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Men on Diets

Move over, ladies -- the men are dieting too.

The male comfort zone -- How men choose diets

"Men are drawn to diets that promise to make them better at sports or to increase their energy," Heller says. "The supplement market is geared toward men who want more mass and less fat. Problem is those protein shakes don't do anything. We get plenty of protein. Exercise is all that will build muscle. There's no way around that."

Indeed, men don't always know what they're doing in the diet department. And to be fair, there are simpler departments to navigate. Men will order a piece of grilled fish and think they're being healthy, Klein offers as an example. “The fish may be a wise choice,” she says. “But the sauce or marinade will get you.”

Thwarted by such complexities, many men seek refuge in more well-marked terrain. The Atkins diet, Heller tells WebMD, is particularly popular with men.

"They're more comfortable with [Atkins'] all-or-nothing thing for some reason. And a steak is more masculine than a chicken salad. But it's not a healthy diet in the end," she says.

Of course that last point is endlessly disputed. A recent Stanford study threw a little ammunition to the Atkins advocates. In a year long study comparing four popular diets, overweight women lost the most weight on Atkins and had slightly better cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

Though the women-only study also has implications for male Atkins dieters, the lead author, Stanford researcher Christopher Gardner, says neither sex should take the results as a total vindication of the popular diet.

"This is just a 12-month study," he says. "As a health professional, I'd be concerned about what a high-saturated fat, high-protein diet would mean over the course of a lifetime."

Gardner argues that refined carbohydrates are the most important foods for both women and men to avoid. White bread, white rice, soda, starchy junk food -- it's these, he suspects, that are responsible for the increase in the country's caloric intake over the last couple decades. Good carbs such as fruit, vegetables, oatmeal, brown rice, and whole wheat breads and pastas, on the other hand, shouldn't be neglected.

Tips for men on diets -- How to avoid diet pitfalls

Just knowing the score on different foods isn't always enough. In tailoring nutrition lessons for me, Klein zeroes in on some common vulnerabilities even among those who know cookies from kale.

"Travel is an issue for a lot of men because many are often away from home because of work," she says. "Learning how to eat healthy on the road is important. On planes, I say to bring four or five packages of instant oatmeal -- they'll give you the hot water. Also, boxes of dry cereal. Cheerios, but not Honey Nut Cheerios."

Klein also advises travelers to book their hotel rooms on the sixth floor and walk up. Another tip: Get the taxi to drop you off a mile from where you're staying and hoof it the rest of the way.

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