Uppdaterad: 18 jun 2018
Carnivore diet is an extreme low carb diet that has been trending in the low carb community for a while now, and as with all health trends I get curious and want to try it out for myself.
I have been aware of the zero carb community for a long time but it wasn't until I found dr Shawn Baker that I got the guts to try it. He's posting a lot of thought provoking articles and real life stories on his instagram and webpage. Check it out, it's impossible to not get intrigued.
"Eat meat drink water"
This is the basic concept; eat meat drink water. I tried to follow this as closely as possible so I just bought a lot of ground beef and fried it with butter. I've seen carnivores on Instagram eating nothing but rib eye steak but that would be incredibly expensive for me, and I didn't feel like breaking the bank just for this experiment. After a few days I realized that eggs and fish is perfectly fine to eat, so I added that.
Being ketogenic for 8 years I'm used to many different sources of fat, like coconut oil, coconut cream, MCT-oil, olive oil and coconut butter so I struggled with getting enough energy from fat. I also noticed that it's a bit tricky to add fat to a fatty piece of fish, because it's already so fatty it's literally swimming of the plate! That's when leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables come in handy, as a carrier for fat.
Ground beef with butter
Lack of energy
So without the veggies it was hard for me to get enough energy, especially as 30% of the calories from proteins are needed for their break down. Proteins are also extremely satiating so a couple of days I struggled getting to 600kcal!
My normal intake on a dairy free ketogenic diet is around 3000kcal with 150-200g fat per day.
I kept adding butter to increase the calories but it was hard for me for some reason. When I see how others do it, they have a more sophisticated approach and switch between organ meats and really nice cuts of lamb, pork and beef whereas I'm a person that hates cooking and eat straight from the pan.
I've also seen so many types of carnivores, some eat only raw meat and some eat a regular LCHF-diet (Low Carb High Fat) without the vegetables.
Blood sugar swings
I had some blood sugar issues the first week dropping below 3 mmol/l (55mg/dl) probably because my body was struggling a bit with the protein load, excreted some insulin despite not having had any carbs. It made me pretty sluggish and I tried to combat it with caffeine.
Trouble maintaining a stable ketosis
I'm spoiled with being used to a very stable and smooth ketosis so it wasn't very pleasant to experience fluctuating blood sugar and a dip in ketones. No sugar, no ketones = no fuel! Caffeine can only do so much, and I had a long period completely off it, so now I have to quit this bad habit again. It sucks because it's so hard to quit caffeine and I'm so proud of myself every time I quit and so utterly disappointed every time I start again. Caffeine and dairy protein is devilish addiction.
Shawn Baker said in a podcast that you should force feed on meat when you first start this diet. I reckon it's the same as a traditional ketogenic diet where you force feed on fat until you get used to it, and it works. Fat is a little easier to digest though.
Because of my unstable blood sugar I got intense sugar cravings for the first time in... years? It was quite unexpected and unpleasant and when it hit it was really hard not to give in. But I never did, and it got a lot better the second week.
More fat solved the problem
The magic number for a ketogenic diet is 70E% fat per meal and per day, and it's really hard to hit this range without added fats. When I talked to other carnivores many of them used hard cheese and heavy cream in their food. Their reasoning was that as long as it's from the animal kingdom and not plant based, it's still carnivorous and thus ok. This information didn't comply with what I had read so far, but I added heavy cream and home-made Bearnaise (no oil, only butter) and it really helped.
White fish with whipped butter with anchovy
Positive effects of the carnivore diet
Let's talk about some of the effects I experienced during this test period;
No hay fever
No cat allergy
Improved sense of smell
Change of taste
I could not leave the house April-July because of hay fever, before I started the keto diet 8 years ago. I still get a slight reaction every spring; itchy eyes and nose and I usually take some anti-histamine if I'm going to spend time in a park or so. During my carnivore experiment, I didn't feel anything. My mother asked me if it was troubling with all the pollen outside, and I didn't know what she was talking about. Pollen? Now? Yes the grass is green and it's flowers everywhere so I suppose it's as much pollen as it always is this time of year. I rolled around in the grass outside but I didn't feel anything, no reaction. That was pretty cool.
My cat allergy has not improved on the keto diet, but I didn't react to cats during the carnivore experiment. I didn't bury my nose in fur but I carried a friend's cat for a while and my sweater got full of fur. No reaction. That use to be enough to trigger an allergic response.
An all meat diet really feels like a "clean reset" and I noticed that some foods tasted differently. I tried a small piece of chocolate for example and it tasted like dirt. It was like I developed a sixth sense and could taste and smell if something upsets my biochemistry or microbiom. Things that are included in the keto diet in small amounts, but that I'm better of without because it triggers my IBS for example (but eat anyway). Now I could kind of smell it. I'm talking about nut butters, dark chocolate, berries and seeds.
Fast weight loss, no bloating. This is of course related to my struggles with getting enough calories, but I did continue to lose weight after I added the cream and Bearnaise. No surprise though, I'm not a big believer in calories anyway.
My favorite keto smoothie
Discontinued the experiment after 4 weeks
I discontinued the experiment after 4 weeks with my favorite keto smoothie made of coconut cream, MCT-oil, blueberries, egg yolk and grated coconut flakes. Smoothies are one way to secure my fat intake and make sure I don't dip during the day.
A few minutes after I had eaten the smoothie I got a rash that spread from my chest up to my neck. Histamine reaction, oddly enough. Probably not the eggs but perhaps the blueberries...? The coconut?
The same evening I had a gluten free low carb beer and some roasted peanuts and immediately got a stuffy nose and itchy eyes. I can get this reaction from red wine and cured meat as well.
After the carnivore diet
Broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, kale and other green stuff is making the keto diet easier by bringing variation as well as being a great carrier for fat. I love broccoli mash with MCT-oil, home made mayo and kale sauteed in butter. Removing the veggies made me a bit confused about how to balance my macros, but it's definitely possible to make it work if you give it time.
I'm very impressed by the results people seem to get and I'm also amazed by my own results so far. I did get a little weaker first week but I regained my strength pretty fast, but haven't experienced anything extraordinary in the gym. A month is probably to little time for that.
The carnivore diet has a lot of hormonal and metabolic benefits, as it contains a lot of the exact nutrients we need in just the right amount. Muscle meat, fatty meat and organ meats contain a whole bunch of vitamins and minerals and no anti-nutrients like plants tend to do. The digestive tract thrives and digestive issues is but a distant memory.
How I will continue
I'm not continuing the carnivore diet at the moment but I will be very observant of things that might trigger histamine reactions, allergies, bloating and digestive issues.
When I narrow down my food options I tend to feel deprived and compensate for it with coffee, diet coke or other questionable things I normally don't eat or drink. I would like to be able to follow the simple "eat meat, drink water" but I'm not motivated to cut down on kale and things I genuinely believe is healthy for me. It's too extreme at the moment, so I'll stick to my dairy free keto diet for now.
Have you tried the carnivore diet yet? Tell me about your exeperience!