The results showed that sedentary male rats preferred the high-fat diet over the other diets.
"Our team wanted to make every effort to study female perspectives on how exercise affects diet, because most other studies neglect females," said a study author Jenna Lee from University of Missouri-Columbia.
"We wanted to take a look at what drives diet preference and if environmental factors, such as physical activity, play a role in how males and females eat," Lee added.
The team divided male and female rats into two groups - a sedentary group and one that had access to a running wheel.
Both groups ate the same food.
After a week, Lee replaced the standard diet with three optional diets: high-fat (similar to cookie dough), high-sucrose (three times more sucrose than the other two diets), and a high-cornstarch diet.
Each of the diets were matched on proteins and the rats had continuous access to all three diets for four weeks.
Male runners ate about half as much of the high-fat diet as their sedentary counterparts but increased their intake of the other two options.
Female sedentary rats, like their male counterparts, mostly stuck to the high-fat diet.
Surprisingly, female runners also preferred the high-fat diet and actually consumed slightly more calories than the sedentary females.
The research draws attention to the importance of studying both men and women in research, Lee concluded. (ANI)