What You’re Getting Into
- Why the RDA is useful, but flawed
- Hitting your nutritional requirements on the Vegan diet
- The Carnivore diet’s nutritional requirements
- Whether you need supplements on Carnivore
- How to build the perfect diet using meat-based foods
Amongst the many metrics for determining the winner of the people’s diets awards, is the RDA chart. The Recommended Dietary Allowance covers the amount of each nutrient needed to sustain good health. This isn’t foolproof by any means, for reasons I’ll touch on, but it’s the best indicator we have for assembling a quality profile.
The RDA is actually a very good way of ensuring that the diet you’re stepping onto, is sustainable. Any diet is likely to offer up a sweet holiday period, as it typically is accompanied by the newbie dropping unhealthy foods and adding exercise. Short-term results are pretty standard across all diets for this reason. Beyond those first few weeks? This is where a poor RDA profile is going to cost you. The deficiencies gradually get worse, and the typical side effects of lethargy, dysfunctional hormones and chronic inflammation end up ruining a fun trip. With a glaring hole in your nutrient tally, fat loss becomes incredibly hard. You’re doing twice the work for a sliver of progress. In summary, it’s just not worth the risk, and fad diets that compromise whole nutrition should be avoided.
The Vegan Diet’s Poor Nutritional Scores
It’s the RDA that people often wave while proclaiming the unrestricted, fence-sitting diet as the true winner, as closing off entire food groups will surely end up in deficiencies, diseases, and just an overall shoddy quality of life. The diets I’m alluding to are the ones that sit on extreme ends of the spectrum. Vegans on one side, the carnivores on the other. Two styles of nutrition that outright ban foods from the other side.
It certainly seems absurd that we can tick off all our health boxes from a choice of a half dozen animals. Vegans struggle, catastrophically, and they have a thousand options to pick from. This isn’t so much an opinion as it is a fact. Plant cells are drastically different to the structures found in our bodies, leading to terrible conversion rates and a whole myriad of angry compounds that seek to ruin you from the inside. You can read my article for the quick crash course on the dilemma of plant toxicity.
The short end that we can take from this, is you really have to pile on the volume and variety in order to reach the RDA values. Even then, you’ll end up needing synthetic supplements such as B12 and Omega 3 to complete the profile. And it may still not be enough, because of the reliably bad cases of bioavailability, inflammation and digestion that take place with each fresh salad bowl.
Carnivore’s Nutritional Powerhouses
Going vegan may be understandable from an ethical standpoint, but the argument for health doesn’t hold much water. Now, the carnivore diet doesn’t come with any such principles. So we can just deal with the question of whether it’s sustainable. Even compared to a vegan’s shopping list, the options on carnivore are pretty meager. There’s always a chance you have access to a few extra types of wild game, but for the most part, people on carnivore won’t be heading out into the woods to grab some prime elk for dinner.
This issue of scarcity is further compounded by the undeniable fact that the meat that we do get, is poorly sourced and often contains inflammatory vegetable oils as part of the package. It can be incredibly hard to get away from the plant problem.
But it just so happens that some of these remaining animals are walking all-in-one nutritional powerhouses. And if that seems like it carries too much weight, I haven’t added enough. The quest for optimal nutrition is the frontline of the fight against inflammation, disease, obesity, mental health, and performance. Or if you’d rather play it lightly, the summer shred.
So for reasons that are likely linked to our perch at the top of the food chain, we can absolutely top up on our health bars from a diet of animal meat, with a few yolks and crunchy fish bones thrown in.
But this isn’t just a random bit pro-meat propaganda, this article is also going to double as a guide for selecting the right foods and forming up the optimal carnivore diet. Because, despite how the RDA gets completed with relative ease, it’s still possible to end up with a few sides of low-level suppression. At the same time, it’s not a challenge to fix. All you need to do is add a few extras, and you’ve topped up on the nutrient profile.
Macronutrients On Carnivore
Getting your macros should be a non-issue on a meat-based diet, just as long as you’re not scared of fat. Choose 1-2 pounds of the plumped up cuts and you’ve pretty much hit the daily tally. It’s so easy that you don’t even need to track, although I’d still recommend doing so in order to make sure you’re not skimping on fat calories. Fat is a great energy source, whereas protein is a great building block and a terribly inefficient energy source. This is the case in any diet, it’s not just something to consider when you’re loading up on meat.
Carbs on the other hand are inessential, so it won’t factor into your requirements. This isn’t to say they won’t have their place, and I’ve written about them in my fasting vs feasting piece. They’re potentially valuable as a way to buff up workout performance, but they’re not necessary. And the truth is most people don’t train hard enough to use them. If you have good enough reasons to use carbs, you can get decent amounts from dairy, where the sugars are metabolised differently without causing many issues.
As a subplot from protein, it’s worth keeping an eye on your collagen intake. Collagen is the dominant protein in your body, being put to use forming bones and other non-muscle tissues. It can be sourced from bone broth, fish bones, as well as the rubbery bits in meat. But there’s also no harm in adding a collagen powder than can double as a protein shake. This would help balance out the ratio of methionine (muscle meat) to glycine (collagen), which allows the promotion of sleep, tissue synthesis, and calming neurotransmitters.
Nutrients You Don’t Need To Worry About On Carnivore
This is category reserved for the micro-nutrients that are found in abundance in muscle meat, the main food you’d be eating on a carnivore diet. I’ll include a column showing the amount of the RDA you can get from 100 grams of beef, so just keep in mind you’ll end up eating at least 500-1000 grams over the course of a day. If 6.3% of the RDA seems minuscule and dangerous, multiplying that by 5-10 gives it a better complexion. And even then, you’d have to consider that the RDA figures often include the terrible conversion ratios of plant bioavailability. Getting 200mg of Magnesium for meat translates to a lot more end-product than 200mg from oxalate-heavy spinach.
|Micronutrient||RDA||Sourced In 100g Beef|
Nutrients That Need A Varied Carnivore Diet
While I won’t step out and say you can build the optimal diet purely out of beef burgers, you really won’t have to branch out too far. In fact, adding beef or lamb liver can pretty much cover all of the shortcomings of muscle meat. And this doesn’t mean you need to be eating a boatload of liver. Muscle meat should still be the main ingredient on your plate. Beyond beef, there’s a good to case to include egg yolks, fatty fish, and canned fish for its bony contents.
Dairy also comes with a complete nutritional profile, which makes perfect sense as its essentially a means for the cow to supply the calf with all its needs. So if you can tolerate dairy at moderated doses, the likes of butter and hard cheeses have virtually no sugar content.
|Micronutrient||RDA||Sourced In 100g Liver|
Ultimately iodine, manganese and magnesium are pretty hard to get on the carnivore diet. Iodine deficiency is the leading preventable cause of developmental and intellectual disabilities, with two billion of the world’s population affected. But it’s been infused into salt since the 1920s, when the government picked up on the issue. Those brands aren’t so prevalent now, but you’ll still be able to source out a few of them.
The RDA Is Plant Biased, And So A Little Flawed
Despite plotting those graphs to show you how the carnivore diet ticks practically all the boxes, it’s still worth noting that the RDA is incomplete for several significant reasons. For one, it’s based on the amounts needed to avoid deficiencies, which isn’t quite the same as determining the optimal intake. You may not get scurvy for instance, by hitting 90mg, but is that’s not necessarily enough to get the full antioxidant benefits. The same is true with iodine, which is crucial in regulating the thyroid and preventing a suppressed metabolism. So it might be worth supplementing with a few extras in order to drive up performance.
And while the first point is to argue that supplementation is still warranted on a complete carnivorous diet, the second is to suggest that the RDA values are often too high. These requirements are taken with plant sources in mind, and these are bottom-of-the-barrel for bio availability, typically around 10-20%. So the numbers just won’t be equal across plants and animals, and there’s a very strong case for the RDAs to be decreased. Since they get updated about once every 50 years, we may have to take a few risks rather than sit and wait for the green light.
Building The Optimal Nutrient-Rich Carnivore Diet
Now with all that being said, how do you take this information and set about writing up a weekly shopping list that can ensure your diet lasts beyond the honeymoon weeks? As I’ve promised, it’s ridiculously easy. You can absolutely just go with your instincts and avoid having to punch in every food into your Cronometer. From the above data, you can just make sure you use the following foods over the week and you’re set.
Red Muscle Meat – Eg/ Beef Steak, Ground Beef, 100% Beef Burgers – 7 Days A Week
Multivitamins – Eggs, Salmon, Fish Roe, Beef Liver – 3+ Days Per Week
Energy Boosters – Beef Tallow, Butter – 3+ Days Per Week
Actual Supplements – Salt, Vitamin D, Magnesium, Iodine, Collagen – 7 Days A Week
Potential Supplements – Dextrose for workouts – 3+ Days Per Week
This lines up quite nicely with the food pyramid I’ve previously drawn up. So there you have it, carnivore looks pretty sustainable over the long terms, and you could quite possibly get away without any supplementation whatsoever. But periodic organ meats is a must. Overall, the level of difficulty for getting your full nutrient quota, is really low. As far as the selling points go, nutrition is comfortably one of the strongest aspects of the carnivore diet. Find the recipes you enjoy, stick with them, and the results will start to flow in.
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