Men lose weight easier than women.” I’m sure you’ve heard someone make this statement before. But is it a reality? There’s more than one pathway to weight gained and lost. Let’s dissect the physiological differences between the sexes. And get to the bottom of the hormonal differences that create the discrepancies.

Glynn’s Guide

  • Testosterone raises basal metabolic rate.
  • Estrogen inhibits the fat mobilization aspect of growth hormone in women.
  • Men with lower testosterone levels tend to have more total fat tissue.
  • Men with higher testosterone levels tend to have less total fat tissue.
  • Testosterone causes higher lipoprotein lipase (LPL) levels in the abdomen.
  • Estrogen causes higher lipoprotein lipase (LPL) levels in the thighs, butt, and breasts.
  • Testosterone inhibits lipid uptake (fat storage) and stimulates lipolysis (fat burning)
  • Elevated fat means elevated lipoprotein lipase (LPL) levels. This results in even more fat storage (compound interest in the worst way)
  • Because women have more overall body fat, there’s more LPL to encourage fat storage.

Is there really a difference in weight loss for men and women?

Yes, there is definitely a difference in weight loss for men and women. Hormonal differences are the main reason. But it’s estrogen and testosterone’s influence on leptin, lipoprotein lipase, insulin and growth hormone that are most relevant. Let’s look at each of the hormone’s that are influenced separately in the sections below.

Differences in fat deposit locations in men and women

Fat deposit locations in men vs women

The difference in the areas where men and women store fat is heavily influenced by several hormones. I’ll discuss that more in the next sections. But, as many are aware, men store more fat in the abdominal region. And women store more in the thighs, breasts, and butt.

Women (from birth onward) have more fat than men. This is of course for reproductive purposes. The reason for the location of adipose is due to higher levels of lipoprotein lipase (LPL) in specific regions. See below for the role of LPL.

Again, women produce more LPL in the hips, breasts, and thighs. Men produce more LPL in the abdomen. Since the “LPL system” is produced by stored fat, it’s a cyclical process. More fat equals more LPL and so on. It’s like compound interest in the worst way!

Testosterone and estrogen influence the locations for higher LPL output. This sort of goes without saying.

More fat in the abdomen is associated with the following in both men and women:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Dyslipidemia
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Hypertension

In fact, abdominal tissue is a very strong predictor for diabetes in all individuals over 50. In other words, please don’t wait until you’re older to lose the extra fat weight in your abdomen.

Role of lipoprotein lipase

LPL is present in both adipose tissue and muscle. Its role is to extract fatty acids from blood plasma into stored fat and muscle. Think of it as a magnet for fat.

As mentioned earlier, testosterone and estrogen dictate the areas of higher concentration. Men have a higher concentration in the abdomen. And women have a higher concentration of LPL in the thighs, breasts, and butt.

Lipoprotein lipase activity in adipose tissue is higher in a fed state vs a fasted state. This may be a contributing factor to the success of intermittent fasting. You can read more about this in my article What is Intermittent Fasting? [Does it Work?].

Also, high carbohydrate diets increase LPL activity in fat tissue. This equates to more fat storage. The takeaway… keep your carbs under control.

Leptin’s role

Leptin is made by our white fat cells and circulates in the bloodstream. One response of leptin is a reduction in food intake. Circulating levels of leptin are directly proportional to fat mass. It plays a role in appetite via the medial hypothalamus. Learn more about this aspect of appetite in my article Still Feel Hungry After Eating? Here’s Why (And How to Stop It).

Leptin’s role is also believed to be heavily associated with the onset of puberty. It’s possible that girls with a higher BMIBasal metabolic index is one way to calculate obesity produce more leptin. This increase causes the early onset of puberty. Nonetheless, females have higher levels of leptin than males throughout life.

Another interesting aspect of leptin is its relationship to fertility. In several studies mice deficient in leptin (both males and females) were infertile. Fertility was restored when leptin was given to the mice. Keep in mind that many of the systems in rodents act just like ours. So this is relevant.

Insulin’s role

When it comes to fat loss, insulin is not your friend. There are three points where it interferes. Yes, it’s an extremely important hormone, but less of it is better. And more sensitivity to insulin is better.

First, insulin stimulates LPL. In other words, it turns on the “fat storage” system (amplifies the magnets).

Second, it also acts like a bulldozer, pushing specific macronutrients (sugar and protein) out of the blood. They will be either stored or used as immediate energy.

Third, insulin inhibits the hydrolysis of fat. Huh… that means it inhibits the usage of stored fat.

So, high circulating levels of insulin are not good. These three reasons are enough to overemphasize the importance of maintaining healthy insulin levels. Regardless of whether one is male or female.

Interestingly, insulin seems to have a stronger impact on visceral fat storesfat stored in the abdomen around organs.

Testosterone’s Role in Weight Loss

Testosterone Effects Weight Loss

There are two aspects I want to cover with testosterone. Endogenous testosterone (produced in the body) and exogenous testosterone (introduced from outside the body). In other words, the drug version.

Testosterone’s role with metabolism is predominantly with protein synthesis. It builds muscle. This is commonly known. But, as I mentioned earlier, it also dictates where higher concentrations of lipoprotein lipase (LPL) preside.

Testosterone has the unique ability to stimulate lipolysis (fat burning) and inhibits lipoprotein lipase. These are two huge factors in the reason it’s easier for men to lose fat weight.

But as men age, their testosterone levels diminish. This leads to muscle atrophyShrinking of the muscle tissue Studies have shown that lower testosterone levels in healthy men increase fat tissue. And raising exogenous testosterone levels through hormone replacement lowers total fat tissue.

Another interesting note is obese women have higher levels of testosterone than lean women. This is because fat tissue plays a role in the production of testosterone. And when you elevate testosterone, more LPL becomes present in the abdomen. Therefore, obese women will begin to store more fat in the abdomen.

Estrogen’s Role in Weight Loss

Estrogen Effects Weight Loss

Estrogen receptors are present in fat tissue. They play a role in fat deposition locations. Again, estrogen elevates levels of LPL in the thigh, butt, and breasts. This increases fat deposition in these regions.

The direct effect of estrogen on fat deposition is believed to be its influence on the lipolytic enzymeslipolytic enzymes are used in the mobilization of stored fat. In particular, growth hormone. It’s also believed that estrogen reduces the “fat-burning” effects of growth hormone. This is an important point.

An interesting observation was made in several studies of transsexual men taking estrogen to feminize themselves. Upon the introduction of estrogen, they gained more body fat. This is not surprising.

Growth hormone’s role

Growth hormone is produced in the anterior pituitary gland. Not only is it an anabolic hormone, but it promotes the use of stored fat. It’s also an antagonist to insulin. This makes growth hormone a powerful fat-burning hormone.

Poor sleeping habits can diminish growth hormone output. This is one of the many reasons poor sleep promotes obesity.

Poor Sleep Weight Loss

And recall, estrogen inhibits growth hormones effect on stored fat.

Should men have their testosterone levels tested after age 40?

Unless your energy levels and libido are ridiculously low, then waiting another decade is fine. But the research shows a positive correlation between testosterone replacement therapy and visceral fatFat in between the organs of the abdomen loss. It also increases muscle mass, energy levels, and libido. Those are all positives in my book!

I find it interesting that replacing testosterone helps reduce visceral fat. Since testosterone influences a higher level of LPL in the abdomen, one would expect more fat with a higher level.

This is where I bring in my experience with exogenous testosterone. When bodybuilders would start a cycle of a particular steroid (testosterone), they would become lean very quickly.

What can we attribute this to? Here’s a list of testosterone’s influence on body fat:

  • Elevated testosterone equals more lean muscle tissue. Overall more calories burned and less LPL
  • Testosterone inhibits lipid uptake
  • Testosterone inhibits LPL
  • Lipolysis is stimulated by testosterone

I watched it happen over and over again.

Well, first it’s testosterone’s influence on other hormones that make the difference. And second, the levels taken by bodybuilders are far above normal adult male testosterone levels. So, a unique environment is established, outside the normal person.

Testosterone replacement therapy only replaces what is lost, so high levels are not relevant to this article. I just wanted to point out my observations.

Is adipose tissue metabolically active?

Stored fat weight loss

Many years ago, we did not know how much of an influence stored fat had on our metabolism. But now, we realize that fat tissue acts as an endocrine organ.

Let me first differentiate between white fat and brown fat. When you think of the fat you’re burning as an energy source, you’re thinking about white fat.

Brown fat is found in higher levels in infants. As adults, there’s a very small percentage. It’s found in the scapular regions (around our shoulder blades). It’s brown in color because it’s very vascular. Its predominant role is believed to be in heat production.

Fat plays a role as an endocrine organ by producing both leptin and LPL. It also plays a small role in the regulation of estrogen in women.

Male vs Female breakdown

Males:

Male Weight Loss

  • Insulin is more linked with total fat mass in males
  • Less estrogen means less inhibition of growth hormone’s fat mobilizing properties
  • Elevated testosterone equals more lean muscle tissue. Overall more calories burned and less LPL
  • Testosterone elevates basal metabolic rate
  • Lipid uptake is inhibited by testosterone
  • Testosterone inhibits LPL
  • Lipolysis (fat burning) is stimulated by testosterone

Females:

Female Weight Loss

  • Leptin is more linked with total fat mass in women
  • Estrogen reduces the effect of growth hormone’s fat mobilizing properties
  • Estrogen increases overall body fat storage
  • More overall body fat equals higher LPL levels
  • The lower levels of testosterone negate the positive fat burning effects of testosterone

Calorie intake for weight loss male vs female

Calorie intake weight loss men vs women

Yes, the old adage, calories in vs calories out is accurate. But it’s far more complex than just calories. Fats, proteins, and carbohydrates all have a different effect on our metabolism, including hormonal balances.

Therefore, I’m unwilling to quantify a specific number of calories for male and females. The following factors create variables that alter the numbers too much.

  1. Current body composition (amount of muscle vs fat)
  2. Daily activity level
  3. Amount of sleep averaged
  4. Current fitness level

What role does exercise play?

Exercise Role Weight Loss

Not only does exercise burn calories and set the stage for fat loss, but it also influences hormones. For instance:

Strength training increases testosterone levels. This translates to lower amounts of fat.

Exercise makes one more insulin sensitive. This reduces the amount of insulin necessary. If you recall, insulin inhibits the use of stored fat.

Exercise improves sleep quality. This leads to better growth hormone output.

Interestingly, women burn more fat during long bouts of mild endurance training than men. Under the same circumstances, men will burn more glucose and amino acids. I believe women are better equipped to use fat as a fuel source during long bouts of exercise. This may be due to men’s ability to store more muscle and women’s ability to store more fat. Again, a direct influence of testosterone and estrogen.

When do men and women burn the most fat?

Regardless of sex differences, you can learn more about when and how we burn the most fat in my article How to Lose Fat: When Does Your Body Burn the Most Fat?

Does our microbiome play a role?

I’m convinced our microbiome plays a role in more physiological functions than once believed. So, yes. But to what level and mechanism, I’m unsure.

Conclusion

When you add this all up, the absence of elevated testosterone seems to influence fat storage more in women than the presence of estrogen. But it’s easy to get caught up in the correlation equals causation game. These are broad speculations because there are intermediaries that may still be unknown.

Nonetheless, I believe the following criteria summarize why it’s easier for men to lose fat weight than women.

  • Testosterone raises basal metabolic rate.
  • Testosterone inhibits lipoprotein lipase (LPL)… the fat storage system.
  • Lipolysis (fat burning) is stimulated by testosterone.
  • Estrogen inhibits growth hormones’ fat burning properties.
  • Because women have more overall body fat, there’s more LPL to encourage fat storage.

Question for You

Have you noticed the difference with fat loss in men vs women?

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