Men need more protein than women because they have a larger lean body mass. It’s the most basic explanation of this particular difference in male and female nutritional requirements. However, this matter is much more complex. Differences in metabolism, lifestyle, diet, and age all matter in determining the healthy daily protein intake and can affect how much you need to step away from the recommended daily rate.
Why Men Need More Protein Than Women: Difference in Muscle Mass
Men naturally have more muscle mass than women and they grow it faster. Therefore, even a man and a woman with equal weight and activity level will have a different daily protein requirement. In this particular case, the difference will be minimal. However, even then the man will need more of this nutrient.
While the exact reason for this difference in male and female body composition isn’t clear, one can assume that it’s related to the difference in diets of our ancestors. Millennia ago, when the Homo genome evolved, gender roles largely defined diets. At those times, the majority of men were hunters and their diet included more meat. Women, on the other hand, were gatherers and their diet included more plants.
The difference wasn’t major because both genders consumed both types of food. However, it’s quite possible that men need more protein than women because this was conditioned into the genome during those early stages of evolution. Today, many societies raised above segregating gender roles and came to respect that both men and women must have equal rights and opportunities. However, that tiny genetic reminder of the past remains.
On the other hand, despite the existing research, the human genome remains a major mystery. Therefore, this theory might be incorrect. However, it is a fact that male physiology requires more proteins to function at peak condition. And a study in the Journal of Science and medicine in Sport indicates that men metabolize protein at a faster rate.
Daily Protein Intake Requirements for Men and Women
According to information from Harvard Medical School and a variety of other reputed sources, the recommended protein intake for adults is 0.8 gram per kilogram of body weight. You can also find plenty of sources that claim that the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of protein for men is 56 grams per day and 46 grams for women. However, it’s essential to understand that those are average numbers. Your body weight is the most important factor that determines how much of the nutrient you require.
If you have trouble with the calculations, you can use a specialized protein intake calculator. This solution takes into account that men need more protein than women, as well as considers other important factors, including age and activity level.
However, as you can see, the ultimate formula, which is 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight is the same for both genders. Therefore, men and women of equal weight should be eating the same amount of this nutrient, unless other important factors are at play. Those factors are age, pregnancy and lactation, and activity level.
Do Men Need More Protein Than Women When They Age?
There is no additional difference in the daily protein intake requirements between men and women appearing as they age. The amount of the nutrient a person should be consuming remains dependent on their body mass. But it’s true that the overall requirement for protein can increase after the age of 50, regardless of the gender (AARP).
This happens because older adults run the risk of developing a condition which leads to the natural loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia). Daily protein needs increase to offset this condition and reduce the loss. Doubling your daily intake after 50% can help protect your body and prevent the issue.
When Do Women Need More Protein Than Men?
The fact that men need more protein than women isn’t always true. During pregnancy and lactation periods the woman’s body undergoes some major changes. An increased need for protein is one of those.
At this time, women should consume on average 60 grams a day, compared to 46 grams recommended for non-pregnant or lactating women. The rule of thumb here is upping your intake from 0.8g to 1.1g per kilogram (Medical Clinics of North America). However, women need to be mindful of their overall weight gain during pregnancy. If it exceeds the healthy rate, one should consult their doctor about any relevant nutritional changes.
What About Athletes? Daily Protein Intake for Muscle Growth
Men need more protein than women if they are athletes, even as opposed to women athletes. In this case, the main factor that determines the recommended daily intake of the nutrient is the level of activity, which means the amount and type of daily exercise.
According to research, athletes should consume between 1.3-1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. However, due to the extreme stress that comes with pro-level exercising, one shouldn’t rely on average numbers. Therefore, it will be best to consult a professional nutritionist who will be able to develop a healthy diet plan based on your personal needs. Note that this plan will need to be adjusted during the periods of increased training intensity, for example before competitions.
You also need to keep in mind that protein intake for muscle growth is always the highest. The differences in protein metabolism rates is the exact reason why women bodybuilders cannot grow muscle at the same rate as men.
Can You Eat Too Much Protein?
Millions of people consume much more protein than recommended in a day. In light of this, the fact that men need more protein than women becomes irrelevant because the majority of people already eat too much of it.
That isn’t a good thing from the nutritional point of view.
Going over the recommended daily protein intake isn’t directly dangerous. However, some dieticians state that this might increase risk of kidney issues and damage bone health (BBC). There isn’t sufficient scientific evidence to prove that wither of these concerns for healthy people. Those, who already have bone or kidney problems, should follow specialized diets that include not only limiting their protein intake.
You also need to understand that an increased protein intake isn’t a singular dietary concern. Simply put, if a person eats too much protein a day, they are most likely eating too many calories. This means that they are most likely gaining excess weight. In this case, the fact that it’s extra protein you are eating doesn’t really matter because you are making an unhealthy dietary choice.
So, Men Need More Protein Than Women: What of It?
The fact that daily protein requirements for men are slightly higher in the majority of cases matters very little when you are planning a healthy diet. Other factors which affect how much of the nutrient you need (age activity level, etc.) are much more important for determining your exact dietary requirements. They are the ones you should focus on when designing your meal plan.