It’s been a while since I did one of these beef advocacy posts, although I guess what I do every day is beef advocacy. In any case, I figured I’d whip up a post for you about how beef translates to strength, and why it should be incorporated into your diet and fitness plan.
The first thing I’ll say is that a high quality protein should be the anchor of your plate at meal time.
There really isn’t a more rich, more complete and more appetite satisfying protein source than beef. And when you go lean, you’re removing any unwanted fats as well. One caution is this: watch your portion size. I know that a “steak night” is often viewed as a special meal, and the tendency is to go big when you’re splurging. But if you can keep the portion size down, or share a steak with someone, that’s good.
Another option is to diversify your beef intake to other cuts and not just steakhouse middle meats like rib eyes, strip steaks and tenderloin. Those are just a few muscles in the entire animal after all.
Second, pair your beef with green veggies. Beef will provide you with plenty of zinc, iron, protein and B-vitamins (among others), but plants will get you the vitamin C, fiber and other nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. If you’re cutting down on your typical beef portion sizes (say from 10oz to 5oz), you can double the veggies and not feel guilty about it.
The third thing I’ll say is this: don’t be afraid of carbs! Carbs are energy, and our body craves and feels satisfied by consuming carbohydrates in the same way that we crave and feel satisfied by meat proteins. If you’re active – which you should be – you should never be avoiding carbs altogether unless you’re really trying to cut weight drastically (like at the onset of a comprehensive, physician-assisted weight loss program).
I like to promote carbs that are high in fiber, like whole grains, beans, legumes and starchy vegetables. Consuming fiber helps lower cholesterol, it slows the rate that blood sugar rises after a meal, and it immensely improves the body’s digestive processes.
Finally, beef is fuel for activity, but it’s also essential for muscle recovery and building strength after a workout or a run. Protein consumption afterwards stops muscle breakdown and aids in muscle repair, so eat some high quality protein like beef after a workout to help those processes along.
I guess that about does it. In short, I couldn’t do what I do – lifting three times a week, running over 20 miles a week, cycling, stairs, jumping rope for the length of a boxing match – without the fuel that beef provides me. I encourage you to get out there and be active, and fuel that activity with beef as a part of your nutrition plan. Those high quality proteins are vital!
Want to put in that extra mile? Check out this cool “Strength Field Manual” that “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.” just published.
OWYN (Only What You Need) is a plant-based line of protein products. I recently picked up a shitload of their items because I was looking to try something new for high protein, low sugar and high fiber drinks, snacks and coffees. I know, I know… What the fuck is Johnny Prime doing with plant-based shit? Clearly I don’t give a fuck about ANY of that shit. But if it tastes good, I’m in! I DO eat vegetables, you know… Anyway here’s what I got:
Protein snack bars, protein coffee, protein drinks, and protein powder. Let’s start with the protein coffee.
I love this shit. This is now part of my morning routine.
The flavor is great, it gives me a little caffeine boost without being all jittery.
Next up, the snack bars:
As you can see, I got a shitload. These, in combination with a protein drink, are meant to be my lunch at work (since I eat like an unhinged maniac during most dinners) or an occasional snack after dinner if I’m still hungry. Here is a closer look at the flavors:
They’re mainly made up of seeds and natural plant protein isolates, like pea powder, pumpkin seeds, chia, etc. But they don’t taste like rabbit food, and the flavors aren’t too sweet or overwhelming. They’re just right.
The ready-to-drink protein shakes are awesome.
Vanilla is my least favorite of the three, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad flavor by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just that the chocolate and strawberry/banana are better, in my opinion.
I’ve tried the powder once before; it was a coffee flavor. The vanilla and chocolate are better. They taste just like the pre-made shakes.
I totally stand behind these products. I think you’ll like them if you’re into this sort of stuff, regardless of the plant-based marketing. Give this shit a shot. If they can satisfy a rabid carnivore like me, I’m fairly certain they have an excellent product on their hands.
There are a ton of misconceptions in the world of beef. One of the biggest going around today is that consuming red meat is somehow bad for you. It’s fat. It’s poisonous to your body. It lacks nutritional value. Give me a break! Beef is nutritious and good for you! Let me just attack some of these points here for you guys in this article, which is my second installment of Beef Advocacy Mondays (BAM).
First the fat: The beef of today is leaner than it was in the past, due to genetic selection of certain characteristics for over four decades throughout the beef supply chain. Sirloin, for example, is 34% less fat today than it was in the 1960’s.
About 66% of beef cuts are considered lean cuts today, and a part of that is due to the fact that there has been an 80% decrease in external fats on grocery store meat cuts.
Most saturated fat from beef is located in the outer portions of fat, located externally from the muscles that we eat. The marbling, or intra-muscular fat, does contain saturated fat, but a third of it is steeric acid, which is cholesterol neutral. Beef also contains mono-unsaturated fat, which is the same kind of fat content you get from olive oil or avocados – the good fats, in other words. What this means is that if you trim your beef of any external fats before cooking and choose a lean cut, you’ll end up discarding most of the remaining “bad” fats and retaining the good fats.
I’ve thrown around the word “lean” a bunch of times here already. There’s actually some unpacking to do here. The term “lean” means that the beef has 4.5g or less of saturated fat per serving, and 10g or less total fat per serving. Leanness is mainly a function of the grade of beef (prime or choice vs select) and the location of the cut (rib vs sirloin or tenderloin), as opposed to farming and production methods (grain finished vs grass finished).
Okay so aside from fat content and leanness, I also mentioned that beef is nutritious and good for you. Here’s why: Beef contains 10 essential vitamins and minerals that are abundant in each serving. Most notably, it’s an excellent source of iron, B-vitamins, protein and zinc, but beef is a good or excellent source for all of the following:
Protein: 48% daily value
Vitamin B-12: 44% daily value
Selenium: 40% daily value
Zinc: 36% daily value
Niacin: 26% daily value
Vitamin B-6: 22% daily value
Phosphorus: 19% daily value
Choline: 16% daily value
Iron: 12% daily value
Riboflavin: 10% daily value
A 3oz serving of beef averages just 150 calories, and contains 25g of protein (48% daily value). You can imagine how great this is for building and repairing muscle after a hard workout or a long run.
Plant based proteins don’t provide all the amino acids that beef provides. Essentially they’re “incomplete” proteins. Let’s take beans, for example: You’d need to consume 371 calories worth of beans to obtain the protein content found in just 170 calories of beef. And peanut butter? Even worse. With that we are looking at nearly 600 calories. At that point you are blowing through your daily allotment of calories too fast, and you are not being satisfied in the meal.
With beef, you spend fewer calories for equal if not better nutritional content. In other words, beef is the better buy, the most bang for your buck. And it has been scientifically shown that consuming meat proteins actually has a satiating and hunger-satisfying effect on a person. I know I have perceived this phenomenon. On days when I have tried to eat veggies only, I ended up over-eating because I couldn’t ever seem to feel satisfied. Screw that. Give me some damn meat!
Grass-finished animals, or animals who exclusively eat grass and not grain for their entire lives, produce meat which also contains more Conjugated Lineolic Acid (CLA). This has been linked to long term weight management, and is thought to have health benefits that help combat a host of diseases, including cancer and heart disease. You just have to be careful with some of the research here, as many proponents of the grass-fed trend are very quick to bash anything that has to do with grain feeding without having the full picture. While I generally don’t particularly fancy the flavor of grass fed beef, the nutritional benefit of CLA is something to consider, and it just further strengthens the argument for consuming beef.
One caveat to this CLA business: The difference in CLA content between grass and grain -finished beef isn’t really big enough to justify excluding grain-finished beef from your diet. If CLA is what you’re after, maybe work some salmon into your diet, as that seems to contain more. But don’t forget to eat that yummy and nutritious beef either!
Those are a few of the things I hear pretty regularly from people who follow the blog.
“Are you Bulimic? Do you spit the food out?”
“What’s your dieting trick? Atkins?”
Those are some questions I get from people who have only met me in the past few years and have seen my loss of weight.
I figured it was time to post an official response to these sorts of questions here for all to see. I guess the best thing to do is start at the beginning:
I was always a skinny dude growing up. In fact my whole family is skinny. We are those people that everyone hates: we can pretty much eat whatever we want, not work out or exercise, and stay skinny (the women in my family might beg to differ, but that’s just how broads are). My dad, at his fattest, was 122lbs after he quit smoking and retired. I came out of high school at about 115lbs, maybe 120lbs. Coming out of college, I was the biggest in the family. I was the tallest at 5′ 10″ and heaviest at about 150lbs (I grew taller in college, by about 4 inches). At the peak of my youth, I looked like this:
Then it all went to shit. After I graduated law school things changed. My life became sedentary with the beginning of my career, sitting at a computer desk for 8-12 hours at a pop. No walking around, no fun with friends playing sports, and I was NOT the working out or running type.
My mid to late 20s hit and suddenly 150lbs became 175lbs. I wasn’t too concerned at the time. It actually felt good to have a little meat on my bones. I felt normal around people instead of being “holy shit I can see your ribs” skinny. I had just met and fallen in love with my future wife. I was comfortable, and not looking to impress anyone. Girlfriend became fiancé, and fiancé became wife (and wife became Cake Dealer). Meanwhile the steakhouse quest had started, so 175lbs became 180lbs, and 180lbs became 185lbs, then 190lbs and 195lbs… you get the picture… And I also started losing my hair! That sucked. A bald spot meant it was time to take it all down and accept being hairless. That made me bald and getting fat. Eww. A horrible double whammy. I was becoming George Costanza.
A random visit to the doctor revealed that I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and borderline diabetes. I was put onto some blood pressure meds for a few months while I tried to diet. The timing was good here (2008-2009) because my and my wife’s wedding was approaching. I was probably around 180-185lbs for the wedding, which was in April of 2009. I had lost 10-15lbs and was generally keeping it off.
The steakhouse quest was slowed if not halted. Until two things happened: (1) a trip to New Orleans, where all I wanted to do was eat and try everything in sight. Muffuletta sandwiches, beignets, gumbo, po’ boys and all that fantastic shit.
The diet was out the window at that point. Then, (2) we moved from NYC to Long Island after the wedding in the Summer of 2009. Three hours of my day had suddenly been sucked out of existence and lost to the horrors of the LIRR commute.
The first thing to go was home cooked meals. The last thing I wanted to do at 8:00pm when I got home from work was to cook a “sensible meal,” and then clean up afterward. By the time I finished eating and cleaning it would be close to 11:00pm, and my alarm was going off at 5:00am to catch a 6:09am train. Fuck that. Fuck ALL of it.
In my defiance of all things healthy, and with a raging middle finger held high to the LIRR, I re-started the quest for great steakhouses, all the while keeping notes and a list of places to go next. In April of 2011 I decided to put my notes into a blog format, and, eventually, here we are today.
But from mid-2009 to December 31, 2013 I was blowing up like a balloon. I never thought I could be a 200lb person, yet by the end of 2013 I was pushing fucking 220lbs! What a fat fucking bastard! I’d go up a flight or two of stairs and feel winded, my heart would race, and I felt weak. I was killing myself.
So I made a New Year’s resolution to lose some weight and get in shape. My target weight, at first, was 185lbs. At my heaviest I was 218lbs, so that meant a serious effort. I was looking at BMI (body mass index) calculators to see where someone my age, height, and activity level should be, and I was shocked. To get down to the high end of the acceptable BMI range for my frame, I needed to be about 175lbs. I didn’t think I’d get there, but I did. Here’s how:
I woke up early every morning to run on the treadmill. In the beginning I was going two miles in 20 minutes. Pathetic. Eventually I was doing three miles in 30 minutes, or switching off to do some stationary bike cycling to mix it up. Still a pretty bad pace, but at least I was going for longer. I did this every day, with the exception of weekends. Once the weather got nicer I was running outside. I liked this a shitload better than the treadmill. In fact, I found that my pace was quickening, and I was going for longer distances.
I also switched my diet up drastically. I was counting calories. In the beginning I was trying to keep it well under 2000 calories per day, that way I would get the ball rolling on the weight loss. I thought of the calories like money. I had $2000 in my wallet for each day. If a candy bar cost $300, was it worth it? Or would it be better to spend that $300 on fish and a veggie, getting more food for my dollar? Lunch was typically carrots and celery, raw, with hot sauce to dip. Or pre-portioned serving sizes of nuts, dried fruit, trail mix, etc. Other lunches included Greek yogurt, or simply cooked veggies (steamed with seasoning, or sautéed in garlic and oil).
For dinner, I tried to double the veggie portion and half the meat portion, and always tried to watch the number of calories and serving size. More chicken, fish, or lean meats. Less grains, fatty meats, sugars, breads and starch. High fiber, low calorie, low carbs. I was also eating slowly. Fiber tricks your body into thinking it’s full, and it takes 20 minutes for your brain to tell your stomach that it’s full. Eat slowly and get full before you gorge yourself. Otherwise, that’s how over-eating happens.
Portion control was key though. If I needed a snack, I was hitting on nuts, dried fruit, yogurt or an occasional Fiber One snack bar – ALWAYS in the proper portion size as per the nutritional labels, and keeping my daily intake under 2000 calories. I tried to limit myself to two snacks per day: one between lunch and dinner, and one after dinner if necessary.
It was fucking tough. I was irritable at first. But I banged it out, and lost a shitload of weight in the first month; something like 25lbs. I kept this diet and exercise routine up for three or four months without changing too much up. If I ate a larger dinner, sometimes I would double up on my running for the day to shave off some of the extra calories out of pure guilt. This is analogous to working overtime to earn a little extra calorie dollars to spend.
Suddenly I was down 40lbs in four months. That meant I could normalize my diet a bit and just focus on maintaining weight instead of losing. I had hit my initial target, pretty much, but part of me wanted to push it more, to get into that “BMI” range of health and fitness. I still kept my lunches light, but dinner was pretty much a free for all (yay for steaks!). I didn’t do much snacking, but when I did, I tried to make sure I don’t go overboard.
The final pounds were the slowest to come off. My wife and I moved back to the city in the summer of 2014, so I continued my running in Central Park. Eventually I upped the daily average to five miles a day, typically in about 37-40 minutes, and only taking one day off per week instead of two. I was burning more calories, and occasionally doing ten mile runs (once a week) or even half marathons (once a month). That meant I could eat more (more calorie $$$ to spend each day), yet I was still losing weight. PERFECT! I shed even more weight. I donated all of my fat-guy clothes to charity, and broke out some of my older, skinny-guy clothing, as well as picked up some new stuff. I went from a 37 inch waist to a 32.
I currently fluctuate in my daily weight between about 168lbs and 173lbs (generally we are lighter in the mornings). So I’m down about 50lbs from the start! I still weigh myself several times per day. Constantly knowing what I weigh is important to me, because it helps me manage my weight. I’m in the proper BMI range, and I’m in the best physical shape of my life. I place no restrictions on my dinner meals. I still keep to a light lunch, unless I plan on burning more calories with a longer run that day. Snacking is still generally kept to a minimum, but I am not afraid to partake. All I do now is run and watch my lunch and snack intake, and I can eat anything I want for dinner. If I can do it, anyone can.
So what do you call this “diet” that I followed? I don’t know. It’s part Atkins, part “paleo,” part portion control and lots of good old fashioned exercise.
As for my cholesterol, I don’t know. Back in my fat-guy days, it was 169 for LDL and 259 total. As of February of 2014, which was only two months into my diet, it was down to 126 for LDL and 205 total. Improvement. No idea what it is now; hopefully much better. But I couldn’t care less.