By Rennie Aranda – Skinny Gene Nutritionist
Differences between men and women from a food and fitness perspective
There’s no denying that men and women generally have different perspectives on dieting and exercise. Many have the idea that some foods are “masculine”, such as hamburgers and steaks, while other foods, such as yogurt and quiche, are strictly for girls. Women tend to eat more fruits, vegetables, cereals, dairy products, and whole grain products, whereas the consumption of red meat, eggs, and high sucrose foods is higher in men. But do men and women truly need different diets? What about fitness? Are exercise regimens gender specific? This calls for a battle of the sexes as we determine whose idea of food and fitness is better!
Which team will reign supreme? Let the battle begin!
ROUND 1: FOOD & DIET
It is true that a healthy, balanced diet is best for both men and women. But there are differences in the nutritional needs of both genders, mainly due to physical differences. For instance, nutritional requirements in men are greater than in women, because men generally tend to be larger, taller, and possess more muscle mass than women. The reproductive hormone, testosterone, plays a part in muscle mass differences, which accounts for the extra muscle that drives extra protein and caloric requirements. Nutrients such as Iron and Calcium are important for both genders, but also differ between the two. The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for Iron are greater for women at 18 mg/day in comparison to the RDA for men at 8 mg/day due to women having their menstrual period. Calcium is also important for women to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, which is greater in women, but can also be detrimental for men at large amounts, which can lead to prostate cancer.
Although, in a general sense, nutritional needs differ between men and women, but caloric requirements depend on a number of factors such as body size, height & weight, activity level, amount of lean body mass, the quality and quantity of the food eaten, and the efficiency of the digestive system in absorbing and utilizing eaten food. Macronutrient requirements (carbohydrate, protein, and fat) depend on the individual’s total calorie needs. Point is, nutrition and diet is individual and personal, not just gender specific!
ROUND 2: HIS & HERS FITNESS
A man’s idea of working out is pumping iron, while a woman would rather pull out a yoga mat. Whose idea of fitness is better? Experts say that the major fitness difference between genders is motivation. Men generally work out to get bigger. For most men, working out is a sport and they do it because it’s fun and competitive. For many women, working out is done to help them look better and feel better about themselves. But women tend to have a more balanced approach to fitness that include a mix of cardio, strength training, and mind-body practices such as yoga. They also tend to take part in group activities and enjoy dance-based activities with toning and flexibility. Most women are interested in the social aspects of working out and feel more comfortable in a gym when they are with other people. Men prefer athletic-based activities that typically don’t require dance or overt coordination.
There are physical differences between men and women that can also affect how they approach fitness. Women tend to have less muscle mass than men, but should still use lighter weights than men to avoid injuries. Generally, men’s bodies tend to be less flexible because they are less likely to include stretching in their workouts. Men are also likely to have better upper body strength than women, but that is also where their vanity lies and they tend to work harder to focus on keeping that area better defined. In a similar sense, women tend to have better lower body strength, which can be due to them wanting to keep their glutes and legs in shape and working harder to keep those areas better defined as well.
Experts say there is no one-size-fits-all answer, but both genders could learn something from the other when it comes to fitness. Men can teach women not to be afraid to work hard. Women can handle more than they think they can, but they are afraid they will injure themselves by tearing a muscle if they push themselves too hard. A qualified personal trainer would be best to help women set their levels so they know when to push hard and when to ease off. Women can teach men that fitness can be fun. Most fitness options offer variety without sacrificing “manliness.” Sure, a man might feel a little silly in some classes, but the different movement patterns of classes like yoga, pilates, or dance classes can increase balance, core strength, and flexibility in a fun and challenging way.
When it comes to food and fitness, there are definitely factors that affect nutritional requirements and physical activity preferences. Nonetheless, diet and exercise are completely individualized and not always gender-specific. Both sexes can learn from each other and look at eating and physical activity from a different perspective. In the battle of the sexes, both genders win!