Top 10 Important Nutritional Needs for Men’s Health
This blog has not been approved by your local health department and is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice.
In this article:
- But First, Calories
- 1. Protein
- 2. Fiber
- 3. Omega-3s
- 4. Vitamin D
- 5. Calcium
- 6. Magnesium
- 7. Vitamin C
- 8. Creatine
- 9. Collagen
- 10. Fenugreek Extract
- Regular Primary Care Checkups
- Wellness One Nutrient at a Time
When it comes to nutrition, we generally all need the same thing: food that provides energy and nutrients like vitamins and minerals. But a healthy diet looks different depending on your age and gender.
Men tend to have more muscle mass, larger stature, and a higher metabolism than women. Therefore, we generally need more calories and fiber throughout the day, as well as higher amounts of certain essential vitamins and minerals compared with women. Men also have gender-specific nutrient needs, such as promoting healthy testosterone levels.1
Before diving into specific nutrient recommendations, you’ll want to make sure total calorie intake is in check. On average, men have higher calorie needs than women, averaging around 2,220 to 3,000 calories per day. Depending on your goals, you may need more or fewer calories than this average.
Aim to consume about 45% to 65% of your total calories from carbohydrates to give you energy, about 10% to 35% of total calories from protein to help maintain muscle mass, and the remaining 20% to 35% of calories from fat to help keep you full.1
Your calorie needs will vary based on your age, height, weight, activity level, and gender. Males tend to have a higher metabolism than females, so it’s important to understand your recommended caloric intake.1
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most important nutrients for men so you can plan a diet that keeps you healthy and feeling your best.
The current daily recommended intake (DRI) of protein for the average adult male is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.1 However, for men who exercise regularly, this recommendation may be too low.
According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), consuming 20 to 40 grams of high-quality protein every three to four hours is sufficient and helps support muscle protein synthesis, healthy body composition, and performance in the gym.2
You might be thinking, “Well, what is a ‘high-quality’ protein source?” High-quality protein sources contain all nine essential amino acids at adequate levels. They are also known as “complete proteins.” Complete proteins usually come from animal sources, though some plant-based proteins, like soy and quinoa, also contain all essential amino acids.3
Although whey protein products are typically lactose-free, if you have a dairy allergy, egg white protein or soy are excellent complete protein alternatives. If you are vegan, try soy-based protein products or look for protein powders or products that contain a blend of plant-based proteins—like rice, pea, hemp, and chia seed—as opposed to a protein source that contains only one of these ingredients.
Regardless of whether you are trying to gain, lose, or maintain your current weight, protein powders and bars are convenient to have on hand to ensure you’re getting enough protein.
Most of us do not meet our daily recommendation for fiber intake. In fact, 97% of men fall short of the recommended 28 to 34 grams of fiber per day.
There are two types of fiber to incorporate into your diet:
- Soluble fiber: Helps lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels. Sources of soluble fiber include oats, beans, peas, barley, and apples.
- Insoluble fiber: Improves bowel health. Insoluble fiber is found in wheat bran, nuts, and veggies like cauliflower, green beans, and potatoes.
Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are excellent sources of dietary fiber. A high fiber diet can help with gut motility, lowering inflammation, and decreasing the risk of heart disease.4
Try to incorporate plenty of fruits, veggies, and whole grains into your everyday diet to reap the benefits of a high-fiber diet. If you’re having trouble getting enough fiber from whole foods, consider taking a fiber supplement.
Men need about 1.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids daily.1 Research suggests getting enough omega-3s in your diet along with proper caloric intake may help decrease your risk of diet-related chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
Omega-3s are involved in many important body processes, including the creation of cell membranes for brain and sperm cells.5
Cold-water fatty fish, like salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and sardines, are excellent sources of omega-3s. Vegetarian sources include chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, and canola oil.
If you don’t usually consume several servings of omega-3-rich fish weekly, or if you are a vegetarian or vegan, consider taking fish oil or an algae-based omega-3 supplement to ensure you are getting enough of this important healthy fat.1,5
More than 90% of men do not get enough vitamin D, which is a problem because sufficient vitamin D is crucial for bone health.1 The combination of adequate vitamin D and calcium intake helps prevent the weakening or softening of bones. Vitamin D also plays an important role in calcium absorption, supporting the immune system, and reducing inflammation.
Men should consume at least 600 IU (or 15 micrograms) of vitamin D daily.1 The most common source of vitamin D is sunlight exposure. Spending 5 to 30 minutes outdoors at least twice a week can help ensure are getting enough vitamin D.6
Food sources naturally rich in vitamin D are rare, but fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout, and herring) and fish liver oils—such as cod liver oil—contain vitamin D. Because few foods are rich in vitamin D, and many of us live in northern climates where the sun is too low in the sky to effectively produce enough vitamin D in our skin (especially during the winter months), you should consider taking a vitamin D supplement.1,6
Like vitamin D, calcium helps promote bone health. Research also suggests that adequate calcium intake can help reduce your risk of colon and rectal cancer.
About 30% of men do not consume the recommended 1000 milligrams of calcium per day. The following calcium-rich and fortified foods can help you meet your needs:1
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy products (milk, cheese, Greek yogurt, etc.)
- Bok choy
- Fortified cereals
- Fortified orange juice
If you don’t eat much dairy or think your calcium intake is low, you can take a calcium supplement to fill any gaps. Depending on the type of calcium you take, you may need to time your calcium so you are not taking it with other medications or even supplements. Check with your physician or registered dietitian for guidance.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a significant role in muscle contraction, physical performance, and helping the body produce energy.8,9 When magnesium intake is low, your energy levels and physical performance can suffer. If you have low testosterone levels, you may benefit from sufficient magnesium intake combined with increased physical activity.8
You should consume about 420 milligrams of magnesium every day.1 Many foods are rich in magnesium, including:9
- Pumpkin seeds
- Chia seeds
- Black beans
In addition to incorporating more magnesium-rich foods into your everyday diet, consider taking a magnesium supplement to ensure you are meeting your needs.
Vitamin C is important for wound healing and collagen production. As a potent antioxidant, getting enough vitamin C may help prevent or slow the development of certain cancers. Also, a diet high in antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in adult males.10,11
You only need 90 milligrams of vitamin C per day, which you can easily get through a variety of foods like red bell pepper, citrus fruits, strawberries, and broccoli.1,10
Research indicates people of all ages may benefit from creatine supplementation. Creatine not only helps enhance strength, increase muscle mass, and improve recovery after a workout, but a growing body of evidence suggests creatine supplementation may help decrease cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and reduce fat buildup in the liver, minimize bone loss, and boost cognitive function.12
If you do any kind of regular exercise, you should consider taking a creatine supplement. The International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends 3 to 5 grams of creatine monohydrate per day.
Collagen supplementation may help prevent bone collagen breakdown and relieve pain from certain joint conditions, such as osteoarthritis.13 Supplementing with 15 grams of collagen daily can help improve joint pain and joint function.
Pair collagen supplements with vitamin C and physical activity to get the greatest health benefits.13 And look for the words “hydrolyzed” or “peptides” when choosing your collagen supplement.
After we hit 30, testosterone concentrations decline in men at a rate of about 1% each year. Fenugreek seed extract in dosages of 500 to 600 milligrams per day may help fight this decline.14
Fenugreek is an herb commonly used in Indian, North African, and Middle Eastern cuisines. It has a flavor profile similar to maple syrup.
While there are no known side effects of using whole fenugreek, taking too much fenugreek extract can lead to gastrointestinal stress. Always check with your physician, registered dietitian, or other qualified healthcare professional before beginning a new supplement.15
Seeing your doctor isn’t a nutrition recommendation, but it is important nonetheless. The Mayo Clinic recommends seeing your primary care physician every three to five years for men younger than 50 years old, and then annually beyond this age.16
The best way to make sure you are meeting all your nutrient needs is to consider them one by one. Take protein for example. Are you consuming enough protein? Can you make any dietary changes to add more protein to your diet or do you need to supplement with a protein powder?
Once you’ve met this goal, try to incorporate a new goal—such as meeting your fiber intake. With each new change you make, you’ll be one step closer to living a healthier lifestyle and becoming a better version of yourself.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf
- Kerksick CM, Arent S, Schoenfeld BJ, et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2017;14:33 doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0189-4 https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-017-0189-4
- Lopez MJ, Mohiuddin SS. Biochemistry, Essential Amino Acids. StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL), 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557845/
- Barber TM, Kabisch S, Pfeiffer AFH, Weickert MO. The Health Benefits of Dietary Fibre. Nutrients 2020;12(10) doi: 10.3390/nu12103209 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33096647/
- Office of Dietary Supplements – Omega-3 Fatty Acids. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/. Published Aug. 17, 2021. Accessed March 29, 2022.
- Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin D. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/. Published Nov 17, 2021. Accessed March 29, 2022.
- Office of Dietary Supplements - Calcium. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/. Published Nov. 17, 2021. Accessed March 29, 2022.
- Maggio, M., De Vita, F., Lauretani, F., Nouvenne, A., Meschi, T., Ticinesi, A., Dominguez, L. J., Barbagallo, M., Dall’Aglio, E., & Ceda, G. P. The interplay between magnesium and testosterone in modulating physical function in men. Int J Endocrinolgy 2014;(1–9). doi: 10.1155/2014/525249 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3958794/
- Office of Dietary Supplements – Magnesium. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/. Published March 1, 2022. Accessed March 30, 2022.
- Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin C. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/. Published March 27, 2021. Accessed March 30, 2022.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Leading causes of death-all races and origins-males - united states, 2017. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/healthequity/lcod/men/2017/all-races-origins/index.htm Published Nov. 20, 2019. Accessed March 30, 2020.
- Kreider RB, Kalman DS, Antonio J, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2017;14:18 doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z
- Khatri M, Naughton RJ, Clifford T, Harper LD, Corr L. The effects of collagen peptide supplementation on body composition, collagen synthesis, and recovery from joint injury and exercise: a systematic review. Amino Acids 2021;53(10):1493-506 doi: 10.1007/s00726-021-03072-x https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8521576/
- Smith SJ, Lopresti AL, Teo SYM, Fairchild TJ. Examining the Effects of Herbs on Testosterone Concentrations in Men: A Systematic Review. Adv Nutr 2021;12(3):744-65 doi: 10.1093/advances/nmaa134 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33150931/
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020, August). Fenugreek. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Retrieved March 30, 2022, from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/fenugreek
- Benson, Scott (2021, July 6). Men's Health: Checkups, screenings key. Mayo Clinic Health System. Retrieved March 30, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/mens-health-checkups-and-screenings-are-key