The days when we believed all that was needed for good nutrition was to simply follow the guidelines set forth in the food pyramid are long gone. Today we know that obtaining optimal nutrition takes a multifaceted approach. Further, what is right for women nutritionally is not the same as what is right for men.
While nutritional needs of men and women certainly overlap, certain factors such as men’s body composition, hormones, disease risk levels, and more all add up to mean that men need to follow slightly different recommendations to give your bodies what they need for health and wellness. To achieve optimal nutritional goals, it is critical for men to know their unique needs and take steps to meet these needs. Gentlemen, read on to find out what you need to know to optimize your nutrition!
1. Protein Quality Matters. Protein is a key nutrient for men and women, but men have higher protein needs than women due to their (generally) larger frames and higher level of muscle composition. Most men know the importance of getting plenty of protein in their diets for energy levels, muscle growth, and healthy body composition, but fewer men know is that the quality of the protein consumed matters as much as the quantity consumed.
Many protein bars and powders on the market are filled with sugars, soy isolates, and artificial ingredients. Avoid these harmful ingredients and still get the much needed protein by sticking to lean meats, eggs, nuts, and beans for protein sources. If you find you need to supplement your protein intake, look for bars and powders made with natural ingredients and no or low sugar content.
2. Nutritional Needs Change Throughout Your Life. Just as your nutritional needs change in infancy and early childhood, they continue to change throughout the lifespan. Vitamins and minerals become harder for your body to absorb. This difficulty in nutrient absorption increases the amount of vitamins and nutrients men need to consume each day.
Another change lies in the fact that a man’s metabolism also slows more each decade, resulting in the need for fewer calories than earlier in life. The slowing metabolism can also result in a man needing to take a supplement such as BCAA to aid in weight management.
3. Vitamin D is for More than Just Bone Health. Television programs, magazine articles, and health websites alike all frequently feature pieces advising women on the significant role vitamin D plays in promoting and protecting good bone health. While this is undoubtedly true and immensely important for women, Vitamin D is important for men too! And while it is critical for men’s bone health as well, it plays a bigger role in men’s nutrition than bone health alone. Vitamin D also helps men build and maintain strength by preventing muscle weakness. Even further, vitamin D is also attributed with helping with mental sharpness, reducing abdominal fat, and protecting heart health. Men, don’t miss out on the vital role vitamin D plays for you.
4. Don’t Neglect Veggies. A heaping plate full of salad is often stereotypically thought of as food only women eat, but for men to fully optimize your nutrition plenty of produce must be part of your daily diet-in salads and otherwise! Dark leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, and other brightly colored vegetables are some of the best sources of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants men can add to their plates. Options like salads are terrific because they give you an opportunity to load multiple vegetables into one meal, but any way you can make vegetables a mainstay in your diet is an investment in good health both immediately and in the long term.
5. Omega 3s Are Essential! Essential fatty acids help with optimal brain function, protecting heart health, and decreasing internal inflammation. It is especially crucial for men to focus on getting plenty of the essential fatty acid omega 3 because omega 3s do not occur as abundantly in most diets as omega 6s and cannot be produced by your body like omega 9s. Including ample amounts of foods like wild caught salmon, walnuts, and chia seeds in the diet will help to increase the amount of omega 3s in a man’s diet, but because it can be challenging to get sufficient levels even with these efforts, and because omega 3s are indeed ‘essential’ for optimal health and wellness, most doctors recommend taking an omega 3 supplement as part of a healthy diet. Look for an essential fatty acid supplement that includes only omega 3s and take it each day.