You might think you couldn’t be more dissimilar to a guy, but once you get past the obvious differences (ahem, like his BO and weird ability to wake up looking the same as he does at midday) you realize your body works off the same playbook. Eat more calories than you burn and both genders lose weight and build more muscles.
This is the kind of dogma you’ve always been taught, which can lead to women dieting and working out like a guy. And while this approach might see you shedding weight, there are faster and smarter routes – because your body is vastly different to his and should be treated accordingly.
Let’s start with why you store fat in different places and how you can maximize your calorie burn from training, because there is a way to beat the boys – but it’s not by joining them. You see, men and women carry fat differently: we carry it in the hips and thighs while men keep their rainy day supply in the gut.
According to former ABC News medical contributor Dr Marie Savard, author of Ask Dr. Marie, female body types can be placed into two categories: apples and pears.
Use her following equation to see which category you come under: divide your waist size (at your belly button) by your hip size. If it’s greater than 0.85, you’re an apple; if it’s less, you’re a pear.
Now you know which body type you are, here is the information you need to make the most of your physique.
Unfortunately, this shape will have the toughest time getting a flat stomach because the fat has settled in the area you’re looking to slim down. “Fortunately, the fat around your gut is metabolically active, which means it burns off first when you exercise or cull calories,” says Savard.
You will have fat around your organs, which needs to be addressed. Just two 40-minute cardio sessions a week will reduce this kind of belly fat, found research at the University of Alabama, US.
Some ladies carry less weight on their belly and more on their gluten and thighs. “This person’s belly will shrink faster than the apple because it has less fat on it,” says Savard. But this means your hips and bum can look even bigger by comparison.
“If this is you, avoid saturated fats,” says sports nutritionist Matt Lovell. “The fat cells in your rump and thighs will quickly store saturated fats soon after you digest them. Instead, use monounsaturated fats like olive oil and avocado oil to KO your belly fat.”
– RELATED: Everything You Need To Know About Fat –
Mobilizing your fat
To get your fat moving you need to release it from its storage site into your body so it can be broken down through the process of lipolysis.
Hormone-sensitive lipase is the enzyme that works together with the hormone epinephrine – which stimulates the release of lipase – to mobilize these fat cells and get them into the bloodstream.
When you’re doing cardiovascular work your body is more receptive to epinephrine, which means you’ll get more lipolysis.
If you’re an endurance-training enthusiast you’ll also have an enhanced receptiveness to epinephrine, so you’ll have to do less to burn body fat more easily, and it’s vice versa for sedentary people.
Women are actually better at burning fat when doing endurance exercise because they showed lower respiratory exchange ratios, found research in the Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology. Take home message: exercise burns fat easier on women.
What’s more, the hormone estrogen helps stop the production of lipoprotein lipase, which is an enzyme that triggers fat to be stored in the body tissues. This is why women have naturally higher body-fat ratios than men, largely because more fat helps with pregnancy. Fortunately, manipulating your diet can help overcome this so you can maximize your results.
Food and fat burning
Research by Dr Adam Collins, of the University of Surrey, found that men who ate carbs before training decreased the amount of fat their body burnt during and up to three hours after working out. However, women actually burned more fat if they’d eaten carbs before exercising.
Why? Well, the researchers suggest that women’s bodies burn fat easier than men’s and are not fuelled as much by carbs because they are better at conserving carbohydrates during exercise. So, if you eat carbs directly after every training session and you aren’t losing weight, it might be because you’re overloading yourself with calories, which can put your fat burning on the back foot.
This concept is still in the early stages so more details will emerge as studies that last longer in duration are done on this phenomenon. What you can do in the meantime is make sure you have a small snack before your fat-burning exercise, and limit your carb intake directly after training, focusing more on protein instead.
Do not blindly follow the timing of a guy’s nutrition plan because this is proof that it won’t necessarily work for your goals. Yes, we are different, so this is one way you can use it to your advantage.
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