It’s a strange phenomenon, but Tony Horton often hears women complain that their male partners find it easier to lose weight than they do, and that the men lose pounds more quickly. Even when overweight adults follow the same weight loss diet and exercise regimen, women have to work harder and diet for longer to achieve the same results – at least, that’s how it seems. But is it actually true? Do men lose weight faster than women?
Battle of the Sexes: Do Men Lose Weight Faster Than Women Or Is It A Myth?
It’s true. The reasons why can be found in some fundamental differences between typical male and female bodies.
Differing Metabolic Rates
Even just sitting down and doing nothing, men’s bodies naturally burn 20% more calories per day than women.1
To maintain weight, most men can consume 200 calories more a day than women. And when dieting, it’s recommended that most women consume only 1500 calories a day, while men can often eat 1700 calories daily without ruining their diet.2
This difference in metabolic rates (the speed of calorie burn) is connected to another key difference: the types and locations of body fat.
Fat: What And Where
On average, American men weigh 27 lbs. more than their female counterparts. During exercise, men’s bodies have to work harder to move that additional weight.3 It’s also true that women have up to 11% more body fat than men.4
Now, the kind of body fat a person has, and how it’s stored, is important.
- Men have a higher proportion of visceral fat, the type which protectively surrounds the body’s organs and tends to congregate around the midriff.
- Women store their energy as subcutaneous fat. This is found all over the body, but principally, women store fat from food in their hips, thighs and rear.5
Here’s why the fat type/location matters: shedding visceral fat can kickstart the body’s metabolism, burning more calories. Subcutaneous fat loss doesn’t work this way.6 Women may burn their fat stores during exercise more than men. That may result in a leaner, fitter look – but it doesn’t help women’s bodies burn more calories, so it may not contribute as much to weight loss.7,8
The flip side is that visceral fat is more of a heart health risk, even if its composition means it may be easier for men to lose excess weight.9
Muscle Mass And Type
Women are generally fitter than men, and while the genders have similar blood glucose levels, men have 10-15% more lean muscle mass and a higher metabolic rate.10,11,12
Lean muscle mass continues to help the body burn calories even after a workout, a process known as ‘afterburn.’13 With more lean muscle to call upon, men experience a greater calorie burn both during exercise and afterward than women.14
Around the age of 30-35, both sexes begin to lose lean muscle mass. But because women start with a smaller muscle mass, the impact is proportionately greater.15
Hormones That Govern Fat Burn And Muscle Mass
It’s clear that the bodily challenges of pregnancy and childbirth exert a major influence on women’s body composition. Unsurprisingly, hormones also play a role, specifically oestrogen.16 This hormone discourages fat burn after eating by forcing the body into a version of ‘starvation mode,’ resulting in more fat being stored in the woman’s body.17,18
Testosterone, on the other hand, helps men to build lean muscle mass and encourages the burning of body fat.19,20
Does Aerobic Exercise Help Support A Weight Loss Program Like Strength Training?
Aerobic exercise has benefits for cardiac health and a range of other bodily functions. And yes, this type of exercise does help the body burn calories to support weight loss. Now, when it comes to gender differences, women may have a disadvantage – they have a lower lung capacity than men. This may make certain types of exercise (including cardio) feel more challenging.21,22
The Bottom Line: Burning More Calories And Building Muscle May Help Weight Loss
- Losing weight depends on planning, food awareness, and commitment, not gender.
- Remember that your weight loss journey won’t be a straight line, but will have natural bumps and troughs.
- There’s no point comparing yourself to others, even within your gender, as there are too many variables to consider.
It might feel unfair that men shed weight faster and more easily than women, and that men are able to eat more food without gaining weight, but consider this: American women have five years more life expectancy than men, largely due to rates of heart issues.23,24
It’s easy to think that one gender has a fitness advantage, but the weight loss journey is a lifelong challenge, irrespective of gender.
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