Men have slightly different nutritional requirements than women, but what are the specific differences, and which nutrients do men tend to fall short on?
Some quick background: Overall, men require more calories than women, since they are typically larger and have more muscle mass, explains Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of Ancient Nutrition and member of The Vitamin Shoppe Wellness Council. This is particularly true for physically active guys.
Another factor to consider: Normal levels of circulating red blood cells are typically higher in men than women, which could also impact men nutrition-wise, Axe says. (It’s also one of the reasons women are more prone to iron deficiency anemia than men.)
With all of this info in mind, here are six important nutrients men often fall short on. Keep a close eye on your intake and consider supplementing to meet your needs.
After the age of 30, the average male loses three to eight percent of his muscle mass per decade, according to a study published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. This rate becomes even higher once a man hits 60.
“Not only is protein a macronutrient required for muscle, connective tissue, and skin synthesis, but it also provides the amino acids needed in many vital functions of the body, including neurotransmitter and hormone production,” explains The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Brittany Michels, R.D.N. “Research suggests that men need 0.8 to one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, while seniors may need 1.0 to 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram to cover basic needs.”
To make sure you’re getting your fair share of protein, Michels recommends upping your intake of red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, and beans. (Here are nine easy ways to pack in more protein.) Protein powders are also a convenient way to get in more of the muscle-supporting macronutrient.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency is quite common in both men and women. However, one The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism study found that older men are at particular risk for vitamin D deficiency—especially if they live in northern climates or are obese.
Because one of the most effective ways of getting vitamin D is through sun exposure, and more people are spending time indoors, The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Rebekah Blakely, R.D.N., believes deficiencies are becoming more common. She recommends getting at least 15 to 30 minutes of direct sunlight exposure daily. You should also have your vitamin D levels checked at your yearly physical. “This baseline number can help you figure out how much you need to supplement with,” she says.
“Some doctors may prescribe a short-term, high-dose vitamin D supplement to get levels up quickly if you are deficient,” Blakely explains. For self-supplementation, though, she recommends starting with 1,000 to 2,000 IU (that’s 25 to 50 micrograms) of vitamin D daily. “If you know you run low, up to 5,000 IU (125 micrograms) daily is safe,” she adds. Since Vitamin D is fat-soluble, take it with a meal for best absorption.
You can also fill your plate with vitamin D-fortified foods such as milk, cheese, and yogurt. Naturally vitamin-D rich foods, meanwhile, include mushrooms, fatty fish, and egg yolks.
This essential mineral is best known for its ability to help form and maintain healthy bones and teeth. Though typically associated with women, it is incredibly important for both women and men, especially as they age, to get enough calcium.
“Calcium is an under-absorbed nutrient in many men, mainly because low levels of vitamin D lead to lower levels of calcium absorption,” says Roger E. Adams, Ph.D., doctor of nutrition and owner of eatrightfitness. “Also, men tend to eat more red meat than women. The high iron content of meat can interfere with calcium absorption in the gut.”
To meet the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for calcium, adult men should consume 1,000 milligrams a day, according to American Bone Health. Some of the best food sources include dairy, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, as well as green leafy vegetables, fortified breads, and fish. For supplementation, consider Calcium Citrate Plus Vitamin D from The Vitamin Shoppe brand.
The mineral magnesium is needed for over 300 processes in the body, including protein synthesis, blood pressure regulation, blood sugar management, nerve function, and immune support, notes Axe. Research published in the journal Open Heart shows that it’s one of the nutrients men fall short on.
A report by Harvard Health suggests this may have a negative impact on cardiac health. “Low magnesium is also found to increase an inflammatory marker, C-reactive protein,” Axe adds.
Men ages 19 to 30 should consume 400 milligrams of magnesium daily, while men 31 and older should consume 420 milligrams daily. Fill your plate with leafy greens, almonds, cashews, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, and black beans, and consider taking a daily magnesium supplement.
5. Omega-3 fatty acids
While there’s not much research on men’s omega-3 fatty acid consumption, one of the leading causes of death for males in the U.S. may be linked to falling short on it.
One study published in the journal Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes, and Essential Fatty Acids suggests that both men and women could benefit from taking an omega-3 supplement. “This fatty acid plays a significant role in heart and brain health,” says Michels.
In terms of your diet, Michels recommends consuming EPA- and DHA-rich seafood and algae, as well as ALA-containing flax, chia seeds, and walnuts daily. Though daily recommended intakes of EPA and DHA don’t exist, men should consume 1.6 grams of ALA per day.
Fiber comes from the part of plant foods that our bodies can’t completely break down or digest. “It helps clean out our digestive tract, keeps us full, and adds bulk to our stools,” Blakely explains. “It also supports various other areas of health, including cholesterol and blood sugar levels.”
Research, like one study published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, shows that neither men nor women get their fair share of fiber. Yet while women need just about 25 grams per day, men need 38.
You can score fiber from vegetables, fruit, beans, lentils, and fiber-fortified foods. “If you find it hard to meet daily fiber recommendations through your diet, though, you may want to consider a fiber supplement,” adds Blakely.
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