Women

Although most supplements benefit both sexes the same, any supplements with interactions with testosterone and estrogen need to be addressed due to women not having testicles and men lacking ovaries. Some supplements are also catered to women specifically, usually related to menopause.

Our evidence-based analysis features 70 unique references to scientific papers.


Research analysis by and verified by the Examine.com Research Team. Last updated on Apr 29, 2017.

Summary of Women

Primary Information, Benefits, Effects, and Important Facts

Women exhibit several anatomic and physiologic characteristics that distinguish their responses to exercise from those of men. Women are smaller than men, have less muscle mass, and more fat mass for a given body size. Blood volume, stroke volume, and cardiac output are all lower in women than in men.[1]

In general, there are no differences in metabolic response between men and women when it comes to exercise.[2][3]

Research has started to uncover some differences (most of these differences are partially mediated by a higher estrogen concentration in females).

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions and answers regarding Women

Q: Can I take something to alleviate premenstrual symptoms?

Read full answer to "Can I take something to alleviate premenstrual symptoms?"


Q: Do oral contraceptives affect a woman's metabolism?

Read full answer to "Do oral contraceptives affect a woman's metabolism?"


Q: What supplement or food changes are recommended for pregnant or expecting women?

Read full answer to "What supplement or food changes are recommended for pregnant or expecting women?"


Q: Will my breasts shrink if I lift weights?

Read full answer to "Will my breasts shrink if I lift weights?"


Q: As a female, does orgasm affect my health?

Read full answer to "As a female, does orgasm affect my health?"


Q: Will my breasts shrink with weight loss?

Read full answer to "Will my breasts shrink with weight loss?"


Q: Will doing chest exercises make my breasts look "perkier?"

Read full answer to "Will doing chest exercises make my breasts look "perkier?""


Q: I am a female. Will lifting heavy weights make me bulky?

A: While lifting weights will increase muscle, the rate is slow enough and androgens limited enough to not make you appear too 'bulky'.

Read full answer to "I am a female. Will lifting heavy weights make me bulky?"


Introduction

This page is catered to elucidating metabolic differences between men and women (specifically concerning what affects women, or what does not differ) and may address some issues that are exclusively feminine in nature such as exercise and pregnancy.

Anatomical and sexual differences will not be discussed unless needed.

Women v. Men: What is used for energy

Differences in Carbohydrate metabolism

[4]

Women are inable to carbohydrate load as effectively as men[5] and do not experience significant increases in muscle glycogen content until they surpass 8g/kg carbohydrate/bodyweight.[6][4]

Differences in Fat metabolism

During fasted exercise, women tend to burn a greater proportion of their energy as fats[7] with no differences between the genders in regards to intra-muscular fat stores.[8]

Differences in Protein metabolism

Women seem to oxidize less amino acids and protein during fasted endurance exercise relative to men.[9][10]

Differences in Exercise metabolism

When carbohydrates are ingested during sub-maximal exercise (67% VO2 max), the bodies expected response of using more glucose for energy in lieu of fatty acids does not differ significantly between the genders,[2] although a trend is shown for females to use more ingested carbohydrate as fuel rather than stored carbohydrate (glycogen) relative to males.[7]

Along the lines of lower carbohydrate utilization, females tend to also have a reduced Respiratory Exchange Ratio (RER), indicative of less carbohydrate utilization.[11] A trend of carbohydrate preservation in the face of metabolic stress exists in females.[12][4]

In the fasted state, women also tend to burn more fat as a percentage during endurance exercise although overall calories do not differ.[7]

Differences in hormones

Differences in Estrogen and Testosterone (steroids)

Women have a higher estrogen to testosterone ratio than men.

This higher ratio may be a reason why more fatty acids are used for energy rather than carbohydrates or amino acids at rest and exercise.[13] This is an effect of estrogen per se, and occurs in men supplemented with estrogen as well.[14][15] In experiments with rats, a trend of estrogen inducing preferential fat loss over glycogen usage is evident.[16][17]

Along the lines of the aforementioned preservation of carbohydrate in the face of metabolic stress, these reactions may also be mediated by estrogen. Experimental models of animals show females having a higher survival rate during experimentally induced diabetes[18] and a line of genetic knockout mice (mice lacking PPARa genes) had complete death of males by hypoglycemia, and only 25% females death; some males survived with estrogen administration.[19] Estrogen may theoretically be useful in protecting from nonketotic hypoglycemia and rhabdomyolysis,[4] but may inadvertently reduce overall carbohydrate usage for fuel and subsequent performance capabilities.

Differences in other hormones

Women appear to have less catecholamine (adrenaline, noradrenaline) release in respond to submaximal exercise,[20][21] although the difference between genders is eliminated at higher intensities.[22]

Scientific Support & Reference Citations

References

  1. Charkoudian N, Joyner MJ. Physiologic considerations for exercise performance in women. Clin Chest Med. (2004)
  2. Wallis GA, et al. Metabolic response to carbohydrate ingestion during exercise in males and females. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. (2006)
  3. Lewis DA, Kamon E, Hodgson JL. Physiological differences between genders. Implications for sports conditioning. Sports Med. (1986)
  4. Tarnopolsky MA, Ruby BC. Sex differences in carbohydrate metabolism. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. (2001)
  5. Gender differences in carbohydrate loading are related to energy intake.
  6. Carbohydrate loading and metabolism during exercise in men and women.
  7. Riddell MC, et al. Substrate utilization during exercise performed with and without glucose ingestion in female and male endurance trained athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. (2003)
  8. Zehnder M, et al. Gender-specific usage of intramyocellular lipids and glycogen during exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. (2005)
  9. Endurance exercise training attenuates leucine oxidation and BCOAD activation during exercise in humans.
  10. Phillips SM, et al. Gender differences in leucine kinetics and nitrogen balance in endurance athletes. J Appl Physiol. (1993)
  11. Tarnopolsky MA. Gender differences in substrate metabolism during endurance exercise. Can J Appl Physiol. (2000)
  12. Braun B, et al. Women at altitude: carbohydrate utilization during exercise at 4,300 m. J Appl Physiol. (2000)
  13. Carter S, et al. Short-term 17beta-estradiol decreases glucose R(a) but not whole body metabolism during endurance exercise. J Appl Physiol. (2001)
  14. Hamadeh MJ, Devries MC, Tarnopolsky MA. Estrogen supplementation reduces whole body leucine and carbohydrate oxidation and increases lipid oxidation in men during endurance exercise. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. (2005)
  15. Devries MC, et al. 17beta-estradiol supplementation decreases glucose rate of appearance and disappearance with no effect on glycogen utilization during moderate intensity exercise in men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. (2005)
  16. Kendrick ZV, Ellis GS. Effect of estradiol on tissue glycogen metabolism and lipid availability in exercised male rats. J Appl Physiol. (1991)
  17. Rooney TP, et al. Effect of estradiol on the temporal pattern of exercise-induced tissue glycogen depletion in male rats. J Appl Physiol. (1993)
  18. Cortright RN, et al. Diabetes reduces growth and body composition more in male than in female rats. Physiol Behav. (1996)
  19. A gender-related defect in lipid metabolism and glucose homeostasis in peroxisome proliferator- activated receptor alpha- deficient mice.
  20. Friedlander AL, et al. Effects of exercise intensity and training on lipid metabolism in young women. Am J Physiol. (1998)
  21. Effects of Gender on Neuroendocrine and Metabolic Counterregulatory Responses to Exercise in Normal Man.
  22. Marliss EB, et al. Gender differences in glucoregulatory responses to intense exercise. J Appl Physiol. (2000)

Via HEM and FAQ:

  1. Chuong CJ, Dawson EB. Zinc and copper levels in premenstrual syndrome. Fertil Steril. (1994)
  2. Posaci C, et al. Plasma copper, zinc and magnesium levels in patients with premenstrual tension syndrome. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. (1994)
  3. Horrobin DF. The role of essential fatty acids and prostaglandins in the premenstrual syndrome. J Reprod Med. (1983)
  4. Walker AF, et al. Magnesium supplementation alleviates premenstrual symptoms of fluid retention. J Womens Health. (1998)
  5. Facchinetti F, et al. Oral magnesium successfully relieves premenstrual mood changes. Obstet Gynecol. (1991)
  6. Harel Z, et al. Supplementation with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the management of dysmenorrhea in adolescents. Am J Obstet Gynecol. (1996)
  7. Deutch B. Menstrual pain in Danish women correlated with low n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid intake. Eur J Clin Nutr. (1995)
  8. Saldeen P, Saldeen T. Women and omega-3 Fatty acids. Obstet Gynecol Surv. (2004)
  9. Roy S, et al. Comparison of metabolic and clinical effects of four oral contraceptive formulations and a contraceptive vaginal ring. Am J Obstet Gynecol. (1980)
  10. Godsland IF, et al. Relationships between blood pressure, oral contraceptive use and metabolic risk markers for cardiovascular disease. Contraception. (1995)
  11. Diffey B, et al. The effect of oral contraceptive agents on the basal metabolic rate of young women. Br J Nutr. (1997)
  12. Piers LS, et al. The validity of predicting the basal metabolic rate of young Australian men and women. Eur J Clin Nutr. (1997)
  13. Ruzić L, Matković BR, Leko G. Antiandrogens in hormonal contraception limit muscle strength gain in strength training: comparison study. Croat Med J. (2003)
  14. Yan J, et al. Maternal choline intake modulates maternal and fetal biomarkers of choline metabolism in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. (2012)
  15. da Rocha CM, Kac G. High dietary ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 polyunsaturated acids during pregnancy and prevalence of post-partum depression. Matern Child Nutr. (2012)
  16. Fernandes FS, Tavares do Carmo MD, Herrera E. Influence of Maternal Diet During Early Pregnancy on the Fatty Acid Profile in the Fetus at Late Pregnancy in Rats. Lipids. (2012)
  17. Noakes PS, et al. Increased intake of oily fish in pregnancy: effects on neonatal immune responses and on clinical outcomes in infants at 6 mo. Am J Clin Nutr. (2012)
  18. Dunlop AL, et al. Maternal vitamin D, folate, and polyunsaturated fatty acid status and bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy. Infect Dis Obstet Gynecol. (2011)
  19. Jones KL. The effects of alcohol on fetal development. Birth Defects Res C Embryo Today. (2011)
  20. Giles JJ, Bannigan JG. Teratogenic and developmental effects of lithium. Curr Pharm Des. (2006)
  21. Yacobi S, Ornoy A. Is lithium a real teratogen? What can we conclude from the prospective versus retrospective studies? A review. Isr J Psychiatry Relat Sci. (2008)
  22. Basson R, et al. Revised definitions of women's sexual dysfunction. J Sex Med. (2004)
  23. Salonia A, et al. Physiology of women's sexual function: basic knowledge and new findings. J Sex Med. (2010)
  24. Meston CM, et al. Disorders of orgasm in women. J Sex Med. (2004)
  25. Pfaus JG. Pathways of sexual desire. J Sex Med. (2009)
  26. Traish AM, et al. Androgens in female genital sexual arousal function: a biochemical perspective. J Sex Marital Ther. (2002)
  27. Kingsberg SA, Simon JA, Goldstein I. The current outlook for testosterone in the management of hypoactive sexual desire disorder in postmenopausal women. J Sex Med. (2008)
  28. Riley AJ. Life-long absence of sexual drive in a woman associated with 5-dihydrotestosterone deficiency. J Sex Marital Ther. (1999)
  29. Berglund H, Lindström P, Savic I. Brain response to putative pheromones in lesbian women. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. (2006)
  30. Savic I, et al. Smelling of odorous sex hormone-like compounds causes sex-differentiated hypothalamic activations in humans. Neuron. (2001)
  31. Miller SL, Maner JK. Scent of a woman: men's testosterone responses to olfactory ovulation cues. Psychol Sci. (2010)
  32. Hull EM, et al. Hormone-neurotransmitter interactions in the control of sexual behavior. Behav Brain Res. (1999)
  33. Meston CM, Frohlich PF. Update on female sexual function. Curr Opin Urol. (2001)
  34. Levine KB, Williams RE, Hartmann KE. Vulvovaginal atrophy is strongly associated with female sexual dysfunction among sexually active postmenopausal women. Menopause. (2008)
  35. Genazzani AR, et al. The European Menopause Survey 2005: women's perceptions on the menopause and postmenopausal hormone therapy. Gynecol Endocrinol. (2006)
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  37. Brown AD, Blagg J, Reynolds DS. Designing drugs for the treatment of female sexual dysfunction. Drug Discov Today. (2007)
  38. Safarinejad MR. Reversal of SSRI-induced female sexual dysfunction by adjunctive bupropion in menstruating women: a double-blind, placebo-controlled and randomized study. J Psychopharmacol. (2011)
  39. Stryjer R, et al. Trazodone for the treatment of sexual dysfunction induced by serotonin reuptake inhibitors: a preliminary open-label study. Clin Neuropharmacol. (2009)
  40. Brody S, Weiss P. Simultaneous penile-vaginal intercourse orgasm is associated with satisfaction (sexual, life, partnership, and mental health). J Sex Med. (2011)
  41. Brody S, Costa RM. Satisfaction (sexual, life, relationship, and mental health) is associated directly with penile-vaginal intercourse, but inversely with other sexual behavior frequencies. J Sex Med. (2009)
  42. Tao P, Brody S. Sexual behavior predictors of satisfaction in a Chinese sample. J Sex Med. (2011)
  43. Brody S. The relative health benefits of different sexual activities. J Sex Med. (2010)
  44. Effects of Mating on c-fos Expression in the Brains of Male Macaques.
  45. Rupp HA, Wallen K. Sex-specific content preferences for visual sexual stimuli. Arch Sex Behav. (2009)
  46. Polan ML, et al. Female sexual arousal: a behavioral analysis. Fertil Steril. (2003)
  47. Tsujimura A, et al. Sex differences in visual attention to sexually explicit videos: a preliminary study. J Sex Med. (2009)
  48. Park K, et al. Blood-oxygenation-level-dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging for evaluating cerebral regions of female sexual arousal response. Urology. (2001)

Cite this page

"Women," Examine.com, published on 6 February 2013, last updated on 29 April 2017, http://examine.com/topics/women/