Do Men Really Lose Weight More Easily Than Women?
If you’ve ever watched a season of NBC’s reality show “The Biggest Loser”, you know the men always seem to drop significantly more weight during each weekly weigh-in. While the women may lose a few pounds, the men consistently pull double digits week after week. In fact, since the show launched in 2004, a male has taken the top prize 11 out of 17 seasons.
While this phenomenon hardly seems fair, it’s not just a trick for reality television. Unfortunately for women, it’s true in real life as well.
Randy Turner, the manager of the Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth Fitness Center, said that men tend to lose weight faster than women primarily due to a key physical difference.
“In most cases, men have more lean muscle than women, so it’s easier for them to lose weight more quickly,” he explained. “The majority of men we see in the gym want to lift weights, while women usually want to perform cardiovascular workouts. While cardiovascular exercise burns calories, strength training can also have weight loss benefits.
“By increasing your muscle mass through strength training, you increase your calorie-burning metabolism. This means that by replacing fat with muscle, your body will burn more calories at rest. We are constantly trying to explain the advantages of lifting weights and increasing lean muscle for women. There are great benefits in increasing lean muscle mass in both men and women, but since men usually already have more lean muscle mass, it’s simply easier for them to lose weight.”
Obesity is a national public health crisis, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 36.5 percent of American adults are considered obese (body mass index of 30+). Obesity is a major cause of serious health issues like heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. These are the leading causes of preventable death, as well as skyrocketing medical costs.
Men may drop those unwanted pounds more easily, but there are also more overweight and obese men than women. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 74 percent of American men are considered overweight (25.0-29.9 BMI) or obese (30+ BMI), while 64 percent of women fall in this range.
Women may face more hurdles in attempting to lose weight, but the hard truth is that weight loss always comes down to calories consumed and calories burned for both sexes.
“You must burn more calories than you consume to lose weight, and exercise helps you do this,” Turner said. “The more you exercise, the less you need to reduce your food intake. Instead of eliminating 500 calories from your food choices alone, you can cut 250 calories from your daily diet and work off the other 250 calories at the gym.”
If women already feel like they’ve been dealt an unfair hand by Mother Nature, Father Time stands by to deliver another difficult pill to swallow. It’s a fact of life that the ability to lose weight changes as we grow older.
Turner said that natural changes in the aging body make weight loss more difficult, rendering exercise even more important as time marches on.
“The loss of muscle continues as we age, which may contribute to weakness and/or disability, and muscles get stiff and tight,” he said. “One reason for the drop in muscle mass and bone density is a drop in the male hormone testosterone, which declines about 1 percent per year after the age of 40. Reflexes become slower, coordination suffers and memory lapses [occur more often].
“No man can stop the aging clock, but every man can slow it down. Exercise is not the fountain of youth, but both men and women should include it in their daily routines.”
Turner points to the increasing availability of workplace fitness programs and convenient healthy food choices as two major bonuses in fighting the battle of the bulge for both men and women.
“More and more companies are starting to understand the importance of exercise and proper nutrition so they create opportunities for employees to live healthier lives,” he said. “If you are fortunate enough to work for a company that offers a fitness center or wellness program, take advantage of it.
“If you don’t, join a gym and hire a personal trainer to at least help you put together a game plan for what you should be doing, for how long and the proper way to perform your exercises. The last thing you want to do is start working out and injure yourself. As we age, we get weaker and muscles and ligaments become tight, so ease into it. Remember, you aren’t 18 years old anymore.”
In tackling the issue of nutrition, Turner advises making sensible dietary choices you can turn into a lifestyle, not quick, drastic changes.
“A lot of the men we see don’t like to hear the word ‘diet,’” he said. “We explain that you don’t have to get on some crazy fad diet to lose weight, but take small steps and set goals. We live in a fast-paced society and tend to grab food when we can, but more and more fast food places are starting to offer healthier food choices, so look for those.
“We want you to still enjoy life and enjoy food, but just cut back. Instead of two sandwiches, stop at one or drink water instead of a sugary drink. Try a salad, even at McDonald’s, instead of a hamburger and fries. Get a 6-inch sandwich instead of the foot-long. This needs to be a lifestyle change you can maintain the rest of your life. Don’t wait until you’ve been diagnosed with a health problem — make a change today.”
Women may lose weight differently from men, but did you know they also experience a heart attack differently? Read our infographic to learn the signs and symptoms of a heart attack in women.