As some of you know, I recently decided to take a plunge into a dietary experiment: 1 month of the CARNIVORE diet. With that, you likely have two initial questions:
Is that what it sounds like? Short answer: Yes, basically all animal product.
Why? Short answer: Because there has been a lot of ANECDOTAL (no proven research) reports of great results for various health conditions and I wanted to experiment myself.
So what did I do? My day typically consisted of a decently long intermittent fast (16-24 hours) followed by 1-2 meals. The dietary measures I was most concerned with were the following:
50/50 Fat-to-Protein Ratio. Basically, if I ate one pound of 85% lean ground beef, I would be very close to 100 grams of fat and 100 grams of protein. So 1:1, there.
Get enough COLLAGEN, which is rich in glycine, to balance out all that muscle meat that is rich in methionine.
Get in wild caught salmon, salmon roe, or sardines twice a week.
Get a decent dose (4-6 ounces) of lamb liver 1-2 times a week.
The foods I ate were as follows. I specify grass fed and pasture raised because it is MUCH more anti-inflammatory than conventional meats and eggs:
Grass Fed Ground Lamb (80% lean)
Grass Fed Lamb Shoulder
Grass Fed Ground Beef (85% lean)
Grass Fed Ribeye or NY Strip
Pasture Raised Egg Yolks only
Organ Meats (lamb liver mostly)
Wild Caught Salmon, Salmon Roe, or Sardines
My most common day, especially if active, would consist of about 2-3 pounds of meat, essentially. I usually would just throw in egg yolks, our collagen powder, or any organ meats or fish with the main meat source I consumed. A very small amount of plant food made it into my diet in the form of organic dark chocolate or raw macadamia nuts. I guess that makes me a carnivore hypocrite.
So what in the world did all of that FAT and MEAT do to my standard blood markers? Let’s have a look.
Below are my results BEFORE the carnivore diet. Basically, I was following a low carb diet at this point rich in greens, olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, pasture-raised eggs and meat, etc. Think Mediterranean Diet. I was also exercising a lot. Feel free to scroll passed if you want to just get the gist at the end of the newsletter.
Now the results after about 3 weeks of the carnivore diet. I was not exercising as much as pre-carnivore and was focusing more on strength training rather than endurance training.
So you see my pre- and post-carnivore diet results. What are the main takeaways?
Yes, my cholesterol went up. From a “normal” 199 mg/dL to “high” 262 mg/dL. My LDL (“bad”) cholesterol went up from 121 mg/dL to 173 mg/dL. Both normal. I’m actually quite HAPPY they went up. There’s been no proven correlation between high total or LDL cholesterol and heart disease. As a matter of fact, HIGHER LDL cholesterol levels have been associated with LONGER life span and LOWER risk of all cause mortality. Study here. Put simply, if you have higher LDL levels, your risk of dying from chronic disease is lowered. There is a caveat to that, which brings me to the next point...
My triglycerides went DOWN 32 points, from 92 mg/dL to 60 mg/dL. Again, both normal. My HDL (“good”) cholesterol went up about 18 points, from “normal” 59 mg/dL to “high” 77 mg/dL. These are important points. One of the very BEST markers of cardiovascular risk is your triglyceride to HDL ratio. Study here. You want this ratio to be between 1 and 2, ideally less than 1. Interestingly, my ratio pre-carnivore was 1.55. Honestly, I wasn’t really happy with this given I was on a very “heart healthy” diet. After about 3 weeks of carnivore, my ratio went down to 0.78. Wait, what? Yes...according to my triglyceride to HDL ratio, my cardiovascular disease DECREASED by a relative 50 percent. Turns out my arteries and heart like all that evil saturated fat and red meat. Also of note, I seemed to have lost 5-6 pounds as well. I’d assume much of that is water, however.
My kidney function was not compromised. My urinalysis was actually better, with lower total protein excretion and lower urine specific gravity. My GFR was relatively unchanged. My Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) increased likely due to the increased protein.
I actually felt good, better than I have in months, on this carnivore approach. My mental clarity actually increased dramatically. This was a surprise, honestly. One smaller detail that mattered to me was that my cold hands and feet went away. This was likely due to the thermogenesis from increased protein intake. This also could have been ramping up my thyroid function as well, as I’ve been “hypothyroid” in the past.
Lastly, I had very little to no bloating following meals. This was mostly because of the almost complete lack of fiber. My bowel movements did decrease. And they would...no fiber means your gut bugs that digest that fiber aren’t doing as much because animal products are usually digested before they reach the large intestine where all that poop is made. Kind of throws a wrench in that whole debate of whether fiber is actually necessary for certain populations of people. This carnivore approach can be a potential part of an intervention for digestive issues or autoimmune conditions. Again, very anecdotal.
So all-in-all, I liked this experiment. I don’t really have a desire to continue this long term. If anything, this gave me incentive to up my fat and protein intake and lower my overall fibrous and starchy vegetable intake.
My latest experiment is eating more in line with my 23andme ANCESTRY report. I am mostly British and Irish, or Northern European. I am also 2/3 Neanderthal. The Northern European diet is the traditional “meat and potatoes” diet. It consists of mostly meats and smaller portions of starchy or fibrous vegetables. Makes sense on why I may have felt better eating more cuts of meat and a little less veggie.
I hope you found this helpful in some way. I do these experiments so I can give you and those you care about the best advice possible. My policy is don’t recommend unless I try it first. If you need a change, feel free to schedule a functional medicine or chiropractic visit, depending on what’s ailing you.