12 months a carnivore
If you are like most people out there, you may clutch your pearls at the thought of somebody eating nothing but or mostly meat. And when it’s not meat it is exclusively from the animal kingdom. And NO fruits and vegetables!
Turns out there are lots of people like this. Not only are they doing fine — they’re thriving on it!
I am one of these freaky weirdos and here is why and what it is like.
My story — how I became a carnivore
My low carb “career” started, when pants I had bought for a trip to Argentina started to not fit any more. Although I would explain it away, or tuck in my tummy, I knew that this was not ok.
Everybody has a certain self-image. And mine was definitely not that of a fat and lazy arse. I clearly remember one day when I went to the supermarket that I could feel the fat dribble around my belly.
It’s not to say that I was obese, not even remote. I was rather slim by the standards of most people but I could feel I was drifting slowly away from my self-image. Unless I did something about it.
I had remotely heard something about carbohydrates being responsible for growing fat. I thought that low carb was just one of many diet crazes that regularly swash across the pond.
I was heavily influenced by certain Joe Weider bodybuilding magazines from the early 1990s which advocated for eating lots of carbohydrates, especially pasta and stuff. Which I did. In hindsight it is really a wonder I did not grow fat — although I could never really get rid of my belly fat. Despite running and all.
With this background, reducing carbohydrates striked me as odd. Until I stumbled upon Gary Taubes’ “Good calories, bad calories”, that is (thanks Gary for that! Someday I will translate your book into German — promised.).
We all know this quote which is attributed to Einstein that the definition of madness is that you do the same over and over again always expecting different results.
I had also come across a book by a German cancer-researcher who advocated for low-carb in the treatment of cancer, Dr. Johannes Coy. The book I read was “Die neue Anti-Krebs Ernährung” (The new anti-cancer diet).
I thought: “What the heck? — let’s give it a try!”. I followed Coy’s rule of thumb to reduce carbohydrates to 1g per kg of bodyweight per day.
Results of my low carb journey
I dropped weight and reduced belly fat. I remember losing 5 kg bodyweight within the first week or so. That shocked me. Until I found out that there is a lot of water lost — carbohydrates drive inflammation. Inflammation drives water retention. Reducing inflammation means losing water. This explains most of the rapid weight loss in the beginning and is actually a good sign.
It was not long until I re-fitted into my pants bought for the Argentina-trip again. It is to this day my favorite measure of body-composition.
As most low carbers I first tried to stay as close as possible to “normal eating” — i.e. also eating low carb cakes and stuff. Although I never bought franken-food and always did it myself (I am a hobby-cook so not problem here) I believe that this way of eating does do no service.
For one thing it is hard to get away from your sweet tooth this way. This automatically leads at some point to “Ah, what the heck … let’s eat this chocolate — it’s dark and healthy” or “Come on, one potatoe is not much, is it?”.
So after a while I noticed that belly-fat was creeping in again — then again I had to reduce carbs.
One day — somewhere around my birthday on a hot summer day in August — I believe it was 2012 — I came across a long thread in a low carber forum entitled “The real human diet is a totally carnivorous one”.
In this thread Owsley Stanley, soundman of the Greatful Dead, known as “The Bear” talked about his carnivorous lifestyle he had been on for 47 years! This long thread with lots of interesting (and sometimes hostile) comments took me a few days to read. And I read every single page.
For some reason this idea of a totally carnivorous diet stuck in my head.
A year later I read the whole thread again. It again stuck. I started to eat my steak rare (or “bleu” —fried just one minute from each side).
It was only in 2017 that I stumbled upon Shawn Baker on Twitter who just had started a meat-only diet and posted regularly about it. Meanwhile he has turned into a kind of social-media celebrity with, at the time of this writing, more than 16,000 followers (it was less than a 10th of this when I started following him. Unbelievable!).
At this point I had pondered an all-meat diet for quite a while — and thought that I could try it too.
I also discovered certain carnivore websites which recommend to try an all-meat diet for 30 days (meat and water). I thought I could try it for 30 days.
Damn! I believe the authors of these website know exactly that once you start out on a zero-carb carnivorous journey, you won’t go back.
At least that’s what happened in my case. I have sticked to this all-meat regime since. With the only exception of a piece of low-carb cake on my birthday.
What I eat and drink
- Ribeye or entrecote
- ground beef
- ground beef/pork (50:50)
- chicken (especially chicken wings)
- all kinds of pork
- liver every now and then
I drink water, raw milk, and kefir. Also homemade bone broth. Meanwhile only occasionally coffee — mostly on weekends.
It seems that a carnivorous diet somehow reduces your tolerance for alcohol. Even small amounts may give you a slight hangover. Automatically this leads to a reduction in alcohol consumption. I consider this to be a positive effect. I still consume an occasional glas of dry red wine or carb-reduced beer (for you German guys out there: Freiberger Schankbier or Köstritzer Spezial — only 4–5 grams of carbs per 500ml).
I eat my steaks fried 3 minutes from each side, so basically rare to medium rare. I season with smoked sea-salt and pepper or red pepper.
I consume plant-matter only in terms of condiments: pepper, basil, garlic, onions, lemon.
My current favorite “protein-shake”:
- 200ml raw milk
- vanilla powder
- 2–3 raw eggs
- put in blender and mix well
Recently I have bought my first crock-pot. I love it. It has opened a whole new culinary realm for me.
I have also come to love “smashed burgers”. Which I had never come across before my carnivore way of eating. But they are incredibly tasty.
Butsch’s recipe for smashed burgers:
- 500g of ground beef and ground pork (50:50). You can also use beef-only — but this way the burgers will be even jucier.
- A handful of chopped, fresh basil.
- 1–2 garlic cloves — chopped.
- Teaspoon dried italian seasoning
- Teaspoon of salt (I prefer smoked sea salt)
- Mix well until you have a nice meat dough.
- Take a steel pan and make it really hot. Form a meat ball the size of somewhere between a golf ball and a tennis ball.
- Put meatball in pan and press it flat. I use the downside of a pot. You do not have to use extra fat.
- Fry for 1–2 minutes then turn around and fry again 1–2 minutes.
- Take out the burger and start with the next one
Funny thing about carnivory is that you start to want to eat the same over and over again. I could it ribeye, smashed burgers, and chicken wings every single day and not get tired of it.
Recently find myself gravitating towards experimenting with raw meats — but “pssst!” don’t tell my wife!
My carnivore results
I am 46 and am now have the lowest bodyfat percentage since my early 20s. I feel the urge to workout more than I used to (what I do is intensive kettlebell workouts for 15 minutes and 2 x 20 seconds sprints every now and then).
I am essentially free of pain. Not that I was in pain before — but I somehow feel that my overall connective tissue quality has improved. Which is no wonder given that 15% of your body’s dry mass is collagen. Eating meat means consuming collagen which then can be used by your body to repair any tissue lesions. I believe that lots of pain-patients could relieve most of their issues by simply adopting this way of eating. This is also reflected in lots of anecdotes by people on a carnivore diet (see e.g. meatheals.com, zerocarbzen.com).
Mental clarity. Many people note a certain mental clarity when on very low carb or ketogenic diets. Carnivory, at least in my case, pushes that by a margin. I see clear pictures and am even more outspoken than before.
Clean teeth all the time. I have virtually no plaque on my teeth. They are so clear I sometimes even forget to brush them. Really. Makes me think that dentists are totally superfluous (well honestly: I believe that doctors are in general totally unnecessary — unless in an emergency. Surgeons are probably the only medical “species” of any use.).
I have lost any urge to eat sweet stuff. It simply is not appealing to me any more. Even if it is right in front on me I have no problem ignoring it. To me it is simply no human-appropriate food.
I have lost any left trust whatsoever in any “health” authorities — be it doctors, nutritionists or scientists. All of them have no fricking idea what they are talking about. I can see it from their body composition and also from their body structure. No doctor with a pot-belly is going to tell me what healthy eating is — because he himself is proof that he has no clue.
And , no(!), I have not developed scurvy!
The poop question
One question that seems to really concern people is “Can you poop without fibre?”.
People seem to be kind of obessed with their poop (what would Freud say?).
I normally am reluctant to discuss my poop or poop frequency in public.
But as this is apparently so important to most people I have to cover this here sigh.
Basically not only is fibre not necessary for regular stool — it might even hinder frequent stool and also cause constipation.
As a carnivore for the last 12 months I can definitely say that fibre is not necessary for frequent stool.
What changes on a carnivorous diet is the amount of poop and probably the frequency. When there is no more fibre left in your diet which sucks up lots of water and thus increases in size up to 5 times its original size, then it is logical that the amount of stool is reduced.
A reduction in size may also lead to different frequency of defecation. In the beginning it was in my case only every 2–3 days. Which did not bother me at all.
There have been times on my journey where I infrequently had runny stool. THAT bothered me. And this is how I fixed it:
- I reduced my intake of fluids, i.e. drank LESS. Thing is that it might well be that we need far less water than usually recommended (hey, nutrition “scientists” and medical docs are wrong on practically every single nutritional advice — why would they be right here?). There are two sources I got the idea from: The chapter on “water” in the book “Fiber Menace” by Konstantin Monastyrsky and also from Tim Noakes’ extensive book “Water logged” — if marathon runners just need 1 liter of water when running in warm weather (or can even drink nothing at all) and do fine, even improve performance, then why would Average Joe (or Jane) drink 2–3 Liters per day? Does not make sense to me.
- I reduced coffee intake. Not that I have been much of a coffee drinker. Compared to standard folks I am (was) a moderate coffee-drinker. But nonetheless I felt that this is somehow interfering with my digestion. We do not know much about coffee healthwise. All we have is some epidemiological data linking coffee to a number of health benefits. On the other hand we have alarmists like Stephen Cherniske warning of coffee in “Caffeine Blues”. Caffeine raises cortisol levels — which means putting your body under constant stress. Also caffeine messes with regulatory processes in your cell. Reducing coffee intake, almost abandoning it, feels good in my case. As coffee is also comparatively unnatural it is probably a good idea to reduce intake.
My personal impression is that some advocates on coffee being soooo healthy try somehow to rationalise their own caffeine addiction, citing shitty epidemiological data they would otherwise laugh about.
- I added raw milk and kefir. I was lucky to find a source of raw milk just a 10 minute drive from my home. At 1€ per liter it is rather cheap (ok, adding fuel for getting there it is more like double the price — but that’s ok for me). As raw milk is packed with minerals, enzymes, vitamins and good bacteria I thought this could be a good idea. Same goes for kefir — we have some russian-style kefir in our local supermarket. It’s sour, thick and creamy and incredibly tasty.
This fixed the poop-thingy for me.
I am regular, i.e. I poop almost every day. There might be 2–3 days still without pooping. I don’t care much about this. I trust my body to do what’s right. (Butsch’s first axiom: Your body never does anything wrong!). My stool is consistently Type 4 according to the Bristol Stool Scale. I do not need much toilet paper and it is rarely smelly.
Ok, enough embarassing poop stories for now!
What does it all prove?
James DiNicolantonio, the author of the book “The salt fix”, once asked on Twitter what it is that some people are so keen on restricting their diet in such a way.
Well, James, here is the answer:
It’s fun to prove to yourself that practically everything you have been told about nutrition is complete bullshit.
As there are:
- Eat lots of carbs.
Wrong! Carbs are not essential. They cause obesity and diabetes, destroy your complete metabolism and hormonal balance.
- Meat is bad.
Wrong! If there is anything like a superfood — it’s meat. Full of proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins. Try compare mineral or vitamin content of any plant with meat. Meat will always be way superior.
- Avoid the sun.
Wrong! Sun is essential for producing Vitamin D — which is extremely important to your health. Your body knows best. There is surely a reason why everybody exposes himself to the sun after a long winter, don’t you think?
- Avoid salt.
Wrong! Salt is essential for your body. And it does not raise blood pressure.
- Saturated fat is bad.
Wrong! Saturated fat is essential for your body to function normally. On the other hand vegetable oils — touted as “healthy” — are highly inflammatory and bad for your health.
- Veggies are healthy and neccessary.
Wrong! If 12 months of meat-only showed anything then that veggies are not (again: not) essential in any way. And how could they be? In terms of vitamins or minerals they are inferiour to meat in any respect. They also contain anti-nutrients which hinder mineral and vitamin absorption. In addition they contain phyto-chemicals which are potentially harmful to your cells ( I mean, hey: When these chemicals can kill cancer cells in a petri dish — they could kill healthy cells, too, right?). Read more about this here.
- Drink lots of water.
Hmmm … maybe wrong. The more you drink, the more you pee. The more you pee, there more minerals you are washing out of your body. The more you have to drink. The more you pee … and so on. Not only does drinking lots of water deplete your body of minerals — it also stresses your kidneys.
The simplest dietary advice ever?
- Eat meat when hungry
- Drink water when thirsty
Could it be that simple?
Originally published on Medium