Surprising Nutritional Differences Between the Sexes
It’s generally accepted in the scientific community that women’s nutritional needs are different than those of men. Albeit, it’s minor and arguably most extreme during pregnancy and post-natal, but in the end women and men have slightly different needs for nutrients.
The latest research published in Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, however, suggests that there may be major differences between men and women when it comes to sports nutrition. Past research has suggested that protein ingested along with carbohydrates increases exercise time to exhaustion and power output; as well as stimulating shorter recovery times after exercise. The vast majority of this research, ironically, has been done only with male subjects. It was assumed the same results could be applied to women and there simply was no data to suggest otherwise.
Enter this latest study done only with women. The researchers found that women ingesting a carbohydrate drink along with protein did not garner the same benefits as men. The women showed no clear benefit from protein during recovery. They couldn’t ride harder or longer (cyclists were used for the study). In fact, the women who received protein said that their legs felt more tired and sore during the intervals than did women who downed only carbohydrates. The results, said the study’s primary researcher, were “something of a surprise.”
What should you take away with this new information? First, it’s simply one study done with a small group and certainly should not be considered as dogma. In this particular study the athletes were not hampered, but they certainly didn’t receive the same performance benefits as men. It does suggest that female athletes may need to experiment more with nutritional practices and not strictly adhere to accepted norms. Perhaps more protein or more carbohydrates or maybe another nutrient would have helped the study’s subjects. We don’t know all the answers. That’s the subject for another study, and, hopefully, the researchers will include women!