Men vs. Women Differences in Nutritional Requirements

From eating a variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups to consuming less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars, the USDA’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) encourage healthy eating patterns to promote health, prevent chronic disease, and help people reach and maintain a healthy weight. But with the DGAs encompassing both genders, do nutritional requirements for males and females differ from one another?

Nutritional Needs: Adult Females versus Males

Calories
Although calories should not be the primary focus of a nutritious diet, the amount of them consumed should be considered. Caloric needs vary based on muscle mass, activity levels, age, and gender.

Women: According to the USDA, adult women typically need 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day.

Men: The healthy range for most men likely varies between 2,000 to 3,200 calories per day.

Protein
While protein requirements for women and men vary based on a number of factors, including muscle mass and activity levels, the dietary reference intake (DRI) for both males and females is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (g/kg) of body weight. However, the International Society of Sports Nutrition positions that protein intakes of 1.4 to 2.0 g/kg for physically active individuals is not only safe, but may improve adaptations to exercise training.

Women: Based on the DRI, sedentary women should be consuming 46 grams of protein per day.

Men: Men require additional protein to support their greater muscle mass but oftentimes overestimate just how much they need, as muscles are essentially only capable of absorbing an approximate 30 grams of protein during each meal. So how much really do men need? The same formula applies to them, with the DRI equating to 56 grams a day for a sedentary male.

Fiber
Dietary fiber is an indigestible plant component that promotes digestive and heart health, along with playing a significant role in managing both weight and blood sugars.

Women: 25 grams per day.

Men: 38 grams per day.

Water
Speaking of fiber… When increasing fiber, water needs also increase. But water is not only beneficial for digestion, but is vital to support physiological processes and sustain life. General recommendations for daily water intake suggests at least 64-ounces a day, or eight 8-ounce cups. However, the adequate intake (AI) of fluid varies between genders, which includes plain water, milk, and other drinks. Ultimately, health experts suggest water is the preferred fluid source to not only moderate calories, but to stay hydrated.

Women: The AI for women (ages 19 and older) is 2,100 milliliters (mL), or about eight cups per day. Pregnant and lactating women are generally encouraged to increase fluid intake to nine cups daily.

Men: The AI for men is 2,600 mL, or about 10 cups per day.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Although fat is oftentimes feared, omega-3 fatty acids are just as imperative to health as carbs, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Omega-3s are broken down into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and contributes to normal fetal development, supports heart health, eases joint pain, promotes mental health, protects the brain, fights against aging, and reduces inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) symptoms.

Women: The AI of omega-3s, for women aged 19 and older, is 1.1 grams per day. Considering omega-3 fatty acids are vital for fetal and infant growth and development of the central nervous system, pregnant women require extra, or 1.4 grams per day. Women should also choose from fish varieties higher EPA and DHA content and lower in methyl mercury, including salmon, herring, sardines, and trout, along with avoiding the intake of king mackerel, shark, swordfish, and tilefish and keeping albacore tuna to no more than six ounces per week. Lactating women should obtain 1.3 grams per day, along with consuming one to two servings of fish per week, to achieve 200 to 300 mg of DHA and guarantee adequate amount of DHA in breast milk for baby.

Men: The AI for men is 1.6 grams per day, while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA) advises to consume no more than three grams a day of EPA and DHA combined, including up to two grams a day from supplements.

Calcium
Calcium is a mineral needed by both genders to support bone health, although women often have greater needs.

Women: Based on recommended dietary allowances (RDAs), women aged 19 to 50 years need 1,000 milligrams (mg), including when pregnant and lactating. However, women are more susceptible than men to weakened bones and osteoporosis with women 51 years and older requiring 1,200 mg per day.

Men: Like women, men aged 19 to 50 require 1,000 mg of calcium each day, though the recommendation increases to 1,200 mg at age 71.

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