Have you ever participated in a group weight loss competition only to feel like the men in the group had an unfair advantage? Well, they do, in some ways. Fundamental difference between how men and women’s bodies handle diet and workouts at the fitness center affect how quickly they lose (or even just seem to lose —yes, some of it’s an illusion) weight.
Here’s a breakdown of what these differences are and how women can work with, instead of against, their genetics to come out ahead in those friendly competitions.
Body composition: men carry more muscle weight; women carry more body fat.
Body composition affects metabolism, which directly affects efficiency at burning calories. The more muscle you carry, the higher your metabolism. Numerous studies show that men naturally carry up to 40% more muscle in their upper bodies and up to 33% more in their lower bodies. At the same time, women carry up to 11% more body fat than men, even at their fittest. It’s no wonder, then, that men’s metabolisms are 5 to 10% faster than women’s.
The good news? Women, you can create more muscle mass through consistent strength and resistance training. And, because your lack of testosterone, you have no reason to be afraid of the resistance machines, weight rack, or barbells at the fitness gym. Putting muscle into your body will boost your metabolism and leave you looking slimmer and fitter.
Hormones: testosterone means easy gains; estrogen means harder losses.
Men have up to 10 times more testosterone than women, and this hormone makes it easier to build (and hold onto) lean muscle mass. Estrogen, on the other hand, tells the body to hold on to fat —exactly what you want to get rid of!
The good news? You can work with it, literally: studies suggest it can be an advantage during endurance workouts.
Studies show that women’s fat oxidation rates are slightly higher than men. This means that, when it comes to endurance sports like running, biking, or swimming, women are more likely to use fat for fuel. Since fat is a longer-lasting energy source than carbohydrates, women might not be as quick to hit “the wall.”
Men tend to store fat at the waistline, so losses are more noticeable.
Numbers aside, men appear to lose weight faster because it’s more visible. While women tend to carry extra weight in the hips and thighs, men tend to carry it in their stomachs. A shrinking waistline is easier to notice than losing weight in other areas. Keeping this in mind can help you avoid discouragement when you aren’t seeing as dramatic results (at least at first).
The weight loss differences between men and women even out over time.
This is the best point of all! Many studies have shown that, by 6 months, men’s weight loss evens out to just slightly higher than that of women on similar exercise programs. This means that, for women, consistency is the key to beating men in a long-term group fitness challenge.
Of course, it’s important to remember that lifelong fitness isn’t about competition with others: it’s about defeating the things that threaten to derail our health and fitness goals every day. Keep showing up at the fitness center, doing the work, watching your nutrition, and you’ll see the success that really matters.