Staying slim doesn’t have to mean a diet of lettuce. In fact, if you’re running and looking to stay trim, it’s essential you get the building blocks to rebuild your metabolism-boosting lean muscle. The main ingredient, protein, is packed into meat.
The trick is to get maximum muscle repair and metabolism boost with minimum belly expansion by opting for lean, nutrient-rich cuts.
Chicken breast is the obvious choice, and though this low-fat protein hit should definitely be part of your nutrition plan, working different meats into your diet will save your taste buds from monotony and deliver a wide spectrum of the nutrients that turn your body into a lean machine.
“Meat provides iron to help maintain energy levels,” says dietitian Rikki Keen. “It also supplies protein and amino acids that repair the muscle tears that occur during training.” Here are the best lean meats for a lean you.
Craving a juicy steak? Go for it! Beef is rich in vitamin B, which helps convert carbs into the fuel needed to power you through a run, rather than the wobbly stuff that lingers on your waistline.
A 100g serving also supplies 34 per cent of your RDA of zinc, a mineral essential for a strong immune system. You’ll get two milligrams of iron, too, which is a plus because “running, especially high mileage, breaks down red blood cells, so athletes need about 30 per cent more iron than non-athletes”, says Keen. That’s 10mg for men and 23mg for women daily.
Keep it lean
Lean cuts include sirloin, fillet steak, flank or 95 per cent lean minced beef. The perfect portion is palm-size.
Dark Chicken Meat
Don’t believe the myth that the juicy meat found in chicken thighs, wings and legs is off-limits because of its extra calories and fat. A 100g breast packs 161kcal, while an equivalent portion of dark meat only runs up to 200kcal.
And while dark meat does have more fat, less than four grams of that is the saturated variety. To balance those ‘extras’ you get more flavour, immune-boosting zinc to keep you up and running, and iron to keep your oxygen-supplying bloodstream on top form.
The bottom line is that dark meat is a healthy way to add variety to your diet, says sports dietitian Molly Kimball.
Keep it lean
It’s the skin that contains most of the unhealthy saturated fat, so buy boneless or skinless pieces, or cook with the skin on, then remove before eating.
Perennially unfashionable and under-appreciated, pork is actually the best substitute for chicken-lovers. Compared with chicken breasts, a 100g serving of pork tenderloin actually packs 13 per cent fewer calories and the same amount of fat.
It’s also an excellent source of vitamin B6, which helps your body metabolise protein and carbs so they’re used for energy and not stored where you don’t want them.
Keep it lean
Grill centre-cut pork chops or roast pork tenderloin. Lower fat meats, especially pork, need to be seasoned well to maximise flavour. Rub on a mix of spices such as cumin, paprika and chilli powder (which will give your fat-burning metabolic system another boost) and fresh or dried herbs, plus salt and pepper.
A great way to add a flavour punch to your poultry protein hit, turkey pastrami is cured in seasoning and smoked. Delicious tucked between a couple of slices of rye bread, a 50g sarnie filling supplies two milligrams of energy-revving iron.
Deli meats do have higher sodium levels, but Kimball points out that most runners don’t need to panic about taking in extra sodium because they lose so much through sweat. “Pastrami is just another source of electrolytes,” she says.
Kimball suggests eating half a sandwich after a run as it provides a great recovery mix of carbs, protein and salt.
Keep it lean
To limit nitrates, the chemical preservatives found in cold meats, look for packaging that says ‘no nitrates or nitrites added’.
It’s often struck off our physique-conscious menus as a fatty meat, but lamb redeems itself with a hefty hit of metabolism-boosting protein and heart-protecting omega-3. Because the level of omega-3 depends on the lamb’s diet, look for organic or pasture-fed.
One recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that people who ate grass-fed red meat (including lamb) three times a week for four weeks increased the levels of healthy omega-3 in their blood, while decreasing levels of inflammatory omega-6. Plus, like beef, lamb is also a good source
of vital zinc and iron.
Keep it lean
Loin and leg are leaner cuts, and trim any visible fat. Because lamb can dry out without it, try roasting or braising the meat for a stew.
Nutrition Face Off
How the different protein sources stack up per 100g serving:
Fat: 4g, protein: 32g, kcal: 161
Dark chicken meat
Fat: 11g, protein: 200, kcal: 200
Fat: 11g, protein: 25g, kcal: 214
Fat: 4g, protein: 25g, kcal: 140
Roast lamb loin
Fat: 28g, protein 21g, kcal: 354
Fat: 7g, protein: 18g, kcal: 130