If you're like most health-conscious individuals these days, you've undoubtedly heard of the latest diet trend especially aimed at those who love meat. It's also the perfect diet for you if you hate structured diets where you have to eat a certain thing in a specific amount at the appropriate time of day and in the proper combinations. Who needs all of that complicated structure in their lives? So, here's some basic info about the diet for meat-lovers who hate rabbit-food.
What is the Carnivore Diet?
For starters, the Carnivore Diet (aka Ancestral Diet) is a restrictive diet that only includes meat, fish, and other animal foods like eggs and certain dairy products. It basically excludes every other type of food, including fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Some call it an extreme approach to dieting while others say that it can actually reduce inflammation in a number of autoimmune diseases.
How Does the Carnivore Diet Work?
Many dieters find that this easy-to-follow diet is quite intriguing. That's because, unlike the majority of other diets, you never find yourself worrying about having to count calories or time out your meals. In fact, as long as you only eat animal products, you’re home free. Now, some people might be assuming that when you eat that much meat, it would make you gain weight. However, much the same as keto, restricting carbs means that your blood sugar levels remain low all the time, therefore you won’t be experiencing insulin spikes. You’ll also find it fairly hard to consume a surplus of calories when your only eating options happen to be just animal products.
Watch these amazingly informative interviews by Mike Vestil with Origins of Vitality Nutrition founder and CEO, Dominic Rapson.
Is this Diet Safe and Healthy?
In view of the fact that this diet is quite similar to keto diets, absolutely no harm can be seen with the ancestral diet. The fact is that thousands of years ago our ancestors were following a similar diet. Some of them actually lived to the ripe old age of 90 to 100 years old! Although we have the ability to store pounds of carbs and have endless fat-holding capacities, we don't store protein. So, during the course of each day, protein assists in making and repairing cells, while also producing enzymes, and completing a wide range of other tasks.
(watch the Joe Rogan interview with Dr. Shawn Baker below for some great info on the efficacy of the Carnivore Diet)
What About Weight Loss?
Many dieters are asking if it can help you with losing weight and the fact is that certain aspects of this diet might lead to some weight loss. In fact, some studies show that low-carb/high-protein diets can be responsible for promoting significant weight loss. This occurs mainly because protein helps you with feeling fuller following meals, which in turn can end up leading to a reduction in your calorie intake and promoting weight loss.
Protein also increases your metabolic rate and that helps you with the task of burning more calories. So, following this diet could more than likely make you feel much fuller and end up eating less overall calories. And, since this diet excludes all carbohydrates, it eliminates all cakes, candies, cookies, pastries, soda, and other high-carb foods. Since they're extremely high in calories and low in and kind of beneficial nutrients, they really should be eliminated or at least limited as part of any healthy, balanced diet, especially when you're trying to lose weight.
What to Eat on Carnivore Diet?
“Eat meat and drink water” is the mantra of this diet. OK, it's deceptively simple and it aims for not just low-carb (like some other popular diets) and instead the goal is zero carbs. But from that simplicity, many questions may arise, including…
What's Allowed on the Carnivore Diet?
In general, you’ll want to get on an all-meat meal plan and eat mainly meats that contain a fattier meat content and less of the leaner cuts. This will aid you in getting the proper amount of calories while also maintaining the optimal hormonal and bodily functions. In a nutshell, the foods that you should eat include beef, chicken, lamb, organ meats, pork, salmon, sardines, turkey, and whitefish. In addition, bone marrow, butter, hard cheese, heavy cream, lard are also allowed. The diet emphasizes fatty meat cuts for the purpose of reaching those all-important daily energy needs. Also, this diet encourages drinking both bone broth and water. Salt and pepper, as well as other types of seasonings that don't contain any carbs, are also allowed.
You should always opt for wings or thighs rather than chicken breasts because they contain maximum fat.
Preferably grass-fed meat and the fattier, the better. You can consume NY strip steaks, porterhouse steaks, ribeye steaks, t-bone steaks, and 80/20 grass-fed beef in fairly large amounts.
-Fatty Meat Products-
Cooking with tallow or lard is an excellent way for getting extra fats into your diet and they can also add some really delicious flavor to meals.
Whether you like them fried, poached, or scrambled, the most important component of eggs is their yolk (which is also the best-tasting part). So, don't just eat just those egg whites.
Just like eating meat, you should be trying your best to some fattier fish like halibut, mackerel, salmon, and sardines.
Cheese, milk, and yogurt are technically allowed on the carnivore diet since they all come from animals. That being said, however, many dieters prefer limiting dairy consumption because of lactose intolerance. If you're not though, then dairy can be a great source of both calcium and fat.
What's Not Allowed?
This diet involves consuming only animal products, which means that even fruits and veggies are prohibited. This means absolutely no bread, no fruits, no vegetables, no sweeteners, no milk, and (sorry) definitely no beer. Some dieters will drink red wine or whiskey but in very small quantities. The diet discourages drinking of any coffee or tea, as well as any other drinks that come from plants. A more complete list of the
restricted foods on this diet (or those to be eaten only in very strict moderation) include:
- Vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, peppers, and potatoes, etc.
- Fruits: Apples, bananas, berries, kiwis, and oranges, etc.
- High-Lactose Dairy Products: milk, soft cheese, and yogurt, etc.\
- Legumes: Beans and lentils, etc.
- Grains: Bread, pasta, rice, quinoa, and wheat, etc.
- Nuts & Seeds: Almonds, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds, etc.
- Alcohol: Beer, hard liquor, and wine, etc.
- Sugar: Brown sugar, maple syrup, and table sugar, etc.
- Beverages: Coffee, fruit juice, sodas, and tea, etc.
There really aren't any specific guidelines for this diet when it comes to serving sizes, calorie intake, or the number of meals and snacks that you should be eating per day. In fact, the majority of this diet's proponents suggest that you simply eat as often as you want.
The Carnivore Diet FAQs
Here are just a few of the most frequently asked questions from dieters:
How Long Does Adapting to this Diet Take?
Chances are you'll find yourself feeling a bit lethargic when you first begin the diet. You might even start experiencing some flu-like symptoms at first. That being said, however, your body should start adjusting to its new source of fuel after one or two weeks. When it comes to athletic performance, it could take a bit longer before you begin to see an increase in strength and speed.
Should Athletes Try this Diet?
Absolutely. In fact, there are a number of reports from individuals worldwide that praise the diet for being able to improve endurance as well as strength and speed. And, if you’re currently on a keto diet and have a strong desire to start taking your athletic performance to a whole new level, this diet just might be well worth trying.
Should Diabetics Try this Diet?
Going on an all-meat meal plan has been known to help some diabetics with lowering their glucose levels. In fact, many of them have said that it has helped them with stabilizing their blood sugar. However, most experts are advising against going completely carnivore if you have diabetes. On the other hand, many diabetics feel that the risks of having blood sugar that is chronically high is much more serious than any potential adverse effects from meat-eating. So, perhaps moderation is the key here.
Does it Really Decrease Inflammation?
Yes, according to a study comparing diets that are high fat/low carb diets with low fat/high carb diets for the purpose of looking at the inflammatory markers, 12 weeks of studying showed high-fat eaters having much lower systemic inflammation markers.
What About Testosterone Levels?
Other studies show that dietary fats are responsible for increasing testosterone. In fact, the increased fat amount from the carnivore diet can really boost your testosterone levels, which allows you to achieve increased libido, motivation, and strength.
What About Cognition?
Since approximately 60 percent of your brain is made of fats, the increased intake of fat along with the absence of carbs, many individuals on the diet have been found to experience an increase in mental clarity. This is due to the fact that they started burning fats as an energy source rather than glucose from carbs.
Why is this Diet So Popular?
One of the popular aspects of this particular method of eating is not having to follow a bunch of complicated rules such as calorie counting, timing your intake of food, or macronutrient ratios.
As long as all of the food you're eating is derived from animal sources, you can basically consume your food whenever you decide you want to. In addition, you can also eat as much or as little as you choose. The majority of carnivores actually prefer following a 1:1 protein to fat ratio for achieving maximum health benefits.
What is the Difference Between the Carnivore (aka Ancestral) Diet & the Ketogenic Diet?
Although many of the health benefits are very similar on both diets, there are actually some key differences between the two, including:
- Although both diets are recommending eating both protein and fats, carnivore dieters steer clear of all plant sources, which means virtually zero-carbs.
- Keto encourages massive amounts of vegetables, provided the total carbs stay below 50g.
- Keto places the emphasis on fats and protein being generally kept below 40 percent of the total calories consumed.
- This diet encourages high fat/high protein intake provided those calories to come from animal sources.
- Unlike Keto, there are no general macronutrient percentages that need to be followed on this diet.
Is it Possible that Science is Wrong Regarding Meat?
So, what about everything we’ve heard about heavy meat consumption not being good for your overall health?
The fact is that not all experts are in agreement with the research pointing to meat consumption’s negative effects.
Many say that those studies were performed by simply having subjects fill out questionnaires regarding the food that they eat rather than in a controlled setting. The general consensus is that this particular method was widely discredited because it could only be successful at generating guesses regarding the connection between good health and food consumption, which actually requires further testing in clinical trials.
For additional information on the “Ancestral Health”, be sure to check out Chris Kresser's articles here.