meat, steak

Make Meat Mandatory: For a Better Body and a Longer (Stronger) Life

Excerpted from Live It, NOT Diet! by Mike Sheridan.

Meat is not only a great food, it is also one that brings a lot of important health benefits

Nutrition pioneers, like Vance Thompson, Alfred Pennington, and Vilhjalmur Stefannson, were supplying undeniable proof in the early 1900’s that eating predominantly animal protein in the form of meat and limiting carbohydrates was the ultimate solution for a lean physique. As Pennington writes in 1950:

“Of the twenty men and women taking part in the test, all lost weight on a diet in which the total caloric intake was unrestricted. The basic diet totaled about 3,000 calories per day, with meat and fat in any desired amount.”

It gets better:

“The dieters reported that they felt well, enjoyed their meals and were never hungry between meals. Many said that they felt more energetic than usual, and none complained of fatigue. Those who had high blood pressure to begin with no longer did.”

I underlined the points I really want you to acknowledge. In truth, I may as well have underlined the whole thing. No restriction on calories, yet never hungry and more energy…?

The individuals that followed Pennington’s plan were not hungry because they filled up on calorically dense animal protein. They lost fat because they avoided the foods that promote fat storage (high glycemic carbohydrates). And they reported more energy because they ditched the cheap instant fuel (sugar). They also tapped into their bigger better tank (fat).

More importantly, they lowered their blood pressure and improved the other critical biomarkers for heart disease. This is typical when you combine animal protein with a low-carbohydrate eating strategy. Generally, we see lower triglycerides and higher HDL (good) cholesterol. It also promotes the transition from small-dense LDL cholesterol particles to large-fluffy benign ones.

The Eskimo Experiment

However, I wouldn’t suggest lowering your carbohydrate intake to the extreme of Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s All Meat Diet. But it’s critical that you understand the importance of animal protein. Despite the unfair criticism suggesting that meat causes cancer and increases heart disease, Stefansson’s 11-year experience as an Eskimo helps to further resolve this misconception. In 1906, he went to the Arctic, carrying with him the nutritional habits of the typical North American. Once Stefannson arrived, he was forced to adapt to the Eskimo way of life. This means he consumed mainly meat, fish and fat.

As expected, Stefannson became extremely lean and fit and his energy was incredible. What he noticed, and later wrote about, was that the Eskimos had no heart problems. In addition, they had no cancer and their overall health was far superior to anything he’d seen in North America. According to Stefannson, Eskimos are also not fat, as they are commonly depicted in movies and cartoons:

“Eskimos… are never corpulent… in their native garments they do give the impression of fat, round faces on fat, round bodies. But the roundness of face is a racial peculiarity and the rest of the effect is produced by loose and puffy garments. See them stripped, and one does not find the abdominal protuberances and folds which are so in evidence on Coney Island…”

Animal Protein Supplies Essentials

Protein is the building block for bone, muscle, skin, hair, arteries, and veins. Even our organs (heart, brain, kidneys, lungs, liver) are built with tissue made of protein. Aside from structure, protein is a carrier of oxygen, fat, and cholesterol to areas of our body that need it. And finally, it is a synthesizer of key enzymes from our food. Basically:

If you’re lacking in protein, you’re missing out on the essential macronutrient of life.

Prioritizing protein is critical to supporting the needs of the musculoskeletal system. Failure to consume enough animal protein leads to muscle loss, which lowers your resting metabolic rate and weakens your structural frame. Most understand that calcium builds bone. But what they fail to recognize is that extra dietary calcium does not add bone support if protein intake is too low. Furthermore, calcium absorption is largely dependent on Vitamin D3, which is found primarily in animal protein. Older generations are not only at risk of falls and fractures due to an overall reduction in strength and muscle mass. They also generally fail to meet the animal protein requirement to maintain healthy bones.

Nutrient Density

Animal source foods such as meat provides a few key nutrients. Among them:

  • Vitamin D
  • EFAs (essential fatty-acids)
  • Iron
  • B12
  • EAA (essential amino acids)

Yes, these substances are available elsewhere. They lack the quality and absorbability found in meat and fish. Essential means ‘only obtainable from foo.’ In other words, if you’re not eating the foods they come in, you’re not getting them!

Vegetarians are a commonly deficient group. For instance, unless they’re eating fish they only obtain the plant source (ALA) of omega-3. ALA is difficult to absorb and convert to the usable and beneficial format (DHA). Iron deficiency is also very common. Non-heme (or ferric) iron from vegetable sources is more difficult to absorb, while heme (or ferrous) iron from animal sources is more easily absorbed.

As Loren Cordain and fellow researchers discuss in a paper from the year 2000 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a high-protein and low-carbohydrate diet is what the majority of us have evolved from:

“73% of the worldwide hunter-gatherer societies derived >50% (≥56–65% of energy) of their subsistence from animal foods, whereas only 14% of these societies derived >50% (≥56–65% of energy) of their subsistence from gathered plant foods”

For the record, the plant foods he’s referring to are the low-glycemic (low-sugar) variety. The only high-carbohydrate foods consumed by these hunter-gatherer tribes were nutritionally dense squashes, and tubers. No Grains!  Similarly, anthropologist Mark Cohen discusses in his book ‘Health and Rise of Civilization,’ that the strongest and healthiest lived in parts of Africa where there was the most Big Game – as in ‘Big Large Animals to hunt.’

Protein and amino acids also play a considerable role in determining our daily energy and wakefulness. They do this by activating key neurotransmitters in the brain. A study from 2011 found that protein stimulated these neurotransmitters, while glucose blocked them. Furthermore, the amino acids (found in protein) actually prevented glucose from blocking the energy network.

Animal Protein Supports Muscle

Research suggests that aging is associated with a reduction in muscle. This phenomenon partly stems from a reduction in protein synthesis and absorption. As it turns out, the lowered protein absorption (or synthesis) seen in the elderly seems to be due to changes in the amount and activity of lean tissue. In other words, the elderly have less muscle and their bodies have a slower metabolic rate.

Many equate this physical outcome to ‘aging.’ But research has proven that elderly with the same muscle as younger age groups absorb protein just as effectively. When you compare lean tissue pound-for-pound, as opposed to individuals with equal body weight, the absorption rates between the young and old are equivalent.

The lower protein absorption seen in the elderly seems to have little to do with ‘natural aging.’ It has more to do with an inadequate intake of animal protein.

This was demonstrated in a 2012 study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology. Researchers found less muscle development from weight training when comparing 2 groups over a 21-week training phase. One was composed of elderlies while the other was comprised of younger age people.  However, it wasn’t because of greater synthesis or growth potential in the youth. It was because the old guys were barely consuming half the protein (0.8g/kg) of the young bucks (1.6g/kg).

Failure to facilitate muscle maintenance with nutritionally dense animal protein results in less muscle and a slower metabolism, especially as we age.

Unfortunately, this is extremely common in the baby-boomer demographic. Maybe because this group has lived through the recommendations to eat low-fat, increase whole grains, do more cardio, avoid saturated fat, restrict calories to lose, and limit meat to prevent cancer. The reality is, lower protein absorption is not because of age. Rather, it’s a result of less muscle and a slower metabolism because of a restriction in animal protein.

We must get essential amino acids from our diet. If we don’t, we put our daily performance, body composition and long-term health at risk. Animal nutrition sources (meat, dairy, organ meats) are the only ‘complete’ proteins. This means they include all 9 essential amino acids. Our daily intake of animal protein improves the bioavailability of these essential amino acids. In turn, this facilitates muscle protein absorption.

Animal Protein Burns Fat

The best part about focusing on animal protein intake (other than it’s deliciousness) is that you’ll not only build and support muscle, but you’ll burn lots of fat. Animal protein consumption and leanness have been linked in science.  Research has shown a direct correlation between the EAA found in meat and one’s ability to burn fat. Amino acid deficiency takes a price on your health, as well. A deficiency in Lysine is tied to body fat accumulation and fat in the liver, for example. The reverse can also be true; a high intake of Leucine increases fat loss. Interestingly, both amino acids must be present in order to experience these favorable results in body composition.

Regardless of whether it’s the amino acids or something else driving the fat loss, there’s a considerable amount of scientific support suggesting that an increase in animal protein ‘alone’ assists in the fat burning process. A study from the journal of Nutrition and Metabolism gave one group of subjects 1.6g/kg bodyweight, and another 0.8g/kg. The amount of daily calories was equal in both groups. Although the weight loss was nearly equal, the high-protein group lost almost entirely fat!

When protein intake is adequate, fat loss is maximized without a reduction in muscle loss. More importantly, when daily protein consumption is above average, there’s the potential to gain muscle. This not only means a more attractive physique. It also translates to an increased metabolic rate, which results in extra daily fat burning. By simply swapping a high-carb meal for a high-protein one, we experience a 100% greater increase in metabolism and this increase continues for 2.5hrs after eating!


When we ‘Make Animal Protein Mandatory,’ we not only burn fat at a faster rate, but we prevent the muscle loss and diminishing metabolic rate that’s normally associated with aging.

In Live It, NOT Diet!, Mike Sheridan delivers his progressive plan for losing the fat and keeping it off without counting calories, over-exercising, or sacrificing your health.

Live It, NOT Diet!