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!