How Long Does It Take to Digest Beef: A Palatable Answer

March 22, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

It can take between 12 to 48 hours for beef to be completely digested.

There have been times when eating meat hasn’t always worked out for me. I have experienced discomfort, fullness, and other issues. This led me to do some research on the process of digesting beef.

In this post, I will tackle and answer how long does it take to digest beef and also provide some tips to improve digestion!

How Long Does It Take to Digest Beef

What is Digestion?

Before I answer the question of how long it takes beef to be digested, I first want to walk you through the process of digestion.

This is because everyone has a different idea of what digestion means. Let’s take a look at what it actually is.

The digestion process involves the turning of food into nutrients that the body can absorb and then use for energy, growth, and cell repair. Digestion also includes the removal of waste materials from the body.

Now, if you imagine that digestion begins in the stomach, think again! In reality, digestion – and the digestive tract – starts in the mouth.

Chewing breaks down the meat into smaller pieces while enzymes in the saliva breakdown some of the fats in the beef.

The masticated meat then passes through the esophagus, which is also known as the gastrointestinal tract. It then enters the stomach which produces gastric acid secretions.

The digestive juices and enzymes break down the meat further. It also turns the food into a liquid or paste-like substance that can pass through the rest of the digestive system more easily.

This paste then moves into the small intestine. Here, even more, digestive enzymes produced by both the liver as well as the pancreas are present. They aid digestion. This is why most of the nutrients are absorbed from the small intestine.

The leftover waste is then carried into the large intestine and then the anus before being excreted out of the body.

Digital Illustration Of Digestive System

How Long Does It Take Beef to Fully Digest?

Now that you understand digestion and the digestive system a little better, let’s take a look at how long does it take to digest meat.

Do you want to know how long it takes for red meat to be completely digested and evacuate the body? In this case, the red meat will leave the digestive system in 12 to 48 hours time.

If you would like a breakdown of this process, here it is:

  • It takes between 2 to 5 hours for the food to empty out of the stomach and into the small intestines.
  • The small bowel transit time where the food passes through the small intestines and into the large intestine is 2 to 6 hours.
  • The colonic transit time where the food has to pass through the large intestine before being excreted can take between 10 to 59 hours.

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Is Beef Hard to Digest?

Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t necessarily hard for the body to digest meat or beef. Rather, your digestive system has to simply work harder to break down red meat than plant based foods.

This is because fats and proteins are made up of complex particles. Beef, in particular, has a very high protein content.

This means that your system has to work hard to digest red meat than fruit or vegetables, which are fiber rich foods.

Whole milk hard cheese can be equally as tricky for your body to digest. High carb, sugary junk foods, on the other hand, can be broken down more quickly.

You should know that some people have meat allergies or intolerances. This makes it so that they have serious issues with digesting meat. In some instances, these individuals can’t even eat meat due to the side effects they experience.

The best way to know if beef is difficult for you to digest is to pay attention to how you feel after eating meat.

Do you experience bloating, cramping, or a general sense of discomfort? You may also feel uncomfortably full for hours on end. It is also possible that you may feel nauseous and feel a general lack of energy.

All this could indicate that meat just doesn’t sit well with you.

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Why Do You Struggle to Digest Red Meat?

So, maybe you don’t have a full-blown allergy but your body struggles to digest red meat. Why do you experience such issues after eating red meat? Here are some probable causes:

Acid Reflux

Sometimes referred to as GERD, this condition is where the stomach acid goes from your stomach and up through the esophagus. This can prolong the process of digestion or even prevent the meat from being properly digested.

This condition is a lot more common than people think. Currently, it is estimated that it affects up to 20 percent of the American population.

It can be caused by other foods, not just eat. Many people experience this issue when they eat oily or fried foods. A lot of spices can also be to blame.

Low Stomach Acid

As mentioned, stomach acids play an important role in breaking down foods, particularly red meat as it contains such a high protein and fat content.

Certain health conditions may cause you to have lower levels of this acid in your stomach. This issue is typically associated with aging and stress too.

When there aren’t enough gastric acid secretions, then the digestive process can’t take place as it usually would. This results in a greater amount of undigested food in the digestive system, particularly when it comes to red meat.

Woman Holding The Meat Using Chopsticks

Digestive Issues

If you suffer from any digestive problems, especially those that are related to the breaking down of food, then your body may find it even more difficult to process meat.

It could also be that your digestive tract doesn’t function as effectively as needed. This can mean that it takes longer for food to pass through your system.

Eating Large Quantities of Meat

As mentioned, meat is made up of large and complex molecules. Thus, it takes a while for the meat to break down and pass through your digestive tract.

The more meat that you eat, the harder that will be for your body to break down this food. Not to mention, it will take far longer for your system to do so.

How to Help Your Body Digest Meat?

Of course, if you love meat then the last thing that you want to do is to give up beef and other foods that contain red meat.

Eat Leaner Cuts of Meat

As you are well aware, some cuts of beef are fattier than others. And, as already mentioned, fats can be just as tough to digest as proteins.

Due to this, you should try to choose cuts of meat that have as little fat as possible. This includes the eye of round roast, sirloin tip side, top sirloin steak, and bottom round roast.

In addition to this, make sure to trim the excess fat from any cut before you cook it.

Cook Your Beef Better

As you already know that oil can compromise your digestion, it is important to pay attention to how you are cooking your beef.

In particular, you should stay away from frying it or deep drying it as you are only adding to the level of fat in the food.

For a healthier option, try grilling, roasting, or broiling your beef. These are great ways to prepare meat as they don’t compromise on flavor or texture.

Always pay attention to any other ingredients that you are adding into the mix to keep things as healthy as possible.

Chewing Your Food Better

This can seem like an odd tip, but it is an important one. As I already mentioned, digestion begins in the mouth.

And, your teeth play an important role. They make the pieces of meat smaller so that it is easier for the acids in your stomach to do their job.

Also, the saliva in your mouth can break down some of the fats. This means less work for your stomach to do.

Make sure to chew your meat thoroughly with every bite. Now, some people do say that you should chew your food so well that it is a fine paste before going down your esophagus.

I understand that this can be a bit tiresome so you don’t have to make quite as much of an effort. Still, chew as much as you can before swallowing.

Woman Enjoying The Food At Restaurant

Eat Smaller Quantities

If you tend to struggle quite a lot with digesting meat, then try eating smaller quantities. On average, the cut of meat that you consume shouldn’t be larger than the palm of your hand.

You can start with meat that is about this size or a little smaller.

You may also want to cut down on how often you eat red meat. Instead, of having it every day, try eating it only a couple of times a week. This will put less strain on your digestive tract.

Cook Your Meat Better

Yes, there are few things nicer than a rare steak but your method of cooking may be causing your digestive issues.

See, the more that you cook meat, the more that it breaks down. In essence, cooking does some of the heavy liftings for your system, making it easier for your body to process the food.

This is why cooking your meat to about medium may be the better option for you.

At the same time, make sure that you don’t go overboard with the cooking. Overcooked food can be just as difficult to digest as undercooked meat.

Pair Meat with Easily Digestible Foods

You should also be careful of the other foods that you pair with meat. If you are piling your plate with protein foods, dishes high in fat, or other items that are tricky to digest, then this will slow down your digestion even further.

This is why you may want to serve your meat with whole grains and leafy greens that can be readily digested. Then, your system can dedicate more time and resources to breaking down the meat.

Eat Meat Earlier in the Day

It is important to remain upright after eating. Also, light exercise a few hours after eating can also improve your digestion.

Not to mention, gastric emptying can slow down during certain portions of your sleep.

What this all indicates is that it is best to eat beef earlier on during the day, for breakfast or for lunch.

This gives your body more time to digest it so that you will experience fewer side effects.

Tackle Digestive Problems

If you are suffering from certain health conditions, it is best to see a doctor right away. There are certain medications that they may be able to provide you with that can ease your discomfort.

As a result, you may be able to eat more often without experiencing too many problems.

Keep in mind that with many conditions, your doctor will also recommend a change in your diet and lifestyle. This could mean that you will need to cut down on your meat consumption, at least for a little while.

Improve Your Stomach Environment

Going to a doctor is the best way to determine how you can improve your stomach environment. This is because each person’s system is different and they may be each lacking different things.

Your doctor will be able to determine which supplement will be most useful to you.

Woman Belly

Improve Your Diet

If you have a poor diet, then your digestive tract and system can suffer as a result. One of the things that you might want to cut down on is highly processed food.

These may be easy to digest but can cause a whole host of issues. If you eat these alongside meat, they can exacerbate the digestive conditions.

Instead, include more high fiber foods in your diet. These are natural boosters to your system and help the human digestive tract in general. It can also help other foods that aren’t as easily digestible to pass through your system more easily.

Take In More Probiotics

Probiotics are largely associated with improving gut health. The healthier that your stomach is, the easier it will be for you to digest meat more efficiently.

Probiotics can also aid in digestion and make it easier for your body to break down certain food products.

Switch to a Primarily Plant Based Diet

No, you don’t have to give up meat completely. However, if you frequently suffer from the side effects of eating meat, then you may want to consider a different diet.

This doesn’t mean that you have to follow a vegetarian diet. Instead, consider a flexitarian diet. This is when you eat a plant based diet about 70 to 80 percent of the time. You can add in meat for the rest of the meals.

As I already said, it is a good idea to space out when you eat the meat. Try for every other day or leave a couple of days in between for your system to digest and then recover.

Wrapping It Up

Now you know how long it takes to digest beef and what you can do to improve the process. If you have previously been suffering from digesting meat, hopefully, this post can help you feel better soon.

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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