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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