Last month I tried “The Carnivore Diet,” strict for 21 Days Straight.
I made a deal with my fiance regarding this diet. I could do it, but I needed to get bloodwork done first, which I did. After being on a high fat, low carb diet for a couple years, I wanted to establish a baseline before I hopped into the newest "health" fad; the "Carnivore Diet." Incase you're a normal human being and aren’t quite sure what that means; picture the vegan diet. Now picture the complete and total opposite of that. Animal foods only. Weird, right? Well here’s the thing. I liked it, a lot.
After being on a pretty strict ketogenic diet for a little over two years, I still consistently struggled with sugar cravings. Little "healthy" sweet-things called fat bombs, delicious, sweet buttery coffee and even raw almond or cashew butter, constantly called my name. I've literally killed jars of almond butter with stevia and cinnamon in one sitting like it was my last meal. Not good for fat-burning. More than anything, the carnivore diet has really been intriguing to me because of the reported health benefits and growing science surrounding the phenomenon. Many avid followers have reported some seriously remarkable side-effects of from the diet, ranging from fat-loss, total management of auto-immune disorders, improved skin, hair and nails as well as total evaporation of sugar cravings and better sleep. I did notice most of the above.
So what do you eat?
I skipped breakfast almost every day and sometimes drank coffee with a little heavy cream. The cream on an empty stomach felt like shit so I kept that really minimal and stuck with mostly black and practiced a light intermittent-fast.
A buddy of mine has a farm and gives us 30 free-range eggs every week so for most days for lunch, I'd house 4 or 5 hardboiled eggs, cooked with grassfed butter and topped with sea salt and black pepper. I also had leftover liver, hamburger or steak a handful of the days on the side. Salmon too, to change it up.
Dinner was my favorite part of the day. Giant USDA ribeye steaks from Costco, reverse seared in butter, salt, pepper & cayenne. I could eat this every day. I'm a big advocate of my meat being 100% grass-fed, but because this was a month long experiment, I had to be economical. It was fine.
Other foods I consumed
Grass-fed butter & Ghee
I indulged on the following "cheats" during the experiment, Gotta Live a little, right?
Bulletproof Coffee (3x)
Irish Whiskey (3x)
Macadamia Nuts (1x)
Heineken Light (2x)
That was it. So in 21 days- really really close to zero carbs. And I felt great doing it. I averaged around 3000 calories a day, 60% fat, 40% protein and I lost 10 lbs in three weeks.
The biggest issue with a carnivorous diet seems to be lack of actual nutrition. Organ meats, however (which I do eat from grass-fed animals only) are very high in iron, zinc, potassium, choline, vitamin B-12, omega-3 fatty acids and even vitamin C. Because I eat organ meats, I wasn’t too concerned about any deficiencies.
If you know anything about ketosis or extreme low-carb dieting, you might have heard of the “keto-flu.” This occurs when you drastically reduce carbohydrates and subsequently, lose a lot of water and stored electrolytes. Think “extreme” dehydration. Unfortunately, drinking copious amounts of water might not help much with these symptoms unless paired with some sort of minerals like the one’s found in a good Celtic or pink-Himalayan sea salt. Using what I know about dehydration, I used a liberal amount of sea salt and supplemented with extra potassium citrate and magesium orotate. Keto-flu avioided.
Positives that I noticed
Strength training was awesome. I felt the strongest I ever felt. No creatine. No whey protein.
Recovery after workouts were seemless and did not take a hit, likely due to higher than normal protein intake.
Dinner was amazing, every night.
The diet was easy to follow, I rarely felt hungry and sugar cravings disappeared.
Food shopping was extremely simple and affordable.
The reasons I stopped
The benefits of certain plants is undeniable. Google “Benefits of..” any of the following plants and see what I mean. Turmeric, Morninga, Cinnamon, Ginger, Ashwagahanda, Reishi, Lion’s Mane, Chaga, Resveretol, Oleic Acid (extra-virgin olive oil), brocolli sprouts, Maca root.
Coffee and tea’s are delicious and beneficial. They are not recommended by strict carnivore dieters.
Avocado's are awesome. Guacamole.
Sweet potato fries, coffee with healthy fats and stevia, guac, cauliflower gnocci, big-ass smoothies, macadamia nuts, cashew butter and Halo Top ice cream are some of my favorite foods in the world and have some great nutritional benefits.
My finance and I like to cook big delicious dinners including many of the foods listed above.
I was aiming for a 30-day experiment but after 21 days, I got the point. The Carnivore Diet is an easy-to-sustain but extreme diet I would only recommend to be used as an elimination-style diet for those with auto-immune disorders or for moderate weight-cutting with relative ease. I don’t see it as a long term solution to overall health, wellness and vitality, but I suppose everyone’s different.
What to expect if you’re attempting to go “carnivore”
People are going to think you’re crazy and a heart attack waiting to happen. Be ready to deal with some intense criticism.
The “keto flu” is a real thing. If you’re going from keto to carnivore, you might be fine. If you eat a lot of refined carbs and are not well adapted to processing fat, consider digestive enzymes and supplementing minerals, electrolytes (sodium/sea salt, magnesium, potassium).
When you’re hungry, eat meat (obviously). Listen to your body, try not eat when bored. Unless you have an extremely high energy expenditure, 2 to 3 lbs of meat per day is more than enough.
Eggs are your friends.
Choose fattier cuts of meat such as ribeye steaks, higher fat ground beef/burgers, fatty cuts of fish like salmon.
If you tolerate dairy, grass-fed butter and cream can also your friends.
I did not feel good eating certain types of “low quality” meat. IE; many carnivore dieters post some enticing ideas on social media like 4-8 hamburger patties from Wendy’s or In-and-Out with bacon and cheese topped all over them. While they look good, be mindful of overly processed food, with potentially with cheap fillers and antibiotic laden meat.
Limit your dairy consumption. A little is fine, but I noticed some unpleasant effects of having one too many cheeseburgers.
If you can stomach them, eat organ meats. They are full of bio-available nutrition.
If you can afford, grass-fed, grass-finished meat, that is optimal. But that can get real pricey over the span of ‘x’ amount of weeks. USDA Choice cuts are real good and very affordable at Costco.
Set a goal of how many days you are going to try this new lifestyle, and don’t cheat the system. If you want to really feel the benefits that so many claim, stick to eating as much meat as you need to fill you up.
The Carnivore community on social media is trippy. Many are very “cult” like and petty. You’ll see some pretty common hashtags like #mealheals #carnivoreketo and strange account names like @MeatEaterMike and @CarnivoreCarl. Avoid this sh*t. If you are trying this diet, do it for you, not to be part of a club. You’ll see many, mannny carnivores attacking vegans, the same way we’ve seen vegans attack meat-eaters forever. Don’t be that guy. Do whatever you do because you want to and for the sake of optimizing your life.
Got that Carnivore Carl?