Over the past few weeks, I’ve received various questions from people following my carnivore lifestyle. So, I wanted to start this new section of my blog called “Carnivore Q&A” where I’ll continue to post and answer questions brought to me by followers. 🙂 For this “edition” of Carnivore Q&A, I’ll be answering questions about protein poisoning/rabbit starvation, exercise, and vitamin requirements. If you have questions you’d like me to answer, please post them in the comments below!
Q. How have you factored in protein poisoning or “rabbit starvation?”
A. The short answer to this is: by eating fat. Protein poisoning is sometimes referred to as “rabbit starvation” because rabbit meat is very lean and in cases where people have tried to survive on diets with only lean meat and virtually no fat (including Indian populations that were forced to eat rabbit due to a scarcity of larger game and the Northern Arctic explorers who tried to survive on the snow rabbits), they suffer a number of health consequences including malnutrition, fatigue, and death in extreme cases.
I don’t remember for sure where I read it, but I believe it was in Gary Taubes book, “Good Calories, Bad Calories” (because that’s what I’m reading right now; I do know Vilhjalmur Stefansson mentioned it briefly in his book, “The Fat of the Land”…either way, I recommend both books), that he made reference to the dangers of eating very lean meat with no added fat, such as rabbit meat, and that even the Army’s Arctic Light Infantry survival guidelines state that it is better to go hungry rather than to eat rabbit, because it takes more vitamins and nutrients to digest it than it provides.
As a final thought, in the year-long, meat-only experiment that the Arctic explorers Stefansson and Anderson underwent at the Bellevue Hospital in the early 1900s, the doctors originally made them eat only lean meat at the beginning of the experiment to see what would happen; within a week, they became terribly ill until they were finally allowed to eat fat. After that, they continued the meat-only diet with fatty cuts of meat and went on to remain in extremely good health for the rest of the experiment. Bottom line, our bodies need fat.
Q. Do carnivores require lots of exercise? The Maasai, I’ve read, average walking or running twelve miles a day. Inuits and other Eskimo people burn inordinate amounts of energy staying warm during their winters where they eat meat almost exclusively.
A. I don’t know much about the Masai, but they are semi-nomadic people who raise and herd cattle. Their native diet is primarily meat, milk, and blood from the cattle. One research paper I found, stated that they do have an extremely high daily energy expenditure. As for the Inuit, one interesting fact I learned from reading Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s book, “The Fat of the Land,” in which he talked about his life living with the Inuit Eskimos, is that they keep their homes very warm, basically like a sauna. Everyone actually removed all their clothes when inside because it was so hot that they didn’t want their clothes to be wet from all the sweat. And yes, their diets are almost exclusively meat. Only when faced with starvation would they consider eating plants, otherwise, plants were not considered food.
As for exercise, I don’t think lots of exercise is required when eating like a carnivore. There are many anecdotal stories of people who have been eating a carnivorous diet for 10 or 20 years and they don’t exercise, but still have a fair amount of muscle and good body composition. However, there are many benefits that come from exercise and I believe everyone should do some form of exercise. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but I believe it’s important to move and stress the body in order to activate the lymphatic system, build muscle strength and bone density, and enjoy the endorphins that are released from exercise as well as the reduction in cortisol levels. From my own experience, I feel really good eating meat and find that I have plenty of energy and strength for my workouts; many others who follow a carnivore diet report the same finding.
Q. How do you account for nutrients you’re missing from fruits and vegetables; are you taking supplements?
A. The short answer is that meat has everything I need. Unfortunately, from what I know, there is not much (or any) research with regard to specific vitamin requirements on a zero-carb diet; with the exception of the year-long study done on Stefansson and Anderson with the medical team that monitored their health and found no deficiencies after a year of eating only meat and water.
From what I have discovered and come across in researching this way of eating, the nutrients in meat are more bioavailable and, without phytates and lectins from plants interfering with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, many are needed in smaller quantities when carbohydrates are removed from the diet. For example, vitamin C absorption is reduced when carbohydrates are present in the diet, so a greater amount would be needed for someone on a standard American diet. Depending on the cut and animal (some have more of a specific nutrient than others), meats contain vitamins A, B, D, and K; calcium; zinc; iron; selenium; phosphorus; niacin; and essential fatty acids such as ALA and CLA. I haven’t ventured into any organ meats yet, but those are highly nutritious. I actually just listened to Dr. Bubbs Performance Podcast this afternoon (Season 2, Episode 4) with Dr. Shawn Baker, who said that there actually have been some independent labs that found small amounts of vitamin C to be present in fresh meat.
The best examples I can look up to and follow are long-time, meat-only dieters (those who have eaten this way with no supplements for 10, 20, 50 or more years) who do not suffer from from scurvy or any other deficiencies. And, remember, there are some nutrients that can only be found in animal products, like collagen, which is extremely beneficial for hair, skin, and nails.
Zero Carb/Carnivore for 6 weeks now!