Who’d have thought you women should eat more fat to BURN FAT?
People often look at nutrition as a one-size-fits-all approach, but if you’ve followed any of my work, then you’ll know I’m strongly against this view and think everything should be personalized.
In short, and as I’ve discussed elsewhere on the site, nutritional needs vary widely based on a number of different factors ranging from genetics, activity level, nutritional history, insulin function, job, family lifestyle and of course your gender.
Interestingly women may benefit more from consuming a high fat diet than males, due to a number of different variables such as hormones and even how fat is stored and metabolized from one gender to the other.
In this article, I’ll provide a breakdown as to why many of my female clients and 1000s of our Advanced Ketogenic Metabolic Advantage Diet clients use high fat diets to strip off body fat!
Women Mobilize & Burn Fat More Effectively
Interestingly, different genders actually seem to be able to metabolize and burn both dietary fat and stored body fat to different extents.
While both male and females are able to metabolize fat without issue (so no need to start worrying guys), females seem to do so at a higher and faster rate than men. In fact, multiple studies have revealed that women tend to use more fat for fuel than men do during exercise sessions of varying intensities (1, 2, 3).
Typically, using fat as a primary source of energy occurs while exercising at a low intensity, regardless of gender. However, one study showed that women were able to primarily use fat during exercise sessions completed at fairly high intensities. This was in stark contrast to men, who seemed to metabolize primarily carbohydrate and protein for energy.
Additionally, studies have revealed that women tend to have a lower RER (Respiratory Exchange Ratio) than men (4). Respiratory exchange ratio is a measure of how much carbohydrate and fat you are metabolizing. The lower the number, the more fat you are using while a higher number indicates greater carbohydrate usage.
While individual needs vary from person to person, research does suggest that women’s bodies are typically better at, (or at least more predisposed to), using fat as an energy source both during and outside of exercise than men’s are.
Women’s Hormones May Be Responsible For Greater Fat Burn
As it turns out, some researchers hypothesize that the reason women’s bodies turn to fat as a primary energy source is due to estrogen and progesterone.
While men also have estrogen and progesterone, levels of both hormones are typically much higher in women.
Studies have indicated that, when subjects are supplemented with extra estrogen and progesterone, a multitude of effects occur that makes fat an optimal source of energy (5, 6).
Interestingly, one study showed that when estrogen levels were high in subjects, this correlated with a decrease in an enzyme called adipocyte lipoprotein lipase, which plays a primary role in storing fat in fat tissue (7).
Thus, decreasing the activity of this enzyme may prevent fatty acids or body fat from being stored, and increase the likelihood of them being metabolized. Additionally, the same study showed an increase in a different form of the same enzyme which is in muscle and increases the amount of fat that can be metabolized.
In essence, having a high amount of estrogen reduces the likelihood of storing fat in adipose tissue, along with an increased likelihood of fat being metabolized in muscle.
This is one reason that females on my Metabolic Advantage Diet lose body fat so quickly; they are basing their nutrition on their physiology. Consuming healthy dietary fat actually allows them to boost these hormones and burn more body fat (as discussed below)!
Fat Intake Can Increase Estrogen & Progesterone
Hormones such as estrogen and progesterone are actually steroid hormones that are derived from cholesterol.
This means that, in order for them to actually be created, you’ll need to consume fat and cholesterol on a regular basis. Additionally, since having higher levels of these hormones is associated with an increased amount of fat metabolism, it makes sense that you should have a higher intake of fat in your diet.
In fact, a meta-analysis on the impact of dietary fat and estrogen levels indicated that, when dietary fat comprised only 10-12% of calories, levels of available estrogen were significantly lower than when fat intake was higher (8).
Based on the fact that fat is necessary to synthesize hormones such as estrogen, an increase in daily fat intake is suggested in order to optimize these hormones and so also fat metabolism.
(Related: You Can Download my 7 Day Low-Carb, High Fat Meal Plans Here).
How To Implement A High Fat Diet
Regardless of gender, the number one thing to keep in mind is energy balance.
Energy balance means the amount of calories you expend compared to the calories you consume. If you expend more calories than consumed, you’ll lose weight and if you consume more than you expend, you’ll gain weight.
Unfortunately, that notion holds true for either gender. However, you can still increase your fat intake and reap the rewards without increasing the likelihood of storing body fat.
The key is that as you increase your fat intake, you’ll need to decrease the amount of carbs, which we teach and give full 7 day meal plans on the Metabolic Advantage Diet.
To implement a high fat diet, focus on these food groups, or get our done-for-you 7 day meal plans;
While each individual’s dietary needs will vary widely, research does seem to indicate that women preferentially metabolize fat for energy at rest and during exercise.
This preferential metabolism of fat is likely due to the high levels of estrogen and progesterone that women typically display, compared to men.
Luckily, consuming a high fat diet may actually help improve levels of hormones such as estrogen, as fat and cholesterol provide the backbone from which these hormones are actually synthesized.
However, bear in mind that just because you can metabolize fat well, it doesn’t mean you can’t gain weight. In order to prevent fat gain when switching to a high fat diet, ensure that you decrease calories from carbohydrate and protein in accordance with your increase in fat intake.
- Venables, M. C., Achten, J., & Jeukendrup, A. E. (2005). Determinants of fat oxidation during exercise in healthy men and women: a cross-sectional study. Journal of applied physiology, 98(1), 160-167.
- Phelain, J. F., Reinke, E., Harris, M. A., & Melby, C. L. (1997). Postexercise energy expenditure and substrate oxidation in young women resulting from exercise bouts of different intensity. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 16(2), 140-146.
- Tarnopolsky, M. A., Atkinson, S. A., Phillips, S. M., & MacDougall, J. D. (1995). Carbohydrate loading and metabolism during exercise in men and women. Journal of applied Physiology, 78(4), 1360-1368.
- Meyer-Bahlburg, H., Nat, R., Sugden, R., & Horwath, E. (1994). Sexual activity and risk of HIV infection among patients with schizophrenia. Am J Psychiatry, 1(51), 229.
- D’eon, T., & Braun, B. (2002). The roles of estrogen and progesterone in regulating carbohydrate and fat utilization at rest and during exercise. Journal of women’s health & gender-based medicine, 11(3), 225-237.
- Rooney TP, Kendrick ZV, Carlson J, et al. Effect of estradiol on the temporal pattern of exercise-induced tissue glycogen depletion in male rats. J Appl Physiol 1993;75:1502.
- Ellis, G. S., Lanza-Jacoby, S. U. S. A. N., Gow, A. N. D. R. E. W., & Kendrick, Z. V. (1994). Effects of estradiol on lipoprotein lipase activity and lipid availability in exercised male rats. Journal of Applied Physiology, 77(1), 209-215.
- Wu, A. H., Pike, M. C., & Stram, D. O. (1999). Meta-analysis: dietary fat intake, serum estrogen levels, and the risk of breast cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 91(6), 529-534.