Carnivore Diet 101: My Experience + Q&A
No, not omnivore... The "Carnivore Diet," aka: 100% animal-product diet. Goodbye chocolate, goodbye adaptogens, goodbye green vegetables.
Crazy? Kind of. But this extreme counter-diet to veganism is changing people's lives for the better across world, completely breaking our collective preconceived notions of what it means to be healthy. I am striving to live a long and thriving life, and always looking for ways to break my own beliefs in the name of a greater truth... so I lit up at the opportunity to share my own personal experience with such a mind-boggling trend. It goes against some of the core principles I believe personally when it comes to health, and so I can think of no better way to get to the bottom of this than to just try it myself!
the carnivore diet
aka Fish, Eggs, Dairy, but mostly: red meat.
what about the vegetables?
I first heard about this “diet” about two years ago, and it induced a heavy eye roll. I am not into extremes of any kind, and honestly I lumped it into an extreme fad as absurd as veganism. All meat? It gave me chills (and sweats...) just thinking about it.
I love vegetables. I eat them with pleasure and in abundance, with every single meal. In fact, I pride myself on my over abundance of rainbow coloured vegetable (and fruit) consumption daily. I’ve been known to consume more veggies in one sitting than most people consume in 3 days, and so this deep love for the and an understanding that micronutrients are an integral part of nutrition had me completely dismissing this idea of an all animal diet without a second thought.
The theory behind the animal-product-only (mostly meat) diet is two fold. First of all, that animals have consumed and assimilated the benefits of the plants, and stored the bioavailable nutrients in their muscles and fat- ready for us to absorb. It’s out sourcing the job, which does make sense. Ancestral diet advocates like Weston A. Price have been preaching the nutrient dense value of a high fat (ethically raised, organic) animal product based diet for a long, long time. And modern day science is catching up. Don't forget that not so long ago the guidelines for a healthy diet looked like this:
Our understanding of what foods are required to thrive are ever changing, and the RDA for micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) is itself based on the consumption of this (now proven "unhealthy") conventional diet.
People have been demonizing all categories of food for a long time. Gluten, dairy, and even fruit have been under the fire- but vegetables!? Is it possible that they don't have a role in today's healthy eating paradigm? This is the second aspect of the carnivore diet argument. Let's explore...
Everything that is living has a mechanism to protect itself against predators. For the animal kingdom, it's the ability to move fast, fly, camouflage, a ferocious set of teeth, or big claws. Plants, on the other hand, are stuck in one place with no way of warding off danger other than by the very chemical makeup. And so they are armed with anti-nutrients, most notably:
Phytate (phytic acid): Mainly found in seeds, grains and legumes, phytate reduces the absorption of minerals from a meal. These include iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium.
Tannins: A class of antioxidant polyphenols that may impair the digestion of various nutrients.
Lectins: Found in all food plants, especially in seeds, legumes and grains. Some lectins may be harmful in high amounts, and interfere with the absorption of nutrients.
Protease inhibitors: Widely distributed among plants, especially in seeds, grains and legumes. They interfere with protein digestion by inhibiting digestive enzymes.
Calcium oxalate: The primary form of calcium in many vegetables, such as spinach. The calcium bound to oxalate is poorly absorbed.
These anti-nutrients are the plant kingdom's way of ensuring their survival, both by deterring their consumption, but also by fortifying their structure so that if they are to be eaten, they can make their way through the digestive tract intact and seeds will actually make their way right out the other end. What does that mean for you? It could be as little as poorly digested (no real benefit) food, but for some it is a lot more serious than that.
The other vegetables-are-bad argument is that veggies just aren't what they used to be. Between GMO's, hybridization, and nutrient void soils- people are arguing that although some vegetables might have had their place back in the day, they have essentially been fucked with too hard to hold any value in modern times.
Hormesis is something that creates a hormonal response that might appear negative in short term, but boosts the body's resilience long term. Exercise, sauna, and cold showers are examples of "good" stressors on the body. (Good in quotation marks because this sort-of depends on the state of health/ stress/ adrenal strength of your body before going into it. Someone with severe chronic stress and weak adrenals might incur more harm than good by exercising...believe it or not.) Anyways, these aforementioned anti-nutrients cause a hormetic effect on the body, which in theory could be positive thing, in moderation. To what degree are these foods helping or hurting us? Honestly, until recently I hadn't questioned vegetables ever, so I’m still coming to terms with this even being a possibility. That being said, human is so individual and we do know that allergies, intolerances, and thus elimination diets have been around and useful for a very long time.
Elimination diets and autoimmunity
Elimination diets (like popularized GAPS or FODMAPS) remove common allergens (like eggs, nightshades, certain nuts) and then prompt you to reintroduce them one by one to see how the body reacts. Although the carnivore diet isn't per se an elimination diet, many people are using it as such. By scaling back down to only meat, those with severe autoimmune issues are then able to reintroduce foods and see how their autoimmune flares up. Carnivore as a lifestyle has been popularized recently because reintroduction of anything for those with severe autoimmune has triggered a flare up (even green vegetables). Raging from indigestion to itchy or burning skin, aching joints, vitiligo, as well as mental reactions like brain fog, migraines, and depression: the all animal diet has been a salvation for many of those in crisis mode. For others, it has simply been their way to optimize health.
Autoimmunity is a rabbit hole of a subject, one I am fascinated by because of the cloud of mystery surrounding the cause of these multifaceted problems, and the fact that western medical science is absolutely useless on the subject. Autoimmune disorders (which include lyme’s disease, hashimoto’s, lupus, psoriasis, scleroderma, vitiligo, rheumatoid arthritis) are this group of disorders that trigger the immune system to attack the healthy cells of the body. The fact that the conventional medical practices have failed to manage even the symptoms has forced many impacted by these diseases to turn to holistic measures to find an answer. I do not personally have any symptoms of autoimmunity, but my quest not just to survive, but thrive has definitely caused the carnivore’s positive impact on autoimmunity to spark my interest on the subject.
Although I was extremely skeptical at first (I had painted this image in my head of the bodybuilding bro that went on an all meat diet to get #shredded), the carnivore diet was healing people with autoimmune issues. That in of itself is fascinating! But it doesn't stop there, because other people are not only using this diet because they are sick, but because they want to thrive. Rapid fat loss, increase of strength and performance in athletic abilities.. the carnivore diet is sweeping the nation and gosh darn it, if you know me at all— you know I love a good self-experiment.
Is this important enough to hex vegetables from our diets?
I suspect not. For the average person, I do believe the hormetic stress of vegetables is probably doing more good than harm. There is also the balance between human optimization and LIVING! Is a life without fruit and vegetables worth living? Personally, I would say probably not. This depends on you, and where your health/ wants/ needs stands. My own personal health journey with PCOS had made me renounce high GI foods, including bananas, dates, mangoes, and pineapple. I've also cut out essentially all processed foods (yes, almost everything that comes packaged— apart from adaptogenic powders, cacao powder, and coconut!). So to a degree I am already doing this purge of foods that aren't serving me, the carnivore diet is just taking it to the next level.
The problem with lumping all fruits and vegetables into one big category of being "healthy" is the simple fact that humans are often allergic to many things without knowing it. When is the last time you really gave your body the opportunity to show you it's intolerances? I recently discovered I'm allergic to raw beats... so random. How many things could be overly challenging your immune system on a daily, or weekly basis? What seemingly "healthy" things might not be serving YOU?
Is there PROOF?
The science of the carnivore diet is in it’s infantile stages, because although it has been around for a long time (arguably since the dawn of human era), very little properly conducted scientific studies have been done about meat consumption in general, let alone a meat-only diet. I say properly conducted because there have been many many headlines blaming meat (especially red meat) for modern day diseases, and this statement in of itself is absolute #bullshit. The major survey (discussed below) that prompted the World Health Organization to classify processed meat as a type 1 carcinogen and red meat as a class 2 carcinogen was epidemiological, which means it drew its conclusions from a survey, and was never replicated in a controlled environment to see if their conclusions were in fact causation not correlation. In case that means nothing to you, consider this:
Two major factors regarding the meat/ health debate rely in the fact that:
The infamous survey based science (discussed above) that led the World Health Organization to classify meat as a potential carcinogen did not distinguish between high quality, organic, grass-fed, pasture raised beef, and a McDonald’s hamburger, nor (and perhaps more importantly) did they control the rest of the diet. So we were essentially comparing the Standard American Diet (GMO-fed factory farmed burgers, in highly refined white bread buns, with a side of french fried deep fried in GMO vegetable oil, and a large coca cola) with a vegetarian diet. No shit, if I had to choose between the SAD diet or a home-cooked vegetarian diet, I would absolutely go veg. That being said, concluding that red meat clogs your arteries with an absolutely ludicrous “study” like that is absurd!
Even if these conclusions were accurate (if somehow all the deep fried french fries and soft drinks weren't the trigger of the cancer), the results themselves increased colorectal (bowl) cancer odds by 18%, which when factored into the likelihood of you actually getting bowel cancer essentially boosted your odds by less than 1%. Furthermore, the results that people on all meat diets are yielding include the reduction of other cancer-causing markers (like obesity and inflammation) so drastically that indeed even if meat was the mysterious variable for this 18% jump in cancer- the overall benefits of an all-meat diet outweigh that 1% overall increase by a landslide.
Click HERE for full article.
…and in case that wasn't enough:
Click HERE for full article.
Once the quality of the meat has been addressed, it’s important to note that all meat and animal products are not the same. In fact, all "protein" is not the same either. I explored this briefly in my “Collagen 101” article, in that there are essential and non-essential amino acids, and although most of the nutrition literature says we don’t need to ingest non-essential aminos— it is in fact the balance between the essential and the non-essentials that creates balance and health within our bodies. Studies that suggest high protein diets are the cause of problems like diabetes were completely disproven once the subjects were given glycine (an amino acid found in beef-derived bone broth, or collagen for example). The problem wasn’t coming from the meat itself, but from an overconsumption of only muscle meat. This concept of balance within the realm of meat and protein itself is the foundation of the carnivore diet... simply having a lean steak every night indefinitely won’t cut it.
My kind of science:
From "The n-of-1 clinical trial: the ultimate strategy for individualizing medicine?" (see entire study HERE).
N=1 is my kind of "scientific proof" because I believe there is no better way to know how something affects you than testing it on yourself. We are all individuals, and although sweeping generalizations in scientific studies can be useful (if conducted correctly...), there is no way of knowing if you yourself are an outlier. Some people are pushing diets based on blood type, others based on geographical location, or ancestral lineage. Some suggest diets based on exclusion of grains, lectins, gluten, dairy, or meat. There is essentially a diet for every variable under the sun, so ask yourself:
If one diet worked for everyone, there would be no debate... it would just work.
People are incessantly pushing the one-narrative "miracle" diet because they want to sell books or trademarked programs. The best sales margin is of course the diet plan whose audience is everyone. But this just isn't the way life works, not in diet, not in how we learn, not in psychology, not in medicine. Medical and psychology offices are called practices, because indeed they are practicing on you.. trial and error.
It's up to you to be the authority in manifesting your own health, only you can truly know what works or not. Using the wisdom of others is to go without saying, but at the end of the day you shouldn't let anyone else drive your car. Trust yourself. First tune in intuitively and ask your higher self if it resonates with the method. More often than not, you'll get a clear answer right there. The study linked above "ultimately argue[s] that n-of-1 trials demand serious attention among the health research and clinical care communities given the contemporary focus on individualized medicine."
Make sure you check in with your intention in embarking on a self-experiment of any kind. Like water fasting, the carnivore diet does as a side effect have a (general) weight loss effect- but it is in my opinion that if you pursue something solely from a place of self-hatred of your body (in wanting to just shed pounds), you are disconnected from your body's true needs and nature, and are likely to do more harm than good.
Once you've checked in with your intuition and intention, just go for it. No, I am not a doctor nor do I recommend this lifestyle or experiment is or everyone (because honestly, it really isn't); but I AM encouraging you to take your health and life into your own hands, and don't be afraid of being responsible for your well being. Nobody knows what will work for you other than you. Get inspired by others, but at the end of the day you need to decide what route you're going to take to thrive.
As I was eating a plate of hamburger meat and bacon for breakfast on day 1 of my carnivore experiment, my dad said to me "you're a little guinea pig" (as in, I am constantly trying stuff out on myself to see as opposed to just hearing about things or blindly applying habits without knowing why). And my response was, "well, so are you!" The reality is we are all guinea pigs in our own lives. The decisions you make compound over time and ultimately decide your fate. I do push myself in the name of health and longevity, in the pursuit of a long and thriving life. But even if you don't chase health, realize that you are still a guinea pig to your own lifestyle decisions (my suspicions are that it might not end as well for you).
Every decision you make (or don't make) is still impacting your outcome, and only you can take responsibility for that. If you give your power away to a doctor that puts you on Statin drugs for the rest of your life instead of addressing diet and lifestyle— that's still on you. Take charge of your life, don't be a victim of a system whose threshold for success is survival. I don't want to survive, I want to thrive.
So is the science all there? Nope. But am I here to trial it for my own body and be the judge of its impacts on my own life? Sure am. Will I share these findings in hopes that it might resonate with someone else and empower them to explore their own life? YOU BETCHA!
I am currently on day 10 of my carnivore experiment, and plan on breaking my first run of carnivore diet experimentation tomorrow. I am also currently toying with the idea of attempting a full 30 days in the future, we’ll see.
As per usual there were some killer questions, so let's dive in!
Carnivore Diet 101: Q&A
"what do you want to know about the carnivore diet?"
Q- Are there any culture (present or historical) that eats only meat?
A- Probably not. Most carnivorous (and keto) advocates will cite the Inuits diet as a trump card to advocate for the high-fat lifestyle, but even the Inuits consumes some vegetables in the form of algae and sea vegetables. So 100% carnivore? Likely not, but the notion itself of a culture consuming less than 2% plant matter already challenges our common understanding that fiber and plant-based micronutrients in abundance are essential to thrive.
What does this mean for the carnivore movement? Well, not much really. Times have changed and our diets are adapting. You have to understand that the carnivore diet by nature is not a cult. Unlike veganism, there isn't a dogmatic ethical implication to the diet. People aren't pursuing carnivore because they should, they are doing so because they feel better while doing it. There's a big difference; people pursuing ethically rooted diets may (and often are) doing so at the expense of their physical health. More often than not, it seems people are starting this diet as a last ditch effort to regulate their otherwise unexplainable illnesses and autoimmune symptoms, inflammation, and other problems.
There are quite a few individuals who have been carnivore for a long time now. Dr. Shawn Baker (MD) is one of the infamous ones, and has popularized the carnivorous study of n=many. N=many refers to this same experience shared by multiple individuals that are conducting personal observations on their own experience. Shawn actually ran ran cohorts of these n=1 studies whereby people would go carnivore for 90 days, and the shared results were similar, and spectacular. Other notable long-term carnivores are Amber O'Hearn who has been a strict carnivore since 2009, as well as husband and wife Joe and Charlene Anderson who are thriving on 20+ years carnivore.
My big question would be why anyone would want to implement a strict carnivore lifestyle longterm if they do not have severe autoimmunity. We know that our gut microbiomes adapt to what they are fed, and crave what they are used to eating; so if you remove all plant matter from your diet (no different than if you were to remove all meat from your diet) your body has a hard time breaking it down (initially) after you reintroduce it. This is temporary, and your flora is so incredible and will start to adapt to a new diet in as little as 3 days. So theres a bit of a catch-22 scenario in that your body will have a hard time digesting foods it's not used to eating, but this doesn't mean you should give up completely- because the benefits long term may outweigh the re-balancing period it needs to remember how to digest them. Dr. Shawn Baker however is one of those people with no autoimmunity but who has been thriving (and an elite athlete). His 30 day carnivore experiment turned into a permanent lifestyle.
So have any cultures been purely carnivore? Long story short: (probably) no. Is this adaptation be serving people who are living in modern times? Definitely. Is it for everyone? Definitely not.
Q- Why are you doing this?
A- My friend and co-worker Kathryn from Primal Musings asked me if I would be interested doing the carnivore experiment together following a water fast at the end of the month, and then write about it for Dr. Daniel Pompa's website. Although I has heard about the carnivore diet a while ago, it had never crossed my mind to try it personally until then; but as soon as she mentioned it my brain lit up and I was 100% on board.
The fast is a 5 day water-only fast hosted by Dr. Pompa through his Facebook group "Fasting For A Purpose," and Kathryn and I have been a part of a team writing extensively about this process with Dr. Pompa for a while now, so it's pretty neat to be doing a group fast together. The carnivore challenge was to follow the fast (and still is), but I got too excited while in research-mode for the project that I jumped the gun and started the journey for myself on Labour Day (September 3rd). As I write this, I'm 10 days into my first experiment with carnivore diet, and finding it a perfect prep for the fast at the end of the month.
The reason I'm interested in doing this myself is that as I mentioned, people are healing themselves with it. I don't have autoimmune issues, but I am very interested in the idea of meat as a baseline food to which I can then reintroduce other foods slowly (one by one) as a way to see how things are truly affecting me. One suspicion I have had for a while, for example, is that coconut might be a mild allergic trigger for me. Although I love the taste of it, I have been intuitively feeling it for a while- and it will be interesting to reintroduce it after a break to see how I go reintroducing it.
I "eat the rainbow" like nobody's business, and the more I think about it, the less realistic it is in terms of ancestral ways of eating. While I was in Europe this summer, I was really eating 100% local food, and my body was thriving like never before, just repeating the same few foods over and over again. I really think we are meant to eat the foods in the climate in which we are living, for so many reasons.. anyways, I could ramble on, but this carnivore diet is offering me the opportunity to press reset and slowly decide how I want to reconnect with foods from this baseline.
Q- How does this compare to gaps/ sdc/ AIP elimination diet?
A- Technically, the carnivore diet isn't an elimination diet- but personally, I see it as the ultimate elimination diet. And many people are using it that way by basically getting back to baseline (meat seems to be a green light food for almost everyone) and then slowly reintroduce non-animal product foods to see how the body reacts. For some, that means nothing but meat.
It depends what you want out of the carnivore experience, and what your goals are. So far my experience in carnivore Facebook groups and forums is that people are extremely kind and open to the fact that people are using this diet to serve their own personal needs: THIS IS NOT A CULT. Unlike veganism, you can do whatever the hell you want. For most people who are strict carnivore- it's coming from a place of necessity. There are infamous carnivores like Mikaela Peterson who gets a severe autoimmune (allergic) reaction to the reintroduction of even green salad... and so she stays strict carnivore as a way to manage her illness. For me, I see this "diet" as a way to explore my relationship with food, and see what is and isn't serving me long term.
There are many elimination diets but I find them all absurd because they're all based on a different set of rules. Some eliminate nuts, others nightshades, some are against lectins and anti-nutrients, soy, or refined sugars.. but all of them still contain an incredibly long list of "green light" foods, which in of itself makes no sense under the paradigm of an elimination diet.
Elimination means remove- and your individual body may be sensitive to something on the green light list and have absolutely no problem with one of the suspect foods. Coconut oil is all the rage but it triggers mild to sever allergies in people. If you want to know what triggers you, go back to the ultimate base line and then reintroduce foods one by one. Meat seems to be this baseline, and so if you're struggling with food-related bloat, indigestion, mood swings, energy crashes, etc... I suggest you give it a go.
Q- Can you eat cheese and yogurt?
A- Technically, yes. I say technically because there are some carnivore "purists" that consume literally only red meat and water. But yes- "carnivore" does includes all animal flesh, and bi-products (like butter, cheese, yogurt, etc). It is worth nothing that they (of course) contain lactose, and higher amounts of glucose- which is why some people limit the dairy. It really depends how your body feels, and what your goals are. If your goal includes ketosis, you’ll want to limit the dairy.
I personally suggest however to start with only meat, and introduce dairy to see how your body reacts once it has adjusted to that baseline.
Q- Are you going to consume dairy?
A- Super interesting question for me personally because pre-carnivore diet, I was severely lactose intolerant. Even a single spoonful of organic, pasture raised, handmade raw goats cheese would send my body into a phlegm filled following 3 days. Even organic grass-fed ghee makes me bloated. So initially I thought not, but I heard the experience of a girl who (same as me) was lactose intolerant, but introduced it during her carnivore experiment and had absolutely no problems digesting it (...MIND BLOWN!).
So yes, I do plan on introducing organic buffalo milk kefir from a local farm into my diet around day 10 or maybe in week 2 of my next carnivore experiment (next month), following the water fast. More than anything to see how my body reacts. People these days wear their food intolerances like a badge of honour, and it is my mission to heal my body enough to get rid of them. So it would be absolutely insane if during this experiment I was able to tolerate dairy products. I will keep you posted.
Q- can you/ did you take supplements?/ Most people on carnivore diets say they don’t supplement… How are they not vitamin deficient?
A- You can do whatever you want; remember: this is not a cult, a religion, or a crazy dogma. The carnivore diet is a framework, and you can adapt it to serve your wants/ needs/ and goals.
In theory though, no. The whole basis for the carnivore diet is that you do not need supplementation. I am personally a bit suspicious of this because it does appear that according to a conventional dietary recommendation, the purist carnivore diet (no supplements, and zero non-animal products) is deficient in certain minerals and vitamins.
Now this also begs the question: what determines the a vitamin and mineral RDA, and is this truly necessary with this particular lifestyle? The RDA for nutrients was based on a conventional diet, and knowing that ketogenic-style diets operate on a completely different energy mechanism, is it possible that the required nutrients are different? Indeed, my research suggests that micronutrient needs depend on the metabolic state.
A clinical study was done by anthropologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson in which two men consumed only meat for one year, and neither of them developed any nutritional deficiencies. Many people have also reported their results on strict carnivores for over 20 years with no supplementation and no deficiency ...fascinating.
Vitamin C is the big one when it comes to “deficient” vitamins on a strict carnivore diet, because there is none. The carnivore community's response is pretty much unanimous in that vitamin C is only necessary when glucose is high, which seems to be be backed up in theory, but also in application- because people who have been carnivore for 20+ years are not exhibiting any symptoms of vitamin C deficiency (notably, scurvy). Instead of regurgitating scientific statistics- feel free to learn more about vitamin C and the carnivore diet HERE.
Read full article here: https://breaknutrition.com/ketogenic-diet-vitamin-c-101/
Some people suggest supplementing with potassium and magnesium, while others swear you don't need it. Honestly, like anything: you need to find what works for you. While on this experiment I've continued to use my Ancient Minerals magnesium gel about once a week. I find it helps me sleep, aids in recovery from training, and makes me feel good.
Q- what did you eat/ what does a day of eating look like?
A- I'm eating a lot. I hear from some that appetite lowers a couple of weeks to a month in, once the body adapts- but that through this process you absolutely need to make sure to eat to complete satiety, until the body's hunger naturally lowers. So that's what I'm doing: eating until I literally don't want another bite. Although this is a lot of food, I have yet to feel "stuffed" or even remotely bloated. It's pretty fascinating.
I've been eating a lot of red meat/ ruminants. Beef is probably the most common, I eat a lot of (high fat) ground beef, ribs, steak, liver, and cheeks; I've been drinking beef marrow bone broth daily; wild caught salmon a couple of times so far; chicken wings and thighs (no white chicken meat); lamb shanks, shoulder, and loin chops; as well as bacon, and sausages. I almost exclusively opt for the fattiest cuts. Everything is 100% organic, local, ethically raised (pastured or wild, and fed a natural, organic diet).
A regular day is probably like 1.5lb of ground beef, 3 large sausages, a piece of salmon, and 2 cups of bone broth. OR 1/2 a pound of ground beef, beef jerky and three eggs, and two chicken legs (ie. basically a whole chicken without the breasts), and two cups of bone broth. OR a rack of ribs, 3/4 a packet of bacon, and a cup of homemade beef liver pâté, some beef jerky, and a cup of broth.
It's honestly hard to say how much I eat really because I just eat until I'm completely satiated. No matter how much that is. Ironically if you calorie restrict on this diet, your body will actually go into starvation mode and gain weight (... that's actually what happens with all dieting).
This is what I ate yesterday, but I also had beef liver pâté with the bacon.
Q- do you drink coffee?
A- Never. This has nothing to do with carnivore diet, and everything to do with the poisonous nature of the brown bean juice. If you've been following my journey for a while, you know how I feel about coffee. If not, check out my article on caffeine HERE. That being said, coffee is the one "plant" food that many many carnivore diet followers still consume, which I find ironic considering it's probably one of the worst plant poisons.
Q- do you use dips, sauces, condiments, etc?
A- Personally, I do not. I have been using minimal spices (occasionally some dried rosemary, or a little turmeric), but basically only celtic sea salt. I want to give the baseline test a real go, and avoid using things that stray from the nature of the experiment. Many people on carnivore will use sauces and spices, but many are also straight meat and water.
Q- Do you get bored of meat?
A- Surprisingly, no. Well, not yet! I've always been a meat- lover (my mom literally calls me her little raptor because of the way I absolutely destroy chicken wings), and although I thought for sure I would be repulsed by meat within a few days- I feel like I could be a carnivore for life. The key for me is switching it up, and just having allllllll the options in my fridge so that I still have choice. My fridge is always stocked with beef, chicken, salmon, liver, broth, bacon, three kinds of sausages... and so every meal I just go for what I'm feeling. I've also found ways to get creative in the kitchen, like making my own beef jerky and devising a carnivore-friendly bacon and liver pâté recipe. I'm truly loving it!
Q- How do you have so much $ to buy all the wonderful meat out there?/ How did your food budget compare to your regular omnivore diet?
A- Honestly, the carnivore diet is probably cheaper than my regular omnivore diet.
I spend a lot of money on food. Despite not having an unlimited bank account (by any stretch of the imagination), food is something I simply don't budget at all. I buy 100% organic, based on what my body is calling for when I grocery shop. My pre-carnivore experiment was full of pasture-raised, organic animal products, tonnes of organic vegetables, fruits, adaptogens, homemade chocolates, wild herbs, activated nuts, broths, coconut yogurt, coconut butter, etc, and the bill really does add up. But I see food as medicine: as an investment in my future wellbeing and longevity. I don't eat out at restaurants, and as a single person I generally cook for one… so I nourish myself with no qualms about a price tag, and make sure I never waste any food.
Although the quantity of meat consumption went up on the carnivore diet, it definitely didn't surpass the money I spent on fruit+veg+ supplements normally.
I also found that I experiment satiety like never before. Don’t get me wrong, I ate a lot, but at the end of my meals, there was no food-coma levels of fullness like I could easily achieve even on a healthy omnivore diet. Before, I could easily graze on things throughout the day ($$$$$) because my mind wanted chocolate, or a fudgesicle. At the end of a meal while carnivore, I do not want another bite of meat. It was very apparent once I started carnivore that when consuming omnivore, there are a lot of foods that I eat way past being full simply because I enjoyed the mouth pleasure.
Q- Does meat come with its own digestive enzymes like plants do?
A- It does. In fact, you could argue they are even more powerful than plants because unlike plants, meat doesn’t have anti-nutrients (discussed earlier), or fiber- which resist and slow down digestion (respectively). The thing with enzymes is they are destroyed with heat, so ideally you don’t want to be consuming all your meat well done. Shout out to tartare! Cooking a steak medium-rare will enable you to benefit from the many enzymes that beef has to offer, and protect the integrity of the proteins.
It’s also important to remember that your best tool when it comes to digestion is to CHEW YOUR FOOD! Another tip is to skip the consumption of liquid too close to (or during) meal time; drinking liquid will dilute your stomach acid. So even if your food itself is void of enzymes: chew your food, and ensure a strong digestive fire by avoiding liquids just before, during, or just after meals- and you’ll be good to go.
Note that when consuming raw or lightly cooked meat you need to ensure it is of the utmost highest quality. Bacteria and pathogens have also historically been a fear people associate with raw meat but the reality is these pathogens exists equally in raw vegetables, and even make their way into cooked foods, water supplies, etc. Your best defence against a bacterial or parasitic infection has always been and will always be a strong immune system. There is absolutely no way of avoiding contact with parasites, they are in the dirt, on the grass, in the flowers, and literally blowing through the air. Parasites are a part of life: just don't give them an environment (your body) in which they will thrive. A healthy body is the answer to that.
Something I've been doing long before the carnivore diet and occasionally continue to do is to take a digestive aid when consuming a high protein meal. This boosts your body's ability to break down and assimilate nutrients and turn them into usable energy. You have many options, but my favourites are digestive bitters, digestive enzymes, or HCL + pepsin.
Q- Fat to meat ratio?
A- There's quite a debate on this subject. Some people say you should limit your protein grams to 1:1 with body weight, consuming the rest of your calories in fat (until satiated), others are team protein. I personally don't believe a diet is sustainable (or healthy) that needs to be calculated. Can you imagine if our ancestors took out scales or apps to find out the macronutrient ratio of their foods? Like, c'mon now.
Intuition is a massive part of my eating philosophy, and this doesn't change simply because I'm on the carnivore diet. Intuitively, I have been gravitating to a very high fat ratio. I've been "fat adapted" for a long time now, and have been focusing on eating a diet that keeps my blood sugar balanced for years. Because of this, I have had very little problems adapting to carnivore. If you're currently on a glycemic rollercoaster of a diet- any ratio will likely send your body tripping. I suggest easing off of the carbs slowly (start with highly refined) and then eventually find a balance of fat to protein that works for you. If your food is making you nauseous, lethargic, bloated, constipated, or giving you diarrhea - time to rethink your own personal ratios, or acknowledge that this diet may not be for you.
There are ways to find out what your "sweet spot" is regarding fat:protein, which can include tracking your ketones- but a far better way is to track your fasting blood sugar. If your FBS is low, you're good to go. Ketone readings can be high but that's less important than the measure of your fasting blood glucose. High FBG suggests cortisol is pumping through you at night/ that your body is over producing glucose (gluconeogenesis) and that you should probably cut back on the protein.
Q- Is this a zero-carb diet? Is it the same as ketosis?
A- No, and not necessarily. Firstly, it's not a zero carb diet because glycogen (glucose, aka carbs) are stored in animal flesh too, especially in certain areas like the liver. Dairy and eggs also contain a higher amount of carbohydrates, but even on a strict meat-only carnivore diet you are ingesting carbs. The "zero-carb" movement itself acknowledges that it means "zero carbs from plant matter".
As far as ketosis goes, it really depends how you eat while carnivore, and how your individual body reacts. The body actually converts protein to glucose through a process called "gluconeogenesis," generally under times of stress. So if you're low on glycogen stores but a tiger jumps out of the bush, a cortisol (stress) spike will quickly provide your body with the glucose it needs to get the heck out of there. The problem is that many people these days are living in low levels of underlying chronic stress, which might make you more prone to producing glucose on the reg.
In short, no- carnivore and keto are not the same thing, but given the nature of the very low carbohydrate intake they often go hand in hand. I am currently focusing on simply adhering to 100% carnivore diet (it's enough of a task for me right now) but next time around I will start to measure my blood glucose and ketones too. Stay tuned.
Q- How does it affect your *poop emoji* if you aren't eating any fiber?
A- This is a very interesting topic, one that I had already started to change my mind about long before trying the carnivore experiment. Over the past year I've been hearing more and more about the fact that "healthy" people are in fact having too much fiber, and this led me down a rabbit hole which essentially led me to question fiber's true role in regulating our digestive tract.
People will cite studies (like THIS recent 2016 one) that shows that people that consume large amounts of plants have a higher diversity of microbes in their gut- which is said to be a good thing but this isn't actually very scientific at all; because of micro biome adapts to what it needs to digest... so if you remove certain things, your body intelligently adapts and doesn't proliferate the bacteria required to break down things that aren't be consumed. Same goes for any type of food introduced or removed from the diet: our bodies create more diversity if it's needed.
So I wouldn't say that you need to eat fiber purely to have a larger scope of gut bacteria, just know that your gut bacteria adapts. So if you remove something from your diet, you will need to reintroduce it slowly to allow your body the time to cultivate the type of bacteria required to break it down properly.
I digress; when it comes to regularity- thus far I have not noticed anything alarming in the poop department. Fiber bulks up the stool, so no surprise that everything is much smaller; but in terms of everything else- things are regular and regular looking. This is not everyone's experience however. You will find many blogs and forums of people discussing their qualms, and like I say in all realms of life: we are all individuals. Some suggest that too loose means too much fat, and too irregular suggests too much protein. Your health status and diet going into this also matters, as does the way your body digests and reacts to a high fat and protein diet, and the way you nourish yourself while carnivore. One major takeaway with the stool issue is that you need to stick it out. It appears most problems resolve themselves within 30 days of starting.
Alls I can say is so far it seems that the fiber-poop story is correlation, not causation.
Q- how do you feel so far?
A- Surprisingly great. I had read and listened to so many accounts of the adaptation period that happens when you go carnivore that I had braced myself for some serious feels, but so far nothing major. I have been a little bit lower energy this past week but as I mentioned the diet also meant for me zero caffeine, so no cacao or tea is probably causing me to slow down a little, and this week coincides with my moon cycle which is generally a time of more rest. I am definitely a bit weaker in the gym, and I've read that it can take a couple of weeks to regain pre-carnivore strength. But all in all I feel great and have been sleeping really well too. Sleep is something I am always worried about when embarking on self-experimentation, because I normally sleep so well and I really really value my sleep. But zero issues there, and overall feeling good! I'm sure my previous water fasting experiences have helped my body prepare for this. (Read about my 7 day water fast experience HERE and my 10 day water fast experience HERE).
Q- What are the serious downsides? Like, who shouldn't do the carnivore diet and why?
A- Meat allergies are extremely rare (only triggered by the lone star tick as far as I know), but of course if you’re allergic to meat- don't be a dumb dumb.
Another red flag I can think of off the bat is anyone with severe adrenal or hormonal imbalances. You may benefit from it in the long run, but you may not make it through the tribulations of the adaptation period. You see, adapting from your current diet to a carnivore diet does place a lot of stress on your body. It’s a catch 22, but you need enough strength to pursue some “healthy” habits. Exercise and sauna are another example of this; if your body is seriously compromised, the initial stress of a carnivore diet might push you even further into a hole.
Does this mean that everyone without and allergy or adrenal/ hormonal problems should try it? Absolutely not.
First of all, you should never do anything "just because" it’s good for someone else. Nothing is good for everyone, and implementing someone else's idea of a healthy lifestyle is disempowering. By undermining your personal power you are harming your health as well. Are you called to try it? Now check in with your intention.
Intention is your tool to check in with if something will serve your greater good or not. Be honest with yourself here, because more often than not- diets are rooted in self-hate as opposed to self-love. If you're making decisions from a place of self-hate, you are harming your Self in the long run. Hopping on the carnivore bandwagon simply as a way to lose weight because you dislike your body will lead you down the never-ending path of yo-yo dieting, restriction, and self-loathing. I cannot stress the importance of embarking on any self-experiment from a place of self-love. Do it because you want to help your body thrive, because you want to nourish yourself, because you want to tune in to what your body truly needs.
Once you've checked in with your intention, follow your intuition. Go for it! Listen to your body, and have fun with it. One thing to note is that most people highlight an adaptation period (that generally resolves itself within 30 days). Even people who are going from keto to carnivore have experienced it! For more on this adaptation period and the benefits of pushing through- listen to The Carnivore Diet episode 005 with Ryan Munsey (link at bottom of the article).
My suggestion is to commit to 30, 60, or 90 days (depending your personal goal and how deeply you need healing), and then stick with it unless you feel intuitively that something is very wrong.
More tips for anyone considering trying carnivore in an article coming soon!
Q- Can I still sleep with a vegan or will that contaminate the meat?
A- First of all: serious lols. But YOU SURE CAN! I mean, cows eat mainly grass and are on the dinner menu... so knock yourself out! But will a vegan sleep with you is s/he is off the meat? Now that's an ethical dilemma if I've ever seen one.
Alright folks, that's it for the Q&A! I hope you learnt a thing or two, or at the very least were mildly entertained. I'll wrap this up with some of my favourite carnivore-friendly recipes for all you raptors out there :)
And make sure to check out my latest Q&A with vegan gone carnivore Will Shewfelt (aka the Red Power Ranger) HERE!
Zero Carb Zen HERE
16 Reasons The Carnivore Diet Works + Meal Plan HERE
The Carnivore Diet: How to Survive the First Month HERE
Tinkering with The Carnivore Diet HERE
The Carnivore Diet for IBS and IBD HERE
Everything You Need To Know About The Carnivore Diet by Men’s Health HERE
The Carnivore Diet: Pros, Cons, and Suggestions, by Mark Sisson HERE
90 Days on a Carnivore Diet: Results and Insights HERE
Carnivore Diet FAQ by Ryan Munsey HERE
Your Brain On Plants: Micronutrients and Mental Health by Dr. Ede HERE
Adventures in Diet – Vilhjamur Stefansson HERE
Don't Eat That blog my Mikhaila Peterson HERE
The Carnivore Diet: How to Survive the First Month by Mike Fishbein HERE
The Carnivore Diet – What to Eat by Meat Health HERE
In Search For The Highest Quality Protein (And The Issues It Causes For Diet Guidelines) HERE
8 Proven Reasons Why Vegan and Vegetarian Diets Easily Ruin Your Body HERE
Vitamin C and Carnivore HERE
Meat study taken out of context HERE
Scientists cry foul over IARC red meat-cancer conclusions HERE
A false alarm on red meat and cancer by Financial Times HERE
Weston A. Price Foundation HERE
Redesigning Nutrition from First Principle HERE
Amber O'Hearn on Eating an All Meat Carnivore Diet https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lKGCdwN4-Q
KetoCon 2017 Amber O'Hearn The Carnivorous Human https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WJBHEhmXqc
Paleo Medicina using Meat to treat cancer https://youtu.be/eSCMt5F0ldA
The Carnivore Diet by Shawn Baker, MD
The Carnivore's Manifesto: Eating Well, Eating Responsibly, and Eating Meat by Patrick Martins
Meat Eating and Human Evolution by Craig B. Stanford and Henry T. Bunn
The n-of-1 clinical trial: the ultimate strategy for individualizing medicine? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3118090/
Why Most Published Research Findings Are False https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1182327/
Prolongued Meat Diets With A Study of Kidney Function and Ketosis http://www.jbc.org/content/87/3/651.full.pdf
Diet-induced extinction in the gut microbiota compounds over generations https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4850918/
Vitamin C and Disease: Insights from the Evolutionary Perspective http://justmeat.co/docs/vitamin-c-from-evolutionary-perspective-zsofia-clemens-csaba-toth.pdf
Crohn's disease successfully treated with the paleolithic ketogenic diet https://www.researchgate.net/publication/306373055_Crohn%27s_disease_successfully_treated_with_the_paleolithic_ketogenic_diet
Low-salt diet increases insulin resistance in healthy subjects https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21036373