There are various reasons why a pure, strict carnivore diet may not be the right answer for everyone. The carnivore diet has a multitude of health benefits — from improved gut health to enhanced brain function — but it can be difficult to follow and may have both short and long-term side effects.
Our advice is always the same: start with a strict carnivore diet to reset your gut, and then move to a more balanced animal-based diet.
Read on to learn some options for how to eat on the next step of your animal-based journey.
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Why Should You Modify the Carnivore Diet?
Since the carnivore diet is a strict, elimination diet, your body takes time to adapt to the diet and you experience a few side effects. For instance, an excessive amount of protein can cause hyperammonemia and diarrhea. The diarrhea is caused by changes in the gut microbiome as the harmful bacteria die off due to a lack of carbs and are removed through your feces with a lot of water.
On the other hand, some people experience constipation as they eliminate fibre-rich vegetables from their diet. Due to electrolyte imbalance, you can feel lethargic, have leg cramps, and have flu-like symptoms as your body goes into ketosis.
Since it is restrictive in nature, the carnivore diet can be hard to follow long-term for many people. When you are dining out or attending events, it can be challenging to follow a carnivore diet. You may also have some difficulties keeping up with your diet while traveling.
However, if you are suffering from severe health issues, there are even stricter versions of the carnivore diet — for instance, the lion diet — where you eat nothing but ruminant meat, water, and salt to give your body a full dietary reset.
5 Modified Versions of the Carnivore Diet
There is no one-fits-all solution when it comes to animal-based diets. Don’t think of the carnivore diet as a ‘diet’ only. Consider it a lifestyle and optimize it for your way of living.
Here are some modified versions of the carnivore diet that you can choose as per your liking and health needs.
The Ancestral Diet
The ancestral diet is similar to the carnivore diet but includes seasonal vegetables and fruits in small amounts. The ancestral diet is based on the dietary patterns of our ancestors who lived thousands of years ago. Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers — this means that they ate both meat and plant-based foods.
The main focus of the ancestral diet is on consuming foods that are high in nutrients and minimally processed. It is a low-carb, high-protein, high-fat diet. While the carnivore diet eliminates all plant-based foods, the ancestral diet works under the principle that our ancestors ate some plant-based foods depending on the season and the environment when they couldn’t get meat.
There are various benefits of an ancestral diet from decreased inflammation to better gut health. It is a more sustainable approach to animal-based eating that provides a wide range of nutrients while also supporting your overall health.
Carnivore Diet With Fruit
The carnivore diet with fruit is another variation of the carnivore diet. In addition to animal-based products, you can add fruits to your daily meals. Fruits are easily digestible and are a great source of nutrients such as Vitamin C.
Apart from the obvious difference between the two diets, there are a few more differences. The carnivore diet is low in carbs and is designed to induce a state of ketosis. However, the addition of fruit in the modified version means that your diet will be high in carbs and won’t induce ketosis.
This can have potential benefits for people who have a high level of physical activity such as athletes. The high-carb nature of the carnivore diet with fruit provides several benefits such as improving cognitive function and providing a readily available source of energy. Additionally, including fruit in your diet provides essential minerals, vitamins, and fiber that may not be present in a solely animal-based diet. It also helps with diarrhea, which is a side effect of the carnivore diet.
A pro-metabolic diet is a dietary approach that focuses on eating nutrient-dense foods to support optimal thyroid function, blood sugar regulation, and overall metabolic health. This diet aims to optimize the metabolic function of your body by giving it a balance of macro and micronutrients that are necessary for energy production.
By supporting the thyroid function, the pro-metabolic diet increases your metabolic rate and improves your body’s ability to burn fat for energy. The addition of an adequate amount of carbs prevents metabolic slowdown and improves insulin sensitivity, which further supports a healthy metabolism. The diet emphasizes the importance of adequate calorie intake and carb consumption, especially in the form of easily digestible sources such as white rice and fruit.
The pro-metabolic diet is basically a high-carb version of the ancestral diet. The main difference between the carnivore diet and the pro-metabolic diet is the approach to macronutrient content. The carnivore diet is a high-protein, low-carb diet with an emphasis on eating animal-based products.
A pro-metabolic diet doesn’t count calories — it is more of a lifestyle approach. You eat protein-rich foods such as eggs, dairy, and meat. You can also consume root vegetables like potatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, and seasonal fruits. You have to stay away from vegetable oils, fortified grains, and processed sugars.
The Lion Diet
The lion diet is a very strict version of the carnivore diet in which you only eat meat, water, and salt and nothing else. This diet gained fame after Mikhaila Peterson shared how she got rid of years-long autoimmune disorders.
If you eat a standard American diet, you consume a lot of carbs and sugars that are inflammatory and not good for your health. On the lion diet, you eliminate all problem-causing foods and sustain yourself on a single, nutrient-dense food — ruminant meat. This helps you pinpoint any food sensitivities and get rid of them. Moreover, this allows your body to heal and reset.
The lion diet is beneficial for those who are suffering from autoimmune disorders as it eliminates potential triggers for inflammation, such as grains and other plant-based foods. Moreover, the high-protein and fat content of this diet supports your immune system and provides your body with the necessary nutrients for healing and recovery.
Meat and Greens Diet (Jordan Peterson Diet)
The Meat and Greens diet is a nutritional approach developed by clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson. He saw the success his daughter, Mikhaila Peterson, had with her strict meat-only diet and developed a version that worked well for him and suited his body.
On a carnivore diet, you can eat anything that comes from an animal — meat, organ meats, eggs, and dairy. Jordan Peterson’s diet is a modified, less strict version of that — apart from the animal-based products, you can also eat leafy greens.
There are two stages of this diet. In the first stage — which is the elimination phase — you eat only steak, water, and salt for 2 months which is similar to the Lion diet. After two months, Peterson suggests adding leafy greens to create the Meat and Greens diet. However, this is a slightly controversial approach since leafy greens are usually high in plant toxins such as oxalate which can have an adverse effect on your body.
Health Benefits of an Animal-based Diet
Animal products provide us with complete sources of protein, essential amino acids, healthy fats, minerals and vitamins that are hard to obtain from plant-based sources. Moreover, they are free from anti-nutrients and plant toxins as well.
Moreover, scientific evidence suggests that our ancestors were primarily carnivorous and ate a diet rich in animal-based products. Therefore, our bodies are attuned to eating meat and other animal products.
Humans have a digestive system that is well-suited to processing animal-based foods. We produce stomach acid and enzymes that easily break down meat and other animal-based products.
Here are some benefits of eating a primarily animal-based diet.
Improves Gut Health
The presence of beneficial nutrients such as amino acids improves your gut health and solves problems such as a leaky gut.
Enhances Cognitive Function
Essential fatty acids, particularly omega-3s and DHA, improve your brain function and cognitive performance.
Increased Satiety and Reduced Cravings
A high-protein diet increases your satiety and reduces hunger pangs, keeping you full for a long time and helping you lose weight
Improves Bone Health
An animal-based diet enhances your Vitamin K and calcium levels, both of which are important for your bone health.
Helps Increase Muscle Mass
The high protein content of animal products helps you gain muscle mass easily.
Knowing When to Modify the Carnivore Diet
Which modified version of the carnivore diet you choose depends on your situation. Would you prefer to:
- Minimize the side effects of an all-meat diet like diarrhea and constipation?
- Eat more diverse foods so you have options when eating out or traveling?
- Stay out of ketosis and eat more ancestral-friendly carbs?
If you’re not sure about starting the carnivore diet, or have been following it for a long time and want to keep optimizing your health, any of the options mentioned in this article could help.