You’ve tried every diet out there. You spend hours at the gym each week. You drink your water and get plenty of sleep. And still, your husband loses more weight than you do when he simply cuts out soda for the weekend.
If this frustrating reality sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Many women have lamented the fact that despite their best efforts, they can’t seem to shed pounds as easily as their male counterparts.
Well, according to science, women aren’t just imagining the weight loss discrepancy. A study published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism tracked 2,000 overweight adults who were put on the same 8-week diet and the results spoke for themselves. Men lost 16% more weight than women.
So, yes, it’s scientifically proven that it’s easier for men to lose weight. And here’s why.
Men have more lean muscle tissue
If you ever wondered why your husband’s fitness tracker shows him burning more calories than you did on your walk together, the answer may come down to muscle mass.
While there certainly may be exceptions, research shows that men generally have more lean muscle tissue than women. A 1985 study published by the Journal of Applied Physiology found that men had significantly more muscle mass than women, particularly in the upper body.
According to WebMD, having more lean muscle tissue burns more calories than body fat, even at rest. So that means that a man might burn more calories with minimal exercise than a woman who does an all-out, intense workout at the gym.
Of course, women can increase muscle mass by incorporating more strength training into their workout routine. For optimal results, Women’s Health recommends doing both cardio and strength training exercises.
Men have a higher metabolism
Going hand-in-hand with the last point, having more lean muscle tissue also means that men have a higher metabolism. Healthline notes that the higher your metabolic rate, the easier it is for your body to burn calories. The more calories you burn, the easier it is to lose weight—and keep it off.
Though men may have the advantage, there are also certain things women can do to help increase their metabolism. Medical News Today suggests drinking more water, eating at regular intervals, and getting plenty of sleep if you want to improve your metabolism. But one thing you shouldn’t do is skip meals. Eating too few calories can slow your metabolism down because your body will want to conserve energy.
Men have more abdominal fat, which is easier to burn off
It might sound strange, but having more belly fat is actually an advantage for men when it comes to weight loss. That’s because visceral fat (deep belly fat) is easier to burn than subcutaneous fat (the pinchable fat below your skin), according to Livestrong. Most men carry fat around their belly while women’s fat stores are more spread out.
But women shouldn’t envy men for having more visceral fat. Although too much fat of any kind is bad for your health, WebMD notes that visceral fat poses a greater risk for serious medical issues.
Men’s bodies respond more quickly to exercise
Exercise, it turns out, is not gender-neutral. A higher metabolism, larger muscle mass, and greater lung capacity are all key advantages for men when it comes to time in the gym or on the racetrack. (The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that men’s lungs were 10%–12% larger than women’s lungs.) This means that women have to work harder than men to burn calories, even if they’re doing the same exercises.
But here’s the good news: one study published in Health found that women could exercise longer than men before getting tired. Though men have bigger muscles, women’s muscles tend to be more resistant to fatigue, meaning they can perform at the same relative intensity for a longer duration.
Hormones play a role
Another reason why it’s harder for women to lose weight is hormones. According to a study cited in Science Daily, women have 6%–11% more body fat than men and estrogen reduces a woman’s ability to burn energy after eating. Scientists believe the biological reason for this is to prepare women for childbearing.
“Female puberty and early pregnancy – times of increased [estrogen] – could be seen as states of efficient fat storage in preparation for fertility, [fetal] development and lactation,” the study’s author Associate Professor Anthony O’Sullivan, from UNSW’s St George Clinical School, said.
However, a drop in estrogen can also cause weight gain. Healthline notes that many women gain more belly fat during menopause because of low estrogen levels. Bottom line: both high and low levels of estrogen can cause weight gain. No wonder it can be so hard for women to lose weight!
Women crave sweets more than men
Here’s another thing you can blame on biology if you’re a woman: a sweet tooth. Researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory found that men could resist the sight and smell of pizza and cake better than women. Even after being told to focus on something else, women remained fixated on their cravings.
Another study found that women are more prone to emotional eating to combat stress, whereas men typically opt for alcohol. If you struggle with emotional eating, Verywell Mind recommends exercise, journaling, or talking to a friend when you’re stressed instead of reaching for your favorite snack.
But here’s the good news for women
Ladies, if reading this depressed you, here’s something that will perk you up a bit. Although research shows that it’s easier for men to lose weight initially, the same study found that weight loss between men and women evened out after six months.
Regardless of your gender, keep in mind that other factors also affect weight loss. Your age, your genetic makeup, and other things can make things easier or harder, so don’t compare yourself to others.
In the end, it’s not about what you weigh—it’s about how you feel. Simply focus on taking care of your body the best you can. If that means throwing out the scale altogether, do it!