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A comparison of the metabolic effects of sustained strenuous activity in polar environments on men and women

Lookup NU author(s): Dr David Woods



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2020, The Author(s). This study investigates differences in pre- to post-expedition energy expenditure, substrate utilisation and body composition, between the all-male Spear17 (SP-17) and all-female Ice Maiden (IM) transantarctic expeditions (IM: N = 6, 61 days, 1700 km; SP-17: N = 5, 67 days, 1750 km). Energy expenditure and substrate utilisation were measured by a standardised 36 h calorimetry protocol; body composition was determined using air displacement plethysmography. Energy balance calculation were used to assess the physical challenge. There was difference in the daily energy expenditure (IM: 4,939 kcal day−1; SP-17: 6,461 kcal day−1, p = 0.004); differences related to physical activity were small, but statistically significant (IM = 2,282 kcal day−1; SP-17 = 3,174 kcal day−1; p = 0.004). Bodyweight loss was modest (IM = 7.8%, SP-17 = 6.5%; p > 0.05) as was fat loss (IM = 30.4%, SP-17 = 40.4%; p > 0.05). Lean tissue weight change was statistically significant (IM = − 2.5%, SP-17 = + 1.0%; p = 0.05). No difference was found in resting or sleeping energy expenditure, normalised to lean tissue weight (p > 0.05); nor in energy expenditure when exercising at 80, 100 and 120 steps min−1, normalised to body weight (p > 0.05). Similarly, no difference was found in the change in normalised substrate utilisation for any of the activities (p > 0.05). Analysis suggested that higher daily energy expenditures for the men in Spear-17 was the result of higher physical demands resulting in a reduced demand for energy to thermoregulate compared to the women in Ice Maiden. The lack of differences between men and women in the change in energy expenditure and substrate utilisation, suggests no sex difference in response to exposure to extreme environments.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hattersley J, Wilson AJ, Gifford R, Facer-Childs J, Stoten O, Cobb R, Thake CD, Reynolds RM, Woods D, Imray C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Scientific Reports

Year: 2020

Volume: 10

Issue: 1

Online publication date: 17/08/2020

Acceptance date: 24/06/2020

Date deposited: 14/10/2020

ISSN (electronic): 2045-2322

Publisher: Nature Research


DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-70296-4

PubMed id: 32807833


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