Here’s the deal – it’s 2020 and we are still obsessed with physical results and what we look like. Maybe even more now than ever before. We rely on the media and “influencers” to tell us diet advice and we just copy what works for other people…even if it is at the expense of our health. The carnivore diet is no different. It is a diet that was started by someone who was looking for “health” and it blew up because of the physical changes that were displayed. Let’s add this to the list of fad diets you can try if you want, I will just be here to give you all the information you need before you get started. So, what is the carnivore diet?
What is the carnivore diet
The carnivore diet is just like is sounds, eating only meat products. If it has a parent, if it came from an animal..then it’s free game. This diet isn’t even low carb, its no carb. It’s eating meat, eggs, dairy etc and that is it, 24/7.
Shawn Baker (@shawnbaker1967) is the most known proponent of the diet. He is a 50+ year old male, previous orthopedic surgeon and athlete. He had amazing physical results from the carnivore diet, and has sense then been a huge advocate of the diet.
The carnivore diet doesn’t specifically have any rules other than, eat meat. You don’t have certain macros or calories to eat. You just eat when you want, and however much you want; with the only rule being that it has to be an animal product.
According to Brian St. Pierre, R.D., Director of Performance Nutrition at Precision Nutrition, we only need protein, fat, vitamins and minerals to survive. And we can get that from animal products alone.
A short list of foods that you can eat on the carnivore diet include meat, fish, diary, bone marrow, meat products (lard, tallow), and some condiments if they have few ingredients and no carbs.
So it is a very short list of foods that are acceptable in this diet – which for some can be a good thing (less grey area) but also a bad thing (adherence). But we will talk on this more further down.
Fat to protein ratio carnivore diet
If you’re familiar with the ketogenic diet, you may be wondering how they are different. Well, the keto diet is very specific about fat and getting your body into ketosis. This means carbs are low, but not completely zero, and protein is limited so that too many carbs aren’t formed through gluconeogenesis.
The carnivore diet is strictly no carbs. It is about protein and fat in tandem, but the main focus is just feeling good and being healthy. There are no limitations on amounts of foods, and there is no importance of getting your body into ketosis on the carnivore diet.
There is not true science behind the carnivore diet, so there is no hard facts on how to “set up” the diet for success. The only tip given by carnivore diet “gurus” is that red meat is the easiest form of animal product to consume. It hits both your protein and your fat goals, without having to do much thinking otherwise.
The keto diet allows for things like coconut oil and avocado, but those are not part of the carnivore diet. So if you are eating a light fish or a white meat animal, you want to be sure you add in an animal source of fat such as tallow or lard.
It sounds absolutely insane, to me, that one would just eat all the red meat and fat without having any type of “rule” but there are people who are successful at it.
Benefits of the carnivore diet
Obviously there are some benefits of the carnivore diet or no one would do it. While again, there is no science to back this diet specifically, there is science to determine that protein and fat have major health benefits.
It sounds insane to eat protein and fat all day and lose weight, but it can happen. This is because some people thrive off of having rules. If you specifically CANNOT eat certain foods, it makes it easier for some to stay on track.
Not to mention, because you are so limited in what you can eat, you aren’t going to spend time snacking or consuming extra calories because you are bored. I don’t know about you, but you have to be pretty hungry to cook up a steak or a burger, you can’t just mindlessly eat that.
If you are someone who eats too little, weight loss likely isn’t going to be a benefit for you because it is likely not going to make you eat more. And if you are eating too little, your body is not going to get rid of any excess fat for you, it wants it for future energy.
Some claim that it helped their heart. but I don’t believe this to be the case for everyone. Eating all animal products could increase HDL levels and decrease risk factors that play into heart disease. Then again, is not research on this diet long term. So please take that into consideration. It could improve heart health, but it could make it worse. Genetics could also play a role here as well, so just because Linda had great results doesn’t mean you are going to.
This can occur because you are eating a limited range of foods. A lot of Americans tend to eat high carb, high calorie foods which can increase inflammation and oxidative stress within the body. So by eliminating these foods, you essentially are decreasing inflammation. Not to mention, fat is usually digested high up in the digestive tract which can lead to decrease residue or “waste” which can decrease inflammation for those with gut issues.
Depending on the person, fiber can be a problem with digestion, While several doctors and professionals claim that fiber is important for everyone and we should get 25-35g per day, that isn’t the case for everyone. Fiber can sometimes cause bloating, constipation, straining and just overall discomfort – I know, I am one of these people. So by eliminating vegetables and fiber, digestion can be improved.
Risk factors of the carnivore diet
There are a few risk factors of the carnivore diet for everyone, and maybe even more for people with certain genetics or underlying conditions.
Risk of Cancer
We have been told for decades that a well rounded diet of protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates and vegetables/fruits is essential. Vegetables and plants of phytonutrients that can help combat cancer causing agents within the body. Not to mention, the best way to reduce oxidative stress within the body is to make sure you have adequate antioxidants. The best way to get these is through fruits and vegetables, but those are not permitted within the carnivore diet.
Again, there is not long term studies done on this diet because it is so new, so the research needed to back claims like cancer risk and disease are unknown.
The biggest concern with the carnivore diet is nutrient deficiencies. Because the diet is only animal products, it could mean that essential vitamins are not being obtained from the diet. We do not know if this is a potentially harmful side effect because there is no long term research done on this diet or subjects following the diet.
In order to mitigate these concerns, it is essential that you change up the foods you eat and keep it diverse. You especially want to be sure to add in organ meats as those are high in several vitamins and minerals.
It is important to eat animal products that are organic and grass fed whenever possible. While this is not always available for everyone, it is ideal to try your best. This also means that if you are only ever eating meat, you want it to be the best quality you can afford. If you are eating 3 steaks a day that are grain fed, it could cause risk factors that have not been determined already by others. This can get expensive.
Who should be cautious about the Carnivore diet
While I believe everyone should experiment and find what works best for them, there are a few populations that should steer away from the carnivore diet. These reasons are based on what we know to be true about science, nutrition and hormones.
Those with thyroid or adrenal conditions. The thyroid and adrenal glands depend on stress levels – so by eliminating carbohydrates, we are putting the body in a stressed state. This added stress may cause more damage to the thyroid and adrenal glands.
Females in their reproductive years. Carbohydrates are essential in healthy hormone production. So by eliminating these carbs, we are putting ourselves are risk of decreasing hormone production, which is vital at this stage in life. It is also necessary that we have an insulin response because that is what is going to illicit ovulation. Without enough food and carbohydrates, ovulation is not going to occur.
Those with kidney disease that have been advised to decrease protein.
Those with certain genetic disorders.
Individuals with a history of eating disorders, or general under eating. A strict diet like the carnivore diet is not going to be good long term for someone with a history of disordered eating. As well as for someone who has trouble eating enough calories as it is.
Is the carnivore diet sustainable long term
While I have never personally tried the carnivore diet, I don’t see it as being something that is sustainable long term. I am someone who thinks adherence long term is what is going to make the biggest change.
So if you are just doing a diet to get quick results, you aren’t going to see long term success and could still end up gaining all the weight back that was lost on the carnivore diet. What happens when you go on vacation? Attend a party? Have a birthday? Are you supposed to not eat or just pack food with you everywhere you go? It just seems to it is not a sustainable way for most people to eat.
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