Cutting calories, eating healthier and exercising a little more are the basic rules for losing weight and burning fat. At a certain stage, however, you'll need to take your diet a step further and look at it in more detail, especially regarding gender differences. On the whole, a fat-burning diet for a man won't be too dissimilar to a female's fat-burning diet, but there are a few subtle differences.
The Calorie Factor
Energy balance -- calories in versus calories out -- is at the heart of fat loss. You must consume fewer calories than you burn to force your body to use stored fat for energy. As men tend to be heavier and carry more lean body mass than women, their average calorie needs are higher. The U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests active men aim for between 2,400 and 3,200 calories per day to maintain weight, depending on age and weight. To lose weight, you'll need less than a maintenance level, so start at around 2,600 to 2,800 and lower it if you don't see any change in fat mass.
Meeting Macronutrient Needs
Protein, carbohydrate and fat are the three macronutrients and you need all of them for a successful fat-oss diet. Due to a higher level of muscle mass, you need more protein as a man, writes nutritionist Lyle McDonald in "The Protein Book." Dieting men partaking in a strength-training routine need up to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily, compared to just 1.2 grams per pound for women. For men not involved in heavy training, around 0.7 gram per pound is adequate, notes McDonald. Men also use carbs more efficiently, according to Jennifer Wismann and Darryn Willoughby in a 2006 "Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition" article, so you needn't go ultra-low carb in an attempt to lose fat.
Faster Fat Burn
As a man, you should burn fat relatively quickly, notes trainer Tom Venuto. This again is due to your higher metabolism and heavier body weight, which result in an increased daily calorie burn. Rather than cutting your calories too low in an attempt to achieve fast fat loss, take things steadily and aim for 1 to 2 pounds per week. If you lose less than 1 pound one week, cut your calories by 50 to 100 per day.
Look to eat four to five meals per day, or three meals and a couple of snacks. The meals should each comprise a protein source, a carb source and a fat source. Sample meals could be oatmeal with protein powder, walnuts, blueberries and strawberries for breakfast, or a cheese, tomato and pepper omelet on whole-grain toast. Your lunch could be a whole-wheat wrap with chicken, lettuce, olives and cucumber, or cold pasta with turkey meatballs, a tomato sauce, some Parmesan cheese and broccoli. For dinner, opt for steak, fish or a vegetarian protein with either a sweet potato, white potato or brown rice, along with two vegetables and a little olive oil. Should you choose to snack between meals, cottage cheese with strawberries, cold meat, mixed nuts, fruit and oatcakes with peanut or cashew butter are all good choices. Count your calories and adjust the serving sizes to meet your needs.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- The Protein Book; Lyle McDonald
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: Gender Differences in Carbohydrate Metabolism and Carbohydrate Loading
- Fit Watch: Why Women Lose Weight More Slowly Than Men — and What to Do About It