When I was a child grocery shopping with my mom was the most boring errand ever. Unless I got to pick out my favorite box of cereal or snack, shopping for food was the last thing I wanted to do. Even as an adult I still feel the same way about groceries except if I don’t go out and buy food there is no mom around to do it and I will be hungry. And that makes me unhappy.
So I gotta go grocery shopping and we do the same grocery route every week: Rainbow groceries for produce and grains then drive to Costco next door for meat.
As a huge advocate for eating quality protein to maintain muscle mass, keep lean and increase satiety, I buy and cook meat in bulk. I typically buy the chicken breast, the ground turkey, and some cut of beef for variety. I always buy the grass fed, hormone and antibiotic free versions of protein and if Costco doesn’t carry it that week I will go to Whole Foods instead.
Last week, instead of grabbing the ground turkey I tossed ground Bison in my cart instead and made quarter pounder burger patties out of them.
Hands down red meat is definitely my preferred source of protein over the other types of meat. But red meat gets a bad rap in our society, from causing cancer to heart disease to a shorter life span. And honestly it’s undeserved and misrepresented!
Before I tell you why let me defend red meat and share with you the benefits it has,
Let me build back you up…literally!
One of the many ways that strength training stimulates muscle growth is by creating microtears in your muscle fibers. When this happens a group of hormones called Prostaglandins are responsible for tissue repair. Prostaglandins are lipids that aid in increasing protein turnover and synthesis. In order to create this lipid we need the building blocks from essential fatty acid called arachidonic acid which red meat happens to contain a lot of this.
So what’s my point? If you’re strength training eating red meat will help you build and maintain the muscle you already have. Win win on both fronts! Diet and exercise really go hand in hand to making sure you are getting the best results for the work you put in. Lack of the appropriate nutrition means you won’t reach your true potential and get the results you are looking for.
Want to improve your cholesterol? Eat more saturated fats.
Bet you never heard of that benefit before! When it comes to cholesterol, there are two types that your doctor will keep an eye out on, HDL (the good stuff) and LDL (the bad stuff). There is a negative correlation between levels of HDL and heart disease1. This means the higher your HDL level the lower the risk of developing heart disease.
When you replace or remove saturated fats from your diet your cholesterol does decrease but so does HDL which keeps your heart healthy2. At the same time, removing saturated fat also increases your triglyceride levels which are a different type of fat.
Based on the book by Gary Taubes called Why We Get Fat, it is the level of triglyceride levels that are indicative of a risk of a heart attack not necessary your blood pressure or your cholesterol. The higher the level of circulating triglycerides you have in your blood stream the higher risk of a heart attack.
Counterintuitive to what we may have learned from the media saturated fat is good for us!
Improve your testosterone levels to build muscle and get stronger faster
Now when you think of testosterone you may think that it only applies to men but it’s a hormone that is present in women as well but in lesser quantities which is why women are not capable of ‘bulking’ up the way men do.
Testosterone plays a huge role in building and maintaining muscle while also melting away fat. You can do all strength training in the world but if you do not have a sufficient amount of testosterone you won’t build muscle. This hormone also aids in tissue repair, immune system strength, as well keeping your sex drive healthy.
So how do you improve your testosterone levels naturally? Eat more saturated fats. Since testosterone is a hormone and fats are a pre-cursor to hormone synthesis it would make sense that you need a sufficient amount of fats to create hormone necessary for everyday function.
Also, at the same time saturated fat is the preferred fat for your heart. The type of fat that pre-dominantly surrounds the heart muscle3 is saturated and in times of stress your heart uses this fat. Diets high in saturated fats may also help you prevent diabetes as well4.
Where does your cow come from?
After learning some of the benefits of red meat the studies out there that prove that it's detrimental to your health can be labeled as inconclusive at best.
Take a closer look at the studies that generate these conclusions and understand what quality of meat they looking at as well as how is the meat being prepared for consumption. There are many types and grades of red meat: conventional, processed, and grass fed, organic meat. Not all types are created equal.
Meat that came from cows that were raised in a factory on a grain based diet are hormone treated, injected with antibiotics, raised under high stress conditions, and processed in various ways before they are wrapped up for you to buy at the store. At the same time meat can be smoked with nitrates, grilled, preserved, pan fried, baked etc which alters the properties of the protein.
Most health studies done on red meat in the U.S. are examining the effects from factory raised animals which is why there are such negative results when studying a diet with red meat. Understand that these studies only cover specific types of red meat.
Compare factory raised cows with with grass fed, free roaming, cows that are free from growth hormones and antibiotics and you will get a different profile and quality of meat at the store. We are what we eat which is why I tell my clients to buy the best quality of food and protein supplements you can afford. The difference adds up in the long run.
1Nelson, David and Michael Cox. Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry. 4th ed. New York: WH Freeman and Company, 2005. Print.
2 Volek, JS. Testosterone and cortisol in relationship to dietary nutrients and resistance exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, Jan, 1999, 82
3Fallon, Sally. Nourishing Tradition. Maryland: New Trends Publishing, 2001. Print.
4Reeves, Valerie. A diet enriched in stearic acid protects against the progression of type 3 diabetes in leptin receptor deficient mice (db/db). Diss. University of Kentucky, 2012. Web. 19 Dec 2016.