Exercise, appetite and weight control: are there differences between men and women?

Recent years have witnessed significant research interest surrounding the interaction among exercise, appetite and energy balance, which has important implications for health. The majority of exercise and appetite regulation studies have been conducted in males. Consequently, opportunities to examine sex-based differences have been limited, but represent an interesting avenue of inquiry considering postulations that men experience greater weight loss after exercise interventions than women. This article reviews the scientific literature relating to the acute and chronic effects of exercise on appetite control in men and women. The consensus of evidence demonstrates that appetite, appetite-regulatory hormone and energy intake responses to acute exercise do not differ between the sexes, and there is little evidence indicating compensatory changes occur after acute exercise in either sex. Limited evidence suggests women respond to the initiation of exercise training with more robust compensatory alterations in appetite-regulatory hormones than men, but whether this translates to long-term differences is unknown. Current exercise training investigations do not support sex-based differences in appetite or objectively assessed energy intake, and increasing exercise energy expenditure elicits at most a partial energy intake compensation in both sexes. Future well-controlled acute and chronic exercise studies directly comparing men and women are required to expand this evidence base.