Understanding the Difficulty Women Have in Losing Lower Body Fat
Having worked with many different female clients, I can attest to the difficulty of getting their lower body as lean as their upper body. Over the years I have tried many different strategies to get them to lose lower body fat like men. One thing I have learned is that patience and commitment make all the difference. If you have those two with you, science can help with the rest.
Some of the things I we have tried are manipulating the ratio of macronutrients in the diet. At best, a low fat diet works for weight loss in the obese, whereas lowering carbs has a tremendous advantage in women who are relatively lean already (by lean I mean 18% or so). Even so, stubborn lower body fat will still plague the female low-carb dieter. Yohimbine, an alpha-2 antagonist, has also failed to produce the desired results. Think of alpha-2 receptors as a "brake" for fat cells. Women have a greater proportion of alpha-2 receptors on their lower body fat than men. This, in large part, gives rise to the typical gynoid, or "pear shaped", fat patterning common in women. It was thought that if you could block the brake with yohimbine you could increase lower body fat loss during a diet. In the end, yohimbine has fallen far short of expectations. Even yohimbine creams have not worked.
So why is it that the fat on a woman’s hips and thighs is so slow to respond to tried and true fat loss techniques? Well, research has demonstrated measurable differences in the lower body fat of men women. For ease in reading I’ll put this in bullet point format:
I have tried to use this information with my clients to help them as best I can to get rid of stubborn lower body fat. For example, using ephedrine and caffeine will not necessarily get rid of lower body fat faster than without it. However, insulin seems to make alpha-2 receptors more sensitive so lowering carbs in a strategic fashion can greatly improve results in the lower body. Birth control pills may also be a factor due to their estrogen content. If a female client is trying to get ready for a show and is using birth control pills, I may suggest she use an alternate form of birth control until after the show. This of course is said only by way of suggestion.
In the end, what ultimately must happen, is that the upper body fat stores must be depleted before the lower body really becomes active. Unfortunately, most women compete just as there upper bodies are ripped but their lower bodies have only begun to lean up. If they would go on an additional 6 weeks, their lower bodies would be ready.
Also, beware of trainers/coaches who have only trained men. There are a lot of things they may not know about or take into consideration when training a women. Some of these things could really make a difference in a woman’s success at getting the body she wants.
There are a few other tricks of the trade, but if I told you all of them nobody would need me anymore…can’t have that now can we.
Bryan Haycock M.Sc. is an exercise physiologist and NPC judge. Bryan has been bodybuilding for over 20 years and holds certifications with the NSCA, ACE, and is a member of the American College of Sports Medicine. Bryan is currently the Editor in Chief of ThinkMuscle.com and is the founder and CEO of LifeStyleMgmt.com. Bryan is a highly sought after authority on the physiology of muscle growth and fat loss. Bryan also specializes in the management of type-II diabetes through diet and exercise.