Tips to Live By

15 Fitness & Nutrition Tips Just for Men

June 29, 2023 - Katie McCallum

We often don't think about our health until something's really wrong and it's time to see a doctor. But there are steps any guy can take to stay well and reduce his risk of developing a chronic health issue.

"Why be well?" asks Knubian Gatlin, a dietitian at Houston Methodist. "When we take care of ourselves, our quality of life increases. We have more energy to do the things we love and for a longer period of time."

Jonathan Williams, a health fitness coordinator at Houston Methodist, echoes this message — adding that, overall, men could do a better job of prioritizing their health.

"When you look at the top 10 causes of death, men die at higher rates than women," says Williams. "It doesn't have to be this way. There are things we can do as men to reduce our risk of developing everything from heart disease and diabetes to stroke and liver disease."

The overall principles that make for a healthy man include:

  • A healthy hormonal balance
  • Being physically active
  • Eating a well-balanced diet
  • Maintaining good heart health


Fitness and nutrition are central to each of these, and Gatlin and Williams share their tips to help you along the way:

1. Understand the importance of testosterone on overall health

"Testosterone is the androgenic sex hormone responsible for hair growth, muscle mass and strength, sex drive, sperm production, bone density, fat distribution and more," says Gatlin. "We start seeing a natural decline in testosterone levels between the ages of 30 to 40. Some decline is to be expected, but certain habits and medical issues can drive these levels even lower."

Common causes of low testosterone, also called low T, include:

  • Being overweight, particularly belly fat
  • Physical inactivity
  • Poor nutrition
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Medical problems, including untreated sleep apnea and unmanaged diabetes


Taking steps to reduce these factors can help you maintain healthy testosterone levels. And if you notice the signs of low testosterone, be sure to consult your doctor.

2. Reap the benefits of physical activity

The benefits of fitness include:

  • Weight management
  • Lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels and more
  • Reduced risk of many chronic health issues, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, certain cancers and more
  • Stronger bones and muscles
  • Improved mental health
  • Better mobility
  • Less joint pain
  • Increased chances of living longer


Be sure to make plenty of time for exercise. Standard recommendations call for being physically active two to three days per week and totaling at least 150 minutes of exercise per week.

"Resistance training, in particular, decreases visceral fat, which is the waistline fat that lies underneath the abdominal wall and is seriously unhealthy," says Williams. "This type of exercise can also increase testosterone production, improving a man's overall wellness."

3. Meet your protein needs

Protein is a complex nutrient that, when broken down, provides our body with amino acids. These are molecules that play numerous roles in the body including muscle maintenance, tissue building (including hair growth), nutrient transport and more.

"Total protein needs per day vary depending on a man's weight," says Gatlin. "Rather than getting caught up in complicated calculations, I recommend just trying to eat 20 to 40 grams of protein at each meal of the day — with most men only needing around 25 grams per meal."

It's best to get most of your intake from lean protein sources, which include:

  • Skinless chicken breast
  • Tenderloin cuts of beef or pork
  • Fish
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Soy products, like tofu
  • Beans, peas and lentils
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Certain whole grains, like quinoa and whole wheat pasta


4. Maintain a healthy weight

Gatlin emphasizes that it's not simply weight that's worrisome.

"Specifically, it is fat accumulation around the waistline that we're most worried about," says Gatlin.

(Related: Why Belly Fat Is So Dangerous & How to Lose It)

Also called visceral fat, this fat is biologically active, secreting hormones and other molecules linked to many chronic diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

A well-balanced diet is the first step toward reducing your waistline circumference, but exercise plays an important role, too. And in a world of trendy diets, Gatlin keeps things simple by recommending the Mediterranean diet — which is really more of an eating pattern than a diet.

"Really this emphasizes eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats," says Gatlin. "You can still eat meat, but the Mediterranean diet typically prioritizes fish and plant proteins over animal products."

5. Know your body type

"We've all met the guy who barely works out and looks like a bodybuilder," says Williams. "We've also all met the guy who works out often, but it hardly shows. This usually comes down to how each man's bodily physique conforms to a certain type."

The three main body types and their characteristics are:

  • Ectomorphs – naturally slim and lean, without much body fat or muscle mass
  • Mesomorphs – moderate-sized body frames, with naturally strong arms and legs
  • Endomorphs – naturally curvier bodies, with larger bones, wider waists and hips, and a tendency to gain weight easily


Knowing your body type can help you understand what your physique naturally looks like and provide clarity around potential strengths and shortcomings.

"This isn't to say an ectomorph shouldn't try to build muscle — he should," says Williams. "And it's not to say an endomorph is doomed to be overweight — he's not. This information should just help you choose your fitness goals and can help you avoid comparing yourself to someone metabolically different than you. Because that's unfair to you."

6. Limit added sugars and refined carbohydrates

"Refined carbohydrates, including added sugars, decrease testosterone levels," says Gatlin. "Consumed in excess, they can also lead to weight gain and a number of chronic health conditions, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes."

The American Heart Association recommends men limit added sugar intake to 36 grams per day.

There are the obvious sources, like sodas, cookies and candy bars. But foods you might not realize contain added sugars include:


"Be on the lookout for sneaky sources of added sugar, since those 36 grams per day can add up quickly," says Gatlin. "Added sugar content is called out on the nutrition label in the carbohydrates section."

7. Remedy sedentary habits

For many men, the workday includes lots of sitting and little exercise. And even if your job keeps you on your feet, you might find yourself on the couch a lot on your time off.

"Our bodies were meant to move," says Williams. "Prolonged sitting can increase a man's risk of many health issues, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity and more."

Williams' tips for remedying sedentary behaviors include:

  • Scheduling short breaks to get up and move every hour
  • Stretching at your desk or taking a stroll around your office
  • Choosing the stairs instead of the elevator, if you're able
  • Limiting screen time, or moving around while enjoying entertainment
  • Making time for light stretching before bed
  • Consulting a fitness coordinator or your doctor if you're struggling to break sedentary habits


8. Drink plenty of water and be mindful of alcohol consumption

"Water is needed for many functions in your body, so be sure to drink plenty of it," says Gatlin. "Water helps your heart pump blood to your muscles, regulate your body temperature, promote normal bowel movements and more."

Men should aim to drink at least 13 cups of water per day, but this amount gets more personalized once you take into account age, health, fitness routine and any medications you're on.

"And be mindful and responsible with alcohol consumption," says Williams. "Be sure to limit your intake and be considerate of your overall well-being when drinking alcohol."

9. Prioritize fiber intake

According to the American Society for Nutrition, only 5% of men get enough fiber every day.

"This is a problem since fiber comes with many benefits, from helping to maintain normal bowel movements to regulating a healthy blood pressure," says Gatlin.

(Related: 7 Benefits of Fiber That Should Convince You to Eat Enough of It)

Men should aim to get 25-38 grams of fiber per day.

Good sources of fiber include:

  • Whole grains
  • Non-starchy vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Nuts and seeds


"An easy tip I recommend is to start by just adding one cup of non-starchy veggies into your diet each day," says Gatlin. "And as you increase your fiber intake, be sure to maintain good hydration since it costs water for your body to utilize fiber."

10. Identify and rectify barriers to exercise

Even once you know how much exercise you need, life can often get in the way of getting it done.

"The stressors that commonly lead to inactivity include lack of time or motivation to work out, limited access to exercise facilities and bad weather if you're someone who likes exercising outdoors," says Williams.

Tips for removing these barriers to exercise include:

  • Keep workout clothes on hand in your office or car
  • Create an awesome workout playlist or listen to an audiobook or podcast
  • Take a long walk, go for a jog or do bodyweight exercises, none of which require equipment or a gym
  • Move your workout indoors. If you don't have access to a gym, try bodyweight exercises or invest in resistance bands or dumbbells


11. Be sure your diet provides plenty of vitamins and minerals

Is your body getting everything it needs from your diet?

"A well-balanced diet can help make sure you get all the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy and active, but two I really recommend men focus on are magnesium and zinc," says Gatlin. "Among many, many other roles, both magnesium and zinc help promote healthy testosterone levels."

They also both help with hair growth and immune support, and magnesium also plays a role in muscular strength and maintenance.

Good sources of magnesium include:

  • Pumpkin seeds and chia seeds
  • Black beans
  • Bananas
  • Almonds
  • Dark leafy greens, like spinach


Good sources of zinc include:

  • Lean cuts of beef or poultry
  • Whole grains, like quinoa, oats and brown rice
  • Pumpkin, hemp and sesame seeds


12. Manage stress

It can be taboo for men to talk about their feelings. If that's you — if you're uncomfortable with such conversations — at least be sure to check in with yourself about your mindset.

"Ask yourself if you're prioritizing your well-being and, if you're not, set micro goals to get you there," says Williams. "Among other things, managing stress can help reduce the levels of hormones that lead to visceral fat collecting in the body."

Gatlin adds that the stress hormone cortisol is a particularly bad offender since it also blocks testosterone production.

"We need to find ways to reduce stress and restore our mindset, whether that's finding a relaxing hobby, exercising, slowing down and stretching before bed or meditating," says Williams.

13. Consider doing Kegels (no, they're not just for women)

Often thought to be important just for women, pelvic health is an important topic for men to consider, too.

"Pelvic floor exercises, like Kegels, benefit men by helping to maintain the pelvic muscles that support healthy urination," says Gatlin. "Kegels are linked to improved urinary control, better control of overactive bladder, reduced incontinence after prostate surgery and better sexual function in some men."

14. Know the healthy fats

"We don't need to avoid fat — it's the opposite, actually. We just need to be sure we're choosing healthy unsaturated fats instead of unhealthy saturated ones," says Gatlin. "Healthy fats are essential for making testosterone."

Foods rich in healthy fats include:

  • Avocados
  • Olive oil
  • Salmon, trout and tuna
  • Oil-based salad dressings
  • Almonds, peanuts and pecans
  • Pumpkin and sesame seeds


15. Make time for your annual checkup

We often wait to see a doctor until we're really sick, but it's important to see your doctor regularly.

Not only can you doctor help you assess your diet and exercise routines, your doctor will also do the following at an annual exam:

  • Check your vitals, including your blood pressure
  • Listen to your heart and lungs
  • Perform blood work and any screenings that can help prevent health problems like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes
  • Remind you about other wellness exams you may need
  • Evaluate your mental health


These checkups are critical for staying healthy — catching issues before they become chronic problems that require medications or more aggressive treatment.

For instance, your doctor can help you understand when it's time to be screened for prostate cancer.

"Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men in the U.S. right now," says Gatlin. "At age 50, all men should be getting screened, but prostate cancer screening may need to begin earlier than that for some men."

Any man can develop prostate cancer, but age, race, family history and lifestyle factors can increase risk.

"For instance, African-American men have an increased risk of developing prostate cancer than white men," says Gatlin.

Prostate cancer screening should begin at:

  • Age 50 for men at average risk
  • Age 45 for African-American men or men who have a first-degree relative diagnosed with prostate cancer prior to age 65
  • Age 40 for men who have multiple first-degree relatives diagnosed with prostate cancer prior to age 65
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Categories: Tips to Live By