More research has emerged in regards to female exercise physiology and the differences between males. Just within the past few years there has been more research done comparing women to men during exercise. As women we must understand how our body works and the ways that we can feed it better and make our workouts count. When we compare the life of women 50-60 years ago, they were quite different. Women are not staying at home living sedentary lifestyles or using daily chores as exercise while taking care of their children. Most women no longer are popping in aerobic videos and listening to Richard Simons "Party off the pounds!" Let me take a moment to say- no I am not saying aerobics aren't good for you but they should not be your only source of exercise! My main point is, the movements and daily routines of most women have changed dramatically over the years. From Crossfit to Zumba, to BodyAttack and PiYo, exercise has become more intense and increasingly difficult on our bodies (which for some can be good and bad).
Part 1: I want to break down the facts about how female physiology is different from males.
1. Women tend to be smaller and lighter and have a higher portion of body fat (mostly for childbearing purposes) *healthy body fat ranges from 12-30% compared to males at 4-18%
2. The number women see on the scale may not be exactly accurate- your weight fluctuates widely depending on your fluid intake, what you ate today, your salt intake, and how much glycogen you are storing in your muscles. In contrast, body mass is what you are actually made of (bone, muscle, fat and organs).
3. Different muscle fibers: women have more type 1 endurance muscle fibers
4. What research shows so far: Women are about 52% as strong as men in their upper bodies and 66% as strong as men in their lower bodies.
5. Women tend to carry most of their lean muscle tissue below the waist, aka buns of steel=)
-women's power comes from their hips and legs
6. Women have smaller hearts, smaller heart volume, and smaller lungs, and lower diastolic pressure thus women pump out less oxygenated blood with every beat (about 30% less cardiac output than men!).
7. ESTROGEN (the good and the bad): during high estrogen levels, women rely less on carbs and more on fat
8. The bad news: it is somewhat harder for women to recover from exercise compared to men. Our ability to access and use stored carbs decreases, especially during high levels of estrogen. This makes our recovery time slower because females need available carbs not just to prevent us from eating into our muscles during exercise, but also to help recover quickly when the workout is over. Women's ability to burn fat postexercise is very different than men. Women's metabolism drops back to normal just 3 hours after exercising while men's levels remain elevated up to 21 hours later!
*POSTEXERCISE PROTEIN IS ESSENTIAL TO REBUILD OUR MUSCLES AND REDUCE THE SIGNALING TO STORE BODY FAT* You should be consuming 20-30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of your finished workout.
9. SWEAT: Women generally sweat later on in their workout. This is due to hormones and the ability to keep cool when temperatures begin to rise.
10. Women have a slightly higher average core temperature than men (97.8 versus 97.4)
11. CHECK YOUR BODY SHAPE/STRUCTURE: In a study of 100 men and women, the average Q-angle (your hip shape) for women was 15.8 degrees compared to men at 11.2 degrees. Women were made with wide hips in order to reproduce! What does the larger Q-angle mean? Unfortunately it puts women at a higher risk for injuries especially knee injuries. This goes back to my previous blog...remember CORE STRENGTH!
Up next: Part 2- How your menstrual cycle impacts your exercise and eating habits.
Source: Sims, S. (2016). Battle of the sexes. Roar. New York, NY: Rodale