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

Overtrained - perhaps

Over-training: Burning the candle at both ends…(as my Glaswegian mother would have said)

In this article we look at the symptoms of overtraining and talk to an elite cyclist and former Team GB canoeist about their experiences.Tired-Cyclist

Intense, regular working out, running, cycling, CrossFit [insert your favourite sport or gym workout here] can be motivating & addictive along with a huge grin factor. Its fabulous to spend time doing something you love that is also making you healthier & stronger. However, endurance sports, explosive sports and gym-based workouts can lead to overtraining, or its less dangerous cousin – ‘overreaching’. This can seriously impact your training plans if aiming for an ‘A’ race or big goal.

Here’s how to recognise the signs and, if your training has taken you over the precipice:
The symptoms of Overtraining syndrome (OTS) include feeling rundown, an emptiness in the key muscle groups and not being able to complete your workouts. For example, a keen runner might feel heavy legged and may even be catching constant colds & suffering cold sores. Sometimes the fatigue is so great that mentally & motivationally, there is no willingness to train hard and for PTs your client may even dread that next session on the plan.

Use your Heart Rate… Regular measurement of resting heart rate (RHR) provides an indicator of overdoing it. Measure your RHR every morning for 2 weeks before you roll out of bed, count your pulse for 20 secs, multiply by 3 and record on a device beside your bed. An increase of more then 5bpm can be a sign of overtraining. Biochemically, an inability to take the heart rate into the higher HR zones during intense interval sessions is a key indicator that rest and recovery are needed and needed pronto!
tired female athlete

What’s the difference between over-reaching and full-blown over-training? Talking to different fitness people and athletes, the differentiating factor seems to be the depth & scale of the tiredness. Full over-training takes longer to recover from, whilst recovery from over-reaching may take just a week. Initially thought the symptoms of deep fatigue, heavy legs and lethargy will be the same. Overtraining often occurs when athletes try to continue training & “push through” the fatigue.

You’ve overtrained, what do you do?

The first thing to do is plan your recovery – try halving your regime for 4 weeks to see if your mojo returns. That’s a shocker for the gym addict or runner who likes “to get the miles in”. Just imagine not being able to do your regular classes, the worry of weight gain and shape-loss, the void created by a lack of training…. The good news is that with quality rest, decent deep REM sleep & good hydration the body & mind can recover quickly.

What about the lost sessions? An approach I recommended to one of our aspiring Marathon clients, Sean Orford, was to focus on improving mobility and flexibility with Yoga & the foam roller. Sean did several days of Yoga and meditating back to tired-runner-631x421back. When he began to feel fresher, he returned to training at a lower intensity & distance. Staying in the lower heart rate zones also let the big heart muscle recover too.

Overtraining doesn’t discriminate between amateurs and pros
The likes of our Team GB heroes Farah, Brownlees’ et al will suffer from over-reaching only occasionally thanks in part to being professionals and being paid to rest & adapt. Top amateur cycle racer David Zelaskowski holds a full-time job while also coaching aspiring cyclists. He gave up teaching Insanity fitness classes because he could not recover fast enough for his next hill repeats session or road race. As David puts it: “you can’t out-rest over-training and no matter how many ice baths you have you still don’t recover.”

He emphasises the need to have proper muscle recovery after hard workouts and also to have proper mental recovery too. In years gone by David had over-reached by working long hours, training hard and then racing. In races he noticed “a pattern of bad decision-making that meant I missed key breaks and sprints which was due to mental fatigue alongside physical training overload.”

Former Team GB canoeist Colin Cartwright now operating Cartwright Fitness supplies recalls “we used to train in the Eastern Bloc style… heavy volume training, sometimes 3 sessions per day – canoeing, strength & conditioning and do this on back-to-back days. I was regularly super-tired, going onto the water feeling lethargic and trying to train through it but not hitting the numbers I needed to. Cartwright learnt that 16k hard training on the river plus heavy resistance training in the evening doesn’t equal great results.

He says: “Nowadays I’d rather peak train for 12 weeks within the year than train full-on for 52 weeks. Listen to the body, its hard to back-off but you will get stronger in recovery. My times now, on lower volume but better quality training are as good as they were 10 years ago…. Makes me think what I might have been able to do with better recovery patterns built into the plan”

Even most pro-athletes don’t complete the year without injury & fatigue and they eat properly and they train correctly, they have the expertise of coaches, physiotherapists, nutritionists and sport scientists to support them. (And they don’t have to contend with late nights, demanding bosses, family commitments, full-time jobs and other commitments, like the rest of us.) The only stress on their system is exercise, whilst for the average recreational exerciser stress bombards us from all angles.
In our next article we’ll factor in the effect of poor nutrition, particularly inadequate calorie intake, and insufficient carbohydrate and water consumption and the effect that has alongside overtraining.

Lift Heavy or Stay Home – Yours in Running
Conrad Rafique is a Fitness & Motivation Coach and runs Rock Mountain Fitness. He graduated as a Master Trainer from The European Institute of Fitness and has competed in a range of Trail Marathons, road marathons, Halfs and 10ks. He has recently returned to the track with new spikes.

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}

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