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How Does The Body Store Fat – Men & Women

How the body stores fat:

Everyone is different. The body stores fat in different areas and you have no control over where it goes. There are general areas, depending if you are a man or a woman, or what body type you are.

Fat is stored in special fat cells called adipose tissue. If you consume more calories throughout the day than you burn then these fat cells enlarge or your body produces more of them; hence we get fatter.

Men:

  • Men biologically tend to have less fat than women with things like testosterone and oestrogen playing a part.
  • They generally store fat in their upper bodies (waistline, shoulders, neck and chest) and this is known as an android fat distribution pattern (apple shaped)
  • Men also carry more visceral fat which surrounds the organs on the inside of the abdominal muscle wall and this can lead to more serious health problems.
  • Depending on age, men from 18 to 40 years of age should aim to have between 5-17% body fat to be in the healthy range. (Top athletes and men who keep fit usually fall in the 6-13% range)  from 40 to 60 years old the healthy range is roughly 8-21% and above 60 years 11-24%.

Women:

  • Women biologically tend to have more body fat than men because they have higher oestrogen levels.
  • They tend to store fat around the thighs, bottom and hips and this is known as the gynoid fat distribution pattern (pear shaped)
  • This fat is more subcutaneous fat rather than visceral (Subcutaneous fat is stored just beneath your skin, it is what you can pinch with your thumb and forefinger)
  • Depending on age, women from 18 to 40 years old should aim to have between 11-24% body fat to be in the healthy range. (Top athletes and women who keep fit tend to be in the 13-20% range) from 40 to 60 years old the healthy range is roughly 21-33% and above 60 years 24-35%

© 2013 Pearson Education, Inc.

Age:

Age plays a significant part in how your body stores fat. In a nutshell, you have to work harder as you get older. This bit is important though -> For men, after the age of 30 they suffer from sarcopenia, age-related muscle loss. It can be as much as 3% per decade. Whereas for women it is not as prevalent it still plays a big part. Muscles are an important part of reducing body fat and giving you a healthy mobile life especially as you get older.

Body Types:

There are 3 body types: Ectomorph, Endomorph or Mesomorph.

  • Ectomorphs tend to be long and lean but find it harder to gain muscle mass, however, they also don’t tend to put weight on readily if they have a break from exercise.
  • Endomorphs are the opposite of ectomorphs, they tend to have higher levels of body fat but find it easier to build muscle.
  • Mesomorphs are the luckier ones as they usually have a more athletic build, can gain muscle relatively easily and also tend to have quite a high metabolism.

You may recognise yourself as one of these but you are unlikely to be 100% of one. Most people will have aspects of one or both of the others as well. There is a system that rates what mix of each type you are, the Heath-Carter method.

Metabolism:

Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy.

Your basal metabolism is the number of calories your body burns just to survive (breathing, circulating blood, tissue repair etc..)

You will have heard people blaming their slow metabolism for lack of weight loss, and its true metabolism is linked to weight, however, contrary to common belief it is rarely the case. People with slower metabolisms may find it harder than those with faster ones but ultimately how much you eat and drink along with the amount of exercise will determine your weight. (It is true, there can be other factors involved like hormonal imbalances that can affect weight loss and if you are worried about this you should visit your doctor)

Factors that affect your basal metabolism include:

  • Body size, larger people or people with more muscle will burn calories faster.
  • Your sex, at the same age and weight men generally have less body fat and more muscle so burn more calories while at rest.
  • Age, as discussed above, muscle tends to decrease as you get older and fat accounts for more of your weight, slowing your calorie burn. It’s like a vicious cycle you have to work hard to break

You may not be able to alter your basal metabolism a great deal but what you can control is the number of calories you burn throughout the day with exercise or physical activity. Remember that if you burn more calories than you consume you will lose body fat. Unfortunately, this will not be an overnight thing and depending on age, sex and body type it can take about 12 weeks of dedicated exercise and healthy eating to see noticeable differences. Depending on your goals it could be a whole lifestyle change, for others, it might be as simple as not taking sugar in their tea or coffee or just going for a walk/run/cycle once a week.

If you are serious about losing some body fat, you have to set realistic goals and then make them happen. Desire and discipline are most peoples biggest enemies. The biggest hurdle you have to overcome is yourself, simple as that. I’m afraid, sometimes, it’s not easy.

Diet:

It has been said that a six-pack is made in the kitchen and it’s true. Some may be luckier than others in what they can eat. They may see results based on 40% diet and 60% exercise, for others it may be 80% diet and 20% exercise, you will have to figure that one out for yourself but a healthy balanced diet will not only help you feel better but make you look better.

Yes, it is easier said than done and that’s where your willpower, desire and discipline come in.

Diet is such a huge topic that it could fill a big part of the internet and probably does. Firstly, everybody needs fats in their bodies, small amounts of fat are an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. But why do some people seem to be able to eat what they want and never get fat and others feel they only have to look at a cake to put on weight.

There are several factors and it is a complex topic with many variables. Genes, as in body type, and your environment are both major factors in how quickly you burn calories as well as affecting your behaviour in determining what types of food you eat. Virtually every person is different and what will work for one person may not work for another. I bet if someone asked you what a healthy diet is you would be able to tell them but do you practice it? It is hard. Don’t get down about it, take small steps, improve little bits at a time to make it a habit.

One simple bit of advice will help you lose body fat. EAT LESS.

Portion sizes over the years have grown a huge amount. Just reducing your portion size will reduce your calorie intake, I bet if you actually calculated how many calories you consumed in a week you would be surprised. Other things like eating less sugar, less processed foods will also help considerably. Diet always comes back to a calorie deficit.

Exercise:

Exercise is also a very big topic but of vital importance to help with the diet in reducing body fat and to improve overall health. There are a lot of different types of exercise out there aimed at specific things. 4 main ones are Endurance, Strength training, flexibility and Balance.

Myth:

Toning: You can not tone your muscles.

The term, “toning”, is the reduction of excess body fat and the increase in muscles mass.

 

Endurance:

  • Aerobic exercise and Anaerobic exercise
  • Speeds up your heart rate and breathing. This helps to increase the endurance of the heart and lungs and get enough blood to the muscles to help them work efficiently.
  • Aerobic means ‘with air’ and it refers to the body producing energy to work the muscles with the use of oxygen and can last more than a few minutes. It is a continuous steady-state exercise like walking.
  • Anaerobic exercise means ‘without air’ and refers to the body producing energy without oxygen. This is exercise that is performed at a higher intensity and will, typically, only be able to be performed for a couple of minutes at a time.
  • Aerobic training is good for building endurance enabling you to train harder and longer as fitness levels improve.
  • Anaerobic exercise is usually done around 80% of your maximum heart rate and is a great way to improve your fitness levels.
  • Both have a big part to play in helping reduce body fat but they also have health benefits as well. They help to lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation, improve your mood and raise your HDL (good) cholesterol. In the long term, it can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, some cancers, depression and type 2 diabetes.

Strength training:

  • Strength training (or resistance training) is the performance of physical exercise using tools, like weights, resistance bands or your own bodyweight to put stress on the muscles to build up strength, muscle mass and endurance.
  • Muscles grow when they are continually challenged with greater resistance or weight, this is known as hypertrophy.
  • Muscle hypertrophy occurs when the fibres of the muscles sustain damage or injury. The body repairs damaged fibres by fusing them, which increases the mass and size of the muscles.
  • Not only will strength training help you lift heavier objects than before but it will help with simple tasks like getting up from a chair, or up the stairs.
  • It stimulates bone growth, increasing bone strength which is vitally important as we get older for both men and women.
  • It lowers blood sugar levels, improves balance, posture and joint functions, reduces stress and pain and helps prevent injuries.
  • Muscle mass is lost as we age. Strength training to maintain it.
  • Rest plays an integral part in strength training and building muscle. By not letting the muscle groups rest, it reduces their ability to repair. Insufficient rest will also slow fitness progression and increases the risk of injury.
  • Muscle burns a lot more calories than fat, anything between 3 and 10 times the amount.
  • We do most of our calorie-burning while resting or sleeping. Having stronger, larger muscles means we burn more calories day after day.

Flexibility:

  • Flexibility is the range of motion a joint or series of joints can move through unrestricted and pain-free.
  • Stretching helps maintain flexibility.
  • We often overlook that in youth, when our muscles are healthier.
  • Ageing leads to a loss of flexibility in the muscles and tendons. Muscles shorten and don’t function properly. This increases the risk of muscle cramps and pain, muscle damage, strains, joint pain, and falling. It also makes it tough to get through daily activities, such as bending down to tie your shoes.
  • Stretching the muscles routinely makes them longer and more flexible. This increases your range of motion, reduces pain and the risk for injury.
  • Stretching is usually divided into Static and Dynamic stretches.
  • Static stretches, as the name implies, is where you stand, sit or lie and hold a position for several seconds.
  • Dynamic stretches are active movements where joints and muscles go through a full range of motion. They help to warm up the body before exercise.

Balance:

  • Although not a big fat-burning exercise, improving your balance makes you feel steadier on your feet and helps prevent falls.
  • It’s especially important as we get older when the systems that help us maintain balance (our vision, our inner ear, and our leg muscles and joints) tend to break down.
  • Training your balance can help prevent and reverse these losses.
  • Good balance will help perform the other exercise group mentioned above.

Summary:

  • Losing body fat will be easier for some than others.
  • You can not target just one area to lose body fat. Often it may be the last place it goes from.
  • You now have a basic understanding of your own body and how it works. Hopefully, this will help you achieve some of your goals.
  • Don’t expect instant results. It will take time, patience and some hard work.
  • Take small steps.
  • For diet, simple things like looking at the side of food packaging and seeing how much sugar or salt it contains.
  • Find out how many calories certain foods contain.
  • Try and count how many calories you consume each day if you can. This will be a big help.
  • Exercise.
  • Start with any sort of exercise, even if it’s just walking for 30 minutes every other day and build it up.
  • Make sure you incorporate all the types of exercises above as you progress.
  • Mixing Endurance and Strength training will burn fat more quickly.
  • Weights and kettlebells, even for home use, are fantastic. As are Resistance Bands that can be taken anywhere. Bodyweight exercises are also excellent with callisthenics becoming very popular.

 

See my next post on How to look good naked

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James

2 Comments

  1. Women tend to store more fat around their hips and thighs, while men typically carry excess weight on their stomachs or at the back of their necks. Aggressive dieting can actually make you fatter because your hormones will get out of whack from a lack of food intake. Speak with an expert about how much exercise you need for your age, height, current fitness level (or desired), etc., before starting any new program—especially if it’s vigorous like endurance training or strength training. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Hi Pitin, 

      Thanks for the comment. You are quite correct with regards to hormones. They play a huge part in how our body will or won’t store fat (as well as other things) Even if our hormones are out of balance only a small amount, it can have a detrimental affect on our body. Examples are people with thyroid issues where TSH, T3 and T4 levels are out of sync and can cause either weight gain or loss (as well as other issues). Another example are pregnant women or women who have given birth. Their hormones are often altered considerably and can take a long time to get back to normal.

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