Beef was one of the sacred cows of the American diet in the ’40s and ’50s. Then it became a vilified food because many beef eaters died of heart disease—never mind the cigarettes, lack of exercise, and Beefeaters gin they were guzzling. Today, though, we have a clear understanding of this quintessentially American meat’s role in a bodybuilding diet: It’s beneficial for supporting muscle gains and provides satiety, so you don’t feel the need to consume excess carbs.

Red meat is high in dietary fats and protein. For a time, science concluded (incorrectly) that heart disease was caused by consuming saturated fats. But that has been debunked. Not only are these fats not harmful, they provide the raw materials for hormones such as testosterone that support building muscle mass. In addition, a 10-ounce serving of beef contains about 60 grams of protein, depending on the cut. Of course, one of the advantages of consuming red meat is that the aminos are released for a long period, slowed by the complex proteins and, particularly, the fats contained in beef.

That makes red meat a great food to consume later in the day when you want a sustained release of amino acids to prevent muscle breakdown while you sleep.

BONUS: Improve endurance and athletic performance with…SALT!

A little salt helps the workout go down—or at least sodium helps it go on for as long as you need. A 2015 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports concluded that sports beverages alone weren’t enough to support intense endurance training. But those who consumed additional sodium (for example, table salt) as well as more electrolytes performed significantly better in a half-Ironman despite reporting the same levels of perceived exertion. That means the group consuming salt and other electrolytes outperformed the placebo group. 

The takeaway is that consuming electrolytes before training may also help extend anaerobic endurance during your longest and most challenging workouts. Keep in mind that FLEX recommends keeping your daily sodium intake at least at a moderate level (2,000 to 3,000mg per day) when you’re not in the last stages of dieting. This will help your muscles perform more effectively and allow you to drop water more dramatically when you cut sodium intake. 

Experiment with bumping sodium and other electrolytes about 30 minutes before workouts. Continue to consume sports beverages that contain significant amounts of sodium, and add protein products higher in sodium and other electrolytes to boost endurance. Foods such as Campbell’s chicken with rice soup, consumed 30 to 60 minutes before workouts, are a great addition. – FLEX