Women's Vs Men's nutrition: I'm after a bit... - Healthy Eating

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Women's Vs Men's nutrition

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator

I'm after a bit of information, and hoping it isn't too niche to ask :)

I listened to a really interesting interview with a women's sports nutritional researcher. She said quite a lot if the guidance out there at the moment is based on the assumption of "one size fits all", but with women simply eating a smaller quantity of food overall.

Her research suggested women have different macro-ratio requirements, and that caloric needs might not be that different, among other things (e.g. hormones impacting recovery)

I'm looking for more info, but most things that come up when I google just talk about men needing 2500 calories and women needing 2000.

Does anyone know any more?

I found this article a helpful starting point:

independent.co.uk/life-styl...

72 Replies

I don't know about calories Cooper but I could easily imagine that males and females need different levels of nutrition.

As you say one size doesn't fit all. For example, with blood results such as haemoglobin, men are expected to have a higher level than women. So does that mean that men need an diet higher in iron and vitamin C as vitamin C helps us absorb iron and creates Hb?

Also, you mentioned hormones. People who are having any form of hormone therapy may need to make nutritional changes. I am by no means an expert on this but I had an interesting conversation about diet and a member of my family who is transgender. It seems that diet played an important role in her transition as there was obviously a big adjustment in hormone levels

It's an interesting point if discussion.

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator in reply to happytulip

Oh that is interesting! I think I recall hearing something about fat or fibre being useful for regulating estrogen levels, I can't remember which, but if you were taking estrogen, I could understand why a change would be helpful.

I think the guidance is usually that women need more iron, because of menstruation (not sure what happens after menopause), but it's a good point about men having higher levels. In terms of the blood tests, there seems to be a one size fits all test range for ferritin 🤔

happytulip profile image
happytulip in reply to Cooper27

Ferritin helps us store iron, which then helps us with our haemoglobin.Ferritin is vital for our immune systems to fight infection so I have been told. It is really strange to me how someone can have a normal range haemoglobin but have a desperately low ferritin.

The discussion with my family member was about how diet had improved her energy levels. Obviously when she was pre-transition she had a higher level of testosterone. When she started her hormone therapy she noticed how she had alot less energy. Having the body go through a transition like that must have been very traumatic to the physiology. I believe the diet changes included more protein for energy and she discovered what she described as sugar crashes, meaning a sudden sort of fatigue and a need to eat something quickly as she felt unwell.

This conversation was a good while ago now so I can't retain it all. But it was certainly interesting.

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator in reply to happytulip

Ah thanks for the clarification, I had thought the two were linked!

It's interesting to hear what your family member experienced. Did it take long for her symptoms to settle?

happytulip profile image
happytulip in reply to Cooper27

We're not that close unfortunately. She's a cousin and her immediate family weren't very accepting. She's moved to a different continent now and as I am not on Facebook we have drifted. From our last contact things seem to have settled alot and the most important thing is that she is happy and healthy 💜

Rosepetal60 profile image
Rosepetal60Gluten Free in reply to Cooper27

I don’t get that impression of one size fits all for ferritin. But I haven’t got the details to hand. Will look them out in next few days.

You are correct. The normal ranges for men and women do differ with women needing a higher level after the age of 40. Thanks for this, I had it in my head that ferritin was the same for males and females.

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator in reply to Rosepetal60

Oh well, that's good to know!

Rosepetal60 profile image
Rosepetal60Gluten Free in reply to Cooper27

Re the ferritin levels. I’ve looked at a couple of my ferritin levels on different years

for females in 2018 the range was 13 to 150 ugl

In 2021 it is 20 to 260 ugl

Then I looked on Healthline site which appears to be following the Mayo clinic guidelines and it says

: 20 to 500 = Men

And : 20 to 200 = Women

That's correct for women over 40. In the UK it's 10-120 for women 18-39 years old.

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator

Thanks for sharing :)

Interesting that they say the GDA for men is 2800 calories!

Personally, I think the nutritional advice we have been given is so badly broken, that the fact it was designed for men seems the least problem. No one should be filling a third of their plate with empty carbs, eating industrial oils or avoiding natural fats. We shouldn't have metabolisms so broken that we can't trust our appetite, and have to measure something as alien as calories.

Etc etc.

I agree with your statement but sometimes our metabolism is up the creek due to medications or health issues which puts us on a back foot unfortunately.

Yeah. That was the 1 or 2% that were obese in 1960. Maybe that would have included you. But now it's 30% of us, which suggests most of us become obese because of environmental reasons.

The nutritional advice referred to here is presumably general advice given to the population. I hope you are getting very specific advice based on your physiology.

I am trying. My dietician was really good but since covid everything has gone really. I had actually lost 3kg by myself. However, my biggest problem comes with hospital admissions and I've said this before.

I go into hospital quite alot for between 2-6 weeks with 8 weeks being my longest stretch. All they feed you is carbs, carbs and more carbs. And incase they haven't given you enough carbs they then practically spoon feed you sugar. All while you are immobile and not able to move from your bed. I had to beg to get some fruit!

That's when I put weight on. And it's true. The more carbs you eat, the more you want. And the doctor's wonder why their patients are unhealthy.

I've just finished a long bit of porridge (time) so I'm trying to get myself back to how I was before. But I know I'll land up back in before the end of the year. It's a problem that needs sorting out properly.

Sorry.....off on a tangent.

Well, it's right on my tangent (sorry Cooper27 for the derail). If the food you were being fed in hospital was designed for a man not for you, that would not be the biggest problem with it; it wouldn't be healthy for any man either.

I hope you can find a way to switch and stay on a more natural human diet, rather than the factory created one we are told to be on. I wonder how many of your underlying conditions might prove not be as bad as you thought.

Note this is not medical advice! It's in my case not even personal experience in this instance, but i have seen a lot of anecdotes of all sorts of metabolic problems being fixed when the diet is fixed.

I don't think my diet is to blame for my health issues. That's happened very suddenly overnight when I was a size 8 (UK) and 60kg. Steroids are what has changed my body shape. My diet before health issues was always good and I've eaten a healthy diet since, with the except of being in hospital.

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator in reply to happytulip

Hospitals are pretty awful :( I'm sorry you've had to spend so much time eating in them.We spent 3 days with someone in hospital once, and they're visitor provisions aren't much better. It's sandwiches, burgers, chips and cakes, but no full sugar soft drinks are allowed, because that would be unhealthy.

happytulip profile image
happytulip in reply to Cooper27

🤣🤣🤣🤣 it cost me a fortune when I go in as I try to buy food from the M&S fooodcourt. The 6 week stint cost over £390, just for healthy food. It's a scandal!

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator in reply to Subtle_badger

Well yes, this is true.

I suppose the implication is with regards to fasting (apparently less suited to women), and the quantity of carbs they would benefit from on a LCHF diet (which apparently varies depending on pre-or-post ovulatory phase).

It seems advice to (under)eat the same number of calories every day, may partially play into why our signals are so broken.

Fasting has worked brilliantly for me. It's also natural for me, but i kept eating breakfast because i believed the BS i was told. We should all listen to our bodies more, and stop listening to "experts".

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator in reply to Subtle_badger

I think it depends on the type of fasting. I have been following a time restricted eating pattern (which I know some people refer to as fasting), and it hasn't been so helpful for me. Mine was to help gut health though.

happytulip profile image
happytulip in reply to Cooper27

Do you mind me asking as you mentioned gut health, was it to improve your gut biome?

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator in reply to happytulip

I guess a bit if both. I had to take Omeprazole for a stomach ulcer, and my stomach just never felt right afterwards. I was hoping a 14 hour rest might help buck it up, and I took probiotics too. It didn't really help, but I've gotten used to extra time in bed now so I've kept it up 😆

happytulip profile image
happytulip in reply to Cooper27

I take omeprazole and am on long term anti-biotics so goodness knows what my gut flora is like. Non existent I expect.

I'm not sure if you are vegetarian but when I was last in hospital I was seen by a Prof of Immunology who has a PhD student who is doing research into the gut biome.

He wanted to recruit me as a candidate. I picked his brains about leaky gut syndrome and asked him if bone broth had any known benefits.

I make my own bone broth from marrow bones.

He said that he believed that leaky gut was a real thing and that I shouldn't stop taking bone broth. I was almost disappointed given the amount of washing up it creates!

But he said the collagen in the broth should help the lining of the gut and make the gut less porus. I asked him for some research papers. His answer was cheeky. "I'll send them to you in 5 years time when I've written it."

I go through periods when I feel that I really need bone broth, then I get to a saturation point and it turns my stomach after about 3 months. I believe the body tells you what it needs and when.

If you have any tips to help the gut biome I would be very grateful if you could share them please.

I "eat the rainbow" as much as possible but find it hard with being low FODMAP.

Thank you .

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator in reply to happytulip

I have been to a nutritionist a couple of times, she also raves about bone broth. I'm not the biggest fan of it, but I use it for soup :)

I don't envy you being on Omeprazole long term. I don't know what was worse, the ulcer or the Omeprazole!

I know some of the universal tips my nutritionist gave was to eat a good variety of veg (she called it eat the rainbow) because the different colours feed different things in the gut. She also recommended stewed apple.

I don't know much to suggest probiotics wise, if you're on them long term though. It would be interesting to see what the PhD student had to suggest though! Medicine is getting a lot more interested in the biome, which can only be a good thing.

happytulip profile image
happytulip in reply to Cooper27

I'm looking forward to the research results that is being done at the JR in Oxford. They are looking at the biome of Rheumatoid Arthritis patients before and after starting methotrexate.According to my Rheumatologist the gut biome is going to be the next big thing in treating some AI disease. There's hope!

Pebbles77 profile image
Pebbles77 in reply to happytulip

There's interesting information from Tim Spector and the British Gut Project. You're probably up to date on this. joinzoe.com/post/tim-specto... I don't know if they're ever looking for volunteers

Penel profile image
PenelModerator in reply to happytulip

Hi happytulip I’ve been following the Low Fodmaps diet for a while and have also worried at times about the loss of diversity in the vegetables I can tolerate. I decided to try goats milk kefir to help with my gut bacteria. It seems to have helped, as I can now tolerate more veg in my diet!

happytulip profile image
happytulip in reply to Penel

Hi Penel, sorry for late response. I have actually found someone in my local farmers market who makes non-dairy kefir. I can tolerate goats milk and like it but because of its high fat content my gallbladder objects to it. until I saw this non-dairy kefir I didn't know it was possible. It tastes really nice although it is a tad pricey.

I find that I can eat some foods that are high FODMAP and tolerate them and then some foods that are low fodmap make me look 7 months pregnant for days.

It's a shame because as much as I love meat I also love veg. A family roast at my parents would have about 7 veg easily, and because I have lupus I have to limit nightshade too.

I miss broccoli alot but spinach and asparagus are good. I just wish asparagus was cheaper. My dad has an asparagus bed but they are 2 hrs away. Such a shame!!

I am trying to eat more fruit and as I am mostly housebound I find that frozen fruit has the best amount of nutrition. I heard a programme on radio 4 saying the frozen fruit generally has the most nutritional value in it compared to the "fresh" stuff on the shelves.

I'm not growing soft fruits yet, but I do have a wonderful apple tree.

Thanks for the tip about kefir.

Can I ask are you finding that the low fodmap diet is improving things for you? I find it difficult with alot of conflicting information about what is high or low FODMAP. The internet can offer to much information sometimes I think.

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator in reply to happytulip

You can get water kefir grains to make your own kefir if you like it :) I'm not a big fan, because it has a mildly beer like flavour, but if you don't mind beer, you might like it more. They work alright with coconut water too.

happytulip profile image
happytulip in reply to Cooper27

Thanks Cooper. I do like beer but can't drink alcohol anymore.... perhaps that's why I liked the taste. I will look into that, thanks!👍

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator in reply to happytulip

I should warn that end product will have a low amount of alcohol in it (as it's a fermented product), so if you have a zero tolerance policy for alcohol, it may not be suitable.

happytulip profile image
happytulip in reply to Cooper27

Thank you for that. I should be ok. Alcohol just seems to make my lupus symptoms worse so I stay away. But the but at the end of a bottle would be fine. But thanks for the consideration.

Penel profile image
PenelModerator in reply to happytulip

Re FODMAPs, I went with the Monash University lists as they are the original researchers. Lots of information on line and an app. It’s been really useful to know which fruit and veg are in different high FODMAPs groups, especially when starting to re-introduce them.

monashfodmap.com/blog/

The Complete Low Fodmap Diet cook book written by Dr Sue Shepherd has been a good guide, although I wouldn’t touch the supermarket gluten-free bread or cereal they suggest for breakfast.

I’m ok with a small amount of broccoli, but not with asparagus. It can take time to work out what suits you and how much you can tolerate.

The diet has helped ease my IBS symptoms a lot.

happytulip profile image
happytulip in reply to Penel

Thank you for this. I will need a bit if time to look through it.

I suppose we all have our differing reasons for needing Low FODMAP.

I used to get terrible gasteroparesis secondary to autonomic nervous system dysfunction due to lupus. I had people coming up to me asking me "when was I due!" It was very uncomfortable.

I don't really touch bread unless it's sourdough made by my local bakery. I find the gluten free breads to cakey. However, I can manage the odd bit if gluten free cake if it's a good quality one. Although I only have cake about twice a year as I'm watching my weight.

I'll really take a look at this later. I just need some brain energy to take it all in.

Great that your symptoms have improve!

Thanks again!

Intermittent fasting helped me to cut my calories, 36 and 60 hour fasts helped me to lose weight. I am well into menopause, so need all the help I can get.

FWIW, maintaining has been easy, so I haven't broken my metabolism. I eat less than I did before, but I eat all I want to eat and am not hungry, so it's all good.

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator in reply to Subtle_badger

Menopause may be an important factor in it, as hormones would be more steady for you :)

"Menopause may be an important factor in it, as hormones would be more steady for you :)"

Yeah, because steady hormones and easy weightloss are famously aspects of menopause. It was the steady hormones I assume that woke me at 5 am this morning, naked with the covers thrown off, sweating and overheated, despite the room temperature being around 14C.

And that weight loss thing would explain why almost every woman I know over 45 is obese, or on the verge of it, and struggling.

😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂

Most women find weightloss nearly impossible during menopause. It's regarded as a victory that to just maintain. I was pretty well told to shut up about how I ate in a menopause health Facebook group, despite me being about the only one who was actually losing weight.

I have lost weight at the time of life that most women pile it on. And I piled it on first, like my sisters.

But I still have more visceral fat than I did when I was menstruating. I have on my GP record that I was about 7kg heavier in 2015 (which was a healthy weight for me), but my waist was 4cm thinner. Diet helps, but can't completely obviate the deleterious effects of menopause.

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator in reply to Subtle_badger

It's in terms of the studies into fasting's benefits, as they will be more relevant to someone with steady hormones.

Of course, the big shift that occurs when you switch from "variable" to "steady" state (possibly not the best of terms) must turn everything you knew up to that point on its head!

It might be a topic for future discussion to be fair, as it's another great example of why "one size fits all" needs to go in the bin!

None of that undermines my original point. The diet we (not athletes, but members of the public) are told to eat is completely unsuitable for both men and women. If it's slightly more unsuitable for women, I doubt that is measurable.

Cut out the processed foods, stop telling us not to eat fat and fill our plates with grain, and we can trust our appetites again. Then if a woman craves chocolate at certain times of her cycle, she can eat the chocolate because her body knows what is best for her, instead of asking a dietician who is basing their advice on studies done on men.

S11m profile image
S11m in reply to Subtle_badger

Does BS stand for "Beneficial Science?" I eat breakfast - and fast from about 13:00 to 10:00!

I think that eating early, fasting late is better.

Subtle_badger profile image
Subtle_badger in reply to S11m

I think that eating according to my habits and my own body's needs is best,not following anyone else's schedule, even yours.

In the before times, I would wake up not hungry, and eat anyway to "kickstart my metabolism" 🤪 when in fact my body would be happiest then with my first meal being mid afternoon most days. I didn't listen to it, instead I listened to experts 😂

S11m profile image
S11m in reply to Subtle_badger

I think that, for most people, the problem with eating early, fasting late, is that they need to fit Intermittent Fasting into their Family/work schedule... but many think that Intermittent Fasting is "Just missing breakfast".

Carrying my phone and hit the reply button prematurely 🤭

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator

Interesting, but it seems to be an observational paper on psychological factors surrounding food, and less so about the nutritional requirements.

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator

Thanks, that was interesting :) it's good to see we're more efficient at DHA production, that's important for our thyroid health!

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator

Might treat myself to some extra chia seeds tomorrow!

Do you like the colour beige?

Oh! Ex-Pat has left the building 😔

robertlustig.com/calorie_en/

This is really interesting and I think one of the big issues we still have with nutrition is this outdated idea that all calories are equal. That energy in equals energy out and an imbalance leads to weight gain. This does not address how different foods are metabolised. Also its based on the assumption all women are smaller than men so need less calories! I hope the link I have tried to share works. Great topic for discussion!

👍

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator in reply to Zendaya

Thanks for sharing. I'll have a look at more of his website :)

I'm glad a bit more on caloric availability is coming out these days, and the awareness of sugar.

If you haven't watched this, you should.

Just have it playing while you do chores - you don't need to be glued to the screen.

youtu.be/dBnniua6-oM

Hi,

It was interesting to read, thanks for sharing. It's more than plausible to think that men and women would require different levels of nutrients. I really believe that our meals should be uniquely individualized and tailored to each of our body's health needs in order to maximize nutrition regardless of past or current guidelines.

There probably is a difference, but the underlying assumption in all of this sort of thing is that our bodies are incapable of managing their own requirements, and that we have to tweak this and that to keep things working properly.

The idea that we have to eat a certain number of calories each day is just completely bizarre. The human race would have died out long ago if our continued survival were actually dependent on the existence of nutritionists telling us what and how to eat. All animals seem to have functional instincts for what they need to eat, and I don't see why humans should be any different.

I suppose if you're an athlete looking to squeeze out the last bit of performance from your body then minor dietary differences might be relevant. But for the rest of us ... nah.

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator in reply to TheAwfulToad

Well it seemed to be a bit more major than that. They did experiments with men and women on a treadmill for 2 hours, where the men and women performed similarly one week, but the next week, some of the women couldn't run for more than 30 minutes before having to stop.

They looked at fat metabolism, and found the women weren't accessing their fat stores, and their bodies were basically incapable of using anything but glycogen and carbs to fuel the exercise, it was related to where they were in their menstrual cycle.

They also seemed to notice different requirements for how soon after exercising women should eat to aid muscle repair, and found more negative effects came from working out fasted (which is something I do a lot).

Do you have a link to the paper? I don't see it mentioned in the original article.

One problem with the treadmill observation is that 30-40% of Westerners are chronically ill as a result of a universally poor diet. Being "incapable of using anything but glycogen and carbs" is a marker for metabolic syndrome, not merely being female :)

I'm willing to bet that women eating a healthy diet - ie., anything other than the 45-65% carbs recommended by the Harvard School of Public Health - would show normal performance, or at least would show fairly minimal variation throughout the month.

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator in reply to TheAwfulToad

Ah sorry, it wasn't in the paper, it was a radio interview I listened to a few weeks ago, the article was just the only useful bit I'd come across after the interview prompted me to try to do some further reading. I'd be unlikely to find the interview again because of the time that's passed.

The participants were all college athletes in America, so fitter than the average Joe :)

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator in reply to TheAwfulToad

You prompted me to switch up my search terms, and I found this paper, which was very helpful:pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/201...

S11m profile image
S11m in reply to TheAwfulToad

We do, of course, need energy - to maintain body temperature, etc.

Long term, spare energy is stored as fat - and, long term, one's body-fat percentage is a good indication if one's weekly or monthly energy intake is optimal (for the time of year, planned activities etc.).

The food DOES follow NHS nutritional standards. That's why it's so appalling.

I'm not sure. Someone (was it happytulip?) posted a picture of a depressing plate half full of baked beans and half chips. That's not EatWell, that's just appalling

Hey, if it's low-fat, low-sugar baked beans and oven chips, then it's EatWell compliant :)

IIRC baked beans are actually listed in the EatWell guide somewhere as a recommended food-like substance.

EDIT: here ya go:

nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/h...

The main problem with the EatWell plate, IMO, is that its obsession with fat and added sugar makes a whole range of unhealthy crap technically compliant, eg., the fruitcake recipe given in the 12-week plan, which is supposed to be a "healthy snack" just because it's reduced-fat.

But yeah, can't really disagree with you. Baked beans and chips is not food. It's absolutely disgraceful that people who are in critical need of proper nutrition are being given garbage like this - the phrase "penny wise pound foolish" springs to mind.

No, I agree it's EatWell adjacent, but without any veg at all, they aren't even attempting to follow the guide just ticking a couple of boxes.

(of course potatoes and even beans are vegetables, but neither count towards 5/day)

Ah, good point, the 5-a-day. I really do get the impression that they consider that just a nice-to-have, though. If you've got a mountain of carbs on your plate and as little fat as possible, you're golden!

I don't think I've ever been in hospital for long enough to sample the food, but I'd be absolutely livid if they were giving me stuff like that as a matter of routine. I suspect it has something to do with HACCP procedures (EC 852/2004) which are so burdensome and counterproductive that commercial kitchens probably find it easier to only serve things that come from tins and packets.

Yup, that was me. Disgusting fish fingers, baked beans so full of sugar that they made my teeth itch and horrible chips.

What a nightmare. I think I would end up on a feeding tube in hospital, because I certainly wouldn't eat any of that. I wasn't a fan on beans nor fish fingers ever, even as a child.

What do they do if you just don't eat?

Probably section you? No idea. I would go downstairs or get my friends (they are all nurses that I worked with) to go down to M&S for me. They have a good hall so at least I could get a salad, chicken breast or cooked salmon etc. And ginger tea. That was important.

It's interesting how much cake I was offered. They also had bananas and apples and oranges available but they never offered then to patients. I had to ask.

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator in reply to Subtle_badger

You go hungry!

We've heard a few tales of people in hospital, who have coeliac disease, so who can't eat the standard fare. The hospitals often adopt a "like it or lump it" attitude, even though eating the food would make the person sicker. They rely on visitors to stop off and buy food on the way in.

That's fine. I am pretty adept at fasting. Would hopefully make it through the first 3 days at least.

Maybe try inputting your details into Chronometer for nutrients and calories? cronometer.com/

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator in reply to userotc

I use Cronometer (not every day, but for a week or two every so often to see where I lie) but I'm not sure if they differ quantities for men vs women (other than calories). I'll play around and see what happens :)