From Vegan To Carnivore And Back - What I Learned

Yes, after more than six years of eating a mostly vegan diet, I have experimented with eating mostly meat. Why did I go from one end of the dietary spectrum to the other? Why not just eat a balanced diet?

To be honest, I would like to have some of this carnivore-stamina.

In my past, I had to deal with some digestive issues and cured them through a primarily plant-based diet. But I still had some areas that I was not totally satisfied with. I like to experiment with my diet and see how different foods make me feel. That way, I ate a low-carb vegan diet for a long time now. I am generally doing some form of intermittent fasting too. Among all the vegan foods and supplements that are supposed to improve health, I was attracted and may be blinded by the simplicity of the carnivore diet. Eat meat, drink water.

As it turned out, while working on a free-range cattle farm in Denmark, I had access to a lot of meat, which otherwise would have been thrown away. In this case, I had no moral or environmental issues with eating a lot of meat. Let the meat feast begin and my experiment with the carnivore diet.

I had no issues adopting this diet coming from a low-carb vegan diet. In the beginning, I was still eating a green leafy salad every day. But I reduced it over time. And for a few weeks, I ate almost exclusively meat, still including some coconut and olive oil, but basically no fibre.

I was very surprised to learn that this did not cause any constipation. Stools were of course considerably smaller, but easy to pass. My digestion felt good all the time. Basically, the feeling is similar to water fasting, pretty much empty all the time. Something to get used to, as there is no more being "full" after a meal. Satisfaction still set in though, just through a different mechanism it seems. Instead of the stomach being stretched it is more a signal coming from the brain.

I also did some blood-tests during this time. And this is where the diet became really concerning to me. Before the test, I rode my bike for 15 minutes at a moderate pace. I say that because it might explain the high triglycerides because I haven't eaten anything for more than 12 hours.

I am particularly concerned about the high cholesterol in combination with the CRP value being on the upper end of the spectrum. This means I fall into the high-risk category for heart disease. But according to some of the keto advocates I would be classified as a "lean mass hyper responder". Which means that lean and athletic people tend to experience the highest increase in LDL-cholesterol and total cholesterol. As the body as little other reserves and no glucose available it has to be able to quickly mobilize a lot of fat when exercising. To do that, the body produces a lot of cholesterol.

But I am concerned that this cholesterol is just not good for my arteries in the long run. Based on all the best available evidence, the overwhelming amount of research shows that is saver to have lower cholesterol levels. The whole foods plant-based low-fat diet is the approach with the most scientifically sound data backing it. Taking into account research funding by the industry it is clear that most of the low-carb and ketogenic research might be biased in favour of restricting carbohydrates.

Additionally, during some days on the carnivore diet, I experienced some intense chest pain, increased heart rate and blood pressure. I never had this happen before. Not even on a high-fat vegan diet.

Here is what I am going to do:

I have ended my carnivore diet around a week ago and started a water-only fast. I want to extend the fast to 14 days. Coming from a ketogenic diet is a good way to start a water fast as the body does not have to switch fuels from carbohydrates to fats. The transition period was easy.
After that, I will go back to the diet which I think is the healthiest in the long run: a whole-foods, plant-based, low-fat diet. Will I eat completely vegan? Probably not. On certain occasions, where the best quality meat is available, maybe a handful of times a year, I will eat meat. But that will still make my diet 99,9% plant-based.

This is the diet that has healed my digestive issues and has kept me feeling very good for the majority of my vegan period. But my experimentation with the low-carb approach was definitely interesting and has me taught to understand people eating carnivore. There are definitely benefits to this way of eating. But overall and for the majority of people, the whole-foods plant-based approach is by far the better option. And for the environment, it is anyways because even totally free-range raised meat requires much more land and resources than sustainably farmed plants. Not to mention that most people can't or won't afford the cost of this meat and instead by lots of factory-raised meat products.