Exercising is a vital component of a healthy lifestyle and it provides benefits to both men and women. Staying physically active can offer great advantages such as better cardiovascular health, weight management, and better mental well-being. Although those components are only the top layer of what really goes on when exercising. It is essential to recognize and understand the hormonal differences between men and women and their influence on how exercise affects the body from the aspects of reproductive organs, body composition/ metabolism, and exercise induced stress.
The first component we can think of when discussing hormonal release differences between men and women is their reproductive organs. Men will always have an abundance of testosterone due to their reproductive organs. This is why men tend to have higher muscle mass when going through full development and higher power output when exercising.
On the other hand, women who do not have testes (testosterone producer) therefore will have a lower count of testosterone in their body. Testosterone plays a key role in muscle growth, strength development, and overall athletic performance. Having an abundance of the hormone can boost your recovery time, and protein synthesis. So we can kill the myth of “Women will get bulky when they do strength training constantly”.
Another hormone that brings more differences between men and women and its effect with exercise is estrogen. Estrogen is primarily a complex hormone for women. It does have similar effects to testosterone but also goes into improving bone health, joint stability, and helping with fat storage. For women, high levels of estrogen leads to higher fat storage at the hips and thighs, affecting body composition. In comparison to the levels of testosterone in men, estrogen levels in women are much lower, and even much lower in men, hence why men tend to store less fat and have a higher muscle mass. Lets not forget women's menstrual cycle that affects their energy levels. The follicular phase which is before ovulation is associated with high estrogen levels leading to higher fat metabolism and improved exercise performance. In contrast the luteal phase which is post ovulation leads to high progesterone levels causing a decrease in carbohydrate utilization and reduced exercise capacity.
When we look at the metabolic system between men and women, the higher muscle mass composition in men leads to a higher metabolic rate, causing a higher caloric expenditure during exercise. For women, their lower muscle mass composition leads to a lower caloric expenditure during exercise and lower metabolic rate. Their higher fat composition serves as energy for longer bouts of exercises that increases the stress levels on the body. The body will release stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline which helps with energy mobilization and focus. However, the body composition along with the stress hormones also leads to recovery and overall performance differences.
Ultimately, hormonal differences between men and women have a significant impact on exercise performance. While men benefit from higher testosterone levels, resulting in greater muscle mass and strength, women experience unique hormonal fluctuations throughout their menstrual cycle that can affect energy levels and exercise capacity. Recognizing and understanding these differences allows coaches to tailor the workouts and still attain the goal at hand.
-Coach Andy Louis