Some say that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. When it comes to nutrition we’re probably still on the same planet but men certainly do have different needs to women. Many of the differences are related to the fact men are generally larger than women, with more lean body mass.
Get the basics right
Whether you are a man or a woman, the Australian Dietary Guidelines are a good place to start, and can help to guide overall food choices.
According to the guidelines, Australians should aim to include a variety of nutritious foods from each food group, including a variety of vegetables, wholegrains, fruit, proteins including lean meat, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes, and dairy.
It’s also important to drink plenty of water and limit your intake of foods that are high in saturated fat, added salt or added sugar. These foods do you more harm than good.
Choose the right fuel
The data tells us men are pretty good at meeting their protein requirements. For men aged 31-50, the average daily intake of protein was 108g per day – higher than the recommended dietary intake (RDI) of 64g per day.
When you consider that a medium chicken breast has about 20g protein and a glass of milk about 9g, it’s not hard to meet the target. The trick is choosing good quality, lean proteins. And if you incorporate high protein grains and seeds like quinoa, spelt, chia and legumes, you’ll help to boost your intake of other important nutrients like fibre, folate and iron.
If the goal is to build muscle mass, men may need to increase protein intake above the RDI. Timing can be important for lean body mass development – one strategy is to include an additional 10-20g protein within an hour of a resistance workout.
Men need good-quality carbohydrates. The trick is to be smart about the sources. Skip the refined sugars in soft drinks, sweets and processed foods. They don’t do us any favours. Instead, opt for low glycaemic index carbohydrate sources that offer fibre, protein or micro-nutrient benefits – think legumes, nuts, wholegrains, fruits and vegetables.
Some diet fads will tell you saturated fats, such as lard and butter, are healthy options but the impact of saturated fats on cholesterol levels tells a different story.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend mostly plant-based fats. And no one can argue with the choice of monounsaturated fats from extra virgin olive oil, avocado, nuts and oily fish. Add sparingly and savour!
And remember, any protein, fat, carbohydrates or alcohol above what your body needs will be stored predominantly as fat – so choose wisely, and be portion savvy!
Challenge yourself to reduce refined sugars. Start weaning the sugar out of your coffee, halve your soft drink quota and think about how much better you feel after a bowl of yoghurt and berries compared to ice cream and chocolate.
Statistics show Australian men are almost twice as likely to drink daily. This not only puts men at increased risk of injury and chronic disease, the energy intake can add up and be a significant contributor to weight gain.
Even if men and women are from the same planet, we are all uniquely different!
Accredited Practising Dietitians can provide practical, tailored advice based on the latest science, and can help motivate and support you to take charge of what you eat. Visit the ‘Find an APD’ section of the Dietitians Association of Australia website.