Study Claims Unfit Men Have to Work Harder to Burn Fat

Daniel Davies
·2-min read

From Men's Health

A new study has suggested men, and specifically men who are less physically fit, have to work harder to burn fat.

For the study, researchers led by the University of Bath's Centre for Nutrition, Exercise & Metabolism took 73 healthy adults (41 men and 32 women) aged between 19 and 63 and tested their ability to burn fat by having them take part in a cycling fitness test while measuring key indicators, like "peak VO2" or their highest possible oxygen uptake.

Their results, which have been published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Medicine, found that females and those who were physically fitter, right across the age ranges, burnt fat more efficiently when exercising.

The researchers put the difference down to women's bodies using fat as a fuel source during exercise more readily than men.

"Understanding the mechanisms behind these sex differences in fuel use may help explain why being female seems to confer a metabolic advantage for insulin sensitivity, an important marker of metabolic health,” said the study's lead author, Ollie Chrzanowski-Smith from the Department for Health at Bath.

The team at the University of Bath also conducted a second study that explored how molecular factors in our muscles and fat tissue determine how fat is burnt.

That experiment, published in the journal Experimental Physiology, involved the researchers taking fat and muscle biopsies from participants to analyse how differences in the proteins in fat and muscle tissue might affect someone's ability to burn fat.

The researchers discovered that the presence of proteins in muscle that break down stored fat into smaller fatty acids, as well as proteins involved in transporting those fatty acids into the mitochondria in muscle (the powerhouse of the cells), consistently correlated with a greater ability to burn fat. However, the molecular factors explored did not explain why women were able to burn fat more easily than males.

As the researchers note, despite their findings it remains the case that weight gain or loss is mainly about energy balance, so for anyone to lose weight they need to eat fewer calories than they expend.

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