Carvings March 15, 2021
In the news
Is red meat bad? Is red meat good? What a sticky mess!
This controversy has been going on for more than a half-century and it’s just as confusing as ever. The reason? GIGO, the acronym that we are now all familiar with: Garbage In, Garbage Out.
One of the more recent analyses is a good example. In a comparison of five reviews the authors concluded that we don’t need to change our meat-eating habits and that even eating processed meats has little effect on the risk of heart disease. Although the study was highlighted by the media it was castigated by medical professionals. Here are some issues that were not addressed.
Although the authors separated unprocessed meats (muscle meat from the cow or the pig) with processed meats (hot dogs, sausage, cold cuts, etc.) their classification ended there. Healthy diets can include unprocessed meat but there is a difference between prime beef (lots of saturated fat), select beef and wild game (venison for instance). The fat content of the first is often greater than 30 percent; wild game contains about 7 percent; select beef usually has even less. Think that matters?
A serving of unprocessed meat is 3 ½ ounces, what many Americans would consider a child’s portion. Your favorite restaurant probably starts with an 8-ounce steak – one famous steak house call this a petite filet — 16 ounces is common and one place in Texas – where else – serves a 64-ouncer! Think that matters?
Some steaks and chops are broiled, some are fried. Think that matters?
Is beef, lamb or pork typically the only thing on your plate? Would you miss the fried onion rings or the baked potato with butter or sour cream? Think that matters?
Then there’s processed meat with added salt, nitrites and saturated fat, all of which have been associated consistently with diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
So is red meat good for you? Of course it is! As long as it’s a realistic serving, broiled not fried, and comes with a side or two of veggies – including a baked potato with salsa in place of butter or sour cream. An occasional splurge (those onion rings and sour cream) won’t shorten your life, and neither will having bacon or sausage with your eggs now and then.
Keep things in perspective. Overindulgence shortens lifespan; moderation makes life worth living.
Maintaining muscle strength and tone is one of the most important aspects of healthy living but it is a very low priority for most Americans. Several surveys reveal that approximately 80 percent* of us fail to spend even the minimum of two to three hours a week in resistance training (using barbells, dumbbells, machines, elastic bands) or any activity that requires lifting, pushing or pulling with enough intensity to break a sweat or even to raise our heart rate. Walking is good exercise and great for the heart and lungs but it has almost no effect on helping us to reach our later years with strong bones, good balance and enough strength to open a jar of pickles.
* – 80 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, probably the same 80 percent.
At the other extreme are those who overdo weight training, some because of lack of instruction, others in a quest to maintain youthful vigor. Christian Finn of the United Kingdom is a fitness expert with a graduate degree in exercise science and recently provided some guidelines that would benefit both groups. These are a few that I found most helpful, with some observations of my own.
Avoid squats, bench presses and overhead lifts. The first are unnecessary for all but bodybuilders. Overhead lifts are especially likely to cause injury to the shoulder, the most complex joint in the body. As we get older we’re more likely to tear the rotator cuff, which takes about a year to heal.
You don’t need heavy weights to build or maintain muscle. You should be able to do 10 or 12 repetitions of an exercise. The last one should be difficult but not impossible.
There is no magic interval between sets of exercises. Take the time you need to rest if you’re not in the running for Mr. Olympia.
It’s OK to exercise almost every day but not if it’s the same group of resistance exercises every time. Your muscles need about 48 hours to recover. Enjoy a walk on the beach or in the park on those other days. (Hint: that should be about an hour.)
Make sure that you’re getting enough protein if you exercise regularly. And don’t treat yourself with a Krispy Kreme donut as a reward!