I'd like to get my lean lower back back
September 15, 2011 12:06 PM   Subscribe

Are beer and a 20 something's body mutually exclusive?

180lbs, 6'1" male - 43 years. Sit nearly all day at computer, get some exercise (try to walk a mile or so in the mornings, but not always possible), usually bike to work 2 days a week (14 miles rt). Walk on weekend usually 5 miles Sat & Sun. Can't bike the other 2 days as that is when my wife rides.

I used to be "tight" and ran nearly everyday in my 20's. Has become harder to find the time over the years with additional responsibilities, tasks, interests - though I'd still like to.

I'd like get rid of my lower back area of fat. Don't have a beer belly - yet. It just seems to be accumulated in lower back. I've tried the low carb diet for quite a while, and I dropped down to 167 at one point but it didn't seem to do anything in the lower back area. I'm skinny everywhere else, not much in the way of upper body.

Yes, I like beer, and am even into homebrewing...I'd hate to give both of these up. Are these mutually exclusive?

Other info: I don't drink soda, eat candy, cookies, ice cream, etc. I do like my wife's homemade no knead bread, any kind of meat or fish, rarely eat fruit. Veggies consist mostly of cabbage or cabbage-related: slaws, kraut. No potatoes.

Short of lipo - is it possible to get rid of this fat?
posted by bellastarr to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I can't speak to whether your body will respond the same way at 43 that it did at 20 - you may need to adjust your expectations - but there's room for a lot of increase of intensity in your exercise routines. Instead of walking, try intervals of running working your way up to a running workout. Instead of biking just to work, add a few miles on the way home and up your speed for a better, longer workout.
posted by Miko at 12:10 PM on September 15, 2011

When I say - "are these mutually exclusive", I mean: is drinking beer regularly and getting rid (and keeping off) the spare tire or whatever possible?
posted by bellastarr at 12:11 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

The beer does contribute calories, yes, but it's not especially responsible for the fat.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:12 PM on September 15, 2011

I am a broken record but...this is because you specifically mention back fat. Lifting weights (Starting Strength or Stronglifts or Stripped, a 5x5 starter program emphasizing compound barbell lifts and legs and back muscles) made an immediately visible difference in both my husband and my back fat; that went away first, before anything else in the legs or arms or chest or anything. I've browsed the progress pics on Something Awful and noticed this seems pretty common. I think in particular it's the deadlifts, barbell rows, and probably the bench and standing presses mostly. It's actually annoying a little because my back is super slim and toned now--you try to pinch anything and you can't, it's all muscle--but my belly is still a bit loose. It gives the illusion though, along with the broader chest and shoulders that also eventually come, of making one's waist appear a lot smaller relatively in shirts--now shirts are tight in the chest and hang/drape down loosely around the belly because of the smaller, firmer back.

This program involves lifting weights 2-3x a week.
posted by ifjuly at 12:15 PM on September 15, 2011 [8 favorites]

When I say - "are these mutually exclusive", I mean: is drinking beer regularly and getting rid (and keeping off) the spare tire or whatever possible?

Well, sure. I mean, I do it - I drink lots of beer, I'm 6 foot, and I weigh 160, with barely any body fat. Then again, I'm 27, so I have a literal 20 something's body; I have a high metabolism, I eat a lot more veggies than you do, and I exercise a lot more - I live in a city where walking is a major form of transportation, I really don't consider a mile or so of walking to even qualify as "exercise," I bike a couple dozen miles each week in the course of running errands and generally getting around, and I rock-climb regularly.

What I'm saying is, this really isn't about beer per se. Your diet isn't particularly healthy or slimming-friendly, and you get very little exercise. Add some veggies, take the biking a lot more seriously (maybe buy a second bike so you can ride every day?) and/or add a new level to your workouts, like running or other things, and sure, you can shed some weight. But you're not as young as you used to be, and your metabolism needs more help than it used to if you want to keep off the body fat.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:15 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, of course it's possible. There is nothing magical about beer, it's just calories.
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:15 PM on September 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

Three factors working against you:

- the easy access to beer (lots of calories/carbs)
- decreased exercise
- decreased metabolism

Sorry, but I think you already know the answer to this question. Reduce the beer and increase the running beyond what you were doing in your 20's. Just sitting at 23 you were burning more calories than just sitting at 43. You have to make up that difference somewhere.

Good news is that the rest of your diet seems reasonable! You're maybe 75% to where you want to be.

Or seriously consider the lipo. It's not fair that our bodies betray us as we age... but thank god we've discovered plastic surgery to compensate.
posted by sbutler at 12:18 PM on September 15, 2011

Beer is full of carbs and alcohol: two things which are not good for loosing body fat. But I will be damned if I tell you to drop beer all together just to get a shapely back. Some things are just not worth too much to give up.

I would sub that walking for some cardio. Walking is nice. But get your heart rate up. Intervals are probably the best way to go. In 15-20 minutes you can do a killer interval running workout (3 minute warm up followed by 5 sets of 1 minute sprinting 2 minutes slowly jogging then a cool down and stretch). And while that will help you loose the weight doing a little additional exercise to build muscle in the core is a good idea. Supermans are a good exercise to do with your standard abs and obliques exercises. Though, ifjuly's suggestion would be so, so much better.
posted by munchingzombie at 12:19 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

@Tomorrowful - we already have 2 bikes. One of us has to drive each day for caregiver reasons not worth going into here.
posted by bellastarr at 12:22 PM on September 15, 2011

The walking is done while on a break at work to get away from the desk for a short period, and in the same work clothes. I'm going to have to add the intervals/weight stuff after work.
posted by bellastarr at 12:25 PM on September 15, 2011

I meant to hint in my reply that the excess fat you're experiencing is probably more due to your activity level and a slowing metabolism than to any specific thing you're eating or drinking. The 'beer belly' thing is sort of a myth, as far as I understand it -- beer does have calories, quite a few in fact, but the reason people put on weight isn't the beer itself so much as the often sedentary lifestyle that goes with it, and/or the additional foods and snacks they eat with the beer, and/or the low level of exercise they're getting. it's just plain going to take more work to maintain a lower weight and tighter body at 40+ than it did at 20something.
posted by Miko at 12:26 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, you can have your beer (and drink it too). But you must:

1. Realize that you will never again look like a 20 something (Seriously, this is an unrealistic expectation.)
2. Strength train. There is too much to say in it's favor here, but you need to read up on the benefits of strength training and how to do it properly. Focus on compound movements.
posted by Homo economicus at 12:36 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Beer is fine. As with all things, moderation is the key. "Beer" doesn't have to mean daily consumption. And, "consumption" doesn't have to mean "a couple of pints".
posted by Thorzdad at 12:41 PM on September 15, 2011

I'm 35 and in fine trim shape. I drink a reasonable quantity of beer and liquor. I also cycle many thousands of miles a year. While some of this depends on genetics, etc., the basic formula of calories_in == calories_out does matter.
posted by introp at 12:52 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

ifjuly called it: if you are "skinny everywhere else, not much in the way of upper body" it will be far easier and more effective for you (in terms of both looks and health) to put on some muscle via strength training than it will be to lose back fat via cardio. Ideally you could do both, of course, but swapping some cardio for weight training would probably still be a good move for you.
posted by vorfeed at 1:01 PM on September 15, 2011

A couple of points that may be relevant:

- Do you do any sort of weight-bearing exercise? I've been diligent about my lifting for the last year, and while it hasn't solved all my problems, my lower back has definitely tightened up nicely as I've put 40 or so pounds on my deadlift.

- If you have any sort of bad reaction to gluten, beer will have a different effect on you than other booze. I cut out gluten and lost a bunch of weight, and the vast majority of it came off my midsection - which was unexpected but lovely.

- Alcohol also depresses the metabolism, so it's not a straight calorie addition. In my personal experience, there seems to be a "tipping point" effect - I can have a couple of drinks one night a week without it having any real effect on my body, but if I drink too many nights in a row (even if it's only one drink a night) I start getting bloated and icky.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:02 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, yeah: IMHO your diet isn't too bad, assuming it really is low-carb other than the beer. You could certainly use a hell of a lot more veggies, but I've personally found that vegetable intake is less important than avoiding cheap carbs. In fact, I think the bread thing is potentially more troubling than the only-eats-cabbage thing...
posted by vorfeed at 1:07 PM on September 15, 2011

When I know I'm going to be in a beer-drinking mode for a while, I kick up my bike riding. if you figure 250 cal for a nice heavy micro brew (too much, but still...) and 50 cal/mile riding pretty hard, I just have to ride 5 miles to "earn" each beer I drink. One good, long saturday morning ride (50 miles) and I've got credits for one hell of a drunken night!

I'm 36, 5'10", and stocky (if I get under 170, I look like a chemo patient), if that helps.
posted by notsnot at 1:21 PM on September 15, 2011

Strength training is what you want. Your height/weight ratio is not unflattering. Do push-ups, sit-ups/yoga/pilates, and pull-ups. Keep walking and riding the bike. Shit will tighten up with diligence. In my experience there is no need for weights if you do enough with body weight and gravity (Disclaimer: I am not a health professional and I am mid-20s)
posted by 3FLryan at 1:38 PM on September 15, 2011

Yeah, you can eat and drink a ton of calories and look awesome—even "traditionally" awesome. (Some of us like some fat, by the way! Skinny isn't everything!) But I'm back on my routine of either swimming, walking or yoga three times a day right now, because I want to knock off back down to about 160. It'll take a couple weeks, maybe a month. Here's the thing: dieting is dull, annoying and depriving. And the more exercise I do, the less I want to deprive myself. So I eat like a horse and get three episodes of brisk exercise each day (yup, time consuming) and that does it just fine.

None of this is shocking information probably. But my point is: you have to make the choices you want. Do you want to cut down intake? Go for it! Or do you want to increase what you're burn, and what muscles you're building? Knock yourself out! (Over-achievers should feel free to do both, but for me, life's too short.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 2:03 PM on September 15, 2011

You can get rid of it instantly -- stop calling it fat. Those are classic love handles!
posted by thinkpiece at 2:32 PM on September 15, 2011

My understanding is that you cannot target areas of fat in the body. Your body puts them where it wants (where you're genetically predisposed) and the only way to get rid of them is to lose fat. I would agree with the other folks that neither your diet or current exercise routine is by itself enough to lose fat. You could keep the diet and exercise a lot more or improve the diet and exercise somewhat more. Either way, you're going to have to lose some fat.
posted by cnc at 4:57 PM on September 15, 2011

Hi bellastarr,

You can't target areas of fat on your body, you can only reduce your total bodyfat. You do this by changing your diet and exercising more. Diet is maybe 4 times more important than exercise.

Changing your diet is a really simple concept but it's also really hard. Do an internet search and find some ideas you like. Do another internet search and find an exercise plan you like. You'll find that the deeper you dig into this realm, the more complicated the details and directions and recommendations become, but it's basically always boils down to 1) more exercise and 2) fewer calories.

Good luck!
posted by boghead at 7:27 PM on September 15, 2011

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