When working toward achieving fat-loss goals, there is often strength in numbers. Exercising with a buddy can feel a lot more fun than going it alone. When you’re having a bad day, your partner in fat-fighting crime can talk you off the ledge. And if you’re not great at being accountable for what you consume, knowing that there is someone else to whom you have to fess up might make your reconsider the slice of cake with a pint-size side of ice cream.
Bottom line: Teaming up with another person can be the best thing for your body–unless, of course, that person is a boy.
Be it your husband, your brother, a friend with benefits, or just the boy next door, a woman may want to think twice before adding a Y chromosome to her fat-loss plan. This isn’t about male bashing; we love the guys! However, their tendencies to lose weight faster and tone muscles quicker–often times with a lot less effort–can be infuriating for many women.
Let’s Talk Science
There are a lot of physical and biological factors at play when it comes to guys having scale advantages over the gals. Here are just a few:
- Hormones: Male and female bodies are both made up of testosterone and estrogen, with the levels of each differing between the sexes. While women typically have more estrogen, men have more testosterone. And thanks to that testosterone, men are genetically made up to be higher in muscle and lower in fat. Estrogen doesn’t come to a girl’s aid in quite the same way, leaving ladies with 6 to 11 percent more body fat on average than men.
- Muscle Make-up: All that muscle is great for looking bigger and stronger, but it also makes dropping fat happen with relative ease. Having more muscle often means less fat stores as well as that the muscle itself burns energy from existing fat stores and food. Because of this, guys can get away with eating less strict without packing on extra fat pounds. In comparison, women with little muscle tone may find they plateau or gain on the scale if their food intake is anything less than strict.
- Mentality: Blame the media, your mother, or even swimsuit season, but women tend to beat themselves up more about their bodies than do the boys. When those favorite jeans get too snug, the scale ticks higher, or you feel squishier than usual, that’s when the mind games kick in. However, when the guys notice themselves packing on the pounds, there is less mental anguish involved. Instead they choose to accept it or decide to make some changes.“No big deal.” (Said no woman ever.)
While there is no denying that men may have an advantage, it doesn’t mean that women can’t compete. In fact, if you play the fat-loss game long enough, the odds start to even out. According to a study in the British Journal of Nutrition, men and women on diets such as Atkins, Slim Fast, and Weight Watchers lost similar amounts at the six-month point, but two and three months in, the men were in the lead.
Fat-loss results also show quicker on men than women thanks to the location of their fat stores. Men tend to hold fat mostly in their bellies, while women’s are more spread out–usually in their hips and lower body. As guys work to take the weight off, it simply comes from the main fat store–their stomachs–and thus you see the results quickly. For women, little bits of weight may be coming off from different areas, which may not be as noticeable to the eye. The good new for girls is that the lower body area where their fat is usually stored is considered a healthier location than the belly region for men. A guy with a gut may be at higher risk for heart disease.
Take Some Tips from Him
You don’t have to be at a disadvantage when pairing up to slim down with the opposite sex. Here are some tips so that when you can’t beat him, you can join him.
- Eat More Protein: When cravings kick in, men tend to reach for proteins–meats and nuts, whereas women want their carbs–pastas and breads. Protein is the building block of muscle, and muscle helps keep your fat stores low. Look for way in your day to add more lean protein to your meals. Consider eggs for breakfast, cottage cheese for snacks, deli meat lettuce wraps for lunch, and grilled chicken and veggies for dinner. If meat isn’t your thing, consider whey protein shakes as meal replacements.
- K.I.S.S.: Short for “keep it simple, stupid,” K.I.S.S. is many men’s mantras. If you want to eat healthier and exercise more, than just do it. Don’t over-complicate things by not starting until you have the perfect system. Instead, begin by swapping out one or two processed foods from your day and replacing them with whole food alternatives. If you’re a soda drinker, go for iced tea or a low sugar flavored water once or twice a day. As the changes become routine, make more.
- Lift Weights: So many women think that they are going to get bulky and lose their feminine look if the touch a barbell. Not so. Lifting weights will help you strengthen your muscles and look toned. Lifting also allows your body to keep burning fat and calories even at rest, which is not so when you only do cardio.
- Care Less: Whatever the guy in your fitness equation is doing, let it go. This fat-loss journey is about you–and only you. He may be by your side for encouragement, tips, and support, but he’s not there as someone you need to measure up to. Quit caring about the progress he’s making, and pat yourself on the back for the healthy path that you’re on. And while you’re not caring, add in those models who are likely airbrushed, the teenagers on the beach who have time on their side, and any other woman who you are not but think you should be.
Having someone by your side when making healthy changes has a lot of positive benefits, but only if you don’t turn the experience into a negative one. Remember that if you’re going to pair up, treat your partner the way you want to be treated. Celebrate his wins, mourn his setbacks, and cheer him on to better living. After all, that’s what it’s really all about.
Would you match up with a man to get fit? Tell us why or why not in the comments.