It is the same old, ongoing war to end all wars. Are men and women really all that different? Genetically, we are different. We have different hormones and mature at different rates. Our brains process information differently and studies suggest that we even communicate in totally different ways. But when it comes down to nutrition, are men and women really all 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 of than women and some that women need more of than men. The basic nutritional needs are similar, and only the amounts may change in many cases.
Dispelling the Myths
One of the biggest myths surrounding men and protein is that they need a lot more than women. While they do 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 a man or a woman. If you use this formula, of course you will come up with a larger number for the man, because again, you have started with a larger number to begin with. A bigger man equals a larger need for protein. Two men who are of the same exact weight may have slightly different protein needs however if one of them is a total couch potato or computer nerd whose only exercise is thumbing the scroll button on the mouse or clicking a remote, but the difference will be just that – slight.
Men may also need more protein because of the hormone testosterone, an androgen hormone that is secreted by the testes. In addition, the normal amount 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 one half during gestation. (Source: Casey. WebMD)
Watching Out for Too Much Protein
Just like too much fat can make you fat, too much protein can make you fat. It is another common myth that protein turns to muscle automatically – if you eat too much of anything, no matter what it is, the 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 get flushed out of your body but will tend to take too much of your calcium with it. The more calcium that gets flushed 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 who are under the age of 50 need about 1000 mg of calcium per day, with the need going up to 1200 mg after the age of 50. Men, on the other hand, only need 800 mg. Get more than that, and the risk for prostate cancer goes way up. That amount is equal to 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 who is younger than 50, needs about 18 mg of iron per day, but both men and women who are older than 50 only need about 8 mg.
Fiber is where men come out with the greatest need, with men who are under the age of 50 needing about 38 grams of fiber every day and over 50-year-old men needing 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 get theirs from marine based sources because of 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 their body weight each day, but where should they get it from? There are a number of sources for protein that should be considered. All proteins are classified as either complete or incomplete. A complete protein is one that supplies all eight of the 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 an essential, but most adults can synthesize it on their own). (Source: The Vegetarian Society)
All animal proteins are considered to be complete proteins because they provide all of 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 based proteins include salmon, skinless turkey breast and low fat dairy products. If it can be found, bison is another good protein source 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 is lacking in one or more of the essential amino acids, with grains, nuts and seeds low in isoleucine and lysine. Legumes tend to be low in tryptophan and methionine. (Source: Best). Combining plant proteins with another type can make up for the lack in most cases. Eating a widely varied diet is especially important for vegans and vegetarians, but even they get adequate protein intake.
Opting for Supplements
Many men are on the go from the minute that they hit the floor in the morning. They may not even take the time to eat a decent lunch or they may just end up grabbing fast food to scarf down while heading from one place to another. Not only are they getting too many calories, they are not getting the proper, balanced nutrition that they need. Using a protein supplement can take the place of some of the fast food on the go and can help them to stay healthy, active and strong. Protein is not only vital for good health, but it helps with hunger control and can keep the blood sugar levels steadier after a meal. Men are more susceptible to problems with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) than women are. There are many options for protein supplementation, including liquid protein shots, protein shakes, protein puddings, powders and of course, protein bars. It is important to read the labels and make sure that you are getting actual nutrition, including protein that you can use, instead of just a lot of empty calories, extra fat and way too much sugar. Some protein bars are nothing more than expensive candy bars and should be avoided. Profect, the liquid protein shot from Protica, is only 2.9 fluid ounces but has 25 grams of protein in it. It has zero carbs, zero fats and only 100 total calories and comes in a number of 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.