Posted by: 4pack | July 30, 2008

Ideal Shape Update: Men Can Lose More Weight Faster Than Women


As a dietitian in private practice, I often listen to frustrated female clients complain their husbands are able to lose weight effortlessly, while they have to pay attention to every nibble in order to see the scale budge.

Why is it that a woman only has to look at a decadent dessert to feel the pounds creeping on, while all a man has to do is cut back on portions – or hit the gym a few times a week – to watch the pounds fall off?

Do men really lose more weight and lose it faster than women?

The answer is yes, guys do have an easier time shedding pounds (I’m sorry, ladies). Men, it seems, have both a physiological and psychological edge when it comes to losing weight.

For starters, men are genetically hardwired to shed weight faster than women. Men are more prone to build muscle, thanks to higher levels of the hormone testosterone. Because men have more muscle mass, they also have a higher resting metabolism. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so the more muscle you have in relation to body fat, the higher your resting metabolism.

(Resting metabolism is the amount of energy required to keep your heart beating, your lungs breathing, your brain and liver functioning and your cells alive at complete rest.)

Women, on the other hand, are predisposed to store fat because they have high levels of estrogen, the hormone that helps keep fat on a woman’s body, making it easier to get pregnant. Research has shown that a woman burns 5 to 10 per cent fewer calories for the body’s metabolic needs than a man of the same height and weight.

More muscle mass also means men burn more calories when working out and respond more quickly to the slimming effects of exercise. A study of 962 men and women enrolled in a two-year weight loss program found that exercise alone was enough to help men lose weight. In women, however, even substantial increases in exercise weren’t enough to produce weight loss if they didn’t reduce their calorie intake.

The fact that a man burns more calories at rest and during physical activity makes it easier for him to eat more without gaining weight and to lose weight faster than a woman of a similar size. And because women diet more often than men, they’re also more likely to slow down their metabolism. Drastically cutting calories burns muscle and triggers hormonal changes that slow calorie burning and promote fat storage. Weight loss slows and when the diet is abandoned, the pounds pile back on.

But men shouldn’t get overly confident about their biological calorie-burning advantage. Age slows down metabolism in both sexes at a rate of 1 to 2 per cent a decade, making it harder to maintain a healthy weight. This translates into a need for women to consume seven fewer calories a day for each year after the age of 30, and 10 calories a day for men.

It may not sound like much but it can make a difference to your weight – especially if you’re still eating the way you did in your 20s. For example, a 65-year-old male needs to consume 350 fewer calories than he did at the age of 30, pretty much the number of calories many folks eat for breakfast.

Men are also genetically programmed to gain weight near the abdominal area, whereas women’s extra weight tends to settle in the hips and thighs. Research suggests belly fat is more sensitive to enzymes that break down fat than fat located in the hips and thighs. While abdominal fat may be easier to lose, it’s also the type that’s linked to a greater risk of diabetes and heart attack.

Even so, a male approach to losing weight may also lead to better results. Men are more likely to include regular exercise, which appears to do more than increase one’s calorie deficit. One study found that men who exercised and dieted had more self-restraint and experienced less hunger compared with men who followed a diet-only program. Women in the study didn’t experience the psychological benefits of exercise.

Gender differences in preferred comfort foods may also play a role in weight loss success. Research shows that men find comfort in foods associated with meals prepared by their mothers such as meat and potatoes. Women, however, crave foods that don’t involve preparation such as breads, prepackaged sweets and chocolate – foods that are quite accessible and easy to overeat.

Women, more so than men, overeat comfort foods as a means of coping with stress and emotions such as depression, anxiety, anger and boredom.

Studies also show that men are more confident than women in their ability to achieve their weight loss goal. Believing in one’s ability to make change is a key factor in committing to goals and, ultimately, success.

Men are also less likely than women to be plagued with body image issues. Men have a greater tendency to see their weight as normal, despite being overweight, whereas women are more likely to see themselves as heavy even though they have a healthy body mass index. A 2007 study from Ryerson University in Toronto revealed that 25 per cent of women considered themselves overweight when at an acceptable weight, compared with 8 per cent of men.

Women often set out to lose weight in the hopes of improving appearance, while men are more likely to be concerned about their future health and fitness. As a result, men are often less focused on the bathroom scale. Improvements in strength or a looser waistband are often enough to motivate men to stick to their program. But women tend to beat themselves up over a few extra pounds, which deflates self-confidence and self-worth.

While women can’t change their biology, perhaps they can learn a few pointers from men when it comes to losing weight. Strategies to boost metabolism (strength training, eating breakfast), deal with emotional eating and enhance self-confidence are prudent additions to any weight loss plan.

Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based dietitian at the Medcan Clinic, is on CTV’s Canada AM every Wednesday. Her website is


  1. Those are some great tips. Men and women alike should always eat breakfast, and do some form of resistance training. Whether to lose weight or not, it is just a healthy way of life.

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