Trainers and strength coaches like to talk to other trainers and strength coaches and talk about their wisdom. Each of us have had 1000’s of experiences with clients, worked with 100’s and likely drawn some great conclusions about what is going on with people.
Here is my statement today: IF a women has the same amount of muscle as a man, she will burn approximately the same amount of calories as he would if he was to perform the same activity at the same intensity. I’m sure there’s some reason why the word approximately is essential for making the statement true, but by in large, doing the same amount of work will require the same amount of energy. In fact, the definition of work and any formula I’ve seen for it does make this factual statement / conclusion.
What are the practical implications of this?
If you want to burn more fuel you need to build a bigger engine. The bigger engine will move a bigger load which, by definition, will boost work capacity and therefore increase energy consumption. Even if you keep the weight the same, the increase in the size of the engine will translate into great energy expenditure. So building muscle is critical for helping someone get and remain lean.
The faster / harder you work an engine, the less efficient it becomes. Walking is a fairly efficient way for humans to move, sprinting is profoundly wasteful. Short intervals of fast intense work will burn more energy than steady state work, and this is why most coaches will encourage their clients to participate in interval work BEFORE they encourage them to do the steady state work.
To keep a big engine, you need to prove to the body that it need to remain that big. If you don’t use it, the body gets rid of it quickly because it requires energy to maintain and use. Always keep in mind that the body will get rid of EVERYTHING and ANYTHING that requires energy but which isn’t getting used. It doesn’t take much stimulation to hold onto muscle mass so long as you are eating enough protein and food in general.
What does this mean?
Most women are going to have to perform extra movement to make up for the energy NOT used to power or maintain the bigger muscles.
Women will be better served by building muscle before shifting their focus onto fat loss. Men can approach it from either direction and still enjoy success.
Protein is of more importance to women during the initial training phases and especially during the fat loss phase.