Growing up on my family’s cattle ranch, we always had beef in the freezer. While there were other proteins – pork from the neighbors, eggs from chickens in the barn – beef protein was always our primary choice. To be honest, I am still shocked when I meet adults who admit to never having cooked a steak before. What?!?

Now that I am not at home on a ranch with a freezer full of beef for 3 meals each day, I realize what I am missing out on. When I moved to college, I had to learn how to purchase beef from a grocery store. It was strange. But I still eat beef at least 2 times every day and it is a primary source of protein in my diet as I eat to fuel for running 40 to 50 miles every week.

beef protein training strength running

Runners and Food Choices

One would think food is something runners and endurance athletes could agree upon. But food is always a good topic for debate in a Trail and Ultrarunning Facebook group with over 100,000 members.

Specifically, the group loves to debate food choices, in particular, plant- vs animal-based protein and diet choices. I’m all for letting others make their own diet choices until they start attacking others for different choices. And this group of athletes is never short on sarcasm, which doesn’t translate well online. The vegans will chime in with superiority in discussion threads about meat. Meat eaters Omnivores will chime in and mock the vegan discussion threads. You’d think we’d figure out the debate will never be settled.

Low-carb, High fat. High carb. Vegetarian. Vegan. Paleo. Keto. Carnivore.

What happened to respect for others’ food choices? Moderation and balance? Variety in the diet? Out the window! It’s not marketable! Let’s not even start with my being attacked by carnivores on Twitter. That’s a discussion for another time.

beef protein salad

Protein Choices

From my work with registered dietitians, and my own collegiate studies in biology and nutrition, I have come to understand that we need a variety of foods in our diets (a multi-colored plate, if you will), with foods from all food groups in moderation. That remains the same for endurance athletes burning calories through exercise every day.

I consume a higher ratio of protein vs carbs compared to your standard American diet. Doesn’t mean I’m keto or paleo. I just choose foods that are higher in nutrient density that will fuel my performance and muscle growth and recovery.

Beef is my primary choice of protein, but that doesn’t mean it’s my only protein source. I consume milk, yogurt, and eggs every day and cook a pot of beans every week. I usually have salmon once or twice a week and consume smaller amounts of protein through vegetables, nuts and legumes every day.

Why is beef protein my primary choice?

Obviously, it’s a taste preference and family tradition for me, first and foremost. I’ll admit to that.

Food is an emotional topic and there are many memories and traditions tied to meals at a table. For me, I want to support my families and other farmers and ranchers who raise cattle that provide the beef found on retail shelves in stores like Costco, Kroger, and Safeway all across the globe. Who doesn’t have great memories tied to sitting around the table to a steak on their plate or grilling burgers in the summer with friends and family?

Beef is an efficient source of nutrition and can be part of a healthy, sustainable diet. The average cut of lean beef (there are dozens of lean options) provides a big nutrition punch in a small package, meaning it’s nutrient-dense with relatively few calories for its value. I can pair beef up with with the rest of the foods on my plate and have a variety of nutrients. Doing that ensures I’m on the trail running for years to come.

beef protein strength training

You do you on beef protein

I could be here preaching that everyone has to eat beef. I know that’s not a reality. More importantly, I have no authority to dictate how other people eat. Why do others feel the need to force their diet choices and beliefs on me?

I’m all for people making their own choices, whether or not beef protein is part of that diet.

But no one wants to hear a positive message of balance and moderation. We’d rather have an extreme. [eye roll emoji].

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