There has been a lot of interest in the carnivore diet recently!
After dabbling with low carb, paleo, and keto, excluding all plants and ‘going carnivore’ is the next logical step for many people in their quest for optimal health, weight loss or diabetes control.
In light of all the n = 1s, and amazing carnivore diet before and afters, it’s hard to deny that the carnivore way of eating provides fantastic results for many people.
- Joe and Charlene Anderson
- Mikhaila Peterson
- Amber O’Hearn
- Vilhjalmur Stefansson
- Pros of a carnivore diet
- Can you get all the nutrients you need on a carnivore diet?
- Can you thrive optimally on an all-meat diet?
- Nutrients that there is no deficiency testing for
- Nutrients that are still important
- Who should try a carnivorous diet?
- Carnivore diet food list
- Meat-based recipes
- How Can I Calculate My Nutrient Intake?
- Level Up Your Nutrient Density
Carnivore diet results
Here, we highlight a few notable examples of people who have successfully followed a carnivorous diet, with some amazing results!
Joe and Charlene Anderson
Joe Anderson (60) and his wife Charlene have been eating nothing but fatty steak for twenty years, including through two healthy pregnancies.
But transitioning to a meat-only diet wasn’t smooth sailing. Joe says:
Once I tried a specific, fatty, meat-only diet, I felt miserable at first. Massive headaches, depression, fatigue and nausea were common.
By the end of two weeks, however, the veil lifted and I felt great! I discovered that eating this clean meat-only diet was very healing, and I had my own demons and ill health that had to be expelled.
Charlene’s path to healing has taken considerably longer. Although she felt great immediately removing all the fibres, vegetables, and grains that she had been eating for years, she also felt the effects of starving out her Lyme bacteria.
Her body would cycle back and forth from feeling great as the Lyme died off, to feeling horrible because the Lyme was dying off. She gritted her teeth, dug in, and stayed on plan.
Charlene seems to to be doing just fine these days. 
Mikhaila Peterson, daughter of Professor Jordan Peterson, has also been outspoken about her results on a carnivore diet.
Mikhaila was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at seven and severe depression when she was twelve. She had a hip and ankle replacement at seventeen and was put on Adderall to stay awake, sleeping around seventeen hours per day. Mikhaila started with an elimination diet in late 2015 and eventually ended up on carnivorous approach.
Mikhaila is now thriving and passionately sharing her story of transformation.
Amber O’Hearn is another prominent carnivore diet proponent who progressed to this way of eating after her success with low carb stalled.
She cut out all plant-based foods (other than coffee) and found her bipolar disorder symptom improved significantly! Amber has done a lot of thoughtful research and documented her journey at ketotic.org and empiri.ca.
Amber doesn’t claim that carnivory is ideal for everyone, but makes a good case for why we may not all need heaps of fruit and “heart-healthy grains” and why the carnivore way of eating is the ultimate elimination diet.
Dr Georgia Ede
Psychiatrist Dr Georgia Ede draws attention to issues with anti-nutrients in plant-based foods (e.g. phytic acid, goitrogens, oxalates, and tannins) in not just grains and soy, but also cruciferous veggies.
Nutrient bioavailability from plants is, in many cases, significantly compromised. Just because a plant contains a nutrient does not mean we can access it.
There are too many variables to consider in a mixed diet to be sure how foods will interact in various individuals.
Recommended daily intakes for nutrients are based on assumptions, and the data used to generate them comes from people eating standard diets.
Diets high in refined carbs deplete many nutrients, increasing our apparent requirements.
A growing number of people are experiencing amazing results with an all-meat diet to eliminate these stressors. If you have major depressive symptoms and digestive issues, an animal-based diet seems to be worth a shot.
Much of the momentum behind the carnivore diet seems to be coming from the online community (e.g. such as Principia Carnivora and Zeroing in On Health) that swears by just eating meat (i.e. mainly steak and water).
Dr Shawn Baker established the World Carnivore Tribe Group which has plenty of positive anecdotes as well as Meat Heals which has been set up to compile n=1 experiences on a carnivorous way of life.
Dr Paul Saladino
Dr Paul Saladino (aka Carnivore MD) is another passionate advocate for the carnivore diet and dives deep into the science. Paul likes to add plenty of organ meats to maximise his nutrient density with a nose-to-tail approach.
Dr Shawn Baker
Orthopedic surgeon Dr Shawn Baker is possibly the most well-known and vocal proponent of the carnivore dietary approach.
Shawn is a strength athlete (previously rugby, strongman and lately rowing) who eats a lot of food. In the past, his diet included plenty of cereals, low-fat yogurt, skim milk, pasta and grains to maintain weight with his high level of activity and super heavy workouts.
As is the case with many people who become passionate advocates of a carnivorous approach, after experiencing digestive issues exacerbated by his poor diet, he progressively experimented, moving from the typical high carb to paleo, then low carb, then a targeted ketogenic diet.
Shawn found that he would suffer gut distress when he added carbs back in on the cyclic keto approach, and eventually settled on meat-only. He has since gone to set world records in indoor rowing and continues to work out like a beast at the age of 51. Shawn has been interviewed on numerous podcasts and now has his own Human Performance Outliers Podcast with Ultra Runner Zach Bitter.
While there is not a lot of long term research on the carnivore diet, a lot of advocates point to the work of anthropologist and explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson.
During one of his expeditions, he observed that their diet consisted of 90% fatty meat and fish for most of the year. He also learned to eat like them and learned to love it!
In 1928, to demonstrate the benefits of a carnivorous diet, Stefansson carried out an experiment with a colleague demonstrate that he could thrive on meat only for what turned into a four-years with no adverse effects.
Pros of a carnivore diet
Getting adequate protein in your diet is central to both nutrient density and satiety. Getting enough protein is a primary driver of our appetite, and in line with the Protein Leverage Hypothesis, it seems that we eat until we get adequate protein. A carnivorous diet contains plenty of highly bioavailable protein is undoubtedly one of the central reasons it works.
Our satiety analysis shows that foods with a higher percentage of protein tend to lead us to eat less, which is a great thing for many people who want to lose fat from their bodies.
Many people get great results on a carnivorous diet by just eating fatty steak. This is simple and provides plenty of energy to prevent hunger.
If you want to lose fat from your body, then it’s a good idea to progressively increase your percentage of protein, which is achieved on a carnivorous diet by eating leaner cuts of meat.
However, it is possible to take this too far because it is hard for your body to convert protein to usable energy (i.e. ATP). If you’re lean and very active, then you may need to focus on more energy-dense fat sources.
While most people don’t need to track their food on a carnivorous diet because it is so satiating if you want to check your protein vs fat intake, you can use our simple macro calculator here. Dial your carbs back to zero and select at least 1.8 g/kg LBM protein. Going forward, you can dial your fat up and down based on your weight loss/body composition/activity goals and progress.
Protein in animal-based foods such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy has a much higher bioavailability than in plant-based foods. Plant-based foods also tend to have a much lower protein density. Therefore you will have to consume a lot more calories to meet your protein requirement.
Using the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score, the chart below shows the weight of various foods that you will need to consume to get 100 g of protein into your system. Foods like cod, egg white and steak are much more efficient than plant-based foods.
This next chart shows the number of calories that you will need to consume to absorb 100 g of protein from different foods.
Vegan advocates often claim that it’s easy to get plenty of protein without eating meat. However, this is not the case once you account for protein density (in terms of protein per calorie and weight) as well as bioavailability.
In systems design, things get interesting when you take them to their limits.
In nutrition, the limits are macronutrient extremes (i.e. carbs, fat, protein) and of plant- vs animal-based food sources. We need to understand which parameters are still relevant and which ones may need to be adjusted.
But the Daily Reference Intakes (DRIs) for the essential micronutrients were developed in the context of an agriculture-based western diet. What’s more, they were designed to prevent diseases of deficiency, not promote optimal health. So, rather than thinking in terms of the minimum number of nutrients to avoid diseases, the analysis below compares different dietary approaches in terms of the Optimal Nutrient Intakes which have been designed as a stretch target to optimise health and satiety.
The nutrient fingerprint chart below shows the essential nutrients as a proportion of the Optimal Nutrient Intakes across the eight thousand foods in the USDA food database.
At the bottom of the chart, we see that we can easily achieve optimal intakes of phosphorus, sodium and iron. In contrast, at the top of the chart, we see that we need to work harder to get enough omega 3, vitamin A, vitamin E and B1 from our modern food system.
Rather than focusing on the foods that contain more of a single nutrient, we can use the ONIs to identify the nutrient-dense foods and nutrient-dense meals that contain more of the nutrients we are not getting enough of.
This next chart shows the nutrient fingerprint of the highest-ranking 25% of foods in the USDA database when we prioritise the harder-to-find micronutrients (i.e. calcium, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3 and omega 3).
The Optimal Nutrient Score is calculated based on the area to the left of the 100% line that is filled. So if you could get 100% of the Optimal Nutrient Intakes you would get a perfect score of 100%. By focusing on the most nutrient-dense foods available we go from a nutrient score of 57% to 97%.
The nutrient fingerprint chart below shows the nutrients we would get if we removed all animal, dairy and seafood from the USDA database to provide a “plant-based” diet. As you can see, simply avoiding animal-based foods doesn’t give us a great nutrient profile, with a nutrient score of only 45%.
When we optimise for nutrient density, we get a better nutrient profile. However, we are still lacking omega 3 and vitamin B12 and we are getting less than optimal levels of a number of nutrients.
It’s also important to note that many of these nutrients are not in the most bioavailable form, so they may not actually make it into our system. This becomes important when we are not getting these nutrients in large quantities.
This nutrient-dense selection of plant-based of food relies on vegetables that are hard to eat in super large quantities and nuts which many people experience negative responses to. In reality, the amount of vegetables in the typical western diet is very low, even on a ‘plant-based’ dietary approach. While vegetables may make up the bulk of the volume of food consumed, most people following a plant-based diet end up resorting to refined vegetable oils which are extremely nutrient-poor.
The chart below shows the best nutrient profile we can achieve when we omit vegetables and seeds. Once you remove vegetables and nuts, even the best version of the ‘plant-based’ diet doesn’t look particularly nutritious!!!
For comparison, the nutrient fingerprint chart below shows the nutrient profile of all animal foods and seafood in the USDA database.
While we get plenty of protein (50% of calories), there are several nutrients (such as vitamin K1, C, E, A, omega 3, folate, B1, magnesium and calcium) at the top of the chart that is harder to obtain in adequate quantities. We also get a much better nutrient score than plant-based foods!
We can also boost the nutrient profile by focusing on the most nutrient-dense animal-based foods and get a very respectable nutrient fingerprint, as shown below.
Towards the top of the chart, there are a handful of nutrients that are we not getting in optimal quantities which we’ll discuss later. But first, let’s look at a real-life example with Dr Shawn Baker’s diet.
Shawn Baker’s diet analysis
To understand more about how Dr Baker’s diet worked through the framework of Nutritional Optimisation, I pinged him on Twitter to get a feel for his standard diet to analyse.
Dr Baker’s average daily food intake is shown below in Cronometer (with lots of steak and hamburger mince with some cheese, eggs, shrimp, and salmon).
The micronutrient fingerprint of Dr Baker’s diet (in terms of the daily recommended intakes, not the Optimal Nutrient Intake) is shown below. You can see his full Nutrient Optimiser analysis here.
At the bottom of the chart above, we see that Dr Baker’s diet has plenty of vitamin B12, zinc, iron, and amino acids. However, at the top (see the zoomed-in segment below), we see that Dr Baker’s diet does not meet the daily recommended intake for vitamin C, manganese, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin K1, folate, calcium, omega 3, and pantothenic acid.
Can you get all the nutrients you need on a carnivore diet?
What do we make of the fact that Dr Baker and so many others appear to be thriving despite not meeting some of the micronutrient DRIs?
- Are the recommended nutrient intake targets wrong?
- Which ones are still relevant for him?
In response to my analysis, Shawn commented on Twitter:
As you point out, some of the micronutrients may become less of a requirement based upon the overall dietary scheme.
Personally, I don’t necessarily believe the DRIs are relevant to a carnivorous diet in general and would look at clinical endpoints.
For example, calcium deficiency has a clinical manifestation and developing signs of it should lead to deterioration of health rather than its enhancement as I’ve experienced and the same with countless other pure meat eaters.
There is no point in telling someone to stop doing something if they are thriving. However, Dr Bruce Ames’ Triage Theory which suggests that, in the absence of adequate nutrients, the body will prioritise nutrients towards short-term survival rather than optimal health and longevity.
Are the nutrient recommendations relevant?
The challenge in using the RDIs at the extremes is that they have not been adjusted to cater for varying requirements of people following a vegan, keto, or carnivorous approach.
Many are quick to dismiss the RDIs because of the numerous anecdotes of people thriving with no plant-based foods. But it’s still important to understand, as much as we can with the available data, how the parameters might change and what is still relevant.
While the DRIs are based on people eating a standard western diet, anecdotally many people seem to find they need to supplement electrolytes when they reduce or remove carbohydrates.
In this chat with Joe Rogan, Rhonda Patrick gets into the nitty-gritty of the nutrient requirements and whether they are still relevant for carnivores.
It’s early days for the carnivore diet. Not many people have been doing it for a long time.
While a number of people try carnivory to help them manage a particular condition, others are just curious.
Some people continue to thrive, while some experience cravings (nutrient depletion/deficiencies?) after a while.
It will be fascinating to see the long term results after a lot of people follow a meat-only diet for a significant amount of time.
Can you thrive optimally on an all-meat diet?
Dr Baker isn’t going out of his way to chase micronutrients in the same way that Dr Saladino is with his nose to tail diet. However, the fact that he’s eating more than 4000 calories per day would offset the lower availability of some nutrients.
But is this an issue? Perhaps not if you don’t have symptoms of nutrient deficiencies relating to these nutrients, but they might be worth keeping an eye out for, including:
- Vitamin K is used in the synthesis of protein and absorption of calcium. Low levels of vitamin K impairs blood coagulation, causing blood such as nosebleeds and heavy menstrual bleeding. Deficiency may lead to weakened bone and calcification of arteries and coronary heart disease.
- Vitamin C is used by the immune system and is a powerful antioxidant. While you don’t require as much vitamin C with your glucose is lower, you do need vitamin C to absorb iron in the gut. It may be that the lack of vitamin C with high iron levels may help to reduce your risk of haemochromatosis (too much iron).
- Calcium is needed for muscle, heart, digestive systems, bones, teeth and blood.
- Manganese helps to build bones and metabolise protein and carbs.
- Vitamin E is an antioxidant used in smooth muscle growth and has a role in eye and neurological functions.
But on the upside, there are many reasons that carnivores may not need to worry too much about nutrient deficiencies.
Vitamin K2 can be converted to K1
Vitamin K1 is primarily found in plants, while K2 is synthesised by bacteria in the large intestine of animals and humans. Vitamin K2 (menaquinones MK1 through MK4) is only a recent discovery. Hence, the USDA food database only contains data on the quantity of K1 (phylloquinone) in foods, not K2.
Most people can convert K2 to K1 depending on demand. Hence, low dietary vitamin K1 intake may not be an issue if you get plenty of K2 from sources such as eggs, butter, and liver.
Some nutrients are more bioavailable
Vitamin A and omega 3 are more bioavailable from animal-based sources. However, I don’t think this is a real issue as it is quite easy to get plenty of these nutrients on a carnivorous diet, particularly if you include organ meats and seafood.
The effect of anti-nutrients
The area of antinutrients is complex, and there isn’t a lot of data to understand the interaction of different foods on our digestion and absorption. But there are a few things we do understand.
Iron, calcium, and magnesium may be more bioavailable when there are no oxalates in the diet. Adequate iron is rarely a problem for someone eating significant amounts of animal-based protein.
Calcium and magnesium tend to be harder to find, especially if you are eating cooked meat rather than raw meat with blood and juices, which contain a lot of the minerals.
Grains and legumes contain lectins, glutens, and phytates that can affect the absorption of minerals like potassium and magnesium. Unfortunately, we don’t have data to calculate how much of the various nutrients are getting into your system from the food once you account for bioavailability. For many people, grains just aren’t worth it, especially if they have digestive issues.
Cooking vegetables also reduce anti-nutrient levels, which adds another layer of complexity to figuring out how much we absorb in a diet of both cooked and raw foods.
Some plant-based compounds (e.g. sulforaphane) may have a beneficial hormetic effect.   However, for some people, their gut is so messed up by modern processed foods that they find they need to cut out all fibre-containing foods.
We need fewer vitamins when we eat less glucose
There is some evidence to suggest that Vitamin C is not as much of a priority for someone with less glucose to process. There are plenty of examples of people surviving with minimal vitamin C on a zero-carb diet. Vitamin C and glucose are similar in structure and compete for the same receptor, so you may absorb vitamin C more effectively if you are consuming a diet with low levels of glucose.
Vitamin C is also probably underreported from animal food and often assumed to be zero. If you want to dig into this more, check out Amber O’Hearn’s comprehensive article on vitamin C on a ketogenic diet.
Nutrients that there is no deficiency testing for
There are also a number of nutrients that are based on population average intakes rather than deficiency testing.
Given that manganese is associated with carbohydrate metabolism, there may be a lesser requirement for people following a carnivorous diet. There may be limited value in chasing targets that are simply based on the average intakes of people eating a typical western diet.
Manganese is high in organ meats, which are prized by cultures that do not have access to a lot of plant-based foods, so it is possible to get adequate quantities.
Similarly, the RDI for Vitamin E is based on median population intake levels rather than deficiency testing. Vitamin E has been on the rise with increasing vegetable oil usage, so the population’s average intake may not necessarily be optimal.
Nutrients that are still important
Without a lot of seafood, Dr Baker is not getting a lot of Vitamin D from his diet. However, a lack of dietary vitamin D is not unique to carnivores. The RDI levels for vitamin D are based on the amount required to maintain serum 25(OH)D levels with minimal sunlight. Most people need to get heaps of sun to ensure they create adequate amounts of vitamin D.
Shawn is getting lower levels of folate compared to the estimated average requirement. Again, folate can easily be obtained from organ meats which are prized in cultures that do not have access to plant-based foods.
It’s interesting to note that Paleo Medininca are fans of using heaps of organ meats to ensure you get adequate amounts of folate and other essential nutrients from a carnivorous diet that doesn’t contain green leafy vegetables.
Although Shawn is not meeting the RDI for calcium, calcium can be obtained on a carnivore diet from eggs and sardines or other bony fish.
Target calcium levels are based on balance studies, and your calcium requirements will increase with age.
Ensuring you get adequate amounts of vitamin D is important to ensure you absorb calcium and that it goes where it’s meant to go (i.e. your bones and teach, not your arteries).
Shawn is getting a substantial amount of omega 3, though not enough to meet the RDI levels or achieve an optimal omega 3:omega 6 balance. Again, omega 3 is not hard to get from animal-based products if they include some seafood.
Magnesium and potassium
Magnesium and potassium are two minerals that many people do not get enough of when they reduce their carbohydrate intake.
The keto flu is a common symptom that people experience early in their ketogenic journey that they can fix with supplementation of alkalising minerals or foods that contain more of them (e.g. green leafy vegetables).
I haven’t seen any research that would indicate that there would be a lesser requirement for these minerals on a keto or carnivore diet. If anything, the need for these minerals is greater on a reduced-carb diet.
Our analysis of data from twenty-five thousand days of data from Optimisers suggests that we have a very strong satiety response to both magnesium and potassium.
Both of these essential nutrients tend to be hard to find in the food system, and we tend to eat a lot less when we consume adequate amounts of foods that contain more of these electrolytes.
Who should try a carnivorous diet?
One common thread of the people who seem to thrive on a carnivorous approach is some gut issues (e.g. permeability or bacterial overgrowth) or an autoimmune condition, perhaps due to long-term exposure to processed, low nutrient-poor foods or other environmental toxins.
If your gut is already compromised, then cutting down on fibre and other plant matter, particularly grains, nuts and seeds, seems to work wonders for many people. If you have issues that you find are only healed by staying strictly carnivore then, by all means, stick with it.
But you could also use carnivores as an elimination phase and then reintroduce other foods back in to see if you can tolerate them. You may enjoy a less restrictive diet that makes it easier to get the nutrients you need from your diet. I recommend checking out Chris Kresser’s The Paleo Cure or Natasha Campbell McBride’s GAPS Diet if you want to follow this elimination and reintroduction-type approach.
Overall, it’s probably fair to say that a carnivore diet can benefit many, particularly if you have major digestive issues.
Carnivore diet food list
If you’re interested in optimising your carnivore diet, you can check out the free pdf food lists here optimised for weight maintenance and maximum nutrient density/fat loss. You can use this for inspiration for your shopping list.
We also have a food list optimised for low oxalates which are often a concern for people in the carnivore community. You can use these lists to build your nutrient-dense meal plan to suit your budget and preferences.
Our series of 22 recipe books optimised for different goals and preferences also includes a book of recipes that contain meat (i.e. steak, chicken, pork, etc.). These are the most nutrient-dense meat containing recipes available!
These are not necessarily purely carnivorous (they contain some veggies to round out the nutrient profile), but they demonstrate that you can get an amazing nutrient profile with a diet where the majority of calories come from meat. If you’re interested in levelling up your nutrient density, you can check it out here.
How Can I Calculate My Nutrient Intake?
If you’re interested in checking if you’re getting just enough dietary phosphorus, you can check your nutrient profile using our Free 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge.
After a week of tracking your current diet in Cronometer, Nutrient Optimiser will give you a prioritised list of foods and NutriBooster recipes that will help you plug your current nutritional gaps.
Level Up Your Nutrient Density
To help you level up your nutrient density, we’ve prepared a Nutritional Optimisation Starter Pack to ensure you are getting plenty of all the essential nutrients from the food you eat every day.
The free starter pack includes:
- Maximum Nutrient Density Food List
- Sample Maximum Nutrient Density Recipe Book
- Sample Maximum Nutrient Density Meal Plan.
To get started today, all you have to do is join our new Optimising Nutrition Group here.
Once you join, you will find the Nutritional Optimisation starter pack in the discovery section here.
31 thoughts on “Dr Shawn Baker’s Carnivore Diet: Pros, Cons & Nutritional Analysis”
I am a retired Family Medicine doctor who has been eating an all meat diet for 3 years and blogged regularly at http://www.borntoeatmeat.com for 2 years. I think the greatest benefit of an all meat diet is it’s ability to help the many people addicted to the most toxic component of diet of the developed world, refined sugar go “cold turkey” in a simple nutritious way. And I strongly believe cold turkey is the best way to beat an addiction.
Thanks Paul. All diets that work eliminate processed toxic crap. Believing that it works will help with adherence.
The problem with the RDI is that most of the them are probably wrong. It’s the main difficulty with optimizing nutrition…
For example potassium makes no sense. We couldn’t have evolved to need that much potassium when almost nowhere in the world we could have got enough to get the RDI.
Why do you believe that “most of them are probably wrong”?
I can see how in the past our food environment would have contained more nutrients, whether it’s the plans we eat or the animals that would have been eating natural grass that contained a lot more nutrients compared today when they eat mainly grain that has been grown quickly in nutrient poor soil.
Just read how they are calculated, the science it’s so poor that is embarrassing. For example the potassium one is based on “small reduction on hypertension when some people increase their potassium consumption”. That’s it. The almost 4g/day recommended to all population is based on that.
Probably by pure chance a few RDI are correct, but only by chance. Most of them are pure speculation based on poor/inconclusive data.
If you want another name of no carb but actually all raw, you can look into sv3rige on youtube. For several yrs on that diet.
Marty, thanks for your exhaustive detail in this article! I had been looking into ZC a little, and your work here really helps put things in perspective . I also carry some suspicions about RDI’s, but you did a great job placing them in context of as several variables . Clearly is size does not fit all, and hopefully you or others will be able to find a way to optimize individually based on other factors such as DNA and blood data, etc . Keep up the great work!!!!
Cheers. Thanks for the positive feedback. There are limitations in what we have to deal with, but that shouldn’t stop us using what we have.
I wonder if Dr. Baker has very long lived RBCs contributing to the high A1c?
Read the Ted Naiman tweet posted in the article.
I wonder if it isn’t good old-fashioned gluconeogenesis going about 90 miles an hour…my husband had the same problem when he attempted to lose weight going ZC.
It seems not everyone drops weight magically on ZC. Could also be good old fashioned high energy levels with all the food he is eating.
Which is why usually the emphasis is on fattier meats, so as to avoid too much protein. Although I don’t know if some metabolisms are/became just slower than others regardless of changing diets to fix them.
Others have commented that long lived RBCs do not occur with athletes. This is where it will be good to have more data from others once the nequalsmany data is published. It would be interesting to see if elevated HbA1c is a common phenomenon.
Hi, came here via a link on paleoforums.com . I’ve been “into” health an diet for nine years, thousands of hours of research. Some random comments:
I accept that some people thrive on a carnivorous diet. Meaning, healing. Personally, I tried it once and was food bored out of my mind in a few days………and I gained weight because of lack of satiety.
I’m surprised that you didn’t mention Owsley Stanley, aka Bear, the most famous carnivore, fifty years of meat only. https://zerocarbzen.com/the-bear/
The matter of elevated A1c and fasting blood glucose is well known, anecdotally, in the paleo/low carb communities. Why? And, more importantly, are the numbers not applicable on a glucose free diet?
There is peer reviewed literature that finds it is the sodium/potassium ratio that is important, not the absolutes. All natural foods that I’ve ever looked at have more potassium than sodium, especially plant foods. There is one food in which they are equal, eggs. Which was the only food some guy ate well into his 80’s. Twenty four to thirty a day. https://www.bing.com/search?q=man+eats+eggs+only&qs=n&form=QBRE&sp=-1&pq=undefined&sc=0-17&sk=&cvid=6567BF6FAB644A998081B3FCA219124B
Denise Minger has done some great work that shows, in an oversimplified summary, that the extremes of fat consumption often lead to healing what ails ya. Under 10% of calories or over 70? %.
The concerns raised here, well, concern me. Do some people thrive on vegan diets and carnivore diets, while many don’t? Outliers? What about O6:O3 ratios? Is that all bogus? What about methionine, abundant in meat, which when restricted OR countered with additional glycine results in much longer life spans?
Question for Marty and vegans: where’s the TAURINE (in both the diet and in the nutrient lists)? Our hearts need taurine to operate, and the only natural source of it is meats (preferably heart meat).
Taurine is a non-essential nutrient, so it’s not listed on the charts.
Marty, I find Amy’s account of her zero carb experience very interesting. I would be curious to see what and how much she was eating. The nutrition optimizer site seems to be down at the moment.
I have seen numerous accounts of women who have the exact opposite experience. Their cycles (and hormones) appear to regulate on zero carb. Some, like Amy, with no periods (usually from eating keto and restricting protein and calories) see their periods return after a few months on carnivorous diet. Lack of period is usually an indication of starvation/undereating or too little body fat in women (the extreme case being those suffering from anorexia). Same goes for her lack of energy and inability to exercise. I find her story hard to believe if she were eating sufficient amount of protein and fat. And based on your and her accounts, that doesn’t appear to be the case.
I enjoyed reading your nutritional analysis of a carnivorous diet. I appreciate that there are questions we don’t necessarily know the answers to in terms of nutrition. I just worry that women might be put off by Amy’s experience when they don’t in fact have the full story. (What did she weigh 2.5 years in? How much did she eat daily? What did she weigh when she switched to mixed diet? What does she eat daily today? What is her weight today?) In other words, was the carnivorous diet the problem? Or was it not eating enough?
The Nutrient Optimiser is back up now after some quick maintenance.
I pinged Amy and she provided this following response: “I had no cycle for 4 years prior to ZC. I started ZC (at 135 lbs) hoping my hormones would regulate and cycle would come back. I gained about 12 lbs and then lost about 20 lbs. during first 2 years ZC. I then started gaining again at ZC 2 year mark (back up to 145 lbs). After 2.5 years ZC, cycle never returned. I was eating a minimum of 1700 calories a day on ZC, but most often it was around 2000 calories a day on average. I switched back to a mixed diet in January weighing about 145 lbs. and eating 1700-2000 calories a day. My cycle returned within 2 months of going back to a mixed diet. I’m up to about 150 lbs. now. I’m eating lean meats, lots of yogurt, cottage cheese, lots of vegetables, potatoes, and lots of fruit.”
A person weighing 135lb at 5’7″ is quite lean already. 1700 calories even on a mixed diet is quite low. Even based on your analysis, it is barely above her BMR. Maybe if she were bedridden, it might have been sufficient to maintain her current weight but certainly not to reverse deficiencies and power any sort of activity. And if you are not consuming carbohydrates, it is definitely insufficient, especially for a woman who has been severely malnourished given the lack of cycle for 4 years. Based on the profile in the nutrient optimizer, she was only consuming 50% calories from fat. On a ZC diet, your energy source is fat. Her fatigue and lack of energy was due to the insufficient fat intake. At 5’7″ and 135lbs and even 145lbs, you don’t have enough fat on your body to sustain prolong deprivation.
It appears now she is back to consuming low fat and relatively high carb(sugar) (lots of fruits) diet. I am glad she has seen some improvements but we now know where that leads to long term.
Amy never did ZC properly. She was always restricting and doing extended fasts, something we do not support, because it is not healthy. She is a perfect example of what happens when people restrict and fast. Her health deteriorated, she went back to a mixed diet and now blames ZC for her ill health.
ZC has helped many people regain health. In the 10 years I have been ZC and helping people with this diet I have never seen a person who didn’t see improvements in health after adopting the all meat zero carb diet. It is sad when somebody who never did the diet properly, is in the spotlight making claims that are misleading and could scare people off who might benefit from this diet.
Did you see the comments from Amy above? Without having full LBM calcs 1700 to 2000 cals per day seems like a fair amount. Agree that everyone is different. It’ll definitely be great to build some more data on more people’s results on ZC.
Her calories were coming from fat. She was restricting protein, which also restricts nutrients and doing extended fasts, which further restricts nutrients and reduces lean mass and bone. If they have not already been deleted, you can see for yourself what she was eating in Principa Carnivora.
“Amy never did ZC properly”
Cult language at its best. You can hear the same line from vegans, paleos, macrobiotics, etc. Funny how n=1 is good but only if it agrees with your principles.
Absolutely fabulous article Marty, what a very unbiased look at these valuable tools we all use as Health Care Professionals. This was a perfect follow up to the listen of Robb wolf crunch the data of Shawns lab work. Although the arguments of why his glucose and A1C was so high, I can’t help but think that the blood glucose meter simply doesn’t lie. It’s really simple eat a ton of protein and check your blood glucose the next day, then eat a moderate amount of protein and check your glucose following that. It’s clear to see how just a little extra protein will raise blood glucose the following morning.
That being said I think the carnivore diet is a great tool to use for people who may have developed lots of sensitivities. I know a few who either way over did vegetables or came from crappy sad diet the carnivore does great for. But does that mean they have found the Holy Grail of dieting. The one golden unicorn diet! We both know the answer to that…..
I applaud your efforts and love using the nutrient optimizer! Carry on man!
Marty, have you seen the work of Paleomedicina in Hungary? Here is a link to one of the case studies they published on treating Type 1 diebetes with a carnivorous ketogenic diet.
I’ve been intrigued to learn more about these guys. However I just saw a paper from them that was saying that they don’t use basal insulin and don’t correct unless BG is greater than 10mmol/L. Comment from RD Dikeman that it was the dumbest thing he’d seen and that it was going to kill kids with diabetic ketoacidosis. So still skeptical.
THanks for another excellent post. However, I am curious about why you say there is no Vitamin C nor K1 in animal–that is, you can only find these in plants. I recently attended AHS18 and LowCarbUSA, and at both conferences, I talked to speakers who said that animal contains both. Could you make it clearer why you say meat doesn’t? I’m not trying to disagree–just need more clarity. The reason it matters is that until recently, I ate some plants just for those 2 nutrients, and I feel much better and am having lower fasting blood glucose on a meat and dairy only diet (even though I was keto-adapted for last 6 years–which, ironically, I remain even though I thought this much protein with this reduction in fat would kick me out). There might be others like me whose decision to eat plants or not is hinging on C and K1. Thanks for all your amazing and wonderful work, Marty!!!
My understanding is that K1 is in plant foods and K2 in animal foods and the body can convert some K2 to K1 as required. There is generally not a lot of C in animal products so they often don’t quantify it, however the demand for C goes down if you are consuming less glucose.
In reference to the Mikhaila Peterson section, why do articles almost always prefix “Jordan Peterson” with “controversial”? Just put the name and let the readers form their own opinions. I don’t find him at all controversial, just common sense.
Great article, thanks!
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