Are supplements required for optimal health, or are they a waste of money?
Nutritional supplements are big businesses, with billions of dollars spent on them every year.
Can they be vital for good health, or is it just one big con? or like many things, is it something in between?
How I define a supplement
I believe a supplement is something you take for a specific reason, to aid a specific issue, for a limited amount of time.
A supplement should be used on top of an existing healthy diet for a specific goal or healing period.
When is it not a supplement?
If you have a hole in your nutrition game and you must supplement to avoid deficiencies. This is not a supplementation in my eyes; this is you attempting to plaster over a wound.
If you have nutritional deficiencies due to your diet, where you need to supplement, then by default, you do not have a healthy diet.
For example, Vegans have to supplement with B12. Otherwise, they are going to be in a world of hurt.
Essentially, they will have to supplement with B12 for as long as they remain vegan; therefore, by default, I cannot class the vegan diet as healthy.
In defense of supplementation
Functional medicine practitioner, Elliot Overton, takes an interesting approach to supplementing with vitamins while on a carnivore diet.
Referencing one of his YouTube videos he mentions the following:
- In many cases of a long-term deficiency, diet isn’t sufficient
- Individual nutrient requirements appear to differ in different health conditions
- We must not adopt a dogmatic view of health and nutrition. One size does not fit all.
In the above-mentioned video, Elliot reviews 4 case studies where supplementation improved his clients’ symptoms while they were on a carnivore diet.
7 best most general and common supplements for a zero-carb diet
Often people find the carnivore diet as a last chance salon in finding health, where the medical industry has failed them.
So, I am always wary of talking in absolutes like, you have to take this, or you should have some of that.
The standard western diet is so good at causing so many diseases that it is almost let off the hook because something so bad couldn’t possibly be recommended.
Well, it is… and that is why potential supplementation is super individual, as we all come to the carnivore diet in different states of ill health even if we don’t even know how unhealthy we actually are.
I like to recommend supplements that might help you get through the transition stages a little easier and give certain parts of your body a boost in the early stages to make the adaption period shorter.
Obviously talk to your doctor before deciding on a carnivore diet and even before taking certain vitamins and supplement concoctions. The following is not medical advice!
Straight off the bat, I am going to contradict myself a little, as electrolyte supplementation may be something you have to supplement with long-term.
Especially if you are active and do a lot of intense sports, in this case, it might be hard to get the electrolytes you need from food alone…especially if you sweat a lot or if you are prone to muscle cramps like me.
However, there are many long-term carnivores that do not use additional electrolytes.
When I say electrolytes, I mean the consumption of additional salt, potassium, and magnesium than what you get in the food you eat.
This could be as simple as just salting your food with a good quality salt. I prefer rock salts like Redmond’s Real Salt as it is unrefined and contains all the original trace minerals minus the toxins and microplastics found in salt that comes from the ocean.
I buy the Redmond Real Salt in 10-pound buckets as my family goes through a lot. Plus this Redmond link will usually get you 15% off when ordering from their website.
Redmond also does an electrolyte powder which is excellent for carnivores as there is no added sugar. Check out Re-Lyte electrolyte mix and use this link to get 15% off your order…or use the coupon code: WILD at checkout.
Even if you just salt your food for taste, then you might as well use a good quality salt just like you would choose a good quality steak.
HCL is a Hydrochloric Acid compound, which helps boost your stomach acid.
A high carbohydrate, low protein diet like the Standard Western Diet usually lowers your stomach acid and stomach acid is very important for the good digestion of meat.
So, if you come into carnivore with low stomach acid, you may have trouble digesting all the additional meat you are consuming. Meaning you may be missing out on nutrition and energy.
Your stomach acid will upregulate eventually, but it is possible to give it a helping hand with HCL in the beginning. 1 months’ worth of supplementation may be all that is needed, 3 months max.
Some people that have heartburn issues take it for even longer.
Even carnivore diet advocate Dr. Shawn Baker has recommended some HCL for people just starting out on a carnivore diet protocol.
Generally speaking, heartburn can be a sign of low stomach acid, and not too much acid as many people wrongly presume…either way talk to your doctor about these symptoms.
BioOptimizers is a brand I have used and it’s even recommended by nutrition stars like Ben Greenfield and Paul Chek.
This is their top of the line HCL supplement: BiOptimizer HCL Breakthrough
3. Digestive Enzymes
Your body is always striving for efficiency, so if you have been eating a Standard Western Diet for decades then your digestion will have adapted to digest the foods you often eat as efficiently as possible.
On a carnivore diet, you are likely going from a sugar-burning state to a fat-burning state and consuming a lot more protein and fat than you are used to.
Again, your body will eventually adapt but in the short term, you may suffer from things like diarrhea and constipation.
In this adaption phase, you may need a little helping hand from digestive enzymes. Lipase can help with breaking down fats, and proteases & peptidases can help with breaking down protein.
Once again this is where BiOptimizers come into play. They have a robust enzyme supplement that I have used in the past. Perhaps this could be a major benefit to you while starting out.
Check out Masszymes.
4. Ox Bile
Sometimes people that have just started carnivore ask the question…” can I ever trust a fart again.” Meaning as soon as they eat, it seems to just run straight through them.
This may be because your gallbladder isn’t producing enough bile. Why? Because it produces enough bile to cope with what you normally eat.
If you suddenly up your fat consumption, it needs time to up-regulate.
In this period, some people supplement with ox-bile. Bile is pretty important to ensure you can digest fat, and all the essential fat-soluble vitamins found in the fat.
So, whilst it isn’t a hard and fast rule, ox-bile could well be one of the most important short-term supplements you could take.
I only use a high-quality grass-fed form of Ox Bile which can found through Ancestral Supplements. Plus they usually give our readers 10% by using the link below.
Check out their powerful Grass Fed Gallbladder (w/ Ox Bile and Liver.)
There are loads of little tribes within the carnivore community. Probably the biggest debate is if you need to eat “nose 2 tail” or if “muscle meat only” is just as healthy.
I cannot give you are definitive answer on this, but if I apply my own logic then you should be able to get everything from muscle meat that you need, otherwise, a muscle meat carnivore diet cannot be healthy.
My view is muscle meat does give you everything you need, however, organ meats are super nutritious, so if you like them, then definitely eat them.
If you don’t like them, you can supplement with freezer dried liver capsules for example if you want, for an additional boost but I don’t think they are a requirement.
Once again Ancestral Supplements comes in handy with a wide range of different organ-based supplements. Take a look at a few of their grass-fed offerings:
- Grass-Fed Desiccated Beef Liver Capsules
- Grass-Fed Desiccated Beef Organs (Liver, Heart, Kidney, Pancreas, Spleen)
- Grass-Fed Desiccated Beef Heart by Ancestral Supplements
- Grass-Fed Natural Desiccated Thyroid
- Grass-Fed Bone and Marrow
- Grass-Fed Beef Spleen
- Male Optimization Formula W/ Organs (MOFO)
- Female Enhancement Mixture W/ Mammary (FEMM)
6. B Vitamins
I can only imagine my body had been depleted of vitamins and lacked the ability to absorb nutrients after years of eating a poor diet.
Obviously I’m using my own anecdotal evidence with my own case study that his Vitamin B supplements had helped me. I’ve also heard other people have had success with supplementing with Vitamin B while on a carnivore diet protocol.
If you are coming from a Vegan diet then perhaps keeping or adding Vitamin B can’t hurt.
Here are the vitamin B supplements I took: B-Vitamin Synergy
At the risk of sounding like a hippy, nature could be the best supplement of them all and probably the only one you have to prioritize daily for the rest of your life.
The sun is an amazing health-giving force and is an excellent way to get essential Vitamin D.
Also spending time walking between trees has been shown to be just as effective at lowering depression as antidepressants are… and a nice hike is a lot less harmful on the body as a pharmaceutical pill, you can bet on that.
And speaking of Vitamin D we released a video on our Wild Lumens YouTube channel that shows you how to track your D levels with an app.
Supplements to avoid
I am going to make some sweeping statements here, as it is the only way to keep this article under 10,000 words.
In my opinion, the vast majority of supplements are nothing more than a marketing scam.
You know what I mean, “oh you need this root powder from the amazon or this superfood from the desert.”
Erm, why? To me if a food wasn’t available to the majority of humans, for the majority of our evolution, then it cannot be a requirement in our diet, it cannot be essential. Does that make sense???
Otherwise, humans would only be living in the amazon or the desert. Right?
So, like you should with any diet and exercise plan, avoid ones that make bold claims or promise instant results.
To me there are no real hacks to long-term health. If you are worried about oxidants, you cannot just think you can take an antioxidant supplement for the rest of your life and be fine.
From what I have found is that your body doesn’t work like that. The best antioxidant diet or supplement is to simply have a healthy body, as the body is the only thing that can really deal with oxidants/free radicals etc.
Then you have the debate of do the supplements work. The supplements I listed as potentially useful are things found in the body and food in natural ways, like enzymes.
Unfortunately, the majority of supplements nowadays are synthetic and made in labs. A multivitamin pill isn’t a load of nutrient-dense food condensed into a capsule, they are usually made in factories from formulas.
And there is a lot of debate whether the body even recognizes what a synthetic vitamin or mineral is.
There is very little evidence these types of pills are usable by the human body and even if they are shown to produce increased levels of vitamins in the blood.
Are they actually being used, or are they just floating about?
Dr. Francis Collins wrote a quick and easy to read article on the subject of vitamins.
In my opinion, 99% of supplements could be totally pointless and nothing more than snake oil (actual snake oil will probably be a lot more useful haha).
Then there are maybe 1% of supplements that you can take if you want to but are not essential.
But you can certainly experiment with these after talking with your doctor and see if there are real-world improvements for your health.
For example, I don’t think Whey Protein powder is going to be harmful for you and could give you a nice protein boost.
However, you are on a carnivore diet, so if you need additional protein, I would be shocked, and adding protein powders to your drinks could be a waste of time and money . And if you did need more protein, then surely you would just eat more meat?
Where to start?
Get educated on a carnivore diet by reading these books:
- The Carnivore Diet by Dr. Shawn Baker
- The Carnivore Code by Dr. Paul Saladino
- The Carnivore Cookbook by Jessica Haggard (For a limited time use ANDY5 at checkout for $5.00 off)
Plus our Wild Lumens YouTube channel is packed with carnivorous content and recipes. Check it out!
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.