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You may have seen the term “dad bod” in the media over the last few years. It’s a term used to describe men who aren’t especially lean or fat and aren’t muscular or skinny, either. For many men, the dad bod starts to develop when they become fathers. However, parenthood is not always the cause.

Owners of dad bods look like someone who doesn’t work out and who eats more for convenience than health or performance. They may even like a beer or three. The dad bod is becoming the new normal for many men.

Dad Bods

In this article, we reveal the leading causes of the dad bod phenomenon and provide you with a workout and nutrition guide to get your body back in shape.

The Causes of Dad Bod

To overcome any problem, you need to identify the causes. Otherwise, you’re just firing blindly at an unknown target. The most apparent causes of “dad bod-ness” are:

Lack of Time

Whether you are a new father or just a typical working man, lack of time can stop you from exercising regularly. Your body works on the principle of “use it or lose it,” and if you aren’t working out, muscle loss is inevitable.

Lengthy, frequent workouts are often impractical, so a lot of men just quit working out altogether. The good news is that shorter, less frequent workouts can improve muscle mass, and lack of time doesn’t have to be a barrier to exercise.

Eating for Convenience

When time is short, a lot of men are happy to grab takeout or a candy bar instead of preparing healthy, nutritious food. Convenience food is usually high in calories, fat, sugar, and carbs and low in vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber. This creates the perfect storm for fat storage.

Eating healthily needn’t be time-consuming, and there are easy weight loss methods that even the busiest man can use. Your diet does NOT have to put you into the dad bod zone!

Lack of Sleep

Lack Of Sleep

Being a father usually means saying goodbye to a full nights’ sleep (1). Parents of newborn children sleep less than people without kids, and lack of sleep can profoundly affect how you look, feel, and perform.

Not getting the requisite 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night can lead to (2):

  • Decreased testosterone
  • Increased cortisol (stress hormone)
  • Reduced energy
  • Increased insulin resistance
  • Increased carb and sugar cravings
  • Loss of motivation to exercise

In short, not getting enough sleep can contribute significantly to developing a dad bod. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot you can do about your child waking you at night – it’s part of being a father.

But, if you ARE’NT a dad, you have no excuse for not cleaning up your act and getting more sleep. In most cases, this just means going to bed earlier.

You can read more about the importance of sleep for building muscle and burning fat here.

Reduced Testosterone

Your testosterone levels tend to peak in your mid-30s and decline gradually after that. Being a father can cause your T-levels to drop more noticeably, as a lack of sleep, stress, gaining fat, and less physical activity are also contributing factors (3).

Testosterone is an anabolic hormone, which means it plays a crucial role in muscle building. It’s also a potent fat burner. It’s easy to see how lack of testosterone and dad bods are linked.

Thankfully, there are several things you can do that will increase your T-levels.

While these factors can all lead to the development of a dad bod, none of them are irreversible or impossible to overcome. Sure, you’ll need to prioritize your workouts and diet. But by keeping things simple, even the busiest new father or overworked office warrior should be able to make the changes needed to defeat dad bod!

The Anti-Dad Bod Workout Plan

The anti-dad bod workout plan is designed to build muscle, increase insulin sensitivity, boost testosterone production, and get you in and out of the gym in under an hour. With just three workouts per week, that means, out of the 168 hours available, you just need to find three. That’s less than 1.8% of your week.

To achieve this feat, you’ll be doing abbreviated full-body workouts.

Why full-body and not a bodybuilding split program? Full-body workouts make the best use of your time, burn more calories, and, if you miss one, you’ll still train all your major muscles twice per week, which should be enough to maintain your progress.

Work out on any three non-consecutive days, e.g., Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.

If you are forced to miss a workout, try and find 10-15 minutes and do a few sets of bodyweight push-ups, pull-ups/chin-ups, and lunges. That should be enough to tide you over until you can get back in the gym.

To ensure this workout plan is accessible for all, it’s built around straightforward exercises that you can do in any gym – even one that’s not so well equipped.

Before you hit the weights, spend a few minutes warming up and preparing your body for what’s to come. Begin with 5-10 minutes of easy cardio followed by a few dynamic mobility and flexibility exercises for your major muscles and joints. Finish up with 50-100 light band pull-aparts to thoroughly warm up your shoulder joints, fire up your shoulder stabilizers, and improve your posture.

Workout One

Bodybuilder Doing Bench Press

No: Exercise Sets Reps Recovery
1 Squat   4 12, 10, 8, 6* 60-90 seconds
2 Bench Press 3 8-12 60-90 seconds
3 Pendlay Row 3 8-12 60-90 seconds
4 Skullcrusher 2 8-12 60-90 seconds
5 RKC Plank 2 15-30 seconds 60-90 seconds

*For exercise one, do 12 reps with a light/moderate weight and then increase the load as you decrease the reps set by set, finishing with six reps with a substantial weight.

Finisher: Run one mile as fast as you can
 

Workout Two

Powerlifting Deadlift

No: Exercise Sets Reps Recovery
1 Deadlift   4 12, 10, 8, 6* 60-90 seconds
2 Incline Row 3 8-12 60-90 seconds
3 Overhead Press 3 8-12 60-90 seconds
4 Barbell Curl 2 6-10 60-90 seconds
5 Woodchop 2 12-15 per side 60-90 seconds

* For exercise one, do 12 reps with a light/moderate weight and then increase the load as you decrease the reps set by set, finishing with six reps with a substantial weight.

Finisher: 5 x 15 kettlebell swings done EMOM
 

Workout Three

Bodybuilder Workout Triceps Pushdown

No: Exercise Sets Reps Recovery
1 Bulgarian Split Squat 4 12, 10, 8, 6* 60-90 seconds
2 Incline DB Press 3 8-12 60-90 seconds
3 Pull-up/Chin-up 3 AMRAP** 60-90 seconds
4 Triceps Pushdown 2 8-12 60-90 seconds
5 Hanging Knee Raise 2 12-15 60-90 seconds

* For exercise one, do 12 reps with a light/moderate weight and then increase the load as you decrease the reps set by set, finishing with six reps with a substantial weight.

** AMRAP is short for As Many Reps as Possible. Just keep going until you reach failure.

Finisher: Row 2000 meters as fast as you can

What about cardio? Forget about it!

If you are really short of time, strength training should be your priority. Your weights workouts will benefit your cardiovascular health and fitness, so traditional cardio workouts are not essential right now. Also, each workout ends with a finisher, which is a short, sharp bout of cardio, so doing more would be redundant.

However, to augment your thrice-weekly gym sessions, you should try and walk 10,000 steps every day. That might sound a lot, but you don’t need to do it all in one go.

Just squeeze a few 10 to 20-minute walks into your day, and you’ll have no problem hitting 10K. If you are a new father, combine your walk with some quality time with your kids and take them with you. Pushing a stroller or carrying a child is a great workout! 

Walking will enhance your recovery, lower your stress levels, and burn a few extra calories.

The Anti-Dad Bod Nutrition Guide

If you’ve reached this section hoping for a diet to follow, you’re going to be disappointed. Diets are hard to follow, inflexible, and often cause more problems than they fix. After all, we don’t all like the same foods, have the same grocery budget, or have the same cooking skills.

Instead, shed your dad bod by putting as many of the following nutritional guidelines into action as you can. Remember that even small changes can produce big results, so every little will help!

Protein Shakes

Drop that candy bar and have a protein shake instead. At about 150 calories per shake, replacing an unhealthy snack with a protein shake will save you calories, and the protein is crucial for muscle building. Also, protein is thermogenic and filling, so it could help you burn more fat, too.

Try Skipping Breakfast

Arnold Schwarzenegger Breakfast
Arnold Schwarzenegger Breakfast

Burning fat and losing weight means eating less food and creating a calorie deficit. Faced with this energy shortfall, your body has no choice but to start using fat for fuel.

One way to create a calorie deficit is to work out your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) and then subtract 300-500 from that number. Armed with this figure, you then weigh and measure all your food to ensure that you never eat more than you should.

Needless to say, this is as time-consuming as it sounds.

As lack of time is a barrier for many dad bod sufferers, you’ll probably appreciate a more straightforward approach.

If your weight is currently static, it’s a safe bet to say your current caloric intake is roughly equal to your calorie expenditure. Skipping breakfast will automatically save you 300-500 calories a day without having to way or measure anything. Simple!

However, don’t make up for skipping breakfast by eating more later in the day. That would defeat the purpose of this intervention.

Eat the Same Meals More Often

When lack of time makes it hard to eat healthily, simplify your diet by eating the same healthy meals more often. For example, pan-roasted vegetables and a grilled chicken breast or salmon filet take about 30 minutes to make. Buy everything you need in advance and have this meal several times a week.

Having fewer options means you can all but automate meal prep and grocery shopping, saving valuable time. With fewer choices, you won’t have to spend time trying to decide what to eat. This is very liberating.

Also, try batch cooking. In other words, cook several means at the same time. Eat one and freeze the rest for later that week.

Don’t Break the Five Veggies and Fruits Rule

Fresh Vegetables

The main sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber in your diet are (or should be) fruit and vegetables. It’s easy to get behind on your plant food intake when time is against you.

Avoid missing out on the nutrients you need by sticking to the five veggies and fruits rule. Every day, make sure that you eat five portions of fruit and vegetables. Choose foods that don’t need a lot of preparation to save time. Better still, choose foods you can consume raw, so you have no excuse for not eating them.

If you eat five portions of fruit and vegetables (that’s five in total and NOT five of each!), you can afford a few dietary slip-ups and still make progress and stay healthy.

Consider a Meal Delivery Service

Can’t cook, won’t cook, don’t have time to cook? Let someone else take the strain! There are lots of meal delivery services that will bring healthy meals to your home or place of work. It’s not the cheapest option, but it’s a surefire way to make sure you eat healthily when you don’t have the means to prepare your own food.

Stop Eating Your Kids’ Leftovers

Kids don’t always eat all their food. With more exciting things to do, kids are often in a hurry to finish eating. Don’t get into the habit of finishing their meals as well as your own. This will probably push you over the edge and back into weight gain territory.

Meal Replacement Shakes are Your Friend

No time to eat a healthy meal? Drink one, instead. Just toss a scoop or two of protein powder, some berries, Greek yogurt, and almond milk into your blender and whip up a healthy meal in seconds. This is 100% better for your health and your waistline than grabbing a slice of pizza or a takeout burger.

Go Easy on The Beer

Drinking Glass Of Beer

When your day finally draws to an end, it can be tempting to unwind with a couple of beers. But, as well as being relaxing, beer and other alcoholic beverages contain calories, can inhibit fat burning, and will disrupt your sleep.

If you must have a beer, consider a light beer, stop at just one, and even try one of the new alcohol-free beers that are now available. They taste pretty good and will save you a bunch of calories.

Simplify Your Supplement Regimen

If you are sleep-deprived, short on time, and generally off your game, it can be hard to maintain a complicated supplement regimen. If you start skipping servings and doses, it won’t be long until your products stop producing the results you want, and they become nothing but a waste of money.

Keep things simple by sticking to a few well-chosen staples. Ideally, they should be supplements you can take just once or twice a day at any time, e.g., morning and evening, so you are less likely to forget them.

Good options include:

  • ZMA – take before bed to enhance sleep
  • Creatine HCL – no loading required
  • Pre-Workout – for more training energy and focus
  • Whey Protein – for meal replacement shakes and snacks
  • Vitamin D – take AM and PM to raise testosterone levels naturally

You don’t need to take supplements, but if you do, it makes sense to use them in the most effective way, i.e., consistently and not haphazardly.

Think More Like a Hunter / Gatherer

While you don’t need to go full paleo, you’ll find eating healthily more straightforward if you mostly choose foods that are available in nature. If whatever you are thinking of eating can’t be picked from a tree, dug up from the ground, or caught by hunting, you should probably eat something else.

So, because donuts don’t grow on trees, and nor do Pop-Tarts or candy bars, there are other things you should eat instead, like bananas, nuts, whole grains, meat, and fish.

Try to follow these guidelines at least 80% of the time, allowing a little space for a few less healthy foods and meals. Dietary success is about sustainable moderation and not short-term perfection!

Wrapping Up

A lot of media outlets celebrate the dad bod, like being average is something to be proud of. Of course, every man is free to live his own life and look the way he chooses. But, if you want to be more than average, it’s time to stop making excuses and start taking action!

Shedding your dad bod doesn’t have to mean living in the gym full-time or becoming obsessed with your diet. That’s neither practical nor realistic.

Instead, the key to a successful anti-dad bod transformation is ensuring that your actions are sustainable. It’s a marathon and not a sprint.

Use the information in this article to gradually shed fat and build muscle. This won’t be an overnight transformation, but in six months or so, there should be a whole new man looking back at you in the mirror.

References:

1. PubMed: Sleep Patterns and Fatigue in New Mothers and Fathers https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1307172/

2. PubMed: Extent and Health Consequences of Chronic Sleep Loss and Sleep Disorders https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK19961/

3. PubMed: Longitudinal Evidence That Fatherhood Decreases Testosterone in Human Males https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21911391/

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