Meat has played an integral role in the development of our species ever since we figured out how to make the tools necessary to strip it from an animal carcass. In the roughly two million years since then, having protein in our diets has contributed both to our physical condition, as well as forming the basis for much of our varied cultural practices.

In recent years there has been a real emphasis on the importance of protein in our diets. We’ve known for a very long time what the role of protein is from a physiological perspective, but as our understanding of our behaviours and attitudes towards diet has improved, we’ve developed a better approach to the role of protein at a broader level.

What is Protein?

Proteins are the building blocks of muscle. The richest sources of complete protein are meat (particularly red meat), eggs and dairy as they contain all nine of the essential amino acids that form the building blocks of protein.

Protein enriched foods such as yoghurt, protein bars and cereals are also good sources, however, they usually contain synthesised—and therefore incomplete proteins. That isn’t to say they aren’t effective sources, but naturally occurring complete protein that is found in meat, eggs and dairy is more effective when it comes to muscle growth and repair.

Why is Protein Good for You?

As we’ve already mentioned, protein is what grows and repairs muscle. Those who do a lot of exercise—particularly weight training—will know just how important it is to have a protein rich diet to help in their recovery. It’s why body builders and competition weightlifters consume extremely large quantities of meat as part of their training and diet regimes.

Outside of the fitness world, including plenty of protein in a normal diet helps to supress appetite as it makes us feel fuller for longer. This is quite handy for people looking to lose or maintain weight, as a protein rich meal helps us stay away from unhealthy snacks too soon after we’ve eaten.

Additionally, the more protein we eat, the less room there is in our diets for carbohydrates and saturated fats. Tipping the scales towards a protein rich diet really helps to reduce our consumption of these high calorie, low nutrient foods, resulting in a much healthier diet 

How Much Protein is in Red Meat?

So how much protein is in beef? Cooked red meat such as beef tends to consist of around 30% protein, compared to poultry’s 10% and fish’s 20%, making red meat by far the best source of protein available to us.

If you’re wanting to turbo charge your protein intake, then it’s worth including beef jerky and beef biltong in your diet. As well as being delicious and satisfying snacks, the drying process concentrates the protein to about 60% in jerky 40% in biltong. This occurs because water makes up a large quantity of fresh meat. The cooking process slightly reduces it, but air drying the meat removes it almost entirely, resulting in a highly concentrated, protein rich food source.

What is the Recommended Daily Intake of Protein?

Ages 19 – 70:

Men: 64g

Women: 46g

For over 70’s:

Men: 81g

Women: 57g

As you can see, as we get older, we need some extra help regenerating lost muscle tissue so it’s necessary to start increasing your protein intake as you approach 70.

Intakes will vary according to your weight and activity levels as these figures are based on average men and women. Body builders and other highly active people will need to increase their protein intake accordingly. Meanwhile those of you below the average size and weight won’t necessarily need to consume as much.

Good Ways to Increase Your Protein?

As previously mentioned, replacing some of your less healthy snacks with beef jerky or biltong is an excellent way to help achieve this.  Alternatively, since nuts and dairy are also great sources of protein it might be worth considering adding trail mix to your snacking repertoire. 

If your protein intake is really lacking, then you’re probably going to have to re-evaluate what you usually eat for your main meals. Increasing your meat portions will be the most effective way to boost your protein, but for those who prefer not to eat slabs of steak, getting a bit more creative in your cooking might be the answer. For example, you might try adding ground beef or chilli biltong to your salads. A lot of Asian salads include beef, so it’s not unusual to pack a bit of protein into a salad. You can also add protein rich beans and even tuna or salmon into salsas. This is a good way of spreading the protein out across a meal rather than having to get through big fat lump of meat on its own.

If this is still not enough then it might be worth swapping out your regular dairy products for for protein enhanced options. There are a range of yoghurts and milks that have added protein which might be what you need to reach those goals. Meanwhile, using an app that tracks your macros will really help you to make sure you’re reaching those daily targets.

The upshot of all this is that it’s a great excuse for us meat lovers to eat more steak, chicken, fish and whatever else might be on the carnivore’s menu! So next time you’re enjoying an indulgent, meaty meal, you can tell your friends that it’s so you can reach your macro targets!