No doubt about it, men and women are different in many ways especially when it comes to fitness. If men have 20 minutes to get a workout in, they almost always opt for weight training. Women with time constraints will go to the cardio where they have to spend more time (no less!) to get results. Men are often comfortable not weighing in for a period of time and judge their progress by the reflection in the mirror. Women insist the scale calls them, prompts them to "step right up" on a daily basis. Men buy into the idea of eating frequent meals quite readily. Women take some time to get past the idea that a salad for lunch is the only way to go.
A husband and wife come to me to lose weight using one of my programs. They eat together. They exercise together. Six weeks down the road, they return. The dialogue goes like this:
Joe: So how's it going? Husband: Awesome! I went down from a 38 to a 36 waist and shrinking! Wife: Yes, my husband is doing great, but I haven't seen any results. Joe: Have you gained any body fat? Wife: No. Joe: That means your metabolism is speeding up. Your body is becoming more efficient at using the nutrients from the foods you're eating. Wife: Big deal. I only lost 2 pounds. Joe: OK, but you're eating more food and in a six week period, you lost 2 pounds according to the scale. Have you seen any changes in the way your clothes fit? Wife: Well my pants are a little looser and my arms feel more toned, but my legs are still fat and my husband is losing weight much faster than me! Joe: Comparing your progress to someone else's is a huge mistake. We will all progress at different rates due to many complex factors such as metabolic and hormonal differences and prior physical conditioning. If you've "toned up" and lost two pounds, it's quite likely that you've added muscle.
The unfortunate reality here is that women often take longer to lose lower body fat than men. The reasons for this are because of the following:
1. In both men and women, basal lipolysis is greater in the upper body than the lower body. That means at rest, you burn some fat as fuel. You don't always have to be doing exercise in an "aerobic state" to burn fat. Aerobic means utilizing oxygen, even at rest. Since men normally accumulate greater amounts of fat below the waist and women accumulate it around the hips, thighs, buttocks and legs, this simple law of nature can lead to the mistaken perception that it's "not working" for women when a husband and wife begin a fitness program together.
2. Estrogen, the hormone that controls all of the characteristics we would consider predominantly "female," has a tendency to "program "the body to accumulate fat in the lower regions. Since women have much higher estrogen levels than men, this can make female lower body fat appear stubborn to lose.
3. Some of the popular "thermogenic formulas" which can be strategically included in a fat loss program with some careful guidelines increase lower body fat breakdown in men, but do not act as readily upon the lower body in women.
4. There are different "receptor" proportions in men and women, and the receptors most prone to protect and store fat are far greater in the women's lower body than in men. Should this discourage women? Absolutely not. A woman will likely see greater initial fat reduction in the upper body than in the lower body. Once upper body fat is reduced, it results in greater availability of lower body fat for fuel.
There are some solutions that can speed the process of fat loss in women:
1. Women appear to be far more sensitive to refined and processed carbs than men. If optimal fat loss is desired in the shortest period of time, women will benefit in avoiding all bleached, processed and refined carbohydrates.
2. After going through an initial four weeks of following "the program" exactly as it's laid out, women may find benefit in increasing aerobic activity. An extra five to ten minutes of cardio per day can have a significant impact over time on lower body fat storage in women.
So, yes, men and women are different. Although patience might be called upon at higher levels for women seeking fat loss, we are equal in our ability to take control of our bodies, to boost metabolism, and to move consistently toward being our best ever.
Joe Riccardi is a fitness professional who has helped many people transform their bodies. His mission is to educate people on basic understandable fitness truth. His facility is based on, "Phil Kaplan's fitness studio of the future." For more information call Higher Level Fitness at 631-584-7004.