Not only do female hormones drive some of the less-than-pleasant lady experiences like childbirth, menstruation and mood swings. They’re also responsible for helping women store extra body fat and less muscle mass.
Theoretically, men could lose body fat quicker than women due to a quirk of biology.
“Men in general will have more lean muscle tissue, meaning their calorie expenditure — or what [energy] their body needs each day — is generally going to be higher than most females,” exercise physiologist Adam Martin tells Coach.
One of the best things anyone can do to help burn body fat is to build more muscle, but that’s something Martin says can be a hard sell to women.
“Strength training is one of the most potent aids to helping fat loss,” he explains.
“If we can increase your lean muscle mass or help you maintain your muscle mass over a weight-loss program, then your body is going to need more calories.
“Therefore you’ll be able to eat more food so your weight-loss journey doesn’t have to be so difficult.”
Martin says many women mistakenly worry that lifting weights will bulk them up, but he’s at pains to point out that you would have to do about 10 training sessions a week to build significant bulk.
“Two to three strength sessions a week is not going to suddenly turn you into an elite athlete,” he says.
Regardless of your gender, Martin says that if you want to increase your muscle mass, then you need to keep challenging your body.
“The fundamentals of what we’re trying to do will be the same – we’re trying to progressively overload someone, making their weights heavier each week or adding more reps each week or decreasing rest time to overload the body to get progression,” he explains.
“The program itself might be slightly different … most men come to me and go, ‘I want a bigger chest, bigger shoulders, bigger arms’ and most females come to me and go, ‘I want to work my legs and my bum and look good in my jeans’.”
But the fat loss advantage men have in theory may not give them a head start in practice. Greg Stark, trainer from Better Being, believes women tend to achieve fat loss quicker than men because they’re more disciplined about their diet.
“Men typically go, ‘I’ll train the house down and I’ll ‘outrun’ my diet’,” he tells Coach.
“Then they’re like, ‘Why aren’t I losing weight?’ and I say, ‘It might be because you are having 20 schooners on a Friday night and five bacon and egg rolls on Saturday’.”
Stark says trainers pay more attention to an individual’s fitness history and their body shape, not their gender.
“If you’ve got really good muscle mass already, maybe you need to be doing more stuff to burn up the body fat,” he says.
“But if you’ve got no muscle mass and a little bit of body fat, then you’d benefit from more resistance training.”
While fat loss can be important for improving health, Stark says women shouldn’t get too carried away because fat is important for many of their bodily functions.
“I always try to reinforce to women that body fat is a really good thing,” he says.
“If you have enough body fat, you’re not going to lose your [menstrual] cycle or mess up your hormones and reproductive health – it takes years to repair that stuff.”
On that, Martin says women need to be aware that their menstrual cycle may mess with the scales a little bit.
“Know that you will see some fluctuation but the scale isn’t always the greatest predictor of your progress,” he says.
“Understand that there’s going to be these fluctuations day-to-day or week-to-week but let’s play the long-term game.”
So while there are some physiological differences between the genders, the fat loss fundamentals remain the same – watch your diet and build some muscle.