When you look in the mirror, are you happy with the person staring back at you?
Based on the fact that 1.8 million adults underwent cosmetic plastic surgery in 2017, the answer to that question is frequently no way.
For men and women alike, the chest is a major focal point. More than 300,000 women used breast augmentation surgery to increase the size of their breasts in 2018, while nearly 27,000 men did the exact opposite with breast reduction surgery.
At least 30% of males will be affected by gynecomastia (also known as “Man Boobs” or “Moobs”) in their lifetime, yet the condition is widely misunderstood. If you’re one of the millions of men feeling insecure and disappointed by this condition, this expert advice can help you take control and learn how to get rid of moobs for good.
What Are Man Boobs?
Gynecomastia is the unwanted enlargement of male breast tissue. With this condition, enough fat accumulates on the chest that men end up looking like they have female breasts, or “man boobs.”
Though moobs don’t cause any medical risks, they do result in mental and emotional problems like anxiety, self-consciousness, and a lack of confidence.
What Causes Man Boobs?
If you want to know how to get rid of man boobs, you need to understand what causes man boobs in the first place. It’s easy to assume that moobs are just the result of gaining too much weight, but the real answer isn’t nearly that simple. Man boobs can affect men of all ages and sizes, even young and healthy men.
While you might not find this on WebMD, the true root cause of male gynecomastia is insulin resistance.
Every time you eat carbohydrates, they enter your digestive system and are broken down into a form of sugar called glucose. All glucose travels directly to the bloodstream. It remains locked in the bloodstream until your body releases a hormone called insulin to drive that glucose as energy into your muscles, liver, and other cells and to drive any excess glucose into fat cells.
In other words, insulin makes fat. And fat, when it collects on the chest, is what causes man boobs.
The pancreas produces and releases insulin as soon as it senses elevated blood sugar levels. This process is essential since it keeps your blood sugar levels safe and balanced. So as soon as you eat a bagel or a donut, insulin dumps into your bloodstream to process those sugars and deliver them as fuel to cells — and to turn them into fat.
Unfortunately, this natural process is vulnerable to processed foods and unhealthy lifestyle habits. Many people live day to day with far too much glucose in their blood. This forces insulin levels to remain elevated in response to so much sugar.
If your eating and lifestyle habits force insulin to continually spike and stream through your blood, you will develop insulin resistance. Your body builds up a tolerance and stops responding to insulin the way it should. Your blood sugar levels creep higher and higher, forcing your pancreas to pump even more insulin into your blood. It’s a recipe for disaster!
How Does Insulin Resistance Cause Moobs?
In addition to processing sugar from your blood, insulin is the primary regulator of fat metabolism in your body. If your muscles, liver, and other cells are already equipped with enough glucose, insulin instructs all remaining sugars to be converted into dangerous fatty lipids called triglycerides.
Beyond creating new fat, insulin even blocks the breakdown of existing fat. As long as your body’s insulin levels remain high, your body naturally responds by clinging to its extra fat — including the fat that causes man boobs!
Insulin blocks lipolysis — the breakdown of fats into ketones. So when insulin is present, your body doesn’t break down fat stores into usable energy. Instead, the fat simply keeps accumulating.
Through this vicious cycle, insulin resistance is one of the main — yet rarely recognized — causes of gynecomastia.
Beyond insulin resistance, it’s also possible for genetics to play a significant role in the development of gynecomastia. If you have man boobs, but your weight and eating habits are both healthy, your gynecomastia condition could be the result of an unfortunate genetic predisposition.
Even worse, if a genetic predisposition for man boobs combines with insulin resistance and weight gain, the result will be significant gynecomastia.
Common Moob Myths You Should Know
The internet makes it so easy to spread misinformation that most men have been taught to believe myths and faulty science regarding gynecomastia. There are two myths in particular that we need to bust.
Myth: Estrogen Blockers Can Get Rid of Moobs
The exact role of estrogen in the development of gynecomastia is often misrepresented. It’s true that men with gynecomastia tend to have high levels of estrogen. That’s a simple correlation to establish that high estrogen levels and gynecomastia may occur in the same time and space as one another. However, it’s not proof of causation; a simple correlation between moobs and high estrogen doesn’t prove that one causes the other.
This issue of correlation vs. causation can be compared to football. It’s accurate to state, “The Dallas Cowboys haven’t won a Super Bowl since Bill Clinton was re-elected president,” because that statement establishes a true fact. However, nobody could claim causation by saying, “The Dallas Cowboys haven’t won a Super Bowl because Bill Clinton was re-elected president.”
Given that estrogen isn’t a direct cause of man boobs, estrogen blockers cannot get rid of them.
The Real Connection Between Estrogen and Moobs
Men produce estrogen in two ways. First, an excess of testosterone can trigger the production of excess estrogen. Second, excess fat tissue can produce estrogen. Any man with gynecomastia is highly unlikely to have excess testosterone since high testosterone causes insulin sensitivity that prevents fat deposits from building within breast tissue and helps increase a man’s lean mass. This indicates that the only logical source of estrogen comes from excess fatty tissues.
What does all of this mean? High levels of estrogen in men are most likely a byproduct of insulin resistance and excess fat mass, both of which are causes of man boobs. As a result, taking estrogen blockers wouldn’t do anything to get rid of moobs since estrogen blockers won’t resolve the root issue of insulin resistance and excess fat tissue.
Myth: A Low-Estrogen Diet Can Get Rid of Man Boobs
Based on the science explained above, it makes sense that a low-estrogen diet would also fail to get rid of moobs. The idea of a low-estrogen diet may be helpful for other conditions, but simply eating cruciferous vegetables and avoiding soy will not eliminate gynecomastia. Changing your eating habits can only reduce the appearance of man boobs with a strategic dietary attack on insulin resistance.
How to Get Rid of Man Boobs
If you’re sick and tired of feeling self-conscious and embarrassed by your moobs, you can take control of the problem. Strategic diet and exercise changes have the power to address the root causes of man boobs and help you sculpt a chest you want to show off at the beach. Here’s how to get rid of moobs:
Reverse Insulin Resistance by Changing Your Diet
Considering the role of insulin resistance in the formation of moobs, taking steps to reverse your insulin resistance should be your first priority. You could do 100 push-ups a day for the next 100 years, but without reversing your insulin resistance, you’ll never burn the fat from your chest.
Reversing insulin resistance doesn’t happen overnight. After all, a long-term problem requires a long-term solution. Creating consistently healthy eating habits is the best way to achieve more insulin sensitivity and balance your blood sugar levels.
Start by limiting your carb intake and replacing carbs with the following foods proven to boost insulin sensitivity:
- Almonds and other nuts
- Spinach and broccoli
- Brewer’s yeast
- Beef, chicken, lamb, pork, and fish
- Apple cider vinegar
This combination of placing fewer sugars and carbs into your system while maximizing your body’s response to insulin is a powerful method to finally reduce your insulin resistance (and your moobs).
It’s also possible to use testosterone therapy to accelerate your path to insulin sensitivity. Optimized testosterone levels increase lean mass (which will consume free blood sugar) and enhance insulin sensitivity, but it’s important to work with an experienced medical professional.
Workouts for Man Boobs
Once you address your diet, you’re ready to venture into workouts for man boobs. You need a focused fitness plan that will build muscle and burn fat in your upper body, chest, shoulders, and back. Randomly running a few miles every week won’t directly address your moobs, but a strategic workout plan will. Increasing your overall lean mass will gradually tone your chest and minimize the appearance of gynecomastia.
Here are some workouts for man boobs that will build muscle and burn fat:
- Push-ups: Push-ups are the foundation of upper body strength. If you’re new to training or don’t have any equipment, this is a great place to start. For the best push-up form, place your hands on the ground underneath your shoulders and press down evenly through the hands. When you come back down, keep your elbows in and don’t let them flare out to the sides.
- Bench press: To really start building muscle and reducing fat, you need to increase resistance training. The bench press, with either dumbbells or barbells, is a great move that targets the upper chest. Keep your hands about shoulder distance apart on the bar, lower the bar to your chest, then push it up again. For variation, add in incline presses or overhead presses.
- Inverted row: Think of this as the opposite of a push-up. To do this move, lie underneath a barbell on a squat rack or bar that you can safely hang from while keeping your body almost parallel to the ground. With your hands shoulder-distance apart on the bar, squeeze your shoulders as you lift your chest to the bar. This move targets the chest, back, and shoulders.
If you aren’t used to resistance exercises, these exercises could be a real challenge for you. But you may find that engaging in such challenging activities has benefits of its own, even beyond reducing the appearance of moobs.
Don’t Skip Cardio
The truth is, cardio alone won’t get rid of man boobs. But it can help burn fat, which can help decrease the appearance of moobs. Great cardio workouts for man boobs include cycling, running, and swimming. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense cardio activity.
If you’re new to cardio, start with one day and work up to three days a week. Then increase it to five days a week and include a stretching component to help sculpt longer, more flexible muscles. Once your body adjusts to this challenge, increase resistance and intensity.
Use Plastic Surgery as a Last Resort
If natural treatment methods fail to produce any results, you might be dealing with gynecomastia inherited through genetics. In this case, plastic surgery is a realistic option. Gynecomastia surgery is widely available from any plastic surgeon that also offers breast lifts and augmentations for women. A gynecomastia procedure removes the excess fat from your chest and sculpts your upper body to create the appearance you’re after.
The Bottom Line
You don’t want your moobs to stick around — no man does. By understanding what causes man boobs and working with a compassionate and experienced doctor who understands your goals, you can put yourself on the path to a sculpted and healthier body. Your man boobs don’t have to define you!
As founder of Brentwood MD, I’ve worked closely with many patients who feel frustrated and disturbed by their gynecomastia. When you trust me to help you learn how to get rid of moobs, I will consider your lifestyle, eating habits, family history, medical background, and many other factors to determine the best plan for your unique needs.
Learn more about Brentwood MD’s concierge medicine practice now to start your journey to better health and wellness.
Dr. Aaron Wenzel is a concierge physician specializing in the care of fast-moving entrepreneurs, executives, and public figures in the Nashville, TN area. Dr. Wenzel’s diverse life experience and extensive training in family medicine, emergency care, nutrition, and hormone replacement therapies give him the unique platform to provide unmatched care for his patients.