Men's Weight Loss: 12 Steps for Fitness Success

Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, MFOMA

Reviewed by Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA

Written by Lauren Panoff

Published 04/08/2024

Weight loss is a personal journey, and there’s no single best way to lose weight for men. But a few key components to men’s weight loss can be used to create a healthy lifestyle plan that’s right for you.

It’s crucial to understand the biggest factors of long-term, sustainable weight loss versus quick fixes or temporary solutions that may not support men’s health.

We’ll cover twelve proven weight loss tips for men, including foods to eat, exercise pointers, ways to sleep better and weight loss medications, plus guidance on how to lose body fat for men.

The internet is full of confusing, wishy-washy advice. If you’re looking for proven guidance on healthy weight loss for men, you’re in the right place.

The methods below touch on everything from weight loss medications to lifestyle changes, the importance of sleep, nutrition, movement and more.

Let’s dive in.

1. Increase Your Protein

If you’re wondering what foods help men lose weight, protein is one of them.

Most people don’t have trouble getting enough protein to support general wellness. However, increasing your protein intake could help your weight loss plan.

Your body uses protein to support muscle repair and growth, maintain a healthy metabolism (how it gets energy from food and burns it) and promote fat loss.

Eating more protein can help you feel fuller for longer between meals. This may help with men’s weight loss by reducing cravings and preventing overeating.

Plus, a high-protein diet can help preserve lean muscle mass while you lose weight — essentially prioritizing fat loss over loss of muscle.

A balance of protein, carbs and fats is essential for health and weight loss. But if you want to bump up your protein intake, try foods like:

  • Fish

  • Lean meats

  • Eggs

  • Legumes (beans, peas and lentils)

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Dairy products

  • Soy foods (tofu, tempeh and edamame)

  • Seitan (a wheat-based meat substitute)

To determine your daily protein needs for weight loss, it’s best to consult a registered dietitian.

2. Eat More Plants

Plant-based foods include fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

These earth-sourced eats provide fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that support overall health and help prevent weight-related health problems.

They even offer a little bit of protein. Some (like avocados, olives and nuts) are a source of healthy fats too.

One of their biggest attributes for weight loss is that most plants are low in calories and beaming with nutrition.

This means you can eat more of them without much risk of going overboard on your meal plan. Plus, the fiber content helps keep you fuller longer and helps stabilize blood sugar.

To boost your plant intake, try these:

  • Oatmeal with nuts and berries or scrambled tofu with veggies for a high-protein breakfast

  • Smoothies made with fruits, vegetables or nut butter

  • A big bowl of leafy greens that can be used for salads throughout the week

  • Canned beans or lentils in soups or chilis in place of ground beef

  • Sliced fruit with nut butter or veggie sticks with hummus for a satisfying snack

The internet is ripe with recipes, meal plans and snack ideas if you ever need more inspiration.

3. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep isn’t just important for mood and energy. Science says it’s essential for reaching long-term weight loss goals.

Why? Adequate rest helps regulate hunger hormones. When you’re sleep-deprived, your body produces more appetite-stimulating ghrelin. It also lowers your levels of leptin, which is responsible for signaling fullness.

When these hormones are out of whack, you’re more likely to overeat and experience cravings that could derail your progress.

How much sleep do men need a night? Experts recommend aiming for seven to nine hours of shut-eye.

If this sounds like a stretch, consider these tips:

  • Follow consistent sleep and wake times, even on the weekends.

  • Plan a calming bedtime routine you can stick to.

  • Avoid technology close to bedtime, as screens emit blue light that disrupts melatonin — the hormone that tells your brain it’s time to chill.

  • Create a sleep-beckoning space with comfortable bedding and white noise (if you need it).

Our blog has more sleep hygiene tips to get you started.

4. Stay Hydrated

Water is the stuff of life. It’s also a critical component of losing weight for men.

Not only does hydration support healthy digestion, metabolism, blood pressure and body temperature regulation, but it can also help prevent overeating and promote fat digestion.

Sometimes, thirst can be mistaken for hunger. Guzzling water before meals can help curb cravings.

Try sipping a little bit of water throughout the day rather than trying to chug your whole water bottle after a workout. And thinking about getting a reusable water bottle to keep with you.

If you get bored of plain water, try unsweetened seltzer, herbal tea or water flavored with lemon slices. Avoid sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit juices and sodas, as these are often high in empty calories (calories without nutrition) and added sugar.

5. Choose the Right Carbs

Carbohydrates have (unfairly) gotten a bad rap. This is a problem because they’re actually your body’s preferred source of energy.

When you eat them, they’re digested into glucose (sugar) molecules. These are transported into your cells and throughout your body for numerous purposes.

Low-carb diets can promote short-term weight loss. But they aren’t for everyone and may not be a solution for sustainable weight loss — weight gain is likely when you start eating carbs again.

What might be better is learning which carbs will give you the most nutritional bang for your buck. Let’s break down the two camps of carbohydrates: complex and simple (or refined).

Complex carbs are minimally processed and high in fiber. Simple carbs are the opposite — things like donuts, white rice, white bread, potato chips and candy.

Think about where you can replace simple carbs with complex ones, like:

  • Brown rice

  • Quinoa

  • 100% whole wheat bread and pasta

  • Popcorn

  • Oatmeal

  • Fruits

  • Vegetables

  • Legumes

The fiber in complex carbs is essential for healthy male weight loss. It keeps you fuller longer, stabilizes blood sugar and gives you energy for exercise.

6. Exercise Effectively

Experts recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise a week for overall health. For weight loss, some suggest bumping this up to 200 to 300 minutes per week (or about 30 to 40 minutes a day).

This is a lot — we know. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to hit these marks. Try starting slow and gradually increase your time as your body adjusts.

Strength training is also important for building muscle mass, but unlike aerobic activity, two sessions a week might be all you need to see results.

What’s the best exercise for men trying to lose weight? In the end, it’s what you like doing.

Your best bet might be to find activities of varied intensity you actually enjoy. For example, maybe you want to try swimming, walking with your dog, bicycling, lifting weights, using resistance bands, playing basketball and joining a high-intensity interval training class.

8. Understand Your Calorie Intake vs. Expenditure

You’ve probably heard the saying “calories in, calories out” when it comes to weight loss — meaning you need to consume fewer calories than you burn.

While this is a basic truth to weight loss, there’s more to it — particularly in terms of the nutritional quality of what you’re eating rather than just the number.

Still, having a general idea of your energy intake and target goal can help support healthy weight loss.

This can vary depending on things like your stature, starting weight, goal weight and activity level. One guy might need 2,800 calories a day to lose weight, and another might be okay at 2,000.

Our advice is to use a calculator like the Harris-Benedict Equation. This lets you plug in your numbers to figure out your energy expenditure at rest (called basal metabolic rate or BMR).

For instance, if you’re 35 years old, weigh 180 pounds (82 kilograms) and are 5 feet 10 inches (178 centimeters) tall:

  • Start with the basic equation for men: BMR = 88.362 + (13.397 × weight in kg) + (4.799 × height in cm) - (5.677 × age in years)

  • Plug in your numbers: BMR = 88.362 + (13.397 × 82) + (4.799 × 178) - (5.677 × 35) to get 1845 calories per day

  • Apply an activity factor:

    • Little to no exercise = BMR x 1.2

    • Light exercise (1–3 days per week) = BMR x 1.375

    • Moderate exercise (3–5 days per week) = BMR x 1.55

    • Heavy exercise (6–7 days per week)  = BMR x 1.725

    • Very heavy exercise (twice per day, extra heavy workouts) = BMR x 1.9

  • If you’re moderately active, this would be 1,845 calories per day x 1.55 = 2860 calories per day to maintain current weight.

  • To lose weight, subtract 500-750 calories to get 2110-2360 calories per day.

8. Eat More Earlier in the Day

It can be tempting to skip breakfast to reduce your daily food intake, but research suggests this might actually work against your weight loss goals.

Plus, breakfast literally translates to “break-fast.” You’ve been without fuel since last night’s dinner, and your body needs a healthy recharge.

Eating more earlier in the day may align better with your body’s natural circadian rhythm (the physical and mental changes you go through in a 24-hour sleep-wake cycle). Based on the circadian cycle, men might have higher metabolic rates (meaning they burn more calories) in the morning and early afternoon.

So by eating more earlier in the day (and a little less in the evening), your body gets the fuel it needs when burning the most energy.

Not to mention, a solid breakfast helps stabilize blood sugar, curb hunger and reduce the likelihood of opening a bag of chips at 10 p.m.

9. Do It With a Friend

Have you ever planned to go to the gym in the morning but woke up the next day and decided you just don’t feel like it? These are times when having a social support system can be vital.

Don’t get us wrong — rest days are important. However, an accountability buddy can help you make good on your goals.

Studies show that social support is a key element in weight loss — especially when it’s positive and encouraging rather than based on shame for skipping a workout, for instance.

This could mean forming an accountability alliance with a friend who’s also trying to lose weight. Go to the gym together, meet for walks, check in during the week about how things are going and share struggles, empathy and motivation.

Another option is to join a group fitness community where you can see many of the same people regularly, get to know them and share your goals.

10. Practice Mindful Eating

Mindful eating means being more present at meals and attuned to your hunger-fullness cues.

In this fast-paced world, it can feel weird to slow down and enjoy your food. Mindful eating challenges that.

Here are some ways to be more mindful at meals:

  • Sit at a table for at least one meal a day (more, if possible) versus while standing or eating at your desk.

  • Reduce distractions by removing screens — yep, your phone too — and turning off the TV during meals.

  • Set your fork down between bites.

  • Engage all your senses at a meal — sight, smell, feel, sound and taste — when you need to recenter.

  • Push your plate away when you feel satisfied to physically signal to your brain that you’re done.

Being more present at meals can lead to better portion control and reduce overeating. It’s also good for your mental health.

11. Reduce Ultra-Processed Foods

Ultra-processed foods are widely available, generally inexpensive and convenient for busy lifestyles — and (we can admit) often delicious.

We’re talking potato chips, candy, sugary sodas, hot dogs, pastries, donuts and packaged foods made with refined white flour.

Unfortunately, these foods tend to be high in calories but low in nutrition. Many are full of saturated fat (the unhealthy kind), sodium (aka salt, which can make your body hold on to water) and added sugars.

They’re also easy to over-indulge in. Since highly processed foods don’t contain much — if any — fiber, they’re digested quickly, leaving more to be desired. Consequently, they’re not great for supporting weight loss goals (or overall health).

Take inventory of your typical diet and identify areas where ultra-processed foods could be reduced. Where can you swap in more whole foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and lean proteins?

12. Try Weight Loss Medications

Weight loss medications can be helpful for men looking to shed extra weight.

However, they’re meant to be used alongside a nutrient-rich diet and regular exercise — not alone.

To help suppress appetite, boost metabolism or inhibit fat absorption, here’s what some healthcare providers might prescribe for men’s weight loss:

  • GLP-1s. Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists mimic the action of the hormone GLP-1. They can reduce appetite, increase satiety (a full feeling) and slow digestion. Examples include exenatide (Byetta®, Bydureon®), liraglutide (Victoza®, Saxenda®), dulaglutide (Trulicity®) and semaglutide (Ozempic®, Wegovy®).

  • Metformin. While it’s made for blood sugar regulation, metformin can support weight loss by reducing appetite. See how Ozempic versus metformin compare in our blog.

  • Naltrexone and bupropion (Contrave®). Naltrexone targets alcohol and opioid dependence, and bupropion is an antidepressant medication. This combination supports weight loss by reducing cravings and appetite.

  • Topiramate. Topiramate is an anticonvulsant (for epileptic seizures), but it can promote satiety and suppress appetite.

Some of these medications were originally FDA-approved for other purposes, but are often prescribed off-label for weight loss because of their effectiveness.

Consult a healthcare provider if you’re interested in trying these. You can start by taking our free assessment to explore a custom weight loss medication kit.

Many men are asking the same questions you are about effective weight loss. Here are some answers to help.

What Is Normal Body Fat Mass for Men?

Normal body fat mass for men depends on factors like age, genetics and fitness level. But it generally falls below 28 percent of total body weight, with many between 17 and 22 percent.

Where Do Men Lose Weight First?

While targeted weight loss isn’t realistic, men tend to lose (and accumulate) weight first in their abdomen and waist. However, exactly how men lose weight and body composition varies from person to person.

What’s the Fastest Way to Lose Weight for Men?

Rather than asking the fastest way to lose weight, we encourage you to consider the most sustainable and healthy way. A nutrient-rich eating plan and regular exercise are the best approaches to achieving steady weight loss of one to two pounds per week.

Do Weight Loss Supplements Work?

Some supplements might offer modest benefits, but it depends on the specific product. There are also many things to consider with supplements, such as quality, purity, safety and science. Prioritize a nutritious food plan and exercise, and if you’re considering weight loss supplements, consult a dietitian to see if they might be safe or effective for you.

Weight loss is personal. With all the conflicting information out there, it’s easy to get into the weeds and lose track of the end goal. But not you! You have the tools, commitment and foresight for long-term success.

Here’s a rundown of how to lose weight for men:

  • Prioritize nutrition and exercise. These two factors are essential to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Beyond that, learning how to optimize what you eat and how you move your body will serve you for life, reducing the likelihood of regaining unwanted weight and the risk of weight-related chronic disease.

  • Stay consistent (and patient). It’s a long game. Quick-fix fad diets and flashy supplements generally don’t prioritize nutrition. Plus, they can put you at a higher risk of weight regain when you go back to eating normally. Slow and steady wins the race (to long-term well-being).

  • Find your people. While weight loss is an individual journey, doing it alongside others can make it easier. Whether you have a friend to go to the gym with or a text thread to help encourage each other, social support can go a long way.

Ready to pursue your personalized weight loss journey? Start by taking our assessment.

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Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA

Dr. Craig Primack MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA is a physician specializing in obesity medicine.

He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois and subsequently attended medical school at Loyola University — The Stritch School of Medicine. 

He completed a combined residency in Internal Medicine and in Pediatrics at Banner University- Phoenix, and Phoenix Children's Hospital. He received post-residency training in Obesity Medicine and is one of about 7,000 physicians in the U.S. certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine.

In 2006, Dr. Primack co-founded Scottdale Weight Loss Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he began practicing full-time obesity medicine. Scottsdale Weight Loss Center has grown since then to six obesity medicine clinicians in four locations around the greater Phoenix Metropolitan area.

From 2019–2021, he served as president of the Obesity Medicine Association (OMA), a society of over 5,000 clinicians dedicated to clinical obesity medicine. He has been on the OMA board since 2010, currently serving as ex-officio trustee.

Dr. Primack routinely does media interviews regarding weight loss and regularly speaks around the country educating medical professionals about weight loss and obesity care. He is co-author of the book, “Chasing Diets.”

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