What to watch out for when grilling

Food-borne diseases- easily contracted through raw meat if you’re not careful- can really put a crimp in your bodybuilding lifestyle by triggering vomiting, diarrhea, fever or worse. Bodybuilders need to be especially wary of the bacterial pathogen Campylobacter which is present in poultry and causes one of the most common food-borne illnesses in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one drop of raw chicken “juice” might contain up to 500 of these evil organisms- enough to put you miserably out of commission for a few days.

Sure, you don’t make a habit of consuming raw chicken juice, but it’s easy to unwittingly contaminate your meals with it through poor food-prep habits. Stay safe by taking food-borne illness seriously. After transporting chicken to the grill, put the platter, tongs, marinade bowl, cutting board and anything else that held or touched the raw meat into the sink to be thoroughly scrubbed, and wash your hands with soap and water. Check meat for doneness with an instant-read meat thermometer. Use a clean platter and tongs when you retrieve the cooked meat off the grill.

Ironically, although it’s important to thoroughly cook meat, overcooking presents its own danger, namely cancer. High heat, reacting with proteins in red meat, poultry and fish, creates heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which pose a significant cancer risk. One easy way to drastically reduce HCA’s is to briefly microwave meats before grilling. The National Cancer Institute reports that meats that were microwaved for two minutes prior to cooking (on a grill or otherwise) had a 90% decrease in HCA content. Be sure to pour off any liquid that formed before you cook further.

Other easy steps to prevent HCAs include using a thin marinade, preferably one containing garlic and herbs and/or citrus fruits. Thick commercial barbecue sauces may increase HCAs significantly; to reduce that risk, dilute them with water. When cooking burgers, flip them often and use low heat. To really reduce HCAs in ground meat, mix textured soy protein into it before grilling. You can help detox your body of HCAs by choosing iced tea (brewed from bags or loose tea, not instant) to accompany your meal. And finally, don’t forget veggies and fruits. They can’t form HCAs, and they also reduce cancer hazards when eaten with meats.