More Beef Will Do You Good


Eating meat is important and as you may know I’ve always stressed red meat, and lots of it, as a staple for anyone looking to increase muscle mass and maximize body composition.


The reason is that beef is one of the best sources of protein as it contains the same essential and non-essential amino acid content as our skeletal muscle and provides up to 8 grams of protein per ounce. Beef also contains highly bioavailable key nutrients including thiamine, niacin, vitamin B12, iron, and zinc.


For more info on the benefits of red meat go to


While important for all age groups eating beef is even more important as you age. That’s because as you age you tend to lose muscle. You can counteract that with exercise and diet and part of that diet should be increasing red meat consumption.


In the last four decades I’ve written consistently that the suggested protein intake espoused by agencies and dieticians is way too low, not only for athletes but for those who are getting older – and who isn’t? My take is that you need a minimum of 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight if you’re anything more than a complete couch potato, and more if you’re into exercise. And that protein should include significant amounts of red meat.


A recent study done at McMaster University backs up some of what I’ve been saying by showing that the current guidelines for meat consumption are not high enough to maintain muscle mass never mind increasing it. This study looks at older individuals but the results apply to any age.


The research was published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. I’ve copied the abstract and introduction below. If you’re interested in the full paper it’s available for free at .


The study participants were 35 middle-aged men – in their upper 50s. The results of the study were that a 6-ounce serving of 85% lean ground beef resulted in significant improvements in the rate of muscle protein synthesis following exercise. Their conclusion was that the quantity of beef needed for optimal myofibrillar MPS for this age group is double the current recommended serving size of meat.


This study helps to show, and as anyone who’s into exercise already knows, that to build and even maintain muscle mass, you need more protein and more red meat than the conservative establishment recommends.


Other studies have shown the benefits of beef for increasing muscle mass, and improved body composition – see abstracts below.




J Nutr Health Aging. 2012;16(9):784-90. doi: 10.1007/s12603-012-0064-6.


Dietary protein and beef consumption predict for markers of muscle mass and nutrition status in older adults.


Asp ML, Richardson JR, Collene AL, Droll KR, Belury MA.


Author information







To determine the relationship of beef and protein intake to nutrition status, body composition, strength, and biochemical measures of vitamin and mineral status, inflammation and blood lipids in older adults.




Cross-sectional observational study.




State of Ohio, U.S.A.




142 adults ages 60-88.




Subjects completed a Diet History Questionnaire, and questionnaires related to nutrition status and activity. Subjects also underwent measurements of body composition and strength, and a subset took part in a blood draw for biochemical measurements.




Beef intake (g/d) was positively correlated to muscle mass measured by mid-arm muscle area (R=0.128, p=0.030). From multiple linear regression analysis, a 1oz/d (~28g/d) increase in beef consumption predicts for a 2.3cm(2) increase in mid-arm muscle area. Beef intake was negatively correlated to total (R=-0.179, p=0.035) and HDL (R=-0.247, p=0.004) cholesterol, and there was no association between beef and LDL-cholesterol, triglycerides, liver enzymes, or inflammatory markers. Protein intake (% of total energy) was positively correlated to nutrition status measured by the Mini Nutrition Assessment (R=0.196, p=0.020), and calf circumference (R=0.190, p=0.024), and these correlations remained when potential confounders were accounted for in multiple linear regression models. Protein intake was also positively correlated with BMI when analyzed with multiple linear regression.




Beef intake was positively associated with mid-arm muscle area, and protein intake was positively associated with nutrition status, calf circumference, and BMI in older adults. Consuming lean cuts of beef in moderation may be a healthy way in which older adults can increase protein intake, preserve muscle mass and improve nutrition status.




Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Jul;98(1):121-8. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.051201. Epub 2013 May 1.


Minced beef is more rapidly digested and absorbed than beef steak, resulting in greater postprandial protein retention in older men.


Pennings B, Groen BB, van Dijk JW, de Lange A, Kiskini A, Kuklinski M, Senden JM, van Loon LJ.


Author information







Older individuals generally experience a reduced food-chewing efficiency. As a consequence, food texture may represent an important factor that modulates dietary protein digestion and absorption kinetics and the subsequent postprandial protein balance.




We assessed the effect of meat texture on the dietary protein digestion rate, amino acid availability, and subsequent postprandial protein balance in vivo in older men.




Ten older men (mean ± SEM age: 74 ± 2 y) were randomly assigned to a crossover experiment that involved 2 treatments in which they consumed 135 g of specifically produced intrinsically L-[1-(13)C]phenylalanine-labeled beef, which was provided as beef steak or minced beef. Meat consumption was combined with continuous intravenous L-[ring-(2)H5]phenylalanine and L-[ring-(2)H2]tyrosine infusion to assess beef protein digestion and absorption kinetics as well as whole-body protein balance and skeletal muscle protein synthesis rates.




Meat protein-derived phenylalanine appeared more rapidly in the circulation after minced beef than after beef steak consumption (P < 0.05). Also, its availability in the circulation during the 6-h postprandial period was greater after minced beef than after beef steak consumption (61 ± 3% compared with 49 ± 3%, respectively; P < 0.01). The whole-body protein balance was more positive after minced beef than after beef steak consumption (29 ± 2 compared with 19 ± 3 μmol phenylalanine/kg, respectively; P < 0.01). Skeletal muscle protein synthesis rates did not differ between treatments when assessed over a 6-h postprandial period.




Minced beef is more rapidly digested and absorbed than beef steak, which results in increased amino acid availability and greater postprandial protein retention. However, this does not result in greater postprandial muscle protein synthesis rates.




Dose-dependent responses of myofibrillar protein synthesis with beef ingestion are enhanced with resistance exercise in middle-aged men


Meghann J. Robinson,a Nicholas A. Burd,a Leigh Breen,a Tracy Rerecich,a Yifan Yang,a Amy J. Hector,a Steven K. Baker,b Stuart M. Phillipsa

aExercise Metabolism Research Group, Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, 1280 Main St. West, Hamilton, ON L8S 4K1, Canada.

bDepartment of Neurology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Corresponding author: Stuart Phillips (e-mail:


Published on the web 9 November 2012.


Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 10.1139/apnm-2012-0092



Aging impairs the sensitivity of skeletal muscle to anabolic stimuli, such as amino acids and resistance exercise. Beef is a nutrient-rich source of dietary protein capable of stimulating muscle protein synthesis (MPS) rates in older men at rest. To date, the dose–response of myofibrillar protein synthesis to graded ingestion of protein-rich foods, such as beef, has not been determined. We aimed to determine the dose–response of MPS with and without resistance exercise to graded doses of beef ingestion. Thirty-five middle-aged men (59 ± 2 years) ingested 0 g, 57 g (2 oz; 12 g protein), 113 g (4 oz; 24 g protein), or 170 g (6 oz; 36 g protein) of (15% fat) ground beef (n = 7 per group). Subjects performed a bout of unilateral resistance exercise to allow measurement of the fed state and the fed plus resistance exercise state within each dose. A primed constant infusion of l-[1-13C]leucine was initiated to measure leucine oxidation and of l-[ring-13C6]phenylalanine was initiated to measure myofibrillar MPS. Myofibrillar MPS was increased with ingestion of 170 g of beef to a greater extent than all other doses at rest and after resistance exercise. There was more leucine oxidation with ingestion of 113 g of beef than with 0 g and 57 g, and it increased further after ingestion of 170 g of beef (all p < 0.05). Ingestion of 170 g of beef protein is required to stimulate a rise in myofibrillar MPS over and above that seen with lower doses. An isolated bout of resistance exercise was potent in stimulating myofibrillar MPS, and acted additively with feeding.

Keywords: aging, sarcopenia, muscle, nutrition, protein metabolism, muscle metabolism


The precise mechanisms underpinning age-related muscle atrophy (sarcopenia) are unclear; however, loss of muscle mass is ultimately due to an imbalance between muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and degradation. Emerging evidence suggests that the sensitivity of older muscles to normally anabolic stimuli, such as amino acid ingestion (Volpi et al. 2000; Cuthbertson et al. 2005; Katsanos et al. 2005) and exercise (Kumar et al. 2009), is blunted, compared with younger muscles. There is evidence, however, that older persons can overcome this resistance to the normal feeding-induced effects of amino acids, provided the leucine content of the ingested protein is increased (Katsanos et al. 2006; Rieu et al. 2006) or higher quantities of leucine-rich protein are ingested (Yang et al. 2012). A full complement of essential amino acids (EAA) may also be an important consideration for sustaining exercise-induced rates of MPS (Churchward-Venne et al. 2012).

Beef is a nutrient-rich, high-quality protein containing all the EAA in proportions similar to those found in human skeletal muscle (Chernoff 2004). Previously, Symons and colleagues (2007) showed that ingestion of 113 g of lean beef, providing 10 g of EAA, effectively stimulated mixed MPS in elderly persons to an extent similar to that seen in the young. In a separate study, the same group reported a similar increase in rates of mixed MPS in young and old persons after ingestion of a larger (340 g) serving of lean beef (Symons et al. 2009). It is important to note, however, that these studies (Symons et al. 2007, 2009) report data from the mixed muscle protein fraction, as opposed to the response of the force generating myofibrillar muscle proteins that primarily underpin hypertrophy.

Studies have consistently demonstrated that resistance exercise increases MPS in older adults (Yarasheski et al. 1993; Cuthbertson et al. 2005; Drummond et al. 2008), although the response is blunted, compared with that in younger adults (Kumar et al. 2009). It has been established that resistance exercise potentiates MPS when superimposed on protein ingestion (Tipton et al. 2001; Dreyer et al. 2008; Witard et al. 2009), so that a net gain in muscle protein occurs (Biolo et al. 1997). It has previously been shown that ingestion of 5 g and 10 g of protein after resistance exercise is sufficient to stimulate rates of MPS above exercise alone in young adults (Tang et al. 2007; Moore et al. 2009a); however, the response of MPS reached a plateau with ingestion of 20 g of protein after exercise. The synergistic effect of resistance exercise plus protein feeding is also evident in the skeletal muscle of older adults (Welle and Thornton 1998; Sheffield-Moore et al. 2004; Drummond et al. 2008; Pennings et al. 2011). However, older muscles are responsive to a much greater protein dose (40 g) after resistance exercise (Yang et al. 2012). Symons et al. (2011) showed the synergism of an exercise-plus-meal stimulus for MPS with ingestion of 113 g of beef following resistance exercise, after which rates of mixed MPS were comparable to those in the young.

To date, the dose–response of MPS to resistance exercise and ingestion of protein-rich food sources in older adults has not been examined. Furthermore, because sarcopenia begins in the fourth or fifth decade of life (Janssen and Ross 2005), it would seem relevant to study adults at this stage of life, with the end goal of developing interventions that precede and delay sarcopenia, rather than to attempt to recover losses that have already occurred. Therefore, the objectives of this study were to determine the dose–response of myofibrillar MPS, with and without resistance exercise, after consumption of a nutrient-rich beef protein, as opposed to consumption of crystalline amino acids (Cuthbertson et al. 2005). Moreover, we examined routes of amino acid disposal beyond MPS: namely, leucine oxidation. We hypothesized that myofibrillar MPS would increase linearly with greater doses of beef, but would, on the basis of the data from Symons et al. (2009), plateau at 113 g of beef, with no further increase at 170 g of beef


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    For the full text of this study go to


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