Your completely science-backed guide to why everyone is wrong and red meat is super, super good for you.
This past Wednesday, I went out on a man-date with a good friend to celebrate his recent promotion and eat some big-ass, extra rare steaks.
Firstly, let me just say that I am in full favor of a weekly man-date.
As we’ve gotten older, the drive to go out to bars on weekends has kind of died down. Instead, I find myself at more tame dinners with my boys during the week, and because we all have such busy schedules, we end up pairing off more and more often.
For some reason, this seems to draw some looks from other people at the restaurant.
What the hell? Can’t two young, exceptionally well-dressed, exceptionally good looking guys with meticulously styled hair go out for a nice dinner without everyone assuming they’re getting naked together? Just because a guy is neat, dresses in the latest fashions, wears a lot of purple, and has an impressive shoe collection, does that automatically make him a homosexual? I submit that it does not.
2020 update: I wrote this back in 2009 and I’ve only gotten more right about this.
Anyway, like I was saying.
As we were talking – about business and fitness and all that – we wound up attracting the attention of two women at the table next to us. Naturally, I struck up a conversation with these two women, and in short order one of them referred to herself as “a classy broad.” Immediately, I knew she was cool – until I ordered the largest steak on the menu, cooked as rare as possible.
“Must be nice to be able to eat that without worrying about getting fat.”
I groaned inwardly and had an internal debate about whether or not I felt like getting into this conversation.
She didn’t seem like she was trying to be an ass; she just honestly believed that red meat was bad for your diet—a pretty common misconception.
I decided to be a nice guy (and maybe show off a little for her cute friend), and enlighten her as to why red meat is one of the world’s healthiest sources of protein – hell, one of the world’s healthiest foods.
No, not that awesome John Goodman movie. I’m talking about fat.
Yes, turkey and chicken have much less fat and, consequently, fewer calories than red meat, but a lot of the newer dietary research has shown that white meat pales in comparison (oh you better believe that pun was intended).
But not only does the higher fat content slow the rate of digestion (keeping you fuller for longer), but there are slightly less well known benefits of red meat – and I’m not talking about the satisfaction of tearing zombie-style into an extra rare steak.
Red meat is rich with an Essential Fatty Acid (EFA) known as arachidonic acid. This particular EFA is a building block for dienolic prostaglandins, a class of hormones with profound physiological effects: specifically, an increase protein turnover and synthesis.
Of particular interest to weight lifters, studies have shown prostaglandin concentrations to increase following resistance training; researchers believe that the eccentric component is the most important stimulus to the muscles, as the stretch appears to free arachidonic acid from muscle cells for synthesis of prostaglandins.
In short, higher levels of prostaglandins will allow you to maintain and possibly build more muscle while dieting – which is why a steak can be one of the most potent anabolic weapons in your arsenal.
Angling for a one-two science punch that would forever convert these women into steak-gorging fleshophiles, I leapt to my next point.
The main saturate found in beef in particular is stearic acid—the consumption of which has been shown to decrease plasma and liver cholesterol by reducing intestinal cholesterol absorption.
That’s right, steak can be good for your cholesterol levels.
On top of that, stearic acid may protect against type 2 diabetes, and it helps to prevent arterial clotting and the formation of fatty deposits within the arteries to fight off heart disease.
I finished with a flourish (spilling water on myself, that is) and smiled in what I hope was a helpful, un-smug manner. I hope.
She thought about it for a second, nodded, and said the following.
“But what about saturated fat and heart attacks?”
Bollocks. I knew this was coming.
For one thing, less than half the fat in red meat is saturated fat. But most importantly, not all fat is bad – in fact, saturated fat falls squarely in the “good” column.
Saturated fat is easily the most unfairly vilified nutrient of all time.
The reasons are complex, but the problem with saturated fat is mostly the fault of a dude called Ancel Keys, who devised an extraordinarily malformed study in the 1950s that saw a correlation in saturated fat intake and heart disease.
The globe-spanning study was very flawed, cherrypicking seven countries and ignoring those with moderate to high saturated fat intake and a low incidence of heart disease, like Germany and Norway, as well as smaller communities like the Kenyan Masai and the Tokelau in Polynesia. The misinformation snowballed for decades, culminating in the god-awful food pyramid of the 1990s. You know, the one that prescribed up to 11 daily servings of rice and pasta and basically as little saturated fat as possible.
Happily, more recent studies are showing that saturated fat almost certainly doesn’t cause heart disease, including a 2010 evaluation of 21 studies and nearly 350,000 people. Plus, there’s evidence that the stuff encourages the liver to dump its fat cells, helping it to function more effectively.
But the icing on the steak cake is that eating saturated fat, especially when combined with regular weight lifting, creates a perfect storm of manliness and prompts the body to produce more of everybody’s favorite muscle-building, fat-burning elixir of youth, testosterone. That’s right, you always knew how macho steak was—and now the science backs it up.
Still, this woman seemed unconvinced. And little old me, all out of science.
Finally, I just said this. You know what? Fine. Maybe you’re right. Maybe despite all my sciencey talk, red meat ain’t good for you. But you know what? I don’t care. I love red meat. I love it with my belly and my heart and my intestines and anything else it might cause damage to do.
Even if you told me that you could 100% GUARANTEE that eating red meat was going to take 10 years off my life, I wouldn’t stop.
If you said I had to live till the ripe old age of 105, in perfect health, and die blissfully in my sleep, but I could never eat red meat again, I’d pass. That sounds truly miserable. I don’t want to live another 70 years without eating steak. It would make me all kinds of sad.
Both women left shortly thereafter.
My friend and I, now bereft of our erstwhile female companionship, continued our very straight meal, and ate our very rare steaks.
We talked of many things. Mostly feelings, fashion and fruity drinks.
But seriously. We’re straight. We just kinda like shopping.
Not as much as steak, though.
2020 Update: Ten years later, we’re still learning more and more about red meat’s health benefits. Turns out, I was a bit ahead of curve on this one. However, this one completely valid reason to not eat red meat: the environment. While I’ll never be a vegan, and I think I can move the needle on helping climate change more by using my platform to elect those who will take it more seriously, agriculture is a big culprit for climate change worldwide.
But, if you’re on a plant-based diet I fully respect and support you in that decision. And for all meat-eaters, I encourage you to look for small, sustainable, (ideally local) farming to get your meat from. It’s better for the environment, for small businesses, and for you. That’s probably a whole other article, but if you live in New York or Las Angeles, you can get Belcampo meats delivered to you. We don’t have a promotional deal with them, they’re genuinely just awesome and I’d love for you to support them.
Comments for This Entry
Mark BaldwinI must agree. There is nothing better than a rare, grass fed steak.
September 26, 2014 at 7:03 pm
How I Fixed Lower Back Pain | About Arthritis Pain[…] defies both logic and physics to be concurrently impossibly fit and unfairly curvy), and you know I eat tons a lot of steak, and have written about the positive effect it can have on Testosterone […]
April 30, 2014 at 6:00 pm
How I Fixed Lower Back Pain - Roman Fitness Systems[…] defies both logic and physics to be concurrently impossibly fit and unfairly curvy), and you know I eat tons a lot of steak, and have written about the positive effect it can have on Testosterone […]
March 22, 2014 at 11:54 am
Meat Mastery: A Photo Guide to making the Best Goddamn Steak You’ve Ever Had in Your Life -[...] I’ve mentioned before, red meat (assuming it’s the right kind) is fully of healthy fat, which in addition to some other benefits, can help keep your testosterone levels where they should [...]
December 26, 2013 at 1:04 pm
Meat Mastery: A Photo Guide to making the Best Goddamn Steak You’ve Ever Had in Your Life - Health RSS Feed[...] I’ve mentioned before, red meat (assuming it’s the right kind) is fully of healthy fat, which in addition to some other benefits, can help keep your testosterone levels where they should [...]
December 26, 2013 at 1:09 am
How To Cook the Perfect Steak - a Photo Guide[...] I’ve mentioned before, red meat (assuming it’s the right kind) is fully of healthy fat, which in addition to some other benefits, can help keep your testosterone levels where they should [...]
December 17, 2013 at 7:20 am
Macronutrient Breakdown, Part II - Roman Fitness Systems[...] On the more positive side, it should be noted that saturated fats have some pretty positive effects on muscle gain and, consequently, fat loss. I touched on this more completely in this post on red meat. [...]
June 19, 2013 at 12:36 pm
Chad PeddieEntertaining post! I'm not sure how old you are (you mention young many, many, many times), but I'm sure as you grow older you'll see that life in your 80's or 90's isn't quite the hell you paint it to be (for some it is, but for most it is not. Heck, life in your 20's can be quite bad with the wrong attitude).
May 30, 2012 at 9:29 pm
John RomanielloHmm. You may be right. I hope that as I get older I will change my opinions. But probably not my diet! Also - I only used the word "young" twice in the post. Don't project ;)
May 30, 2012 at 10:42 pm
Daniel WallenRoman, this cracked me up an awful lot. I think this is my favorite thing you've ever wrote. Kudos.
March 18, 2012 at 3:59 pm
Daniel WallenOr is it "written?" I always get confused on that.
March 18, 2012 at 4:00 pm
FBSTNice job on this one.
March 17, 2012 at 5:32 pm
2busyTomJohn, this pic is to honor your story
March 17, 2012 at 5:25 pm
Tj CarrellGood for ya, man! I mix ground turkey and ground beef to make steaks and eat them with no bread. I am moderating my carbs here lately. But I kinda feel wheat seems to make my joints hurt a little more (arthritis) and I am experimenting to see if cutting way down on grains will make a positive difference. Take care, dude. You're doing a great job!
March 17, 2012 at 5:08 pm
sara donahueYou're funny. Don't change. :-)
March 17, 2012 at 7:05 am
JimThis is a great post. I was just trying to explain my love for steak the other night at a restaurant and didn't have nearly as much science to back it up.
March 17, 2012 at 4:45 am
2busyTomGreat story, John! And yay for a good steak! When I worked in NYC, after a month the favorite office joke was... "What vegetable does a Nebraskan order with his steak?" The answer was Hamburger...
March 17, 2012 at 4:01 am
Sebago74Great post...got me smiling while reading it... don't you just love spewing out that info to people who just don't get it?! How's the Paleo diet coming? I think it's a great way to live. I am actually greek so i do eat a lot like the mediterraneans but also a mix of Paleo because i RARELY eat any grains...i do sneak some beans in there here and there. Mostly meats/fish and veggies....it's amazing what you can do with cauliflower. If you're looking for a good Paleo cookbook try Make it Paleo by Bill Staley and Hayley Mason...amazing recipes and so easy . On the Man Date thing....I am a female , a little older than you, but as long as you're comfortable in your skin who cares. Many think it's strange that i don't mind going to a restaurant by myself....great time to just hang, watch people, think about stuff, and take time to enjoy your meal....and don't have to clean up afterwards! Have a great weekend......
March 17, 2012 at 1:50 am
SimonFunny and irreverent. Just the ticket.
November 22, 2009 at 12:18 am
ChrisThanks for the detailed reply. Sounds reasonable. I take krill oil now instead of fish oil, so I guess I'm still covered. Helloooohoo, beautiful lil' steak, hi there, handy boiled eggs with hummous!
September 2, 2009 at 1:20 pm
salhahahaha, i think ur a mix of Sam and charelotte from SATC....great blog....i just recently started eating red meat again...for 5 years i stopped for all the negative media it gets...but last week i started eating it again...and im so happy...i can now eat a rare steak for the first time in my life....im so excited about this!!
September 2, 2009 at 8:35 am
RicardoWell, well what a surprise , not much information but very, very funny. You are one of a few people to have used the correct reference for homosexuals. This remark is made solely on the basis of they hijacked the word GAY, how can anyone express that they feel gay today , of course meaning happy! O if you were told, that you only got a few days left if you keep eating red meat, would you give it up for a few extra months? Seeing that you love yourself as much as I do. Just kidding John. Enjoyed your blog very much hope to read more, that's if I give up red meat.
September 1, 2009 at 2:42 pm
AnoukHey! I'm from Argentina so i get where you're comin' from. And you had me laughin my ass off 'til the end. A LOT of cool info too. Beso
September 1, 2009 at 2:30 pm
LesThanks Joel for introducing ppl on your mailing list to this closet fitness comic. John: Thanks for bringing a nice recipe of knowledge, personality, and humour to the table. I wonder if you and Joel could actually design a workout to literally laugh one's extra poundage on the derriere off, aka lmao? Hmmm.
September 1, 2009 at 1:21 pm
ArbelYou recomend it too! Wow everybody recomends Prograde It must be revolutional!!! Man if only I knew how to obtain a credit card!!
September 1, 2009 at 10:43 am
John RomanielloOriginally Posted By nadiaWhat are your views on fish? Mercury is a trace element. Most of the research I've read, says the pros outweigh the cons. You wrote about fat content in white/pale meat other than chicken and turkey(fish qualifies). Omega-3 fatty acids in fish-oils are reportedly healthy. But maybe you have something new to share, just curious? um.. I am female and possibly lactose-intolerant, so fish seems to me, to be my best source of vitamin D (other than the Karachi/Tropical sun which I don't think is enough, since my mother is almost always in the sun, drank milk and ate yogurt regularly all her life but still has osteoporosis at the ripe age of 60). And well, my uncle made a huge fuss about contaminated fish recently, I looked it up online and found/'mostly read) that all the fishes in the world are slightly contaminated but still (I iterate) the boons shoot down the banes? Should I have fish once every week? If so, what kind? Depending on how much you eat, the pros win this one. Most fish have some level of contaminant, but then most things we eat have some "negative" stuff as well. Unless fish is your primary source of protein, you probably don't have to worry. In general, I would say if you are looking to eat fish once per week for health purposes, salmon is the way to go. John Berardi actually got me turned on to canned salmon a few years ago, and I think for people on the go it is a nice option for getting some extra Omega3. To avoid merucry, though, definitely try to buy fish from more reputable places. Free range Alaskan salmon is a great choice. And if you are going to buy farm raised salmon, make sure you check out the place it's coming from. In most cases you are getting a good fish, with pretty low levels of mercury. As an aside, forgive me for the brevity of my response here, but I am actually planning on doing a full post on the benefits of fish, which will allow more people to get more out of it. This post will also adress the mercury issue. It will have a lot more information than I can provide here. Overall though, as you said, I am of the mind that the boons outweight the banes.
September 1, 2009 at 6:57 am
Annylmao! My tummy and cheeks hurt from laughing... yet I feel the tiniest bit smarter as well. Loved the story, must go eat steak now!
September 1, 2009 at 6:54 am
John RomanielloOriginally Posted By ChrisSo, I knew about the beef, but learned something new: arachidonic acid. What, you mean it is NOT something evil?! YEEEHAW! But the good doctor Sears of Zone fame says "This particular polyunsaturaed fat may be the most dangerous fat know when consumed in excess and is known as an Omega 6 fat." And that is why it's an Egg Whites Only Zone. Yuck. Which is the main reason it never worked for me. (Not bad otherwise). So - what do you answer to the charge that the omega 6 oils manufacture bad eiconsanoids, and are thus a big no-no? In all honestly, it's of minor concern. This is one of those things that tends to be cancelled out by other stuff. In this particular case, educated people do educated things. Most people taking the time to even consider the implications Omega-6 could have on their health are generally the same type of people who are going to be supplementing with higher doses of fish and flax oil, and other sources of Omega-3. When you have that stuff in place, you don't really have to worry. I don't want to trialize, but I will point out that the stressing of the dangers of Omega-6s in the Zone was pretty deliberate. If you look at the time the Zone first became popular, it was sort of an answer to Atkins. Sears has good information, but he was smart about and presented it in a way that made people second guess the safety of a diet like Atkins which proposed eating meat, lard, bacon, whale, grease and human flesh all day. The Zone took a greater focus on health as part of a way to position itself in the market and set it apart from Atkins. The discusson of Omega 6 was one way to do this. To some extent, 'demonizing' whole eggs and red meat--two staples of the Atkins diet--was motivated by the Zone guys to sell more books. Not to say there isn't some merit to the argument that Omega 6 fats are worth worrying about. It's just probably not something that is really enough to make avoiding meat (for that reason alone) worthwhile. Finally I'll just return to my earlier point - taking enough omega 3 (you ARE taking fish oil, aren't you?) usually warrants concern about this unnecessary.
September 1, 2009 at 6:45 am
ChrisSo, I knew about the beef, but learned something new: arachidonic acid. What, you mean it is NOT something evil?! YEEEHAW! But the good doctor Sears of Zone fame says "This particular polyunsaturaed fat may be the most dangerous fat know when consumed in excess and is known as an Omega 6 fat." And that is why it's an Egg Whites Only Zone. Yuck. Which is the main reason it never worked for me. (Not bad otherwise). So - what do you answer to the charge that the omega 6 oils manufacture bad eiconsanoids, and are thus a big no-no?
September 1, 2009 at 2:24 am
nadiaWhat are your views on fish? Mercury is a trace element. Most of the research I've read, says the pros outweigh the cons. You wrote about fat content in white/pale meat other than chicken and turkey(fish qualifies). Omega-3 fatty acids in fish-oils are reportedly healthy. But maybe you have something new to share, just curious? um.. I am female and possibly lactose-intolerant, so fish seems to me, to be my best source of vitamin D (other than the Karachi/Tropical sun which I don't think is enough, since my mother is almost always in the sun, drank milk and ate yogurt regularly all her life but still has osteoporosis at the ripe age of 60). And well, my uncle made a huge fuss about contaminated fish recently, I looked it up online and found/'mostly read) that all the fishes in the world are slightly contaminated but still (I iterate) the boons shoot down the banes? Should I have fish once every week? If so, what kind?
September 1, 2009 at 2:10 am
John RomanielloThanks for all the kind words, guys. Keep checking back, I have so many more fun blog posts planned, and I will probably even be subjecting you to some video. Which is going to be either really, really funny...or, well, absolutely terrible. In which case I guess it'll be funny anyway. Just not for me.
August 31, 2009 at 6:25 pm
TonyDude, you're hilarious!!!
August 31, 2009 at 6:00 pm
SeanLOL! I am with you on eating meat! However, the benefits of all the good EFA's are in the organic grass fed cows. With that said, try having some flank steak, but tenderize and marinade it first. OMG is it good!! Even rare is it good! Nice and tender too, so you can take a junk of it right off the grill when cooking it! Yep, just had it yesterday as I am on vacation too in Miami. I get into these diet arguments all the time and it gets frustrating! It's funny though, I am very fit and they are usually over weight...hmmmm, and still arguing? WTF? You just want to tell them, "Hey, look at me, does it seem like my strategy is working?" Seriously! It all boils down to lifestyle and diet. Your body shows just what you are doing or NOT doing, period. Great post John! I can see why Joel is your best buddy, you sound like someone I could hang with too. Laughing make the time go by in a positive way and you get abs at the same time. LOL ;-)
August 31, 2009 at 5:23 pm
Deb@John Romaniello - Kangaroo is NOT like buffalo to me! But then I've only had buffalo in barbeque sauce and haven't tried that with kangaroo Also the "basic" cuts of meat seem to be different over here - I miss my good ole American meat. Nothing beats a good steak (beef) that is, cut well and cooked just right...
August 31, 2009 at 4:27 pm
SteveJohn, Great post and great humor. I can identify with what you said, except for the good-looking, great dressing part. At 57, I'm not as good-looking as I once was (although I'm still in great shape), and after reading Dress For Success years ago, I totally rebelled against the thought that people would judge me by the way I dress. Now, I know some people do, but I've decided to believe that they don't count. I love the story of the millionaire who dressed in his most ragged clothes to go buy a car. After leaving several dealerships because nobody would give him the time of day, he paid for a new Cadillac with $100 bills, making the day of the new salesman who didn't know better than to wait on him. I love your report and facts about steak. Long live the beef!
August 31, 2009 at 4:08 pm
BrendanI guess the term "Metro-sexual" got over-used, and people shy away from it - for one reason or another. But hell, let's face it, there's a certain amount of vanity associated with working out and trying to build the best body one can - who doesn't get a slight ego boost as you turn heads when you walk bare-chested down a beach (even other guys)? We live in a world where appearance makes an impression - either positive or negative, and there's nothing to say a guy is playing for the other team just because he cares about what impression he's making. So, down with the macho bulls*&^t, up with shopping, good looking outfits, cologne and hair products!!!
August 31, 2009 at 4:05 pm
ClaireChrist you kill me. That was just so brilliant, witty and informative. Thanks. Claire
August 31, 2009 at 4:03 pm
MelYou are hysterical. Bollocks! I thought only gay men used that term...just kidding. Loved the post, feel the same about my Ribeye. Life is just a little bit better with a grilled ribeye. And shopping of course! Mel
August 31, 2009 at 3:56 pm
John RomanielloI agree completely! Thanks for the kind words =) I hear Kangaroo meat is actually pretty tastey. Is it more like buffalo?
August 18, 2009 at 10:48 pm
DonsI think there should be more man dates that don't have to be "tough guy" stuff... I personally like a guy who knows how to socialise with other men and dress well... dosen't make them gay... some people are so narrow minded! Good for you... as a wise person once told me, never regret anything that makes you smile. very informative also, great read.. one of the great things about living in Australia is kangaroo is so delicious and available in supermarkets, so lean, high in protein and low in fat.... great for the training! thanks!
August 18, 2009 at 10:12 pm
John RomanielloOriginally Posted By LouiseHa ha, that was funny and informative...;-D Thanks =) I'll try to keep'em comin. Don't get too used to it. I'm probably going to run out of funny long before I run out of information. I may hire Jonah Hill to write some stuff for me. In return, I will train him and get him jacked. By the time I'm done with him, people will think he's Eric Bana.
August 15, 2009 at 12:35 pm
John Romaniello@Sirena - Thanks! I think I'm a mix of Carrie and Samantha. Sam knows what's up, and she is kind of a what you see is what you get type of person. I like that about her, and I think I'm like that. Carrie plays too many games, and is kind of...ehh, I dunno. Unmanageable I think. On the other hand, she is emblematic of a certain resilience that I admire. No matter how many times she gets hurt, or how cynical she pretends to be, deep down Carrie has always been a pretty optimistic character. I admire that trait. So that's me--hopelessly hopeful. Not that I watch that show.
August 15, 2009 at 12:33 pm
LouiseHa ha, that was funny and informative...;-D
August 15, 2009 at 11:05 am
SirenaHA! Awesome post John. Looking forward to your top picks on "urban messenger bags". So tell me, which Sex and The City character do you identify with most? I'm thinking Carrie... Good writing, very clever :) Sirena
August 15, 2009 at 1:36 am