What you eat can either add to or take away from your exercise benefits, and if you’re devoting the time to working out, you want to know how to harness your meals to support your efforts, not detract from them. Choosing the proper foods is important, but so is the timing of when you eat them.
Men and women are different in this respect, according to an experiment featured on the BBC’s “Trust Me I’m A Doctor” program. Women who exercise, for instance, may be able to burn 22 percent more fat just by tweaking the timing of their meals.
Women May Burn More Fat by Eating Before Exercise; Men by Eating After
In an experiment of 30 men and women by Adam Collins, Ph.D., nutrition consultant and senior lecturer in nutrition at the University of Surrey, participants took part in three fitness classes a week (high-intensity training, Zumba and spin class).
They consumed a drink — either a caloric carbohydrate beverage or a zero-calorie placebo beverage — before and after class.
Women burned more fat overall than men, but the women who consumed the carbohydrate drink prior to exercise burned up to 22 percent more fat. Among men, however, those who consumed the carbohydrate drink after exercise burned up to 8 percent more fat.1
The discrepancy likely has to do with the body’s preferred source of fuel. Men tend to have more muscle, where carbohydrates are stored, making this their preferred fuel. Women, on the other hand, may burn fat more readily in order to conserve carbohydrates. Collins told the Daily Maill:2
“Women have more fat around hips, bums and tums, better release of fatty acids into the blood, hormonal differences which mean they can be better and more frugal at conserving glucose [sugar from carbohydrates] and burning fat.
‘This is probably an evolutionary advantage to do with pregnancy. If women are better at managing their fuels they have glucose to spare for the fetus.'”