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Experiences of a biohacker: the Carnivore Diet
The Carnivore Diet is a hype on social media. Supporters and opponents debate each other with impassioned arguments. I wanted to form my own opinion and therefore followed the Carnivore Diet for two whole months. In this article I describe what the Carnivore Diet is, what my experiences are and my conclusions.
What is the Carnivore Diet?
The Carnivore Diet is exactly what the name describes: you only eat animal products. There are different variants. In the strict version you only consume meat, fish, organs, animal fats, water and coffee (if you want). In the milder version you can also add dairy products such as cheese and butter.
The idea behind the Carnivore Diet is that you avoid all possible nutrients that can trigger a reaction in your body. These are usually substances that can occur in plants and nuts such as: lectins (grains), phytic acid (grains and nuts) and natural pesticides. This is why the Carnivore Diet is also called an elimination diet.
By avoiding all possible anti-nutrients you give the body the chance to recover. For this reason, there are lyrical stories online about the benefits of the Carnivore Diet. Often these are people who had a serious health problem and were cured by the diet change. Well-known examples are Jordan and Mikhaila Peterson (father and daughter) who suffered from major depression and rheumatic arthritis and have their lives back thanks to the Carnivore Diet. There are also many stories of people who have solved their intestinal problems with it.
My regular diet
The principles of the Bulletproof Nutrition Plan
For almost 10 years I have been following the principles of Low Carb / High Fat diet inspired by Mark Sisson of the Primal Blueprint and Dave Asprey of the Bulletproof Diet.
That roughly means the following calorie distribution over the macros:
- 60-70% healthy fats
- 20% protein
- 5-10% carbohydrates
I am in ketosis a few days a week. However, I usually eat more carbohydrates once a week. It then takes 1 to 2 days to get back into ketosis. Once a week, I don’t eat protein for a day (less than 5 g). I usually do that by fasting 24 hours.
I do not consider these principles to be a diet, but a blueprint within which I can make choices and deviate from when I feel like it. I follow these principles 90% of the time. Then I switch back to my "blueprint".
I am metabolically flexible. That means that I can easily switch between sugar burning and fat burning.
Intermittent fasting is a regular part of my lifestyle
I apply intermittent fasting every day. I fast 16 hours and eat in an 8 hour period. I do drink Bulletproof Coffee regularly around 10 o'clock in the morning. So, strictly speaking, I am not completely fasting. However, you will still be able to burn fat. Moreover, it immediately energizes and improves my focus.
In my opinion, intermittent fasting is the most important and cheapest anti-aging hack. During fasting, you give your body time to repair itself and to clean up waste (autophagy). During the week I do not drink any alcohol. Occasionally I do have a gin tonic or wine with dinner on weekends.
My diet during the Carnivore Diet experiment
For 8 weeks I only ate meat, fish, salmon eggs, liver and eggs. I also only drank coffee and tea, but I never cheated once!
My daily schedule was roughly as follows:
- Waking up at 6 o’clock in the morning.
- Fasting from 6 o’clock to 13 o’clock with only coffee (so no Bulletproof coffee).
- Two cans of sardines at 13 o’clock.
- 1 ounce of smoked wild salmon, two ribeyes, 1 tablespoon of salmon eggs at 18 o’clock.
I didn't eat anything in the morning because I didn't feel like eating meat so early. I did, however, continue with the supplements: Qualia Mind (Nootropic) and Eternus (Anti-aging). I paused the intake of other supplements during this experiment.
Twice a week I ate liver from beef or lamb. This would give me enough nutrients. Only vitamin C deficiency was a risk. However, nobody in the carnivore community has ever reported scurvy. It is suggested that the production of ketones would compensate for that.
On average I ate between 150 g and 200 g of protein per day. That is not extremely much. This may explain that my muscle mass remained the same during the experiment. Supporters of the Carnivore Diet sometimes eat up to 1 kg of meat per day, which is equivalent to 200-300 gr.
Carnivore Diet is a ketogenic diet
With all the results I describe, it is important to keep in mind that the Carnivore Diet is the ultimate ketogenic diet. After all, you do not eat carbohydrates found in vegetables and starch products. I therefore think that some of the effects are due to the fact that I was completely able to burn fat for two months and not necessarily to eating the meat. I was not in ketosis before I started. I am "fat adapted". That means that I can easily switch between burning sugar and fat. It took me a few days to get into ketosis. Those days I was hungry too. After that I never felt hungry again.
Spectacular weight loss
Weight loss was not an objective. However, I discovered that the Carnivore Diet is an excellent way to lose weight quickly. My starting weight was 96.7 kg and I ended up at 88.5 kg and my fat percentage dropped from 21% to 17.5%. The weight decrease is largely due to the combination of intermittent fasting and a calorie deficit. I ate around 2.200 calories a day while theoretically I needed 2.700 to stay stable. However, I could not get myself to eat more meat and I was not hungry either.
My conclusion is that the Carnivore Diet is excellent if you want to lose weight. I think that so much weight loss in such a short period of time is not healthy.
Decreased blood sugar and constant ketones
Blood sugar is an important factor for aging. My goal is a glucose value below 5 mmol / l. Normally my blood sugar is between 5.5 and 6 mmol / l.
During the experiment, I measured my glucose and ketones every day, at 8 in the morning and 5 in the afternoon. The first month my blood sugar dropped to 5 to 5.5 mmol / l. In the course of the second month, it fell further below 5 mmol / l. The ketones varied from 0.8 mmol / l to 1.4 mmol / l. My suspicion is that my body uses ketones very efficiently and does not produce much more than necessary. A higher level of ketones is not necessarily better in my eyes.
Glucose Ketones Index
During the experiment I discovered the Glucose / Ketone Index (GKI). This indicates the ratio between the amount of ketones and glucose. It is an indicator of the health of your metabolism. Above 9 you are not in ketosis. Between 6-9 you are in modest ketosis which is good for weight loss. A 3-6 index stands for moderate ketosis with positive effects on insulin resistance and diabetes II. In the first month my GKI varied between 6 and 9, and the second month it was structurally between 3 and six.
My conclusion is that the Carnivore Diet is a good tool to improve my blood sugar levels.
Blood values deteriorated considerably
I measured my blood values at the start and after the experiment. Below you can see the most important blood values or those with the biggest change:
|Start||After 8 weeks|
|ALT:||37 u/l||73 u/l|
|AST:||29 u/l||49 u/l|
|IJzer:||329 ng/ml||357 ng/ml|
|MCHC:||31,3 g/dl 3||1,7 g/dl|
|HDL:||63 mg/dl||68 mg/dl|
|Totaal cholesterol:||250 mg/dl||369 mg/dl|
|Triglyceriden:||95 mg/dl||80 mg/dl|
|SHBG:||126 nmol/l||169 nmol/l|
|Vitamine B12:||793 pg/ml||972 pg/ml|
* Free testosterone was not in the test
The blood values generally give a negative image. I was particularly shocked by the huge increase in LDL (the small cholesterol particles). In the carnivore community, it is suggested that this does not have to be a problem, since the LDL can vary in size, and you want to keep the small particles as low as possible. My blood test did not measure this, so I cannot comment on that. The triglycerides / HDL ratio is important. This is very good for me, namely 80/68 = 1.17.
In addition, the CRP must be below 1. For me it is 0.3 so that is also excellent. Another indicator is the total cholesterol / HDL ratio. This must be under 4 according to the Mayo clinic. Mine is 369/68 = 5.4 and is therefore too high (because of the LDL).
Calcium, iron and Vitamin B12 have risen, as have the liver enzymes ALT and AST. The latter surprises me because I expected an improvement after 2 months without alcohol. The SHBG has also risen sharply. It can be explained by the rapid weight loss. I'm going to take supplements with Boron to see if I can get it down.
The deterioration of the blood values could partly be explained by the rapid weight loss. I have to delve further into this to find possible explanations.
Based on my blood values, I conclude that the Carnivore Diet is not healthy for me.
Strong improvement in sleep quality
I measure my sleep quality using the Oura Ring. I consider this to be one of the most reliable sleep and activity trackers available at the moment.
My sleep dramatically improved from the beginning. My Oura Ring sleep score was structurally in the 90s. In the image you can see a typical night during the Carnivore Diet. My lowest heart rate is on average 3 beats lower than normal: 44 instead of 47. Both my deep sleep and my REM sleep improved considerably. My deep sleep was structurally above 60 minutes while before it was below 60 minutes. My lowest heart rate was brought forward from 4.30 am to 1.30 am. That means that my body got 3 hours extra recovery time per night. For me this shows that it takes no longer to digest meat than other foods. Something that is often claimed. Perhaps it is a different story when meat is combined with carbohydrates.
On average I needed 30-60 less sleep per night. I usually woke up at 5.30 am and was immediately "on".
My conclusion is that the Carnivore Diet has positive effects on all aspects of your sleep. Only my suspicion is that it is more ketosis than eating meat.
Most carnivore supporters in the social media are lyrical about their diet. But for me it was quite a struggle. I like meat, but not as the only food. My mood fell and my mood flatter. As if I was taking antidepressants. I was very relieved when the experiment was over and I was allowed to eat vegetables again.
No more pain in my knee
20 years ago I torn the knee strap in my right leg. A new crotch strap has been added, but it is hanging loosely at the moment. The result is that the knee is worn out and hurts structurally. However, the pain completely disappeared during the experiment. I don't know if that is because of the meat or weight loss. But it is often reported as an advantage in the Carnivore Diet community. I have to wait and see if the pain returns to be able to attribute it to the Carnivore Diet with certainty.
It was a special and intens experiment. A nice "conversation starter" for sure. Almost everyone reacts in disbelief when you say that you only eat meat. I did avoid the ethical discussion about eating meat. It is almost impossible to be able to use a nuanced approach and there are many conflicting opinions. I mainly ate meat from Scottish Highlanders, that had a beautiful life in nature.
I think it is an interesting option for people who have a health problem. I have seen that it provides benefits in terms of weight, sleep, energy, blood sugar levels and inflammatory values. It had negative consequences for my mood and cholesterol.
I do doubt if it is a good decision to follow the Carnivore Diet when you are already healthy. After all, you limit the food choice enormously, so there is a risk that you will be deprived of certain nutrients. For that reason I am not in favor of extreme diets, neither the Carnivore Diet nor a vegan diet.
We have the genes of hunters and collectors and the DNA changes only 0.5% in the million years. That is why I think that the hunters and gatherers' diet still suits us best. They were and we are omnivores that need meat, fish, plants, fruit and tubers, depending on the season and location. This is the diet that I will continue with from now on.
About Eduard de Wilde
Eduard de Wilde has been the founder of LiveHelfi.com and NoordCode and biohacker since 2010. In 1999 he suffered from a anxiety and panic disorder as a result of the side effects of the anti-malarial drug Lariam. After trying many types of therapy, he set to work on activating the self-healing capacity of his body. Mark Sisson taught him the power of more fat in my diet and less carbohydrates, Wim Hof learned the power of cold and breathing. I finally learned the principles of biohacking from Dave Asprey.
Biohacking is the application of parts of your lifestyle and technology to improve your body's biochemistry and ultimately become a better version of yourself. The results are expressed on multiple fronts: easily manage your weight, look healthy, delay old age, more and constant energy and improved concentration and focus. Eduard gives presentations on biohacking and soon his training will be published: Hack your age to delay aging and to have more energy tomorrow. If you'd like to read more about biohacking, check our page What is biohacking.
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