Spot the Charm

Differences in fat stores and metabolism between women and men


By Metro


Published May 31, 2017

Genetic differences between men's and women's bodies extend beyond certain physical traits and hormone levels. Women metabolize food and store fat differently than men, and understanding these differences can help women looking to lose weight.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, states that women generally have a higher percentage of body fat than men. This fat is stored more readily in the gluteal-femoral region, while men store fat in the abdominal area. Women may become frustrated with fat stores as they embark on fitness regimens to shape their bodies. However, the fat that naturally covers muscle has a purpose, and curves can signify femininity.

Women are genetically engineered to carry roughly 18 to 20 percent body fat, whereas men hold 10 to 15 percent body fat. These numbers are approximate and will vary depending on the individual. Fat reserves on the female body are necessary for reproduction. That is why girls will begin to develop fat reserves as they enter into puberty. Fat stores are held in the hips, buttocks, thighs, and lower abdomen and will be used to power nursing and help nourish a growing baby.

Despite eating fewer calories, women can store fat more efficiently than men, according to ScienceDaily. A University of New South Wales research review has suggested a link between estrogen and fat. Studies show that estrogen reduces a woman's ability to burn energy after eating, which results in more fat being stored around the body. Surprisingly, women can burn more fat during exercise than men, but their fat storage due to exercise does not deplete as quickly as men's. This paradox can frustrate female athletes.

Some women may opt to restrict calorie consumption even further, but this actually may increase fat storage. When the body consumes fewer calories than it needs, fat reserves increase. At this time, the body essentially goes into starvation mode, storing whichever calories are ingested as fat reserves so there will be energy available. A key to maintaining healthy fat levels is to determine one's optimal caloric intake for energy expenditure. A nutritionist or fitness expert can help reach that determination.

Women should understand that fat on their bodies serves a distinct purpose. Working with their bodies rather than fighting against them can help women reach their health and fitness goals.


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