Grain Fed Red Meat...Is It Really Worth It When It Comes To Your Health?

As active weight trainers, we are always very conscious of what we put into our bodies. As the saying goes, “you are what you eat” accurately describes how food affects our health and appearance. If you’re a fitness enthusiast, body builder, weight trainer, or other athlete, what you put into your body has a direct affect on how well you perform in the gym, arena, or other sports venues.

Food also has a huge impact on your appearance. Eat fat and unhealthy and your going to appear fat and unhealthy. Eat lean and healthy and your going to appear lean and healthy. There is a direct relationship between food, health and physical appearance.

To a lot of us, nutrition is a very misunderstood concept and because of this, we are often led down the wrong path which is both, detrimental to our health and appearance. Let’s take protein as an example.

I’ve been in the iron game for over 20 years and if there is one thing that has been driven into my head when it comes to diet, it’s the need for large amounts of protein. I vividly remember (In my younger days) being told that if I want to build muscle I had to drink gallons of whole milk, eat a 7 oz steak with eggs in the morning, and a 7 oz steak for my dinner. In other words, I was advised to eat the equivalent of a pound of red meat each and every day. At the time, my budget didn’t allow me the luxury of steak each and every day, which I now know, was a good thing. I’m sure you’ve also heard this very same sentiment.

There is no arguing that red meat is very high in protein, iron, creatine, and other vitamins. Red meat has been a staple in the diet of body builders, power lifters, and other strength athletes for ages.

However, there is a downside to grain fed, store bought red meat. It is also very high in saturated fat. Let’s take a look at a 3 oz cut of “lean”, store bought, grain fed red meat. There is approximately 15 grams of fat, most of which is saturated with about 23 grams of protein and 165 calories. When you think about it, we generally have double that size so you can imagine the amount of saturated fat that goes into our bodies.

I'm not going to get into the negative health effects of consuming too much saturated fats because there have been numerous studies done on this subject. However, fats are not bad, on the contrary, fats are essential to healthy living, including a certain amount of saturated fat. However, too much saturated fat can be detrimental to your health.

These figures alone is enough to give most of us pause and think “Why the hell are we putting all this unhealthy saturated fat into our bodies?”. Well, I hate to say it but most of us are lazy (Including your truly) and it’s so much easier to go to the grocery store to pick up a pack of tasty sirloin streak than to seek out other sources of healthier red meats. It also depends on your location. My hometown has a population of about 2,500 people with a grocery store stuck in the stone age. There is no such thing as "healthy choices" and forget about organic meats. If you want organic, grass fed meat you have to go to the next city over which is about an hour an a half away.

With that being said, there are much healthier alternatives to grain fed red meat. Let’s take grass fed, organic beef for example. There is approximately 9 grams of fat, most of which is made up of essential fats such as omega 3. As you know, essential fatty acids such as omega 3's have been clinically proven to reduce low density lipids (LDL - “bad fats”) and cholesterol levels while increasing healthy, high density lipids (HDL - “good fats”), which combats heart disease and other health disorders.

According to a 2011 study in the British Journal of Nutrition, individuals who consumed grass fed meat for a period of 4 weeks, showed healthier levels of essential fats. The research involved two groups of healthy volunteers. One group ate grass fed red meat while the other group ate conventional grain fed meat.

The group that was fed grass red meat revealed an increase in their blood levels of omega 3 fatty acids while reducing their omega 6 fats which, in high levels are pro inflammatory that are linked to a number of health disorders.

The group that ate grain fed red meat revealed an increase in their blood levels of omega 6 fats while reducing their levels of omega 3 essential fats. The study concluded that eating conventional, grain fed red meat had been detrimental to the health of the group who consumed it.

According to “http://grassfedcow.com” “Cows eating grass enhance the Omega-3 content by 60%. Therefore, eating grass fed beef will increase the amount of Omega-3s in your diet. Eating grass-fed beef gives you the same Omega-3s found in fish!”

A research study done at the California State University, Chico, College of Agriculture, grass fed red meat is not only higher in omega 3 essential fats and lower in saturated fat than conventional grain fed meat but also contains a high amount of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).

CLA is a polyusaturated fat that may help improve overall health, body composition (Body weight and fat loss) and reduce the risk of certain diseases.

Okay, what does all this have to do with building a lean, muscled physique? It’s simple - Too much conventional, grain fed beef can be unhealthy due to its high saturated fat content. You have to ask yourself if this is a healthy choice for anyone looking stay lean and muscular. At 15 to 17 grams of saturated fat per 3 ounce serving of “lean” grain fed meat, its simply too much fat.

According to the website (http://www.eatwild.com/healthbenefits.htm), "a 6-ounce steak from a grass-finished steer can have 100 fewer calories than a 6-ounce steak from a grain-fed steer."Additionally, "if you eat a typical amount of beef (66.5 pounds a year), switching to lean grass-fed beef will save you 17,733 calories a year."

Grass fed beef has all the benefits of traditional beef but without the unhealthy fats (I'm not even going to get into the anti biotics and hormones that are used to treat conventional, grain fed cows). I’m personally a big fan of beef but it’s getting harder and harder to justify my intake given all the hard evidence about the unhealthy side effects.

Let’s take a look at the facts:

• Grass fed meat is much lower in total fat than grain fed meat;
• Grass fed meat is lower in total calories than grain fed meat;
• Grass fed meat is much lower in saturated fat than grain fed meat;
• Grass fed meat is two to three times higher in essential fats such as omega 3 than grain fed meat;
• Grass fed meat is 3 to 5 times higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than grain fed meat;
• Grass fed meat is higher in “good” fats and lower in “bad” fats;
• Grass fed meat has twice as much beta-carotene (vitamin A) than grain fed meat;
• Grass fed meat has three times as much vitamin E than grain fed meat;
• Grass fed meat is just as high in iron and niacin

Given the evidence currently available, I’ve made a conscious choice to switch from conventional, grain fed meat to organic grass fed meat and wild meats in general. I’ll be honest with you, I’m a meat eater and love the taste but I can’t argue with the facts. When it comes to building muscle and losing unwanted body fat, smart choices have to made. I truly want a healthy body and to do this, I must make a choice between good and bad. I believe my choice for organic, grass fed meat and wild meat in general, will be best for my health, appearance, and longevity. I can have all the muscle building, dense protein of conventional grain fed beef but without the bad stuff that goes along with it.

Here’s a comparison table for grain fed, grass fed beef and other wild meats.

Type Fat Protein Calories
Beef, grain fed (lean)
15
23
165
Beef, grass fed (lean)
9
22.7
152
Pork
19
22.3
165
Moose
1.5
22.1
130
Deer
1.4
23.6
149
Elk
0.9
22.8
137
Caribou
3.8
25.3
167
Bison, grass fed
2
20
130

Here are some sources you may want to check out for additional information:

http://www.eatwild.com/healthbenefits.htm

http://www.newenglandgrown.com/pages/gamegrassnutrition.html

http://grassfedcow.com/id3.html

http://products.mercola.com/organic-beef/

Update*** I just bought my first grass fed, organically grown beef. No antibiotics or hormones have been used to treat these animals. I will let you know how this beef tastes.

All the best and good luck,

Blake

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