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Adam and Eve Hit the Gym

By Natasha Vani, MSc., ATCP

As children we often fought with our siblings, and regardless of gender it was a fair game—our body size and composition were somewhat similar. In fact, there was little difference in our height, weight and even strength. But in no time at all, the onset and progression of puberty began and all of a sudden for us girls, the flight response kicked in more than the fight response.

Girls and boys
When it comes to changes in body size and composition, the transformation from prepubescent child to adult is primarily a result of hormonal changes, with the two most significant hormones being testosterone and estrogen. While both hormones exist in girls and in boys, puberty involves a greater increase in testosterone in boys and a greater increase in estrogen in girls. What ultimately causes the “fair game” to become not-so-fair is that fact that testosterone is linked to increases in bone formation and muscle size, whereas estrogen is linked to fat deposition and breast development. Therefore by the time puberty has finished…

Women and men
The adult male is larger overall, has a greater muscle mass and has a lower percentage of body fat than the average female. While it is obvious that this discrepancy in body composition results in appearance differences, we must recognize that it also causes a difference in our ability to manage weight and perform daily tasks.

Both men and women need an essential amount of fat, however, excess fat becomes stored and does relatively little other than provide insulation. Excess muscle, on the other hand, does not have the same function or storing mechanism and is therefore always active, which requires fuel.

Since muscle tissue is more active than fat tissue, muscle tissue requires more fuel. Since men have more of it, we can conclude that men have a higher metabolic rate than women; in fact, research estimates it to be roughly 30% higher. A difference of this magnitude means men burn roughly 30% more calories than women during exercise and also while at rest.

When it comes to body fat, the average adult female has roughly 8% more of it than the average male. Her fat cells are up to five times larger and contain more fat-storing enzymes and fewer fat-releasing enzymes than her adult male counterpart. Yes, this means it is more difficult for a woman to lose weight and much easier for her to gain it. This unfair disadvantage that began with Eve has nothing to do with apples; we are designed to ensure the survival of our offspring, which in the beginning involved remaining healthy through times of famine.


 

With all this in mind, should women just give up and fall helpless to our predispositions? Of course not, women should work on aerobic activities as well as strengthening exercises to build muscle mass. Consider these facts:

Regardless of gender, muscles respond to training in the same manner, therefore, even though women start off with less strength they have just as much potential for strength gains.

An increase in muscle mass causes an increase in metabolic rate, which requires more fuel.

To be successful in a particular sport or to complete any daily activity, the muscle groups that need to be conditioned are the same for men and women.

The average male has a relatively consistent strength distribution in his body whereas a female demonstrates less strength in her upper body compared to her lower

What to do

Ladies:

Begin a resistance training program: You don’t need to buy an expensive gym membership and you don’t need to buy a set of weights. The Truestar Exercise programs include workouts that involve only bodyweight exercises as well as those that require only tubing. This means little or no cost and the freedom to work out at home.

Don’t worry about bulking up: It won’t happen—especially if you follow a program that emphasizes muscle tone and weight loss.

Recognize the lower strength level in your upper body and work on this.

Focus on large muscle groups: They burn more calories, so target the chest, back and thigh muscles

Men:

Do not brag about the fact that you can eat more and do less to lose weight. Remember women are the ones designed for survival.

When a woman asks you how she looks, do not hesitate, look or judge—just maintain eye contact and say “You look great.”

And, of course, continue or begin a resistance training program yourself!

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