Do you want beef?*
Spring is here, the sun shines more often than not, and it smells like jovial folksiness everywhere. And no, I don’t mean the smell of sweat of closely pent-up commuters in public transportation but the lovely smell of barbecues and grilled meat. There are barbecues everywhere now! It doesn’t matter whether you prefer gas barbecues, electric or charcoal barbecues – grilling food is especially fun in summer.
But what to put on the grill?
Today’s Tutorial Thursday is dedicated to nutrition. To be more precise: meat!
I would never try to start a discussion about vegetarianism or any other kind of diets. But it is a fact that most people have one thing coming to mind first when they think about barbecues: meat. The hardliners would even argue that vegetables must never come close to the grill.
Total bullcr*p if you ask me!
Grilling food over a flame is nothing else than a way of preparation. Thus, it is completely irrelevant what you prepare. I have even baked my dessert on a barbecue once. Nevertheless, today we are going to focus on meat as part of an athlete’s diet.
But why am I telling you all this? Simply because having a barbecue is awesome and it lends that certain something to many dishes. Especially to meat. And it is particularly athletes that often resort to a protein-rich diet with lots of meat and fish. Grilling these precious meals comes with some important things to consider:
It starts with the purchase!
If you want to treat your taste buds and your cells to something nice you should definitely take a closer look at the quality of the meat in question. Fatty acid profile, amount of protein, and all micro nutrients are highly dependent on origin, housing, and feeding of the animals. A cow that can roam freely, eat grass, and enjoy fresh air and sunshine is definitely more healthy and has better organs and muscles (which magically turn into that delicious meat on your grill). If you we look at the fatty acid profile we can see that meat from intensive mass animal farming has significantly more multiple-unsaturated omega 6 fatty acids than omega 3 fatty acids. This is the direct result of feeding the animal with corn and soy products. These are high on omega 6 fatty acids and, as recent studies have shown, excessive amounts of it can cause inflammation and health problems. If you want to know a bit more about omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids, see Tutorial Thursday 39.
These plants also have several antinutritive substances (anti-nutrients) which can irritate the immune system of the animal. That’s one of the reasons why the usage of antibiotics has become so infamously famous in intensive mass animal farming, necessary even. In addition, most animals are also fed growth hormones to make them slaughter-ready as fast as possible.
You should ask yourself: am I doing myself a favor with this? Is meat with bad fatty acids, inferior amino acids, and unwanted hormones and drugs really the best-suited fuel for my body?
The terms ethical husbandry or animal welfare occur more often these days and in combination with this nutrition plays a big part. This should be the case for humans and animals alike!
We are natural omnivores (so we eat pretty much everything) and we can’t (or only to limited degree) extract all nutrients from vegetable fibers and transform them into energy. Our digestive system and our metabolism simply work differently than that of a cow. If it is a real farm animal it can do this transformation for us and we can absorb these nutrients through their meat.
What meat you choose can, thus, influence your athletic performance! Every cell of your body needs energy and certain nutrients. Inferior meat simply has less of those. Instead, it even contains some substances that can negatively affect your hormonal balance and your immune system, which in turn forces your body to change down one or two gears.
It must be fresh! If you don’t plan on grilling your purchase the same day it is important to not break the cold chain. Direct sunlight and oxygen will make the meat oxidate and become rancid. Better store it in an opaque container, optimally made of glass or ceramic. Take the lower shelves in the fridge because temperature is optimal there (about 2-4° C).
If you want to marinade the meat for a longer period of time you can do it on the evening before or the morning of the barbecue. Put the meat back in the fridge afterwards and take it out about half an hour before grilling it to let it reach room temperature.
What kind of meat?
Choosing the meat is obviously a question of personal taste. In Germany, statistics claim that everyone eats 945 chicken, 46 turkeys, 46 pigs, and 4 cows in their lifetime. The different types of meat differ not only in looks, taste, and price, though. The nutrients also vary greatly. If you compare different types of meat from similar production you will notice that turkey has the biggest amount of protein (~23g/100g). It follows: cow (~21g/100g), pig (~20g/100g), and chicken (~17g/100g). We will also find most of the essential amino acids (building blocks of proteins) in this meat. Our bodies can’t produce those itself and has to absorb it with its nutrition. Many athletes resort to fat-free meat for their increased protein demand but meat with fat also has important nutrients like calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamins. And – if the animals can move around – anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids. We are speaking of important macro and micro nutrients in this context. So no matter from which source you get them, they are the foundation for mental and physical performance.
We have already talked about barbecues. Here, it is very important that the meat isn’t cooked with too hot a temperature. The great part about barbecues is the first moment, when all pores of the meat get closed off immediately in great, dry heat. This will keep the meat juicy. After that, however, you should only cook it with medium heat. The meat will stay tender and won’t get dry. It is just like normal cooking: too much heat for too long will unnecessarily destroy nutrients. Especially fatty acids are not very thermally stable. The result would be a piece of meat that feels like a shoe sole and has virtually no nutrients left. It will give you nothing more than some filler material for your fitness and health.
Meat can deliver important building blocks for your athletic performance. Pay close attention to origin and quality of the meat, though! You should prefer meat from farm animals to make sure you give your body the most nutrients. Yes, this will cost more. But do you have to eat meat every day of the week?
I like to give the following example: most people take better care of their car than of their body. They pay very close attention to the choice of fuel and oil for their car. And what they throw into their pie hole is less important?!
If you want to be healthy and powerful you should give your body high-quality fuel as well. To quote Mark Verstegen: ‘Fuel for it!’
If you also consider the few other aspects of storage your imagination is the only thing that stands between you and a healthy and tasty meal!
If you like beef you should definitely try the following recipe
Steak with sweet garlic-sesame marinadeIngredients:
- 250g roastbeef or high rib
- 1 medium-sized garlic clove
- 1-2 tablespoonful of sesame oil
- 1 tablespoonful of sesame grains
- 1 teaspoonful of liquid honey
- 1 bunch of chive or scallion
- pepper and salt
Chop the garlic and chive. Put into a bowl together with oil, honey, and some pepper. Mix thoroughly and rub it onto the meat. Sprinkle the sesame grains over it and let it rest for 2-3 hours.
Grill with strong heat for about 30 seconds per side and cook it with medium heat afterwards. Take meat from the barbecue after around 5-6 minutes and let it rest for 3 minutes. Add salt and enjoy!
*: Wikipedia defines the term beef as follows: ‘A hip hop feud, also known as beef, is a controversy in which multiple rappers defame and confront each other in a number of ways.’ (source: here). (The editor.)