Carnivore Diet 101: A Meaty Resource From a Practitioner
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What is the Carnivore Diet aka Zero Carb Diet?
(But not truly a zero-carb diet because you still get some carbs in meat and dairy.)
It’s basically the most simple diet I have ever heard of with very easy rules-just eat meat, add salt and drink water but I should say that meats high in fat are really, really recommended and necessary for optimal health as you will find out later on in this blog post.
This sounds crazy and counterintuitive to what we have been raised to believe but hopefully, this will provide some light and answer some questions. The intention of this article is to provide resources and usable data so that you can make your own decision on whether this diet and or lifestyle is the right fit for you or not.
However, don’t get this blog post misconstrued this post is not medical advice, and with all things diet-related you need to contact your doctor before making any dietary decisions.
I originally heard of the carnivore diet over a year and a half ago and the details of the diet were quite simple, just eat meat, drink water, sprinkle in some salt, and maybe a touch of pepper if you were feeling a little frisky.
My initial reaction was beyond knee jerk and I definitely wrote this idea off as not healthy and hit the delete memory button in my brain. Then some months later I was listening to the good ol’ Joe Rogan podcast and none other than the current Carnivore Diet poster boy and major advocate Dr. Shawn Baker was being interviewed.
To my surprise I was immediately captivated because we have a doctor that was dropping some serious knowledge bombs and facts into the health equation, meanwhile providing a great case on why this diet is mostly beneficial.
QUICK PERSONAL DISCLAIMER:
I have been working with a functional medicine doctor and my previous diet was a rotation of paleo, some keto, and GAPS/elimination diet as well as occasionally dabbling in intermittent fasting…all of which were intended to battle personal stomach issues which included a giardia parasite infection, bacterial overgrowth, candida, and a gluten allergy which gave me some autoimmune symptoms.
I was treated for these issues in 2016 and feeling way better but as someone that is attracted to always upgrading oneself, Dr. Shawn Baker caught my attention.
So now let’s get straight to the potential benefits.
The Potential Benefits
#1. A Simple Way to Eat, The Minimalism of Diets
Have you been on a diet protocol in which you had to count calories, work the macros, food prep, do journal entries, eat at certain times of the day and/or add inexpensive supplements, check if it’s gluten-free, or weigh portions? It sucks and is time-consuming. All the time and mental energy it takes to implement adds up and is taking away from other productive ventures.
This diet is so simple; eat meat and as much as you want when you are hungry, that’s it. Plus sprinkle some salt.
After following the top carnivore diet proponents I found out that the best salt comes Redmond Sea Salt. This company sources its salt from an ancient sea bed in Utah. The reason this salt is soooo good is that it’s not coming from the ocean which may have added toxins and microplastics.
Have you heard of the CEOs that wake up in the morning and wear the same thing day after day so that they make fewer decisions so that more mental energy is spent on more important issues? Same thing here.
#2. Possibly Improved Digestion Due to Less Fiber? What?
One of the first things I thought of when I heard about this diet was what about the fiber?
I was just picturing the images used by colonics and the people that push the Colon Blow Detox style herbs, you know the pictures or illustrations of backed-up intestines and colons with pockets of putrified food otherwise known as food impaction or diverticulitis.
Diverticulitis as described by the Mayo Clinic, “diverticula are small, bulging pouches that can form in the lining of your digestive system. They are found most often in the lower part of the large intestine (colon). Diverticula are common, especially after age 40, and seldom cause problems. Sometimes, however, one or more of the pouches become inflamed or infected.” (1)
Gross, scary and serious stuff. All of this falls under the general idea that fiber is the one-particle that pushes food through our digestive tract, decreases constipation, and necessary for good digestive health.
Could this not be the case?
Possibly not. According to a study done by Dr. Anne F. Peery, in which she and other researchers took a cross-sectional study of 2104 participants, they found that, yes, diverticulosis increases with age but a high fiber diet did not reduce the amount of diverticulosis. Here are some of the results:
1. The people with the highest amount of fiber in their diet had the highest amount of diverticuli.
2. The study also showed that an increase in fiber from grains, soluble fiber, and insoluble fiber increased the amount of diverticulosis.
3. People with less than 7 bowel movements per week had less diverticulosis and people with over 15 bowel movements per week had a 70% greater risk of diverticulosis.
4. The intake of red meat and fat was not associated with diverticulosis nor was physical inactivity. (2)
Dr. Peery further concludes that a diet high in fiber and an increase in bowel movements increases the risk and prevalence of diverticulosis and the hypothesis that high fiber is good should most definitely be reconsidered which brings us to another study found in the US National Library of Medicine done by Kok-Sun Ho and colleagues.
Does this bust a fiber myth?
This study and research busts the fiber myth by taking 63 patients with idiopathic constipation issues, (aka unknown reasons), and removed fiber from their diet for 2 weeks. Then they were asked to add fiber back into their diet if they wanted and at a level, they felt was acceptable.
The results after 6 months showed that 41 of the patients remained on a no fiber diet, 16 on reduced fiber, and 6 resumed their high fiber diet.
Crazy as it sounds the patients that stayed on a no fiber diet or reduced fiber diet reported improved bowel movements and those that stayed on the high fiber diet still had constipation.
The study concludes that idiopathic constipation and its’ associated symptoms can be helped out just by reducing or eliminating fiber from one’s diet.
Driving this point home even further they mention that fiber is only adding indigestible elements to the digestive tract and making matters worse.
They even used motor traffic as an analogy by basically saying adding more cars to the small road does not make the ride quicker.
Gotta love that analogy!
Putting it in more scientific terms they finish it off by saying, “more and bulkier fecal matter can only aggravate the difficulty by making the stools even bigger and bulkier…a colon packed with feces, reduction in dietary fiber would reduce fecal bulk and volume and make evacuation of the smaller/thinner feces easier.” (3)
In non-scientific terms…mo stools, mo problems.
Diving even deeper I wanted to see if fiber had any benefits and after listening to Dr. Shawn Baker’s YouTube Channel on the subject he basically came up with a few that appear to be very minimal like fiber decreases blood glucose.
Here’s an example, if you eat an apple you get less of a blood sugar response as opposed to drinking a glass of apple juice. Fiber potentially decreases cholesterol but once again it’s a minimal factor as cholesterol levels change on the daily and high cholesterol, in general, seems to be somewhat overly hyped.
Big Pharma has to sell those statins but that’s a whole other can of worms.
Baker brings up another good point in which fiber itself is basically an irritant and more fiber in the gut creates more mucus. Naturally more fiber equals more mucus and more mucus is bad.
To top it off, people with high fiber diets experience some crappy symptoms, no pun intended, like stomach discomfort, bloating, gas and constipation.
Also, let’s bring up the conspiracy theory, but you’ll see it’s not theory when you do a little research.
In the early 1900s, the cereal companies started marketing their grainy cereal as being high in fiber and that all this fiber is really healthy and you most surely needed more.
However, this was really more of a “let’s increase the profits” plan as when broken down you see that grain is a super cheap crop to grow and that manufacturing and processing the cereal is affordable therefore making a very lucrative business plan. That’s pretty much where the high fiber as being a good misconception began.
Cereal companies sold the high fiber is a good idea. Thanks, Kellogg’s.
Plus Dr. Kellog was a total weirdo that created his cereal slop to help prevent sexual desires and masturbation. Sorry, not going to take health cues from him. (4)
In conclusion, Dr. Baker has spoken to and made his own non-sanctioned online studies, and his findings include that people on a strict carnivore diet have regular bowel movements, (usually one per day), and those that are newly starting the diet have an adaptation period in which their digestive tract gets used to it.
#3. Mental Clarity
After my first two weeks of going carnivore, I started to see a difference in my mental performance. Much of the brain fog I generally experienced was starting to decrease and my general outlook in life and positive thinking increased.
I was always told low carb and keto diets had given people with my mental symptoms great results but I wondered why. Here is a quick theory as to how the food science most likely works.
In simplest terms, the brain requires energy to run but unlike muscles that can use fat as a fuel source the brain requires glucose but when you are on a no-carb and no sugar diet your liver is put to work by converting fatty acids/amino acids into ketones known as ketogenesis.
Your body goes into ketosis generally when you have fasted or when your body is low on carbohydrates. These ketones can account for up to 70% of the brains energy demands.
What about the other 30%?
The remaining energy needs are from glucose which can be made from gluconeogenesis. This happens when your body sends a message to the liver to convert amino acids and your body fat into glucose.
When you don’t have sugar or carbs in your diet it forces the liver to convert your body’s fat storage’s into glucose which then provides your brain with sufficient energy.
One should also note that ketones have benefited those with a number of neurological disorders and diseases such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other cognitive challenges.
It is thought that the ketones which are way more efficient at delivering energy also create more ATP, adenosine triphosphate, which places energy where it’s needed for metabolism within the cells.
Also, it should be mentioned that ketones produce less free radicals than glucose. Basically, ketones are environmentally friendly, nonpolluting sources of energy as compared to smoggy, cancer-producing, dirty glucose. (5)
#4. Weight Loss
Weight loss is such a loaded issue and generally the wrong approach, I mean let’s look at the widely used saying, “250 pounds at 25% body fat is way different than 250 pounds at 10% body fat” which brings this approach to more of a composition and nutrition issue.
Weight loss marketing sure does sell a lot of products and diets as we are all self-conscious and want to look good but let’s get away from that for a minute.
I believe this diet is more about feeling good and bringing your body back to life by getting the nutrients and digestion back to functioning properly.
After doing research and checking out people’s testimonials of being on the carnivore diet I did see a lot of people with weight loss and an improved physique but then again there were a lot of people that didn’t have huge weight loss gains.
The gains were in other areas of life like what happened to me.
I have been an athlete my whole life but I never liked going to the gym and getting my work out in. The reason being I just felt like crap after it, my muscles were always sore and my joints ached, especially after going hard on a leg day. But after only a few weeks on this diet my mood and motivation changed, I started to crave getting back into the gym, and now rather than looking at it as a chore, it’s something I look forward to.
Some of this has to do with less inflammation and pain and the other part I hypothesize is that my body is running on all cylinders and my muscles, organs, and joints are being properly nourished.
So rather than looking at this as a weight loss diet, I would take the approach of looking at it as a get healthy diet with the goal of becoming more functional and making life a pleasurable experience rather than one of pain and lack of motivation.
I also read that some people take a long time to adapt to the diet as their metabolic system is way out of wack. Some people need months or years before their body is in a complete adaptation mode of being on a meat-only diet.
Once adapted I believe you will find that everything starts to feel better and the guilt of eating a high-fat all meat diet goes away. It’s pretty strange to be on a diet with pretty much no restrictions on the amounts of food you eat.
The other cool thing is that you don’t get all irritable aka “hangry” when you have gone many hours without eating, intermittent fasting is easier too.
That impulsive desire to eat those high-carb donuts or sugar-infested coffee chai lattes goes out the door.
Cravings are essentially gone and people will often say crap like, “I don’t know how you have the willpower to resist.” I just tell them my body runs on high octane meat and fat only.
To recap this weight-loss issue:
If you are accustomed to eating carbs your body will turn those carbs into fat but if you remove the carbs your body’s insulin sensitivity should improve.
Now fat will be the energy of choice which will, in turn, most likely reduce fatty weight within your body. (6)
I think it’s important to re-frame this as a get healthy first lifestyle and the body composition improvement or weight loss is the fruit of labor which may or may not be seen weeks, months, or years later.
We are all different and we all have different results but the goal of a healthy and nutritious lifestyle is the common denominator.
#5. Decreased Inflammation
Under normal circumstances, inflammation is a good thing as it’s your body beginning the process of healing itself by producing more white blood cells, immune cells, and cytokines….but this can become a problem if it turns into a chronic issue which generally can occur on our insides without any easy way to detect symptoms.
This chronic inflammation leads to other health problems and nasty diseases like diabetes, cancer, fatty liver, and arthritis-type issues. (7) So what the hell causes all of these issues?
A lot of doctors and studies show that generally the crappy foods we eat contribute to these issues and the adaptation of the bogus food pyramid endorsed by our government, (talking about the US food pyramid), doesn’t help.
Stuff like sugar, refined starches, high fructose corn syrup, high carb diets, bread, processed foods, vegetable oils, and heavy consumption of alcohol keep your body in a state of inflammation.
So naturally, the carnivore diet comes in as a potential easy remedy as all of those inflammation-causing foods are eliminated. It’s a basic hypothesis but common sense would probably declare that eating on this diet will help out these problems.
Lets a take a look at Mikhaila Peterson, Jordan Peterson’s daughter, and a recent guest on Joe Rogan’s podcast. She is a carnivore dieter and primarily only consumes beef, water, and salt. Her life has been a total challenge since she was born as being afflicted with many medical problems like depression, chronic infections, idiopathic hypersomnia, skin problems, and severe rheumatoid arthritis.
It was so bad that at the age of 17 she had multiple joints replaced. Aside from her surgeries, the doctors had no answers. She was on prescribed antidepressants, immune suppressors and took a crap ton of amphetamines. After doing her own research she found out that diet and proper nutrition can bring your health back. She started with elimination-style dies and saw improvements.
She has since taken it a step further and is now pretty much completely carnivore and her inflammation has subsided and the arthritis has disappeared. Once again we have a person that has seen tremendous health benefits and changed her life around just by eating an all-meat diet.
Her father Jordan Peterson has adapted the diet as well and has seen similar results. Check her blog here.
Can you reduce inflammation just by eliminating sugar, carbs, and alcohol and adapting a meat diet?
It appears possible but let’s take a look at some science and a recent study done in 2013. Over the course of 12 weeks, doctors studied the effects of a low carb high-fat diet vs. a high carb low-fat diet. Results conclusively showed that the dieters in the high-fat low carb category achieved lower markers of systemic inflammation. (8)
What about inflammation caused by food sensitivity?
Yes, carnivore doctors and functional medicine doctors say this is a factor, as well as most people, do have inflammation as a result of eating too many carbs, grains, gluten, and even salads or greens. Just by eliminating these items doctors have found and seen great results of less inflammation and a decrease of C-reactive proteins in their systems.
These proteins are the evidence of inflammation as they are produced in the liver when your system is under distress.
I have a gluten intolerance and it most likely gave me some inflammation.
#6 Heart and Cardiovascular Health
First off let’s get some BS out of the way. By now you can see that a lot of what we have been conditioned to believe is not that accurate and perhaps more of a fib to either push an agenda or increase profits. This can also be seen with the idea of cholesterol guidelines.
Dr. Shawn Baker speaks in length about this and brings up the fact that recommended cholesterol levels have been tampered with. He mentions that the study and guidelines that were established many years ago were already determined in a hearing were about 8 of the decision-makers were already working for pharmaceutical companies that were selling drugs that lower your cholesterol.
I believe they dropped the healthy cholesterol level from 250 to 200. Do you see a conflict of interest here?
Let’s back up a little and just throw out where we are in contemporary society when it comes to cholesterol. Due to the guidelines that were established by these so-called doctors and experts, we were brought up to believe that lower cholesterol is better and reduces your chances of heart attack and cardiovascular disease.
However, after listening to Baker, he brings up the idea that you won’t find people that have had heart attacks without having inflammation or hyperinsulinemia.
In fact, he said the majority of people that suffer heart attacks actually have so-called normal or lower than normal cholesterol levels.
He says you probably won’t find a cardiologist in the world that can say with a straight face that inflammation or insulin sensitivity didn’t play a role with cardiovascular disease. If we don’t count for inflammation and insulin as the contributing factor of cardiovascular disease we are lying to people. Those people that do say cholesterol is the only problem are being deceptive and once again trying to push an agenda.
Practicing the carnivore diet you may see improvements in insulin sensitivity as well as decreased inflammation, as discussed in the inflammation section.
It appears that when you have these issues cleared up your cholesterol levels become less of an issue. The issue we have though is the people that promote the vegan lifestyle or high veggie diets (which do reduce cholesterol) might not know what they are talking about or have a political agenda to push or increase profits.
The funny thing is that low cholesterol can actually put you at risk for many diseases. Not to mention it messes with your sex drive and can also make you violent. Check out these two articles.
Everything is way more complicated than just saying high cholesterol is the main factor for cardiovascular disease. Carnivore diet doctors and advocates say you need to take in many factors such as lifestyle, diet, and probably somewhat most importantly the inflammation factor and insulin sensitivities.
Baker recommends looking at your HDL triglyceride ratios and inflammation markers but even more importantly perhaps a coronary artery calcium scan would tell you where you are if you are curious about your cardiovascular health.
Need further research and data? Check out these three scientific studies that speak on these issues.
- Low-Grade Inflammation and Coronary Heart Disease: Prospective Study and Updated Meat-Analyses
- High Ratio of Triglycerides to HDL-Cholesterol Predicts Extensive Coronary Disease
- Relationship between obesity, insulin resistance, and coronary heart disease risk
Hands down meat is the most nutritious and beneficial source of minerals and proteins and should basically be called the superfood of all superfoods.
It also has all 9 of the amino acids we need. We get a ton of high-quality protein, just about 46-56 grams per 8 ounce serving and there are plenty of other needed vitamins and minerals. Basically a lotta bang for your buck. (9)
From a nutrition standpoint meat is far superior to plants. It’s easier for your body to digest and break down the amino acids making it way better than some BS from a soy or a veggie burger, that’s a whole other post on its own. But you do miss out on the bloating and gas from veggie burgers, real fun there…not.
Dr. Geogria Ede did a great job of breaking down how meat is so much more beneficial than plant food. Here article Meat: The Original Superfood is phenomenal.
Plants are from a totally different kingdom and it forces us to use our internal amino acids and increase the amount of work our digestive track needs to do to break them down.
Think about this, meat is from an animal and we are an animal that originally began eating meat millions of years ago so naturally, the meat we eat is easier for our bodies to digest and absorb.
There are plenty of other factors though that may decrease one being able to take advantage of the bioavailability of meat, such as poor digestion and absorption. Throwing in an analogy, it’s like putting jet fuel in a 1960’s VW bug engine, that engine just isn’t going to get all the benefits.
Some people’s digestive tracks have been under stress or had issues for so long that they aren’t even capable of digesting and using all of the nutrition from the meat. Dr. Paul Saladino goes into great detail on how the body responds to plant foods versus meat. He drops a ton of chemistry knowledge in his book, “The Carnivore Code.”
Everybody has a different body and different issues but over time hopefully, your body will adapt, heal, and be able to break down and use all the nutrition that meat has to offer should you choose this path.
#8 Pesticides from Plants and People
I’m always trying to get some reading in and that usually involves checking out Mark Sisson’s blog “Mark’s Daily Apple“.
His blog is super informative and the topics are insanely researched and explained. I was reading his article on the carnivore diet and he brings up a great point regarding plants and pesticides.
Plants create their own internal/external pesticides to ward off the bugs and animals that want to eat them for dinner. These pesticides are called phytonutrients and some are more toxic than others but all plants have them. These phytonutrients when consumed by bugs or animals can either make stomachs upset or kill those that ingested them.
Did you ever get a stomach ache after drinking a smoothie or eating a salad? Perhaps the plants you were eating had phytonutrients that upset it? Maybe.
Also by going carnivore we reduce the risk of ingesting toxic pesticides from the human-made chemical ones that farmers spray on their crops.
People always suggest going organic but even then is it possible to confirm everything you eat is organic and pesticide-free? I guess if you grow your own food and never eat out it’s possible.
However, there is a counterpoint. Mark brings up that the plant’s phytonutrients could also be potentially beneficial as they can cause healthy stressors in the body which he calls hermetic stressors and in turn can make us stronger and healthier. (10)
There has also been a lot of research and investigation into phytonutrients and they do have plenty of benefits so I don’t want to completely knock them. There are plenty of medicinal and cleansing qualities of plants.
My current thought on plants and animals: Plants equal medicine and animals equal food.
#9 Dental – Teeth Health
This is some crazy stuff I stumbled on when diving deep into the rabbit hole.
Apparently, an all-meat diet does wonders for your teeth and gums as evidenced by the great early 1900s arctic explorer, ethnologist, and Harvard professor, plus all meat diet advocate, Vilhjalmur Stefansson.
Real quick on Stefansson. This guy started doing archeological research in Iceland in 1904, lived with the Inuits in 1906-07, again lived with them for a while on Victoria Island in Canada in 1910, continued with assisting in arctic expeditions from 1913-1916, was part of arctic rescue operations and again lived on and off with Inuits throughout his life all the while completely immersing himself in their customs and diet.
This guy was the real deal.
While in New York and commuting on the subway he saw a sign that read “For Sound Teeth Eat a Balanced Diet with Vegetables, Fruit, and Milk. Brush Teeth Daily and Visit Dentist Regularly. Shirley W. Wynne, M.D. Commissioner of Health.” He was probably thinking “Oh hell no.”
In reality, it’s another great example of the government telling you what to do with improper data or facts to back it up. Mr. Stefansson brings this up because he actually studied dental health and found contradictory evidence that this just isn’t the case.
He brings up a report from Dr. Adelbert Fernal, Curator of the Museum of Dental School, Harvard University. Dr. Fernal collected mouth casts from living Americans throughout the continent, from the most Northern Inuits down to the people of the Yucatan Peninsula.
What he found was that the best teeth came from people that didn’t include milk in their diet. Crazy enough the Inuits didn’t use toothpaste, never brushed their teeth, didn’t swish with Listerine nor visit the dentist twice a year, or even in their life for that matter. Guess what their diet consisted of? Primarily all carnivore, all meat! (11)
In 1905 Dr. Steffanson was on an anthropological commission to study the people of Iceland. While there they were given permission to excavate a graveyard and gather the bones and teeth of approximately 80 bodies. Upon examining the teeth not a single tooth had a cavity.
Why no cavities?
Dr. Steffanson concluded that most likely the teeth of the Icelandic people’s teeth were so strong and immune to cavities due to their diet, which consisted of predominantly fish, mutton, and milk products.
They did consume a smaller amount of beef and sometimes a horse and the wheat/cereal they did have was most likely used for beer. As you can see they did consume milk but that’s most likely not what contributed to good teeth health, it’s most likely due to the absence of vegetables and non-animal products.
Back in 1906 Dr. Steffanson lived with the Mackenzie River Eskimos and took note that the Eskimos that had adopted a European diet had started to experience toothaches and tooth decay but the ones that kept it real with their traditional diet didn’t have teeth issues.
The elders even confirmed that their people never experienced tooth problems until they changed their diet from strictly Animal Kingdom (98-100 percent carnivore) to a mix of vegetables and cereals. Dr. Alex Hirdlicka, a Curator of Anthropology, also confirmed that he has never seen tooth decay among Northern Native people who were uninfluenced by an American or European diet.
For a great read and to hear it from the horse’s mouth check out this article by Dr. Stefansson.
Guess what type of people have poor teeth health? Vegans and vegetarians…hmmmm.
#10 Gas, Bloating, and Pooping
This is absolutely crazy. After your body adapts to the carnivore diet you essentially get very little gas or bloating, at least that’s what happened to me. Plus, I stopped using protein powders which played a roll . Those days of being uncomfortable at work or in an important meeting trying to hold in your flatulence are long gone.
I should mention though that it has been reported that people do have gas for the first few weeks of starting the diet due to fungal die-off in the intestinal tract, remember your digestive track is getting rid of the bad stuff because you are eliminating their food source which is carbs and sugars.
Think of candida overgrowth living off sugar, now they won’t be able to overpopulate and will most likely reduce to a healthier level. That’s the hypothesis anyway.
Not all fungus, viruses, parasites, and bacteria are bad. When on a meat diet it seems your body does a good job of evening out all of their levels for optimum performance.
When I first heard of the carnivore diet I thought it would have the opposite effect and give you more gas as I was still thinking meat just putrefies in the gut and lets off tons of gas, something like a dead deer on the side of the road with a bloated belly from rigor mortis.
It’s basically the opposite, all the carbs, fruits, and vegetables are the guilty culprits.
Now, what about poop? This is also very interesting. You poop a lot less. I used to average 2-3 times a day but now it’s just once in the morning. In fact, Dr. Shawn Baker did a survey among his carnivore diet followers and the daily bowel movement average was 1.2.
Why is that?
Think about it, just about everything you eat in the meat is used in your body. More meat equals less fecal waste whereas a mixed diet or even vegan for that matter has you ingesting more things that are not digestible, (like fiber).
Less gas, less bloating, and less pooping…total win.
#11 Testosterone Boost
I messed up on this one as I wish I would have gotten my testosterone panel done before I started this diet to compare the before and after as supposedly a high-fat diet does increase testosterone.
There is one study that took 43 healthy men between 19 and 56 put them on a high-fat low-carb diet for ten weeks and they were able to boost their testosterone levels by 13 percent on average.
They concluded by saying, “this study suggests that diet may alter endogenous sex hormone metabolism in men.” (12)
Sweet, sounds like it’s keeping men’s morning wood game strong too! Here is the study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
This idea in turn made me want to write about testosterone so I did and that post is here…“Does the Carnivore Diet Increase Testosterone?”
People have a lot of things to say about the carnivore diet. I’ve even heard it causes bags under your eyes! The following are the bigger of the myths out there.
#1 You Get Scurvy and Die
When I mentioned to a friend that I was experimenting with the carnivore diet they immediately said I was going to get scurvy due to the lack of vitamin C.
Dr. Baker explains that when you are on a low carb or zero carb diet your body doesn’t actually need as much vitamin C.
Paraphrasing him…when you’re running a metabolism high on carbohydrates and glucose then yes you would need more vitamin C to maintain healthy cell function but when carbs and glucose are reduced, and practically eliminated, the competition goes down thus needing less vitamin C.
Another discovery I stumbled upon was that the USDA did an analysis of meat and the nutrients within it. They concluded that meat doesn’t have vitamin C in it but when a private lab did an analysis they found that meat does in fact contain vitamin C, about 10 Milligrams per pound.
Also think about the Inuits again, they were 95-100 percent all carnivore and they didn’t get Scurvy. (13)
One other thing to check out is organ meats like liver contain Vitamin C! Organ meats are the real superfoods.
#2 You Get Kidney Failure from Too Much Protein
Not so much. Dr. Baker says one way to see if your kidneys are functioning properly is to get a blood panel done and check the BUN which stands for Blood Urea Nitrogen, which is produced by your liver when it processes protein and then filtered by your kidneys.
He says elevated levels can be caused by a number of things from drugs, heart attacks, or even aging. But also when looking at labs a number of things need to be taken into context like muscle mass, size, and weight.
Here’s where Dr. Shawn Baker’s carnivore diet experience comes back in.
He recently had his panels done after being strictly carnivorous for a year and a half. His labs showed signs of elevated BUN but once again context needs to be given as he is a beast. His BUN level of 29 is high but this is a very large man packed full of muscle so his elevated levels are justified.
Another measurement to look at in his labs is his estimated Glomelelular Filtration Rate or GFR. The GFR is a quick way to see if your kidneys are functioning well and guess what? Baker’s GFR came back in the normal range.
Also, Dr. Fung, a nephrologist and expert in the world of low carb and intermittent fasting was recently interviewed on Dr. Baker’s podcast. Dr. Fung does a great job of myth-busting.
Check out Episode 50 here. A lot of the kidney issue questions get answered as well as the biases associated with medical papers and their studies on the topic.
#3 Too Much Meat Causes Cancer
Back in 2015, the World Health Organization published a paper “Carcinogenicity of consumption of red and processed meat”. This report basically says that red meat causes cancer and that you should reduce the amount you eat.
The messed-up part is that this study was based on epidemiology. Epidemiology is the study and analysis of the distribution (who, when, and where) and determinants of health and disease conditions in defined populations.
The problem with epidemiology is that it takes populations, like in this report for instance, where they look at people that have higher concentrations of red and processed meat in their diet and show the increase and chance of diseases and cancer.
These studies are compromised and confounded because it also includes people that eat just about anything and that anything includes meat-eaters who frequent fast-food restaurants, drink soda/diet soda and high amounts of sugar, eat the french fries cooked in vegetable oil, consume the high carb gluten infested bread, smoke cigs, don’t exercise, or have an unhealthy habit of drinking excessive alcohol .
Epidemiology does a poor job of proving causation. Take for instance this analogy of poor epidemiology conclusions, “carrying a lighter increases your chance of getting cancer”, because out of our study of thousands of people most of them carried a lighter, pretty bogus right? But that’s how the data is pooled in a lot of the studies use epidemiology.
Basically, this report is more agenda-driven and not scientifically driven as it is unable to prove that red meat or processed meat causes cancer, plus most of the data is cherry-picked to sway the conclusions in the direction they want to go in.
Dr. Georgia Ede, the creator of the great website “Diagnosis: Diet”, goes into great detail on how recent reports claiming meat causes cancer are not actually scientific or conclusive with their findings.
She goes on to also uncover the biases associated with members of the panels that completed such reports. These people had biases such as non-meat eaters themselves or associations with governmental agencies that could have swayed their conclusions and assortment of data.
But do yourself a favor and check out her work and especially this article “WHO Says Meat Causes Cancer”. It’s an eye-opener for sure.
Some Side Effects of Adopting the Carnivore Diet.
#1 Keto/Carnivore Flu and the Transition Theory
Some people during their adjustment phase of the diet experience some flu-like symptoms plus mood swings, bloating, irritability, fatigue, and nausea which are similar to what happens when people adjust to the keto diet, otherwise known as the keto flu.
Now it’s not an actual flu bug that you get and it’s not as hardcore as a real flu from what I’ve seen but there is a theory as to what causes some of the symptoms.
First off is carbohydrate withdrawal which is similar to any other withdrawal-like alcohol, tobacco, or heroin. What I found was carbs activate dopamine receptors in the brain and give you a good feeling reward when you stuff your face full of them. Take away the carbs and you tend to get symptoms of depression or just feeling crappy with low energy.
Keto advocate, Thomas Delauer, uses a great analogy on what he thinks happens to your body during this eating transition or replacing carbs with fat for energy.
He uses the example of having two gas tanks in your body, one being the main tank and the other serving as a reserve. The main tank is filled with your standard 87 octane unleaded gas and the reserve is filled with super potent jet fuel (fat). The only way you can begin to use the reserve tank is by burning through the main tank’s lower quality fuel, (carbs). Burning through that tank leaves behind some nasty sludgy residue which in turn gives you the symptoms.
That leftover sludge is what gives you some of the more lethargic symptoms and once that’s burned off symptoms should reside.
Other parts of the transition theory include possible mineral deficiency issues. This can happen with low-carb, keto, and carnivore diet transitions.
What happens is when your body goes low to noncarb, insulin levels drop and less insulin requires less kidney function to regulate sodium and water content. The insulin is usually telling the kidneys how much sodium to keep or how much to throw out. Generally, when this happens your body throws out more sodium as well as reducing magnesium levels which in turn throw off electrolyte levels. This can make some people nauseous.
Your body is going to freak out a little on this too…the reintroduction of healthy amounts of good fats. The body on a high carb diet has regulated itself with its own protocol of enzyme usage and digestion but now that the fuel has been switched to healthy fat, new changes within the digestive tract need to be switched. Everything is overloaded with change, such as enzyme production, gall bladder usage, stomach functions, and acid production to name a few. (14)
You may get bombarded with nasty endotoxins. What does this mean and why? Well, serious changes are taking place, and chances are you have a gut biome that may be unbalanced with bad bacteria and fungus. The bad bacteria and fungus (like candida) are thriving off the sugar and carbs it’s been fed.
As soon as you stop feeding them they tend to die off, producing what’s called endotoxins. Endotoxins also give you some of those nasty symptoms mentioned above. The good news is that when your gut flora starts to balance out you will start to feel much better and your body is in more of a healthy balance.
Some people say the solution or remedy to the ketones flu is to include some bone broth.
Bone broth has enormous nutritional benefits and packs a major electrolyte and mineral punch. Remember how your kidneys are eliminating the sodium and other minerals well bone broth helps mitigate the deficiency.
I’ve been buying this brand of bone broth when I don’t have time to make my own, it’s called Kettle and Fire and easy to order off Amazon.
Plus bone broth has a healthy about of collagen which is great for connective tissue rebuilding and also has the added benefit of repairing and sealing up the mucosal lining in the GI tract which has most likely been compromised from years of eating mostly inflammatory fiber. (15)
A quick negative on bone broth is that if you have issues with histamine then you may want to wait on using it or not use it at all. Bone broth does have higher levels of histamine.
My quick suggestion is to get a mason jar’s worth and sip on it throughout the day. I bought about a week’s worth and just kept them on hand but then again I didn’t experience any super severe symptoms.
One other quick remedy is to get a workout in. On carnivore, your body could be going into ketosis, and the extra ketones it’s producing need to be burned off. A little cardio or full-body workout could help out.
#2 Diahreaha, Constipation and Bowel Movement Issues, oh my.
Chances are you will experience some bowel movement disruption, either it slows down to a snail’s pace or it speeds up and makes you susceptible to disaster pants. Thank god Dr. Shawn Baker had a FAQ section for this topic as I had to resort to during my adjustment period.
For this section, I rely heavily on him and this is what I came up with for explaining the phenomenon.
Firstly constipation in itself is when you have a bowel with a heavy amount of fecal material and just can’t get it to pass through the sphincter and this could potentially happen on this diet but Dr. Baker explains that there is a difference between constipation and less bowel material due to your bodies absorption of meat and thus requiring fewer bowel movements.
When you go carnivore you’re not making as much waste. Meat is so well absorbed by the small intestine that there is very little material for the large intestine and colon.
The job of the large intestine and colon is to absorb the remaining fluid, water, electrolytes, and minerals and then let all the waste through.
After a period of time both bowel size and frequency decrease. I’ve read other people’s experiences and they have gone a day or two or more without having a movement during their adjustment phase.
What about the opposite effect, diarrhea? Remember the function of the colon is to absorb fluid and electrolytes and if you have been feeding it lots of fiber and carbs it hasn’t had to process as much so it’s a little out of shape and isn’t able to get all the fluid and minerals.
Plus the higher amounts of consuming pork, eggs, and fat will generally cause loose stools and or diarrhea.
Dr. Baker says to give it a little time so that your colon is able to readjust and get acclimated to the new diet and soon these symptoms should disappear.
When you are fully adjusted you can expect to have one normal bowel movement per day. Talk about a time saver.
Ready to Try It? Here are the Suggested Guidelines
Are you ready to take this diet protocol for a spin? The good news it’s about as simple as it gets as all you need to do is eat animal products and most people use salt, pepper, and spice to add a little more flavor which is totally cool. Here is a simple list.
Meat: Beef, Pork, Lamb, Wild Caught Fish (I usually only mess with Wild Caught Salmon and cans of sardines as snacks…small fish=less mercury content). Farm-raised fish is too risky due to antibiotics and chemicals. Seafood is okay as well, oysters, crustaceans, etc. See the seafood section below.
Processed meat still sucks such as lunch meat and sausages that are treated with preservatives. Beware some processed meat has filler that contain flour or gluten.
Eggs: Eggs are okay, I do sunny side up so as not to overcook the yolks as they have a good amount of nutrition
Cheese: Cheese is okay in small amounts, I have it maybe once or twice a week. If you are going to do dairy do it RAW. Here is an easy-to-buy “raw” cheese from Organic Valley.
Dairy and carnivore is an interesting mix and I talk more about it here.
Butter and Ghee: I use butter mainly in my Coffee in the morning and add massive amounts to my rib-eye steaks. Ghee is great to cook with or substitute the butter with.
This is my favorite organic ghee, Ancient Organics, it tastes amazing and worth it.
Salt, Pepper, and Spices: It’s recommended to go a little on the heavier side with the salt just to make sure you are getting enough in your system. Pepper is cool too just to help with the flavor. Spices are okay as well but I do warn you that some may be the cause of stomach discomfort.
Buy Redmond Salt from Utah. It’s one of the best in the world. You won’t find toxins or microplastics in it like salt that comes from the ocean. (Use coupon code “WILD” at checkout for a 15% discount!)
Other Items to Include as Recommended by Mark Sisson
Magnesium: I take a teaspoon of Natural Calm at night and sometimes in the morning for a pre-workout.
Liver: Nature’s multivitamin with a ton of bioavailability. I used to freeze beef liver and break off bite-size chunks and swallow them in the morning raw. It was a tough practice but I might re-introduce in the near future.
No time to buy and cook liver? Perhaps, these grass-fed organ capsules by Ancestral Supplements, it’s the next best thing. (That link may get you a 10% discount.)
Check out this article, “Should you add liver to your paleo, keto, or carnivore diet?”
Seafood: Offers more vitamins like vitamin D, selenium, iodine, copper, iron, manages, omega 3s. I usually do a few oysters when available and the wild-caught sockeye is on my plate once or twice a week. Mussels are cool too.
Snacks: Dried meats like beef jerky. Right now Epic brands are my favorites but the ones without sugar or extra ingredients.
- Pork Jerky Bites
- Venison and Beef Bites, (these have small amounts of onion powder. pepper, and garlic powder.)
Broth: Bone broth is super nutritious and bioavailable. Once again I like to use the Epic brand because I can easily order it from Amazon.
Fat: a lot of beginners fail to add enough fat and that’s why it’s recommended to add and cook with tallow. If you are too busy to render your own tallow then this is an easy and quick option.
Electrolytes: some people find relief from the keto/carnivore flu by using these. Also those of us that workout and sweat heavily may find they come in handy. My go-to brand is Redmond Real Salt called Re-Lyte.
If you dig Redmond Real Salt products use our code “WILD” at checkout as you may get a 15% discount!
Open Minded Carnivores
The good thing about this diet is the support you get from fellow carnivores and it’s not tied down by dogma or negativity. The whole thing is open and not strict at all. Basically, give it a good shot, and don’t worry if you crave into a carb or two here and there. (Your pet dogs may even benefit.)
There isn’t a carnivore police and people won’t trip out on you as vegans do.
I think Dr. Baker recommends eating 2 pounds of meat or more (basing on body size/weight, the bigger you are the more meat you need) and he has said one of the challenges people face is under-eating.
Is it affordable?
That was one of my concerns but after a while, I found it more affordable than keto and probably more affordable than some other diets and trends out there. In fact, I went nuts and broke down daily costs, budgets, and where to shop in two separate posts.
Here’s My Quick Carnivore Story and Notes From The Field
As mentioned above I heard Dr. Shawn Baker on Joe Rogan and then I heard Jordan Peterson on Joe Rogan speak about his daughter and himself and the success they had on the diet.
I was able to relate to some of the chronic symptoms they experienced such as stomach discomfort, inflammation, feeling lethargic, anxiety, brain fog, and just flat out not firing on all cylinders. Now I had been on a few strict diet protocols the previous two and a half years as I worked with my functional medicine doctor and was really improving but I figured why not see if this can give me some added benefits. I was sold and I wanted to give it a 10-week minimum try.
My first week I headed to my butcher, Belcampo Farms, and stocked up on grass-fed ground beef, bacon, and a couple of steaks. I gave away all my vegetables or veggie-related products so that they would not go to waste. This week was a little challenging but not too hard.
I experienced a little bit of the keto flu symptoms but not nearly as bad as some people that are going cold turkey from a high carb diet. My previous diets were all paleo, low carb, and even keto so it was less of a deal for my body to adapt.
The one note I need to make is that I have suffered from chronic constipation and that was my major concern. I wasn’t yet sold on the idea of eliminating fiber and at this point, I hadn’t researched it enough so my mind kept telling me I was going to end up in the hospital with impacted bowels or what have you. Unable to shake these worries I kept a higher than usual regimen of magnesium which keeps things moving, (sometimes too fast), a teaspoon at night, and one in the morning. This always does the trick and it still does. As of writing this I still take magnesium.
Week 2 I found out that steaks get really expensive and my current consumption was starting to point me toward bankruptcy so I increased the amount of ground beef and eggs. The beef started to get a little boring so I added more pepper and salt and experimented with spices. Bowel movements reduced to once a day every morning.
Week 3-8 My enthusiasm and general well-being were starting to increase. Rather than dreading working out, I started to crave it. My workout intensity increased a little as well as I just felt like my body needed to put the protein and energy somewhere.
Also after workouts, I felt really good for longer periods of time. Generally, I would feel good for an hour and then drop. I think some of the inflammation was lessoning up.
Sleeping seems to be improving. I wake up only once a night as before it was 2-3 times or more. Around week 5 or 6 I broke the diet for a second as I was at a Brazilian BBQ and they had fried plantains and I couldn’t resist but also I wanted to see how my stomach responded. No issues to report and went back on the diet strong.
Week 8-10 was really cruising. For a while, the diet of mainly beef was getting a little boring but for some reason, I started to really like the taste of it and it became less boring. Now I seem to be really on cruise control and it’s easy.
My personal observations and improvements: In just 10 weeks I was able to see improvements. Brain fog has lessened and my concentration is improving. Motivation to start and actually complete projects are improving, I mean I’m writing this blog and attempting to provide information to other people. A slight decrease in afternoon energy drop, I still feel a little crappy from 2-4 but not as severe.
The ongoing challenges are pretty minimal. Eating out can be a pain in the butt because the waiters don’t seem to understand that all you want is a plate of meat. With food allergies being a major concern I just mention that I’m allergic to everything except meat, which usually does the trick.
Where I’m at Today with the Diet
I’ll be totally honest. I think this diet is great and I still practice it. Are there concerns for the longevity of it? Yes. There just isn’t enough solid evidence or studies that show this is good for the long term but for now, I’m cool with it. But I did go way deeper with the information in this article:
I do however add a few vegetables here and there, mainly a 1/2 a sweet potato a week and sometimes plantains fried in coconut oil.
I also do meat cleanses where I’m strict on meat for 1 to 2 weeks or longer.
Magnesium is the only supplement I take on the daily. Also, heavy amounts of spices don’t work for me anymore as I’ve become too sensitive to them. I tried making taco meat a few times with paprika, cumin, and cayenne but in the middle of the night I would wake up with stomach discomfort.
Hopefully, if you made it this far you have enough info to make your own decision on if this is good for you. Once again I’m not a doctor and definitely not giving medical advice. In fact, I would recommend you speak to your doctor or your nutritionist before even going down this road.
Also, do your own research. I tried to add the main points in this post but there is a lot more out there. Here’s a shortlist.
…oh I should mention I am part of the World Carnivore Tribe group on Facebook which provides daily inspiration and updates of other people starting out on the diet and also those that are veterans.
If you need some extra motivation try this link:
World Carnivore Tribe on Facebook
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. Consult with and ask your doctor about any diet or medical-related questions. No information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease or condition. This is not medical advice.
- Mayo Clinic: Diverticulitis
- A High-Fiber Diet Does Not Protect Against Asymptomatic Diverticulosis
- Stopping or reducing dietary fiber intake reduces constipation and its associated symptoms
- Psychology Today: Time to Boycott Kellogg?
- Healthline: What Is Ketosis, and Is It Healthy?
- Kevin Stock: Fat Loss and The Carnivore Diet
- Live Science: What is Inflammation?
- Consuming a hypocaloric high fat low carbohydrate diet for 12 weeks lowers C-reactive protein, and raises serum adiponectin and high density lipoprotein-cholesterol in obese subjects
- Diagnosis Diet: Meat: The Original Superfood
- Mark’s Daily Apple: The Carnivore Diet: Pros, Cons, and Suggestions
- ESQUIMO TEETH PROVE HEALTH OF MEAT DIET
- Effects of dietary fat and fiber on plasma and urine androgens and estrogens in men: a controlled feeding study
- Eat Meat: Drink Water “Vitamin C”
- The keto flu, other keto side effects, and how to cure them
- Medicinal News: What are the benefits of bone broth?