Why We Need Meat

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).
expensive kobe beef tokyo
[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 sisson at 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.

evangeline lilly
[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?

world's most expensive chicken dish
[The World’s most expensive chicken dish is $231 at Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée 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.

99 thoughts on “Why We Need Meat”

  1. I know this is an old article, but I am bothered that in his list of foods he completely excludes things like quinoa, lentils, brown rice, amaranth seeds, and cracked wheat, which make up large parts of vegan diets. These provide more than enough protein and calcium for a day. Otherwise interesting article!

  2. Another completely rubbish argument… Just check out markus rothkranz. At least he puts up a good vegan argument.

    Also google “vegan bodybuilders” and tell me they don’t get their protein!

  3. It is an unfortunate fact that we have evolved over 6 million years as omnivores, which makes meat an essential part of our diet. You woúldn´t feed nut cutlets to a lion or beef steak to a cow, they would die. We are what we are and millions of years in the making, live with it.

  4. I see several people are in favor of being vegetarian which is a person’s right to choose to be and I don’t really care if someone wants to be vegetarian or not personally. I have a problem with someone telling me or other omnivores that we shouldn’t eat meat cause ultimately they believed some study that made them change their mind and think we should as well.
    So say everyone stopped eating meat. What would happen to all the cows, pigs, chickens, and any other animals humans keep caged and fenced up? Do we let them stay there and die? Sounds a little inhumane. Do we release them? Can’t wait to see that backfire on us, wrecks and such.

    That’s the question I think everyone needs to consider. If all the vegans and vegetarians succeeded and the world stopped eating meat altogether what would we do with all of the animals? Also, when you discover your answer I would like everyone to consider the potential future that action would create for everyone.
    And since I do feel so strongly about this why don’t we let the animals in the zoo go as well? It’s not their natural habitat so we should respect their rights and release them. When you consider fighting for animal rights consider every animal on earth whether near or far and also place yourself in this position. If you were faced against a bull that was angry and you were in an enclosed area with no escape, would you rather respect that bull’s right to live and let him take your life or would you like to have a gun to save yourself?

    The point is that if we let animals out they will overrun us and there will be fatalities. Some of you may still not care but when it’s you and your loved ones in that incident you will care then.

  5. The whole vegetarian/vegan thing is like a religion of culture – you believe in whatever that make you feel the best but don’t force it upon others or worse, judge people based on it.

  6. Dimwits about with their meat eating ways. We need protein. Whether it comes from plant (there are many sources not just beans btw) or animal (funny how choosy people are on which animals are food and which are pets/entertainment/sport/cuddly – double standards or some kind of schizophrenic aspect of modern humanity) . The fact is land water and crops go to feed livestock that could be far more useful and efficient if used to feed populations. yes that’s right country’s where there are starving people are growing food for export to feed animals for other people to eat. Now how screwed up is that? The CO2 and methane produced from livestock farming is a greater than all the transport by a factor of 2 at least and yet fuel is taxed hugely but meat not? Double standards or lobbyist influence. Drinking cows milk does much less good for you than it is suggested. Bacteria, Calcium depletion and fat are just a few of the nasties that come from that fantasy.
    The meat industry is responsible for the destruction of rainforests because there’s money involved in selling meat as exports to cretins like this guy.
    And there is also the moral issue but when you have people who use fantasy characters and superstition as their guiding principle then perhaps morality is a fluid thing,
    So in the end you need the proteins, you can get them from plants at a much less cost environmentally socially and economically or you can leave the world in a worse place and opt for the easy option and ignore the fact that as humans we have developed a conscience that allows us to shape our world as we need it and we can accept the consequences or not of our actions.
    Oh and the fact that you can produce between 20 to 100 times more nutrition from land used for graxing

  7. Human beings are not herbivores. You people have been conditioned to care about your looks and not your health, especially women. Sorry ladies you were not designed to look good. You were designed to store fat for milk production during times of famine.

    This culture has you brainwashed in believing the opposite. I guess we should also prevent all of the meat eating animals like lions and wolves to stop eating meat since it’s not ethical to do so. My Grandmother lived to be 98 years old. She along with the rest of my relatives had a farm and their diet consisted of a lot of meat.

    Life expectancy today is actually shorter due to all of the chemicals that are ingested from processed foods. Nothing is natural anymore. Eating meat is just part of the cycle of life. We’ve been doing for thousands of years and we have thrived as a species. Without this cycle there would be no ecosystem. We are everything and everything is us. Deal with it, it’s who we are.

  8. I’d like to see mention of bugs as a protein source. I’m dead serious, not being a smartarse or something. They’re usually pretty abundant and a pest, they’re a great source of protein, they don’t consume nearly as much as a cow or pig or even a chicken, they’re low in fat, and it’s not like other places in the world don’t eat them so it can obviously be done. I’d be interested in trying bugs as a meat source, but somehow I don’t see those coming to a farmer’s market or store near me any time soon, ha-ha. Imagine if our country could get past the “eww” factor and give it a real chance…I wonder if it could change things for the better?

    As someone with a lot of allergies (not even food allergies, either!), I was told when I finally went in for an allergy test that I should avoid fruit at all costs, and only eat cooked vegetables…I always wondered why my favorite fruits would make my stomach ache for hours after just a few bites (why yes, I am a slow learner apparently!), or why my throat would burn after certain meals with no way to make that feeling go away until it ran its course, or why certain areas of my skin would break out in rashes (ok, I still don’t understand how the heck that even works). And here I was hoping I could live on a “raw” diet with minimal meat, especially very little red meat! Overall giving up meat isn’t an option for me (of the many times I’ve tried, every time it led to some HORRIBLE digestive problems that were bad enough to make me call it quits before reaching my minimum time goals for giving vegetarianism an honest chance). And best part? Allergies in the US affect 1 in 5 people, and the trend is growing (and is growing in all developed countries, actually). I don’t have food allergies, save for a minor wheat allergy (the doctor said not to worry about it though), so even if you don’t have a food allergy you can be affected! As someone who deals with it, I can honestly say IT SUCKS and I wish it weren’t even an issue. I couldn’t even begin to explain how hard it is to cook for my LARP group, so many food allergies and such in the people I know.

    So to everyone touting on about how vegetarianism/veganism is really the way it should be and this article is full of BS, remember that it’s really true, NOT ALL OF US CAN DO IT. If you can, that’s AWESOME, and if you choose to live that lifestyle I say power to you and you rock! But to degrade those of us who literally can’t, or even the ones who choose not to, watch you’re mouth, please. What’s healthy to you may not be for the next person, that’s the wonderful world we live in (we aren’t all clones, yay!). No one should insult anyone for their diet, unless they’re doing something ridiculous and/or harmful to others like feeding on the flesh of their neighbors’ babies or something. In the end, as far as ethics go, there’s plenty wrong with agriculture as a whole (animals AND plants), and no matter what you do you are choosing your life over another living being’s life. To live is to consume, and to consume is to kill. So be nice to one another, and stop pointing fingers and saying, “No, MY way is superior!” (and yes, I realize this article isn’t being kind to vegetarians/vegans with that title alone, never-the-less the content…because OBVIOUSLY there are plenty of people who CAN and DO live without meat just fine…I mean, there’s more to how healthy you’ll be than what you eat! ha-ha There’s more reason than our ancestors eating meat to them being healthy! And gosh that’s BEFORE they had additives and chemicals and antibiotics and the like in their food).

  9. Pingback: Dr. Neal Barnard Is Wrong. Fat Does Not Make You Fat …
  10. This was a very poorly put together blog entry on a very important topic. I hope anyone reading this trash has the common sense to do a moment of study before deciding vegan-ism is just a ‘life choice’.

    It’s funny … because being vegan is the choice OF life. Deciding that because we don’t *need* to harm and maim and kill, because we are perfectly able to live full and happy lives without eating eachother, we just *shouldn’t*.

    Hell, if protein is the only problem there is 57g of it in every 100 of seaweed. Just as much in most nuts and nut flours. 88g in every 100 of many soy proteins. All of which have a 80-99/100 amino acid score (a score of protein quality dependent on having all the essential amino acids in the proper proportions.)

    This far surpasses your revolting addiction of consuming the corpses of innocent beings. I know how you feel, though, because I am hooked on the stuff. I smell melted cheese or a neighbour barbecuing and a part of me says “You will never taste that wonderful flavour again.”

    But despite the cravings for a despicable act I was raised to commit daily, I know I could never do it again. I’d like to say it’s because I’m not a conceited disgrace of a thinking, reasoning entity, but that kind of truth is too rude…

    Suffice it to say, I wouldn’t scalp another person simply because my ancestors did. Nor would I let my doctor operate on me with barber scissors, as was the norm once upon a time. And I definitely wont refuse a healthy and filling meal to dine instead on the ligaments, sinew, muscle tissue and cells of a living, breathing earthling.

  11. I feel the article states an opinion over fact and wished that he had used some scientific backing. I am however going to back Dana on this one (100% correct and I’ve been researching this while being unbiased. I don’t care if I’m vegan, a vegetarian, an omnivore, or a carnivore as long as I am as healthy as possible because I believe the number one reason to exist in this universe is to make yourself into the best possible being possible; mentally and physically.)

    Plants are great for our diet, but so is meat. At this stage in the game though, you can basically limit your diet in almost anyway desired and still remain healthy through supplemental nutrition.

  12. Figgzie: Vegans are douchebags is a weak argument. I like the one about how they wear animal products though. I always found that bizarre, but I put it down to them using the label of vegan incorrectly, because wearing animal products isn’t consistent with veganism. Also, lack of muscle definition could be genetic. Ask any non-vegan bodybuilder.

    D.bags aside, perhaps the bodybuilders you spoke of could help you understand that veganism is simply a lifestyle choice, and that your skinny bro-in-law is simply projecting his unhappiness with the world onto everyone he meets, inadvertently ensuring that they will come to loathe anyone who adopts the vegan life style.

    Good day sir!

  13. Cow fed! I am a highly competitive athlete (marathon runner) and must maintain a lean powerful frame of 107 lbs at 5’4″. Every time I have tried to NOT eat meat- I have critical drops in my ferritin levels. I consume legumes, almonds, tofu, dairy, fruits and veggies etc- BUT if I do not eat RED MEAT (I even swallow liquid iron daily!), my ferritin levels do not stay up and I run like crap. Sorry cow haters- but this girl needs the grizzle.

  14. This article sucks, he doesn’t give one single scientific reason why humans need meat. All he said was the same weak argument all the paleo guys use “our ancectors did it therefore we should too”

  15. Vegans and vegetarians take pride in telling people that they are vegans and vegetarians. They think its cool to be in the minority of the population, rebels in a sense. These same vegans who say they don’t eat meat because it’s wrong will still wear leather shoes and jackets. Most of the vegans I have met are d-bags, seriously. My brother in law is a vegan and he is always making tired comments about how unhealthy meat is. He weighs 115 pounds and has no muscle definition at all (skinny fat mentioned in the blog is perfect in this case!). I was eating a steak and he said my steak probably had a name when it was alive. I said “Yeah, it’s name is dinner”. If they weren’t so fanatical about their beliefs and if they weren’t always trying to convert meat eaters they might be tolerable. Throw away the vegans that are body builders and the remaining vegans look unhealthy and frail. The 2 vegans I know are always sick. You wanna obstain from eating meat? No problem. Do it without trying to suck up the attention you are dying for by being a vegan.

  16. Unconvincing job. Sure it’s more difficult to get protein in your diet: difficult in the sense that you should expend more effort in meal-planning. No idiot chugs jars of almond butter a day.

  17. I just watched the documentary, “Forks Over Knives,” with my vegan brother. I am a large supporter of meat and animal products, so naturally we disagreed on everything. I feel that this article proved most of the things in the documentary wrong. You also mentioned most of the doctors/studies that they mentioned in the movie.

  18. Simple fact check (with my lentils box and other stuff) :
    In half a cup of lentils, so 100g; there are 25g of protein, so half you daily intake. Not 9 grams
    In 6oz of tofu, so 170grams, there is 22gs of proteins.
    With the rest of the meals, even vegan (pasta, vegies, soymilk) thats enough for the day. And before a workout, a protein shake, don’t you all do that anyways ?
    Stick to the facts, they should speak out for themselves, and if they don’t…accept it and shut up.

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