Gender Differences In Body Composition And How To Set A Reasonable Plan

Gender Differences In Body Composition And How To Set A Reasonable Plan?

God created two different entities from the same ingredients, i.e., man and woman. Though similar in many aspects, Adam and Eve differed from one another regarding body composition. Even when traveling down the path of evolution, a body composition analysis reveals the gender differences in body composition. To live a healthy life, you need to know the gender differences in body composition and set a reasonable plan.

Men Vs. Women: The Differences In Body Composition

Your body is primarily composed of proteins and fats. Proteins are responsible for forming muscles that provide strength to the skeletal system and help impart a shape to the physique. On the other hand, Fat acts as a protection against injury, trauma, and climatic extremes. The distribution of fat and body fat percentage also differs for the genders.

We shall kick off this topic of male vs. female body proportions by discussing the following differences:

Body Fat Distribution

It might sound untrue, but women have a higher percentage of body fat than men in general. For men, 2 to 24% of body fat is considered healthy, whereas women’s healthy fat percentage value lies somewhere between 10 and 31%.

Research suggests that women’s gluteal-femoral (thigh) region carries more fat deposits than men. On the other hand, men have more fatty tissues deposited in their abdominal areas.

Abdominal deposition of fats in women is abnormal, and this obesity can increase the risk of ischemic stroke. In addition, the various distribution of fats in both genders calls for specialized approaches on how to set a physique plan.

Fat Differences

Gender Differences In Body Composition And How To Set A Reasonable Plan

The differences in fats lie in the variations in fat metabolism by both genders. An authentic 2018 study investigated the association between fat percentage and serum leptin and adiponectin levels.

The study found out that the total fat percentage of the body was associated with leptin levels. Women have almost 4mg/L extra leptin as compared to men. On the other hand, adiponectin in women was lesser than in men. These differences account for the variations in the male vs. female body proportions.

Musculature And Skeletal Differences

Skeletal differences impart specific gender identities. The Skull size of men is generally more significant than that of women. The pelvic bone angle of women is different from men.

Similarly, the thigh bone is thicker in males as compared to females.

What Makes A Woman’s Body Different?

Gender differences in muscle mass are also evident. The female body is different from male’s in a lot of aspects that are discussed below:

Muscle Mass Gaining

Gender Differences In Body Composition And How To Set A Reasonable Plan

Despite the differences in body shape and fat distribution, strength training can lead to mass muscle gain in women similar to men. Studies show that women can gain the same relative muscle mass as men.

According to a study published in Peer Journals, resistance training can similarly impact men and women. After ten weeks, both males and females reported significant elbow flexor strength gains, i.e., 11.61% and 11.76% for men and women, respectively.

The gains in muscle size were also 0.57 and 0.56 for the study’s masculine and feminine participants.

However, the lack of testosterone in women leads to lesser muscle density. Though strength gaining is similar, muscle hypertrophy is better in men (owing to testosterone effects).

Fat/Carbs Metabolization In Women

Gender Differences In Body Composition And How To Set A Reasonable Plan

A study provides evidence of women’s fats being beneficial. This is because energy gained from stored fat during exercise is significantly higher than in men. However, the sensitivity of abdominal fat burning is greater than that of gluten femoral fat. The differences in femoral/gluteal and abdominal lipolytic sensitivity result from fewer inhibitory adrenergic receptors in the abdominal region. Conversion and uptake of fatty acids, i.e., lipogenesis, also appear to have higher rates in men than women.

Evidence suggests that females gain less energy from carbohydrates as compared to men. This is because the energy expended from fat oxidation is more significant in women. Therefore, ladies have a lesser value of circulating catecholamines. However, women’s compensation rate of glycogen can become comparable when a carbohydrate-rich diet is consumed.

Sex Hormones Govern Fat Deposition

The distribution of fats is governed by age and sex hormones. Therefore, subtle differences in the genders are observed. A 2019 study suggests that sex hormones regulate fat distribution. It explains that sex hormones testosterone and estrogen have a role in deciding the fat deposition region.

The female sex hormone, i.e., estrogen, drives fat accumulation in the glute femoral area rather than the abdominal one. This very hormone mediates the gender differences, and the role becomes clearer as women enter the postmenopausal zone. The absence of this hormone then allows fats to form a route to the viscera. As a result, women have more fat in the femoral (thigh) and gluteal region.

Testosterone hormone is the male hormone that imparts specific masculine characteristics. Research suggests high serum testosterone levels shape the male body by enhancing upper body fat distribution. The hormone was also found to promote the development of peripheral muscle mass. Thus, men’s bodies are abundant in visceral adipose tissues (VAT), and even women with higher serum testosterone concentrations have more VAT.

Differences In Muscle Fiber Types

The dissimilar hormones in the genders also lead to differential muscle fibers. Myosin is a muscle protein. Myosin chain heavy chain genes (MyHC) genes are responsible for coding various myosin isoforms. Classification of MHC isoform expressions includes type-Ⅰ, type-ⅡA, type -ⅡⅩ, and type ⅡB (large muscles).

A detailed study revealed gender differences in muscle mass and strength. It gave the following conclusions:

Upper And Lower Body Strength

In upper body comparisons, women are 52% as strong as men. The ladies stand 66% as strong as men in lower body competition. Men are more robust relative to their lean body mass.

Muscle Fiber Types

The muscles investigated include:

  • Biceps brachii
  • Total elbow flexors
  • Vastus lateralis
  • Total knee extensors

It was found out that the muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) of men was higher in all muscles (comparative to women). Compared to men, women had 25% smaller knee extensors, 30% smaller vastus lateralis, 41% smaller elbow flexors, and 45% smaller biceps brachii muscles.

In addition, to being larger in size, the skeletal muscles of males are also slightly more resistant to fatigue. As a result, a shorter contraction and relaxation time was noted for men as well.

On the other hand, estrogen is capable of causing increased contractility of the muscles in females.

Men’s endurance values are lower than for women (11 compared to 18 minutes). Therefore, it is clear that women have better endurance and quicker recovery than men. On the other hand, muscle fibers of men generate greater force and relax at a faster rate.

Battle Of The Sexes: Should Training Guidelines For Men And Women Be The Same?

It is clear from the above paragraphs that male and female bodies are distinctly apart from one another; therefore, male vs. female ideal body composition standards must be set accordingly.

Fitness trainers must pay special attention to gender differences in body composition and how to set a goal accordingly.

Knowing the differences in fat distribution, fat type, metabolism of fats and carbohydrates, and muscle fibers type in the genders, it is crucial to establish realistic goals for male and female clients.

Strength training in older men and women has given different results in a study. Low-volume strength training had no significant impact on the stride of men; however, this maneuver had a negative effect on the men. Therefore, it is concluded that it is better to design specialized training guidelines for men and women.

Reasons For Different Training Guidelines

Gender Differences In Body Composition And How To Set A Reasonable Plan

Recovery Time

A primary reason for establishing different fitness plans is different recovery times. Men need more recovery time than women. During fatigue, women have greater endurance (thanks to the estrogen).

Research suggests that training guidelines should be devised by keeping in mind the recovery times. In addition, military training needs to be varied for individuals (males and females) so that optimal results are achieved.

FITT Method Of Training

The American Academy of Pediatrics has designed fitness tips and activity logs known as the FITT method to maximize physical activity.

F.I.T.T is an acronym for:

Frequency (F)

It refers to the number of times the activity is carried out, i.e., to achieve optimal results three times per week.

Intensity (I)

Intensity indicates the extent of effort employed/required to do the particular act. It is expressed as a percentage of maximal oxygen consumption or the achieved heart rate value.

Time (T)

Time or duration denotes the total time allocated for the exercise routine.

Type (T)

There are various types of exercises and training regimens one can follow. Aerobic, balance, and strength training are popular exercise types.

It can be applied to regular exercise or specific components. As per the American Heart Association guidelines, every individual (male or female) should carry out moderate-intensity aerobic activity (minimum 150 mins) per week and exercise 5 days a week. In addition, individuals can opt between a 5-day plan or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise per week.

Strength training exercises need to be carried out twice a week.

The F.I.T.T guidelines for females are as follows:

F.I.T.T For Amatuer Ladies

Women who are just starting to work their way into a regular exercise routine are recommended to do essential aerobic exercise (type). Examples of aerobic exercise include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Cycling
  • Treadmill
  • Exercising stationery cycle

The time duration for aerobic exercise should be around 30-45 minutes. It is essential to stay within the optimal limits and not overdo it.

The frequency should be 3 to 5 days per week.

Doing an appropriate warm-up of around 15 minutes before exercise is noteworthy. You must also wait for 10 minutes post-exercise to cool down the body. To start strength training, one must complete at least four weeks of regular aerobic exercise regimen.

For Seasoned Veterans

Females who have been following exercise regimens for periods greater than three months can increase exercise intensity and opt for hectic sports such as sports activities (marathons, cycling., etc.).

Aerobic and strength training can be a part of the ideal training regimen.


Mother nature has created gender differences in body compositions. Therefore, applying the same principles for physical activity does not work. Women have a higher percentage of fat as compared to men. This fat is stored in females’ glute-femoral (thigh) region, while the belly (visceral adipose tissues) is the preferred site for men. In addition, the female body is abundant in serum leptins while men carry more adiponectin. Therefore, energy gained by fat burning is greater in women than in men.

Men and women can gain equal mass after following a training exercise. However, the size of muscles in men is greater. The type ⅡB muscle fibers present in men are larger. These changes can be attributed to the sex-specific hormones (estrogen and testosterone) at play. Metabolization rates also show evident differences between the two genders, where women take lesser energy by burning carbs and more by breaking down fats.

In the battle of sexes, i.e., men vs. women, the latter has greater muscle contractility and endurance during fatigue. Men usually take more prolonged recovery time but are slightly more resistant to fatigue. The ideal body composition standard for both the sexes should be different, and therefore, the F.I.T.T guidelines for both genders should be different.


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