Weary of trying to cut through the clutter of misinformation and unsupported claims about what you should or shouldn’t be eating? With so much information at our fingertips, it can be really challenging to separate fact from fiction. But eating nutritiously doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are four essential tips to help ensure you’re getting the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy and energetic.
Don’t Skimp on Protein
“I believe there is a large population of men who miss out on their daily basic nutritional needs,” says Tim Hughes, Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach at Hughes Health in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. “And so much of it stems from the fact that men generally have a higher lean muscle mass percentage than women. That greater degree of muscle mass needs to be supported through proper diet, and that begins with protein intake” he concludes.
So don’t skimp on protein, especially if you’re looking to build muscle. The extra muscle mass that men carry (compared to women) is due to elevated levels of testosterone circulating in the male body. And maintaining and building that extra muscle mass requires fuel from dietary protein because skeletal muscle, in its most basic form, is made up of microscopic protein filaments. But how much protein? The answer depends on the type of activity you perform.
For weight lifters, powerlifters and anyone who performs resistance training (machines, bands, dumbbells, body-weight exercises), the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends a daily protein intake of between 1.4 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight to build muscle mass (or approx. 0.64 to 0.82 grams of protein per pound of body weight). What does that actually look like on a plate? Let your hand be your guide: a standard 3 oz (85 g) serving of meat or fish should fit into your palm; a half-cup (100g ) of plant-based protein such as beans or legumes equals the size of your fist; two tablespoons (30 grams) of protein-packed nut butters is about the size of your thumb.
Don’t Skimp on Carbohydrates
“Carbohydrates are the sidekick to proteins,” says Huges. “Carbs support proper protein synthesis. You need to keep carbs at a healthy level if your aim is to add lean muscle mass.” What does that mean? First and foremost, include carbs in your post-workout meal. Carbohydrates trigger the release of insulin, which allows for both glucose and amino acids (the building blocks of protein) to be taken up by muscle cells. A 2012 research study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition suggested that combining a fast-acting carbohydrate with a protein after a vigorous workout can be an effective means of increasing muscle protein synthesis. Consuming a 3:1 protein-to-carbohydrate ratio with approximately 30–40 grams of carbs is a well-established formula for post-workout muscle growth.
Get your Daily Dose of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
From cardiovascular and brain health to joint health, omega 3s offer numerous benefits. They also are believed to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is the immune system’s response to injury or illness. High-intensity workouts increase inflammation and omega 3s contain strong anti-inflammatory properties to reduce post-exercise inflammation and speed recovery.
Follow the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet combines all three macronutrients (proteins, carbs and healthy fats) into one nutritional powerhouse for men. “[The Mediterranean diet] is one of the most well researched preventative and therapeutic dietary interventions for cardiometabolic health and one of the most common prescriptions I make to my male patients,” says naturopathic doctor Liam LaTouche, ND, of Liam LaTouche Wellness in Toronto Ontario, Canada.
The diet is primarily plant-based with a heavy emphasis on vegetables and fruits, whole grains and legumes, healthy fats and oils, nuts and seeds, with limited intake of red meat, butter and added sugars. Research suggests it is particularly helpful for treating metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of conditions that include elevated blood pressure, blood sugar levels, abdominal circumference, blood fat levels, and decreased levels of good (HDL) cholesterol a. “Combined with exercise and stress reduction,” LaTouche says, “the Mediterranean Diet is a safe, natural, and effective nutrition program to improve the health of men of all ages.”
Eating healthfully doesn’t have to be difficult or confusing. Following these basic tips can go a long way toward improving your overall health and well-being.