I’m really excited about this post! This is an exclusive post written by Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple. What I like about it is that he is shaking things up here with a controversial subject… An article on why we actually NEED to eat meat (every other girl in downtown Seattle where I live is a vegetarian…I love it that he questions this trend).
[The world’s most expensive steak can be purchased at Aragawa Restaurant in Tokyo, Japan. An 8 ounce steak will run you $380.]
Why I Think You Will Enjoy Mark’s Writing Style
Mark’s blog is massively popular due to the fact that you just can’t find this stuff in magazines or any mainstream publication. I highly suggest you visit his site on a regular basis and subscribe to his RSS feed. It is quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs. I am pumped that he wrote this article exclusively for this site. How cool is that?
Here is a Picture of Mark at the Age of 54!
Mark stays this ripped year round. I like fitness authors who “walk the walk”. I guess I’m just picky about who I take advice from…I mean, why take advice from someone who is out-of-shape?
He knows a thing or two about fitness and nutrition. He was former editor of Optimum Health newsletter. He has written several books including Maximum Results, The Fat Control System, The Anti-aging Report and The Lean Lifestyle Program.
Oh yeah…he is “slightly” functionally fit as well, finishing as high as 4th place in The Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii. This is a MAJOR accomplishment!
[Okay…okay…so I know you want to dig in to the article. Here goes…]
Why We Need Meat
by Mark Sisson
Vegetarian and vegan lifestyles are more common than ever, especially in my neck of the woods (you guessed it, Southern California). I see the menus, hear the pitches, and even read the occasional bogus study that comes out in support of these diets (don’t get me started on the China Study). I once did four-month vegetarian experience in my 30s. I’ve even spent a week as a vegan, with an uncomfortable outcome in an otherwise fun vacation with extended family. Having studied the phenomenon (as well as the science) up close and personal, let me tell you I’m not convinced.
It’s not the most politically correct time to be a meat eater, I understand. And I empathize with those who forgo or reduce meat consumption for environmental and ethical concerns. My wife and son are among them. Nonetheless, the fact remains (as science and human history show), we need meat for optimum health.
First off, let’s get this on the table: no human civilization has ever subsisted, let alone thrived, without animal flesh of some kind. In fact, the study of past and current tribal populations shows that traditional diets contain about twice the protein intake of the typical Western diet today. On average, about a third of hunter-gatherer diets were protein-based. And protein for these folks meant mostly meat.
Research on remaining tribal cultures confirms the healthfulness of the traditional hunter-gatherer style diet. High protein, fruit- and vegetable-rich diets (with virtually no other carbs and few unhealthy fats) seem to protect against the so called “diseases of wealth” we’ve burdened ourselves with in the developed world (heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, arthritis, etc.).
In my little adventure on “Vegan Island” I got to hear the famous Dr. John McDougall’s doctrine on the health advantages of veganism. But when I looked around me, the picture didn’t fit the caption. Overweight people drawn to a philosophy that was clearly doing them no favors. As for the “thin” members of the fully fledged vegan group? I believe the label “skinny fat” would be an apt description.
[Rusty’s side note…Evangeline Lilly is an example of a slim woman who isn’t skinny fat. She is a great role model for women who want to get in great shape while still looking feminine.]
Okay! Quit looking at the picture…back to the article…
I don’t say this to be snide. I say it because the current nutritional “culture”, I believe, steers us the wrong way. To gain and maintain muscle mass, adequate protein consumption is essential for everyone (yup, men and women). For us seasoned folks out there, it’s especially critical for overall health as well as muscle mass maintenance, which is key to successful aging, of course. Fats are essential as well, you simply can’t live without them. As for all those carbs we athletes gorge ourselves on? Let me clear something up. Carbs provide glucose that serves as short-term fuel for muscles, but it doesn’t do a thing to build or maintain them. In fact, there is no actual requirement for carbs in the human diet.
As an active person, I eat (here’s an example of my daily diet break down) about 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass each day. For me, that’s about 150 grams of protein a day. (The powers that be would suggest I should be eating half that or less.) I’m 55 and have never been healthier or more fit in my life. Take a look if you like and judge for yourself.
And let me just put the big anti-protein critics to rest. One of the most common critiques links higher protein diets to impaired kidney function. Recent research suggests, however, that people without prior or developing kidney or liver impairment do not experience any kidney or liver issues with a higher protein intake (1.3 g/kg/day). People most at risk for this kind of kidney stress include those who have a personal or family history of kidney or liver problems or those who have high blood pressure or diabetes. And what about the osteoporosis link? This is an outdated claim that just doesn’t hold water. Most new research, including USDA studies, suggests bone density improves with added protein intake in most deficient or borderline people when they also have adequate Vitamin D. Stress, salt intake, and lack of weight-bearing exercise has more impact on bone loss.
But what does adequate protein intake look like in terms of a day’s menu? How do I personally fit 150 grams of protein in a day? I can tell you one thing: I’d be more than hard-pressed to do it without meat. In fact, as a vegan I think it would be pretty much impossible. Check out a few protein estimates (compliments of The Harvard School of Public Health and Northwestern University), and I think you’ll get the picture.
Beef (6 oz.) – 54 grams
Turkey, breast (6 oz.) – 51.4 grams
Pork Chop (6 oz.) 49 grams
Turkey, dark meat (6 oz.) – 48.6 grams
Hamburger (6 oz.) – 48.6 grams
Chicken, dark meat (6 oz.) – 47.2 grams
Tuna (6 oz.) – 40.1 grams
Chicken, breast (6 oz.) – 37.8 grams
Salmon (6 oz.) – 33.6 grams
Cottage cheese (1 cup) – 28.1 grams
Yogurt, low fat (1 cup) – 10.7 grams
Skim milk (1 cup) – 8.3 grams
Whole milk (1 cup) – 8 grams
American cheese (1 oz.) – 7 grams
Soymilk (6 oz.) – 6.7 grams
Egg (1 large) – 6.3 grams
Beans and Legumes, Nuts
Tofu (6 oz.) – 13.8 grams
Peanut Butter (2 Tbsp.) – 8.1 grams
Almond Butter (2 Tbsp.) – 7 grams
Lentils (1/2 cup) – 9 grams
Split Peas (1/2 cup) – 8.1 grams
Kidney Beans (1/2 cup) – 7.6 grams
Sesame Seeds (1 oz.) – 7.5 grams
Black Beans (1/2 cup) – 7.5 grams
Fruits and Vegetables
Orange (large) – 1.7 grams
Banana (medium) – 1.2 grams
Green Beans (1/2 cup) – 1 gram
Carrots (1/2 cup) – .8 gram
Apple (large) – 0 grams
Let’s put it this way. As a vegetarian, I’d have to consume a boat load of dairy, which isn’t the healthiest choice and often presents some rather uncomfortable consequences. As a vegan, I’d be gorging on beans (you fill in the blank on that one) trying in vain to get enough protein, all the while cramming in more starchy carbs. Tofu? There are many reasons to avoid it, and I certainly wouldn’t ever make it a staple food. Nut butter? I love almond butter as much as the next guy or gal, but I’d be shoveling away more than a jar of it a day if I was depending on it for a central protein source. How does that feel in your stomach?
[The World’s most expensive chicken dish is $231 at Alain Ducasse au Plaza AthÃ©nÃ©e in Paris.]
The fact is, we need meat for an efficient, bioavailable source of essential protein. But let me say that I do still believe in feeding your body the “cleanest” protein you can. Factory-farmed meats and fish can carry the heaviest “toxic” burden of our modern food supply. These toxins can be plentiful enough over time to put a strain on anyone’s body, including liver and kidneys. Choose organic, grass-fed meat and poultry whenever possible, and go for wild instead of farmed fish. Short of that, trim the excess fat off those supermarket family-pack steaks.
After my own week-long foray into vegan living, I found myself a few pounds short of muscle (which I was able to regain) and more convinced than ever that meat was essential for healthy living. An essential part of human evolutionary design, meat holds a central place in my Primal Blueprint philosophy. That first night back from vacation, it was also the main fare for dinner. A Porterhouse steak never tasted so good.