The Carnivore Diet Guide - Do We Recommend It?

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Imagine a diet where you eat steak, bacon, and pork chops.

 

Sounds pretty awesome doesn’t it?

 

Not only are you encouraged to eat those delicious foods, but those kinds of foods are the only ones you’re supposed to eat.

 

A diet built around steak is something every red blooded American can get behind!

 

But is it the right diet for you, is it even healthy?

 

Moreover, what kind of a diet has you only eating meat?

 

It’s called the Carnivore Diet, and we’ve got all the info you need on this new diet craze, and whether or not it’s something you should consider adopting if you’re looking to make gains.

 

What is the Carnivore Diet?

 

The carnivore diet can basically be summed up as this:

 

Meat, meat, and more meat.

 

The carnivore diet is also about eating meat. No grains, no vegetables, no fruit, just meat.

 

All of your nutritional needs will come from animal meat. There are ZERO plant-based foods, including fruits and vegetables, as well as all manner of hyper-processed carbohydrate foods such as cereals and grains.

 

The Carnivore Diet is a no carb, zero carb diet, and a high fat, high protein diet. An very strict carnivore diet follower will eat only meat and drink only water. Other, more liberal, carnivore diet adherents will consume other foods including coffee, butter, tea, heavy cream, or ghee.

 

Carnivore Diet Food List


As we just mentioned, the carnivore diet is a meat only diet, but it also places a premium on the quality of those meats. It’s not just a matter of eating animal flesh, but getting the best quality meat possible, which means grass-fed, organic, and wild (if possible). If you can afford to get the best, your body deserves it, and as such, the Carnivore diet highly suggests you to purchase the best quality meat products possible.

 

For a more thorough list of foods OK on the Carnivore Diet, check out this simple table:



Red Meat

Beef, pork, lamb, bison, elk, venison, duck, and other game meats

White Meat

Chicken, turkey

Organ Meat

Liver, kidneys, tongue, bone marrow, heart, brain

Seafood

All types of fish, especially wild caught salmon

Eggs

Chicken eggs, goose eggs, duck eggs, ostrich eggs, quail eggs, etc.

Dairy

Goat milk, cow milk, heavy cream, cheese, butter, ghee



Again, remember, there are no plant-based foods on the carnivore diet.

 

Also, remember to eat a mix of lean and fatty cuts of meat. Fatty meats (i.e. ribeye, lamb, etc.) contain health, natural saturated fats which provide additional nutrients you body needs to absorb the fat soluble vitamins and minerals present in meat. Plus, fat is flavorful and increases satiety of your meals.

 

Origins of the Carnivore Diet

 

While there have been various individuals over the decades to adopt a meat only diet, the Carnivore Diet really started to gain traction after orthopaedic surgeon, and Record Masters rower, Dr. Shawn Baker, began promoting the benefits of the diet, saying it was a way to make people healthier, younger looking, and more vibrant.

 

At one time, Dr. Baker was your typically high-carb, high calorie endurance athlete consuming lots of cereal, skim milk, pasta, grains, etc, to sustain his weight and performance. However, due to countless digestive issues, which he attributes to consuming plant foods, he decided to start shifting from the traditional high carb, low fat diet to more of a paleo, low carb diet, and eventually worked his way down to a meat only diet.

 

Over the years, countless other doctors, athletes, and notable personalities have embraced the carnivore diet, and ditched all plant foods for good old animal flesh. One of the biggest reasons proponents of the Carnivore Diet cite for adopting the diet is that plant foods, while rich in minerals, do not contain the right forms of those micronutrients, meaning they’re not highly bioavailable in the body. Furthermore, they also state that plants contain a number of anti-nutrients (including phytates, oxalates, lectins, tannins, etc) that interfere with vitamin and mineral absorption in the body.

 

A common example of this is spinach, which contains the non-heme form of iron, compared to red meat which contains the heme form of iron. Additionally, spinach is also packed with oxalates that inhibit absorption of the plant form of iron. Another example of this would be if you consumed oysters and corn. Antinutrients in corn prohibit the uptake of the mineral zinc abundantly present in oysters.

 

Common Questions About the Carnivore Diet

How Many Calories Do I Eat on the Carnivore Diet?

 

Unlike other diets that severely restrict calories, the Carnivore Diet simply tells you to eat until you are full.

 

You read that right, there’s no restriction on the amount of food you can eat. Just eat until you are satisfied.

 

When you ditch carb foods, you’ll notice an immediate change in your appetite and energy levels. It’s not uncommon with very active athletes to see them eat upwards of four pounds of meat per day!

 

When Can I Eat?

 

Intermittent fasting and time-restricted feeding are all the rage these days in the dieting world. They have you go without food for long periods of time and then have you eat only at very certain times of the day. That’s not the case with the Carnivore Diet.

 

You can choose to follow intermittent fasting, or you can graze during the day like you’re used to. The beauty of the Carnivore Diet is that it doesn’t place any restrictions on when you can eat, just eat meat.

 

How to Cook Meat on the Carnivore Diet

 

On the Carnivore Diet, you can cook your meat however you prefer it. If you like a bloody, rare steak, you can have it. If you like your meat to have more of a shoe-leather texture, then you’re entitled to eat it that way to. Chances are though, as you cook more and more red meat, you’ll come to appreciate rare and medium-rare meats more than well done ones.

 

When it comes to foods like chicken or certain types of seafood, cook it to a temperature that is safe for consumption. That usually means fully cooked, but remember, there is a fine line between completely cooked and dried out, shoe leather.

 

If you’re going to eat raw food (sashimi, tartare, carpaccio, etc) make sure to buy sashimi-grade meats and prepare them properly.

 

Are Processed Meats OK on the Carnivore Diet?

 

Cold cuts and processed meats such as ham, pepperoni, capicola, and salami are typically not recommended for the first month or so on the Carnivore Diet. This is part of the elimination process, as most processed meats contain filler ingredients that include carbohydrates.

 

They’re good in a jam, or when you’re traveling, but don’t make them the cornerstone of your diet.

 

Is Bacon or Sausage OK on the Carnivore Diet?

 

Yes and no.

 

Naturally cured and smoked bacon is fantastic both in taste, texture, and nutrition. Sausages however are a different story, as the typically contain a host of added herbs, binders, fillers and other plant agents that have no place in a Carnivore Diet. It’s typically best to avoid sausages.

 

Is the Carnivore Diet just a Short Term Fad Diet?

 

Not necessarily, the carnivore diet has been used for only short durations, but several people, including Dr. Baker have followed it for years. If you try the carnivore diet and find it an enjoyable way to live your life, and experience no adverse side effects from it, feel free to use it as long as you like.

 

Will I Become Constipated?

 

Isn’t this a fun topic?

 

This is one of the most common questions that is asked when discussing the topic of consuming only meat. We’ve been told for decades that eating lots of fiber is essential to health as it keeps us full and promotes better bowel movements.

 

When on the Carnivore Diet, you’ll experience less bowel movements per day, but proponents of the Carnivore Diet say this is due to the fact that meat is more easily digested and better used by the body. They also state that plants are harder to digest and aren’t readily absorbed by the body, meaning more of it goes to waste and has to be excreted, leading to more stools.

 

Will Eating Too Much Meat Cause Kidney Damage?

 

Research has pretty much disproven the myth that consuming too much protein is harmful to your kidneys.[1,2,3] Now, this is with the understanding that you have normal functioning, healthy kidneys. If you have a history of chronic kidney disease and/or damaged kidney function, that changes everything. Consult with your doctor about your protein intake.

 

However, if you do have two normal functioning, healthy kidneys, you are not at risk of impaired kidney function from consuming a high protein diet. In fact, by consuming high protein, you’re improving insulin sensitivity and regulating glucose levels, which supports healthy kidney function.

 

Isn’t Eating Too Much Meat Bad for Cardiovascular Health?

 

Not necessarily, in fact, eating meat could be beneficial for heart health, as numerous studies have shown that consumption of meat and animal fat raises HDL (“good”) cholesterol and lowers triglycerides.[4,5,6]

 

These are also two of the most important factors for protecting against cardiovascular risk.[7]

 

Are There Any Health Risks?

 

First, we need to state that there have been NO long term studies on the effects or safety of the Carnivore Diet, so it’s impossible to conclusively say one way or the other if it’s healthy or harmful.

 

That being said, based on anecdotal accounts, there do not appear to be any adverse side effects or immediate health risks from meat only, zero carb diets, other than the symptoms commonly described as the ‘keto flu’.

 

Is the Carnivore Diet Sustainable?

 

The success of any diet, no matter if it’s high carb, moderate carb, or low carb, hinges on whether or not it’s sustainable, meaning can you continue to eat like this day in, day out for the rest of your natural life.

 

Sustaining the Carnivore Diet for the rest of your life is certainly doable, but it’s likely not going to be easy or enjoyable at times. Drink after work with colleagues...nope. Pizza and beer with the guys on Saturdays...that’s gone too. Indulging in holiday treats from Grandma...not anymore.

 

You see, it certainly possible to eat only meat for the rest of your life, but it’s going to be very difficult at times to avoid carb-containing, plant-inclusive foods all day, everyday.

 

What about Supplements?

 

NO WAY, JOSE!

 

Hardcore Carnivore Dieters eat only meat and animal based products. That means no pre workout, no muscle builders (other than meat, of course), and no essential amino acid supplements (even though meat contains amino acids).

 

A lot of supplements also contain various plants and herbs, as well as other carbohydrates, which run counter to the dogma of the Carnivore Diet.

 

That being said, some carnivore dieters do take electrolyte supplements, as well as Vitamin C and E, potent antioxidants which aren’t found in abundance in meat products.

 

Carnivore Diet vs Ketogenic Diet

 

Reading through this Carnivore Diet guide, you can’t help but think this sounds an awful lot like the paleo or ketogenic diets, which are all the rage these days. While there are similarities between these diets, in that they place a heavy emphasis on animal protein and fat, and a limit on carbohydrate, the paleo, primal, and keto diets do allow for some plant foods, namely coconut oil, avocado, olive oil, nuts, and green leafy vegetables.

 

The carnivore diet is not only just a low carb diet like those diets, it is a ZERO carb diet. That means NO coconut oil, avocado, macadamia nuts, broccoli, or olive oil. Animal meats and animal fats only.

 

Additionally, ketogenic diets place an big emphasis on consuming ample amounts of fat, not necessarily protein. Consuming too much protein will kick you out of ketosis, which is the exact opposite of what you want on a ketogenic diet. Following a carnivore diet will have you consuming far more protein than you would on a typical keto diet, which serves to highlight a major difference between the two diets.

 

Additionally, dairy foods (milk, yogurt, cheese) are typically eschewed in paleo and keto communities, but they are viewed as acceptable forms of nutrition by most carnivore dieters.

 

Here’s a table outlining some of the major differences between the two diets:

 

 

Carnivore Diet

Ketogenic Diet

Priority Nutrients

Protein & Fat

Fat

Amount of carbs allowed

Essentially zero (trace amounts found in dairy)

5–10% of calories

Acceptable foods

Only animal foods

Animal and plant foods (coconut oil, avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds)



Do We Recommend the Carnivore Diet?

 

In a word -- NO.

 

While the Carnivore Diet hasn’t been shown to be immediately dangerous or harmful yet, we can’t fully embrace this diet. It’s overly restrictive in the sense it outlaws certain foods which you will inevitably encounter in your day to day social interactions.

 

And while there may be some reasoning behind avoiding plant foods due to their antinutrient content, there is an overwhelming body of evidence documenting the beneficial effects of compounds found inside foods such as berries, avocadoes, mushrooms, seaweed, cacao, and olives.

 

Furthermore, there is some research to show that there may actually be good cause for having some greens alongside your cooked meat. When you grill meat over a high temperature, heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are formed which post have been found to be mutagenic, and potentially increase the risk of cancer. Pairing green vegetables, red wine, and/or tea (all of which are high in antioxidants and polyphenols) have been shown to combat these nasty compounds and protect your cells from damage.[8]

 

Plus, plant foods include a host of beneficial micronutrients including flavonoids, carotenoids, and other phytonutrients that serve as a strong line of defense against oxidative stress, inflammation, and the effects of aging.

 

In the end, the carnivore diet is an intriguing spin on the low carb, no carb diet trend popular these days, but due to the lack of substantial research, elimination of beneficial food groups, and restrictive mentality it places on food, we simply can’t embrace this as a sustainable lifestyle diet.

 

If you are looking for a way to eat that promotes health, builds muscle, sheds fat, and is sustainable click here.



References

 

  1. Wycherley TP, Noakes M, Clifton PM, Cleanthous X, Keogh JB, Brinkworth GD. A high-protein diet with resistance exercise training improves weight loss and body composition in overweight and obese patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2010 May;33(5):969-76. Epub 2010 Feb 11.

  2. Martin, W. F., Armstrong, L. E., & Rodriguez, N. R. (2005). Dietary protein intake and renal function. Nutrition & Metabolism, 2(1), 25. https://doi.org/10.1186/1743-7075-2-25

  3. Juraschek, S. P., Appel, L. J., Anderson, C. A. M., & Miller  III, E. R. (2013). Effect of a High-Protein Diet on Kidney Function in Healthy Adults: Results From the OmniHeart Trial. American Journal of Kidney Diseases, 61(4), 547–554. https://doi.org/10.1053/j.ajkd.2012.10.017

  4. Thorning, T. K., Raziani, F., Bendsen, N. T., Astrup, A., Tholstrup, T., & Raben, A. (2015). Diets with high-fat cheese, high-fat meat, or carbohydrate on cardiovascular risk markers in overweight postmenopausal women: a randomized crossover trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 102(3), 573–581. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.115.109116

  5. Binnie, M. A., Barlow, K., Johnson, V., & Harrison, C. (2014). Red meats: Time for a paradigm shift in dietary advice. Meat Science, 98(3), 445–451. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.meatsci.2014.06.024

  6. Maki, K. C., Van Elswyk, M., Alexander, D., Rains, T., Sohn, E., & McNeill, S. (2011). A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials Comparing Lipid Effects of Beef with Poultry and/or Fish Consumption. Journal of Clinical Lipidology, 5(3), 217. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacl.2011.03.036

  7. Lemieux I, Lamarche B, Couillard C, et al. Total Cholesterol/HDL Cholesterol Ratio vs LDL Cholesterol/HDL Cholesterol Ratio as Indices of Ischemic Heart Disease Risk in MenThe Quebec Cardiovascular Study. Arch Intern Med. 2001;161(22):2685–2692. doi:10.1001/archinte.161.22.2685

  8. Gorelik, S., Lapidot, T., Shaham, I., Granit, R., Ligumsky, M., Kohen, R., & Kanner, J. (2005). Lipid Peroxidation and Coupled Vitamin Oxidation in Simulated and Human Gastric Fluid Inhibited by Dietary Polyphenols:  Health Implications. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 53(9), 3397–3402. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf040401o