The Muscle-Building Food Men Need

Guys, if you want to beef up your muscles and keep them strong, try eating an extra-lean burger after your workout. Middle-aged men looking to maintain muscle as they age may need even more meat than some current health guidelines recommend, according to new research published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.

Researchers at the Exercise Metabolism Research Group at McMaster University looked at 35 middle-aged men (around 59 years of age), and found that six-ounce servings of 85 percent lean ground beef had better results for maintaining muscle mass than the three-ounce portions recommended in Canada’s Food Guide. (The USDA similarly recommends two to three ounces of meat per serving.)

The researchers looked to see how much meat was needed for “muscle protein synthesis,” a process that helps repair, maintain and grow skeletal muscle. What the researchers found was that while the smaller portions of red meat might prevent protein deficiency, they don’t necessarily preserve muscle mass—something that’s important for men looking to prevent muscle loss as they age.

Previous findings published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care show that 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal prevent sarcopenia, a progressive disease where lean muscle mass is reduced by three to eight percent each decade after the age of 30.

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Isn’t Red Meat Harmful?

Red meat consumption appears to be associated with an increased risk of mortality, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

However, the study was not without its critics. It was an observational study, rather than one with a control group, and the dietary data came from questionnaires filled out infrequently.  Whether a more rigorous study of the same magnitude and scale would report similar findings remains to be seen.

Other studies show that red meat may protect the heart. Thirty-six participants in a 2012 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition lowered their “bad” (LDL) cholesterol by 10 percent while eating four to five-and-a-half ounces of lean beef per day. 

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Protein Types

Sizzling steaks and hamburgers aren’t the only meats that help build and maintain muscles. 

  • Juicy bison burgers are not only delicious, but healthy as well. In fact, buffalo is high in protein and lower in fat, cholesterol and sodium than other red meats. The same is true for emu and ostrich.
  • Wild game, including rabbit, pheasant and venison, is often lower in fat than animals raised for market, such as ducks and geese.
  • Pork is another a great source of protein. Crispy bacon and pork chops are lower in sodium than ham and Canadian bacon.
  • Lamb is a popular meat internationally. The leanest cuts include the leg, arm and loin.
  • Chicken soup has tremendous benefits. Your grandma may not have been far off when she recommended chicken soup as an antidote for the common cold. Both chicken soup and chicken breast extracts are high in carnosine, a substance that is believed to temporarily prevent colds and flus. Soup has other benefits for the common cold and may help quell symptoms by reducing inflammation.

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How Much Protein Do You Need?

About ten to 35 percent of your daily calories should come from protein, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you consume 2000 calories a day, you’ll want to eat about 50 to 175 grams of protein a day. A three-ounce serving has about 25 grams of protein. 

To get more specific, the minimum RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for protein for both adult men and women is .8 grams per kilogram of body weight. Simply take your body weight in pounds, divide it by 2.2, and that’s how many grams of protein you need. For example, a 150-pound adult would need 54 grams of protein a day, or about 6 ounces of lean meat or poultry.

Prevent Muscle Loss

More ways for macho men to stay strong as they age include these science-based strategies.

  • Perform strength exercises two to three times per week, working each major muscle group with at least eight to ten repetitions. Allowing 48 hours between sessions aids adequate recovery.
  • Doing some form of aerobic activity, such as walking, jogging, swimming or cycling, can also benefit the muscles. Physical activity promotes heart health as well as muscle health.

Before beginning a new exercise regimen, make sure to discuss it with your doctor, who can offer individualized guidance.

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