Losing weight is a frustrating game so here are some weight loss tips for women who are struggling to lose weight.
Too many people approach weight loss and health goals for women and men in the same way. To an extent of course this works, but do women have a harder time than men when it comes to losing weight? And should you take a different approach than men to get in shape?
The answer of course is yes. I believe that you should be offered a different approach. If you are approaching menopause and feel like you’re struggling you may also want to learn about the best supplements for the menopause once you’ve read this article.
Read on for some weight loss tips for women including nutrition and training for female specific fat loss that you should consider:
- Your ability to burn fat and glucose at rest and during exercise.
- Considerations surrounding stress hormones cortisol and sleep quality.
- How fasting may not be ideal for your goal.
- How age and gender affects your ability to build muscle.
At Rest Women Burn More Glucose Than Men
Women burn more glucose i.e. carbohydrates at rest than men, and in addition to this also tend to store more fat than men after eating.
This extra storage of fat may be a little frustrating for you but in evolutionary terms this increase in fat storage is useful for pregnancy and lactation as an adult.
I’m sure you noticed that once you become able to reproduce, you also stored more body fat around your hips and thighs.
The fat storage around your hips and thighs is called gluto-femoral fat and is locked away in preparation for a baby. The composition of the fat in this area of your body has a particularly high level of DHA omega 3 fatty acids in it compared to the rest of your body.
It is suggested the body stores this high level of DHA in your gluto-femoral fat in preparation for creating breast milk, breast-feeding and the development of a baby’s brain.
To put this into context for you, studies have shown that US women have a relatively low concentration of DHA in their gluto-femoral fat when compared to Japanese women. This observation is as a result of differing amounts of omega three fats found in the diet of each group of women.
As a result of lower intake of omega three fats, US women put on more body fat than Japanese women.
This may be due to the brain’s monitoring of nutrients and the body’s response in trying to increase the levels of DHA in the stored fat is to latch onto any fat that is stored.
This leads to resultant hunger cravings and sugar cravings in an attempt to get as much DHA fat as possible. In the Japanese women, the levels of DHA fats are higher, and this corresponds to their leaner body composition.
Take Away Points:
1. Whether you intend to have a baby or not, it is essential that you supply your body with adequate DHA in your diet. Aim to balance the omega 3 and 6 fats in your diet too by increasing omega 3 through food and supplements, and reducing omega 6 found in abundance in vegetable oil and processed foods.
2. By limiting carbohydrates at certain times you will train your body to burn fat at rest. And by timing your carbohydrates around exercise or on days that you exercise this will benefit you by keeping you metabolically flexible. Woman do burn more glucose at rest so don’t feel guilty about eating carbohydrates at times.
3. Exercise is important for women due to the fact that they burn more fat during exercise than men do. For this reason include resistance exercises and high intensity interval training or ‘sprints’ to maximise your fat loss.
Women Burn And Store Energy Differently To Men
Women rely on fat for fuel during exercise to a much greater extent than men do. For this reason it is essential that you include exercise in your lifestyle if your goal is to lose body fat.
To compound this you burn far less fat at rest than men making exercise even more important.
Your storage of subcutaneous fat (fat stored below the skin) is higher compared to that of men who do have more visceral fat around body organs including liver heart.
The importance of this is that visceral fat, known to be ‘active’ is a risk factor of cardiovascular disease, CHD and insulin resistance. Being female means a relatively high amount of lower body fat rather than visceral fat which can mean better health.
You might notice that when you do lose weight you lose fat from the upper body but struggle to lose lower body fat. This could be because your body wants to store fat for pregnancy, but also you have a high density of alpha receptors in this region compared to males.
This high density of alpha receptors combined with estrogen inhibits does make your fat loss that bit more challenging. Beta receptors makes fat loss easier and are found in higher levels in men and therefore easier to mobilize fat.
To target your lower body fat anaerobic training will help. Higher intensity resistance exercise helps you stimulate the release of body fat from fat cells to be used for energy.
Take Away Points
1. Perform resistance training and specifically ‘compound’ exercises such as squats, deadlifts, step-ups, and lunges.
2. In addition perform short but intense interval training on a track, bike, row or by pushing a sled to target those alpha receptors.
Stress Results In Cortisol Production And Stops You Losing Body Fat
Stress affects both men and women but for women it is important to consider your stresses in you life as these may hinder your success in terms of weight loss.
The stress hormone cortisol is secreted in stressful situations. In modern life you are faced with so many stresses that you may be in a state of continual cortisol production.
When cortisol is released it results in an increase in blood sugar and this then elicits an insulin response. Your body is very clever and tries to give you enough energy to get through a stressful situation this way.
Chronic exposure to stress and cortisol production can lead to increased fat storage as well as fluid retention. This also results in reduction in both estrogen and testosterone in your body putting you at a disadvantage in terms of losing weight.
Take Away Points
1. Firstly identify the stress in your life, whether it is more obvious or subtle.
2. Find stress management techniques that work for you such as meditation, yoga, support networks, exercise.
3. Sleep well and aim to fix your circadian rhythms, be consistent in your bedtime and wake up time and aim for 7-9 hours sleep daily. When you find what works for you be consistent. Sleep hygiene, as it’s known can play a massive part in your stress hormone reduction and therefore fat reduction.
Calorie Restriction, Fasting And Crash Diets May Not Work For Women
You may have heard of intermittent fasting. Fasting can be done many ways but one popular method is the 5:2 diet where you create severe calorie restriction two days weekly. Other methods include fasts of 12h or 24h once weekly or more frequent shorter fasts daily.
Intermittent fasting may be right for the right person when done intelligently. However I recommend you exercise caution because calorie restriction could have detrimental effects on your results and health.
Overall long term success can be achieved by eating consistently well, and avoiding big fluctuations in calorie consumption such as fasting and binge eating.
Keeping in mind the factors surrounding stress I discussed above, calorie restriction does create a stressful situation for your body and so the effects may not be conducive to weight loss.
Stress from fasting or calorie restriction negatively affects female metabolism compared to men. Fasting can be harmful for female in the following ways:
• Reproductive health.
• Could cause weight gain.
• Blood sugar imbalance.
• Missed periods.
Men and women may well lose weight while experimenting with fasting, however you may experience the opposite effect due to over eating after restricting.
It is very easy to eat a net surplus of calories especially after you have been restricting calories for some time.
Cheat meals or blow outs after being ‘good’ for a set period of time can often be unhelpful and a better approach might be to eat just enough over 3 or 4 meals per day, consistently, and without the ‘cheat meal’ or unhelpful reward. The weight loss cheat sheet below this post will help you with this.
Calorie restriction may cause dysfunctional hormone regulation, increased cortisol secretion and the resultant latching onto the body’s fat store as a protective or ‘starvation’ response. The body stores the fat for future survival when calories may be scarce.
Take Away Points:
1. Avoid fasting and excessive calorie restriction. This is most important if you are exercising at a high volume or intensity.
2. Eat regular meals with a balance of balanced fat, carbs and protein your hormones will balance, stress will be lower, and your body will be more likely to give drop fat levels.
3. Ensure enough calories are consumed by aiming for 3-4 meals daily.
How Age And Gender Affects Your Ability To Build Muscle
If you are a young woman you have the same ability as men to build muscle. As you age however you may come to a point where you are in fact at a disadvantage in terms of building muscle when compared to men.
You’ve probably been told that you can’t build muscle because you don’t have the testosterone that men do. This might not be quite right however and in fact in young women muscle synthesis is on a par to that of men.
The difference arises because you begin with less muscle mass in the first place. So if you were to put on 10% muscle and a male was to put on the same percentage, the overall muscle mass gained in the male is greater.
Post workout protein recovery drinks taken by men and women after a resistance training workout results in protein synthesis 2.3 times higher in men and 2.7 times higher in women than at rest.
Men do experience a significant increase in testosterone post-workout compared to women but this has no effect building muscle protein synthesis.
As you age this changes. Older women have reduced muscle-building response to resistance exercise and lower protein synthesis compared to men. Older women may require more protein post workout to elicit growth response and protein synthesis.
Take Away Points
1. If you want to lose fat, then building muscle is a very important aspect of training. But don’t worry, while you won’t look like a man or ‘bulk up’ which is a fear so many women have, you are able to put on muscle if you train right and eat right.
2. Muscle building known as hypertrophy requires you to lift moderate weights at a high volume. Aim for 8-12 repetitions of the biggest compound exercises such as squats.
3. If you just want to melt body fat, building muscle will help by boosting your metabolism so you burn more calories at rest.
4. Make changes to your training every 3 to 6 weeks so you keep getting adaptation response. In addition to this ensure you do use resistance that stimulates adaptation – ensure the weight you use is heavy but not so heavy you revert to poor technique and control.
Thanks for reading and I hope you found these weight loss tips for women useful. It is possible to get fantastic results with careful consideration of your exercise type and nutrition, as well as your lifestyle.
As a next step I highly recommend reading this weight loss guide on how to lose weight without dieting where I have written an in depth resource to help you achieve your body composition goals.
If you would appreciate some more support and guidance with your health and fitness goals, then you might like to learn about the fitness and nutrition plans that I offer including online nutrition coaching and online weight loss coaching.