How to Lose Man Boobs: Definitive Guide

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Man-boobs

Man boobs might seem like a silly phrase, but it is definitely not silly to anyone who is suffering from excess fat stored in this area. Many men try to alleviate man boobs through spot reduction, or lack of chest exercise, which will both never yield results.

So, how do you get rid of man boobs?

What Are Man Boobs?

For this article, I have created an official definition of man boobs, also known as “moobs”.

Man boobs: (noun) 1. The psychologically distressing distribution of superfluous body fat over a man’s pectoral muscles, creating an appearance similar to breasts 2. Gynecomastia

Each of these definitions has a different look, cause, and treatment. Let’s tackle these in reverse order.

Man Boobs Type #1: Gynecomastia (Hormonal Imbalance)

Since gynecomastia is more straightforward, I will start with it. Gynecomastia, commonly referred to as gyno, is “the swelling of breast tissue in men or boys caused by an imbalance in estrogen and testosterone.”1 It can occur in one or both breasts, is not uncommon during puberty, and is often an unwanted side effect of anabolic steroids. However, its presence may also indicate a serious underlying medical condition such as cancer, liver disease, or a pituitary tumor.

Excess testosterone is converted to estrogen, which binds to receptors in the breast tissue and causes enlargement. Gynecomastia often manifests as a lump right under the nipple and can be a tell-tale side of steroid use. It is frequently physically painful and can very embarrassing. And though it can resolve spontaneously (especially due to natural hormonal fluxes like those seen in puberty), in older adults it often requires surgical removal.

If you think you may have gynecomastia, I recommend a visit to your health care provider to discuss treatment options and rule out serious potential causes.

Man Boobs Type #2: Moobs (Excess Chest Fat)

The second type of man boobs, or moobs, is much more common and more easily fixed. The typical scenario around moobs is well-exemplified by one of my patients. He is a 32 year-old man, healthy other than carrying around a little extra body fat. At 5’10”, he weighed 210 pounds with 23% body fat by ultrasound. His first words after he sat down in my office were, “I have boobs.”

He told me his chest was too big as it is, and had thus stayed away from intense chest training all together out of fear it would make his chest even bigger. His chest workouts consisted mainly of high rep push-ups in a misguided effort to “tone” his chest and he admitted to doing little in the way of cardio or monitoring his nutrition intake. It was no surprise that this approach yielded none of the desired results, despite strict adherence for 3 years!!!

The distribution of body fat is determined largely by genetics and to a lesser degree by hormones. For example, if the stress hormone cortisol is elevated in your blood, excess calories will be preferentially deposited around the abdomen. Thus, excess chest fat can only be trimmed by following a program designed for overall fat loss, as spot reduction is essentially impossible. Again, it is impossible to target chest fat by doing high rep chest work.

Moreover, many people, like my patient, are afraid to do heavy chest work. This is a huge mistake. I have never met a guy with a six-pack who said his chest was too big. Fat takes up a lot of space, and most people find that after a significant amount of fat loss, their chests look too small, and they regret not focusing more on building the Pecs. I can’t stress this enough: If you have man boobs, it is NOT because your chest muscles are too large. Exercising each (large) body part intensely is key for fat loss, and the chest is no exception.

How Do You Get Rid Of Man Boobs?

1. Exercise

As stated above, you must employ an exercise regimen emphasizing overall fat loss with retention of lean muscle. There are many different specific programs out there, including the BuiltLean Program, which are very effective for fat loss. Do not try to spot reduce your chest fat.

2. Nutrition

All of the exercise in the world will not get rid of your man boobs if you are not eating correctly. A maintainable nutrition plan, centered as much as possible around whole, unprocessed foods, and which puts your body in a calorie deficit, will allow the fat to come off. Aim for a fat loss rate of 1-2 pounds per week. Going any faster than that puts you at higher risk for muscle loss and can have longer-term negative metabolic consequences.

Many people are impatient and don’t like that rate, so here is a perspective: My patient’s first visit was in August of 2012. His first goal was to be comfortable taking his shirt off during a Christmas vacation in the Caribbean. He lost fat at a rate of ½-1 pound per week, and after 16 weeks he had lost 14 pounds on the scale and had increased his thigh and arm circumferences. Yet, despite the heavy chest training he was doing, his chest, and waist, measurements decreased significantly.

Over the next 6 months, he lost another 11 or 12 pounds (a rate of about ½ pound per week) and looked great for summer. As the changes he made to reach his goals were subtle and maintainable, he has been able to keep at his target weight and has gotten rid of his man boobs. So go slow: the future is guaranteed to come. It feels much better to be where you want to be when it does than have rushed to get there and be back to where you started from.

References

  1. Gynecomastia Mayo Clinic. Dec 2010.
Medically reviewed by Oladapo Babatunde, MD
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3 Comments on “How to Lose Man Boobs: Definitive Guide

  1. Andreas
    July 30, 2013 #

    Thanks for the article, Charlie!

    In your experience, what’s the body fat % where most chest fat is gone? I’m aware that every body stores fat differently, but is there an approximate target range to strive for?

    I’ve gone down from 25%~ to 14%~, and while I feel great and have very little stomach fat, the chest fat remains stubborn. It has definitely been reduced, but it’s still enough to make me uncomfortable. I am planning on dropping down to 10% anyway, but having an idea of where the goal-post lies would be comforting.

  2. July 31, 2013 #

    Great question, Andreas. I wish I had a definitive answer, but as you said everyone is different. But since you asked, here are my thoughts:If you have very little stomach fat at 14%, then it is likely that most of the remaining extra fat is in your chest. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that a significant portion of every pound of fat you lose will come from your chest. Let’s look at how much fat would be lost if a 200 lb. person went from 14% to 10% (and I am using this number because you didn’t mention how much you weigh) using the builtlean calculation from this article: http://www.builtlean.com/2011/08/24/lean-body-mass-definition-formula/

    Lean Body Mass = Body Weight – (Body Weight x Body Fat %)
    Lean Body Mass = 200 – (200 x 14 %) = 172 pounds (28 pounds of fat)

    Now assuming your lean mass stays the same, we can use the same equation but this time the variable is the body weight:
    172 = x -(x)(10%)
    172 = x – 0.1x
    172 = 0.9x
    body weight = 191.1
    Subtracting the lean body mass from the body weight will give you the fat mass.
    Fat mass: 191.1-172 = 19.1 pounds.

    Thus, to get to 10% from 14%, a 200 lb. person would need to lose about 9 pounds of fat (28-19.1). If most of this came from the chest (and it should as you have said your belly fat is minimal), I suspect our example would be very happy at 10%. If your weight is significantly more or less, then plug in your weight and see what comes up. If you want to post those numbers I would be more than happy to comment. Let us know!

    1. Andreas
      August 2, 2013 #

      My bad, I should have included that info from the beginning. Thanks for the detailed writeup! To avoid the same mistake I’ll provide all the relevant stats I have.

      Currently my measurements are:

      Height: 5’8″
      Chest: 33.5″
      Waist: 30″
      Hip: 37″

      And weight:

      Total: 132
      LBM: 113.2
      Fat: 18.8 (14.24%)

      The desired weight values are:

      Total: 125.5
      LBM: 113.2
      Fat: 12.3 (9.8%)

      As you can imagine based on these numbers, I’m small-framed and not very muscular (yet). My uneducated self-assessment is that most of the remaining fat is located around the chest, glutes, waist, and upper legs. Nearly all of my uncles from my father’s side of the family have considerable chest fat, so I have little doubt that genetics is why it remains stubborn.

      Thanks for taking the time to look into this, it is much appreciated! When I was a teenager, this made me extremely self-conscious. Unfortunately, at the time, the research I did never pointed at exercise as a possible solution, whether through a fault of my own or the lack of information at the time. Back then, I was also under the impression that heavy chest work would make it worse, so I avoided it, on top of many other misconceptions and half-truths. So, thanks for writing this; I am sure many will find it inspiring to know the solution is within their control.

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