Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Q & A: Difference between the type of a diet for a man and a woman?

Is there any difference between the type of a diet a man and a woman should follow for weight loss?

The main difference is that the average man has a higher metabolic rate than the average women - because he is heavier, taller and with a higher percentage of lean tissue (muscle). Therefore he will need to eat more calories (food) on his reduced-calorie diet than she does, otherwise he will feel too hungry and he may lose weight too quickly. A man should generally have approximately 20% bigger portions than a woman.

Apart from that, men and women can follow the same ' healthy eating' type of reduced-fat diet, high in vegetables, starchy carbohydrates and containing enough lean protein, and essential fats from oily fish, nuts and seeds.

Some men may need a little extra protein - for example, men who do hard physical work all day, or men who are professional sportsmen. If that sounds like you, you could increase the protein element of the meal first (fish, chicken, lean meat, pulses, low fat dairy etc) and then, if you are losing weight too quickly, add on extra carbohydrate (bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, etc) too.

However I have a feeling that most men reading this question, who need to lose weight, will NOT be professional sportsmen or highly active. Most men (like most women) who need to diet have been taking too little physical activity long-term, and such men starting a moderate activity programme are unlikely to create a need for much extra protein, at least in the early months.

Should you turn into a bicep-bulging marathon-running person later on, you may need to take professional advice on your diet as you will be outside the scope of The Diet Bible.

I used to play football twice a week - one match and one training session - but I've given up. How much less do I need to eat so that I don't put on weight?

Assuming three hours a week of fairly vigorous exercise (though with football and other team sports it is hard to be precise about calories burnt because your physical involvement is so variable) this would work out at around 7 calories used a minute, which comes to 1,260 calories burnt in total for your training and match. That equals 180 calories a day, which in turn equals a pint of mild beer, or two slices of bread, or a 9-oz potato that you would have to decline every day in order not to put on weight.

But I think the real issue here is that, having given up three hours' worth of exercise a week in the form of football, it would be sensible of you to replace it with something else. If you've given up football because you are 'too old' or incapacitated, is there any form of exercise you could now take instead - a half hour walk or cycle session a day, or similar?

So many men as young as their late 20's, and certainly by the 30's and 40's, give up almost all exercise and then wonder why they get fat and start having health problems. So don't eat less - just get out and keep active. Even if you're still slim and fit at the moment - it only takes a small amount of overeating (like 180 calories a day) and a few months of inactivity for all kinds of negatives to begin happening to your body.

I'm a typical male - I love takeaway curries, Chinese, fish and chips and so on. Are there any wise choices now I'm trying to lose weight, or is everything bad news, health and calorie-wise?

There are some better choices amongst a host of not so good takeaways, and these better choices should fit in reasonably well with a varied diet, without putting weight on you or risking your cholesterol levels. For example, tandoori chicken or fish; plain vegetable or seafood pizza, plain burger (no cheese, small chips); doner kebabs.

But even so, I would still advise you to try to limit your forays to the takeouts to once or twice a week. If lack of time is your problem, you can incorporate a few 'ready meals' into your diet - all supermarkets sell single-portion ready meals and all contain a nutrition panel. Go for meals that contain no more than 5-600 calories for a complete main meal (assuming you eat three times a day) and try to ensure that they contain no more than 15 - 20g fat. Most supermarkets have their own 'healthy eating' range of ready meals. Adding a side salad (again, you can buy ready-prepared salads) with a low-calorie French dressing will make the meal more filling, and healthier still.

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