Best Weight Loss Plans For Men: A Guide – Forbes Health – Forbes
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Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight offers many benefits beyond boosting your self confidence. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), losing just 5% to 10% of your body weight can lead to significant improvements in blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
However, with the vast number of weight loss plans for men out there, finding a program that’s safe, sustainable and effective can feel challenging. This article explores a few of the top weight loss meal plans and workout regimens for men, along with which factors you should consider before getting started.
There are a variety of plans out there that claim to result in weight loss for men specifically, ranging from evidence-based eating patterns to restrictive fad diets that require meticulous calorie counting and nutrient tracking. Similarly, there are a wide range of workout programs designed for weight loss as well, many of which include bodyweight exercises, gym regimens or home training routines.
However, most experts agree that a weight loss plan should include changes to both your diet and your workout routine for maximum effectiveness.
“The old saying ‘you can’t out-train a bad diet’ is totally true,” says Mike Silverman, a certified personal trainer and an editor for the workout program Living Fit, based in Bethesda, Maryland. “You can lift heavy, work hard, get sweaty and get no place if your diet is mostly beer, tacos and birthday cake.“
In fact, one review in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that weight management programs that paired dietary modifications with physical activity were significantly more effective for long-term weight loss than those that focused solely on diet or exercise alone.
Regardless of the diet you choose to adhere to, experts note that the main driver of weight loss is via a caloric deficit (in which you burn more calories than you consume). This is why a high protein diet seems to produce such favorable changes in body composition—there is evidence to suggest that higher protein diets may indeed promote a loss of body fat through mechanisms related to the thermic effect of feeding (the amount of energy it takes to digest and process the food you eat), as well as promoting better satiety.
With that in mind, there are many expert-backed eating patterns that can promote weight loss for men. Here are a few of the top recommendations.
Julie Miller Jones, Ph.D., a board-certified nutritionist and scientific advisor for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Joint Institute of Food Safety and Nutrition for the University of Maryland, recommends the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet for men interested in weight loss.
Originally developed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to help lower blood pressure, the DASH Diet provides general guidelines of how many servings from each food group you should aim for each day. In particular, the diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, vegetable oils, fish and poultry. While calorie counting is not required with this eating plan, it doest limit daily sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams or less. It also recommends limiting foods high in saturated fats, tropical oils and sugar-sweetened beverages.
As Dr. Miller Jones points out, the DASH diet is not overly restrictive and can be followed long-term. “I always say that you should never go on a diet that you cannot live with for the rest of your life,” she says. “There are no forbidden foods, just foods that you should choose infrequently, and the DASH diet supports this mantra.”
While the DASH diet is famous for its heart health benefits—such as lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol—it can be effective for weight loss, too, as it encourages nutrient-dense whole foods and physical activity. According to one review of 13 studies, a low-calorie DASH diet was found to be more effective for weight loss and fat loss than other low-calorie diets.
Joan Salge Blake, a registered dietitian and nutrition professor at Boston University, recommends both the DASH Diet and Mediterranean diet as her top choices for weight loss for men. “Both are backed by research and have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death among Americans, especially men,” says Salge Blake.
The Mediterranean diet, in particular, includes ample amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and legumes, along with plenty of heart-healthy fats, such as olive oil. While no foods are excluded from the diet completely, red meat and sweets should be limited.
One 2020 study found that greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with two times greater likelihood of weight loss maintenance. Researchers note that this may be attributed to the increased intake of fiber and protein on the Mediterranean diet, both of which can increase feelings of fullness and satiety.
In addition to promoting weight loss, the Mediterranean diet has also been linked to a variety of other health benefits, including a reduced risk of high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. As Salge Blake points out, it may also help protect against heart disease, which accounts for about one out of four male deaths in the U.S., according to the CDC.
Intermittent fasting is a popular dietary practice that has been associated with a number of health benefits. The general idea of intermittent fasting is to cycle between periods of eating and fasting within an allotted period of time, and one of the most common variations is 16/8 fasting, which involves fasting for 16 hours and limiting food intake to an eight-hour window each day.
According to Chicago-based registered dietitian, Amber Dixon, “This helps to reduce insulin levels, which can help with fat loss.” Dixon also notes that fasting can force the body into ketosis, a metabolic state in which the body burns fat for fuel instead of sugar.
Interestingly, one review of 27 studies found that intermittent fasting could be as effective as a calorie-restricted diet when it comes to weight loss, with studies reporting an average weight loss of up to 13% of body weight with no serious side effects.
“I recommend a whole food, plant-based diet for men for weight loss,” says Dana Ellis Hunnes, Ph.D., a senior clinical dietitian at UCLA Health. “Plant-based diets are high in fiber, fruits and vegetables, which are anti-inflammatory, are satiating and fuel your muscles and brain.” While there are different iterations of plant-based diets, they all emphasize nutritious plant foods while limiting animal products, such as meat, eggs and dairy, as well as refined and processed foods.
For weight management in particular, research suggests that plant-based diets can help prevent overweight and obesity, improve diet quality and promote weight loss.
In addition to supporting weight loss, Dr. Ellis Hunnes also notes that plant-based diets can promote muscle growth, reduce inflammation and provide a wealth of essential vitamins and minerals. Furthermore, additional research suggests that plant-based diets may protect against chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.
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Staying active is just as important as switching up your diet when it comes to long-lasting, sustainable weight loss. Here are a few weight loss workout plans recommended by experts.
“Overall, I’m a big fan of weight-loaded HIIT for weight loss,” says Silverman. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) can deliver many of the benefits of other forms of exercise in a shorter amount of time, including increased fat-burning and muscle definition, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).
HIIT involves alternating between periods of short-duration, high-intensity exercises and lower intensity movements to allow for active recovery. Exercises should be performed at the highest intensity possible for 10 to 45 seconds, followed by a brief active recovery, typically just long enough to catch your breath, according to NASM.
Silverman’s recommended “weight-loaded” HIIT involves performing high-intensity exercises with added resistance rather than bodyweight alone by using equipment like dumbbells or weight plates.
“Interval training like Tabata using kettlebells, battle ropes and medicine balls really takes the fat off quickly for most guys,” says Silverman. “Use moderate weights and definitely keep your form solid.”
According to one study in BMJ, HIIT resulted in similar weight loss as moderate-intensity continuous training, which includes activities like biking or jogging. However, HIIT was more effective at improving cardiorespiratory fitness in a shorter amount of time.
Circuit training is a type of exercise that involves moving between eight to 10 exercises in a circuit (one right after the other, with minimal rest in between) and performing each movement for a set number of repetitions or a specific period of time. Typically, you can repeat each exercise in the circuit one to three times, according to NASM. Examples of exercises included in circuit training range from push-ups to jump squats to mountain climbers. NASM notes that since there is little rest in circuit training, it keeps the heart rate up, which burns more calories.
“I love to use circuit training for many of my clients because the sessions move quickly, and circuit training offers great results with some cardiovascular benefits,” says Marisella Villano, a personal trainer based in Hampton Bays, New York. She recommends aiming for at least three sessions weekly, which may include a combination of exercises like squats, rows and deadlifts.
P90X is a 90-day at-home workout program designed to promote weight loss and muscle growth by combining strength training, yoga, plyometrics, cardio and stretching. According to certified personal trainer and founder of the fitness blog Fizzness Shizzness Rob Wagener, “P90X is still, in my opinion, one of the best workout plans for any man looking to lose weight and get a leaner, more toned body.”
The company claims that the program works by introducing new moves to challenge your muscles and prevent your body from adapting to your workout routine. One very small study found that while exercise variation was as effective as performing the same workouts each in terms of improving muscle thickness and strength, it had a more positive effect on enhancing motivation to train.
“One of the beautiful things about P90X is that it’s accessible to almost anyone at any fitness level,” explains Wagener. He also notes that the program is well-rounded and targets several areas of the body while also incorporating cardio and HIIT into the regimen.
There are several key factors you should consider when finding a weight loss plan that’s right for you.
For starters, it’s best to pick a plan that’s compatible with your lifestyle, along with your personal needs and preferences. This will be much easier to stick to in the long-run and can help set you up for long-term success.
Salge Blake also emphasizes the importance of picking a sustainable weight loss plan that promotes healthy habits rather than seeking a short-term solution that promises quick results. “It shouldn’t be a diet for weight loss, but an eating style for long-term health,” she says.
Diets or workout programs that claim to help you lose weight very quickly should also be avoided. In fact, the CDC notes that people who lose weight at a steady rate of around one to two pounds per week are more likely to keep the weight off long-term.
Setting realistic goals is also key when it comes to exercise, according to Villano. “For beginners and people getting back into exercising, take your time,” she says. “Sometimes, we have a tendency to make big plans that we cannot maintain, which causes us to give up altogether.” Instead, she recommends starting small and working your way up gradually to reach your goals.
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Rachael Link is a registered dietitian and health writer based in San Francisco. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Central Missouri and holds a master’s degree from New York University. She enjoys balancing her time between the kitchen and the gym and is passionate about all things related to food, sustainability and plant-based nutrition.
Dr. Antonio is chief executive officer and co-founder of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, an academic nonprofit dedicated to the science and application of sports nutrition and supplementation. In addition, he is the co-founder and vice president of the Society for Neurosports, an academic nonprofit with a focus on sports neuroscience. Dr. Antonio earned his Ph.D and completed a post-doctoral research fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed papers as well as over a dozen books. His current areas of research include: dietary supplements (e.g., creatine, protein, etc.), sports neuroscience and human performance. He is currently a professor at the Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Florida.
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