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What are the leanest/best cuts of red meat to eat?

Question: I am in the process of changing my diet in order to gain more lean muscle mass. I understand the importance of eating protein every three hours to maintain positive nitrogen balance for muscle growth. What I would like to know is how many grams of protein are in an ounce of chicken, salmon, and lean red meat. Also, what are the leanest/best cuts of red meat to eat?

Answer: Lean meats are one of the best protein sources available for bodybuilders. Three to five ounces of any lean cut of meat will provide you with approximately 30-40 grams of high quality, complete protein (which is the perfect amount to consume with each meal). The drawback with certain types of animal proteins is that the protein is often accompanied by large amounts of saturated fat. This is especially true of pork and red meat. While red meat is generally higher in fat than poultry, some cuts of red meat such as top round or eye of round are almost as lean as chicken breast. From a bodybuilding standpoint, it's a good idea to go ahead and include some lean red meat in your diet if you enjoy it. Salmon and other varieties of fish are also excellent protein sources. The fat content in a 5 oz. Piece of Salmon can vary widely from as little as 5 grams in Pink Salmon to as much as 15 grams in Chinook Salmon. As with red meat, don't completely eschew Salmon because of the fat. As a matter of fact, the fat in Salmon is less saturated than red meat and can provide you with essential fatty acids. Pick your protein sources carefully, but remember that trying to remove 100% of the fat from your diet is not necessary. Nearly everyone who keeps a little fat in their diet experiences better fat loss, higher energy levels, more strength and more muscle growth than those who try to go the extreme and eat close to zero fat. While you should choose proteins that are as lean as possible, the small amount of saturated fat that is in a lean cut of red meat won't kill you, and it might just help you pack on more muscle.

Here are the protein and fat values for several types of lean red meat, poultry and Salmon:

TypeQuantityProtein (g.)Fat (g.)
Turkey Breast4 Oz.33.9 g.3.7 g.
Chicken breast4 Oz35.1 g5.1 g.
Beef, eye of round4 Oz33.1 g. 6.5 g.
Beef, top round4 Oz36.1 g. 6.7 g.
Beef, round, full cut4 Oz33.1 g. 8.3 g.
Beef, top sirloin4 Oz34.4 g. 9.1 g.
Salmon, Pink5 Oz36.0 g. 5.0 g.
Salmon, Atlantic5 Oz28.8 g. 9.2 g.
Salmon, Chinook5 Oz29.2 g. 15.2 g.

The best reference guide I know of for looking up protein and other nutritional values for various foods is "The Complete Book of Food Counts," by Corinne Netzer. Now in its 5th edition, this book is available in paperback for about seven or eight bucks and is an invaluable resource you will turn to again and again. In it you can look up the calorie, protein, carbohydrate and fat counts of over 12,000 foods. You can order it here:

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Tom Venuto is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, a certified personal trainer and a performance nutrition specialist who has been developing individualized nutrition programs for bodybuilding, fitness, weight loss and weight gain since 1987.
He also writes for Ironman, Natural Bodybuilding and Fitness, Exercise for Men Only, Steele Jungle, and Scoop Magazine. In addition he has been featured photographically in Muscle Zine and Muscular Development.

If you would like Tom to develop a personalized nutrition program for you, visit his website at www.fitren.com or e-mail Questions to tom Due to the volume of e-mail Tom receives, he may not be able to respond to all individual inquiries.

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