By Bob Barnett
The Rumor: Men lose weight more quickly than women
Many people believe that when it comes to weight loss, men have an advantage. Anecdotal stories of ladies sweating and struggling to lose a pound or two compare to tales of men cutting back on the junk, hitting the gym and watching the weight drop off. But what’s the real truth?
The Verdict: Men do lose weight faster than women, at least at first
Men tend to have more lean muscle tissue, which burns more calories than body fat, even during rest. And when men and women cut the same number of calories, men usually do lose more weight — but it’s short-term. “Over the long-term, the playing field is more equal,” says dietician David Grotto, RDN, self-proclaimed “guyatician” and author of The Best Things You Can Eat. “It’s not a race to see who can lose weight the fastest. The important thing is that you’re both going in the same direction.”
Weight-loss programs often accentuate the difference. When sedentary men and women both start exercise programs, men tend to lose body fat, while many women don’t. In one study out of England, men and women were each put on commercial weight-loss programs such as Atkins, Slim-Fast and Weight Watchers. Two months in, the men had lost twice as much weight as the women — and three times as much body fat. But by six months, the rate of weight loss had evened out between the genders.
If you’re a guy, you can thank the testosterone you have — and the extra estrogen you don’t — for your weight-loss edge. On average, women have between six and 11 percent more body fat than men, an assumed evolutionary adaptation to help during pregnancy. From puberty to menopause, women maintain more average body fat than men — even when they take in fewer calories.
But it’s important to remember that “fat” doesn’t mean “unhealthy.” Yes, women have larger fat stores, but it’s part of their physiology, meaning it’s not extra weight. So if a woman has 11 percent more body fat than a man, it doesn’t mean she’s 11 percent “fatter.” A perfectly fit woman will still hold six to 11 percent more body fat than a perfectly fit man.
Women who have gone on a diet alongside men may have noticed a frustrating outcome: The pounds seem to fall off the men, while stubbornly sticking to women. Now, a new study delves into differences that take place when men and women diet — and confirms that, yes, men do lose weight faster.
In the study, published online Aug. 7 in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, the researchers tracked more than 2,000 overweight adults with prediabetes from Europe, Australia and New Zealand. For eightweeks, the participants followed an 800-calorie, mostly liquid diet that consisted of soups, shakes and hot cereals, plus a daily intake of 1.5 cups (375 grams) of low-calorie vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce.
At the end of the eight weeks, 35 percent of the men and women had normal blood-glucose levels and no longer had prediabetes, according to the findings. (Prediabetes means that a person has slightly elevated blood-sugar levels— a change that raises his or her risk of developing type 2 diabetes.) In addition, the researchers found that the men lost about 26 lbs.(11.8 kilograms), on average, over eightweeks, compared with about 22 lbs.(10.2 kg), on average, in women.
But it wasn’t just that men dropped more total pounds than women — the researchers also found that men had larger reductions than women on other measures linked with better health, such as a lower heart rate and less body fat as well as a decreased risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome. The latter refers to a collection ofsymptoms, such as high blood pressure and body mass index (BMI), that can raise risk for diabetes and heart disease.
The low-calorie diet affected womendifferently in other ways, the researchers found — and not all of the differences were positive. For example, compared with men, women experienced larger reductions in HDL cholesterol, the so-called good cholesterol—a change that could be bad for heart health. What’s more, women in the study saw larger reductions in both bone mineral density, which may indicate weaker bones, and lean body mass, meaning less muscle. However, women did lose more inches in their hips than men.
- Gender-specific differences
- Why is it harder for females to gain weight?
- There’s Now Scientific Proof: Men Lose Weight More Quickly Than Women
- Why does this happen?
- Why weight loss is good
- Why Men Typically Lose Weight Faster Than Women (and What Women Can Do About It)
- Men usually have a higher metabolic rate than women
- Women’s hormones dictate that they’re more likely to store fat
- Men lose more fat around the midsection, making them appear instantly slimmer
- What women can do to effectively burn fat
- The Fix
- Calories Burned Per Day By Women
- Calories Burned Per Day By Men
- Young people burn more calories
- Tall people burn more calories
- Heavy people burn more calories
- Active people burn more calories
- Calorie Targets for Losing Weight
- How we adapt to weight loss
- Most of Us Underestimate How Much We Eat
- Wrapping up
- Do men and women lose weight differently?
- Why Men Lose Weight Faster Than Women
- 1. Men Have More Muscle Than Women
- 2. Men Lose More Water Weight Than Women
- 3. Women Are Hormonally Wired to Store More Fat
- 4. Men & Women Store Fat Differently
- 5. Women’s Menstrual Cycle Can Trigger Stress Eating
- The Takeaway
The study confirms what any woman who has gone on a diet at the same time as her husband has already observed — men typically lose weight faster than women, said Dr. Elizabeth Lowden, a bariatric endocrinologist at Northwestern Medicine’s Metabolic Health and Surgical Weight Loss Center at Delnor Hospital in Geneva, Illinois, who was not involved in the new study.
What’s more, the gender differences in weight loss and improved health outcomes observed in this study physiologically make sense, Lowden told Live Science.
Men, thanks to their body composition, have more muscle and a higher metabolic rate than women, Lowden said. Since all of the participants were following a roughly 800-calorie-a-day diet, and men typically consume more daily calories than women when following their usual diets, they would have experienced a larger caloric deficit on the study diet and thus would be expected to lose weight faster than women, she said.
But the study went one step further to show different metabolic effects of the diet in men when compared towomen. Men typically have more weight in their midsection, known as visceral fat, which surrounds the internal organs, Lowden said. When peoplelose visceral fat, it improves their metabolic rate, helping them to burn more calories, she explained.
Women, on the other hand, typically have more subcutaneous fat, which is fat around their thighs, rear and hips that is important for childbearing, Lowden said. When people lose subcutaneous fat, this does not improve their metabolic risk factors, because this type of fat is not metabolically active, she explained.
Indeed, in the study, the researchers pointed to previous research that has suggested that the differences in metabolic outcomes observed in men and women who follow the same diet could be because men may mobilize more fat from their abdomens during weight loss, while women may lose more subcutaneous fat.
Still, though overweight men and women may experience some different health effects during a low-calorie diet, weight loss is always beneficial, Lowden said.
One of the limitations of the study is that it did not indicate whether some of the women participants had gone through menopause, Lowden said. After menopause, women tend to hold onto fat around their midsection like men do, and have more metabolically active fat, which could influence the results, she said.
Another limitation of the study is that the findings only focused on short-term changes and not on whether the weight lost by the participants and the health benefits achieved could be maintained over a longer period of time, the researchers wrote.
Originally published on Live Science.
Why is it harder for females to gain weight?
“One of my research goals is to better understand the role the brain plays in body weight control,” said senior author Dr. Yong Xu, associate professor of pediatrics and of molecular and cellular biology and the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital. “In this study we propose a novel mechanism that may contribute to this difference between sexes.”
It’s been proposed that two main factors are likely to be involved in gender differences in body weight control; the sex chromosomes and the sex hormones. Males have one X and one Y chromosome, and females have two X chromosomes, but scientists understand very little about which genes on the sex chromosomes contribute to this issue. Males’ major sex hormone is testosterone, and females have high levels of estrogen and progesterone in their blood. Scientists agree that these hormones probably play a main role in regulating body weight.
“Differences in sex chromosomes and in sex hormones are important, but we have always wondered whether there is a third group of factors that may also contribute to the sex differences in the ability to regulate body weight,” Xu said. “We think ours is among the first studies looking at the brain to understand weight control differences between males and females.”
A closer look at the weight control center of the brain
Previous work had shown that the brain has several neuron populations that are very important for weight control. In this study, Xu and his colleagues determined whether these populations were different between male and female mice.
“One of the most important functions of all neurons is firing electrical signals. That’s how neurons talk to each other and to other tissues,” Xu said. “We compared the firing rate of many types of neurons between males and females and found a few that fired differently. We focused on one type, called POMC neurons, located in the hypothalamus.”
“POMC neurons in the hypothalamus help maintain normal body weight by inhibiting appetite and promoting energy expenditure in response to chronic high fat diet feeding,” said first author Dr. Chunmei Wang, an instructor in the Xu lab.
“We tested the firing rate of POMC neurons using electrophysiological techniques,” said first author Dr. Yanlin He, postdoctoral associate in the Xu lab. “Our results show that female POMC neurons fire faster than male neurons.”
But why do female POMC neurons fire faster than male’s? Xu and his colleagues screened POMC neurons for gene expression and found many genes that are expressed differently between males and females. One of the genes, TAp63, is expressed more in females than in males.
“We know from previous work that when we knock out the gene TAp63 in the entire body of a mouse, the animal becomes obese,” Xu said. “Here, we knocked out the gene only in POMC neurons and strikingly, this change did not affect male mice. On the other hand, female mice developed male-like obesity.”
Knocking out TAp63 not only affected weight control in females, it also decreased the firing activity of female POMC neurons to the level of male’s. Knocking out TAp63 in males, however, did not affect the firing rate of their POMC neurons.
These findings led the researchers to propose a novel mechanism that may contribute to sex differences in weight control. Female POMC neurons express higher levels of TAp63, which leads the neurons to fire faster than males. This results in the females having less appetite, spending more energy and therefore being more protected than males from gaining weight. The researchers think that these results may facilitate the future development of gender-specific therapeutic strategies for obesity and associated metabolic disorders.
“We think that our findings suggest that, in addition to studying chromosome and hormonal differences between males and females, scientists should also pay attention to this third category of factors,” Xu said. “We hope our study will encourage other researchers to continue investigating this line of research.”
There’s Now Scientific Proof: Men Lose Weight More Quickly Than Women
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Ladies, if you ever pit yourself against a male partner, sibling, or friend in a weight loss competition, don’t be surprised when you encounter a harsh reality.
Men lose weight faster than women.
New research suggests men also garner more health benefits than women when they lose weight, too.
A study in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism detailed the weight loss results of more than 2,200 overweight adults in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
Each of the adults also had prediabetes, a condition marked by slightly elevated blood sugar levels. People with prediabetes are at a higher risk for eventually developing type 2 diabetes.
During the eight-week study, these adults followed an 800-calorie diet of mostly soups, shakes, hot cereals, and low-calorie vegetables.
At the end, men lost 16 percent more weight than women — about 26 pounds compared with an average of 22 pounds for women.
Additionally, 35 percent of the men and women in the study had normal blood glucose levels and fell out of the prediabetes classification.
However, that’s not where the good news for the men ends.
As a group, the men had a lower heart rate and less body fat. They also ended with a lower risk for diabetes than the women did.
The low-calorie diet had other impacts on the women in the study and they were not entirely positive.
Women experienced larger reductions in their high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, also known as the “good” type of cholesterol.
They also showed larger reductions in bone mineral density, which can lead to weaker bones.
Their lean body mass also decreased, which slows the metabolism and can slow weight loss.
The type of fat the men in the study lost was also healthier than the type of fat females lost.
Men typically carry their weight in their midsection. This is called visceral fat. When your body sheds visceral fat, it actually supercharges your metabolism and helps you burn more calories. It’s a fat loss win-win.
Women, however, tend to carry their fat around their hips, thighs, and butt. This type of fat, called subcutaneous fat, is important for childbearing and menstruation, but it does nothing for your metabolic health when you lose it.
That’s unfortunate because, in the study, women did lose more inches from their hips than men.
Why does this happen?
Why men tend to lose more weight faster comes down to the difference in how men and women are built.
Physiologically, men are built to burn fat more quickly. They have more lean muscle mass and a naturally higher metabolic rate.
Lean muscle mass also consumes more calories, so the more your body has, the more your body burns.
Likewise, the number of calories in the study unfairly benefited men, too.
Because of their higher metabolism, men often need to consume more calories each day to meet their resting metabolic rate — that is, what their body needs to fulfill basic functions like sleeping and breathing.
With this diet, men and women consumed an equal amount. However, that amount was a larger calorie deficit for the men than for the women. The higher weight loss results could be expected on this fact alone.
“It’s not fair, it’s not fair, it’s not fair,” says Lisa Young, PhD, RD, and author of “Finally Full, Finally Slim: 30 Days to Permanent Weight Loss One Portion at a Time” that’s debuting in January.
“Men have more lean body mass, and lean body mass is a more metabolically active tissue. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism,” Young told Healthline. “So, if you have a faster metabolism, you’re going to burn calories faster, and you’re going to lose weight quicker.”
Why weight loss is good
However, don’t let these results discourage you, Young said.
Women can take steps to improve their odds and weight loss is always a net positive for people who are overweight or already facing health issues, such as prediabetes.
“The benefits of weight loss are going to always outweigh the negatives,” she said. “The women’s HDL went down, but I would imagine their LDL, the bad cholesterol, went down, too. And that’s good.”
Young said you can combat many of the negative results this study demonstrated with just one thing: exercise.
“Lift more weights and do more weight-bearing exercises. That will build lean body mass,” she said. “Exercise can elevate your HDL and help strengthen your bones, too.”
One limit to the study was that the age and menopause status of women involved in the weight loss trial wasn’t documented or used to evaluate the results.
That information is important because women tend to hold onto fat in their midsections after menopause and they lose more lean body mass as they age.
“There are some advantages to being a woman,” Young said, “but when it comes to weight loss, there’s an advantage to being a man.”
Why is it that men quit drinking soda for a week and—PRESTO!—it looks like they’ve dropped 10 pounds. Not fair, right? But do they really have an advantage in the weight loss department, or is it just an optical illusion?
Turns out, it’s a little of both. We dug through the research and questioned the experts to bring you the 5 fascinating (and only slightly depressing) reasons why guys really do trim down faster—plus the awesome way you can hack your own metabolism to even the score. (Get a flat belly in just 10 minutes a day with our reader-tested exercise plan!)
1. Men have more lean fat-burning muscle.
There’s truth behind the Popeye and Olive Oyl body types. Men have more muscle, especially in the upper body, and since muscle burns more calories than fat, men have a faster metabolism—5 to 10% faster to be exact. You can blame (or thank!) testosterone for the double standard.
“Testosterone is a powerful hormone, and men have approximately 10 times more of it than women do,” says Chris Jordan, MS, CSCS, director of exercise physiology at the Human Performance Institute and creator of the 7-Minute Workout. “Testosterone increases protein synthesis and lean body mass, which will then increase your resting metabolic rate. Meaning, guys will be burning more calories all day.”
MORE: 15 Teeny Tiny Changes You Can Make For Faster Weight Loss
2. Evolution tells women to “hold onto those curves!”
Estrogen has its perks (it preps the body for childbirth and boosts libido), but it’s not doing women favors on the weight loss front. Not only do women have a higher percentage of body fat than men—usually 6 to 11% more—but researchers at the University of New South Wales found that estrogen reduces women’s ability to burn energy after eating. Meaning, we’re better at holding onto that fat, too.
MORE: 7 Weird Reasons You’re Gaining Weight
3. Women are literally hard-wired to crave cupcakes.
david neil madden/getty images
Unfortunately, when it comes to emotional eating, women win. Researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory found that when primed with the sight and smell of pizza and cake, men were much better at turning off their cravings while women fixated on their favorite foods, even after being told to think of something else. Other research suggests that women are more likely to eat in response to stress, while men are more likely to turn to alcohol.
4. Men are overachievers…at first.
music monkey business/
Thanks to their speedier metabolism, men’s bodies respond faster to diets. In a British Journal of Nutrition study, when men and women were put on popular weight loss programs like Atkins, Slim-Fast, and Weight Watchers, men lost twice as much weight and three times as much body fat after 2 months. But there was also good news: At 6 months, the weight loss had evened out, with men just slightly in the lead. So keep exercising and eating clean—consistency helps even the playing field. “Regardless of gender, however, you still need to burn 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound of fat,” says Jordan. And for both men and women, that takes work.
MORE: 11 Rules To Rev Your Metabolism All Day
5. Even if men don’t lose more weight, it looks like they do.
Fat distribution differs greatly between the sexes. While women often gain fat on the butt and hips, men tend to carry excess weight around the abdomen, where it’s more noticeably lost when they trim down. But don’t envy their shape; that apple physique also happens to be more dangerous, putting men at a greater risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and certain cancers due to the high concentration of visceral fat surrounding their vital organs; a little extra weight on a pear-shaped woman isn’t nearly as dangerous. (Here are some exercise moves to help you slim your lower body.)
But there’s hope! Here’s how to hack your metabolism to even the score.
Yes, men have a genetic leg up when it comes to building muscle, but they don’t have a stronghold. The best way for women to boost their fat-burning metabolic rate is through resistance training, which builds lean muscle mass, says Jordan—”and because of the gender differences in testosterone, women should not fear becoming too muscular.”
Pumping iron at the gym isn’t your only option. Body-weight exercises like planks, push-ups, and squats also increase muscle mass. Bonus: Not only is exercise a muscle builder, stress buster, and endorphin releaser, it also can power up the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s willpower center, to help counteract emotional eating.
Experts say it has to do with our different body compositions. (iStock)
Ladies, you’re not imagining things: Men really do lose weight faster.
After two months on a low-calorie diet, men lost an average of 26 pounds, while women shed just 22, according to a study published in the Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism journal.
Researchers tracked some 2,200 overweight, pre-diabetic adults in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. For eight weeks, participants stuck to an 800-calorie per day plan, consisting of soups, shakes, hot cereals and vegetables.
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Not only were men the biggest losers — they got healthier than women, too. By the end of the study, male participants had lower heart rates, less body fat and a lower diabetes risk than their female counterparts.
Meanwhile, women experienced more negative effects from the diet, with larger reductions in “good” HDL cholesterol (which aids heart health) and bone mineral density (which leads to bone weakness). Their only win against the boys was losing more inches from their hips.
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Unfair? Certainly. But not surprising to experts.
“I often see women lose weight slower than men,” Rania Batayneh, nutritionist and author of “The Simple 1:1:1 Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss,” tells The New York Post. “Sometimes, even if a man has no intention of losing weight, he’ll drop the pounds anyway.”
Batayneh credits the weight gap to men’s naturally muscle-dense body composition, “which is a calorie burner.” She also points out that men have a tendency to have more visceral fat, or belly fat. Losing abdomen fat revs the metabolism, allowing the body to torch calories faster.
In contrast, “women have more subcutaneous fat — often around their thighs, bottoms and hips,” she says. And unlike losing belly fat, shedding subcutaneous fat doesn’t “fire up” the metabolism.
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Her best advice to frustrated women? Remember that it’s not a competition, and “be happy with the amount you lost,” says Batayneh.
In other words, every loser’s a winner.
This article originally appeared in The New York Post.
Why Men Typically Lose Weight Faster Than Women (and What Women Can Do About It)
You know that reducing your caloric intake and maintaining a good exercise regimen is vital for weight loss. But despite a woman’s best efforts, it often seems like men have an easier time losing weight. Anecdotal evidence aside, could it be true that men simply have it easier when it comes to shedding pounds? It turns out that warding away fat is usually harder for women after all, WebMD says — and there are a number of reasons as to why.
Men usually have a higher metabolic rate than women
Woman standing on a scale | Vadimguzhva/iStock/Getty Images
You’re familiar with the terms “fast metabolism” and “slow metabolism,” but it’s important to understand what your metabolic rate even is. Live Science explains the process of your body turning food into energy is commonly referred to as your metabolism. Your basal metabolic rate refers to the bare minimum amount of energy that’s used to just keep you alive.
So, why do some people have a higher metabolic rate than others? It has to do with how much lean tissue and fat a person has. The more lean mass and less body fat, the more efficiently your body can turn food into energy. And since men naturally have less body fat, this means their metabolisms are generally higher, making them more efficient at burning fat.
Women’s hormones dictate that they’re more likely to store fat
Woman pinching belly fat | iStock.com/JaoNgoh
Science Daily explains women typically carry between 6-11% more body fat than men do — and they can thank the hormone estrogen for that. Studies have proven that the presence of estrogen makes it harder for women to burn fat after eating. And from an evolutionary standpoint, this makes sense, as having more fat on the body is necessary when it comes to childbearing.
As for men, they have testosterone to thank for their fat-burning advantage. And because they have less estrogen in their bodies than women, they don’t store fat as effectively either.
It’s important to note that just because women naturally carry more fat than men doesn’t make them unhealthier. Because men store most of their fat in their midsection, it’s actually typically more dangerous to have excess fat for men than it is for women. Fat stored in the abdomen surrounds internal organs and the heart, which can contribute to a variety of diseases.
Men lose more fat around the midsection, making them appear instantly slimmer
While men do tend to burn fat quicker than women, it also may look more dramatic on their frames due to where they lose weight. WebMD notes men typically store fat in their midsections — and that’s also the first place they’ll lose the weight, too. In women, fat stores are more spread throughout the body, making significant weight loss more difficult to detect from outsiders. Women are more likely to lose weight around the hips, thighs, and glutes than midsection, too, as this is typically where most of their fat is stored.
What women can do to effectively burn fat
Women in an exercise class doing lunges | iStock.com/dolgachov
Get daily exercise: Burning fat isn’t impossible no matter what genetic disadvantages may be present. And WebMD explains that while women store fat more effectively, they’re also better at burning body fat during exercise than men. For this reason, having a steady exercise plan is always a good idea when attempting to lose weight. And it doesn’t have to be extreme, either. The Mayo Clinic recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (briskly walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (high-intensity interval training) per week.
Know how many calories you’re eating: While exercise is important for health, real weight loss occurs in the kitchen. Healthline notes the average woman needs around 2,000 calories per day to maintain their weight. If you cut this down to around 1,500 calories and put yourself at a 500 calorie deficit each day, this should equate to around 1 pound of weight loss per week. For calorie guidelines more tailored to your specific needs, there are several online calorie calculators that can help.
More protein, less carbs: Calories aside, it’s also important to fuel your bodies with the right foods. Eat plenty of protein and fiber to stay satiated throughout the day, and consider adding in a few weight loss superfoods to assist you. You should watch your intake of sugar and carbs as well, as these foods tend to turn directly into fat when they go unused.
Get more sleep: Sleep is more important than you think when it comes to losing weight. Get at least eight hours per night to reduce your cortisol levels, the stress hormone that can cause weight gain. Also, being well-rested means you’ll be able to attack your workouts more vigorously, resulting in more calorie burn.
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(Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)
In case this wasn’t quite an obvious piece of news already, a new study has confirmed that men tend to burn more calories during sex than women.
Men burn around 200 calories an hour from banging – the same as doing yoga.
Influencer apologises for selfie with penguins having sex
Women, on the other hand, only burn 138 an hour which is similar to walking a dog.
And that’s because men tend to be more active during sex than women.
That’s all well and good but does anyone have full on sex for an hour? Wouldn’t the inside of your vagina/foreskin dissolve if you were banging for that long on the regular?
Really, we’re probably talking more like 69 calories versus 100 calories at most. And 30% isn’t really a massive difference.
Also, sex obviously differs from couple to couple.
(Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)
Many men probably do the majority of the legwork when it comes to sex – it’s sort of easier to thrust away than it is to grind on top or sideways or whatever.
But there are some blokes who literally lie on their back and expect to be ridden like lazy ponies. And calorie burn depends on what positions you enjoy.
The small calorie burn that comes with sex is merely a cherry on the top of actually having a good time.
But if you really want a proper workout, you need to get yourself down to a boxing gym.
(Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)
According to the same piece of research by Forza Supplements, boxing is the most effective sport when it comes to fat and calorie burning as it involves super intense interval training and engaging of multiple muscle groups.
Squash is the second most exhausting, burning 748 calories an hour, while rowing came in third – as long as it’s done on water. You use up 740 calories rowing on a lake or river compared to just 440 on an ergo.
Road running (700 calories an hour) also beats treadmill workouts (580 calories).
(Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)
‘We just hope that these figures encourage more people to get active to combat our growing obesity crisis,’ says Forza Supplements managing director Lee Smith.
‘Boxing is terrific for weight loss because it is the ultimate full body work-out with intense bursts of activity – just like the very best interval training.
‘The figures show that any activity is better than lounging in front of the TV and, if you are going to do that, at least do it standing up and burn 20 calories an hour.
‘Sex is a great way to burn off calories, particularly if you are a man.’
He goes on to say that there are loads of fun ways to burn calories while you’re on holiday that don’t involve schlepping around the roads in the burning sun.
Snorkelling burns 274 an hour, while a round golf uses up 236 calories.
MORE: Is it possible to get rid of belly fat by doing just 15 minutes of HIIT a day?
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Has anyone ever told you that a woman burns 2,000 calories a day?
Or that a man burns 2,500 calories a day?
These two numbers are repeated so often, by so many people, that they are assumed to be true.
But here’s the thing . . .
These numbers are both wrong, and simplistic. And if you plan your fitness or weight loss goals around them it can cause you a lot of heartache.
The average calories burned per day by a real American woman is actually closer to 2,400, while for a man it’s about 3,100. But you probably aren’t average, and your needs will change over time!!
In this post I’m going to show you a superior way to think about energy needs and what this means for losing weight. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- The calories burned by men and women
- Four factors that affect energy needs
- Setting targets for weight loss using data
- How our energy needs adapt to weight loss
Let’s begin 😉
Calories Burned Per Day By Women
Calories needs are like like shoe sizes.
Some people need small shoes, some need big shoes, but most people are somewhere in the middle. Shoe sizes have what we call a ‘normal’ distribution. This is a bell curve shape. The energy needs of women have a very similar distribution (they are linked by height).
Here’s how calories burned per day are distributed among a group of 382 real women aged 20-70. Our data comes from Institute of Medicine’s Dietary Reference Intakes.
Here’s a few things the data shows us:
- 20% of these women burn less than 2,000 calories a day (low needs)
- 65% need between 2,000 and 2,800 calories (average needs)
- 16% these women burn more than 2,800 calories a day (high needs)
- the median woman in this sample burns 2,365 calories
There isn’t a single women among this group that needs exactly 2,000 calories a day. In fact the average calories burned per day by a woman in this sample is closer to 2,400 calories.
Of course you never assume want to assume you’re average. I’ll explain why as we go.
Calories Burned Per Day By Men
Men are lucky!
They have have more muscle, less fat and larger organs (liver, kidneys, heart) at similar bodyweight which means they have higher metabolic rates.
Here’s what the distribution of our 264 men looks like.
And these are the quick takeaways from our males.
- 19% burn less than 2,600 calories a day (low needs)
- 59% need between 2,600 and 3,600 calories (average needs)
- 20% burn more than 3,600 calories a day (high needs)
- the median man burns 3,076 calories
Once again there isn’t a single man in this sample that needs exactly 2,500 calories a day. In fact the average calories burned per day by men in this sample is closer to 3,100 calories.
Again, never assume you’re average! Let’s dig into four reason why our energy needs differ.
Young people burn more calories
As people get older their energy needs tend to decline. Explaining this phenomenon is not straight forward. Some of it is lost muscle mass, some changing lifestyle and some seems to be things changing at a cellular level too.
Whatever the reason is you can see it clearly in the data.
The first thing to note is the enormous variation. The second is the clear decline in energy needs with age. Average needs for women drop from 2,700 calories at age 20 down towards 2,000 at age 70. While for men they begin way up near 3,400 at 20 and fall to 2,800 by 70 (which seems surprisingly high).
Tall people burn more calories
Tall people generally burn more energy than shorter people, so they can afford to eat more while maintaining weight and have more energy to play with when cutting. Part of this is simply having more surface area to dissipate heat. Here’s how the data looks.
Virtually all the women with slower metabolisms (below 2,000) are shorter than 170cm (5’7). In the black dots for men you can see that the bulk of the high energy users (above 4,000) are up around the six foot mark.
Heavy people burn more calories
Heavier people generally have higher metabolic rates. This reflects the fact that more energy is required to move a larger body and that larger people often have bigger muscles and organs (resulting in higher resting metabolisms). Here’s how the data looks for weight:
In this graph you can see that even for the same weight men typically have an energy expenditure that is 500 calories higher than women. Light women who clock in around 50kg (110lbs) average just 2,200 whereas a 100kg (220lbs) woman could expect to use 2,800.
The effect of weight on energy needs is even greater in men. With 100kg (220lbs) men regularly clocking in around 3,500 calories a day it’s little wonder big men often drop weight the fastest. It’s again important to stress the huge variation.
Active people burn more calories
The primary reason you should be careful with a TDEE calculator, or any weight loss calculator for that matter, has to do with their treatment of activity level. Almost all calculators estimate your resting metabolism (which already has a degree of variability ±20%), and then multiply it by an activity multiplier based on exercise levels (typically 1.2, 1.375, 1.55, 1.725, 1.9). But getting these multipliers right is very hard. And pretending they are determined largely by exercise is plain false. They are a complex function of genetics, work life, exercise patterns, muscle mass, postural control, propensity to fidget . . .
Here’s what the correlation looks like between TDEE and activity level.
Activity level is a stronger explainer of TDEE than age, weight or height. In this data set it explains 40-50% of the variation.
If you’ve ever known one of those people that just doesn’t seem to put weight on regardless of what they eat you’ll probably find they are a world class fidgeter. Other things that drive up activity levels are physically active jobs (think labourer) and endurance training (think triathlete). People with low activity levels (below 1.5) are likely to combine desk jobs, limited exercise and low spontaneous activity (fidgeting, posture control, shivering . . ).
Calorie Targets for Losing Weight
The last four graphs earlier in this article should hopefully have given you a vague idea of what your own energy might be, even if its just a broad range.
To set up a solid calorie target for fat loss you need to apply a deficit to your needs. The deficit is the energy shortfall you need to create in order to lose fat. Because I have no idea where you sit on those bell curves I’m going to use this data to set a deficit for the whole distribution.
For someone who is tracking all their food a 10-20% deficit is fine. But because most of our readers are regular people, rather than physique athletes, let’s go for a more aggressive 25% deficit. This should bring the create a 500-1,000 deficit for the vast majority of our sample. This is in line with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines and big enough to allow some inevitable slip ups.
Weight loss targets for women
Here’s what our female distribution looks like after the 25% deficit has been applied.
Here’s what we can see.
- low energy needs: target range 1,200-1,500 calories
- average energy needs: target range 1,500-2,100 calories
- high energy needs: target range +2,100 calories
The average needs women fall into a 1,500-2,100 calorie target range. Women with low energy needs will be forced to eat 1,200-1,500 to shift fat adequately. While high burners can lose well at +2,100.
I’ve shaded all the figures below 1,400 calories in orange because because these targets deserve some caution. In this sample 1,400 calorie figure does not meet the resting metabolism needs of 40% of this sample. Although it is well above the NIH safety floor of 1,200 calories for women.
Note: You should think of these numbers as sensible starting targets. Our energy needs will decline as we lose weight and we are often forced to cut calories lower that we might hope.
Calorie targets for men
Here’s our male distribution after the 25% deficit has been applied.
Here’s what we can see for men:
- low energy needs: target range 1,600-2,000 calories
- average energy needs: target range 2,000-2,700 calories
- high energy needs: target range +2,700 calories
The bulk of our men fall into a 2,000-2,700 calorie range. The lucky guys with high energy needs can cut on +2,700 while those will low needs will need to jump straight at 2,000 or below.
I’ve shaded all the figures below 1,800 calories in orange because this figure doesn’t meet the resting metabolic needs of 43% of this sample. Although once again this is well above the NIH safety floor of 1,500 calories for men.
Note: Once again, please realise these figures are only designed to give you an idea of where to start. Energy needs can easily drop by 500 calories per day over the course of a cut.
How we adapt to weight loss
If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, or coached people to lose weight, you’ll likely have been surprised by how high some of these numbers were. To be honest that was my reaction when I first extracted the data from the report.
I spent a lot of time trying to validate how representative this sample is, and found it remarkably solid. In fact the average man and woman in the sample is roughly ten pounds lighter that the average American today. Here are the sample means.
- Women: 43 years, 69kg (153lbs), 164cm (5’5), PAL: 1.74
- Men: 43 years, 83kg (183lbs), 178cm (5’10), PAL: 1.77
So what’s going on with these seemingly high figures then? I’ve got two explanations for you.
The first thing worth remembering is that we are universally terrible at counting calories (myself included). Even when trained dietitians where tested they we found to under-report by 220 kcal a day. So unless you are weight every gram of macronutrient you are eating don’t assume you’re are even close to knowing what your numbers are.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, your body will adapt. During a diet your body actively defends its fat mass by reducing energy use and increasing hunger signals. This is your hormonal defence system telling your brain (the hypothalamus primarily) to protect itself from losing too much weight.
Let me give you a concrete example. The graph below comes from a great free living study that looked at how people adapt to caloric restriction. Here’s what the average adaptation of people that started on a 25% deficit looked like after three months in that study.
Note: These people lost an average of 6kg (13lbs) in 3 months.
At the start of the diet the deficit averaged 712 calories but by the end it had dwindled to just 258. The downward adaption was largely due to the decline in spontaneous activity (NEAT).
So in the process of losing just 6kg the average drop in calories burned was a whopping 450 calories a day!! That’s a 17% drop in their daily total daily energy expenditure.
Most of Us Underestimate How Much We Eat
Lastly, it’s important to recognise that when someone tracks their food, it is likely that they are underestimating their energy needs by a considerable amount.
This was tested in a UK population recently and the average error was underestimating intake by 32%. With women estimating intake at 1,570 calories the actual amount consumed was estimated to be 2,393. And meanwhile men tracked eating 2.065 but were in fact eating 3,119 (see below).
When working with clients it is very hard to know how accurate they might be.
Here’s what we’ve learned from this data.
- Energy needs have a bell shaped distribution
- Women typical burn 2,000 to 2,800 kcal/day
- Men typical burn 2,600 and 3,800 kcal/day
- Age, height, weight and activity level affect our needs
- Setting a weight loss target is highly individual
- Your needs will decline as you lose weight
- Your calorie intake estimates are likely inaccurate
Hope you enjoyed that!!
Do men and women lose weight differently?
This summer, new research emerged from the University of Iowa, so new in fact it is yet to be officially published (“we have, thus far, presented only at scientific meetings”, explains principal investigator Dr E Dale Abel). It queried whether men are more likely than women to be successful on the popular ketogenic diet.
The study came about by chance. They were investigating the impact of the ketogenic diet as a treatment for heart failure. They noticed male mice on the diet lost weight but female mice gained it. Jesse Cochran, the lead researcher, explains: “We noticed this really pronounced discrepancy between males and females on the ketogenic diet – we thought ‘wow that’s drastic’, so the next question was whether this was reproducible. Every time, we saw these differences – male mice were losing weight, female mice were gaining it.”
To find out if the differences were due to sex hormones, they studied female mice who had had their ovaries removed to mimic a post-menopausal state. They found while they gained weight (because they were now oestrogen-deficient), it wasn’t exacerbated by the ketogenic diet.
The university scientists are keen to add disclaimers to their research. Firstly, although the mice lost muscle as well as fat, this could have been because the mouse version of keto is protein-restricted (which is required for mice on this diet to produce ketones). Humans continue to eat protein on the keto diet, so it might not cause muscle loss.
Dr Abel and the team have already received media attention on the study, after presenting it at scientific meetings. “I’ve got a lot of anecdotes coming back to me from women or their healthcare providers saying, ‘gee, this kind of makes sense, I always wondered why (it didn’t work for me)’. But I have the big caveat that a mouse is not a person. We may get an insight, and we’re certainly looking at molecular insights and other hormones that might help us understand the difference between males and females. The key requirement is that if there are human trials, care really needs to be taken to determine sex differences in response to these diets”, he adds.
One reason we don’t yet have a clear-cut answer to whether some diets are better suited to men or women is because a lot of research is based on men or male animals alone. Dr Abel explains, “In medicine in general, a lot of what we do in practice has historically been based on studies performed on men. There is a growing realisation that you have to control for sex in these studies, so I think an observation like the one Jesse has made is crucial as it highlights there are fundamental differences in the biology.”
Why Men Lose Weight Faster Than Women
Calling all couples! Y’all cook, eat, and exercise together, and maybe you even try to lose weight together, too.
If so, you’ve probably experienced this incredibly annoying scenario: one of you loses weight much faster than the other. (We’re looking at you, guys.)
A common complaint from women in relationships is that their men slim down quicker than they do.
It’s not your imagination. Men really do lose weight faster than women, despite the fact that men weigh more than women. (Seriously, why is it easier for guys to get abs? And why do females gain weight faster than males? These are some of life’s great mysteries.)
Instead of dwelling on the unfairness of it all, let’s get to know the reasons why:
1. Men Have More Muscle Than Women
The American College of Sports Medicine — a trusted source in the fitness community — recommends 10 to 22 percent body fat for men, and 20 to 32 percent for women in good health.
Pound for pound, men carry more of their weight as muscle than women do. Thanks to their higher testosterone levels, men have an easier time building muscle as well.
Building bigger muscles can give your metabolic rate a boost. Studies show you can realistically build up to 4.5 pounds of muscle in a year, which helps you torch 50 calories more daily.
It doesn’t sound like much, but this adds up, saving you 18,250 calories per year. (FYI: That doesn’t include the extra calories you burn from lifting weights in the first place.)
Pro tip: Add strength training to your routine, ladies. If you’re afraid to muscle up, ditch that fear — women’s bodies typically don’t have the genetic makeup to get bulky like men, and even men have to train very specifically to gain a lot of muscle mass.
2. Men Lose More Water Weight Than Women
First, a little science: Glycogen is a stored form of carbohydrates that your body breaks down when it runs low on energy. When you tap into glycogen for fuel, you lose water because the two are stored together.
(Fun fact: For every gram of glycogen stored in your liver and muscles, you store three grams of water. Water is seriously heavy, clocking in at 2.2 pounds per liter!)
The reason those first few pounds come off quickly is because they’re mostly water. When you’re in a calorie deficit, your body’s first response is to hit up those glycogen stores, taking that stored water with it.
Pro tip: Getting to and maintaining a healthy weight is hard work, so set your sights on the long run. A little man vs. woman weight-loss competition can be good, since the two of you can egg each other on as you work toward your respective weight-loss goals.
Just don’t get too hung up on the numbers. It is a win-win situation as long as you’re both making progress.
3. Women Are Hormonally Wired to Store More Fat
While both men and women have estrogen, the women have more, and their bodies are “programmed” by the sex hormone to carry more fat. Women tend to carry about six to 11 percent more body fat than men.
Because of the extra estrogen, women may have a harder time losing fat than men. On the bright side, women’s bodies are better at using fat to fuel their workouts than men’s bodies.
Pro tip: Having a healthy body image means embracing your unique body shape. There’s no reason you shouldn’t embrace that body of yours even as you’re trying to change it.
One of my favorite mantras is: Work out and eat right because you love your body, not because you hate it.
4. Men & Women Store Fat Differently
Call it what you want: beer belly, pot belly, or dad bod. Fat storage is affected by your genes and gender.
In general, men accumulate fat in the belly region, giving them an apple shape, while women store fat in the hips and thighs, giving them a pear shape.
Subcutaneous fat (the type that’s right beneath the skin) can be easier to lose than visceral fat (or “deep-belly fat,” the type that hangs around your abdominal organs), so that’s why you may notice your guy’s weight loss sooner than your own.
And these fats are not created equal: Of the two fats mentioned above, visceral fat is considered the more dangerous to your health. It’s been linked to a higher risk of conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.
The good news — you can help reduce your visceral fat levels by implementing lifestyle changes like getting more sleep, eating more fiber, cutting excess carbs, and more.
Pro tip: Remember, you can’t spot reduce subcutaneous fat. You have to reduce your overall body fat by following a diet and exercise program that includes a balanced diet and cardio and weight training.
5. Women’s Menstrual Cycle Can Trigger Stress Eating
Even when women have no apparent stressors in life (impossible!), they have to deal with the hormonal fluctuations of a menstrual cycle – which can lead to cravings for unhealthy foods.
It doesn’t help that the foods people use to soothe a mood are usually hyperpalatable comfort items like snack cakes, fast food, ice cream, and cookies.
Pro tip: To lose weight successfully — and keep it off — means you need to figure out coping strategies that work for your body. You may truly believe that chocolate chip cookie is what you need right now, but can you wait just 10 minutes before chomping down?
Be mindful about what your body needs, and don’t fall into the trap thinking that food will solve your emotional problems.
Men and women differ biologically, and it affects how fast each are able to lose weight. Though men are able to quickly lose weight in a shorter timeframe, this advantage doesn’t last for long.
The lesson: Losing weight isn’t a contest with a winner and a loser. Celebrate your progress no matter how slowly (or quickly) it happens, because you will get there eventually!