To All the Men "Getting Chicked," Get Used to It

As more women work with their physiology, they are getting closer to, and in many instances passing, the men.

September 15, 2016
man woman swimming

Recently, New York Magazine online ran a story titled, "The Obscure Ultra-Endurance Sport Woman Are Quietly Dominating." The big reveal? That in the sport of ultra-endurance swimming, women were quite simply schooling the men. Most notably, the article cited a Swiss study published in 2015 that revealed that in the 87-year span between 1927 and 2014, the fastest women were an average of 52.9 minutes faster than the fastest men. What's more, when they looked at average times across open water swimmers in general, the average woman is faster than the average man.

This "news" actually isn't really all that new. I've been watching the time gap between age group (a.k.a. amateur) women and men tighten for the better part of 20 years—especially in the realm of endurance and ultra endurance sports like ultra-marathons, open water swims, and Ironman triathlons. There used to be a term for women passing men—"getting chicked." I'd like to propose we now just call it women and men racing together.

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More: The 3 Body Types, Explained

Here's the deal: Barring some radical shift in male versus female physiology, the fast women will not be beating the fast men in the 100 yard dash or even the marathon anytime soon simply because we have a smaller engine. Women have smaller hearts, smaller stoke volume (the amount of blood pumped out per beat), smaller lungs (25 to 30 percent less capacity than men), and lower maximum heart rates. Men also have more testosterone, which means more red blood cells and more oxygen-carrying hemoglobin to deliver oxygen to their working muscles. It's a bit like a Prius lining up for a drag race against a Mustang—not totally a fair fight in the short run.

However, there's more to winning races than the size of the engine under the hood. Let's talk fuel efficiency, for instance. Women are better fat burners than men. Since fat is the fuel of choice for long, endurance efforts, we can keep humming along like that super economical Prius on our nearly infinite fat stores, while our male counterparts are tapping into—and eventually tapping out—their more limited glycogen (stored carbohydrate) stores. In the case of swimming, women have the physiological advantage of naturally higher levels of body fat, which improves our buoyancy, especially out in the open water, as well as insulates us so we stay warmer for a greater duration. That's why the longer the race, the closer we get. 

More: 11 Things You Need to Know About Exercising on Your Period

And, as that article and myriad of studies clearly show, we are getting closer. Throw in a sound nutritional strategy that maximizes your female physiology, such as eating more protein, especially branched chain amino acids like leucine to prevent you from eating into your muscles as women are prone to doing; strength training to maximize your strength and efficiency, and proper rest and recovery, we're more evenly matched than most of us ever imagined.

To learn more about how to match your food and fitness to your unique female physiology for performance, great health, and a strong, lean body for life, check out Dr. Sims’ book, ROAR, available now. 

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