A new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition reports that women may not have quite the weight-loss handicap as previously thought. If the study is indicative of all men and women, it appears that males have a head start but don't necessarily win the race.
The British researchers studied men and women who were following one of four commercial weight-loss plans: Slim-Fast, Weight Watcher's, Atkin's or Rosemary Conley's Diet and Fitness Plan. After two months of dieting, the males had lost about twice as much weight--and a whopping three times as much body fat--as their female counterparts.
Over the following weeks, however, weight loss began to slow down for both sexes. And by the sixth month, men and women were losing weight at close to the same pace. Therefore, despite the initial boost, women seem to have similar weight-loss capabilities as men in the long term.
Why Do Men Slim Down So Much Faster at First?
Body composition has a lot to do with it. Men simply have more muscle mass, while women have more fat. This doesn't mean that women are less healthy, but it does mean that their metabolisms are slower. Muscle tissue burns more calories per hour than fat tissue, even at rest. That's why men can eat more calories per day than women--even at the same weight--without gaining fat.
Knowing this, women can accelerate their weight-loss results with regular strength training. By lifting weights, taking a Pilates class or doing squats and push-ups at home, ladies can boost their metabolism by up to 15 percent.
The Location of Fat
Another reason for the gender discrepancy is that men tend to carry their fat around the midsection, while women accumulate fat around the hips and thighs. Belly fat burns off more easily than fat in the lower body, so men appear thinner sooner after starting a diet. Women who have more fat around the midsection will experience the same effect.
Belly fat is nothing to be jealous of however; having a wide waistline may leave you more vulnerable to heart disease, stroke and even some types of cancer. Far better to put up with a bit of hip pudge than to deal with these ailments.
Ultimately, dieters of both genders will see success if they consistently eat fewer calories than they burn each day. Do this by reducing portion sizes, avoiding junk food and exercising most days of the week. In the end, it's not how quickly you drop pounds, but how well you maintain a healthy weight for life.
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Nina Kate is a certified fitness nutrition specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). She also studied journalism at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and has contributed to numerous major publications as a freelance writer. Nina thrives on sharing nutrition and fitness knowledge to help readers lead healthy, active lives. Visit her wellness blog at BodyFlourish.com.