Men and women versus weight loss: Why is it harder for women to lose the extra pounds?

Men and women versus weight loss: Why is it harder for women to lose the extra pounds?

You may have heard and realized that it’s more difficult for women to lose fat than men. Immediately most people think it must be estrogen or some hormonal issues. But perhaps the biggest factor is not hormones, but the simple fact that women are usually smaller and lighter than men.

When you have a smaller body, you have lower calorie needs. When you have lower calorie needs, your relative deficit whether it’s 20%, 30% or higher gives you a smaller absolute deficit and therefore you lose fat more slowly than someone who is larger and can create a large deficit more easily.

For example, a male’s total caloric needs is 3300 calories a day (5′ 8″ and moderately to very active), then a 20% deficit is 660 calories, which brings the total to 2640 calories a day. On paper, that will give about 1.3 lbs of weight loss per week. If he bumped his calorie burn up or decreased his intake by another 340 a day, that’s enough to gives him a 2 lbs per week weight loss.

For smaller women, the math equation is very different.

If your total daily energy expenditure is only 1970 calories, even at a VERY high exercise level, then a 20% deficit for you is only 394 calories which would put you at 1576 calories a day for (on paper) only 8/10th of a lb of fat loss/wk.

If you pursued your plan to take a more aggressive calorie deficit of 30%, that puts you at a 591 calorie deficit which would now drop you down to only 1382 calories/day.

That’s starting to get fairly low in calories. However, you would still have a fairly small calorie deficit.

What this all means is that women who are petite or have a small body size are going to lose fat more slowly than larger women and much more slowly than men, so you cannot compare yourself to them.

It’s great to be inspired by our success stories, but if you’re looking for someone to model yourself after, choose one of our success stories of someone your body size and weight, rather than the folks who started 100 lbs overweight and were therefore easily dropping 3 lbs a week.

One pound a week of fat loss is much more in line with a realistic goal for someone of a smaller body size. Overweight people can lose it faster. The best thing you can do is to be extremely consistent with your nutrition over time.

Suggestion #1: Weigh and measure all your food any time you feel you are stuck at a plateau, just to be sure. When your calorie expenditure is on the low side, you don’t have much margin for error.

Suggestion #2:  Take your body comp measurements with a grain of salt, especially if you are using a good scale and remember that body comp testing is seldom perfect. Pay attention to your circumference measurements, how your clothes fit and how you look in the mirror and in photos as well.

Suggestion #3: You may want to take 2 or 3 of your long cardio sessions on the treadmill and switch them to intense intervals or ANY other type of activity that has potential to burn more than 362 calories for an hour’s investment of time, or perhaps that equivalent calorie burn in less time. No need to add more days of cardio or more time – get the most out of the time you are already spending.

Suggestion #4: If you do intervals, don’t make the workout too brief (ignore the advertisements for those “4 minute miracle” workouts, etc.), or you may burn fewer calories than you were before! In fact, you might even try the method where you do HIIT for 15-20 min, then continue for another 30-40 at slow to medium intensity. Increasing total calories burned should be your focus.

Understand the calorie math I explained above and be patient, watching for slow and steady progress, and paying special attention to the trend over time on your progress chart.

Keep after it – the persistence will pay, I promise!

Photo credit

Vancouver Health Coach