“Why do I feel bad on a Carnivore diet?”
“Why do I have low energy on Carnivore?”
It’s a commonly held misconception that the Carnivore Diet is composed of only eating salted ribeyes and drinking water.
Technically this would fit within a Carnivore Diet, but it is far from ideal. It would be the same as a vegan claiming to be vegan because they only eat potato chips and drink pop… okay, slightly exaggerating.
Still, there are more aspects to this way of eating than only eating steak and drinking water. There are many nutrient-dense parts of animals that should be consumed to ensure adequate intake of vitamins.
If you are not feeling optimal when switching over to this diet, there are a few possible reasons for that.
The following areas are the biggest pitfalls most problems can be traced to when following the Carnivore Diet:
- Fat-to-Protein Ratio
- Omega 3’s
- Eating Nose-to-Tail
- Balanced Amino Acid Profiles
Each of these aspects can be experimented with, but the list is in order from most common to least common.
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Never Spam. Only Meat.
Many of these points are brought up by Dr. Paul Saladino and can be reviewed in this video.
Dr. Saladino brings science to the Carnivore Diet, and much of what he says seems to have an immediate impact on those implementing his solutions.
Contents of This Post
The most common issue people face on an all-meat diet is the ratio of fat and protein they are consuming. Our bodies are only capable of running on fats and carbs. The body cannot run on protein.
This is a simplified explanation, but it is mostly true. Proteins are used for repair, but they are not fuel.
For the body to operate from proteins, the proteins must be converted to glucose through gluconeogenesis. This glucose is then used to fuel the body, just like the glucose derived from any carbohydrate source would be.
Because there are no carbs consumed on this diet, we must provide the body with the only other possible fuel. The ideal fat-to-protein ratio on carnivore, in terms of calories, is 2:1 or higher. Those eating above this ratio tend to feel better than those operating below it.
In terms of grams, this ratio would be 1:1 with grams of fat being equal to grams of protein. Fat contains a little more than double the caloric content that protein does.
When eating too little fat, the body can enter “rabbit starvation,” which is where we feel full from all the protein we have eaten, but are lethargic and can't think clearly. This is because the body is satiated with all this protein, but it doesn't have the fuel it needs to function.
There are many symptoms of this, but if you don't feel well after a week or two on this diet, this could very likely be a contributing factor. Raising this ratio too high can result in other problems, though, such as diarrhea.
Protein is essential but only up to a certain point.
Many types of meat are low in fat content, due to the trimmings being cut off, so you will need to add fat to most meals consumed. There are several excellent sources of high-quality animal fats, even if you do not have a local source. I often order grass-fed and finished ghee, tallow, or lard and just add it to my store-bought steaks. Tasty.
Once we have met our protein needs, extra protein doesn't provide any benefit and may place more strain on the body because through breaking down all this protein, more urea acid will be produced, and thus more ammonia. We do not want large amounts of ammonia in the body.
Eating large amounts of fat is a better option to derive energy from.
This form of energy also allows us to sustain high ketone levels. The higher the fat and protein ratio, the higher our ketone levels.
The most reliable way to ensure you are in ketosis is to use the Keto Mojo.
Ketone strips are only beneficial if you are not yet fully fat adapted. Because the body is not fully adapted, some ketones are excreted through the urine, and this is how ketone strips function well.
When the body becomes adapted, ketones will no longer be wasted through the urine, and it will appear that the body is no longer in ketosis when it is.
This is why ketone test kits like the Keto Mojo are so valuable.
If ketone levels are not high enough or you are suffering keto flu symptoms, exogenous ketones like ketone esters and salts can virtually eliminate these symptoms altogether.
Some common benefits of high ketone levels include:
- Reduced appetite
- Reduced cravings
- Reduced acne
- Improved heart health
- Protected brain functions
- Increased weight loss
- Possible reduction in cancer risk
Electrolytes or any low-carb diet because of the low levels of insulin present due to the diet. Insulin is very much influenced by carbohydrate intake. When carbs are eaten, they are broken down into glucose causes insulin levels to rise; the opposite is also true. Insulin, therefore, remains much lower on a zero-carb diet.
When insulin is low, the kidneys excrete much more sodium and water than what happens on a diet with carbohydrates. All electrolytes need to be accounted for on this diet, but sodium levels especially can fall low.
Electrolytes are vital to many functions in the body. These charged ions help:
- Balance your body’s acid/base (pH) level
- Move nutrients into your cells
- Move wastes out of your cells
Electrolyte supplementation is vital for those trying to adapt to a carnivore diet because the body will continue wasting sodium at the rate it was before coming onto this diet.
There are a few ways we can get these electrolytes though, but many times taking a supplement is the best option to get the right ratios.
Some other ways to get the correct supplements are:
- Sodium: salt all foods you are eating with high-quality salts, like Celtic sea salt
- Potassium: potassium “salt” on foods, this is a salt substitute that tastes just like salt:
- Be cautious of consuming large amounts of potassium at one time though, as severe or life-threatening results can happen
- Magnesium: supplement with 400 mg before bed, magnesium can promote relaxation and sleep
- Calcium: consume ¼ tsp of bone meal mixed with water in the mornings
- Do not take Vitamin D3 at the same time as calcium because it can significantly increase the uptake of calcium
Skipping all these individual supplements and consuming a well-ratioed electrolyte supplement can cover all your bases though.
Essential Omega Fatty Acids
Essential omega fats are exactly that, essential. We need these fats to function well, and just like most things, a good balance is best.
Omega 3 fats are commonly cited as being the most crucial fat we need to focus on because most people eating regular diets get enough from plant sources.
Eating grass-fed animals and fish will help ensure you are getting enough omega fatty acids, as these animals get Omega 3 fats from the foods they are raised on.
Fish will only have omega 3’s if they are raised on krill. Farm-raised salmon will not have the ideal fat profile so commonly touted as healthy. They also are not actually pink; they are usually colored with a die… a topic for another article.
Even if you are eating only pastured animal meats, you will likely benefit from consuming omega 3 fatty acids. The DHA and EPA contained in them are vital for the brain. Other commonly cited uses of Omega 3’s are for:
- Battling depression and anxiety
- Improving eye health
- Promoting brain health
- Improving heart disease risk factors
- Combating ADHD
- Fighting inflammation
- Fighting autoimmune diseases
- Improving mental disorders
- Preventing age-related brain disorders like Alzheimer’s
Fish oil is commonly reported as being the best for supplementing with omega 3’s, but fish oil is not in its natural form, and there are chances that the oils have been degraded or are even rancid. The fish oil industry is notorious for shady practices.
This is why sourcing your fish oil is vitally important. When I supplement with fish oil, I only trust Nordic Naturals because they are 3rd party tested and follow Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
The reason I said I use them when I use fish oil is that I usually do not use fish oil to get my omega 3’s. I prefer to use salmon roe to get my essential DHA and EPA. Salmon roe is better because the fats are entirely uncompromised from their natural form. The heavy metals commonly associated with fish oil are much lower or even non-existent.
Also, salmon roe tastes good, and it isn’t very expensive anymore.
Whichever way you choose to get Omega 3’s isn't as important as getting them in general.
Many think that steaks are all you need on the Carnivore Diet, and you can survive this way, but there are many vitamins missed when only eating muscle meats. By eating “nose-to-tail” carnivore, we can get nutrients from the whole animals.
This makes sense because we are an animal, and each part of our body has unique nutrient needs. Our liver needs certain nutrients that support the liver, and our hearts need nutrients that allow hearts to function well.
By eating the liver of another animal, we are essentially absorbing all those necessary compounds that ensured that the liver of that animal was able to thrive. Consequently, these foods provide our body and our various organs with the resources they need to thrive.
Liver should be considered a superfood because of how nutrient-dense it is. It may even be the most nutrient-dense food on the planet. There are many vitamins found in the liver, like Vitamin A, which cannot be found in muscle meat.
In the heart, we can find beneficial compounds like CO Q 10, which is a naturally occurring antioxidant in the body.
Not everyone likes eating or even has access to high-quality organ meats, though. The good news is you do not have to eat organ meats if you do not want to because you can get all the great benefits of organ meats in a supplement form.
This is good for those who do not have a clean supply, are traveling, or simply don’t like organ meats. Ancestral Supplements are known for only sourcing from high-quality, pasture-raised beef.
Liver, kidney, heart, and many other organ meats can often be found at your local butcher.
Balanced Amino Acid Profiles
The last issue I will mention is the balance of amino acids in the protein being eaten. Proteins are composed of long chains of amino acids, and each protein has different ratios of amino acids, depending on what function that protein serves in the body.
There are nine essential amino acids that we must consume in our diets, as we cannot make these amino acids on our own.
We can help balance the amino acids in muscle meat by adding collagen or glycine to that meal. This balances out the methionine-glycine ratio, which has been shown in several studies to be beneficial. This balance will increase the utility of this protein, and less will go to waste.
The reason it is important to balance amino acid ratios comes back to protein absorption rates. By having a balanced amino acid intake, the body can transform these building blocks into ANY kind of protein needed for repair.
If the ratios are not balanced, only certain kinds of proteins can be made, and the body only needs so many of the same protein before the proteins are excreted as waste.
Usually, when a steak is eaten, only 30% of the protein contained is utilized by the body. Whole eggs have the highest bioavailability, as 50% of the protein contained is used. This is because eggs have a more balanced amino acid profile that our bodies can absorb.
There are two easy ways to increase the bioavailability of protein in muscle meats:
Another way to get the protein you need is to use essential amino acids. These amino acids are in the exact ratios the body needs to be 100% utilized. Many cite that essential amino acids were the sole reason they were able to build muscle on a low carb diet.
Two tbsps of EAAs have the protein equivalent of a whole steak… they taste terrible, but that’s not why you should use them.