Sex, sunbathing by the pool, charging into battle on horseback – there are certain things in life that are best enjoyed without a shirt on. Sadly, however, there’s a cruel affliction hellbent on depriving men of these simple pleasures.
Man boobs – medically, gynaecomastia – is often the result of a hormone imbalance, when a man’s ratio of oestrogen to testosterone shifts too far to the female side. It’s a problem that affects around half of all men, according to the Cleveland Clinical Journal of Medicine.
But that doesn’t mean you need to start shopping in the lingerie section. Regardless of how you grew them, your man-nary glands can be remedied. What can’t be shed in the gym can be concealed with clever wardrobe choices and what can’t be concealed can – in extreme cases – be removed with the help of a skilled professional.
What Are Man Boobs?
Of all the indignities age thrusts upon your body, a sudden swelling in your chest might be the toughest to stomach.
Man moobs are caused by the formation of excess fat or breast tissue, which gives the appearance of breasts. For sufferers, it can be an extremely embarrassing issue, leading to problems with self-esteem, body confidence and an overall decline in mental well-being.
Gynaecomastia VS Pseudogynecomastia
If you’re going to stand any chance of getting rid of yours, it’s important to know how they got there in the first place. According to Dr Dennis Wolf at The Private Clinic of Harley Street, there are two main types.
“Gynaecomastia is true enlargement of the breast tissue in the male chest,” he says. “All males have some element of breast tissue, and this can sometimes grow due to hormone fluctuation or weight fluctuation.” Occasionally, this can also be due to steroid use; we’re looking at you, gym bunnies.
“Pseudogynecomastia,” he adds, “is an enlargement of the chest appearance, but not due to breast tissue alone. In most cases, this is a combination of fat and gland, but mainly fat. The cause of this is weight fluctuation.”
So, to break that down: gynaecomastia = hormone-related enlargement of breast tissue; pseudogynecomastia = enlarged breasts due to an increase in body fat.
Why Do We Get Man Boobs?
So, you’ve got the moobs like Jabba. Life’s just not fair, is it? Well, no, that much should be obvious. However, there may be certain things contributing to your bountiful bosoms that are within your control. While it’s not guaranteed that cutting out sugar or choosing a new moisturiser will flatten your chest overnight, a few lifestyle tweaks can have a positive effect.
Consuming more calories than you’re burning off is a surefire way to put on weight. And one place that weight could choose to appear is on your chest.
Not only do bad eating habits increase fat, but this extra fat creates an imbalance of a hormone called leptin, which can inhibit the production of testosterone, making matters even worse.
You might have embraced balding, navigated a mid-life crisis and developed a prize-winning belly, but life ain’t through with you yet. Just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be any new ways for old age to shaft you: man boobs.
From around the age of 50, testosterone production in men begins to deplete rapidly. By the time most hit 80, their levels have dropped between 20 and 50 per cent, meaning that as you age, it becomes harder to keep a fuller chest at bay.
Excessive Alcohol Consumption
Big breasts and a floppy sausage aren’t exactly top on the list of things most guys want, but on the list of unpleasant alcohol side effects, they’re right up there.
It’s no secret that drinking too much of the good stuff can cause you to gain weight. But particularly hoppy beers have also been found to increase estrogen levels, in turn stimulating the production of breast tissue.
Natural Oil-Based Products
That thistle and lavender beard oil may make your chin wig glisten like the morning dew in an alpine meadow, but it could be hiding a dark secret.
Research has shown that using products containing natural oil-based ingredients like lavender and tea tree oil can cause a hormone imbalance when absorbed into your bloodstream due to their estrogen-like properties.
If you’re a steroid-pumping swole bro, you’ll know that your illegal drug of choice is designed to make certain parts of you balloon in size (while possibly shrinking others). However, we’re willing to hazard a guess that the body part you’re aiming to grow probably isn’t your melons.
Anabolic steroids are essentially synthetic testosterone, some of which can be converted into estrogen by the body. When this happens, it can cause gynaecomastia and some suspiciously bulbous pectorals.
It’s rare, but tenderness or swelling in the breast area can be indicative of an underlying medical condition such as kidney failure, liver disease or Klinefelter syndrome, the name given to when a man is born with an extra X chromosome.
If you notice any changes in your chest that can’t be attributed to bingeing on beer and sausage rolls, get in touch with your doctor to find the root of the problem and find a cure.
How To Get Rid Of Man Boobs
In addition to smaller lifestyle changes, there are also several proactive steps you can take to banish unwanted boobs for good. But before you embark on your path towards flat-chested freedom, it always worth consulting your doctor first.
Boycott The Burgers
If you really want to lose weight and, as a result, your man boobs, a good diet should be the first port of call.
Reducing your carb intake, swerving sugar and swapping fat with lean meats and plenty of protein will get you off to a good start. Fruit and veg are your friends, too. In short, you need to be aiming for a healthy, balanced diet to wave those moobs goodbye.
Get A Sweat On
Shedding body fat is largely down to diet, but hitting the gym will certainly speed things up and get you fit and toned in the process.
Not only that, pumping iron increases testosterone, which is exactly what you need in order to achieve a set of paving slab pecs.
Pop Those Pills
Just as the wrong kind of drugs can cause issues that lead to gynaecomastia (consider moobs a punishment from your body), the right kind can help solve them.
If the culprit of your increased cup size is an upset in levels of testosterone and oestrogen, there are medications available to adjust the hormone imbalance and reduce the symptoms.
Moob Reduction Surgery
In severe cases of gynaecomastia, no amount of jogging, lifting, dieting or other lifestyle changes will rid you of your chest. If you fall into this category then don’t despair, there is still an option.
Breast reduction surgery is now one of the most common cosmetic procedures among men. Do some thorough research and book in for a consultation with a surgeon who will find the best way to handle your case.
How To Dress For Man Boobs
As much as we rate their ability to transform someone’s appearance, clothes alone aren’t enough to solve what is a complex medical issue. Nonetheless, you’d be amazed to learn what a difference some clever colouring mixed with a flattering fit can make on the surface. Try these three tips to fool your way to a 2D chest.
Regardless of your body shape, clothes should always hang casually, rather than clinging to your body, but particularly in this case, when the aim is to conceal any lumps and bumps.
“It goes without saying but don’t wear tops that are too tight,” says stylist Sarah Gilfillan, who founded the men’s personal styling service SartoriaLab. “Instead, opt for things that fit but skim over your chest.”
Fabric can make a big difference, too. “For T-shirts, choose something in a pique or similar densely woven fabric that has more structure to it, rather than something floppy like a linen mix or thin cotton,” adds Gilfillan, who also suggests anything woven with stretch or lycra.
Say goodbye to your humps by being selective about what style of clothes you fill your wardrobe with. Some will lessen the appearance of gynaecomastia much more effectively than others.
“Shirts are better suited to this problem as they tend to be thicker,” says Gilfillan. “Patch pockets with buttons on a more casual shirt cover up the area, but be careful of pockets on a formal shirt, which can end up drawing attention to it.”
Aside from being a move straight out of the style playbook, layering can also help, with Gilfillan suggesting a casual shirt or a shacket over a T-shirt.
Make colour your mate, too. Dark clobber is well-known for its slimming effects, but don’t limit yourself to black or navy. “Why not try some olive, teal or burgundy instead?”
We know what you’re thinking, patterns draw attention rather than deflect it. Which is true, but by being clever, you can use it to disguise a problem area.
“Choose tops with an all-over pattern, which will be more forgiving and distract the eye,” says Gilfillan. “Avoid logos though, as these are often at chest level and will draw attention.”
Texture – which thanks to the heritage and workwear trends is never a bad choice – can also work in much the same way. “If it’s a formal shirt, look for texture such as herringbone or an Oxford shirt which are thicker and less likely to cling or be see through.”
The Get Rid Of Man Boobs Workout
Endless bench presses won’t shrink your chest. To ensure you fill your shirt in the right way, you need to focus on exercises that work as many muscles as possible. “The more muscles you move, the harder your body works,” says Leo Savage, a personal trainer at luxury London gym Third Space who recommends compound moves that recruit the body’s biggest muscles, like deadlifts, squats, and pull-ups.
You also need to up your cardio. Fat tissue encourages your body to convert testosterone to oestrogen. Burning blubber helps reconfigure your hormones, so food turns into muscle not ‘moobs’. But the most potent weapon in the war on chest-based embarrassment is heavy metal. Lifting weights ups testosterone levels, which helps rebalance your hormones.
Follow this circuit of total-body lifts three times a week to torch fat, build muscle, and bid adieu to your moobs.
Warm-Up: Row Sprints
Row at a gentle pace for two minutes to get your blood flowing. Then switch between intervals of 100 per cent effort for 20 seconds, with 10 seconds rest. Repeat eight times to spike your metabolism and increase fat burning even after you’ve left the gym.
This workout pairs exercises in your upper- and lower-body, known as a superset, to shunt blood between distant muscles. This keeps your heart rate elevated and gives your muscles more time to recover so you can lift more weight, with less rest time.
Perform one set of each exercise, then move onto its partner immediately, before taking 60 seconds breather. Repeat each superset four times, then move onto the next.
Deadlift – 4×8 reps
Stand with a barbell on the floor in front of you, close to your shins. Squat down to grab the bar, keeping your chest up and weight on your heels. Drive your hips forward to lift the bar off the floor, then slowly lower back the start position. Repeat.
Military press – 4×10 reps
Stand upright with your feet together, with a barbell held in front of your chest, palms facing forwards. Brace your core to keep your back straight as you drive the barbell up and over your head. Pause at the top then slowly lower. Repeat.
Barbell squat – 4×8 reps
Stand with a barbell racked on your shoulders. Push your hips back to slowly squat down, keeping your weight on your heels and chest up. Sink as deep as possible, pause, then drive back to the start position. Repeat. If you can’t squat with a barbell, hold two dumbbells at shoulder height instead.
Dumbbell chest press – 4×12 reps
Lie flat on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing towards your toes. Engage your chest muscles to drive the weights up. Lock your arms and pause at the top, then slowly lower. Repeat.
Dumbbell lunges – 4×12 each leg
Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand holding them at your sides. Step forward with your right foot as far as possible, bending so your back knee almost touches the floor. Drive back to standing through your front heel, then repeat. After 12 reps, swap to the other leg.
Barbell row – 4×8
Grab a barbell and bend forward so it’s hanging in front of you, with your torso 45 degrees to the floor. Use your back muscles to pull the barbell into your stomach – imagine you’re squeezing a tennis ball between your shoulder blades. Pause, slowly lower, and repeat.