Why Do I Recommend (mostly) Lean Meats?

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

A reader recently sent me a question that I thought many people may have, so I decided to provide my answer for everyone to see.

Q. Hi Brian,

I’ve been meaning to shoot you an email to thank you for a while.  I purchased your nutrition information from Eric Cressey’s Show and Go product.  It’s some of the most well thought out and realistic nutrition information I’ve ever read.  I think you have a real knack for simplifying what others can make very complicated but at the same time educating and providing people with important reasons why their nutrition matters so much.

I wanted to ask you was in your guidelines I know you refute the commonly held belief that saturated fat is bad.  In your shopping list though is lean meats.  Is that just in case the meat is conventional and there are more antibiotics or hormones stored in the fat?

A. First off, thank you for the kind words, much appreciated. I like to think of that as my skill set as well!

The reason for relatively lean meats is because excess fat and calories is still excess fat and calories. While I don’t think saturated fat is the devil, far from it, the goal isn’t to eat as much of it as possible either! Eating lean meats allows you to decide what fat sources you want with that meal. Do you want olive oil, butter, avocado, nuts, or maybe you want fattier meat? In addition it’s not like I am recommending 99% lean ground meat either (which tastes awful), I think 93% is a good compromise. Eating fattier meat will decrease the protein content and make it harder to hit your macronutrient needs within your caloric needs. Granted, if you know how to fit it in then go for it.

For example lets say you want to make a burger – going with say an 85% lean patty makes it more difficult to add other things to it if you like cheese or avocado with your burger, or you wanted to saute up some veggies in olive oil or something like that. Going with 93% allows for more flexibility without sacrificing much in taste.

Again just general recommendations. If you know what you are doing you can easily consume a higher fat steak, just have something like a sweet potato and some steamed veggies with it. With the lower fat options you just more flexibility to add other components and not be jacking up the calories crazy high. Choosing a higher fat cut of meat is not inherently bad, it just tends to limit your side options is all.

Your point at the end about the hormones and antibiotics is a valid question as well, and if you are choosing conventional meat it might be a wiser idea to go with a leaner option.

Make sense?

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments below.

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Posted on January 2nd, 2012 by Brian St. Pierre


  1. Danny McLarty Says:


    Would you say the same thing for dairy in regards to hormones & antibiotics? i.e. full fat dairy if it comes from a high quality source (grass-fed, etc) is the way to go. BUT, if it comes from conventional dairy, go with lower/non fat options?



  2. Brian St. Pierre Says:


    Not necessarily. The data supporting the potential health benefits from full-fat dairy includes all dairy, conventional or grass-fed. I think grass-fed is superior due to the fact that it will be higher in many of the beneficial nutrients and lower in hormones/antibiotics, but the data still seems to indicate full-fat is the way to go regardless.


  3. Noel Piepgrass Says:

    Awesome take Brian. That’s why I generally teach the students I work with to consume fats moderately . . . all types, both saturated and unsaturated fats because they’re both really high in calories. Although, some of my students who are really actively involved in high school sports really don’t ever need to worry about caloric restriction. In fact, I’m constantly telling them to eat more!

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