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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 on women features 69 unique references to scientific papers.

Research analysis led by and reviewed by the Examine team.
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Research Breakdown on Women


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.

2Women v. Men: What is used for energy

2.1Differences in Carbohydrate metabolism


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]

2.2Differences 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]

2.3Differences in Protein metabolism

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

2.4Differences 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]

3Differences in hormones

3.1Differences 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.

3.2Differences 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]


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  2. ^ a b 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. ^ a b c d 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. ^ a b c 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)
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