Is the carnivore diet right for you? Does the idea of only eating meat and other animal products sound like something you could do? Better yet, does it sound like something you would want to do? We all know someone who doesn’t care much for green leafy things, and if that someone is you, the carnivore diet might be just the ticket. This is the diet for people who hate the word ‘diet’ and love a nice steak. The “diet” is simple enough it’s all in the name! The carnivore diet, as you probably know, entails strictly eating animal meat, and nothing else; no plant based foods, no fruit or vegetables, or any processed carbohydrate foods like cereals, breads, and grains. The carnivore diet is designed to have you totally subsist on fatty meats, especially meats like beef, lamb, goat, venison, or pork. Processed meats like sausage, salami, pepperoni and other deli meats can be eaten, but not if they have any fillers, so reading labels becomes increasingly important. Other meats, like fish, chicken, and other, potentially exotic meats like elk, rabbit, and bison are all on the list, although some of these meats are low fat and will need to be supplemented or cooked in a manner that adds fat. So long as you are not lactose intolerant or suffer from any other similar ailments, dairy items like milk, butter, hard cheeses and heavy whipping cream are also allowed, but some proponents of the carnivore diet eschew these additions, only focusing on the meats.
Has anyone done this Before?
You may be asking if there’s any historical precedent for people living long term on an all meat diet, and it’s a fair question. Very few cultures have ever tried to live on meat alone. The Inuits are the most well known group that subsists on an almost exclusive meat and high fat diet. This isn’t by choice, of course, there simply isn’t any way to grow anything in the Arctic regions that they inhabit. The fact of the matter is, however, that they not only live, but live well and thrive on their diet. but willfully define the carnivore diet.
What are the claims made about this diet? Proponents of the diet claim that it can help people lose weight, and contrary to popular claims, it can actually improve your cardiovascular health, or increase mental clarity. It is also claimed to alleviate certain autoimmune symptoms, clear up acne and other skin issues and ease depression and anxiety. This diet isn’t new, with a recorded historical proponent of the diet being a famous Harvard trained ethnologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson, who was born in Manitoba in 1879. He spent over a decade exploring the Arctic, nine years of which he lived, and ate, like the Inuit, almost exclusively on meat and fish. He and a colleague agreed, in a funded grant by the American Meat Packers, to agree to solely subsist on only meat for one year, not in the Arctic, but while living and writing and lecturing in New York. The men lost some weight during the
first week of the adjustment period, but maintained a steady weight afterward. Note that the men were not trying to lose weight, so they ate enough meat to maintain their weights. They spent the entire year living entirely on meat and water and claimed that there was no evidence of any loss of physical or mental vigor. There was no evidence that the all meat diet causes an elevation in blood pressure, nor was there any evidence of vitamin deficiencies.
Remember, that this is not a new diet, rather the opposite. It has gained popularity recently due to its ease and simplicity, as well as the fact that the results for most of the thousands that try this diet speak for themselves.
So, what can i eat?
As stated above, your meals should consist of animal foods alone. That is as it implies your food sources can only be meat and the other products provided by animals. When should you eat? Whenever you are hungry and eat until you are sated.
Here are some examples of foods that you can and should enjoy on the carnivore diet: Let’s start with the obvious – meat, Steak, roasts, burgers (without the vegetables or bun, of course) generally make up the main food source for those on the diet. It is essential that you eat enough calories, because even if red meat is nutrient dense, it is easy to feel full well before you take in enough calories in a day. Eat fattier cuts of meat to ensure you are taking in enough to keep your energy up.
Game meats are generally much leaner than store bought meats, so meat byproducts like lard or dairy fats like butter and ghee should be used to supplement the lack of fat in game. Something that should also be mentioned is marrow, which is a soft, fatty substance found inside bones. You can cook down bones in water or create a stock from meat, bones, and salted water. If available from your butcher, you can get femurs from cattle, have them cut lengthwise to expose the marrow, and roast it in the oven for a decadent high fat and nutrient filled treat.
Remember, as always, that diet is as its name suggests is an all meat and animal products diet. Also, take note that you are going to have to decide whether you will be supplementing your diet with a small number and amount of dairy products.
Some choose to do this to ease into the diet or to add in a little variety, as well as some vitamin D. As before, I mentioned that some people take vitamin supplements, so feel free to adjust these few things to your own diet. We know that every person’s body is different and will react to the diet in their own way, so please make informed decisions when it comes to your own health and safety. Here is a condensed list of allowable foods on the diet.
- Type of Protein Example Foods
- Red Meat Beef, pork, lamb, wild game, duck, geese, or other wild fowl
- White Meat Chicken, turkey, fish, seafood
- Organ Meat Liver, kidneys, tongue, bone marrow, heart, brain
- Eggs Chicken eggs, goose eggs, duck eggs
- Dairy Heavy cream, whole milk, cheese, butter, ghee
Remember that although meats and dairy are packed with protein, make sure that you eat enough to feel full. Do not just eat lean meats and low fat options, or you can reduce your caloric intake down to dangerous levels. The natural saturated and unsaturated animal fat on the meat provide necessary daily nutritional needs
for your body. Not just the need to keep your calories up to a safe level, but along with the fats and protein, there are necessary vitamins, minerals and amino acids in the meat, not to mention the fact that fat makes food taste better! As you won’t be eating any plant matter or plant based proteins like soy beans, it is necessary to eat until you feel full. As the diet goes on, after your adjustment period, your appetite will likely change. You should not leave any meal until you feel sated, as you will need to eat to your personal needs. Whether you exercise heavily or have a more sedentary lifestyle, eat until you are full. It is approximated that you will need to eat an average of two pounds of meat daily, unless you have a physically demanding job or work out heavily.
When Should I Eat?
When should you eat? When you feel hungry is the basic answer, but it’s not the only one. Eating three meals a day is perfectly acceptable; some people feel better having just one or two meals a day. Or if you like, you can stretch out your caloric intake to five or six smaller portions a day. Some even find that intermittent fasting works for them. Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It’s currently quite popular and has several methods in order to keep your energy up and can be used in this diet. In fact, because it retricts the same things that are restricted here, such as high carbohydrate meals, or detrimental snacking on junk food, it can pair with the carnivore diet to achieve faster results. Note that this is only for those who are able to do so, due to their daily schedule or by closely monitoring the results and listening to your body’s needs, and please remember that no particular method is a one size fits all and that it is optional. With the high caloric and protein rich diet, some people do find themselves less hungry and can easily employ one of the popular methods of IF. As this is a potentially useful method to add in more health benefits, here are listed the most popular variants of IF: The 16/8 method: Also known as Leangains, this method involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, such as 12–8 p.m. This simple method by its nature has you fasting for 16 hours in between.
The 5:2 diet: With this method, you only consume 500–600 calories on 2 non consecutive days of the week, but eat normally the other 5 days. Like the Eat Stop Eat method, take care not to fast on consecutive days (like the weekend) as this could cause you too serious a drop in caloric intake. This method also has the added difficulty of counting calories, which adds some complexity to our simple carnivore diet. Eat Stop Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours and should only be done once or twice a week, or you could find yourself losing too much energy and actually be starving your body, slowing your metabolism. The easiest example is simply not eating from dinner one day until your dinner on the next day. Any of these methods can be easily added to the carnivore diet, and only you can know if any of them are right for you. Please do NOT employ any of these methods until after your adjustment period, as your body needs time to adjust to this new way of eating and drinking.
Speaking of drinking, I cannot emphasize enough the necessity of keeping yourself hydrated with plenty of water. Depending upon how strict you want to be on the diet, I recommend you try and drink only water for your 30 day trial. It can be any type of non flavored water, such as tap, sparkling, or filtered water. You may need to add a little salt to your water to avoid muscle cramps and other issues. Tea and coffee are not technically allowed (as they both have their flavors derived from plant matter), but as long as you only add cream, milk, or ‘bulletproof’ your coffee with butter, you can have your precious caffeine without any adverse effects to the diet.
What can i eat and where do i get it?
As I have stated before, the diet is as simple as it can get. Only animal derived protein is allowed, but how do you cook it? On this diet, you can cook any of your proteins to your desired doneness. Although restaurants and chefs agree that you should not cook a good piece of beef to anything past medium rare to truly enjoy the flavor and tenderness of a good cut of steak, you are free to cook your proteins to any level of doneness you wish. The mineral, proteins, vitamins, and amino acids do not reduce any significant amount unless you cook the steak beyond well done. Some game meats are recommended to only cook them to medium rare as well, but that again is up to your personal preference. Some meats, namely most farmed poultry such as chicken and turkey, should be cooked more fully to make sure that they are safe to eat. Pork is another example that has a safe internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, for health reasons. Fish and other seafood can be consumed from raw to cooked completely dry. Experiment! Go out for sushi or fresh oysters, but naturally, you will need to get it without the rice or other vegetable derived accouterments.
If you wish to experiment at home with these sorts of things, it’s important that you get the freshest seafood you can find and follow these simple rules for selecting and preparation of raw fish. First and foremost, you need to avoid albacore tuna and King mackerel, as they contain high levels of mercury. Lower mercury options include salmon and freshwater trout. Mercury is a heavy metal toxin that can build up in the blood and cause neurological problems, impairing memory and fine motor skills. Average adults won’t get mercury poisoning from an occasional sushi dinner as that would require eating large amounts of high mercury fish, but consuming less mercury is always better than consuming more. Pregnant women and adults 65 and older, or people with a weakened immune system, are particularly sensitive to mercury’s effects so eating any raw fish should be off limits to these groups. You should also make sure that you are buying your fish from a fish monger you trust. Buy your meats from a local butcher shop if you have one, as it is a great place to take your time and ask questions about different kinds and cuts of meat. Most proponents of the diet claim that you should focus on grass fed and grass finished beef cuts. Although more expensive than conventional cuts, the experts say the quality of the meat matters. You can also often find excellent deals on organ meat and wonderful advice on how to best prepare it from your local butcher.
Your local grocery is where most people get their meats, and that’s perfectly acceptable. Although it’s always best to get the freshest meats available, grocery stores often have some other more frugal options and you will find that every Wednesday the specials change! Speaking for a moment on grocery meat, some people complain that all grocery meat tastes the same due to the additional
solutions that are added to lengthen shelf life. This is because the vast majority of the beef sold in grocery stores is aged instead of dry aged. Wet aging consists of vacuum packing larger primal or sub primal cuts in plastic and letting it age in a refrigerator. The meat is packed in its own juices, allowing its natural enzymes to break down connective tissues but without the fluid loss or mold growth of dry aging.
My grandfather told me that all meat tastes like liver these days because of the wet aging method. This simply would not do! If you have ever had a dry aged steak in a steakhouse, here is a simple method to get close to that taste and texture at home. A simple trick once you get home with your steaks, is to take them out of the package and wrap them in paper towels before you place them into your refrigerator, on a plate or tray. You will almost immediately see a pink liquid staining the paper towels. Leave them overnight, unwrap them, and then rewrap them in fresh paper towels in the morning, and repeat this again the next morning. This method, in just three or four days, will render the steaks more flavorful, and will allow the fat of the meat to make the steak juicy, instead of the solution they’ve been prepared within the aging process that is so prevalent in our current grocery stores.
One of the other sources for your meat and animal products like fresh cream, whole milk, and cheese is your local farmer’s market. You will have the opportunity to talk to the farmer about their meats and methods they employ, often getting meat and dairy products fresher than any store, although you will be often paying a premium. Remember though, as you are ONLY subsisting on meat, it’s alright to splurge on a particularly nice cut. You may even find that even though meat can be quite expensive, you will still be spending less at the store because you are cutting out every other item that is normally on your list. No vegetables, fruits, sodas, chips, or anything else; just meat. Going further, how you cook your meat will be extremely important to you to keep the diet fun, easy, and interesting. This is why, even though the diet is supposed to be free of any vegetables, herbs, or plant derived spices, I can recommend if you find yourself growing tired of the same flavor profile each meal, there is little harm in using any of the no calorie spice blends. I, of course, recommend that you try with just simple salt and allow for the meat to shine through, but I also understand that people can grow tired of the same thing day in, day out. Seasoning aside, I can also recommend a lot of different gear for getting the most out of your meat.