When it comes to adding lean muscle to your frame, there’s one thing that everyone agrees with – you need a higher protein diet. Protein is essential to keep your body in a positive nitrogen balance/anabolic state for the recovery, repair and growth of lean body mass. Protein is also quite hard for the body to digest, keeping you feeling fuller for longer and increasing your calories burnt at rest. It can also stimulate the release of Glucagon – an extremely important hormone for fat loss and muscle building. What better way to increase the protein content and amino acid spectrum in your diet than to consume meat.
Before we round-up and compare some of the most common meats, it’s important to abide by these five rules of consuming meat.
The Five Commandments Of Consuming Meat
Thou shalt purchase organic, grass-fed, free-range products whenever possible – Cows, sheep, buffalo etc. are all designed to eat grass. Commercially raised animals are fed grains that quickly bulk them up, but can make them sick in the process. They then require a cocktail of drugs, antibiotics and pesticides that can quickly make their way into the meat you eat.
Thou shalt regularly rotate meat sources – Even though we’re about to compare various meats, it’s still important to regularly rotate meats to ensure a wide variety of macro and micronutrients are consumed and to prevent boredom.
Thou shalt eliminate consumption of processed meats – It’s often tempting to buy processed meat as a cheaper, more convenient alternative. Take a look at a ingredient list on the back of a processed meat product. You may, or may not be surprised to find a list of ingredients that look more like something out of a science experiment. Putting these chemicals into your body, will create a sub-optimal environment for health, fat loss and muscle building.
Thou shalt minimise smoked meats – Like processed meats, smoked meats often contain nitrates and nitrites as a colour fixative and flavouring element. Both of these additives have been found to cause cancer and tumours in test animals.
Thou shalt not fear fat in meats – Leaner meats are wise to consume for lean muscle gains, however if you’re abiding by all the commandments so far, the small amount of fat that you’ll find in your meat will be a good, high quality source. Just like protein, fats are important building blocks for the cells in your body, as well as acting as a key precursor to various muscle-building hormones such as testosterone.
Lean Muscle Nutritional Factors
When looking at various meats, I’ve come up with a selection of macronutrients and micronutrients that I believe are important to consider for increasing lean body mass. They are as follows:
Kcal – Regardless of your goal, the calorie content of the food we consume is always important to consider.
Protein – You could argue, a good meat for building muscle will have a high protein content per 100g.
Fat – Although a little bit of fat in meat is ok, a lean cut is ideal. Especially if your going to be consuming meat with most meals.
Vit D – For a long time vitamin D was simply looked at as a bone health vitamin, but clinical studies have confirmed its benefits branch out much further including; muscle strength, lean body mass, blood sugar regulation, insulin resistance, muscle power and fat loss. It can be synthesised in the body from sunlight, but chances are you’re not getting enough. So consuming foods high in vitamin D is a great way to keep your levels topped up.
Zinc (Zn) – Zinc is an important trace mineral that’s required for immune strength, cell division and growth of tissues. Low levels of zinc is also associated with loss of libido and impaired testosterone production in men.
Lean Muscle Meats Round-Up
Without further ado, let’s look at some meat! I’ve chosen some of the most common meats that people choose to consume in the western world. Please note all values are given per 100g of product and taken from McCance and Widdowson’s The Composition Of Foods.
Meat: Chicken breast
Vit D: 0.3µg
Summary: A great all-rounder, containing a healthy hit of all the important lean muscle nutritional factors. It’s also a fairly low calorie, making ideal if you also want fat loss based goals.
Meat: Turkey breast
Vit D: 0.4µg
Summary: Another great all-rounder, similar to chicken. It does however give a higher protein and zinc hit.
Meat: Beef (average)
Vit D: 0.5µg
Summary: Beef delivers a great zinc boost and can be a great healthy fat source provided it’s grass fed and organic.
Vit D: N
Summary: Very similar to beef, but with a higher protein content and higher calorie value, you could argue its a better muscle building food.
Vit D: N
Summary: Much like venison, pheasant can add some quality muscle-building calories into your diet. Never overlook game meats when on your pursuit to building a better body.
Meat: Lamb (average)
Vit D: 0.4µg
Summary: A lean cut of lamb, can be a great choice. Looking at the nutritional values it contains a decent amount across the board, much like beef.
Meat: Pork steaks
Vit D: 0.6µg
Summary: Pork often gets neglected, as when it comes to mind we think of pork scratchings and bacon etc. A lean pork steak can deliver a good protein hit as well as offer a vitamin D boost.
So by now, you should have a better idea of common meats and what they have to offer. Even if there is one or two that stand out to you, remember it’s still important to abide by the second commandment of consuming meat – “Thou shalt regularly rotate meat sources”.