Did you know? Far from simply being a bit of jiggly excess, fat is a vital organ with numerous vital functions, including regulating leptin, the satiety hormone. Leptin functions as part of a negative feedback loop; the more body fat we have, the more leptin we produce to tell us to stop eating. Our ability to detect and interpret this signal is known as leptin sensitivity.

In theory, the more body fat we have, the stronger the signal. However, continually overeating beyond “fullness” breaks this negative feedback loop, meaning that we do not receive its “stop” signal (impaired leptin sensitivity).

Leptin is a key area of difference between the sexes. While women tend to produce more leptin, the signal they send is weaker. Leptin is also strongly influenced by oestrogen levels in women, meaning that leptin levels vary through different stages of the menstrual cycle.

So, what is a “normal” body fat percentage? Healthy body fat percentages cover a broad range, which vary according to genetics, gender and ethnicity. In women, the range is between 12-35% and anywhere between 8-25% in men.

Fat distribution differences in men and women depend strongly on hormonal profiles. Testosterone, the dominant sex hormone in men, results in more fat around the trunk and organs with leaner limbs. Women naturally have higher oestrogen levels, resulting in increased subcutaneous fat around the hips, thighs, breasts and triceps, with a leaner trunk. However, these patterns vary between individuals and can change due to hormonal imbalances.

When it comes to fat loss, nothing physiologically prevents either sex from losing weight. However, men tend to shed weight more quickly through the effects of testosterone, increased muscle mass and activity levels. Research shows that, under the same level of calorie deficit, men lose weight at twice the rate of women during the first two months. However, after six months, this gap evens out.

The takeaway? While fat loss can be more challenging for women, both men and women can lose weight effectively through an effective training and nutrition plan. 💪

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