The fitter you are, the better you will burn fat
A recent study finds that the biggest predictors of people’s ability to burn fat are gender and fitness level.
Women who are fit and healthy tend to burn more fat during physical activity than men, according to a new research from a team of sports nutritionists.
The research, which includes two new studies led by researchers at the University of Bath’s Center for Nutrition, Exercise & Metabolism, looked at the factors that most influenced people’s ability to burn body fat when practicing endurance sports.
How the body burns fat is important to all of us in developing a good metabolic health, insulin sensitivity and in reducing the risk of developing type II diabetes. And for endurance sports, such as running or cycling, the way the body burns fat can make the difference between success and failure.
Previous research by the same team has shown that for endurance athletes, the body’s carbohydrate stores degrade rapidly when they exercise. This means that athletes’ ability to use their fat reserves to feed them becomes essential to their performance.
The first study, published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Medicine, involved 73 healthy adults between the ages of 19 and 63 (41 men; 32 women). They tested lifestyle and biological factors for optimal fat burning, asking participants to take a bike fitness test and measuring key indicators. The results showed that women who were in better physical shape burned fat more efficiently during training.
The second associated paper, published in the journal Experimental Physiology, took this step further to explore what molecular factors in muscle and adipose tissue determine how fat is burned. In this experiment, biopsies of fat and muscle were taken from participants to analyze how fat proteins and muscle tissue could affect their ability to burn fat.
It has been found that muscle proteins that are involved in breaking down stored fat into lower fatty acids and proteins involved in transporting the fatty acids into muscle mitochondria (cell power) are consistently correlated with a greater ability to burn fat. The molecular factors explored did not explain why women burned more fat than men.
The lead author of both papers, Ollie Chrzanowski-Smith of the Bath Department of Health, explains: “Our study found that women are usually more dependent on fat as a fuel source during exercise than men. Understanding the mechanisms behind these gender differences in fuel consumption may help explain why being a woman seems to confer a metabolic advantage for insulin sensitivity, an important marker of metabolic health.