Men and women who have tackled the challenge of weight loss together have come to a rather blunt realization -- by, and large men have an easier time losing weight than women.
There have been many explanations for this floating around the fitness sphere over the years, including everything from hormone profiles to metabolism to lean muscle mass.
Fortunately, recent research has gleaned some insight into why it seems men can lose weight faster than women. <1>
Let’s first discuss what the researchers observed, and then discuss some other possibilities for why men lose weight faster than women.
A 2018 study, published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, tracked over 2,000 overweight pre-diabetic adults from Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. <1>
For eight weeks, the participants followed an extremely low-calorie diet (~800-calories per day), consisting of mostly liquid meals -- shakes, soups, and hot cereals.
They were given 1.5 cups (375 grams) of low-calorie vegetables (spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.) each day to supplement their liquid feedings.
Macronutrient breakdown for the low-calorie diet consisted of:
- 7% of total energy from protein
- 2% of total energy from carbohydrate
- 1% of total energy from fat
By all accounts, this could be considered a high-protein, moderate carb, low-fat diet based on the current USDA dietary guidelines. <2>
However, on an ~800 calorie diet, individuals consume roughly 80-87 grams of protein per day. Assuming these individuals had any reasonable amount of lean mass (i.e., muscle) on their frames, this protein is nowhere near enough to preserve lean mass during a calorie deficit.
At the end of the study, 35% of the men and women (~785 individuals) had normal blood glucose levels, meaning they were no longer considered pre-diabetic.
Additionally, the researchers also noted that men lost an average of 26 pounds over the 8-week study periods, while women lost an average of 22 pounds. <1>
However, the results weren't all positive, specifically in regard to the women's subjects.
More specifically, researchers documented that women experienced larger declines in HDL (“good”) cholesterol compared to men.
Furthermore, women participants also experienced more significant reductions in both bone mineral density (BMD), which may indicate weaker, more brittle bones, and lean body mass (LBM), meaning they likely lost muscle. <1>
Men in the low-calorie diet also lost lean mass, but, on average, women lost TWICE as much fat-free mass compared to men (31.4% vs. 16.1%, respectively). This is particularly intriguing as male participants had a larger energy deficit during the 8-week dieting assessment compared to women. <1>
These findings are in line with previous studies that have reported that men have greater amounts of and mobilize more intra‐abdominal (visceral) fat than women during weight loss. Reductions in visceral fat typically result in a greater improvement in the metabolic risk profile for men compared to women. <3,4,5>
The reason for this is that women, on average, have more subcutaneous fat -- the type of fat deposited around the thighs, butt, and hips.
One major limitation of this study is how woefully low the protein intake of both the men and women participants was.
25% of the total average weight loss in both men and women was fat-free mass.
Had subjects consumed a higher amount of protein per day (1-1.2 grams per pound of body weight), they could have retained more lean body mass and lost a greater amount of fat.
The reason this is important is that muscle is more metabolically active than fat, meaning it requires more calories to maintain than muscle.
There’s also the more vein, aesthetic consideration that when you lose muscle mass during a dieting phase, you wind up with the dreaded “skinny fat” look, but that’s a topic for another day.
Lean Muscle Tissue: Men Vs. Women
Another thing to consider regarding the differences between men and women is the amount of lean muscle tissue.
Men, by and large, possess a greater amount of muscle compared to women.
Now, this is not to say that women can’t build a similar amount of muscle as men, but take the average man and women off the street, and the man will possess a higher amount of lean muscle tissue.
As we just mentioned, lean body mass (muscle) is more metabolically active than fat, which means an individual with more muscle will have a faster metabolism compared to someone of similar body weight but with a greater proportion of that weight composed of fat.
One other thing regarding the study is that both men and women were given the same 800-calorie diet.
Since men typically have higher calorie requirements than women, this would mean that the men had a larger energy deficit compared to women.
We all know that calories are king when it comes to weight loss, the larger the deficit, the faster the weight loss occurs (to a degree).
Since the men had a larger daily calorie deficit than women, it makes sense that they would have experienced a greater total bodyweight reduction.
What isn't as quickly explainable is why men lost less fat-free mass than women. Technically speaking, since the men were consuming a substantially low amount of protein, they should have lost more lean body mass than women, on average, but they didn't.
Had the researchers placed the men and women on diets that yielded the same calorie deficit, it’s possible that average weight loss between the sexes would be similar.
Instead of placing both men and women on the same calorie intake, which unfairly gives the men a larger energy deficit (thereby facilitating more significant weight loss), the researchers should have individualized the diet plans so that all individuals were on roughly the same calorie deficit.
That way, researchers could more accurately determine if men do lose weight faster than women.
Regardless, what should be alarming is the amount of fat-free mass that men and women lost.
Fat-free mass consists of water, bone, organs, and muscle content.
Some of the fat-free mass lost by subjects could have been water, but it likely included some muscle and bone mineral density loss.
Two things that help combat muscle and bone mineral density loss are high-protein diets and resistance training.
Resistance training provides the stimulus your body needs to build and retain lean muscle amidst a calorie deficit, and it’s also been shown to enhance bone mineral density.
Similar to resistance training, consuming enough protein is paramount to preserving lean mass when dieting.
Weight Loss Supplements for Women
Weight loss is a highly individualized process.
Yes, we all have to abide by the same ground rules (e.g. calories in < calories out, eat a high-protein diet, etc.), but you should not compare your rate of weight loss to anyone else.
Dedication, consistency, and hard work are what matter.
Women can lose fat just as readily as men can. It all comes down to how consistent you are with your diet, exercise, and sleep.
To help women (and men) lose weight fast, SteelFit® has developed an extensive line of weight loss supplements.
One of our top-selling products for female weight loss clients is Steel Slim™.
Steel Slim™ is a weight loss support formula designed to help reduce calorie absorption, storage, and accumulation as fat.
Each serving of Steel Slim™ contains all-natural compounds known to boost metabolism, enhance energy, increase thermogenesis, and curb cravings.
Also, to help individuals consume enough dietary protein each day, we've created a delicious, low-calorie protein supplement in Steel Whey™.
Steel Whey ™comes in FIVE rich-tasting flavors that help support recovery and lean muscle retention.
- Christensen, P, Meinert Larsen, T, Westerterp‐Plantenga, M, et al. Men and women respond differently to rapid weight loss: Metabolic outcomes of a multi‐centre intervention study after a low‐energy diet in 2500 overweight, individuals with pre‐diabetes (PREVIEW). Diabetes Obes Metab. 2018; 20: 2840– 2851. https://doi.org/10.1111/dom.13466
- Handjieva‐Darlenska T, Handjiev S, Larsen TM, et al. Initial weight loss on an 800‐kcal diet as a predictor of weight loss success after 8 weeks: the diogenes study. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010;64:994‐999.
- Wirth A, Steinmetz B. Gender differences in changes in subcutaneous and intra‐abdominal fat during weight reduction: an ultrasound study. Obes Res. 1998;6:393‐399.
- Gasteyger C, Larsen TM, Vercruysse F, Pedersen D, Toubro S, Astrup A. Visceral fat loss induced by a low‐calorie diet: a direct comparison between women and men. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2009;11:596‐602.