It is quite apparent men face different health issues and needs compared to women. Moreover, these can be different throughout the life cycle. Unfortunately, men have a lot of room for health improvement in the United States. According to the most recent Centers for Disease Control’s report on men’s health, over 40 percent of men over 20 are obese, and the leading cause of death remains cardiovascular disease (1).
The two most essential strategies that have some of the greatest impacts on our health are factors that the vast majority of us control daily – nutrition and exercise. While seemingly simple, over 40 percent of adult men are not meeting the federal physical activity guidelines (1). Their diet habits are considerably worse. The overall diet quality of the average US adult man receives a failing grade, inadequate in fruits, vegetables, dairy, and essential fatty acids, while high in refined grains, added sugars, and saturated fats (2).
Since men have more muscle and typically are bigger than women, they require more calories throughout the day. Of course, this amount depends on several factors, like age, activity levels, and environment, but what men should be focusing on is quality. Here we outline some recommendations that are simple and easy to implement daily for long-term success.
Eat a Protein-Charged, Nutrient-Dense Breakfast
Dietary fasting regimens like Cleanse Days aside, eating breakfast is good. While it might seem like you can push most of your food intake into later in the day, this can have several disadvantages. Issues with appetite and getting in enough high-quality foods is obvious. Especially relevant for men, disproportionally spacing protein over the day is not advantageous to building and maintaining muscle. Consuming a high-protein breakfast can support improved metabolism, greater levels of fat-burning, and lower perceived hunger throughout the day (3).
Don’t be Scared of Fruit and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are sources of many essential nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Consumption is associated with decreased risk of chronic disease (4). Additionally, extensive research suggests people who eat more fruits and vegetables live longer and healthier lives (5). Adults in the US lack in this area, but men, in particular, are not meeting their daily target of 5 servings per day (6). Men should focus on cruciferous vegetables, dark-green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, and dark-colored berries, which have superior effects on chronic disease health outcomes (4). Try to have some at each meal and have them as a snack. One easy-to-implement tip is to blend up some berries or a handful of spinach in a shake.
Focus On the Fats You Should Be Getting More Of
Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are both considered essential fatty acids because they cannot be synthesized by our bodies and must be consumed through our diet. Omega-3 fatty acids have some very important health effects and it is recommended to increase their presence in the diet. Omega-3s are also important for muscle activity, immune function, digestion, and fertility. The three main types include Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). ALA is found in plant sources like canola oil, flaxseed, and walnuts, while EPA and DHA are mainly found in fish. DHA and EPA can impact numerous cellular pathways resulting in cardiovascular health benefits (7). An easy way to add more high-quality omega-3’s to the diet is to eat more fish. The American Heart Association recommends eating various fish (preferably oily varieties like salmon, mackerel, and sardines.) at least twice weekly (8). To ensure an optimal intake of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), you can include daily supplementation of fish oil.
Form a Nutrition Plan
Improving your diet quality and health is challenging with the abundance of processed foods, sugar, and unhealthy fats readily available. Simply saying you’re going to reduce these items will likely not lead to long-term adherence. Having a nutrition framework is key. While being careful not to be overly restrictive and understand that life happens, setting up a plan built around healthy, easy to prepare foods goes a long way. For example, a system built on nutrient-rich foods higher in protein has resulted in better adherence, weight maintenance, and metabolism after weight loss compared to traditional calorie restriction (9).
Good hydration is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can support your overall health. Water makes up approximately 60 percent of our body weight and can vary depending on size and gender (10). Hydration can come from water, food, or metabolic water production. Generally speaking, healthy adults should drink a minimum of 2 liters, or 8.5 cups of water or fluid every day. Healthy adult men who exercise 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day have been recommended (11). In relation to weight loss, thirst can often be mistaken for hunger, so food is eaten instead of drinking water or other fluid (10). A good idea is to first hydrate with a glass of water, a cup of coffee or tea, or any other sugar-free beverage before grabbing a snack.
While these recommendations may seem simple and intuitive, implementing these tips daily can go a long way in improving men’s health.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics: Men’s Health. April 14, 2021. Accessed May 5, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/mens-health.htm.
- Food and Nutrition Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Healthy Eating Index Scores for Americans. January 31, 2019. Accessed May 27, 2021. https://www.fns.usda.gov/hei-scores-americans.
- Leidy HJ, Mattes RD, Campbell WW. Effects of acute and chronic protein intake on metabolism, appetite, and ghrelin during weight loss. Obesity. 2007 May;15(5):1215-25. doi: 10.1038/oby.2007.143.
- Wallace TC, Bailey RL, Blumberg JB, Burton-Freeman B, Chen CO, Crowe-White KM, Drewnowski A, Hooshmand S, Johnson E, Lewis R, Murray R, Shapses SA, Wang DD. Fruits, vegetables, and health: A comprehensive narrative, umbrella review of the science and recommendations for enhanced public policy to improve intake. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2020;60(13):2174-2211. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2019.1632258.
- Aune D, Giovannucci E, Boffetta P, Fadnes LT, Keum N, Norat T, Greenwood DC, Riboli E, Vatten LJ, Tonstad S. Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality-a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Int J Epidemiol. 2017 Jun 1;46(3):1029-1056. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyw319.
- Ansai N, Wambogo EA. Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Among Adults in the United States, 2015-2018. NCHS Data Brief. 2021 Feb;(397):1-8.
- Endo J, Arita M. Cardioprotective mechanism of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. J Cardiol. 2016 Jan;67(1):22-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jjcc.2015.08.002.
- Van Horn L, Carson JA, Appel LJ, Burke LE, Economos C, Karmally W, Lancaster K, Lichtenstein AH, Johnson RK, Thomas RJ, Vos M, Wylie-Rosett J, Kris-Etherton P; American Heart Association Nutrition Committee of the Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health; Council on Cardiovascular Disease in the Young; Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing; Council on Clinical Cardiology; and Stroke Council. Recommended Dietary Pattern to Achieve Adherence to the American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology (AHA/ACC) Guidelines: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2016 Nov 29;134(22):e505-e529. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000462.
- Arciero PJ, Edmonds R, He F, Ward E, Gumpricht E, Mohr A, Ormsbee MJ, Astrup A. Protein-Pacing Caloric-Restriction Enhances Body Composition Similarly in Obese Men and Women during Weight Loss and Sustains Efficacy during Long-Term Weight Maintenance. Nutrients. 2016 Jul 30;8(8):476. doi: 10.3390/nu8080476.
- Lafontan M, Visscher TL, Farpour-Lambert N, Yumuk V. Opportunities for intervention strategies for weight management: global actions on fluid intake patterns. Obes Facts. 2015;8(1):54-76. doi: 10.1159/000375103.
- Mayo Clinic. Water: How much should you drink every day? October 14, 2020. Accessed June 1, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256.
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