Disclaimer : I am a physiology instructor and a biochemist. And thank you, I have a lecture on exercise physiology in a few weeks. This will make a great discussion topic.
Links are from a simple Pubmed search. Don't just read the first one, it will skew you to thinking that men are naturally superior all around. It does not take into account ultraendurance events as discussed here. That said, it is from Science.
Most research indicates that women and men have compensatory mechanisms in place that make them equal to each other. There was a lot of talk in the early 90's about women's superioroty in these events, as that they were gaining on men in the Olympics and Ironman type events. This was a statsitical analomy brought about by an increased interest in these sports by women, and by doping by Eastern Bloc nations in the 80s.
But most current research says that women & men are probably fundamentally equal in potential for ultraedndurance, but men edge out in high endurance (Ironman, marathon). Men have a greater oxygen carrying capacity. Men have larger hearts & lungs, proportionally, and have higher RBC counts. Testosterone is a positive inotrope; it increases the contractile force of striated muscle like skeletal muscle and the heart. The RBC counts are partially due to the absence of menses, but that only accounts for part of the difference. The larger lungs allow for a decreased percentage dead space, as well as increased tidal volume. Larger heart means greater stroke volume, which means moving more blood with less work.
Women, OTOH, use less O2 than men because the muscles focus on use of fatty acids (beta oxidation) rather than carbohydrates (glycogenolysis, glycolysis, and ox phos). The oxygen effects cancel each other out, giving no clear advantage to one over the other. Some people suggest that the reduced O2 demand by women may give them an advantage, but decreased carboloading effects make some people skeptical. I'm on the fence, personally.
This only has an impact on submaximal levels of activity, like endurance training. At maximal levels, men win out because of the ready use of anearobic stores like glycogen, resistance to entering anaerobic phase, and inotropic effects of testosterone.
That said, that is one incredible woman. It is her dedication to the task that makes her great at what she does, it is not her gender.
There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
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