Strongmen, powerlifters, and bodybuilders have long spoken about the beneficial effects of red meat. It was unclear why it was so good, but it the increases in size and strength were hard to ignore.
Initially it was thought that the higher caloric content of red meat (as opposed to lean meats like chicken and turkey) was responsible for it's performance enhancing effects. Then when creatine became popular it was thought that the relatively high creatine content of red meat is what lead to the increases in performance. I have also heard other hypotheses on the carnosine content of meat.
While all of these hypotheses may play a role, a new hypothesis has been developed, and it has begun to be supported by a growing pile of research.
Only recently have we begun to realize that two components of red meat that were seen as universally "bad" by most people, may actually be beneficial, especially to those of us looking to increase muscle mass and strength. These two components are cholesterol and saturated fat.
It has long been known that testosterone (and all of the steroid hormones) are manufactured from cholesterol. So it is not much of a stretch to think that reducing the cholesterol in your diet too much can lead to lower levels of testosterone, which could affect strength and muscle gains.
Indeed, recent research confirms that by replacing or eliminating foods higher in saturated fat and cholesterol androgen (e.g. testosterone) concentrations are reduced. And one study (Riechman, 2007) has now confirmed that higher saturated fat intake combined with resistance training leads to more lean mass.
We still need more research in this area to confirm this relationship, but based on the limited research available, as well as the wealth of empirical data, I believe that healthy people should consume either eggs or lean red meat every day, especially when your goals are strength and muscle mass gains.
It's important not to go overboard however. We do know that high intakes of cholesterol and saturated fat have been associated with a variety of cardiovascular problems. Because of this you should check with your doctor if you are a risk for cardiovascular problems.
But for healthy people I believe that red meat and whole eggs, when combined with a well-rounded diet of lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can contribute to your health and physique goals.
It should also be noted that the source of your meat is also important. I always suggest grass-fed beef as the only source of red meat. U.S. Wellness Meats is my preferred supplier, and the Athletic Muscle Building Program includes some great discounts on their products.
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