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Guys, Here’s What Having A ‘Dad Bod’ Means For Your Hormone Levels

The “dad bod” is a term that gained popularity in the 2010s. Used at the time to critique the beach body of male celebrities that gained some weight after their movie roles, the dad bod describes a softer and rounder body type than the chiseled and toned physique we have come to associate with health and fitness. 

Fast forward a decade later, and the “dad bod” has turned things around and is making headlines for another reason. According to a survey conducted by dating.com, nearly 75% of respondents shared that they are a fan of the “dad bod.” It turns out men are also proud of their dad bods. Of those surveyed who believe they have a dad bod, 45% of them shared that they like to put #dadbod in their dating profile bios because they are proud of their physiques.

So maybe culture is shifting away from the iconic Bay-Watch-looking male body signifying the pinnacle of female attraction. But is that a trend that is favorable for our health? Should men be celebrating their #dadbod and skipping the crunches?  

First, there is some science that can help explain the development of the dad bod in the first place. Studies have shown that in the first days and weeks of fatherhood, a man’s testosterone and cortisol levels decrease, and oxytocin, estrogen, and prolactin levels surge. 

According to this study, it is actually the sound of a newborn crying that triggers the hormonal changes in men. Part of the reason these changes happen is so that the father can embrace more nurturing behavior. However, a decrease in testosterone and an increase in prolactin and estrogen also make it harder to maintain muscle and instead signal the body to retain body fat. 

You shouldn’t feel pressure to lose the dad bod, but we also don’t have to celebrate it

With these hormone changes, sometimes lasting several weeks or months after the beginning of fatherhood, the male body is put in a hormonal state that is perfect for losing muscle and putting on fat in a very short time after becoming a dad. 

Combine that with the lack of regular sleep and less time to prioritize exercise in those first months after having a kid, and it is no wonder that the “dad bod” is a thing. Some experts even argue that developing a dad bod is a good thing since the accumulation of body fat is meant to prepare a new father for the sleepless nights and additional stress that accompanies the first few months of taking care of a newborn. 

The problem is that many men are going into fatherhood with already low testosterone levels and high body fat. For the average male on the Standard American Diet celebrating their #dadbod on their dating profile as a single man, the perfect hormonal storm that hits when they become a father can be what pushes them from moderately unhealthy to very unhealthy. 

The key takeaway? It turns out that the “dad bod” can at least be partially explained by hormonal changes that happen when a man becomes a father. However, the weight gain associated with fatherhood should be minimal and temporary. There is a healthy body composition for both men and women that we should all be working to maintain.

Healthy body composition does not mean you have to aim for the unrealistic chiseled physique of an Instagram fitness influencer. However, it is also not healthy to embrace the “dad bod” and entirely forego proper diet and exercise as the best tool you have at your disposal to optimize your health.

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