Those contending with adrenal fatigue or chronic fatigue may be considering adopting a carnivore diet as a means to improve energy levels.
Before you do, read this post.
I’ll tell you all you need to know about the carnivore diet. Including how to safely adopt it as a means to improve your fatigue.
Most nutrition trends spread through word of mouth. Your friend/relative/neighbor had great success on diet ABC and therefore you should try it. While this is far from an evidence-based approach, it likely doesn’t put you at risk, as all diets advocate the consumption of fat, carbohydrates, and proteins – just in varying quantities of each.
The carnivore diet is new and novel. And it completely does away with the typical ratios of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. It’s a radical new way to look at nutrition. I personally love the way the carnivore diet is bucking established dogma in the world of nutrition.
But caution is warranted. Especially for those of you dealing with fatigue. I think it’s important you know that there is no long-term research on the carnivore diet. As a medical community, we really don’t know what the effects of an all-meat diet can be.
As an aside, you’d find me adopting a carnivore diet well before I considered following the standard Canadian diet. That’s how strongly I feel that the food the average person is eating contributes to their pain, fatigue, and really just about any chronic condition.
A carnivore diet could make your fatigue way better. But it could also make it worse. Today, I’ll show you who should adopt a carnivore diet and who should avoid it. I’ll also show you best practices on how to adopt a carnivore diet without feeling fatigued!
Let’s get going!
Seriously, an all-meat diet?
I know, it sounds crazy. For your whole life, you were told to eat fruits and veggies. If you didn’t eat them, you wouldn’t get dessert.
The message to eat fruits and veggies has been pounded into your consciousness for your entire life. Then the carnivore crowd arrived saying fruits and veggies weren’t all that helpful. Just eat meat and you’ll improve any health condition.
That was my initial reaction.
Yes, the carnivore diet is as it sounds. It is a diet free from fruits and veggies. Some consume dairy. Others choose not to. Eggs are often consumed. But not always. Others live solely on ribeye steaks.
The carnivore diet is ketogenic. But ketogenic diets are not carnivore diets. Keto diets still involve the consumption of fruits and veggies. Just to a lesser degree. Carnivore diets remove fruits and veggies completely. The carnivore diet is an all-meat, all the time diet.
Will a carnivore diet kill you?
No. It won’t kill you. In fact, it might actually improve your vitamin and mineral status. Weird, I know.
Probably not since it’s not a disease affecting anyone in developed countries. Scurvy comes about through a lack of vitamin C. Scurvy is life-threatening.
Think back to your social studies class…
Do you remember learning about all of those European explorers that ended up dying horrible deaths aboard ships?
A lot of those deaths were attributed to a lack of vitamin C – scurvy. It was thought that 50% of a sailing crew would end up dying from scurvy. (1) All because there wasn’t any efficient means to transport fruits and veggies in a ship for months at a time.
Yet you don’t see folks following a carnivore diet dying of scurvy…
At the time of this writing, we’re not entirely sure why that is. We know that those following a carnivore diet don’t seem to experience many nutritional deficiencies at all. Even their vitamin C levels seem normal. (2)
Where are these carnivores obtaining vitamin C from?
Some say that organ meats contain vitamin C (they do!). But plenty of carnivore dieters avoid eating organ meats. Others propose that completely restricting your carbohydrates ensures glucose is no longer competing with vitamin C for transport sites. (3) This suggests the need for vitamin C to be far less. Others still propose that ketones (beta-hydroxybutyrate) may itself be vitamin C like. (4)
Most of you dealing with chronic fatigue are not experiencing a vitamin or mineral deficiency. So, don’t be too concerned that the carnivore diet will put you in a nutrient deficiency. I’m not completely sure why this is. But as I mentioned earlier, a steak will most certainly have far nutritional value than Kraft Dinner.
In summary, no, a carnivore diet will not kill you. It might actually improve your energy.
Let’s find out why!
A carnivore diet and fatigue
Chronic fatigue syndrome has more to do with inflammation than fatigue. Fatigue is thought to be the resulting symptom of unbridled inflammation.
Therefore, the ideal diet for fatigue should be one that is low in inflammation yet promotes energy production by your body’s cells. The keto diet does this perfectly. It’s a whole food diet which makes it incredibly anti-inflammatory. And by using ketones as a fuel source, you promote increased production of energy (ATP) by your cells!
As an aside, if you find nutrition change overwhelming or too restrictive, be sure to check out my eCourse Stop Feeding Fatigue. I’ll show you how to create a personalized, fatigue-fighting nutrition plan. With ease. No templates here. You’ll learn exactly which foods your body loves and which foods cause your fatigue. Click here to learn more!
The carnivore diet takes this a step further. Carnivore supporters propose that the health benefits conveyed by fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds are nothing more than hermetic stress. Meaning that all the foods you consider healthy and essential may convey their benefits to you by acting as a mild stress to your system.
Just like working out provides a mild – yet beneficial – stress to your body. Fruits and veggies are thought to convey their benefits by creating mild stress to your body. This phenomenon is known as hormesis.
Let’s be clear that fruits and veggies being nothing more than hermetic stress is only a theory. We need way more data before we can substantiate that claim.
If you’re dealing with chronic fatigue syndrome, I don’t recommend you jump right into a carnivore diet. Instead, I recommend a graded, step-by-step method that eases your body into this way of eating. I’ll show you how in the next section.
How to adopt a carnivore diet without experiencing fatigue
I believe that nutrition should be as inclusive of foods as it possibly can. Meaning you only eliminate foods that are absolutely essential. Do your utmost to keep as many foods in your diet as you can.
I created an eCourse that guides you, step-by-step, on how to find your body’s perfect diet. In the course, you’ll learn which foods give your body energy and which foods take it away. It’s different for everyone! Click here to learn more.
Now, back to adopting a carnivore diet without feeling tired…
Rule number one, don’t jump headfirst into the carnivore diet. Move slowly towards the carnivore diet. You’re not looking for a 30-day reset. You’re looking for a way of eating that you can sustain over the longterm.
If you’re currently not following any nutrition plan, start with a whole food or paleo way of eating. This template will help you remove the foods most likely to cause fatigue – namely processed and junk foods. Once you’ve got this way of eating sorted, I recommend adopting a keto diet.
Clinically, I have found the ketogenic diet to be the most effective diet in overcoming fatigue. The keto diet is more restrictive than a whole food or paleo diet. So, move towards the ketogenic diet slowly. Remember, your goal is to keep as many foods as you tolerate in regular rotation.
If you recover your energy after starting a whole food or paleo diet, there’s no need to move towards a keto or carnivore diet.
If you’ve got a handle on the keto diet and your fatigue is still debilitating, it’s time to take the next step. It’s time for a carnivore diet.
A quick aside:
Sometimes nutrition is at the root cause of fatigue. But not always.
If you’ve tried every diet out there but still feel tired, go back to a way of eating that includes as many whole foods as possible. Just be sure that your energy levels aren’t negative affected.
To recap, your four steps towards starting a carnivore diet should be as follows:
- Adopt a whole food or paleo way of eating.
- Transition from a whole food/paleo diet to a ketogenic diet.
- Remove the fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds from your keto diet.
- Experiment with whether or not you tolerate dairy and eggs.
- Adopt a full carnivore diet.
By moving in this methodical way, you’ll avoid the increase in fatigue commonly associated with nutrition change. This will also help alleviate the stresses associated with radical diet change.
But before becoming part of the carnivore club, you need to know the potential downsides of this eating regimen. We’ll explore this in the next section.
Hidden risks involved with a carnivore diet
I’d say all the risks associated with a carnivore diet are hidden. The same goes for benefits. We just don’t have any clinical data on this way of eating. We have a lot of anecdotal experiences. And those certainly need to be counted for. But we really don’t have strong data in support of this way of eating.
With that said, I don’t think a trial run of the carnivore way of eating is going to hurt you. Try eating only meat for 30 days. If you feel great, keep it up. If not, return back to a more diversified nutrition plan.
The following are risks/unknowns associated with adopting a carnivore diet over the longterm. Again, I think the term unknowns is more apt than risks. We just don’t know enough to say these are risks or not.
Changes to your gut bacteria
The bacterial colonies inhabiting your gut are known as your microbiome. Which cultures thrive and which cultures perish will depend on the foods you eat. An all-meat diet will most certainly change your microbiome.
One study showed changes to the microbiome of participants in only 48 hours after adopting an animal-based diet. (5) Now, depending on what’s going on with your gut, these changes could be beneficial or detrimental. Many people with chronic gut issues have claimed that the carnivore diet significantly improved their GI health.
An all-meat diet doesn’t cover all of the vitamins and minerals required for optimal health. This is even more true for those avoiding the consumption of organ meats. Nutrient deficiencies have the potential to worsen fatigue levels.
The following nutrient deficiencies can occur on a carnivore diet:
- If you eat dairy on your carnivore diet, consider your calcium needs taken care of.
- But for those of you avoiding dairy, there is a risk of calcium deficiency.
- Vitamin A
- This vitamin will help modulate your immune system and keep your vision sharp.
- Vitamin A is found in liver.
- If you’re avoiding organ meats, this nutrient is hard to obtain on a carnivore diet.
- Perhaps the most important mineral your body needs.
- Magnesium is highly concentrated in organ meats. But it’s quite low in lean cuts.
- Folate is a B vitamin essential in methylation. If you have an MTHFR mutation, folate is essential.
- Again, you can find folate in organ meats. But muscle meats do not have adequate folate levels.
The insulin hormone is essential in your body’s transformation of the T4 thyroid hormone into the active form T3. If you don’t have adequate levels of T3, you’re going to experience fatigue.
A carnivore diet is a zero carb diet. Thus the insulin response from your body is almost non-existent. This has the potential to disrupt thyroid function.
But since we haven’t studied any carnivore populations, there could be alternative pathways used by your body to ensure optimal thyroid function while on an all-meat diet. You’re going to have to rely on your subjective experience as we don’t have the data to know with certainty how a carnivore diet affects your thyroid.
Fruits and veggies have nutrients you can’t get from meat
These are known as phytonutrients. Some of the most common phytonutrients include:
- Plant sterols
- Prebiotic fiber
Many of these substances have been shown to have anti-cancer effects. All of them have known benefits to human health.
Are they essential?
They’re not essential in the context that you won’t die without them. But the better question is if these substances optimize your health. I lean towards the fact that they do add benefit.
Do phytonutrients improve fatigue?
That I’m not so sure about. Phytonutrients will have an anti-inflammatory effect. I see this as quite beneficial in dealing with a chronic inflammatory condition like CFS. So, keep in mind that you are forgoing these anti-inflammatory phytonutrients on a carnivore diet.
The carnivore diet for fatigue – final thoughts
The carnivore diet is not a way of eating I regularly recommend to my chronic fatigue patients. I use it as an absolute last resort. Like when someone is dealing with severe sensitivities to the majority of foods, smells, and substances.
When I do recommend it, I use the carnivore diet as a reset diet. Meaning it is done for a short period of time – usually 30 days. I advocate the reintroduction of keto-friendly nuts, seeds, fruits, and veggies as soon as possible.
If you are leaning towards trying a carnivore diet to improve your fatigue, I recommend you visit your doctor before starting to get a baseline blood panel. After trying carnivore for 30+ days, redo your blood work to see what’s changed.
Most importantly, listen to your body. If you feel great, keep up with the carnivore diet. If you’re not feeling good, there’s no need to push through with the all-meat diet.
For another perspective on your personalized way of eating, be sure to check out my eCourse, Stop Feeding Fatigue. I’ll show you how to create a custom nutrition plan that includes as many foods as possible. While ensuring you properly identify which foods make you tired and which foods give you energy!
Now, I want to hear from you!
How has a carnivore diet affected your fatigue?!
Leave your answers in the comments section below.