Why do women put on weight more easily than men?

Monday, 10 September 2012

A key factor in determining how much weight you put on or lose is your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). In simple terms, this is how much energy your body uses under standard conditions, typically after waking in the morning or 12hours after a meal and in a relaxed state. The BMR represents 60-75% of total energy expenditure in an average person, so because your weight is controlled by how much energy you are either burning or accumulating (food), it is an important factor in determining your weight control.

The Basal Metabolic Rate is determined by how much of your body is low fat or 'fat-free', called the fat-free mass. Women naturally have a lower BMR, due to mammary (breast) and gluteal tissue which is higher in fat than in men, for the natural processes associated with child birth and rearing. Consequently, on average women need to eat less food than men, if they are to maintain a healthy weight.

Another way of looking at this is to take the example of Claire, a 28 year old lady who weighs 68kg and is 162cm tall (overweight). Her husband, Peter, is also slightly overweight and weighs 85kg and is 178cm tall. Claire's Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is 1,420 kilocalories per day while Peter's is 1500kcal/day. So although it might not seem like a big difference (80kcal/day), it makes a big difference over time. This 80kcal/day difference means that come meal time, if Claire has the same portion size as Peter and neither of them do any exercise, she will actually put on more weight than Peter over time. This is because Peter's natural BMR will consume the energy eaten at a faster rate. How does Claire overcome this and get back to a healthy weight and look great? Exercise! It's tough news, but exercise is the answer to your weight woes.  If you want to know your specific BMR, simply take our diet profile.

Why does exercise have to be the answer?

The good thing about exercise and weight control is that the fitter you are, you have a higher BMR, so the weight will come off more easily. It's fantastic! It's a positive feedback cycle whereby you start dropping off the fat through exercise, the BMR goes up, then you start burning more energy naturally, and the weight comes off and the cycle continues until you are looking trim and terrific in the healthy weight range. It's that simple!

So why can't I just do a diet?

Unfortunately for us humans, our bodies react to dieting by decreasing our BMR. This is a kind of reaction to protect us from starvation. When we stop eating, our bodies panic and prepare for the worst by lowering our natural energy usage (BMR) to make our fat stores last longer (and survive, apparently!). Unfortunately for dieter's trying to lose weight, this makes it harder. It also means that your weight is likely to yo-yo up and down and never be stable, and this is a very unhealthy way to live.

What are the key points?

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is determined by:

  • Fat-free mass (can be related to gender)
  • Dieting/food intake
  • Genetics (body type)

BMR determines how quickly you burn energy and how easily you lose weight.
No matter what your BMR or gender is, you can lose weight through exercise and eating healthily and with moderate portion sizes to control your energy intake.

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