When assessing your personal weight and fitness levels, it’s important to understand how gender can play a role in how your body stores fat. Here is a brief look at how men and women store fat differently—and what that means for your health.

Women carry more fat than men do.

The first thing to understand is that women naturally store fat more efficiently than men. Women, on average, store 6 to 11 percent more body fat than men do. This, of course, is frustrating for women who count calories and still have a difficult time keeping weight off.

Research is still ongoing as to why women naturally carry more fat. Studies have actually linked to hormone estrogen to fat storage, as estrogen reduces a woman’s ability to burn energy after eating. This results more fat being stored around the body. Experts believe that this phenomenon is biological preparation for childbearing.

Men and women store fat in different places.

Men and women also differ biologically in where they tend to store fat. Fat in men tends to go to the upper body—picture the common “beer belly” resting atop relatively thin legs. Fat in women, meanwhile, tends to go to the hips, butt, and thighs.

Things can also differ when it comes to how exactly upper body fat is stored. When men store upper body fat, it tends to develop into visceral fat, or the type of fat that settles in the abdominal cavity and coats several important internal organs there. When women store upper body fat, it tends to develop into subcutaneous fat, or fat in the area that lies just below the skin. In other words, men tend to store more visceral fat, while women tend to store more subcutaneous fat. This is actually better news for women, as visceral fat is more strongly linked to the development of fat-related illnesses and conditions.

Men and women burn energy differently.

Here’s some good news for women—women tend to burn fat more efficiently. In other words, women burn fat more readily in response to exercise. This is because women’s bodies tend to produce more triglycerides and omega-3 fatty acids, among other systemic and hormonal differences.

So while women may naturally carry more fat than men do, they actually carry it in a way that is healthier and more easily managed.

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