Why Do You Eat Your Meat Raw?

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Why Do You Eat Your Meat Raw?

It seems like almost every week that a new person who has stumbled into our Zero Carb Facebook group Principia Carnivora asks this question. Since it comes up so often, I have decided to take some time to articulate my personal reasons for choosing raw meat over cooked meat.

When I first started a Zero Carb diet 21 months ago on January 1, 2015, I began with a wide variety of animal foods: eggs, cheese, butter, cream, bone broth, chicken, pork, and beef. All of it cooked. I really struggled with Zero Carb in the beginning because I simply did not feel that good no matter what I ate. Removing all plant foods from my diet certainly helped, but I was still experiencing a lot of negative symptoms from the animal foods I was eating. The biggest symptom with the most impact on my quality of life is chronic migraine headaches.

About 6 months into my Zero Carb journey, I finally discovered that I am histamine intolerant. Histamines are in all aged and fermented foods, as well as eggs and any foods that are slow-cooked, and this is why I have continued to struggle with chronic migraine headaches on a Zero Carb diet. One-by-one, I removed everything from my diet except for beef. And even with the beef, I have to make sure that I get it as fresh as possible and use it immediately. The longer beef – or any meat – is aged, the more histamines it will contain. The longer a steak sits on the shelf after being cut off of a main primal piece by the butcher, the more histamines it will contain.

All last winter (2015-2016), I was eating very lightly pan-fried fatty beef chuck roast steaks. And when I say lightly, I mean 30-60 seconds per side, leaving the meat blue-rare inside. This was working to some extent, but I did not feel all that good. In fact, I got a terrible cold virus last winter that came back three separate times! I literally never get viruses, so to have the same one three times in just a few months was both very worrisome and very unpleasant. The last time I had a virus prior to this was in the winter of 1999-2000, when – incidentally – I was also eating a fair amount of cooked meat (one of my earlier attempts to escape veganism, LOL!).

So, I knew I should be eating my meat raw, but the cold, wet winter and the state of my mind at the time, were really making it difficult for me to do this. Once the weather warmed up a bit, however, I decided to give fresh raw ground beef another try. After a few weeks, I got used to it and then the taste of the cooked meat wasn’t all that enticing any more. Nevertheless, I continued to have a cooked meal here and there, very rarely. But each time I did this – I noticed that 1) I did not feel as well after eating the cooked meat as I did after eating the raw meat; 2) I did not digest the cooked meat as well as I digested the raw meat; and 3) I could tolerate much more fat when I ate it raw verses cooked.

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LEM Big Bite #12 All Stainless Steel Meat Grinder

One of the things I have personally found very helpful on my Zero Carb Journey is periodic fasts. I have completed three separate 16-day fasts (each were a combination of water and dry) over the past 21 months. Each of these fasts has helped me quite significantly. Histamines build up in the body over time and fasting is the single most effective method I have discovered to allow my body to eliminate them from “storage.” When the meat I can normally eat without issue begins to give me migraine headaches, then I know my histamine “bucket” is full so-to-speak and it is time for another fast.

I just completed my most recent 16-day fast a week ago. It went really well. But coming off the fast has been both challenging and enlightening. First, I decided to experiment with Fiji water and it gave me a migraine headache and caused me to feel generally crappy. This tells me that the company adds minerals to the Fiji water, which is implied but not directly stated on the label. I am 100% certain of this because I felt exactly the same way as I always feel after taking any supplements of any kind. They all make me very very very sick just like the Fiji water did.

After I recovered from the Fiji water debacle, I decided to try cooking my meat one night. I had broken my fast 6 days earlier and – up to that point – I had eaten only raw ground beef according to my usual custom. Although I am kind of unhappy with myself for choosing to cook my meat this night, I gained an enormous amount of clarity about what my body does and does not like due to this unhappy choice. So, ultimately, the experience was an extremely valuable one because of the new knowledge it brought me.

Needless to say, my body had a very negative response to the cooked meat. I started getting a migraine headache within a few hours of eating it and, 3-days later, I am still suffering the consequences. The next morning, lymph nodes throughout my body were incredibly painful. The effects from eating the cooked meat were so bad, that I actually had to go back on a short dry fast to give my body a chance to work through it. I tried eating my normal fresh raw ground beef the next day, but that just made the migraine headache and lymphatic inflammation worse.

This is one of the reasons I am such a huge advocate for both fasting and doing a bare bones version of the Zero Carb diet if you are new to this way of eating. There are so many potential variables when you eat any and all animal foods that there is really no way to tell how you are responding to them if you include them all indiscriminately. If you start with just fatty beef and water, then you have removed all of the most potentially problematic foods in one fell swoop. After you have eaten only beef and water for 30-days, you can then test other Zero Carb foods one at a time to see how you do with them.

Fasting takes this process one step further by eliminating all food for a period of time. This way when you add back a food, whether from a basic beef and water diet or from a fully fasted state, your body can give you a much clearer response to whatever food you are testing. This is what happened to me with this last fast I did. Being away from any cooked meat for a while prior to the fast, and then doing a long fast, made it considerably easier for my body to let me know that it really really really does not like cooked meat.

Prior to this, I was living in a fantasy world that I could sort of go back and forth between raw and occasional cooked – if and when I felt the desire for it – but this experience has shown me just how utterly delusional that idea was! From here on out, I am no longer seeing cooked meat as an option for myself. This was a very powerful transformative “a-ha” moment for me. I will never again choose to eat meat that has been cooked even the tiniest bit. Cooked meat is now in the same category as plant foods: it is no longer a “food” as far as I am concerned.

While some people might find this realization to be even more restrictive than what most would already perceive to be a very restrictive Zero Carb diet, I personally find it quite liberating to have finally reached a very definitive conclusion on this issue. There is no more doubt about it, and it is one less decision I need to make. It is all raw all the way for me!

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Migraines, Mood, and a High Fat Ketogenic Diet

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Since I know many of my readers are not on Facebook and, therefore, do not participate in our Zero Carb group Principia Carnivora, I wanted to share something I posted there that I have recently discovered for myself on this Zero Carb path…

When I first began a Zero Carb diet a year and a half ago, I ate a LOT of fat. But as time went on, I came to the conclusion that ALL of the fats I was using to achieve these high levels were not compatible with my body. I tried butter, ghee, tallow, lard, heavy whipping cream, and coconut oil. All dairy fats give me migraines. Coconut oil is high in salicylates and cause severe low blood pressure and other negative symptoms. All rendered fats make me extremely nauseated. Even eating too much cooked fat attached to a steak will make me nauseated. But if I eat the beef fat raw, I can eat much more without experiencing this horrible nausea. This is the main reason I am currently eating all of my meat completely raw (as homemade ground beef). In spite of the nausea from the cooked and rendered fats that was eating in my early Zero Carb days, however, I did experience a noticeable decrease in my chronic migraines headaches (as long as I avoided all dairy).

At the beginning of April (2016), I did a 16-day water fast. This was the second long water fast I have done since beginning my Zero Carb journey. The first one was about 8 months ago and it made a noticeable improvement in my tolerance for histamines. I was finally able to eat conventional beef sold in Costco or Safeway, as long as I bought if fresh and ate it that day. After this second 16-day water fast I did a month and a half ago, I found that I could tolerate even more raw fat in my ground beef than I could before the fast. But the quality of the fat must be very good. It cannot be outer skin fat which is oxidized and rancid. This kind of fat makes me very sick. Rather, it must be the good thick internal fat like that attached to Ribeye or New York Strip Loin.

It has been a challenge to source enough good quality beef fat to meet my needs. I am still trying to figure this out. If I could buy my meat in bulk without having to worry at all about histamines forming as I work my way through it, then I would be able to buy whole packages of New York Strip Loin from Costco which very affordable are extremely fatty (more fatty and better quality that their Ribeye in my experience). But I cannot go through all the meat fast enough to keep the histamines low enough fir me to tolerate. I need more money and pack of dogs to share it with so that we can plough our way through it in just a few days. 😂

Anyways, the main thing I wanted to share in this post is that since my recent 16-day water fast in April, I have been able to increase the percentage of fat in my diet from about 70% to 80% or more without experiencing any of that horrible nausea. It is hard to calculate exactly, but thevground beef I make for myself is about 2/3 lean to 1/3 fat or what would be called 65/35 by a butcher. So say… 12 oz of lean to 6 oz of fat. It might be a little more protein and a little less fat, but this give you the idea.

Since doing this, I have noticed two very important benefits. I am not as prone to migraines as I was when eating more protein and less fat, and my mood is much more stable now than it was on less fat. I am far less irritable and impatient with more fat in my diet. I feel both physically and mentally calmer. My conclusion is that more fat is definitely better for my brain. I am not saying this is ideal for others, and I am really not an advocate of eating too little protein on a Zero Carb diet. And if you are trying to lose weight, too much fat might prevent this from happening.

But, as my own experience is showing, some people might need to eat more fat for therapeutic reasons, even for conditions that are not life threatening like brain tumors or epilepsy. One woman in our Facebook group has stated that it was the high levels of saturated animal fat in her own Zero Carb diet that killed the off the tenacious Lyme bacteria in her body. The more fat she ate, the better she felt; though it still took time to eliminate the Lyme bacteria from her body completely. She, too, eats 80% or more of her calories from fat. 18 years later, she continues to thrive.

My point in sharing this story is to, once again, demonstrate that there is no one-size-fits-all Zero Carb diet. It has taken me a long time and lots of experimenting to figure out what truly works for me and for my body to become a cooperative component in the process. So, if you are having trouble figuring out what percentage of protein to fat is best for you, or what types of meats and other animal foods and fats are best for you, please don’t give up! I know someone who feels great at only 55-60% fat. We are all a bit different and unique in our needs. Just keep experimenting until you find something that feels good and works for you.

~Esmée La Fleur

For help and support, please join us in the Zero Carb Facebook group “Principia Carnivora.”

Optimal Fat Intake on a Zero Carb Diet

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Sometime back I wrote a two-part article on Optimal Protein intake on a Zero Carb diet. Please click links to read:

Part One https://zerocarbzen.com/2015/09/29/optimal-protein-on-a-zero-carb-diet/

Part Two https://zerocarbzen.com/2015/10/04/optimal-protein-on-a-zero-carb-diet-part-2/

I still feel pretty good about the protein recommendations in those articles, though it does seem that some people do indeed feel better on more protein than I discussed. On average, 100-150 gm of protein seems to be about right for most people, but I know that some do feel better with more like 200 gm a day. So, keep that in mind when you read those posts.

The key thing to understand is that you want to be careful to not eat too little protein on a Zero Carb diet. Since you are not eating any carbohydrates on a Zero Carb diet, you can eat more protein than you can on a Low Carb diet. There is a lot of fear-mongering going on in regards to eating too much protein, and I (and many others in the Low Carb-Zero Carb-Ketogenic community) feel that this advice is very misguided. You want to eat as much protein as your particular metabolic state will accommodate without raising fasting blood glucose. For some who are diabetic or very insulin resistant, that may only be 80 gm of protein per day, but if you have a healthy metabolism, you will likely be able to eat twice that amount without any negative repercussions.

Okay, so with that prelude, the subject I really want to address here is fat. In light of some recent discussions we have been having in our Facebook group Principia Carnivora, the recommendations for fat intake that I made in those posts on protein needs to be revisited, as they are geared more towards weight maintenance levels of fat rather than weight loss. As mentioned in the above articles on protein, Stefansson ate a 2:1 ratio of fat to protein, i.e. 2 gm of fat for every gm of protein or 120 gm of protein to 240 gm of fat on average.

Many people who adopt a Zero Carb diet are obese and have decided to try this way of eating in order to lose unwanted excess body fat. Many also come from the Ketogenic diet world where they have been eating lower protein and higher fat (both in terms of total grams and percentages), and then they try to apply that knowledge and experience to their new Zero Carb diet. But the result is that they often do not lose any of their excess body fat which is, understandably, very frustrating for them.

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The basic advice that has been give by all of the successful long term practioners of a Zero Carb diet is to simply eat fatty meat. Don’t make it more complicated than it is. In other words, don’t try to manipulate your macronutrient ratios to meet the Ketogenic standards you have been following (that were no longer working for you anyways and which is why you ended up deciding to try Zero Carb in the first place!).

What this means is: don’t limit your meat (lean portion) in order to restrict your total protein consumption and add extra fat in the form of butter or whatever to create a “perfect” Ketogenic ratio of protein to fat. You also do not want to drink so-called “fat bombs” like coffee with butter, coconut oil, etc. added to it. All this does is prevent you from burning your own body fat for energy and impede weight loss. You only need to do this sort of thing if you have epilepsy or cancer or some other serious life-threatening illness.

If you have a lot of body fat to lose, you want to encourage endogenous fat-burning. Eating too much dietary fat prevents this. Drs. Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek have discussed this in their excellent book The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, as well as many of their video lecture presentations widely available on YouTube.

Therefore, the general rule of thumb is to eat about 2.0 gm of protein per 1 kg of lean body mass, and then to add as much fat as you need to provide satiety from your meal. This usually works out to around 30% of calories from protein and 70% of calories from fat. Now, interestingly enough, that is almost exactly what you will find in a piece of fatty beef like chuck roast or ribeye or New York strip or 80/20 ground beef (if all fat that that is cooked out is eaten and not discarded).

This also equals a 1:1 ratio of fat to protein in grams, i.e. one gram of fat to one gram of protein. For example, 100 gm of fat to 100 gm of protein. This is basically perfect for facilitating the loss of excess body fat in someone who is obese. So, the tried and true and very simple recommendations of experienced long term Zero Carb practitioners to eat fatty meat to satiety whenever hungry works for a reason!

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Now, for those of you, like myself, who are not obese and do not need to lose excess body fat, might be wondering what This means for you. If a person starts out on Zero Carb at at a normal healthy body weight, or once a person reaches their ideal body weight after losing their excess fat according to above recommendations, it is then necessary to add more fat to your Zero Carb diet.

This can be done in several ways. Many people add butter to the meat they eat, but you can also eat the fat on your steaks preferentially. Michael Frieze has been doing this for the past 5 years. Read his interview here:

https://zerocarbzen.com/2015/03/07/zero-carb-interview-michael-frieze/

He cooks up a steak and eats the fat first until he feels satiated, then he eats as much of the lean as he feels like eating. If there is not enough fat on the steak to reach his fat satiety level, he will then eat butter straight until he feels like he receives a “stop” signal. He eats an average of 2 lbs of steak per day and weighs 135 lbs. He says that no matter how much he eats, he never gains body fat.

If you are following a Zero Carb diet and are struggling to lose weight, I hope this explanation has helped to shed some light on how you can adjust your current diet to find better success. Finding the right fat to protein ratio is a bit individual, but this is a great place to start. If you do this and find that you are still not losing the unwanted body fat, you may need to lower the fat a little bit more.

We have a few women in our group who have found that a 1:2 ratio of fat to protein was necessary for them to start dropping weight. This would mean eating only one gram of fat for every 2 grams of protein, or say 100 gm of fat to 200 gm of protein. While this is not the norm, I share this story to demonstrate that all bodies are not created equal and there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to Zero carb and successful weight loss.

But it is best not to over think it too much and just start with the basic recommendations of those who have been following a Zero Carb diet for many years and start with good ‘ole fatty steaks. Eat when hungry. Eat to satiety. Wait until you get hungry again and repeat. And most of all…Don’t worry. Be happy!

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***Special thanks to all of the long term Zero Carbs peeps for their consistent message and the interviews they have so graciously provided for me to share. Thank you also to Jamie Moskowitz, Jeff Cyr, Raymund Edwards, and Mike Juiluan from the Low Carb Ketogenic world for helping me to grasp this issue at at a deeper level. I think I am finally getting it! And additionally, I wish to thank all of the members of our Facebook group Principia Carnivora for experimenting on themselves in good N=1 fashion and sharing their results with the rest of us, so that we call all learn and profit from them. I love you all.

Bone Broth is Anti-Ketogenic

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As many of my readers know, I am a huge fan of bone broth. I have been drinking it almost everyday since I began my Zero Carb journey 9 months ago. I found it extremely helpful during the adaptation phase while my body was getting used to an all-meat diet. However, I recently made some changes in my Zero Carb diet. I decided to decrease protein and increase fat in an effort to create a Ketogenic version of a Zero Carb diet. But, I continued to drink bone broth while making these changes.

While I was successful in lowering my fasting blood glucose and increasing my fasting blood ketones, the changes were only moderate. I was now in nutritional ketosis, but at a very low level.Then, I decided to skip the bone broth for a few days, and the effect on both my glucose and ketones was quite dramatic. After only one day without bone broth, my fasting blood glucose decreased from 85-95 mg/dL to 65-75 mg/dL, and my fasting blood ketones increased from 0.9-2.4 mmol/L to 4.8-6.5 mmol/L.

I must admit that this was a very unexpected and shocking discovery. It was also very disappointing because I truly do LOVE bone broth. However, upon further investigation, it was not so surprising. Bone broth contains high amounts of the amino acid glutamine and, apparently, glutamine can easily be converted into glucose.It is for this reason that Dr. Thomas Seyfried, author of Cancer as a Metabolic Disease, recommends limiting glutamine, as well as carbohydrates, to people following a Ketogenic diet for cancer management. Cancer cells can use glutamine for fuel just as easily as they can use glucose from carbohydrates.

Bone broth has many wonderful healing properties, but it definitely inhibits the production of ketones. Many people choose to drink bone broth during both short and long fasts, but the powerful anti-ketotic effects of bone broth are likely to be highly counter-productive. One of primary benefits of fasting is its ability to lower blood insulin levels, and drinking bone broth during a fast may significantly reduce this benefit. So, if ketones are more important to you than the nutritional components present in bone broth, then you will definitely need to think twice before imbibing bone broth.

Addendum:

After I originally published this article, I forwarded it to a few of the Ketogenic experts to get their response. Jimmy Moore’s comment was that a person would have to be drinking “gargantuan” amounts of bone broth to have it affect the blood sugar and ketone levels this way.

So, I decided I should clarify that I was drinking 1 quart per day which I do not consider to be a “gargantuan” amount. It is certainly possible that drinking  only 1-2 cups per day would have had less of an impact, but I don’t think you can state that categorically without actually testing it. According to Kaayla Daniel, author of Nourishing Broth, 1 cup of chicken bone broth contains 1,000 mg of glutamine.

My whole point with this post is to bring awareness to the fact that bone broth may not be as innocuous as many people so blythly assume. If you are including it as part of your Ketogenic diet, or while fasting, you would be wise -in my humble opinion – to test its impact on your personal fasting blood glucose and ketone levels.

 

Optimal Protein on a Zero Carb Diet – Part 2

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This article is an addendum to my last post Optimal Protein on a Zero Carb Diet – Part 1. If you have not read that article, please do so before proceeding. I intended to discuss the information below in that post, but I forgot. Special thanks to Raymund Edwards of the Facebook group Optimal Ketogenic Living for bringing it to my attention.

Okay, so I want to be absolutely clear: I am not recommending that anyone practicing a Zero Carb diet should eat only their minimum requirement for protein. Eating too little protein on a Zero Carb diet can be just as detrimental as eating too much protein.

While Dr. Ron Rosedale is a proponent of eating only your minimum daily requirement, it is important to understand that he prescribes a Low Carb High Fat diet, not a Zero Carb diet. This means that his patients can get part of their nutrients from very low carb fruits and vegetables. However, people who eat a Zero Carb diet must get all of their nutrients from meat and other animal products.

There are very few nutrients in the fat portion of meat. While fat does have some fat soluble vitamins, it has no appreciable amount of water soluble B vitamins or minerals. It is the lean portion of the meat that contains most of the nutrients. So, restricting protein too much will also restrict total nutrient intake and, thus, compromise overall health and nutritional status.

This is why children who eat a very High Fat Ketogenic diet to manage their epilepsy are given vitamin and mineral supplements. 90% of their calories come from fat, and it is impossible for them get enough essential nutrients from the other foods they eat to meet their nutritional needs. But, in their case, the benefits of the high fat diet outweigh the nutrient shortfall, so supplements are used to make up the difference.

It is important, therefore, to find a happy medium with your protein intake. Again, I believe that our best examples for optimal protein consumption on a Zero Carb diet was provided by Stefansson and Donaldson. Both of these men ate and recommended a protein intake of between 100-140 gm per day.

During the year long Bellvue study, Stefansson showed no sign of nutritional deficiencies, not even for vitamin C. And Donaldson never once mentions the need to prescribe nutritional supplements to his patients while they followed his dietary program.

So, optimal protein on a Zero Carb diet is not about eating the least amount of protein that your body needs to function because – to reiterate – if you restrict protein too much, you restrict the lean portion of meat; and if you restrict the lean portion of meat too much, you restrict essential nutrients; and if you restrict essential nutrients too much, you risk compromising your total health profile.

But, optimal protein on a Zero Carb diet is also not about eating unlimited quantities of protein. Too much protein is no better than too little. You do not need 200+ grams of protein per day, and eating that much on a regular basis has its own set of potentially negative effects. Like everything else in life, it is about finding balance.

This is why fat consumption is the key to being successful on a Zero Carb diet long term. If 75-80% of your calories come from fat, like it did for Stefansson and Donaldson, it is unlikely that you will eat too much protein. Fat is the macronutrient that provides satiety. If you eat enough fat with your lean, you will not be so inclined to overeat protein.

Just don’t go overboard in the opposite direction either unless you have a really good medical reason such as epilepsy, diabetes, or cancer management. And if you do need to keep your protein at the bare minimum due to a serious medical condition, then it probably would be wise to incorporate nutritional supplements into your program.

If you following a Zero Carb diet and would like support, please join us in Principia Carnivora on Facebook.

 

Optimal Protein on a Zero Carb Diet – Part 1


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Many long time practitioners of a Zero Carb diet have shied away from discussions on macronutrient amounts and ratios in an effort to keep things simple. The general recommendation is to eat as much fatty meat as you want whenever you feel hungry. I understand the pull of this advice. We all want things to be as uncomplicated as possible, and having to the calculate protein and fat content of one’s diet can put some people into a mathematical tailspin. While this basic advice works well for some people, it does not work well for everyone. Therefore, I am going to dive headfirst into this subject and try to explain why this might be the case.

I have been practicing a Zero Carb diet now for 9 months. Not as long as some have, certainly, but long enough to know how this diet affects my body. I have made it through the initial adaptation process that occurs when one eliminates all plant foods and carbohydrates from their diet, and so any unpleasant symptoms I may be experiencing from the diet now are probably not due to that.

I had many challenges when first starting this diet due to histamine intolerance, and it was difficult for me to even find a meat that was low enough in histamines that I could eat without getting a migraine and feeling generally awful. I had only one source of beef that was not aged very long and was low in histamines, but it was from grassfed cows and was also low in fat. When I tried to add other fats to it, I did not feel well. Any rendered fat (such as tallow, lard, or butter) caused serious digestive problems (like hours of nausea and burping).

However, I was experiencing enough benefits from this way of eating that I continued on with the leaner grassfed meat because I could not figure out what else to do. But the longer I ate it, the worse I felt. It did not satisfy my hunger even after eating 2 lbs of it, and I was constantly thinking about eating again. It also made me very tired and lethargic, as well as extremely thirsty. I really didn’t know what else to do.

Then, I decided to do a water fast with my dog to help with some of his health problems, and we ended up going for 16 days. After the fast was over, I found that my histamine tolerance was much improved. I tested steaks from both Costco and Sprouts and found that I could eat them without developing a migraine afterwards. This was a welcome surprise. Now I could eat meat with more fat on it, and I found that I felt so much better. The fat that is part of the meat itself did not create the same kind of digestive upset that rendered fats did.

Throughout all of this, I finally decided to read two classic works by individuals who were very knowledgeable and experienced with eating and recommending an all-meat diet: The Fat of the Land by Vilhjalmur Stefansson and Strong Medicine by Blake Donaldson. Both of these books should – in my opinion – be required reading for anyone who is interesting in trying a Zero Carb diet.

Stefansson was an anthropologist who spent 10 years off and on living with the Arctic Natives and eating their diet. He experienced their way of life first hand and wrote about it in many books. When he returned to civilization, however, his academic colleagues did not believe he was telling the truth about the Native diet, so Stefansson agreed to allow a group of doctors to supervise him for one full year while eating an all-meat diet. The details of this unique study performed at Bellevue Hospital in New York can be read here: “Prolonged Meat Diets with a Study of Kidney Function and Ketosis.”

The upshot of that study was that neither Stefansson nor his colleague Karsten Andersen, who also participated, showed any signs of nutritional deficiencies or other health problems as a result of eating an all-meat diet for an entire year. The most interesting part of this study for me was the macronutrient profile of their diet. These two men both ate an average of 100-140 gm of protein and 200-300 gm of fat, totally 2100-3000 calories per day. That amount of protein equals about 14-20 oz of meat (lean portion) per day. All of the rest of their calories came from fat. There diet derived 75-80% of all calories from fat. Clearly, their meat was much fattier in 1929 than most of the meat we have available to us in supermarkets today.

Stefansson also explains that when one first starts a high fat diet, they have to go through an adaptation period (in the same way that you do when you refuse or remove carbohydrates from your diet). It takes about 3-4 weeks for the digestive system to adjust, and one may experience nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. He was surprisingly prescient in his understanding of why this occurred and states that the gut bacteria have to undergo significant alteration before we can effectively utilize the higher level of fat in the diet. In other words, he was talking about the GUT BIOME!

So, it is important for people new to a Zero Carb diet, or new to increasing the fat in their current Zero Carb diet, to understand this and be patient with their body. Lex Rooker, a long time raw meat eater, was very nauseated when he decided to up his fat from 65% to 80%. It took his body a while to adjust to the new level, but once it did, he felt much better over all. If you increase your fat percentage slowly over a period of days or weeks, you will experience less negative symptoms. It can be very helpful initially to eat 2-4 smaller meals, rather than one bigger meal, and reduce the amount of fat your digestive system must process at one time. When Stefansson lived with the Arctic Natives, they ate 4 meals per day; and during the Bellevue study, Stefansson and Andersen ate 3 times a day. They never ate all of their food for the day at one sitting.

Donaldson was a physician who practiced medicine from approximately 1900-1960. He stumbled upon the all-meat diet at some point during his career and began prescribing it to all of his sick and obese patients. He recommended 6 oz of meat (lean portion) and 2 oz of fat eaten 3 times per day, for a total of 3000 calories per day. This macronutrient profile is uncannily similar to what Stefansson and Andersen both ate during the Bellevue study. Fat provides about 75-80% of total calories with his recommended ratio of lean to fat. Donaldson said that if his patients ate less than this amount of meat, or skipped meals, their weight loss actually slowed down. He felt that a certain amount of protein was necessary to stoke the metabolic fire needed to burn body fat. He claims to have had a very high success rate with his patients. But since there is no study documenting his results, we can only take his word for it.

Another very interesting doctor who prescribed a mostly all-meat diet for his sick and obese patients was Dr. H.L. Newbold who practiced orthomolecular medicine from approximately 1940-1990. He had the good fortune to work with a brilliant doctor named Theron Randolph who taught Newbold how food allergies can cause serious mental and physical health problems. After many years of practice, Newbold wrote a little known, but very interesting, book called The Type A – Type B Weight Loss Diet. Like Donaldson, he recommended about 16-24 oz of very fatty meat per day, according to appetite. He found that his patients responded best to bone-in ribeye steaks.

Joe and Charlene Andersen have followed a Zero Carb diet for almost 2 decades now and have eaten very fatty ribeyes almost exclusively throughout this time. They also ate a lot of pemmican in the beginning of their journey, and that too is very high in fat. Here is a picture of the ribeyes they buy and eat on a regular basis.

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So, what does all this mean for modern day Zero Carb practitioners who want to thrive on this diet?

It is my opinion, based on what I have read from the above authors, as well as my own experience of eating this diet for 9 months now, that recommending people eat as much fatty meat as they want according to hunger will only be successful if the meat they are eating is actually fatty, and their cooking method preserves the fat. I know that sounds a bit crazy, but there are others – like myself – who have been consuming large amounts (2 or more lbs. per day) of lean-ish meat on a regular basis for many months. The result is that some of them have gained weight, failed to lose weight, are still experiencing inflammation, and feel generally blasé. In short, they are not experiencing the “Zen” of Zero Carb.

I believe the main reason they are not experiencing the results they are wanting and expecting is because – in some cases – they are eating too much protein. Too much protein can raise insulin and prevent weight loss, as I describe in my post “Insulin, Glucagon, and Fat Metabolism.” Chronically elevated insulin can also lead to all kinds of health problems. Amy Berger has explored some of the many illnesses that seem to be a direct result of high insulin levels in her terrific blog post “It’s the Insulin Stupid – Part 2.”

When I was eating 2 lbs of lean-ish ground beef, my total protein intake was close to 250 grams a day. Not only is that amount of protein not necessary, it can even be detrimental over the long term. When protein is broken down during digestion, toxic by-products like ammonia are created. These toxins must be eliminated through the kidneys, and the kidneys need water to do their job. This explains why I was so unbelievably thirsty while eating 2 lbs of lean-ish meat per day. As soon as I reduced my protein to 100 gm (16 oz of meat) and increased my fat to almost 200 gm per day, the fierce thirst vanished almost overnight. So, if someone is eating an all-meat diet and they have already made it through the adaptation period (first 4-6 weeks) and they are still incredibly thirsty, I think they would be wise to take a look at how much protein versus fat they are eating.

For economic reasons, many people use ground beef as a staple food on their Zero Carb diet, and it is not always as fatty as they think. When raw, 80/20 ground beef is 70% fat, but after cooking, the fat percentage drops to less than 60%. If you pour all the fat from the pan back over your ground beef, you will be getting close to percentage of fat recommended by Stefansson, Donaldson, and Newbold. But if you do not add the fat back to your ground beef, then you will fall short. You can also lose a lot of fat from a fatty steak if you barbecue it and the fat drips off the meat during the cooking process. This, not only is the original fat content of the meat important, but so is the cooking method. If you lose a lot of fat during cooking, then you will need to add extra fat to your meal to make up the deficit.

How much protein does a person need for health? This is a very controversial subject. Dr. Ron Rosedale comes down on the side that less is better. He recommends 1 gm of protein per kilogram of lean body mass. You figure that out, you take your weight in pounds and divide by 2.2 and then subtract 10%. I weigh 115 lb —> divided by 2.2 —> 52 kg —> minus 10% —> 46 gm of protein per day to meet absolute needs. For a thorough look at the potential downside of eating TOO MUCH protein, read Rosedale’s post “Protein: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”

Now, it is important to understand that Rosedale is an endocrinologist who treats patients with severe metabolic derangement. The more insulin resistant you are, the less protein you can eat without it converting into glucose. Though many of us today do suffer from insulin resistance to one degree or another, as explained in Amy Berger’s excellent post “It’s the Insulin Stupid – Part 1,” it is unlikely that we all need to limit our protein intake to that low of a level.

In fact, low carb dietitian Franzka Spritzler argues that limiting protein too much could both prevent weight loss and compromise overall health. She has done an outstanding job of laying out the research in her post “In Defense of High Protein, Low Carb Diets.” Interestingly, her recommendations -based on the research she sites – fall somewhere between 100-120 gm of protein per day for most people, and this coincides almost perfectly with the practical experience of Stefansson, Donaldson, and Newbold.

If you simply follow these basic guidelines laid out by these three early Zero Carb pioneers, you will likely do just fine. But if you are very insulin resistant and want to gauge your upper limit for protein more specifically, you can do so by testing your morning blood glucose after a 12 hour overnight fast. If your glucose is higher than 90 mg/dL (5.0 mmol/L), then you are likely eating too much protein for your particular metabolism. You can inch your protein down 10 gm at a time until your glucose comes down to below 90 mg/dL (5.0 mmol/L). This process will help you identify your personal protein limit and tailor a Zero Carb diet in a way that will serve you best.

Many people on a Zero Carb diet are discouraged from calculating their macronutrient ratios. I feel this is a mistake. If one wishes to be successful eating an all-meat diet for the long term, I think it is imperative to have a basic understanding of how much protein and fat you are eating. This is not something that needs to become an all consuming obsession with every single meal calculated and tracked. The joy of a Zero Carb diet is – for many – the freedom it provides in that regard compared to the more complicated Low Carb Ketogenic diets they may have tried previously. But if you do not have epilepsy or cancer or some other potentially fatal illness that you are using a Zero Carb diet to treat, then there is no need to be that specific.

Once you have a concept of how much meat equals 100 gm, and how much fat needs to be added to that meat to achieve a ratio of 70-80% calories as fat, then it becomes very easy. After you do it a few times, you will develop a sixth sense for how much of each you need by the way it looks on your plate and how you feel after eating it. Michael Frieze – who has practiced a Zero Carb diet for over 5 years now – developed an intuitive approach that has worked very well for him. He simple eats all of the fat on his meat first until he is maxed out on fat. Only then does he begin to eat the lean portion of his meat. If there is not enough fat on the meat, he will eat butter straight until he has satisfied his fat hunger before proceeding on to the lean portion of his meat. He says he learned this from The Bear (aka Owsley Stanley) who practiced a Zero Carb diet successfully for 50 years.

Neither Michael nor Joe and Charlene ever track anything with their food. They just eat really fatty meat and place a high priority on the fat, and all three of them are thriving on this diet. So clearly tracking is not necessary if you have access to really fatty meat and can afford to eat it on a regular basis. However, if you are a bit of a nerd like me and enjoy tracking and calculating things, and you find it fun and interesting (rather than complicated and stressful), then of course you are free to do so. I personally use the free online program Cronometer.

In conclusion, while it is important not to eat too much protein, it is also important to eat enough. Based on the above discussion, 100 gm of protein (16 oz of meat) per day is a good place to start, and then you can fine tune – up or down – from there, depending on your personal needs. If you find yourself hungry after eating this amount of meat, then you may not be eating enough fat. Stefansson and Andersen ate 2 gm of fat for every gm of protein. So, if you eat 25 gm of protein (4 oz of meat) be sure to eat 50 gm of fat with it (as part of the meat itself or added extra to make up the difference). There is no hard and fast rule that will be perfect for everyone, but this is the formula recommended and practiced by people who were and are very experienced with this diet.

Related articles:

Optimal Protein on a Zero Carb Diet – Part 2

Is a Zero Carb Diet a Ketogenic Diet?

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Is a Zero Carb Diet a Ketogenic Diet?

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The answer to this question might surprise you. Many people assume that carbohydrates are the only factor that matters for ketone production, but this is not the case. Too much protein per day, too much protein at one time, and too much protein late in the day can also prevent ketosis. So, no, a Zero Carb diet is not – by default – also a Ketogenic diet.

The Zero Carb community has been quite vociferous about discouraging practitioners from testing themselves for ketones and have even gone so far as to ridicule and make fun of people who chose to do say. They claim that it is neither necessary nor important to test for ketones while practicing a Zero Carb diet. Some even go so far as to say (and apparently believe) that a Zero Carb diet is automatically a ketogenic diet which is absolutely not true.

People new to Zero Carb are generally instructed to eat as much fatty meat as they need to feel satisfied and to eat according to hunger. This advice can work well if the meat actually is fatty, but much of the meat we have available to us today is no where near as fatty as meat was in the past. On the one hand, animals are being preferentially bred for leanness, and on the other hand, butchers have been trained to remove much of the “excess” fat before putting it up for sale. This means that much of the meat we buy to day is quite a bit leaner than what practioners of an all meat diet ate.

For example, in the 1928 Bellevue study with Vilhjalmur Stefansson, author of The Fat of the Land, and his collegue Karsten Andersen, the macronutrient ratios were 20% protein and 80% fat. These two men consumed between 100-140 gm of protein and 200-300 gm of fat each day. Now, it is not possible to achieve this ratio if one eats even the fattiest cuts of beef sold in most supermarkets. Chuck roast and ribeye come the closest, but even the cuts are often below 70% fat by calories.

Many people who practice Zero Carb today rely predominant on ground beef because it is the most affordable option. However, most ground beef is surprisingly lean. Even 70/30 (70% lean and 30% fat by weight) ground beef after cooking is only 60% fat and a whopping 40% protein by calories. So, if a person eats only 70/30 ground beef – assuming they can actually find this ratio – they will be consuming much less fat and much more protein than Stefansson and Andersen did during their year long study.

However, it should be noted that the numbers above are for cooked ground beef. If you include all of the fat that renders out of 70/30 ratio, or if you eat the ground beef raw like me, then you would not necessarily need to add extra to the 70/30 ratio. So, it depends to some extent on your method of cooking and length of cooking time. You can use a program like http://www.cronometer.com to help you figure out exact how much fat you are eating.

Too much protein can raise insulin in the same way that too much carbohydrate can, and this – in turn – will prevent you from making ketones. If you do not get enough fat on a Zero Carb diet, you can easily over eat protein. Two pounds of 70/30 ground beef supplies 230 gm of protein, about 100 gm more than a person needs. When eating ground beef with no added fat, it is very easy to eat 2 lbs a day because it is not very satiating.

I went through a period of eating only lean ground beef and my fasting blood glucose was consistently elevated to between 100-115 mg/dL all the time. Furthermore, my blood ketones were barley registering at 0.3 mmol/L. The minimum level of ketones need for nutritional ketosis is 0.5. However, after I decided to lower my protein and increase my fat, my fasting glucose decreased to between 75-85 mg/dL, and my ketones increased to 0.8 mmol/L in just a few day. Additionally, I FELT MUCH BETTER.

Eating 2 lbs of ground beef a day with no added fat left me feeling bloated, tired, and less able to focus mentally. I also experienced a chronic low grade headachiness and made me edgy and irritable. It also left me physically dissatisfied and craving more food. I was thinking about food constantly and wanting to eat again. Clearly, both my brain and body were not being satisfied by plain ole ground beef. Since I reduced the protein and increased the fat, all of these negative symptoms have disappeared.

Dr. Blake Donaldson, a doctor in the early 1900s, also discovered the merits of a very low carb mostly meat diet for curing his patients of obesity. He based his program largely upon the research of Stefansson and instructed his patients to eat 6 ox of lean and 2 oz of fat 3 times per day. He told his patients they could eat more if they wish, as long as they kept the ratio (3 parts lean to 1 part fat) the same, but they were told to never eat less than this amount. Donaldson felt that 18 ounce of lean, which provides a little over 100 gm of protein, was the amount necessary to replenish and repair vital body tissues and to facilitate the burning of body fat. He says that if his patients ate less than this or skipped meals, their weight loss would slow or come to a complete halt. He apparently has excellent results with this protocol. Please see his book Strong Medicine for more details.

Michael Frieze has been practicing a Zero Carb diet successfully for over 5 years now. However, he will be the first to tell you that his first 6 to 12 months of eating this way was fairly difficult. It took his body a long time to adapt to the diet, and he had to work out some kinks. The three most important things he discovered – from my perspective – was 1) eating enough meat; 2) eating the meat rare; and 3) eating the fat parts of the meat preferentially before eating the lean. Each of these changes improved the way he felt on this diet.

For the purpose of this discussion, the most important of these discoveries by Michael is number 3. As he explains it, he will eat as much of the fat on the meat first until his “fat” hunger is satisfied. If there is not enough fat on the meat to satisfy him, then he will eat butter straight until he feels satiated. Then he will eat as much of the lean part of the meat as he desires. He says that this prevents him from both over eating and under eating fat. Basically, this approach acts as a biological barometer for his fat requirements. Once he has reached his limit, the fat will start to make him feel nauseated and he knows – at this point – that he has had enough.

The problem with ground beef – aside from being generally low in fat – is that the fat and the lean are all mixed together, making it impossible to preferentially eat the fat first. So, there is no way a person’s biological barometer can guide them with ground beef. Therefore, it becomes imperative to do some calculations to figure out how much fat you will likely need to add in order to achieve 80% fat by calories for a meal. If you are lucky enough to find 70/30 ground beef which is 60% fat by calories, you would need to add 1 oz of butter per 3 oz of ground beef to attain close to 80% fat by calories. This is the exact ratio that Dr. Donaldson’s recommends.

So, while a Zero Carb diet can have benefits even if you are not in a state of nutritional ketosis, those who are looked upon as early Zero Carb pioneers (i.e. Stefansson and Donaldson) were definitely eating and recommending macronutrient ratios that would almost guarantee nutritional ketosis. It is my contention that if we were eating the meat they were eating, then our Zero Carb diet would also be a Ketogenic diet. But, the changes in the meat itself, as well as the butchering practices, has removed much of the fat that would naturally be present in the meat we eat.

While some people do just fine eating as much meat as they wish on a Zero Carb diet, others like myself, do not. If you are following a Zero Carb diet and not experiencing the result you desire, then it seems logical to me that one should take a closer look at what our Zero Carb predecessors (i.e. Stefansson and Donaldson) were eating, as well as what our current long term Zero Carb practioners (i.e. Michael Frieze) are actually eating because these are people who have successfully practiced this way of eating for many years.

It is important to understand that I am not advocating any type of restriction here. I am simply suggesting that if you are following a Zero Carb diet and experiencing the benefits you desire, then you may wish to adjust your macronutrient ratios according to what Steffanson and Donaldson practiced and recommended. Donaldson set a minimum intake for his patients, but not a maximum. He told them to eat as much as they needed to satisfy hunger as long as they kept the 3:1 (lean:fat) ratio the same. If you do this, it is unlikely that you will still want to eat a full 2 pounds of ground beef because that would require eating an additional 10 oz of fat along with it.

After much reading and experimentation on my own body, I have come to the conclusion that combining the philosophy of a Zero Carb diet (eat only from the animal kingdom, primarily meat) with the knowledge of a Ketogenic Diet (eat a balance of macronutrients that supports ketosis) is vastly superior to either approach by itself. If you wish to learn more about the benefits of and how to eat ketogenically, I highly recommend Keto Clarity by Jimmy Moore and The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek.