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Why Men Gain Weight: The Top 15 Reasons

By: Erin Coleman, B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.,

Writer at The Fit Father Project

why men gain weight

If you're curious as to why men gain weight you're not alone, as nearly 74% of adults are classified as overweight or obese.

Understanding why men gain weight and ways to avoid obesity is crucial when you want to maximize your health and wellness.

As men age, they often gain weight in their abdomen, which can contribute to a high risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions.

Women often gain weight in their abdomen, hips, thighs, or arms.

Men might also store excess fat in their arms, legs, and chest, but many men first see excess fat being stored in their waist.

During weight loss, you might first notice reductions in your waist circumference, however, weight loss is different for every man.

Spot reduction is hard, but weightlifting and increased cardiovascular exercise can help you eliminate stubborn fat pockets.

Let's dig deeper into the reasons why men gain weight — and how you can combat them.

Learn how to become more accountable to your health, fitness, and family.

15 Reasons Why Men Gain Weight

Common reasons why men tend to gain weight, especially over 40, include the following:

Low Testosterone

Among some of the many symptoms associated with low testosterone in men are weight gain and increases in body fat.

You may also notice decreased muscle mass, fatigue, hair loss, erectile dysfunction, and reductions in sex drive.

Nearly 40% of men ages 45 and older experience low testosterone. This percentage usually increases the older you get.

To reduce your risk of weight gain over 40 and beyond, consider testosterone-boosting supplements and eat testosterone-boosting foods.

Examples are fatty fish, onions, dark green vegetables, oysters, other shellfish, olive oil, argan oil, and caffeinated coffee or tea.

Testosterone-boosting supplements your doctor may suggest include vitamin D, fish oil supplements, onion extract, ginger, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).

Examples of foods to avoid are deep-fried foods, processed foods, sweets, and sugar-sweetened drinks.

Healthy lifestyle habits that maximize testosterone levels include getting regular exercise and plenty of sleep, maintaining a healthy weight, and keeping stress levels low.

And ask your doctor if you're a good candidate for testosterone therapy to increase hormone levels within your body.

They may recommend you try injections, gels, patches, or subdermal pellets implanted beneath your skin to keep testosterone levels within a normal, healthy range.

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Decreases in Muscle Mass

With aging in men often come decreases in muscle mass, which can reduce your metabolism and boost your risk of weight gain – especially after 40.

To combat the effects of age-related muscle loss, do what you can to maintain normal testosterone levels.

If you don't already complete strength training workouts, consider adding them to your weekly routine.

Aim to train all major muscle groups at least 2-3 times each week.

This includes your hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, glutes, back, chest, shoulders, triceps, and biceps.

You can work your abdominal muscles daily if you'd like to.

Try Fit Father Project weight lifting workouts at a gym or from the comfort of your home.

To complete home strength workouts, consider kettlebells, dumbbells, resistance bands, or your own body weight as resistance (squats, lunges, sit-ups, pushups, planks, etc.).

Doing so can maximize muscle mass and your body's metabolism while reducing your risk of unwanted weight gain.

Too Much Sitting

Sitting down much of the day is a common reason why men gain weight.

Studies show that sitting down for 8 hours or more daily increases your risk of diabetes by 21% compared with sitting down less than 4 hours per day.

Aim to sit down as little as possible during the day.

Even if you have a desk job, consider a sit-stand desk, increase the number of minutes you exercise, or boost activities of daily living (grocery shopping, yard work, walking the dog, house chores, etc.).

Take 5-10 minute walking or stair climbing breaks periodically throughout the day in addition to planned exercise.

Too Little Fiber

Fiber is a nutrient that keeps you full for longer time periods.

Many men don't consume as much fiber as they need daily to achieve exceptional health and wellness.

Fiber keeps you full but your body doesn't fully absorb or digest it, which is why you can subtract grams of fiber from your total carb intake.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends men consume 38 grams of fiber each day.

Doing so not only aids in healthy weight management, it can reduce your risk of high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.

Foods rich in fiber include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds (plant-based foods).

Studies show that supplementing with fiber can reduce your body weight, waist circumference, eating occasions, and body mass index (BMI).

It's best to meet your daily fiber needs with fiber-rich foods whenever possible, but ask your doctor if you're a good candidate for fiber supplementation.

Sugar-Sweetened Drinks

Consuming sugar-sweetened drinks (soda, lemonade, sweet tea, etc.) is a main reason why men gain weight.

These drinks can induce sweet cravings and add unneeded calories to your meal plan (up to 150 calories or more per drink in some cases).

However, sugary drinks often don't contribute to satiety or add essential nutrients to your diet.

Cut sugary drinks from your meal plan as much as possible.

Replace them with water, tea, coffee, 100% juice, milk, plant milk, or low-sugar protein shakes.

Sweeten water with juice or fruit chunks if you'd like.

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Diet Foods and Drinks

Diet foods and drinks aren't a good choice either when you're trying to avoid unwanted weight gain in men.

Studies show that drinks sweetened with artificial sweeteners (saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, or sucralose) are linked with higher waist circumferences and blood sugar levels.

Sweet-tasting foods and drinks, even if they are calorie-free, can affect your body's insulin levels and cause you to crave real sugar.

Because artificial sweeteners taste sweet, they can desensitize your sweet palate.

These calorie-free sweeteners may also negatively interact with good bacteria in your gut (your microbiome), altering the balance of good vs. bad gut bacteria.

Too Little Protein

Because protein can increase satiety and your metabolism, eating too little protein is a big reason why men gain weight.

Protein also helps you maintain lean muscle, which keeps your metabolism high.

A good rule of thumb is to eat protein-rich foods during each meal and snack.

Fill at least one-fourth of each plate with protein foods.

Examples include lean red meat, eggs, turkey, chicken, fish, seafood, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, milk, plant milk, and cheese.

Protein shakes, protein bars, nuts, seeds, nut butters, and legumes (beans, peas, and lentils) are also good protein sources.

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Too Many Refined Carbs

Eating too many refined carbohydrates, or low-fiber carbs, puts you at risk of unwanted weight gain.

Fiber-rich carbs are better options.

When healthy weight management (or weight loss) is your goal, avoid refined grains and other refined carbs as much as possible.

Examples of foods to steer clear of include white bread, white rice, sugary cereals, baked goods, sweets, pizza crust, white bagels, and more.

Choose fiber-rich carbs (whole grains, veggies, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds) instead to maintain a healthy weight.

Don't forget to add protein foods and heart-healthy fats to each meal.

Too Little Sleep

Getting enough sleep is a key component of healthy weight management, as studies show sleeping less than 7 hours each night is linked with obesity and a higher body mass index (BMI).

Sleep deprivation may alter hormone levels within your body, causing increased hunger and higher calorie consumption.

Getting too little sleep can also cause fatigue, which may negatively affect your workouts or cause you to skip exercise altogether.

To ensure you get a good night's rest, set a regular bedtime and allow 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.

Avoid smoking, caffeine, alcohol, and going to bed hungry or too full.

Reduce stress as much as possible and sleep in a cool dark room.

Use a white noise machine to block out loud sounds if you're a light sleeper.

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Lack Cardiovascular Exercise

Strength training is important to increase muscle mass, help you maintain lean mass, boost strength, and keep your metabolism high.

However, lack of cardiovascular exercise is a main reason why men gain weight.

If weight gain is your goal, you might cut back on aerobic exercise but it's still important.

If you desire weight loss, bump up your cardiovascular workouts to 30 minutes or more most days of the week.

Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, jogging, cycling, rowing, swimming, using an elliptical machine, stair climbing, jumping jacks, rope jumping, and playing basketball or racquetball.

No Structure

Not knowing which foods to eat or which fat-burning workouts are best (no structure) can cause weight gain in men.

If you'd like guidance about how to lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, or build muscle mass, consider the Fit Father Project program for busy dads.

This type of healthy lifestyle plan has helped hundreds of thousands of fathers maintain healthy eating and exercise habits for a lifetime.

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Alcohol

Alcohol contains 7 calories in each gram, and many types of alcoholic mixers (lemonade, soda, etc.) are loaded with added sugar.

To avoid common reasons why men gain weight, reduce your intake of or eliminate alcoholic drinks entirely.

Drinking in moderation for men means consuming two drinks or less per day.

If you choose to drink in moderation, pick light beer or mix hard liquor with club soda rather than sugar-sweetened mixers.

Stress

Stress is a major contributor to weight gain in men and women.

Anxiety and depression are also culprits.

While you can't always avoid stress, there are several ways to minimize it.

Consider relaxation techniques, such as slow breathing, yoga, meditation, tai chi, being spiritual, or massage.

Make your schedule less busy, take a mental day off from work, exercise regularly, and spend time outdoors whenever you can.

If you struggle with depression, try stress-reducing strategies, spend time with friends or family, and see your doctor.

They may recommend you try counseling or take anti-depression or anti-anxiety medications.

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Dining Out Too Much

While eating healthy while dining out is certainly possible, studies show that eating in restaurants frequently is associated with a higher body mass index (BMI).

To reduce your risk of unplanned weight gain, limit the number of times you spend dining out vs. preparing healthy foods at home.

If you do eat out, pick lean red meat, unbreaded poultry, fish, seafood, or eggs plus a lot of vegetables.

Choose brown or wild rice in place of white rice and avoid fried foods, cream-based soups, gravies, white bread, bacon, ham, other processed meats, and desserts.

Ask for salad dressings and other sauces on the side.

No Meal Planning

Not planning out your meals is a big reason why men gain weight.

Stick with a routine as much as possible and stick with regular meal times.

Try the perfect plate method to create healthy meals using the following guidelines:

  • Fill half of each plate of food with non-starchy vegetables (leafy greens, bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, broccoli, zucchini, celery, etc.)
  • Fill one-fourth of your plate with protein foods (chicken, turkey, organic lean red meat, fish, seafood, eggs, etc.)
  • Fill one-fourth of each plate with fiber-rich starches (black beans, lentils, peas, other legumes, corn, sweet potatoes, whole grains, etc.)

Add in three servings of dairy foods (or plant milk) daily, 1-3 servings of fruit each day, and a variety of heart-healthy fats during meals.

Erin Coleman B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.

Writer at The Fit Father Project

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 15 years of freelance writing experience.

She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her dietetic internship at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prior to beginning her career in medical content writing, Erin worked as Health Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Internal Medicine.

Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s currently working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife, and a Mom to two beautiful children.

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*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on why men gain weight.

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