Fuel metabolism in men and women during and after long-duration exercise

J Appl Physiol (1985). 1998 Nov;85(5):1823-32. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1998.85.5.1823.


This study aimed to determine gender-based differences in fuel metabolism in response to long-duration exercise. Fuel oxidation and the metabolic response to exercise were compared in men (n = 14) and women (n = 13) during 2 h (40% of maximal O2 uptake) of cycling and 2 h of postexercise recovery. In addition, subjects completed a separate control day on which no exercise was performed. Fuel oxidation was measured using indirect calorimetry, and blood samples were drawn for the determination of circulating substrate and hormone levels. During exercise, women derived proportionally more of the total energy expended from fat oxidation (50.9 +/- 1.8 and 43. 7 +/- 2.1% for women and men, respectively, P < 0.02), whereas men derived proportionally more energy from carbohydrate oxidation (53.1 +/- 2.1 and 45.7 +/- 1.8% for men and women, respectively, P < 0.01). These gender-based differences were not observed before exercise, after exercise, or on the control day. Epinephrine (P < 0.007) and norepinephrine (P < 0.0009) levels were significantly greater during exercise in men than in women (peak epinephrine concentrations: 208 +/- 36 and 121 +/- 15 pg/ml in men and women, respectively; peak norepinephrine concentrations: 924 +/- 125 and 659 +/- 68 pg/ml in men and women, respectively). As circulating glycerol levels were not different between the two groups, this suggests that women may be more sensitive to the lipolytic action of the catecholamines. In conclusion, these data support the view that different priorities are placed on lipid and carbohydrate oxidation during exercise in men and women and that these gender-based differences extend to the catecholamine response to exercise.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Diet
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / blood
  • Hormones / blood
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Physical Fitness / physiology
  • Pulmonary Gas Exchange / physiology
  • Sex Characteristics


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Hormones