Ever notice that when a woman starts a weight loss regimen with her husband or boyfriend, he loses body fat much faster than she does? Seems unfair. Most health magazines now encourage women to lose weight with other women, because some biological differences make the road to physical wellness different for men and women. So why exactly is losing weight such a different challenge between the sexes?
The Power of Testosterone
Men naturally produce more testosterone. This hormone is responsible for many physical traits we attribute men, like facial hair and Adam’s apple. Higher testosterone levels also lead to a higher amount of lean muscle mass in the body. All this extra muscle gives men a naturally faster metabolism than women. When men exercise, they fire up those sugar-burning engines, converting excess fat into sugar (fuel). Exercise also increases testosterone production, which leads to more muscle and more fat burning. The cycle continues. All of this explains why it’s easier for men to build big, hulking muscles. It also explains why some men seeking to pump up their muscles faster will use synthetic testosterone. (We don’t advise it). But the lead takeaway is that men can increase muscle mass a lot more quickly than women.
The Power of Estrogen
Estrogen is a hormone found in women and is a female counterpart to testosterone in men. It stimulates essential processes in a woman’s body, like menstruation and pregnancy. Since estrogen is made from fat, women’s bodies would not produce the hormone if they didn’t have fat on them.
As a result, the female body naturally tries to preserve fat to protect estrogen production. When women try to lose fat, they might find themselves hitting a wall because the body is reluctant to give up what it deems as an essential feature, especially around the thighs and hips. And while some will do whatever it takes to burn off the fat they see as unattractive, there is no reason to bad-mouth the fat that secretes estrogen. This fat makes women capable of growing life and giving birth!
Are we losing Fat = Better Health?
There’s a lot of nutritional advice out there on the internet, and some have distilled weight loss down to this overly-simplistic formula:
Less fat = better health
Unfortunately, evolution is much more complex than that. For men, the fat tends to accumulate around their internal organs. This is called visceral fat, and it is associated with a higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. In contrast, under-the-skin fat in women doesn’t contribute to any of those problems. Estrogen is also responsible for keeping blood vessels healthy, so heart attacks are more frequent in post-menopausal women than in pre-menopausal women. So if you covet men for being able to shed fat so quickly, remember, women’s cardiovascular systems are an advantage.
So what does this all mean for weight loss? For men, it’s essential to keep an eye on your heart health in addition to changing your diet and fitness regimen. For women, you need to manage your expectations if you’re losing weight with a male partner. You won’t be shedding pounds at the same rate, but that’s okay.