Carnivore Diet Plan
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to consume meat, fish, and dairy products exclusively? The carnivore diet, a dietary approach that has gained popularity in recent years, raises precisely this question. In this article, I will take you on a journey through the carnivore diet, exploring its foundations, potential benefits and challenges, and finally, I will offer a professional perspective on it.
The carnivore diet centered around the almost exclusive consumption of animal-derived foods, has captured the attention of many people seeking a way of eating that promises improvements in health and performance. But what does science say about it?
Join me as we delve into the essential nutrients obtained from animal-derived foods and explore the potential long-term health effects. Whether you are interested in trying the carnivore diet or simply want to learn more about this controversial approach, this blog will provide you with solid and balanced information to help you make informed decisions about your diet. Let’s get started!
What is the Carnivore Diet?
As the name suggests, the carnivore diet is based on the exclusive consumption of grass-fed red meats and drinking only water as the primary beverage. Therefore, it is a restrictive diet that eliminates foods containing carbohydrates, such as grains, cereals, legumes, flour, baked goods, processed products, fruits, vegetables, and some fatty foods.
Historical Origins of the Carnivore Diet
The idea of basing one’s diet on animal-derived products has a long history in human evolution. Before the development of agriculture, our ancestors heavily relied on hunting and gathering for sustenance. During this period, diets were predominantly carnivorous, providing a foundation for the argument that the carnivore diet reflects an adaptation to our ancestral biology.
Within the carnivore diet, there are different variations to consider:
- Adjunct Carnivore Diet: This version of the carnivore diet is primarily for people who have never tried this type of diet. Unlike the original carnivore diet, it allows for limited consumption of fruits and vegetables, but it does not eliminate them entirely as the original version does. However, despite being more permissive, this version of the diet is still restrictive when it comes to foods high in carbohydrates, such as grains, legumes, cereals, tubers, processed products, and foods high in carbohydrates and sugars.
- Eliminatory Carnivore Diet: This diet is the most restrictive version of this type of dietary plan. It is based on consuming exclusively grass-fed beef and offal, seasoning the food only with salt, and drinking only water as a beverage. This version is much more restrictive and challenging to follow, making it not recommended for people who have never experienced such a calorie and food variety-restricted diet.
- Standard Carnivore Diet: This version primarily includes animal-derived foods, such as red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, pork, eggs, and dairy products, among others.
Fundamentals of the Carnivore Diet
The carnivore diet is based on several key principles:
- Essential Nutrients: Animal-derived foods are rich in essential nutrients, such as high-quality proteins, vitamins (e.g., B12), and minerals (e.g., iron). These nutrients are crucial for maintaining proper bodily functions and supporting health.
- Elimination of Antinutrients: The carnivore diet eliminates antinutrients found in plant-derived foods, such as phytates and oxalates. By doing so, it is argued that potential negative interactions with nutrient absorption are reduced.
- Simplicity and Ease of Adherence: The carnivore diet is often praised for its simplicity. By focusing on a limited group of foods, it is argued to be easier to follow for some people compared to more complex diets.
- Carbohydrate Reduction: By eliminating carbohydrates from the diet, sugar and starch intake is reduced, which can help control blood glucose and promote ketosis, a metabolic state in which the body burns fats for energy.
- Potential Inflammation Reduction: Some people report reduced inflammation and allergies when following the carnivore diet. However, it is important to note that these effects can vary from person to person.
How Does the Carnivore Diet Work and How Can It Aid Fat Loss?
The carnivore diet is a dietary plan that, while not its primary goal, can lead to a state of ketosis. To understand what ketosis means, we must first have a basic understanding of how energy systems work within our metabolism.
When we have a varied diet with carbohydrate consumption, carbohydrates serve as our main source of energy. After carbohydrates are ingested, they go through a digestion and absorption process that occurs along the entire gastrointestinal tract, starting with salivary amylases and continuing in the initial portion of the small intestine, thanks to pancreatic amylases. Once these carbohydrates are sufficiently broken down, they are absorbed by enterocytes (intestinal cells) and, once in our bloodstream, they are distributed throughout our body to enter cells and provide energy efficiently and quickly.
When our energy needs are met, carbohydrates are involved in an energy storage process called glycogenesis. In this process, an energy “storehouse” is created in skeletal muscle and primarily in the liver, where carbohydrates are stored to be used later in certain situations.
Glucose-Alanine Cycle in Carnivore Diet
When you do not consume carbohydrates, your body undergoes an adaptive metabolic process. First, a process called the “glucose-alanine cycle” occurs. This is a metabolic process in which, due to the carbohydrate deficit, the body seeks to obtain energy from non-carbohydrate compounds. In this case, the compound is alanine, which comes from the breakdown of muscle cells, resulting in the release of the amino acid alanine into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, alanine travels to the liver, where gluconeogenesis occurs.
Alanine is broken down into pyruvate and ammonia through a process called deamination. The resulting pyruvate enters the gluconeogenesis process and produces glucose. This adaptive process, known as the “glucose-alanine cycle,” is the primary energy provider in a carbohydrate deficit for a certain period until a metabolic adaptation occurs. In this adaptation, the body begins to use the stored fatty acids in adipose tissue as the primary source of energy, leading to a state of ketosis and beta-oxidation.
Ketosis State in Carnivore Diet
Ketosis is a metabolic state in which the body primarily uses fats, in the form of fatty acids and ketone bodies, as the main source of energy instead of carbohydrates. Ketosis is related to beta-oxidation in that both are linked to fat metabolism. When you do not consume carbohydrates, the body initiates beta-oxidation, a process that begins to break down fatty acids to produce ATP (the main source of energy).
These fatty acids are broken down into acetyl-CoA, which has the potential to enter the Krebs cycle to generate ATP. However, unlike carbohydrates, triglycerides and diglycerides have much more carbon in their chemical structure, which means that in their degradation, the Krebs cycle can become “saturated” and unable to accept more than a certain amount of acetyl-CoA. This saturation leads to excess acetyl-CoA that cannot immediately enter the Krebs cycle and, to prevent its accumulation is transformed into certain compounds, such as acetone, acetoacetate, and beta-hydroxybutyrate, collectively known as ketone bodies. These molecules can be used as an additional energy source for the brain and other tissues when glucose is scarce.
In summary, a low or absent carbohydrate intake in the carnivore diet can lead to a state of ketosis in which we begin to use the fats stored in our adipose tissue as the primary source of energy. This allows us to, to some extent, reduce body fat and, consequently, lose weight.
The benefits attributed to this type of diet include:
- Weight Loss
- Blood Glucose Control
- Reduction in Autoimmune Disease Symptoms
- Individual Improvement in Gastrointestinal Symptoms
These benefits can be attributed to factors such as:
- Caloric Deficit: It is not always the case, but due to the highly satiating nature of the foods and the restrictive nature of the diet, people tend to eat less. This leads to fat loss with associated benefits. Additionally, the high protein content minimizes muscle loss. In essence, it’s a kind of Protein-Sparing Modified Fast (PSMF). However, if the goal is rapid weight loss, a more varied ketogenic diet is preferable.
- Ketosis: By significantly restricting carbohydrates (almost to zero), ketone bodies are elevated, leading to many associated benefits, including satiety, reduced overall inflammation, and enhanced mental clarity.
- Gastrointestinal Rest: Meat is absorbed entirely in the small intestine, producing minimal waste and giving the rest of the digestive tract a break.
- Reduction in Bacterial Overgrowth: Limiting the food for invasive bacteria is believed to improve various intestinal symptoms. However, the same results can be achieved with less radical treatments.
- Fewer Sensitivities: By eliminating almost all suspected elements (gluten and other lectins, nuts, fruits, etc.), problems related to unknown sensitivities to these compounds may be reduced.
Possible Challenges of the Carnivore Diet
On the other hand, there are certain complications and challenges within the carnivore diet. Since it remains a restrictive diet that relies on a limited group of foods, some obstacles to overcome may include:
- Deficiency in vitamins and minerals, especially magnesium and vitamin C.
- High consumption of saturated fats.
- Increased risk of cardiovascular problems.
- Increased risk of hypercholesterolemia.
- Excessive protein intake can increase renal workload.
- Low consumption of unsaturated fats.
- Lack of dietary fiber.
- High consumption of acrylamides (if meats are roasted).
- If processed meats are consumed, a higher intake of these has been linked to an increased risk of cancer.
- Reduced environmental sustainability, as meat production, carries a significant environmental burden.
The Carnivore Diet in Athletes:
While there is a direct relationship between increased protein consumption, physical activity, muscle gain, and improved performance, there is no scientific evidence demonstrating an improvement in performance or muscle gain in athletes who typically follow a carnivore diet. As a sports nutrition specialist, I think a carnivore diet can impose certain energy and carbohydrate restrictions that may not benefit the anabolic process and thus may not help improve performance or physical capabilities.
Sample Weekly Carnivore Diet Plan
|breakfast||3 scrambled eggs with 2 slices of fresh cheese||4 slices of ham with 1 fried egg||Sweet Carnivore Pancakes||3 scrambled eggs with 3 slices of ham||2 grilled sausages with 1 fried egg||egg omelet with grilled cheese||Sweet Carnivore Pancakes|
|lunch||300 grams of smoked salmon with avocado sauce||250 grams of grilled chicken breast||300 grams of beef liver, 1 cup of bone broth||250 grams of beef steak, 1 cup of bone broth||300 grams of Chicken Iskender Kebab||300 grams of grilled pork belly||250 grams of Buttered Shrimp|
|snack||egg cloud bread sandwich, with ham and cheese||2 servings of carnivore cheesecake||1 cup of Carnivore vanilla pudding||3 slices of ham and 3 slices of cheese||2 servings of carnivore cheesecake||2 servings of Carnivore Bread||Greek Yogurt Eggs|
|dinner||200 grams of ground beef cheeseburger, 1 cup bone broth||300 grams of lamb chops||300 grams of tuna steak||300 grams of grilled shrimp||300 grams of cod steak||2 ketogenic wraps with chopped pork||300 grams of chicken with oyster sauce|
My Opinion as a Nutritionist:
Often, when someone experiences improved health after making a significant change, they become dogmatic and believe that the intervention that worked for them is always the best option.
However, this can be a mistake.
The reality is that there is significant individual variability, and there are no one-size-fits-all solutions for complex health issues since health is multifactorial. While the carnivore diet has logical foundations and enthusiastic followers, it’s important to acknowledge that it also has its critics. Scientific evidence regarding its benefits and risks is still evolving, and more longitudinal research is needed to fully understand its long-term impact on health.
Considering the challenges that come with this way of eating, my professional opinion is that one should avoid extreme approaches to nutrition. The carnivore diet is a dietary style with many restrictions, both in terms of calories and micro and macronutrients. It can be difficult to follow as it limits a wide variety of foods, focusing solely on animal-derived foods in the case of the more permissive carnivore diet.
Knowing that the benefits that the carnivore diet offers can be achieved with a varied diet, increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, reduced consumption of ultra-processed foods, increased consumption of whole grains, and lifestyle changes such as engaging in physical activity, my personal recommendation is that before adopting this type of diet, you should consult with a healthcare professional specialized in the subject. They can assess your individual situation, provide necessary follow-ups, and help you make an informed decision about the path to follow.
Carnivore Cheesecake (Video Recipe)
- O’Hearn, Amber. Can a carnivore diet provide all essential nutrients? Current Opinion in Endocrinology & Diabetes and Obesity 27(5):p 312-316, October 2020. | DOI: 10.1097/MED.0000000000000576
- Alexander, D. D., & Cushing, C. A. (2011). Red meat and colorectal cancer: A critical summary of prospective epidemiologic studies. Obesity Reviews, Vol. 12. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-789X.2010.00785.x
- Lippi, G., Mattiuzzi, C., & Cervellin, G. (2016, enero 1). Meat consumption and cancer risk: A critical review of published meta-analyses. Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology, Vol. 97, pp. 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.critrevonc.2015.11.008
- Longland, T. M., Oikawa, S. Y., Mitchell, C. J., DeVries, M. C., & Phillips, S. M. (2016). Higher compared with lower dietary protein during an energy deficit combined with intense exercise promotes greater lean mass gain and fat mass loss: A randomized trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 103(3), 738-746. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.115.119339