Breakfast: the Most Important Meal?

A large number of people lead an active lifestyle with the aim to lose body fat with minimal muscle loss for aesthetic or performance purposes. This can be taken to the extreme by individuals who are competitors in different aesthetic and/or weight class sports. Given the rise of social media, these fat loss regimens are very popular however the cost of following these regimes is not highlighted to the same degree for both male and females. Indeed, female physiology is different to that of males and so caution is needed but does female nutrition differ largely from males? Generally, women and men share similar nutritional recommendations however there are differences that need to be considered when it comes to weight loss.

Gender Differences
  • - Women have naturally higher body fat which makes fat loss more difficult.
  • - They typically carry less body weight than men meaning a lower basal metabolic rate & a smaller allowance for calories while cutting.
  • - The hormonal changes that occur around menstruation and the potential loss of menstruation.

Indeed, rapid weight loss can induce a host of hormonal issues and so a gradual approach is desired. This is a lifestyle not a short-term goal. Metabolism differs slightly as women burn more fat during exercise however men burn more fat during the hours outside of exercise which has a far greater effect. Women also have fluctuating hormones due to the menstrual cycle.

What Effect Does This Have on Dieting?

The Luteal phase (post ovulation) causes a drop-in estrogen which can lead to sugar cravings. This is why some women crave food the week leading up to their period. In my opinion, it would be best to start dieting when your cycle begins as this can create an easier way to develop adherence and cause a deficit which may have to be slightly compromised later on.

Please realize it’s natural to want to deviate away from your diet. As cravings begin to occur, instead of going completely off track, I typically recommend maintaining calories but lower protein (normally high) and increase carbs/fats depending on individual food preference.

Take Home Message

Men and women share similar nutritional needs however women need to be more flexible and that the psychological aspect of dieting can be the biggest challenge. Continual short-term goal setting may help alleviate these struggles.

Steve O’Mahony
Performance Nutrition MSc BSc