Muscle Building Foods – Beef

Top Round steak cut (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Top Round steak cut (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Welcome to the first in a series of posts related to foods that will help you build muscle. There are so many food options out there that I find a lot of people get overwhelmed and don’t know what to eat. There are a lot of fallacies out there about which foods are “healthy” and which are “unhealthy” so I wanted to clear up some of the myths.

When talking about building muscle the first thing that comes to mind is protein. Protein is one of the 3 macronutients (along with fats and carbohydrates) and one of its main functions is to build and repair muscle. Since building muscle is pretty much what this series of posts is about, I will start with the proteins.

The first food I will start this series with is beef. Beef gets a bad rap because there are so many fatty cuts that are popular like the ribeye or the T-Bone, but there are many lean options as well. When choosing these lean options, the good outweighs the bad.

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Beef Is Loaded With Protein

Let’s talk about the good things about beef first.  Obviously the first has to be the protein content. 3 oz of beef has about 20-30g of protein in it depending on what cut you choose. The protein in beef is also a complete protein meaning it’s not missing any essential amino acids. Most protein from plant sources are incomplete meaning one or more essential amino acids are missing or not in the correct ratio that your body needs for building muscle. The protein also has a high biological value which means it’s easily digestible by the body.

Beef is a Good Source of Creatine

Beef also contains creatine. Creatine supplements have been shown to increase strength in high-intensity anerobic activity. Creatine is made naturally in the body and it is generally recommended to get about 3-5gs in creatine supplementation a day. You can get about 2 grams per 16 ounce serving of beef.  Although you would need to eat a lot of beef in order to get the 3-5 grams, it is still there and while not too much of a good thing in that amount, it’s not necessarily a bad thin either.

Beef Has A Lot of Valuable Nutrients

Beef is an excellent source of iron. The iron in beef is the food supply’s most readily available and easily digestible sources for iron. Iron helps the blood carry oxygen to the muscles, which is important when working out.

Zinc is another mineral that beef is an excellent source of. Zinc helps the muscle building process and is important in protein synthesis. This means zinc plays an important role I determining how much protein your body will absorb.

The biggest knock on beef is it’s amount of fat and saturated fat content. Let’s talk about saturated fat first. While too much saturated fat is not good, some saturated fat has been shown to increase testosterone levels. About a third of the saturated fat in beef is from stearic acid, which has been shown to have little effect on blood cholesterol levels. While that brings down the saturated fat that effects cholesterol, that still leaves two thirds of the saturated fat that is not healthy. While there are cuts of beef that contain a lot of saturated fat, there are also lean cuts that contain less than 2g of saturated fats per 3 ounce portion.

The different cuts of beef (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The different cuts of beef (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The cut of beef you choose can really make a big difference in the calories and fat content. There are 5 cuts of beef that have less than 5 grams of fat per 3 ounces. The cuts are Eye Round Roast, Sirloin Tip Side, Top Round, Bottom Round and Top Sirloin. These are not the most tender or juicy cuts out there, but their macronutrient breakdown looks pretty good. With these, you get all the good things from beef with a relatively low amount of fat and cholesterol. The protein to fat ratio of the Top Round look to be the best out of the bunch. While the fat to protein ratio of these cuts of beef are not as good as a chicken or turkey breast, it is still leaner than a chicken thigh.



     Calories            fat        sat. fat  cholesterol        protein

Eye Round Roast and Steak      144                   4.0        1.4        53                     25.3

Sirloin Tip Side Steak                143                   4.1        1.6        68                     24.7

Top Round Roast and Steak      157                   4.6        1.6        61                     27.1

Bottom Round Roast and Steak 139                  4.9        1.7        64                     23.8

Top Sirloin Steak                       156                   4.9        1.9        49                     26.0


The next thing to consider is the grade of beef. The highest grade is US Prime. This is considered high quality because of it’s intramuscular fat and marbling. The marbling is also well distributed. This means it will probably taste the best but is not the healthiest because of all the extra fat. Prime cuts of beef are very rare and are usually sold to high end restaurants and hotel. Only 2.9% of the beef in the US gets this grade.

Kobe beef and the extensive marbling of the meat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kobe beef and the extensive marbling of the meat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One step down from Prime is US Choice. This is the most common grade. 53.7% of US beef gets this grade. The main difference between prime and choice is the fat content. Choice is leaner than Prime. Choice also comes from older cattle so the meat it not as tender.

The lowest grade of meat available to consumers is US Select. This is the leanest of the 3 grades so for those of you looking for lean protein with the benefits that beef provides, this is the grade to get. Taste-wise it will probably be the toughest of the 3 and might not be as flavorful.

So that’s it for beef stay tuned for the next muscle building food article where I’ll cover a great source of protein from the sea. If you liked this article please share it with a friend on facebook or twitter and be sure to check out some of my sponsor links.