It is the same old war to end all wars. Are the men and women really so different? Genetically, we are different. We have different hormones and we mature at different rates. Our brain processes information differently and studies suggest that we even communicate in totally different ways. But when it comes to nutrition, are men and women really that different? The simplest answer is yes, men and women are completely different when it comes to our nutritional needs. There are some things that men need more than women and others that women need more than men. The basic nutritional needs are similar and only the amounts can change in many cases.
Dispelling the myths
One of the biggest myths surrounding men and protein is that they need much more than women. While they need more, it is not because they are building more muscle or because they are stronger, it is simply because men tend to be taller and heavier than women. The basic determination of how much protein you need follows the same formula, whether you are male or female. If you use this formula, of course you will get a higher number for the man, because again, you have started with a higher number to begin with. A bigger man equates to a greater need for protein. Two men who are the exact same weight may have slightly different protein needs, however, if one of them is a TV addict or computer nerd whose only exercise is pressing the mouse scroll button or clicking a control remote, but the difference will be just that – slight.
Men may also need more protein due to the hormone testosterone, an androgen hormone secreted by the testes. Also, the normal number of red blood cells in a man’s circulatory system is much higher than that of a non-pregnant woman. A woman’s blood volume can increase by half during pregnancy. (Source: Casey. WebMD)
Beware of excess protein
Just as too much fat can make you fat, too much protein can make you fat. Another common myth is that protein automatically turns into muscle – if you eat too much of anything, no matter what it is, your body will turn it into fat, period. Another problem with excess protein can be even more serious. If you eat more protein than you really need, it will eventually be eliminated from your body, but you will tend to absorb too much calcium. The more calcium that is removed from your system, the greater the risk of osteoporosis. While men can be affected by this bone stealing disease, it affects women at a much higher rate.
Women under the age of 50 need about 1,000 mg of calcium per day, and the need increases to 1,200 mg after age 50. Men, on the other hand, only need 800 mg. Consume more than that and your risk of prostate cancer increases dramatically. That amount is roughly three servings of dairy. There is a discrepancy in the need for iron between men and women, which evens out after a woman turns 50. A woman under the age of 50 needs about 18 mg of iron per day, but both men and women over the age of 50 only need about 8 mg.
Fiber is where men are most in need, men under 50 need about 38 grams of fiber every day, and men over 50 need about 30 grams. Women need 25 grams and 21 grams, respectively. (Source: Tsang, RD 2007)
It is important to note that while both men and women should strive to increase their levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, men should only obtain theirs from marine sources due to an increase in the rate of prostate cancer associated with the other types.
Choosing the right proteins
So men only need about 8 grams of protein per kg of body weight each day, but where should they get it from? There are several sources of protein that must be considered. All proteins are classified as complete or incomplete. A complete protein is one that provides the eight essential amino acids. The body can make many of its own amino acids, with the exception of leucine, isoleucine, valine, threonine, methionine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, and lysine. (In children, the amino acid histidine is also considered essential, but most adults can synthesize it themselves.) (Source: The Vegetarian Society)
All animal proteins are considered complete proteins because they provide all the essential amino acids in addition to other nutrients. However, animal proteins, especially some meats, are also high in saturated fat and cholesterol, as well as calories. Good animal proteins include salmon, skinless turkey breast, and low-fat dairy products. If it can be found, bison is another good source of protein because it is lower in fat, especially saturated fat, than other red meats.
Plant proteins are typically incomplete proteins, with the exception of soy, which is the only one that is complete. Each of the plant protein sources lacks one or more of the essential amino acids, with grains, nuts, and seeds low in isoleucine and lysine. Vegetables tend to be low in tryptophan and methionine. (Source: Best). The combination of vegetable proteins with another type can compensate for the lack in most cases. Eating a highly varied diet is especially important for vegans and vegetarians, but even they get adequate protein intake.
Opting for supplements
Many men are on the move from the moment they hit the ground in the morning. They may not even take the time to eat a decent lunch or they may end up eating fast food to gobble up on their way from place to place. Not only are they getting too many calories, they are not getting the proper, balanced nutrition they need. Using a protein supplement can replace some of the takeout fast food and can help you stay healthy, active, and strong. Protein is not only vital for good health, it also helps control hunger and can keep blood sugar levels more stable after a meal. Men are more susceptible to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) problems than women. There are many options for protein supplementation, including liquid protein shots, protein shakes, protein puddings, powders, and of course protein bars. It’s important to read labels and make sure you’re getting real nutrition, including the protein you can use, rather than just a lot of empty calories, extra fat, and too much sugar. Some protein bars are nothing more than expensive candy bars and should be avoided. Profect, Protica’s liquid protein shot, is only 2.9 fluid ounces but contains 25 grams of protein. It has zero carbohydrates, zero fat, and only 100 total calories and comes in several flavors to choose from.
Ben Best. Does Excess Protein Cause Kidney Damage?
John Casey. Men have special nutritional needs. WebMd
Gloria Tsang, RD. Men vs. Women: Differences in Nutritional Requirements Healthcastle.com. October 2007.