I’m sure many of you have become aware of the dearth of articles on nutritional supplements here at Well Built Style. That’s because we simply don’t believe there are very many worthwhile supplements out on the market. In fact, most supplements simply suck.
At Well Built Style we believe in the fundamentals. We believe in what works. Simply put, we believe that there is very little need for supplementation if you are eating a healthy and balanced diet.
We laid out our basic diet plan in a previous article. However, we still get a lot of questions regarding what specific foods to eat and which ones to avoid. Although we are of the opinion that there are few foods out there that one should absolutely avoid (moderation is key), they are definitely some foods that you would want to include in your diet.
Case in point: beef liver.
Beef liver is an old school “superfood” that bodybuilders of the golden era lived off of.
Back in the 60’s and 70’s, dessicated liver tabs were a very common supplement that bodybuilders and athletes used. It was sort of like that generation’s creatine. All of the old books and magazines touted the effectiveness of liver tabs. For example, the Iron Guru himself Vince Gironda once wrote in his book, “Unleashing the Wild Physique”:
“Dessicated liver is one of the most potent training aids for the bodybuilder… advanced bodybuilders make fantastic progress on 50-100 liver tablets per day over short periods of time. These amounts let you take in tremendous amounts of protein and other nutrients without large amounts of food.”
Strictly speaking, there is nothing special about dessicated liver tablets over eating good quality beef liver. Although I believe the term “superfood” is nothing more than a marketing label, beef liver is still considered a nutritional powerhouse and is an excellent food for anyone looking to increase the nutrient content of their diet.
The reason why beef liver is so good for you is because it contains a high concentration of important vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, B vitamins, zinc, phosphorus, and selenium just to name a few. In fact, beef liver contains such a high number of nutrients per unit calorie that it is considered one of the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet. For those of you looking for specific details, an excellent examination of beef liver’s nutritional prowess can be found over at the blog Feed The Animal.
What makes beef liver especially great for athletes is its high concentration of B vitamins, specifically vitamin B-12. For those of you who don’t know, vitamin B-12 plays a critical role in the formation and function of healthy red blood cells. As such, individuals who are deficient in vitamin B-12 often suffer from the effects of tiredness, weakness, and anemia – symptoms that all athletes are looking to clearly avoid! Fortunately, many of our foods now come fortified with vitamin B-12 but beef liver is considered the best natural source of the vitamin.
As great as beef liver is, there are still some issues that you will need to address before you start consuming it in earnest.
First of all, considering how dense beef liver is in nutrients such as fat soluble vitamin A and copper, I don’t recommend that you eat a ton of it on a regular basis or else you will run into issues of hypervitaminosis. I think eating beef liver once a week as a way to bump up the nutritional content of your diet is an excellent strategy, however.
Secondly, if you are going to eat beef liver I suggest you go with organic, grass fed beef. Due to its function, the liver can accumulate toxins and heavy metals more readily than many other parts of the animal. As such, if you are going to eat beef liver you want to ensure that you are sourcing it from an animal that is healthy and relatively free of toxins.
What if you can’t find organic?
Considering that beef liver should be eaten on an infrequent basis in relatively small amounts, I think you can still get away with eating liver from conventionally raised animals. In fact, Mark Sisson over at Mark’s Daily Apple had an excellent post examining this issue and he came to a similar conclusion.
What about liver tabs?
The market for dessicated liver tabs has all but evaporated since the advent of cheap milk based protein powders. However, for individuals who absolutely cannot stand the taste of liver I can certainly see a place for this kind of supplement on their shelf. The great thing about liver is that a little can go a long way. You certainly won’t need to swallow 50+ tablets a day as once recommended by Vince Gironda. My only suggestion again would be to buy a product that is produced from organically raised, hormone free cattle. I’m not a huge proponent of organic foods but I believe it is an intelligent decision when it comes to beef liver products.
Beef liver is without a doubt one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. Its combination of essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals make it an excellent “superfood” for guys training hard in the gym. Although beef liver has fallen a long way in popularity since the golden era of bodybuilding – largely due to the new wave of so-called “cutting edge” dietary supplements – it is slowly making a comeback among individuals looking for a way to bolster the nutritional content of their diet without having to empty their wallets. In a time when snake oil salesmen are trying to push you the next “latest and greatest” powder or pill, I highly recommend that you give beef liver a try instead. Not only will you save yourself some cash but you will actually have something that works!
Here’s to staying fit!