Paleo: Best and Worst Meats to Eat



Surprising facts about which animal foods enhance health and which you should consider reducing. (always consume lots of plants alongside meat)

Throughout the process of evolution, humans not only relied on animal organs and muscle meats for survival, these foods also fueled the development of our amazing brains to give us capabilities beyond those of other creatures. Putting the debate of animal foods versus vegetarian/vegan to one side for this article – its both emotive and also important. Certainly from a food perspective too much meat can be inflammatory for the body so incorporating a large amount of plants in your diet is always positive.

Animal foods provide a complete protein with all amino acids, along with many other vital nutrients, making building a better brain and body easier at any age.  (..but don’t forget the plants on your plate as well)

Most meats are to be avoided because they are highly processed, or come from animals fed unhealthy food and chemicals, and treated inhumanely. Indeed in Italy people generally eat meat only 1x/week versus the average 5x/week in the US – no need to point out the much lower incidence of heart disease, cancer & stroke in Italy versus the US.

Emotions aside, healthy sources of meat fortunately are easier to obtain these days, thanks to various quality standards. However, the best source remains finding a local family farm or a good farmers market, where you can ask about how the animals are raised. In particular, look for those raised without chemicals, grass-fed without animal feed (generally laden with growth hormone), and humanely treated from start to finish.

Terms like organic, kosher, and other standards may be important too, but many small family farms can’t afford the high costs of organic or other certifications, even though their standards may be higher than those required by governmental agencies.

And let me be clear that I’m not talking about overeating meat, but rather making it part of your overall healthy eating, which includes vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits and other natural foods (and, of course great coffee!)

You also may notice that turkey, lamb, and farm-raised “wild” animals like ostrich and venison didn’t make my list. That’s because they fall somewhere in between. I do like lamb on occasion, especially rare, Français-style, but rarely eat turkey.

Worst Meats

  1. Processed and fast foods. Topping the list of meats to avoid are those that are highly processed. This includes most lunch meats, prepared and fast foods, and ground meats, and makes up the majority of meat sources in the marketplace. This is also the reason many studies show negative effects of meat-eating — most of the meat eaten by study subjects is highly processed. Lunch/deli meats and other prepared foods, like fast-food or pre-packaged burgers and sausages are usually full of added chemicals and sugar (e.g. dextrose, maltodextrin etc.) (and flour) as fillers. One just has to read the ingredients in a typical deli ham, salami, or prepared meat products. This includes organ meats, normally the most nutritious.
  2. Chicken. Ah, the old so-called healthy meat (as if “white” somehow means “good”). Standards for raising and slaughtering chickens are much lower than any other meats. More importantly, chicken contains the highest levels of arachidonic acid ( of all meats — this fat easily converts to inflammatory chemicals (the eicosanoids).
  3. Fish – take care to choose wisely and cook rare. One of the common recommendations is to eat at least two weekly servings of fish. The value of fish as a protein source is well-known, as is the benefit of the fats contained in oily cold-water fish. Humans ate fish for millions of years. However, the oceans and many waterways are very polluted, and this means so are the fish. In addition, most people overcook fish like salmon, destroying heat-sensitive oils that contain health-enhancing EPA and DHA (better to eat these fatty fish raw or cooked rare). As a general rule, smaller fish contain fewer toxins. Other seafood sources also come with various sets of cautions — for example pregnant women and small children should not eat swordfish due to mercury concerns. Be informed.

Best Meats

  1. Fish (again) – Smaller fish contain fewer toxins as well as the key Omega-3 oils that help the body burn fat as a fuel. Look for sardines, whitebait and indeed haddock, pilchards, anchovies. Trout can also be highly nutritious & low in toxins. Experiment – try them in omelettes, salads – try a Salad Niçoise with warm sardines instead of tuna.
  2. Beef. It’s not just for dinner, but breakfast, lunch and snacks. Along with the traditional cuts, it can be a great source of organ meats for those who enjoy them. Buying the best beef products means grass-fed-only, organic. Most beef can be prepared rare or medium rare, preserving important nutrients such as glutamine (a key amino acid used by the gut for energy). Raw beef in the form of thinly sliced beef fillet, as carpaccio, is also a nice option. Don’t forget the offal – highly nutritious liver & kidneys, like Grandma used to cook – and probably the cheapest of cuts these days.
  3. Duck. This highly aerobic animal is all dark delicious meat, not to mention the delicious crispy skin and its high nutrient content. It’s an unsung hero of meat. When not overcooked it’s tender and juicy. Duck fat is particularly great for cooking and adding to recipes, and duck soup and bone broth are also great health foods.
  4. Fresh ground meat. Today’s requirements for ground meats have significantly reduced the dangers of high bacteria counts. Most stores will tell you when a particular ground meat was ground, or if in doubt, you can ask for a particular piece of meat to be freshly ground. The digestibility of ground meat is higher providing more nutrients.
  5. Pork (look away all my Jewish and Muslim friends). Once a poor choice of meat, pork has come a long way in improving its status. It can be a better white-meat choice than chicken, depending on source. With recent recommendations that it need not be cooked to death (and can even be slightly pink inside). Pork fat – lard — is one of the best cooking fats, and dried bacon (without the chemicals and sugar) makes a great travel food

In conclusion – eat some good quality meats but more importantly eat lots of plant based foods too. Utilise the local butchers more than the supermarket to improve the quality.


Keep Powering – Conrad Rafique

Seuss Mountain

2014 Chester 1/2 Marathon & the effects of poor hydration

Well that was one warm race on Sunday.  Personally I like running in the warmer weather as, mentally, I feel it keeps the achilles tendons, calves and MT joints nice and warm.  In the warm conditions there were several runners suffering from dehydration.  Many of them were in club colours and I would have expected them to know how to hydrate better. I saw one runner stopping with cramp after only a few miles, another one at about 4 miles with the bicycle-paramedics treating him and probably the most disheartening of all: in the final uphill mile to the finish outside Chester Cathedral, a poor guy went into what I would call hyper-dehydration.  He was staggering all over the road and his body was almost vibrating….. needless to say the heat had got to him and the paramedics were quickly on hand, along with other runners.

Little and often is the way to do it on a warm long 13-miler – take a bottle at every feed station, sip the water, don’t gulp it down and pour some over the head to keep what is the hottest part of the body cool.

Mankind evolved to run – we were Born to RUN – we became the dominant species due to our uncanny ability to regulate our body temperature better than any other living thing on the planet.  Our temperature regulation allowed us to hunt anything from wild boar to horse and even big cats and bears.  We could do this because we could regulate our temperature whilst our prey overheated…. a bit like an old Alfa Romeo or Ferrari, only more edible.  Crucially though, we needed sips of water every hour to make this happen.

Day-to-day I use a great wee App called Hydo to track my own hydration – on a warm day when I am Training, my required intake is 3.2 litres…. and I am only a wee guy as they would say back home in sunny Giffnock! Right I’m off for more water (via the loo again!) why don’t you do the same?   {next post on over-hydrating, and yes that can happen too}

Trail Marathon Wales 2013

Just 8 weeks before the event I got a wildcard entry to Trail Marathon Wales when a Bristolian fell-runner pulled out due to injury. What training could I fit into that narrow arrow slit of a window?

Prep consisted of a couple of road 10 milers for the Chester 1/2 marathon, one solo 12 mile circuit of Moel Famau and Moel Arthur and a fabulous 15 miler round Moel Arthur, Penycloddiau and ‘Famau delivering 1000m of ascent with my buddy John Hodgson, a highly experienced trail guru.  I managed several  5 and 6 milers but do they really count?
Several Hour of Power classes and some Metafit classes certainly contributed to keeping the cv system and upper-body strong.  On reflection, they made the difference as I didn’t suffer what I call the ‘middle-order’ collapse thanks to a stronger core and better running posture.

The day itself was fabulous – Saturday 22nd June 2013 now permanently etched in my data banks when I rose early enough for a wee porridge before jumping into a borrowed Fiat 500 and buzzing down the A55 via charming Llanrwst, MadMax-esque Blaenau Ffestiniog to Coed-y-Brenin.

On arrival it hit me how big a deal this event was with Welsh Athletics and a host of Wales & GB World Trail Championship contenders in attendance.  Organiser Matt Ward of Salomon has concocted a magical formula – great location, stunning scenery and of course a tough challenging brutal but enjoyable route.

About 300 started the Marathon and 400 were doing the 1/2.  The route took in such trail delights as the Sarn Helen trail, the famous Volcano trail, Ffridd Goch and Ty’n y Groes.
I was ready with Nathan water belt + Overstims race belt with Energix gels, coup de fouet (don’t ask, some French bionic gel used by Alpine ace Sebastien Chaigneau) also my favourite Accelerade caffeine-laced gels and some salty Overstims ricekrispie bars – a great antidote to all the sugary sweet stuff.

Start Line:
Matt briefs us that 26 trauma trained Mountain Rescue personnel are out on course – What on Earth have I let myself in for?
– and Matt’s personal emotional investment was plain for all to see when he was almost overcome with the scale and passion of the event, before asking the local Grouse Bagger to give it both barrels from his Purdey to start the race.
We were off!
A mix of silence, smells of warm-up oil & pine forest, deep breathing and an air of anticipation that you could almost squeeze.
The first few miles along forestry fire roads made for a pleasant warm-up.  Took a wee cup of water & banana at first feed (6m) at Capel-pen-Stryt.
10 miles were clocked up quite easily – too easily.

A 3/4 mile fast downhill road section led us back offroad down a drovers track to a steep, boggy climb through marshy country and back into the forest canopy.
At Tyddyn Mawr (12m) there was another water station, again very welcome and manned (and womanned) by enthusiastic helpers.  At the 22 km mark there was a spectacular long rocky downhill section – I engaged my Mad Mountain Biker gear in the brain and flew down like a cougar on heat. It was fabulous to be complemented by seasoned fell-runners on my “downhilling being good for a triathlete..” Pity my uphill strength wasn’t quite as good 🙂

Miles 15-17 felt OK as I managed to continue trotting up the hills.  We overtook some Mountain Bikers pedalling up the rocks in the granny ring, made us realise how quick we were still going….  Some horses then came down the same track and, having been alone or in small groups of runners for almost 4 hours, this felt claustrophobic (I know, completely mad when you are in the middle of nowhere!). So I put the hammer down and flew uphill with Lucy from North Norfolk Beach Runners in tow, as I slowed at the top Lucy carried on motoring – I was impressed.

At Mile 21 I slowed considerably and the stride shortened with twinges in the hip flexors.At the next feed bananas were scoffed which supplemented my gel strategy perfectly.
From 22m I ran with an inspiring lady from Meirionydd Runners into another fab fast downhill section with a long grassy stair case.  The pain came next with a massive single track climb over a waterfall and up a very steep wooded hillside. Around mile 23 I got a second wind and flew downhill again only to stumble, dent my pride and graze my forearm – could have been worse as my face was in the mud too, thankfully all teeth were intact.
At this point I was thinking we’ve only got 10k to go, that’s about 40 minutes…. but not when you’ve done 21 miles over 1300 metres of climbing – that’s 4000 feet in ‘auld money’.

The final feed at Ty’n y Groes was well timed and I wish I’d taken on some electrolyte as I cramped at mile 24 stopping for about 15 mins to stretch it out with the assistance of yet another enthusiastic and kindly marshal.
The last few miles were a mix of happiness, elation, giggles and high emotions and the cheers at the end brought tears to my eyes as I reflected on the race and thought of my sporting Dad looking down on me probably saying “you are mad, why didn’t you stick to cricket…”

Finished in 5h 42m 209th out of 300 – happy with that and a million Thank Yous to Matt Ward, organisers & marshals and also my wee girl Catrin for running me the coldest ice bath ever ready for me to dive into fully clothed.
Roll on 2014, I’ll be back better trained and Powering on.


Rock Mountain Fitness

Recovery – Why is it always such a rush to get enough sleep?

Why is it always such a rush to get to bed in our house?

I’m sure that if you are anything like me, and I am not atypical in any sense, just maybe a little OCD…, then getting to bed at a decent time to score some decent quality regenerative rest is not as easy as it should be.  It’s always high on the list of priorities for the day – “must get to bed early and sleep well…”.

Like many of you, starting up a new business venture in sports and fitness, being a caring & helpful Dad, assisting with homework, making school lunches etc etc all run into the plan for an early night.  Well, I say that, those important and enjoyable tasks run in alongside the heavy exercise programme that we undertake, so it’s not the tasks and loving daily chores that lead to the ‘late*’ nights.  It’s all things taken together that lead us to pack as much into the day as possible – and often a good bit more too.
*I say ‘late’ because for many working parents with a love of sport, an early night can be bed at 11.30 for 6-7 hours rest.

Personally, 6 hours is inadequate, 7 hours is ok but not regenerative and 8 hours is my optimum for restoration benefits.  For some folks, e.g elite triathletes it can be 8-10 hours and famously Paula Radcliffe would sleep for 10 hours plus some sneaky cat-naps throughout the day.

One of my best friends and a super, high energy Group Exercise instructor and Personal Trainer (Gill Garner) regularly grabs cat-naps of up to 1 hour during the day in between her busy schedule of classes and PT sessions.

What’s the learning point? What can we all try and do better or differently to get the rest and recuperation we need so that we can be productive, helpful, powerful & fast (and sweet-natured!) tomorrow?

First thing – no electronic devices in the bedroom, no iPads, laptops etc. Leave them outside the door, the bedroom is your sanctity of rest.  No TV either.  Read a book and drift into a deep slumber.  Waken with your alarm or with the daylight – whatever you use, force yourself up and out once you waken, do not hit snooze. Hit the day running, and make a pact with yourself to get to bed at a specific time.  If you haven’t got all your ‘To-Do’s” done then rise early tomorrow to finish them – the body and mind will be stronger and fitter for the high quality rest that you invest in your sleep bank.

For all you athletes out there, when we sleep the body releases human growth hormone (HGH), that’s what Dwaine Chambers infamously injected to himself to build his strength, speed, stamina, & accelerate his recovery so he could train harder next day…. and cheat!
We can do this naturally by sleeping well – HGH rebuild and repairs muscles, boosts the immune system, repairs micro-damage to tendons, ligaments and bone structures.
All massively important for all sports people and indeed all of us.

Sleep Well, Sleep Tight

Fitness & Motivation Coach

Nutrition to fuel Ultra-Marathon Training

In sport, fitness and life generally food is a passion.  It’s the fuel that makes us function and it can taste fabulous and enable great social occasions with close friends and family.

A friend of mine at Wirral Athletics Club loves food…. well to be fair he loves the chippie and he really loves chips with curry sauce.  He is not some lard arse though – he is a mid-40s self-employed Dad who still knocks out a 10k at 6 minute mile pace.  He is light and ‘healthy’ and a wee bit mad, you see, he has entered the Anglesey Ring o Fire Ultra-Marathon.  It’s a 3 day megathon totalling 140 miles on trails around the beautiful and windswept Isle of Anglesey.

His first training 21-mile training run resulted in a full-on bonk and ‘wall-hit’ that saw him back in his caravan with 2 jumpers and 3 fleeces on shivering under the downie whilst trying to recover.

On hearing of this training debacle, my pal Jon asked me for some nutrition advice, safe in the knowledge that I had fueled similar efforts on the bike.  My diagnosis of his ‘fueling” was damning – the training run was fueled by some water and 2 crunchy bars…… without knowing the brand we are talking 350 kcals…. not much fuel.

In summary, we focused on fueling in the days before – not skipfuls of pasta carbo-loading – but bringing more fruits and veggies into the prep along with good quality carbs to fuel the glycogen stores in his muscles.  Sure, there are traditional carb sources on the list – rice, pasta, potatoes – but not in the vast quantities that some people seem to think they require.

I’ll post more on the details of his “Ring o Fire” prescription next week.

In the meantime if anyone else out there requires nutritional advice, drop me a line.

See you on the Trail – Conrad Rafique
Head of Rock Mountain PT