If you're a dad and the jelly bellied, flat chested, skinny armed, cropped butt look has snuck up on you, you're not alone. This look has become common enough among patriarchs that it's earned an unofficial label from the internet: "Dad Bod" - there's even a proposed scientific explanation for the cause of it. Of course if you're showcasing "Dad Bod" by design and with pride then ignore the below and stay "strong" my brother! For any "Dad Bod" club members who are looking for a way out of the club here are a few evidence-based tricks to squash it:
1. Supplement your cardio with resistance work
Going all in on cardio to fight off the "Dad Bod" look will only end in a frustrating lack of results. Building lean mass via regular bouts of responsible resistance training will launch a direct attack on the characteristics of "Dad Bod." Mix at least 2-3 days per week of progressive resistance training into your routine so you can look forward to popping your shirt off at your next pool party.
SEE THE SCIENCE: Weight Training Appears to Control Belly Fat
*Incorporate interval/incline training into your cardio work versus getting stuck in the rut of steady-state-only attempts.
2. coordinate your carbs for fat burn
Becoming a fat burning powerhouse is pivotal to positive body composition change, but pre-workout carbohydrates will compromise your fat burn efforts. I understand that the age-old question of what to eat pre-workout becomes more confusing if avoiding carbs before you break a sweat is the best way to promote fat burn. There's a simple solution: first ask yourself prior to your workout if you're hungry. If your hunger pangs are at bay then grab the gym bag and get to work. If your stomach feels a bit hollow then reach for healthy fats and proteins first.
In the case that you are craving some grub before you train, stick to things like nut butters, mixed nuts, plain yogurt with a sprinkle of berries, full fat cheeses, responsibly sourced/made deli meats, avocado or eggs. After the workout (if you are hungry) is the time to eat your high quality carbs in moderation. This will turn your workouts into "Dad Bod" busting, fat burning attacks.
SEE THE SCIENCE: Burn Fat with Fat, Not Sugar
3. make room for mindfulness
Dads trying to navigate the parenting puzzle without effective stress management skills are prime candidates for "Dad Bod." As you know, chronic unmanaged stress causes stress hormone levels to go haywire. One of these stress hormones is cortisol and levels are chronically elevated during times of poorly managed stress. It is impossible to efficiently burn fat, build lean muscle mass, sleep, find motivation to exercise and make healthy food choices during times of chronic cortisol elevation. This is a bad set of circumstances for a dad trying to fight off "Dad Bod."
One stress management strategy that has been proven to help keep cortisol levels stable is mindfulness practice. Taking a few moments each day to be present and attentive to you is a great way to squash stress, cortisol levels and the development of "Dad Bod."
SEE THE SCIENCE: Stress-induced cortisol, mood, and fat distribution in men.
SEE MORE SCIENCE: Effects of mindfulness meditation on cortisol of medical students.
After these simple science-backed techniques help you get results in your fight against "Dad Bod," be sure to enjoy being called just "Dad" again.
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Tim DiFrancesco, PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS is the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Los Angeles Lakers and Founder of TD Athletes Edge, where he provides fitness, recovery and nutrition guidance to aspiring and professional athletes. For training advice, visit www.tdathletesedge.com and follow him on Twitter/Instagram through @tdathletesedge.
Dier, A. (2015, July 22). There's Science Behind the 'Dad Bod' Retrieved August 8, 2015.
Epel, E. (1999). Stress-induced cortisol, mood, and fat distribution in men. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
Mekary, R. (2014, December 23). Weight training appears key to controlling belly fat. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
Mekary, R. (2015, February 1). Weight training, aerobic physical activities, and long-term waist circumference change in men. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
Turakitwanakan, W. (2013). Effects of mindfulness meditation on serum cortisol of medical students. Retrieved August 8, 2015.