What’s Your Beef, Dude?
A new study finds that lean beef might help older men retain muscle mass. How much is enough – and how much is too much?
Men typically are cautioned to moderate their intake of red meat. That’s the time-honored advice to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and/or certain cancers.
And, for a meat-loving guy that can be hard to swallow.
But now, just the opposite recommendation is offered to men of a certain age.
More, not less, is the new mantra in one study’s conclusion, say some experts.
Middle-age men who consume greater amounts of beef maintain more body muscle that would normally decline with age, according to recent research in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.
There are catches, of course.
Men also have to be engaged in resistance exercise, and the beef should be very lean, not a thick marbled steak, according to Stuart M. Phillips Ph.D., one of the authors of the study and professor, department of kinesiology, Exercise Metabolism Research Group, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada.
Researchers are looking for ways prevent muscle loss that begins as early as the 40’s and 50’s. Consuming more lean beef and regularly doing resistance exercise might be one effective strategy.
Beef has distinctive characteristics that may help support muscle mass.
It contains zinc and iron and it has 75 percent biological value, which means that three-fourths of beef’s nutrients are used in the body, according to Jim White, registered dietitian, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson, Virginia Beach, Va.
When eating beef, White recommends lean cuts, which have less than 10 grams total fat in a 100- gram portion (3.5-ounces).
“For men, a four to five ounce serving is a pretty decent amount that’s recommended,” says White, who runs a fitness studio.
He’s concerned that eating too much beef or any protein could be harmful.
“Too much protein can lead to urinary loss of calcium; tax the kidneys,” White says. He also advises spacing the protein throughout the day.
In the Canadian research, which was funded in part by the beef industry, 35 men, average age late 50’s, were randomly fed different amounts of beef. The portions were no beef, 2 ounces, 4 ounces or 6 ounces of lean beef with 5 to 7 percent total fat.
The volunteers also performed three sets and reps of resistance exercises.
Tests on the men showed that eating 6 ounces of lean beef resulted in the greatest muscle protein synthesis.
Although the health experts may differ on appropriate portion size, both agree that resistance exercise has to be part of a regimen to keep muscle from atrophying.
“Eating beef isn’t hard, but you actually have to do the work. You still have to lift the weights. That’s the most difficult part for a lot of people,” Phillips says.
“There’s a focus on ‘we can eat all the protein we want’ but strength training is an important part of the puzzle. Do it at least two times a week,” White says.
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