3 Tips to Get Rid of Man Boobs That Always Work

by | Body Image, Weight Loss

Man breasts, also known as moobs, are a source of anxiety for countless men. For some surgery is their only option.

But in most cases, simple lifestyle fixes can help get you to get rid of man boobs. This is why it’s important to understand the cause of the condition. Then apply the appropriate treatment options.

What Causes Breast Enlargement in Men?

“Man breasts” can usually be explained by either excess body fat or the formation of new breast tissue. Sometimes it’s a combination of both.

Being overweight is usually associated with having man boobs. Gaining too much weight will lead to chest fat accumulation. Your upper front torso will be transformed into a something resembling woman’s breasts. But it’s usually limited to adipose tissue (fat) build up.

Men do have some breast (glandular) tissue. Though it rarely affects your looks. However hormonal fluctuations, certain drugs, and substance abuse may cause existing tissue to grow and expand [1]. This is called gynecomastia. You can develop breasts even if you’re lean.

Important: Do You Have Gynecomastia?

If you’re lean but have notable breast formation it’s most likely gynecomastia. Additional symptoms may include breast tenderness and occasional pain.

Sometimes breast tissue forms only around the nipples. Other times it spreads and leads to fully developed breasts. Glandular tissue is easier to tell apart from fat. It feels firmer and more fibrous.

Breasts are a secondary sex characteristic regulated by hormones. Increases in female sex hormones (estrogens) and/or decreases in male hormones (androgens) can promote breast formation.

Note: excess testosterone can be converted into estrogen. So having too much testosterone can be a bad thing. In healthy men, such high levels are impossible to achieve. But the use of exogenous (external) testosterone can be problematic.  Here you can learn more about testosterone.

Hormone fluctuations can make the body act as if it’s a female. Sometimes this happens during periods when hormone changes naturally occur.

For example in infants, during puberty, or male menopause. Though certain drugs and medical conditions can also affect hormone levels, whether directly or indirectly.

Pseudogynecomastia vs Gynecomastia

Pseudogynecomastia usually refers to stubborn pectoral (chest) fat. But it may also mean a combination of early-stage gynecomastia and fat tissue build up. Obesity is often associated with this condition.

The change in appearance is mostly because of chest fat accumulation. Though excess fat starts affecting hormone levels. Breast tissue formation becomes more prominent the more fat is gained.

Adipose tissue is part of your endocrine system [2]. This is the system that regulates hormone levels. Having too much fat can lead to:

  • decentralized fat storage (storing more fat in your upper body, including the chest)
  • converting testosterone into estrogen (breast tissue formation)

Hormonal Causes vs Body Fat Build Up

Gynecomastia Excessive Body Fat Accumulation*
hormonal causes adipose tissue build up
age-related (puberty, or old age) any age
breast tissue is firm soft, sagging, and loose breasts
fat is concentrated around the nipples fat is spread out, diffused
doesn’t respond to diet and exercise responds well to diet and exercise

*Including pseudogynecomastia

Treatment for Gynecomastia

You have 2 main options depending on how severe the condition is:

  • medication – restoring normal hormone balance
  • surgery – removing excess breast tissue

In this article we focus on adipose tissue reduction and the prevention of glandular tissue formation. Once breast tissue has been formed it won't be affected much by diet and exercise. Surgery or hormonal treatments are often the only solutions.

#1 Which Foods Can Help You Reduce Chest Fat?

The goal of your diet is to reduce total body fat. The role of fat is to act as an energy reserve. Under normal circumstances, the body will only use it when it doesn’t get enough energy from food. Similar to you tapping into your savings when cash flow slows down.

We use calories to measure the energy content of food. By reducing our caloric intake we force the body to burn fat to remain functional. As you burn more fat your moobs will start shrinking down.

Great low-calorie options include:

  • lean meats
  • low-fat dairy
  • legumes
  • root vegetables
  • colored veggies
  • leafy green veggies
  • most fruits
  • berries

For a complete list see: The Perfect Grocery List for Ripped Abs

Are There Any Foods You Need to Avoid

You can still enjoy some candy or salty snacks. But you need to limit their consumption. First off, they are very high in calories. Second, they are super easy to binge on.

In terms of pure weight loss, calories are king. However, when it comes to health you need to be a bit more selective. Overweight people tend to have poor carb tolerance and chronic inflammation.

Processed carbs significantly increase blood glucose after meals. That aggravates inflammatory processes even more [3]. This is why low carb diets tend to work better for overweight individuals. Note that whole food carbs are generally tolerated better.

Process fats are also not recommended. Deep fried foods, commercial oils,  and especially trans fats [4] can also increase inflammation. However, other healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, nuts, etc.) tend to be tolerated well.

If you control for calories you can follow the 80-20 rule. About 80% of your diet should consist of minimally processed whole foods. The rest is up to you. Snacking on some processed foods occasionally won’t be a huge problem.

Does Alcohol Cause Man Breasts?

Frequent drinking can easily lead to fat accumulation. But binge drinking may have a more indirect effect and cause gynecomastia.

Here are the primary ways alcohol can cause man breasts:

  • calories: most alcoholic drinks pack a lot of calories
  • over-consumption: most people get the munchies after a heavy night of drinking
  • complications: chronic consumption may lead to the development of certain medical conditions that result in weight gain and/or gynecomastia

Note that a couple of drinks are perfectly safe. Even enjoying 1-2 beers a day is fine. Just be sure to account for the extra calories when trying to lose weight.

#2 How To Tone Your Chest With the Right Exercises?

Staying active helps burn calories. But you can’t target specific sections of the body. Regardless of your exercise selection, you’ll be losing fat from all areas of the body. Doing lower vs upper body work will likely result in the same amount of chest fat burned.

Important: you can’t get rid of gynecomastia with exercise.

Exercise helps you target specific muscles. Training your chest will result in pec muscle development. The problem is you have to be lean enough to notice the change in muscle size. If you still have man boobs, no amount of chest training will make your muscles visible.

Here’s how to combine diet and training:

  • reduce calories and remain active – general fat loss leading to chest fat reduction
  • train your chest muscles – when the fat is gone you’ll be left with well-defined muscles, instead of a bony upper chest

Here are 2 types of exercise that target the pecs directly:

  • horizontal pushing: bench press variations with free weights, cables, or machines
  • flys: free weight, cable, or machine fly (pec deck)

You can start with 2 types of pressing movements (3 sets for 8-10 reps each), and 1 type of isolation fly movement (3 sets for 12-15 reps). As you get stronger you can increase the sets or add new exercises.

RelatedI Never Exercise, How Do I Start?

Which Exercises You Need to Avoid

You don’t need a lot of variety unless you’re very advanced. The most important factor for muscle growth is progressive overload. It stimulates continuous adaptation and growth.

Sessions must be getting progressively harder over time. This is usually achieved by increasing the external load. Body weight or resistance band exercises are not great in the long term. The body adapts to them quickly.

Push-ups are a superb chest exercise. But unless you add external load on your back you’ll stop building muscle. If you opt for body weight exercises find ways to keep them challenging.

Note: beginners may be able to progress on a body weight program for quite some time. But they’ll reach a point of complete adaptation after a few months.

#3 How Does Cortisol Affect Breast Tissue Growth?

Cortisol is also known as “the stress” hormone. Both mental and physical stress can increase cortisol production. Note that this hormone is not inherently bad. But chronically elevated cortisol may be harmful. This is because it interacts with many other hormones.

Most of the negative effects of cortisol are indirect. Nevertheless, chronic stress is likely to lead to fat gain, and sometimes gynecomastia.

Here a few examples of the negative effects of high cortisol :

  • overeating: increased appetite and cravings (especially for sugar)
  • poor diet choices: decreased willpower that makes it hard to stick to a healthy diet
  • decentralized fat distribution: men start storing fat similar to women [5]
  • mood disorders: depression and anxiety that further increase cortisol production
  • poor sleep: overall negative effect on health, increased chances of weight gain
  • lowered testosterone: may lead to gynecomastia
  • increased estrogen: may lead to gynecomastia
  • weakened immune system: reduced muscle growth
  • reduced recovery from exercise: reduced muscle growth

The Best Cure of Man Boobs

Here’s how high stress affects you:

  1. chronically elevated cortisol makes it easier to gain weight
  2. increased body fat further increases cortisol production
  3. excess body fat starts affecting other hormone levels
  4. disrupted hormone levels lead to even more chest fat accumulation and gynecomastia

You see how everything is connected. It’s a form of positive feedback loop where each stage makes things worse and worse.

We already discussed how diet and exercise can help you get rid of moobs. But stress can sabotage all your efforts. To see notable results you need to also work on reducing cortisol levels.

Stress-reduction tips:

  • no work past a certain time of the day (e.g 6 pm)
  • dedicate at least 2 hours a day for “fun”
  • take one whole day off every 2 weeks
  • explore different types of meditation
  • take walks in the park or nature once a week
  • restrict internet use to specific hours
  • have date nights with your significant other once a week
  • visit your family once a month (or if possible once a week)
  • sleep at least 7.5 hrs every night
  • (if overweight) lose weight
  • (if sedentary) explore training and sports

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~Niki, Fitness Mastery Coach

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