5 Critical Ways a Woman’s Metabolism Differs From a Man’s (and What to Do About It)

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5 Critical Ways a Woman's Metabolism Differs From a Man's (and What to Do About It)
Everyone knows that changing your body is no simple task. Women face an even tougher task because the vast majority of the advice on fat loss and muscle building is based on research done on men, yet women’s bodies differ significantly from men’s in terms of metabolism and exercise response.

What to do about it? The Poliquin Group editorial team has put together “Five Facts Women Must Know To Lose Fat, Build Muscle, and Improve Performance.” Take a look at this list and see what you may have been missing all this time in your training and nutrition:

  • At rest, women burn more glucose (carbs) than men and less fat
  • Women and men burn (and store) body fat differently
  • Stress affects women’s metabolism, inhibiting fat loss
  • Intermittent fasting and calorie restriction tends to be detrimental for women but beneficial for men
  • Young women have the same ability to build muscle as men

Read on, share with other women you train with, and share your thoughts in the comments below.

1. At rest, women burn more glucose (carbs) than men and less fat.

At rest, women burn more glucose (carbs) than men and less fat.

Research suggests that U.S. women tend to have a low percentage of DHA in their gluteofemoral fat due to low intake of omega-3s [which] leads to significant weight gain during pregnancy.
In addition, women tend to have greater fat storage after eating, which also contributes to their higher body fat percentage. From an evolutionary perspective, it’s favorable for women to have more body fat because these fat stores will be used during pregnancy and lactation. Once young women become able to reproduce, their bodies will begin storing fat around the hips and thighs — “locking it away” in preparation for having a baby.

The fat around the hips and thighs (called gluteofemoral fat) has a particularly high concentration of DHA, one of the three omega-3 fats. The theory is that gluteofemoral DHA fat is used to make breast milk, and that it is for the development of a baby’s brain.

Research suggests that U.S. women tend to have a low percentage of DHA in their gluteofemoral fat due to low intake of omega-3s. This typically leads to significant weight gain during pregnancy, because the woman’s brain is thought to monitor nutrient status throughout the body, sensing the low DHA stores.

This leads to excessive hunger cues, causing women to eat more, in the quest to store as much DHA as possible for nurturing an infant brain. In contrast, Japanese women have a much higher percentage of DHA in their fat due to high fish intake and are correspondingly leaner.

What To Do About It: 

Regardless of whether you’re planning on having a baby, get adequate DHA in your diet. Shoot for a balanced ratio of omega-3 fats to omega-6 fats by limiting your intake of vegetable fats and oils.

Make your body metabolically flexible so that it is capable of burning fat for energy. Do this by limiting carbohydrates in your diet at certain times so that your body is forced to learn to burn fat. For example, try eating lower carb on a day when you aren’t training but higher carb on workout days. Doing anaerobic-style exercise such as weight lifting and sprints also improves the body’s metabolic flexibility.

2. Women and men burn (and store) body fat differently.

Women and men burn (and store) body fat differently.

Women rely on fat for fuel during exercise to a much greater degree than men. This makes exercise absolutely essential for women to lose fat because of the unfortunate fact that women burn much less fat at rest.
Women tend to lose fat from the upper body first, but have a harder time losing lower body fat.
In addition, women store fat right below the skin (subcutaneously), whereas men have more visceral fat. Visceral fat is metabolically active and a risk for cardiovascular health and insulin resistance. Meanwhile, for women, having a reasonable amount of lower body fat indicates better health and less heart disease risk!Women tend to lose fat from the upper body first, but have a harder time losing lower body fat. As mentioned above, women’s bodies preferentially store fat for pregnancy, but they also have a greater number of alpha receptors in this region than men. The combination of alpha receptors and estrogen inhibits the loss of fat. Men have a higher total proportion of beta receptors, which makes it easier for them to mobilize fat to burn it off.To get rid of stubborn lower body fat, research shows women must perform anaerobic training. … Scientists suggest that the higher intensity of resistance exercise helps to stimulate the release of body fat from fat cells so that it can be burned for energy. In addition, it’s possible (though not definitive) that estrogen has a positive effect on fat burning during exercise via a few mechanisms:

•    Estrogen appears to limit the breakdown of triglycerides in the blood stream for storage.

•    Estrogen enhances epinephrine production for greater fat burning.

•    Estrogen stimulates growth hormone, which plays a role in fat metabolism and stimulates blood flow.

What To Do About It: 

Perform strength training, favoring multi-joint exercises, with a focus on lower body and total body lifts such as squats, deadlifts, step ups, and lunges. Do high-intensity interval training on a track, bike, or by pushing a sled to target the alpha receptors and enhance fat loss from the lower body.

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