The debate has been going on for centuries. Are there real differences between men and women? If so, what are those differences, exactly? The genetics are certainly different. Hormones, of course, are very different. Boys and girls even grow up at different rates. These differences also mean there are different nutritional needs – in some cases, very different. There are just some things that women will need more than men and vice versa. The basics are not very different, but the amounts of specific nutrients may change.
Debunking Some Misconceptions
A common misconception is that men need a lot more protein than women. Actually, this is true, to a point. Men do need more protein, but not because they are necessarily more muscular than women and need more muscle building power to function. Men just tend to be taller and heavier. The basic way to determine how much protein a person needs is mass and men just have more mass. The bigger the person, the more protein they will require. Two men who weigh the same may have different needs in protein if one just sits around watching television in his free time while the other exercises daily, but those differences will likely not be very pronounced.
Men also need just a little more protein because of the hormone testosterone, which only occurs in men and is secreted by the testes. Men also have a higher red blood cell count than any woman who isn’t currently pregnant. The blood volume of a woman can increase by fifty percent during pregnancy.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Too much fat can make you fat. That’s obvious. Too much protein can make you fat, too. Another of those misconceptions is that protein always turns into muscle. The thing about food – no matter what it is, it will turn into fat if you eat too much of it. Excess protein can cause other health problems as well, as with an overabundance of any nutrients. When your body has too much protein, it flushes it out of the body, along with a great deal of calcium, which your body needs to build your bones. This can lead to osteoporosis. Women are much more likely to suffer from this disease, but men can be affected as well.
Other Important Nutrients
Women who are younger than fifty should have about 1000 mg of calcium every day. They will need 200 mg more after reaching the age of fifty. Men can get by with about 800 mg per day. Taking too much calcium will increase the risk of prostate cancer. Three servings of dairy per day should be enough. There is a difference in the need for iron between men and women, at least up to a certain age. Women younger than fifty need about 18 mg of iron every day, but once a woman is fifty or older, she only needs 8 mg per day, which is the amount men of any age should take.
On the other hand, men need a great deal more fiber than women. Men younger than fifty should have about 38 grams of fiber per day, decreasing it to 30 grams after fifty. Women should have 25 grams of fiber per day when younger than fifty, and 21 grams when older.
Everyone, male or female, should have a good amount of Omega-3 fatty acids, but men need to get theirs from sea-based sources. Other types of Omega-3 fatty acids can increase the risk of prostate cancer.
Which Proteins Are the Right Proteins?
The right amount of protein is about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight every day. Where is the best place to get that protein? There are all kinds of sources that can be looked at when it comes to daily protein intake.
Protein comes in two basic types: complete and incomplete. A complete protein comes with all eight of the essential amino acids. These are amino acids the human body cannot make by itself. They are: leucine, isoleucine, valine, threonine, methionine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, and lysine. There is another essential amino acid added for children, histidine, but adult bodies can create this without help.
The easiest complete proteins to find are animal proteins. These always contain all the essential amino acids. Unfortunately, these proteins, especially some of the meats, tend to be high in saturated fats and cholesterol, not to mention high in calories. Some of the healthier meat options include skinless turkey breast, salmon, and low fat dairy. It may be difficult to obtain in some places, but bison is a good source of low fat meat, even though it is considered a red meat.
Plant proteins are virtually all incomplete, but for one exception: soy. Every other plant protein lacks at least one of the essential amino acids. Grains, nuts, and seeds, for instance, are too low in isoleucine and lysine, while legumes do not have enough tryptophan and methionine. Some plant sources of protein can be combined to make up for the deficiencies. Vegans and vegetarians especially need to follow a diet with lots of variation to ensure they get the proper amount of protein.
Many men hit the floor in the morning and keep going until they come home from work again. Many men habitually work through lunch or just grab fast food between stops. Unfortunately, that is too many calories and too little actual nutrition.