Ladies, does it sometimes seem like no matter what you do you can't seem to get rid of belly fat? You workout, you endeavour to eat well. But it just never seems to be quite enough.
To add insult to injury does a mere whiff of your favourite chocolate cake or any small (but delicious!) after dinner treat seem to immediately result in the expansion of your midsection, hips or thighs? Is losing belly fat for women just tougher than for men?
Men seem to be able to eat what they want. Yes, they may accumulate a small amount of excess fat around the stomach... but a slight change to portion sizes, or the introduction of a couple of workouts a week, and it seems men can move unwanted belly fat in no time. It’s just not fair!
But is this really the case? Is weight loss so much tougher for women than men. Let's investigate the issue of losing belly fat for women in a bit more detail.
Muscles and metabolism
Ok, current evidence suggests that men may have it easier than women when it comes to losing belly or body fat. Now this is not to say that men have it easy. An increasing number of men struggle with excess fat and are equally unhappy with their body image.
But one of the biggest advantages men have over women is in their biology. Research suggests there may be significant differences between genders in the storage and metabolism of fat during exercise and at rest. It is a commonly known fact that women carry more fat than men. A healthy body fat ratio for men is 10% to 15% whereas women are considered within a healthy weight range between 20-25%.
Men also exhibit a higher proportion of musculature and lower fat ratio than their female counterparts. Higher testosterone levels are a key driver of this increased muscle mass.
How does that help? Well there are a couple of reasons. First, muscle burns more calories than fat. And an increase in muscle mass also provides a faster metabolism ongoing. The net result is that you will burn more calories throughout the day, even when your body is at rest. In fact men's metabolism have been shown to be 3-10% higher than women in some studies.
The practical application of this is that men can eat more than women without putting on weight.
Now this might sound a bit like doom and gloom if you are female. You don't have to choose between being muscle bound and bulky or being laden with excess belly fat? There is a common misconception by women that weight training muscles leads to them becoming like Arnold Schwarzenegger!
The good news is that it is possible to add lean muscle to your body that will raise your fat burning metabolism, without making you look muscle bound. Including weight training in your exercise schedule is essential if you want to effectively shift extra fat.
The second consideration when exploring weight management difficulties for women is portion control. This problem is not biological, it is in fact a behavioural issue.
When men and women enter a relationship, they tend to eat together, as is the way with a happy couple! But a key risks stems from the observation that often men and women begin eating the same meals. And what I mean is that they consume the same portion sizes. The male is eating for a slightly higher metabolism while his partner, by process of elimination, is over eating.
Ensuring portion control is adapted to individual calorie expenditure is essential for lasting weight control.
Admittedly this can require appreciable planning and effort, at least until you become familiar with healthy eating and portion control. You may need to take time to read and understand food labels, consider serving portions, and tracking what you are eating is always an effective strategy.
Precision Nutrition has outlined a novel approach to portion control if you find the traditional calorie counting method onerous. They propose using your fist, palm, cupped hand and thumb to practice sensible calorie control. Sounds interesting right! Have a nosy at their approach here.
Are you always starving after you have completed your workout? Does it seem like the time is right to crack into those sweet treats you had been avoiding all day? A 2009 study in the American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology made some startling revelations about post workout hormone behaviour. They found that in women the hormone Ghrelin increased significantly while Leptin is suppressed. So what? Ghrelin is a hormone responsible for telling your brain you are hungry, whereas Leptin advises the brain it is full. These changes encourage women to eat heavily after exercise. The same changes were not evident in the men during the research study.
What is the key outtake? While it is important to refuel after exercise; make sure you eat the right types of recovery foods, and don't overdo the quantity.
What do household chores have to do with an inability to lose belly fat? Good question. Who is it that does the shopping in your household? And who is responsible for meals? How working parents balance work, family and household chores continues to pose challenges for most households according to a survey by the Pew Center.
In many households these chores still fall upon the female in the relationship. While men are pulling their weight much more than they used to… they still don’t do as much as they think!
Now while assuming responsibility for food shopping and meal preparation can be an opportunity to create wonderfully nutritious meals, and avoid having unhealthy snacks in the pantry... it is also a time of great risk. It is very easy to add a snack here, a taste test there... and all of a sudden you have blown your daily caloric intake, even before completing your evening meal.
Despite the obvious challenges women face when trying to lose weight, of course females can achieve their body image goals. Check out these wonderful weight loss success stories if you need convincing!
Fat loss for women just requires a slightly different approach than for men. Important considerations are increasing lean muscle mass to raise fat burning capability, individualised meal planning, as well as implementing tactics that deal with barriers like stress and negative emotions in ways that don't involve food.
What is the biggest challenge you have found with losing excess fat? If you are someone who is looking to lose weight we would to hear your perspective below.