Don’t Bring Dogma Into Carnivore

11 min read

What you’re getting yourself into

Why the carnivore diet is not a cult, and you don’t have to follow it perfectly 100% of the time.

I’ve consistently run into people who assume that I am prepared to defend the sanctity of carnivore to the bitter end. They expect me to shun any form of plant food, and encourage all my clients to do the same.

This black and white thinking is just the nature of the business for a vegan for life coach, so why wouldn’t it be the same for a dietary extremist like me?

Here’s the thing. Unlike veganism, carnivore didn’t make its beginnings as a religious cult, and it hasn’t yet become one. So there is no reason for me to want to create a militant steak and salt society. I don’t look down at people who prefer their ribeyes with a side of broccoli, or those like a tub of ice cream to round off the week. It’s their choice, made for the context of their metabolism, and their lifestyle.

The idea that carnivore needs to be perfectly followed at all times, no matter the situation, is the kind of dogma that we don’t need in our little slice of the dietary landscape.

This isn’t a contest to be the most carnivorous of carnivores. The goal is to create a sustainable metabolic healing that doesn’t hinge on how neurotic you’re prepared to be.

To get there, we need to be able to let go of dogmatic thinking, and sprinkle in a good dose of nuance. There will be a select few on carnivore with severe autoimmune issues that won’t allow much if any leeway. But for the rest, there are going to be plenty of situations where you don’t have to toe the perfect line.

Cheating On Carnivore

cheating on the carnivore diet

When you inevitably mess up by indulging in a few carbs, you’re not going to be excommunicated from the tribe. Your paleolithic ancestors will not be roused from their graves when you accept a slice of pizza.

The pathways of sugar addiction take time to recede, and they never truly disappear. Slip-ups are just a fact of life, and it’s paramount that you don’t beat yourself up and turn it into a vicious cycle.

If you don’t suffer from sugar addiction, and you’re in control of the situation, then there’s little harm in being flexible with the diet when the occasion calls for it. As long as you’re able to dust yourself off and resume normal service with a steak in your next meal, you’re not going to spiral into a weekend crisis.

Again, this is entirely contextual as to whether you might want to have a cheat meal on carnivore. If you’re in the opening few months of carnivore, I’d advise against it. This is a crucial phase of adaption, and you don’t want to unnecessarily extend that by seesawing between ketones and glycolysis.

You might also see little use in sacrificing your mental and physical wellbeing just so you can have a food that you stopped craving months ago. That isn’t being dogmatic, that’s just reasonable.

But if you’re in a good space, you’re aware of the consequences, and you’re committed to the routine, then don’t be petrified at the thought of nibbling on the odd bar of dark chocolate.

Carnivore doesn’t have to be followed to the letter 100% of the time. Make it suit your lifestyle, so that it enhances it, rather than defining it.

Grains Fed Vs Grass Fed

grass fed vs grain fed beef

There are a few carnivores in the space, and red meat proponents in the wider web, that insist on preaching the magical properties of grass-finished beef. The issue here is that it marginalizes people who either can only afford the standard supermarket grain-finished beef, or just prefer the taste of it.

Telling people they need to be eating grass-finished beef is plain elitism. There’s no place for it here if we want to attract mainstream dieters and not just settle for hoarding up on eccentrics.

There are certainly a few things where grass-finished beef may appear better. The Omega 6:3 ratio, for instance. Then there’s the impact on the environment. But these benefits don’t look so radical when you look at the context.

The Omega 6:3 ratio of grass-finished beef is 10, and 16 in grain-finished beef. But in the grand scheme of things, that difference doesn’t mean much because the overall levels of Omega 6 and 3 in beef is paltry.

1kg of grass-finished beef gives you:

670mg of Omega 6

140mg of Omega 3

1kg of grain-finished beef:

200mg of Omega 3

3200mg of Omega 6

That isn’t worth losing sleep over.

As for the environmental side of things, where grass-finished beef is held up as the gold standard of sustainable agriculture, it shouldn’t be forgotten that grain-finished beef is still grass-fed. Those cows are still on pasture for the majority of their lives. The grains they eat are mostly byproducts from crops that would otherwise be destined to rot away in a landfill. With the food system as it is, with crop agriculture being as it is, feeding the byproducts to livestock makes things more efficient and sustainable.

All this serves to underline the fact that grain-finished beef is the second best food on the planet, and the difference between first and second is minimal. The nutrition is going to be near enough the same, and you’ll still be voting for a brighter future with functioning topsoil. So don’t feel pressured to source out regeneratively raised grass finished panda massaged beef. Pick what your wallet and your tastebuds prefer.

Is It Worth Paying Extra For Grass Fed Steak?

Nose To Tail Eating

liver on carnivore diet

The question of where organ meats place in the carnivore diet is another divisive topic. It’s certainly true that our ancestors wouldn’t have gone through the trouble of felling and butchering an auroch, only to carve out a few ribeyes and leave the rest for the vultures circling overhead. We would have made a point to use the entirety of the animal.

That would include the tougher cuts, the fat inside the bones, and the viscera. When our primary drive was the acquisition of food, we wouldn’t have turned our noses up at the less savoury bits of the carcass.

Other carnivores like wolves and lions tend to go for the organs first after felling their prey, appearing to signify just how nutritious they are.

Some people will use this to make the case that organ meats are indispensable essentials, that a carnivore diet can’t be nutritionally complete without a regular intake of heavy hitters like the liver and heart.

It also happens to be a handy way to flog desiccated organ supplements and monetize a diet that otherwise wouldn’t be very lucrative.

In the meantime, there are plenty of long-term carnivores that have got by perfectly fine on nothing but beef. Others have also reported having unwanted side effects after eating too much liver, too often. You can certainly have too much of a good thing when we’re talking about the most nutrient dense food on the planet.

Copper toxicity can lead to neurodegenerative changes, and Vitamin A toxicity can manifest in vision problems, fatigue and nausea. Part of the risk is that these side effects can be slow to appear, and subtle in their effects, making it hard to pin the blame on excess liver consumption.

And a possible reason why carnivores eat the organs first, is because their prey is usually quite lean, with most of the fat nestled in the viscera. So it could be less about the micronutrients, and more about getting their fat fix.

Tackling the ancestral component, a mammoth’s liver would be a tiny section of the carcass, with a liver to muscle meat ratio of 1:100. The liver also wouldn’t have the staying power of muscle meat, meaning it had to be eaten quickly. If you’re attempting to eat 100 grams of liver a day, then that’s certainly going to be far in excess of whatever our paleolithic predecessors would have been taking in.

With all this liver shaming aside, it is an unmatched food for repairing nutritional deficiencies and resuscitating a broken metabolism. I certainly think it’s a valuable option as the ultimate multivitamin, but I’d caution against using it in large amounts and taking it indefinitely.

You also probably don’t need to be forking out on overpriced desiccated organ supplements that aren’t going to offer anything pivotal you can’t get from muscle meat. Carnivore is about simplicity. Beef and salt is going to do the trick for the vast majority of people.

Reintegrating Carbs

carnivore with rice

Carnivore can be a diet for life. Dieticians do tend to question its sustainability, and highlight potential imbalances that can occur over the long-term. But if ketosis eventually becomes dangerous, then our ancestors who lived in spaces lacking in carbohydrates must have been in a hell of a pickle.

Spaces like the mammoth steppe that sprawled its arms across the whole width of the Eurasian continent. When all you have is grass, you’re left with no choice but to eat the animals that eat the grass.

How on earth did these people survive and thrive if ketosis was so nasty?

I’d argue that the majority of people who stumble into issues with long-term carnivore, aren’t hitting a wall because their ‘survival fuel’ has taken them as far as it can. They struggle because they’re simply not eating enough fat, which would otherwise keep the metabolism whirring along and the electrolytes in check.

In other words, they’re undereating, which would spell the end in any other diet.

But by no means am I saying that once you’re on carnivore, there’s no good reason to bring carbs back into the frame. This isn’t a cult that etches unbreakable rules for life. Once again, it comes down to the context of your metabolic health, your lifestyle, and your goals.

Including carbs may have performance advantages once you’re already keto-adapted. Think of it as an extra gear during your workouts. You’ll be able to utilize those carbs on top of ketones, and help replenish any localised glycogen depletion in the muscle fibers.

6 Reasons To Bring Carbs Back To Carnivore

Allowing carbs on social occasions can be perfectly fine if you’re not sent into an inflammatory coma, and there’s no risk of a relapse into addictive eating.

Include some plant foods for medicinal purposes could help give you an edge when placed on top of optimal nutrition and a balanced lifestyle. Yes, I’m talking about coffee.

You might simply wish to fully reintegrate carbs into the diet, and proceed with a low carb approach, which can absolutely work if you can tolerate those carbs and the doses are still under control.

I have no issues with people who go down such a route. But I do have a bone to pick with those who retroactively label ketosis and carnivore as ‘unhealthy’ without offering reasons beyond “I couldn’t manage my electrolytes and here are a few cherry picked studies to support my 180°”.

Not naming names.

Wrapping Up

I’m not concerned with being strict carnivore, just so I can get the badge. My goal is to continue building an aesthetic and powerful physique, while keeping my mind sharp and assuring wellbeing. It just so happens that carnivore gets me there, but I’m more than happy to make tweaks when necessary. In other words, I’m not married to arbitrary lines in the diet. And I don’t see why anyone else should be.

Leave the dogma for the vegans, and don’t put yourself down if you’re only 97% carnivore.

Want To Take On The Carnivore Transformation For Yourself?

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