we avoid it?
The first definition of ‘dad bod’ says that ‘the dad bod is a nice balance between a beer guy and working out.’ It could be somebody who no longer has time to keep up with a rigorous gym routine, and enjoys a weekend full of good food and a few beers, or somebody who has always been in okay (but not fantastic) shape. The general consensus seems to be that a man with a ‘dad bod’ has a visible trace of muscle hidden under a layer of fat. Think Leonardo Di Caprio 2015 as opposed to 1999.
How does it happen?
There are many reasons somebody could develop ‘dad bod.’ Perhaps they’ve never achieved that chiselled six pack and have always carried round a bit of excess podge. The most likely explanation though is that the demands of adult life takeover from a younger commitment to the gym. Guys in their early 20s often have few commitments and limited financial pressures. If they want to spend their weekend in the gym working on their muscle definition, or spend £60 per month on supplements, then they tend to have the freedom to do so. As the years creep by and responsibilities pile up, this can become more difficult. Childcare and family commitments, trips to IKEA and social events all take over, and finding time to fit in gym sessions can be tricky.
Unhelpfully, men often store fat in their stomach area, meaning the abs are the first muscles to disappear. Stress, inactivity, poor nutrition and alcohol all contribute to a build up of fat. While carrying excess fat generally increases health risks, a great deal of research suggests the fat around our abdominal region is even worse. This type of fat, known as visceral fat is hard to monitor, as it’s located underneath your abdominal muscles and surrounds your organs. Visceral fat is associated with insulin resistance (meaning the body cannot handle insulin well) it’s also a strong predictor for stroke and heart disease, and is much more important to keep under control than subcutaneous fat, the fat that we can see and pinch. Thankfully, visceral fat is the easiest to lose and is often the first type of fat to go when you start an exercise regime.
If we don't want it how can we fight it?
People often underestimate the amount of work needed to get a well-defined six pack. The most important factor is diet. Any excess calories we eat are usually stored as fat, and will immediately start to mask muscle definition. Male fitness and underwear models devote an extraordinary amount of time to exercise, meal planning and food preparation – an amount that most of us can’t afford to spare!
If you are serious about beating dad bod, cutting your alcohol consumption down (or preferably out) would be a great place to start. A large-scale European study found that men who had one drink a day increased the risk of greater belly fat, and those who drank beer rather than wine had substantially more belly fat. Men who were heavy drinkers, consuming more than four drinks a day, were significantly fatter and had more belly fat than those who drank less. They also found the men who drank more also had a larger caloric intake from food .
It’s also important to find the right balance of macronutrients (protein, carbs and fats) for you. I find clients often overeat on sugary, high carbohydrate foods while under eating on protein. Try to reduce your intake of sugary carbohydrates in favour of a higher protein intake, healthy fats such as avocados, and unrefined carbohydrates such as rice, sweet potato, rye and amaranth. When it comes to protein you should aim to be eating between 1.2-2.0g per kg of bodyweight depending on your goal and activity levels.
You can save the 'dirty' foods such as cakes, chips, pizza and alcohol for special occasions, or your kids’ birthday parties!
When it comes to the gym, time is of the essence. As a busy dad you probably don’t have a lot of time to yourself so short, intense workouts would be best. Try and incorporate a mix of both HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and strength based circuits into your weekly routine. Ditch the long steady state cardio and do sprint work instead. Both HIIT and circuit training can be done in no longer than 30-minutes and have a better effect on fat loss than regular steady state training.
Looking for some inspiration? Check out our Holiday Workout blog for a video demostration of a short HIIT session.
If you hate cardio machines, try using battling ropes, kettlebells, jump ropes or sled work to really fire up your metabolism and burn some fat. I try to encourage the dads with young kids who aren’t able to hit the gym as much to get up and out the house for some fresh air. Going on a family cycle, playing a game of squash, taking a dip in the pool or having a simple kick around in the local park - anything that will help to elevate the heart and burn off some of those excess calories.
A note on abdominal work!
Although isolated abdominal work will help to develop the muscles of a six pack, it won’t necessarily help to show it off. It’s better to lose the gut first by focusing on the techniques above before wasting endless hours performing 100 crunches back to back.
Bergmann, M., Schutze, M., et al. The Association of Lifetime Alcohol Use With Measures of Abdominal and General Adiposity in a Large-Scale European Cohort. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2011. 65, 1079-1087.
About Chris Hall
As the founder of Hall Training Systems, it is my mission to provide you with the very best personal training experience. I set up Hall Training Systems as Oxford's leading personal training service in nutrition, performance and weight loss, ensuring I can deliver the very best in training techniques.
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