Building a balanced diet is a challenge.
Not only do you need to consider your nutritional intake, but there’s plenty of other factors: cost, accessibility, ethics, environmental impact, variety… Many fitness experts and athletes like Tom Brady advocate a partially or wholly vegan diet, and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that replacing animal protein with plant-based alternatives has a whole bevy of health benefits.
However, it’s not as simple as swapping lamb for lentils when it comes to constructing a healthy diet.
Max Lugavere, nutritionist and author of New York Times best-seller The Genius Life, is still a staunch advocate for omnivorous diets, and regularly espouses the benefits of eating animal protein (particularly beef).
His latest Instagram post explores a common misconception people have about animal protein – specifically, red meat.
“When we think of meat we just think of protein or calories. This is short-sighted… all animal sources [of protein] but especially beef… [are] filled with copious nutrients, many of which are needed to function optimally and reach our full potential,” Lugavere shares.
It’s why high-protein diets like keto can actually work: animal proteins aren’t a zero-sum game; they’re not just macronutrients. They contain a whole cocktail of essential micronutrients as well that are essential for good nutrition.
One common pitfall people fall into when starting a new diet is being too myopic and not making sure they’re getting a balanced nutrient intake. It’s why so many people turn to supplements to make up for the shortfall.
“You can not out-exercise a poor diet and you can not definitely out-supplement poor food choices.”
Supplements can be expensive and might be doing you more harm than good: they can fool you into thinking you’re living a healthy, balanced lifestyle and lead you into neglecting other aspects of your nutrition… You’ll just end up with expensive piss.
There’s also a mental health advantage to eating red meat, Lugavere relates.
“There are numerous studies suggestive of red meat being beneficial to mental health. Often overlooked nutrients such as choline which is needed for methylation, and serves as the backbone for acetylcholine which aids in executive function. Or carnitine, an important amino acid, needed for fatty acids to be transported across the mitochondria membrane to be used for beta-oxidation (fat burning) and shown to be neuroprotective.”
A more psychosomatic justification for eating red meat and other animal proteins is that they’re very good at satiating hunger, as well as simply being enjoyable to eat. Satisfaction is a huge and particularly underrated component of any diet: you might be losing weight or building muscle, but if you’re miserable, what’s the point?
“In the modern world, we are more deficient in nutrients than calories, which run the operation of cellular function and dynamics of what we do with the energy potential of a calorie. A protein shake or protein bar will never compare to unadulterated natural sources of protein. Opt for the best equality source as possible as this will affect the nutritional values but also support local farmers who properly care and treat their animals for our benefit.”
It’s certainly food for thought, as is Lugavere’s cheeky sign-off:
“Let me know your thoughts… I am off to eat a steak.”