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Sex Differences in Energy Metabolism: A Female-Oriented Discussion.

Sports Medicine 2024 June 19
The purpose of this review is to delineate aspects of energy metabolism at rest and during exercise that may be subject to sex differences and the potential underlying mechanisms involved. It focuses on distinct aspects of female physiology with an oriented discussion following the reproductive life stages of healthy, eumenorrheic females, including premenopausal time frames, pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause. Finally, this review aims to address methodological challenges surrounding sexual dimorphism in energy metabolism investigations and confounding factors in this field. During resting conditions, females tend to have higher rates of non-oxidative free fatty acid clearance, which could contribute to lower respiratory exchange ratio measures. At the same time, carbohydrate energy metabolism findings are mixed. In general, females favor lipid energy metabolism during moderate-intensity exercise, while men favor carbohydrate energy metabolism. Factors such as age, dietary intake, genetics, and methodological decisions confound study findings, including properly identifying and reporting the menstrual cycle phase when female subjects are eumenorrheic. Pregnancy presents a unique shift in physiological systems, including energy metabolism, which can be observed at rest and during exercise. Changes in body composition and hormonal levels during the post-menopausal period directly impact energy metabolism, specifically lipid metabolism. This change in physiological state factors into the evidence showing a reduction in our understanding of sex differences in lipid metabolism during exercise in older adults. This review reveals a need for a focused understanding of female energy metabolism that could help exercise and nutrition professionals optimize female health and performance across the lifespan.

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