Recently, we introduced a carnivore recipe sharing channel in the Senza app for keto and fasting. Much to our surprise, thousands of people signed up within a few weeks. What’s driving all this interest, and is it something you should consider?
A carnivore style of keto focuses on animal-based foods like red meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy. It's also commonly called a zero-carb diet, although some people include a limited amount of fruit, coffee, and seasonings.
Why would someone eliminate most or all plants, when conventional wisdom calls for "eating your colors" and having nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day? It's a little-known secret that plants have many defense mechanisms, called anti-nutrients, which can interfere with digestion and cause inflammation. On top of that, industrial row crops are sprayed with heavy amounts of toxic chemicals that end up in the body. Many people don't notice the adverse effects of these foods until they eliminate plants from their diets - temporarily, or for good.
Going carnivore can be an eye-opening option for those who:
Have tried keto and reached a weight stall or other roadblock
Struggle with autoimmune symptoms, gut dysfunction, or joint pain
Want to try a more simplified version of keto, in which the entire animal kingdom is in, and all of the plant kingdom is out - no need to read labels or track net carbs when you're eating this way
Have been told by a practitioner to try the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), which is essentially carnivore plus a few select plants
Why carnivore works
Compounds like oxalates, phytates, phytoestrogens, tannins, goitrogens and lectins protect plants from pests and from being eaten by animals. Unfortunately, they also impair your digestion and absorption of various proteins, vitamins, and minerals. You’ll find these antinutrients lurking in grains, beans, legumes, dark leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, nuts, and seeds. Some of the negative effects can be minimized by soaking, sprouting, and cooking; however, for people with severe autoimmune conditions, gut dysfunction, or joint pain, often the only answer is avoidance.
Variety is key
Most carnivore proponents agree that eating a variety of protein sources keeps things interesting and provides a good mix of nutrients. Always try to get wild, grass-fed, or pastured vs. conventional meat and wild-caught vs. farmed seafood. Regenerative farming practices are better for your body, and also for the environment.
Another consideration is the balance of muscle meat you eat relative to collagen and gelatin (derived from skin and bones) in your diet. Since different parts of an animal provide different amino acids, it’s important to consider the methionine to glycine ratio. You can learn more about it in this comprehensive post from the Armstrong Sisters. Sipping and cooking with bone broth is an easy way to increase your intake of glycine.
One area where some longtime carnivores disagree with the experts is around the importance of organ meat. Liver is particular is one of the most nutrient-dense parts of the animal and provides a good dose of bioavailable micronutrients, including pre-formed Vitamin A. That said, anecdotally many people in carnivore forums report eating primarily muscle meat for a decade or more and have achieved health improvements without including offal in their meals. If you’re organ-curious, many stores and grassfed meat subscriptions now carry a primal ground beef mix that includes liver and heart, or you can blend your own at home.
Some of the experts who advocate for eating organs have created brands that sell dried liver supplements. These seem like a next-best option for those who don’t want to cook liver, but they have not yet been studied adequately to our knowledge. This article explains how glandular supplements are made and used as therapy. Michael Kummer also published a review of top brands, before launching his own product. If you decide to take these or other supplements, it’s a good idea to test periodically for micronutrient levels so you can adjust your nutrition if anything is out of range.
Stomach acid and fiber
When transitioning to a carnivore diet, you might experience some initial digestive upset. One reason this happens is that stomach acid is required to break down protein rich foods, especially meat. If you’re starting carnivore with a past history of low protein consumption, it can take your body some time to adjust. With time, your body will start to produce more stomach acid in response to your increased protein and meat consumption.
Many people also wonder how to get fiber if you’re only eating meat. Fiber may not play the role we’ve all been told. Recent studies show that removing fiber from the diet can improve digestion.
A touch of honey
When you are metabolically healthy and no longer addicted to sugar, a little fructose can do a lot for your energy levels. Some previously strict carnivores have changed their tune on fruit after experimenting with adding small amounts of berries, honey, and citrus back into the mix.
What about macros?
When you switch to a carnivore-keto way of eating, carb intake will drop to near-zero, and you’ll be in nutritional ketosis. You may still want to track nutrition intake for a while to be sure you’re hitting your daily protein target and getting enough dietary fat; active individuals especially need to be sure to eat enough to fuel their workouts. Tracking other lifestyle metrics like sleep and mood can be helpful to give you an idea of the changes you’re experiencing.
In sum, going carnivore can provide insight and options for people who are troubleshooting complex health circumstances. Some will conclude that their bodies simply cannot tolerate plants; others, when given time to heal, may be able to reintroduce certain vegetables little by little and enjoy the full variety of foods on the planet.
Have you tried a carnivore-keto way of eating? Subscribe to comment and share your experience with the tribe. Senza app users, drop a note in the coaching chat window if you have questions about carnivore or you’d like to be connected to our Carnivore-Keto recipe sharing channel.