Chicken and fish are bodybuilding staples, but once in a while you want to let loose your inner T-rex and dig into a thick piece of steak. After all, beef is high in protein and other nutrients that are undeniably vital to an active body if you're trying to build muscle and get lean. But depending on the cut you choose, steak can quickly go from a top-notch bodybuilding food to one that's going to sink your clean diet. And it's all because of the calories from saturated fat.
How bad can the wrong choice be? Consider that a 12-ounce serving of rib-eye trimmed of all visible fat still has 480 calories from fat alone. Can your diet absorb that kind of punch?
Whether you're eating out at a steakhouse or choosing a cut from your butcher, it pays to know your cuts of beef, especially if you're watching your calorie intake to get lean. In fact, don't make the mistake of asking your waiter for the most flavorful cut, which is most likely going to steer you in the wrong direction because of greater amounts of fat. Fat, in fact, enhances flavor.
That doesn't mean you have to be stuck with a dry piece of beef, of course. Preparation methods and spices can make or break any cut of steak. But let's start by putting together a list of steaks that show your muscles and midriff some serious love by delivering a better protein-to-fat ratio than their counterparts.
In other words, we have no beef with these lean, mean superstar steaks that are a cut above the rest! Bonus: Most of them will also keep your costs down at the grocery store. Yes, fattier steaks oftentimes cost more!
1 EYE OF ROUND
PROTEIN-TO-FAT RATIO: 7:1
Not only is the often overlooked eye of round one of the leanest cuts at the butcher, it can also be one of the most economical. It's taken from near the rear legs, or the "round" part of the beast. Beyond it's a payload of muscle-sculpting protein, this steak also delivers healthy amounts of highly absorbable iron to help give your workouts a boost of energy.
2 SIRLOIN-TIP SIDE STEAK
PROTEIN-TO-FAT RATIO: 7:1
Also called "knuckle steak," this is a very lean cut taken from the top of the round or hip of the animal. It's not to be confused with top sirloin. On top of protein, you can count on this steak for a source of niacin, a B vitamin necessary to convert the food you nosh on into the energy you use in the squat rack.
3 TOP SIRLOIN
PROTEIN-TO-FAT RATIO: 5:1
Gleaned from the loin section of the beast, this cut of steak offers up good flavor and moderately tender meat at a budget-friendly price. So you get the best of both worlds—great taste without the onslaught of fatty calories. As with other red meats, top sirloin is a natural source of creatine, the ultrapopular compound shown to bolster feats of strength on the gym floor.
4 BOTTOM ROUND
PROTEIN-TO-FAT RATIO: 4:1
Similar to top round, this steak is taken from the rump region of the animal. Each 3-ounce serving ponies up nearly 20 grams of top-notch protein that your transforming muscles crave, along with healthy amounts of selenium, a potent antioxidant that may aid in exercise recovery.
5 SKIRT STEAK
PROTEIN-TO-FAT RATIO: 2.5:1
If you're looking for a steak with rich, beefy flavor that won't break the fat bank, look no further than skirt steak. This long cut of steak is sourced from the diaphragm muscles of the beast.
CUTS TO AVOID
You don't have to completely cut these steaks out of your training diet, but their lofty fat numbers should make them more of a splurge than a regular gastronomic occurrence.
Protein-to-fat ratio: 1:1
Protein-to-fat ratio: 1.2:1
Protein-to-fat ratio: 1.5:1