Let’s start with the fact that women’s bodies are not the same as mens. We have a few different structures that change a whole slew of things within our endocrine system (hormones). Now, I will be the first to tell you that women are able to do all things men can, except they make peeing standing up much easier.
Women are more fragile internally – we need a little extra love when it comes to health, stress, hormones, movement etc. This can be both frustrating and annoying, but gosh darn it the female body is incredible anyways! In the midst of hormones and stress it is important to understand that women should not cut food groups to “get healthy” or “lose weight”. I am going to breakdown why women need fat in their diet, and why being a women can actually mean using MORE fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates!
What are Fats and Fat Sources
Fats are one of the main macronutrient the body needs for survival. Yet, it is also the first macronutrient people panic about and start removing from their diet because they assume eating fat makes them gain fat….wrong. Fat is actually incredible important for the female body especially. You know, we have a bunch of hormones and a monthly cycle that needs love and support from us!
Most whole foods contain some amount of fat, due to the fact that it is the most efficient way to store energy for both plants and animals. Whenever we consume fats, it goes 1 of 2 ways. It can be used by the body right away as energy, or it can be stored in adipose tissue and saved for when the body is low on fuel (between meals).
Not only do we need fat for energy, we also need it for several body functions. It has been proven that fat is a necessary component of hormone production, nutrient absorption, metabolism function and cell signaling. HOW AWESOME IS THAT?! If you want to read more about fat and macronutreints, you can check out the blog here!
Here is a list of healthy fats to see what maybe is already in your diet, or ideas of what you can add in!
The Female Body and Fat Oxidation
Women tend to spend a lot of time complaining about how unfair it is that their metabolism doesn’t work like their male counterparts. We say “they have it so easy” and “he can eat whatever he wants and never gain weight”. Well, what if I told you that women were actually better at using fat for fuel than men are?! CRAZY TOWN! Now, let me preface this by saying fat loss and fat oxidation are not the same thing.
Fat loss = losing body fat
Fat oxidation = using body fat for energy
Two very different things, although they can coexist together!
Women and men are different in this usage of fat because of one thing. Estrogen. Women obviously have more estrogen than men, which is partially responsible for us storing more fat than men (you know, we just trying to stay alive over here) – but it also plays a role in allowing us to burn more fat during exercise, be for efficient with endurance, recover better and handle a bit more training volume. Finally, something women are crushing at over men without having to work for it and prove ourselves!
Now let’s breakdown the scientific aspect of things…
Estrogen binds with a hepatic estrogen receptor in our muscle tissue (like ringing a doorbell). This sends a message to the fat stored in our muscle and fatty acids from our fat cells to break down. They are then shuttled more efficiently and “burned” inside our mitochondria within our muscle cells! This is good because fats give us more bang for our buck when it comes to energy (since 1g of fat has 9 calories vs 1g of carbs has 4 calories). So not only are fats great for energy, they also help us recover quicker and last longer during endurance training…so cool!
So women, we already got it going on! We are fat burning machines just because we have a specific hormone to help us…WIN! Now, let’s remember that just because we have estrogen doesn’t mean we are actually losing more body fat. Estrogen is also responsible for storing body fat to make sure we stay alive and have enough to keep our hormones happy. Without happy hormones our bodies are obviously not being supported in they way they need to be. So next time someone is telling you their workout is fat burning…remember, all workouts for women are fat burning!
Downfall of Low Fat Diet
When women are trying to lose weight, fats are usually the first to decrease. This is because, like I said earlier, 1g of fat is 9 calories. So by decreasing fats you are quickly decreasing calorie intake. This, however, might not be the best idea.
Decreasing fat intake for women can also mean decreasing hormone production, or increasing stress hormones. When the female body does not get enough fat, our hormones are not happy. Which means the body starts to think it is starving and begins storing whatever it can. This also means the mensural cycle might suffer since fat is necessary for ovulation and healthy cycles. And lastly, the stress hormone cortisol will start to increase. This is because they body is not in it’s “safe” place and starts to figure out how to get back there. So by increasing the stress hormone we are signaling to the body “something is not right here, we need to fix it” which can lead to disasters.
Moral of the story…eat your healthy fats to maintain a healthy system!
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