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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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January 13 2010

What About a Zero Carb Diet?

By Mark Sisson
197 Comments

Zero carb is getting (relatively) popular. A handful of valued MDA forum members eat little-to-no-carb, and several others probably imagine it’s ideal even if they don’t personally follow it. I wanted to address this because there seems to be some confusion as to how a zero carb eating plan relates to the Primal Blueprint eating plan. To begin with: I think zero carb can be a viable option for some, but highly impractical for most. If one had access to and ate different animals, all range fed and without pollutants, and if one ate all offal (and stomach contents) it’s possible to approach zero carb… but again highly impractical. If you really, really love meat and fat and offal, and get genuine enjoyment from eating nothing but meat and fat and offal, have at it. On the other hand, if you are looking for a wider variety – and gustatory enjoyment – of the foods you eat, zero carb may be unenjoyable, impractical, unnecessary, and at worst (if not done just right) downright dangerous.

Let’s take a look at just a few of the reasons why vegetables are a part of The Primal Blueprint:

First, it’s highly unlikely that early man would have consciously avoided edible, available vegetation. We already know that current hunter-gatherers take advantage of anything edible within reach – plant or animal. We are adaptive capitalists, ready and willing to exploit any situation to our advantage. Humans are survivors and they’ll eat whatever is available. If you subscribe to the “out of Africa” model of human evolution – as do most anthropologists – the bulk of our evolution took place in the lush, fertile Africa grasslands where both game and vegetation were plentiful. Grok wasn’t throwing together multicolored salads every day at noon, but the precedent for plant consumption is there. The opportunity certainly was.

People have ranged far and wide across the globe, living in a variety of environments and ecosystems, each with different sources of food. Looking at the fossil records, it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact Paleolithic diet (whatever that means), seeing as how vegetable matter degrades and bone endures. But it’s safe to say that meat and fat have always been preferred by man, and our ancestors’ adoption of a meat and fat-heavy diet necessitated and prompted (in the cycle of positive feedback between culture and physiology that so often describes evolution) the smaller guts and bigger brains we enjoy today. Many like to take this point combined with examples of people surviving on animals alone as proof that vegetables should be restricted or avoided entirely. As I see it, when a carnivorous-predominant group does arise, like the Inuit, it is only out of necessity. They are an exception to the rule. The Inuit survived in a barren, arid environment by eating whatever was available: marine animals, fat, blubber, organs, and fish. It wasn’t by choice. They weren’t turning their noses up at bushels of berries and teeming fields of wild cabbage; the opportunity simply wasn’t there. In every other case, humans will eat both plants and animals if they are given the chance, and plant matter is mostly available all over the world, depending on the season.

The Inuit do, though, show us that an-all meat, zero carb diet has the potential to be healthy. It might even be desirable for certain people if (here comes the tricky part), as I said, they use organic range-fed whole animals – muscle meat, fat, organs, offal, stomach contents – to get the whole spectrum of fat-soluble nutrients and vitamins. All those thriving near-carnivorous traditional groups the zero carb crowd likes to throw around weren’t buying tubes of 80/20 Walmart beef and nothing else; they were eating spoiled organs, consuming stomach contents, fermenting full-fat dairy, drinking fish liver shooters, gnawing on still-beating bison heart, and feasting on a “guts and grease” diet. Stefansson’s oft-cited all-meat diet experiment wasn’t just muscle and fat; it was fried liver and brains, fish, and a whole host of animal products. As for the ground beef and water diets that seem popular in some ZC circles? You’re fooling yourself if you think that’s an optimum diet for health and longevity, and I’m not sure if some favorable lab numbers garnered after six months of eating nothing but burger mean much at all. Better than the standard American diet of chips, sodas, cookies, and rancid fats on top of the same burger meat? Maybe. Optimum? Not a chance. Let’s see what happens in thirty years. Staunch ZCer Danny Roddy’s strangely scurvy-esque symptoms following a purely pemmican diet should give you pause.

That sort of fear of macronutrients is silly and potentially dangerous. Avoiding grass-fed beef liver because it contains a few grams of carbohydrates is crazy (or did you conveniently forget that crucial aspect of the Inuit and Plains Native diets – organ meats?). Eschewing pastured eggs and all their yolky goodness because of a fraction of a gram of carbohydrates? Madness. Now, avoiding all carbs because you feel better without them? I can get behind that. Trying to maximize fat loss by going zero carb for short periods of time? Worth trying. Trying to prove your glucose-freebasing marathoner friends wrong by beating them on a ultra-low carb diet? I love a good self-experiment; do it! A complete zero carb diet is possible to get right, albeit a bit impractical and unwieldy for most people (if you think sourcing grass-fed beef is tough, trying finding a steady supply of pastured thyroid glands, kidneys, livers, brains, tripe, and heart!), but so is an omnivorous one. Which would you prefer? Which would enhance your quality of life? As long as you’re avoiding grains, legumes, sugar, and industrial vegetable oils, these are the important questions to dwell on.

But what of vegetables? Is there anything inherent to be feared? Most plants are, at the worst, harmless. Others, like the seeds of wheat and barley and legumes, really don’t want to be eaten and can cause problems. These guys employ various anti-nutrients, chemical defenses like lectins and gluten to prevent and dissuade consumption. Certain animal and insect species have developed tolerances, but we generally have not. It is necessary for proper health that we humans “deprive” ourselves of these foods. I get that. And people sensitive to nightshades should avoid them, just as the lactose intolerant should probably avoid even raw dairy, and people with a severe shellfish allergy should avoid shrimp. This is basic stuff. But to posit that humans are somehow wholly intolerant of all vegetables and fruits is nonsense. Leafy greens like spinach and kale, carrots, asparagus, broccoli, squash, even the occasional sweet potato – some people would have you believe these are poison. Unnecessary? Perhaps. Dangerous? No, and especially when eaten with plenty of fat, vegetables are excellent vehicles for delivering beneficial nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to the people consuming them (read a few of our Smart Fuel posts on vegetables for more info on this point). Leafy greens, for example, are great sources of magnesium and calcium. Sardines and mackerel are good sources, too, but do they negate the utility (or deliciousness) of a plate of kale, sauteed in garlic butter and topped with lemon juice? This, to me, isn’t a point not to be taken lightly.

There’s more to this picture. As long as you’re going to be cooking your meat there are good reasons to eat your steak with a side of veggies. A researcher named Joseph Kanner has spent a career looking at how the potential nastiness of cooked meats – oxidized fats, for instance – are neutralized in the “bioreactor” of the stomach with the inclusion of antioxidants from vegetables, red wine, and tea. Does this mean vegetables are required for safe consumption of cooked meat? Probably not, but unless you’re eating all your meat and offal raw, ultra-slow-cooked, or super rare, you may want to include a small salad, a bit of broccoli, or a glass of wine with that ribeye. Plant-based antioxidants (flavonoids, carotenoids, and other phytonutrients) in general provide a good line of defense against stress, inflammation, and the ravages of aging in the context of the former two conditions. A perfect zero carber who closely watches meat sources, gets plenty of sleep, good Primal exercise, and leads a low-stress existence is probably fine without piles of vegetables, but the average person who stumbles upon the PB and needs to drop a few dozen pounds, kick a few prescription meds, and maintain on inconsistent sleep? A Big Ass Salad (BAS) for lunch and some berries for breakfast (along with near carnivorous eating otherwise) will go a long way toward healing them – and they’d definitely be a huge improvement over what they were previously eating.

And this gets me to my final main point on the importance of plants. The Primal Blueprint eating plan supports vegetation in large part because it’s meant to be a sustainable regimen – for life. Our supportive stance on vegetation is meant to include, rather than preclude. I’m trying to positively modify as many individual eating habits as I can in my short time on this planet. My work is my work, but I’m passionate about it, and I don’t want to be a starving diet guru with an incredibly loyal but miniscule cadre of die-hard followers. I want to affect people on a huge scale. I refuse to water my message down (“drink diet sodas and avoid saturated fat”), but if including lots of vegetables attracts more people without detracting from the nutritional merits of the lifestyle, I’m going to keep doing it. I’m talking about the people who need our help the most. They are our parents, our friends, our neighbors, and they stand to gain the most from adopting a Primal eating plan. Excluding vegetables right off the bat would only turn people away and relegate us to “fad diet” status immediately. It’s already an uphill battle, folks, and we don’t need any more roadblocks. Please, though, don’t read this as some sort of vague admission that vegetables aren’t a critical part of a healthy eating plan. I only mean to note this added importance that veggies bring to the PB.

Before I wrap this up, let me speak specifically to how this relates to the official Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid – which is founded on vegetables, and to a lesser extent, fruits. Vegetation gets prime seating at the base as it makes up the bulk of an average PB meal, with meat and other animal products following up immediately after. When you take a look at the average Primal eater’s caloric daily breakdown though, fat and meat take the lion’s share. And when we publish a PB recipe, more often than not it features animal flesh proudly and prominently. Vegetation represents the foundation of the pyramid graphic but not the bulk of the caloric reality, which might seem designed to mislead.

It’s not, though. For one thing, the sheer volume of raw vegetation is immense. Three cups of raw spinach quickly become less than a cup’s worth when exposed to butter and a heated surface. A few cups of buttered broccoli might displace enough three-dimensional space to fill a plate, but it won’t fill you up; the ten ounces of steak to the left will take care of that. In that sense, vegetation can and often does form the foundation of a Primal eating strategy, calories notwithstanding, but it’s not a ton of calories derived from plants. That would take kilos of greens and pounds of carrots, and we aren’t lowland gorillas with immense fermentation chambers in our protruding guts. To really get a sense of how many or how few vegetables and fruits the PB prescribes, though, look to the Carbohydrate Curve: it’s totally open-ended. At the height, it’s 150 g/day of carbs, from vegetables and fruits and natural starches. Athletes can even extend that and go a bit higher, depending on activity level and glycogen needs. It goes as low as zero carb, which I characterize as an “excellent catalyst for rapid weight loss.” You’ll also note that while I don’t recommend it for prolonged periods, it’s not because I fear ketosis, or that excluding plant foods will kill you; it’s because I can’t support the “unnecessary deprivation of plant foods.”

In the end, the PB comes down to maximizing quality of life. I want to enjoy every bite of every meal. I want to stay out of the rest home, avoid hospital stays, and stay active into my twilight years. Hell, I want my twilight years to be inundated with beams of radiant light. I don’t want my life to be a heavily regimented procession of pills and white coats. I want to have my sensible vices, like wine or dark chocolate. I want to eat vegetables because I enjoy them – not because I’m under the assumption that they’re magic. I have the means and the wherewithal to eat a complete, totally ideal carnivorous diet, but I prefer variety. I like my steak and my eggs (a gram of carbs doesn’t scare me) and my asparagus.

Let me know what you think PBers, ZCers and everyone else. Thank for reading!

TAGS:  keto

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197 thoughts on “What About a Zero Carb Diet?”

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  1. I am with you Mark…I couldn’t see giving up my pure love of fruits and vegetables. Zero Carb seems pretty radical but if it works for someone…give ‘er hell!

  2. Hi Mark,

    I’m really enjoying your posts, and have been playing/experimenting with macro-nutrient variation for years. Currently, I’m sub 30g carbs per day and 90% primal.

    On a regular basis, clients tell me that they heard the latest diet did this, or that, is good, is bad, etc. My dietary philosophy is centered around whole foods. With the plethora of “diets” out there, people are confused and even scarred to eat! That is why the PB/paleo way makes so much to me…it’s completely instinctual.
    Some of my clients are more willing to add in the proper saturated fats, but nearly all welcome and understand the difference eating clean/organic/ wholesome/complete food makes.

    Be Well,

    Maximillian Barry, CPT

  3. I am so happy to see this post. There is a bit of an extremist attitude permeating the forums lately. The all meat diet, don’t eat fruit crowd are giving unhealthy advise. Thanks Mark, once again the voice of reason. I personally couldn’t go a single day without a big salad and other veggies.

    1. what scares me, is that may no longer BE any paleo-valid vegetables available. All vegetables you can buy have been ruthlessly bred to forms which favor, a higher income for the farmer.

      Another thing is that most of the perception of the carbs content of veggies, is based on an EXTREMELY small amount of testing. No one can make any money by doing such testing, so we’re still working with these single data points which were funded by USDA a rather long time ago. If you think that Burpee and their cousins have not been busy bringing to market new varieties of vegetable seed – well, maybe you should keep up with the trade press of FARMERS. The seed companies will only develop things that their customers want. Farmers (like most everyone else) are very strongly focused on income.

      Just think about the example of “sweet onions”. Texas 1015 onions are 8% fructose by weight.

      Farmers want sweet crop cultivars in their fields for the same reason that car manufacturers (in the old days) wanted assembly lines turning out “muscle cars”: because, notwithstanding whatever politically-correct people TELL an interviewer, muscle-cars were what they actually willing to sign checks for.

      FArmers are like vehicle manufacturers…. they wake up each morning in fear and trembling of being able to meet their payroll. They have no choice but to sow the stuff that people will ACTUALLY put into a supermarket cart.

      Fruits in particular, in the last coupla decades have been ruthlessly turned into bags of sugar, by our highly-efficient (and highly-responsive to the requests of THEIR customers: the farmers) horticultural scientists. READ the trade organs of the Ag Experiment stations of this land, my friends!

      1. A worthwhile and astute comment. I also wonder if the selective breeding of animals has affected their ‘nutrient content’.

  4. I have just started eating more veggies, I was very heavy on the protein/fat. I finally figured out the trick to salads, because I don’t like cutting up all the stuff each time. I was lazy. So now I cut up a bunch of stuff before hand and eat it through the days it stays fresh.
    It always confused me when people were really down on some fruits, but I guess they were trying to lose weight. Me? I’m trying to maintain/gain muscle mass, so I need those fruits and sweet potatoes.

    1. Have a look at ketogains… if you’re trying to gain muscle, you want to eat protein not fruit. Protein grows protein…

  5. I was just thinking about this very subject last night while eating my rib eye and enjoying my roasted Brussels sprouts/onions/garlic/bacon side dish. Life without veggies would be too boring. One of these days, when I’m done losing weight, I’ll be able to add in a little fruit. Until then, the veggies keep me sane.

    1. Maybe I’m biased because I am from Belgium and live near Brussels, but that’s the way to way to eat the sprouts!! ;-D And if you tolerate some dairy, you could add some cream…

      1. Cream sounds divine! I’ll try that next time. I had some lemon juice on mine, and that was good, too.

  6. Got me out of lurkdom – what an excellent and informative post 🙂

    I especially appreciate the explanation re: vegetables making up the ‘bulk’ of the pyramid, but not necessarily the caloric breakdown. I noticed the same thing when I transitioned from Atkins to Protein Power Life Plan to more of a Paleo-style eating plan. Sure, I eat lots of vegetables, but they don’t take up a lot of room in terms of the overall macronutrient ratio. And besides, the “BAS” at lunch worked wonders for me.

    Thanks again!

  7. Now I understand your pyramid. When you last ‘reposted’ it I was confused about the meat not being at the bottom, but now it makes sense.

    Personally, since I am trying to lose weight, I try to get as close to zero carb as possible for a few days out of the work week, along with IF. If I feel dizzy or weak, I will eat a veggie-filled meal with my protein and fat.

    Post-weight-loss, I will not be doing super low or zero carb for the long-haul.

    I love my fruits and vegetables. When I go zero carb, a veggie tastes like dessert to me!

    Great post as usual Mark!

    1. just throwing this out there but if you’re getting week or dizzy throwing in IF might do more to slow your progress towards weightloss than help, you might be affecting stress hormones negatively which will work against you in terms of getting your body to let go of extra ‘stored energy’ i.e. insulin response to the reintroduction of cho in form of fruit/veggs.

  8. Great post Mark! If not for the vegetables and the variety they add, I don’t think I could have done the Primal diet. And they are so darn tasty. BAS is one of my favorite meals.

    1. Great post! I have been reading a lot of ZC blogs, and was kind of leaning towards the conclusion you made (that its do-able, but you have to have all the components correct i.e. organ meats, etc). Me and my fiancee are both losing weight, so we try to stay under ~30g/carbs per day which usually amounts to a salad or a serving of cooked veggies per day, plus eggs, cheese for him, and a little dark chocolate for me. Once at our ideas weights, we will both definitly add in more veggies, berries, and a little fruit for variety!!

  9. Mark, good post, I would like to point out that some of your statements on hunter/gatherers are incorrect. The Inuit would resort to eating roots when times were bad, but always preferred meat. The Masai (particularly the warriors) ate almost all animal products in Africa out of choice, not because that was the only option.

    All evidence seems to indicate that given the choice, a hunter/gatherer will be choosing meat over plants, but they still did gather plants. But we should consider what kinds of plants they were- nuts in certain areas, and high-carb roots (potato) were staples, not leafy vegetables.

    None of this means vegetables are bad, or that no-carb is good or bad, but we need to be clear about our paleo history.

    1. I think that the argument of the preferred food of choice is a rather dangerous one.

      I agree that a animal food sources are probably highly preferred, but one of the main evolutionary lessons we should learn is that probably at all times there was not always a choice, and some food sources were limited, even if they were the preferred ones.

      See also: http://www.epjournal.net/filestore/EP07601616.pdf

      It could be that if the Hadza had the choice, they would eat honey all the time.

      Hunter gatherer diets are a compromise between what they want and what they can get.

      And what they want can also be the resuslt of plant strategies (fructose to lure the people to disperse the seeds)

      One of the main problems with our way of life is that we don’t have to make a compromise: we can get what we want for food…

      Cheers

      1. Priscilla,you are such a natural! The caemra loves you and love your cute accent (hey, I have one too )!The pink icing is genius, well done!

      1. The Inuit go under the ice during low tide to gather sea vegetables and mussels. They also seasonally consume pine tips, bearberries and tundra fruits and greens. While their diet is mostly fat, blubber and meat from whale, walrus, seal and fish, including shellfish, they do have some sources of vegetable-based caloric consumption.

    2. I had to kind of laugh at this – have you been to the Maasai Mara? There’s little – very little – that’s not meat that’s fit for humans to eat.

  10. Blogger Stargazey at lowcarb4you.blogspot.com explains why very low-carb or zero carbs might actually be harmful for some people in her post “Observations on Protein Intake in Low-Carbers.”

  11. Great post Mark. I also think that a ZC diet based only on muscle meat makes no sense and is potentially dangerous.

    I personally tend to gravitate to VLC (0-50g) because my (big) salads tend to be non-starchy and I love meat. I have also limited my nut consumption, as I find it too easy to binge on them.

    I personally believe that the potential health benefits from obsessively and *properly* pursuing a meat-only ZC diet are probably the same as staying Paleo and within a 0-50g carb range, so it is probably not worth the hassle.

    Plus how can any sane non-masochist purposeful remove eventual cheese and wine from his diet? Total madness…

  12. I tried near-carnivore for a while, and although I felt fine I did get bored.
    However, going overboard on the roast veggies one evening reminded me that there is a balance to be had!

    Food is to be enjoyed!

  13. Obsessive behavior is damaging. Eventually even good things taken to the extreme become bad. The main thing I like about Mark’s daily posts is the voice of moderation within a certain discipline. The PB discipline has absolute boundaries, but within, it allows for a wide latitude of acceptable behavior. THAT is the VERY KEY to its success.

    The same mentality that tries to compress that discipline into a narrow box is the same mentality that kills anorexics: If more is better, then more than more must be better than better.

    At the very least, taking any discipline to the extreme, usually ends up in frustration since extreme behavior doesn’t hold interest for most sane people for any length of time… sooner or later the intensity wears off and the individual (many times) ends up in a worse state than if he hadn’t done anything at all.

    Moderation (generally) is still the best advice, and I hear it a lot from Mark

  14. I like the post, Mark. Our modern diets allow us to eat many things that would not be available to us over the centuries of our development, but that doesn’t automatically make those things inappropriate or incompatible. I’m keeping to under 40g carbs per day, but will probably raise that to about 100g as I reach various goals.

    I have read that a zero carb diet may spike blood sugar in some pre-diabetic and diabetic folks, but cannot find the reference now. It was a lengthy blog post, complete with the metabolic pathways leading to the surge in blood sugar levels. If anyone has a link to it, I’d appreciate it.

  15. Wow!
    My current perspective is that fruits and vegetables played the same role for our ancestors as most supplements do today: providing us with many of the vitamins and minerals essential for optimum health. I’d really like to learn more of the theory and rationalization behind this to explain how we can thrive without such important micronutrients such as calcium. One of the best posts I’ve read here. It really challenged my paradigm.

    1. Well try reading this post: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/food/article-1349960/5-day-fruit-vegetables-myth-claims-nutrition-expert.html

      Calcium, for one, can be gotten from a good bone broth, if you can’t handle milk, or sardines. In fact in the article she states plants are only providing us with two vitamins and minerals that we can’t get from animal sources: Vitamin C and Potassium.
      I found it an eye opening article, but I’m still going to eat veggies, I’m just not worrying about getting enough anymore since I prefer meat 🙂

      1. The brain and adrenal glands of animals are actually very good sources of vitamin C, so if one decides to go ‘No Carb’ then it’s a good idea to eat a wide variety of offal. Also, red meat and fish are good sources of potassium, but the potassium will leach out into one’s cooking medium. Therefore in order to get all the potassium contained in meat, which is sufficient for getting one’s RDA, one should always consume the leftover broth or fat from cooking.

        So in reality, one doesn’t need plants at all. 😉

        1. Your requirement for Vitamin C lowers once you stop eating vegetables.

          🙂

        2. I have been doing keto for 2 years and Low carb, low fat for 20 years before that. I am fit, healthy and have a curiosity about health. That is why I am now 3 months carnivore. It’s an experiment. If I get bored I will go back to 3 – 5g carbs because I was happy doing that. All my adult life I was the vegetable queen. I ate a little bit of meat because i did not love it. Now I adore red meat and I have not been bored eating meat once. Meat, fish, offal, brains, eggs and a bit of cream sometimes. I always had white nails. Now they are pink! I have always been happy but suddenly I am feeling so happy with a sense of well being that amazes me. I run 15km 4 x a week and I am 62 with no health issues. The simplicity of eating meat is lovely. I am curious to see how long I can continue to do this.

  16. Personally, I operate very well on very low carb, but I do love my fruits and veggies. If I have them in the house, I’ll eat them, but if I don’t have any I don’t worry myself over it. Even when I was a kid I would have rather eaten only meat, but was always told “you can’t do that.” It’s nice to know that if I want to eat only meat and eggs, I can, and it won’t kill me. 🙂

    1. That’s funny – as a kid I loved the veggies (and especially the potatoes) but was never that keen on meat. I turned vegetarian at 16 and remained so for five years (until I found myself drooling over cold roast beef in the supermarket).
      I like meat well enough now, but really only if it’s well seasoned or otherwise flavoured in some way. I’ll happily eat a bowl full of what is effectively bolognese sauce but give me a steak on its own and I’ll be bored and unsatisfied.

  17. I’m still wondering why I now have had 5 gallstone attacks in the night. Is it from eating too many fatty proteins?
    Now I’m worried I might have to really change my diet! I have read I need to cut out eggs, coffee, meats with fat, etc.
    Do I need to become a vegetarian?

    1. Barbara, Your liver is under severe stress. The proteins and fat are seemingly aggravating and already existing condition, however that does not mean that you need to cut them out.

      You may need to limit your amount of fat until you are able to control the liver/ gallbladder issues and STAT!

      Try a gallbladder cleanse, under a doctor’s supervision, it needs help.

    2. did you just recently start eating fattier foods?
      When I was on a very low fat, calorie-restricted diet (oh the horrible memories), I splurged one day and had a large serving of homemade cornbread with lots of cheddar cheese and butter in it… and butter spread on it.
      And I had horrible attacks that night, of what I can only assume was my gallbladder flipping out over the fat….after not having had much at all for a long time.

      But it didn’t mean “I can’t handle fat.” It just meant I wasn’t used to it.
      Now I’ve been eating primally since June 09 and roughly 70% of my calories come from fat. No gallbladder problems to speak of!

      Keep with it, just make sure you’re eating the right foods, the right fats, etc.

    3. When you don’t eat a lot of fat, the bile in your gallbladder gets goopy because it has nothing to do. Then, when you suddenly start eating fat, it starts working but it has all that goopy bile, which causes trouble for some people. You have to start on the fat slowly.

  18. The Eskimos/Inuits may have been healthy, but they were also short-lived.
    ZC forerunner ‘The Bear’ had a heart-attack, which he tried to blame on the ‘poisonous brocolli’ he was fed as a child – hard to take him seriously after that. I’m LC at about 250 PER WEEK in the winter, 300 in the summer which suits me perfectly. I have tried to do Kwasnieski-style 80% fat diets and it was a total bust – I’ve seen similar reports time and time again.

    1. Actually the Bear got cancer–not from the “poisonous broccoli” but probably from the immense amounts of LSD he took in the sixties–a not uncommon fate for a lot of sixties big-timers (Timothy Leary, Abbie Hoffman, Ken Kesey, etc.).

      I like fruits and vegetables too, but do people believe the stuff available to us now was available to Grok? There weren’t broccoli or brussels sprouts or apples or plums. He had wild greens and berries in the spring, maybe nuts in the fall–I always thought he watched what animals ate and said to himself “hmm, they like it, wonder if I would?” The vast majority of modern produce was created by man, not nature. I eat seasonal veggies, which in January means root veggies, but my meals are primarily composed of fat and meat. I have tried zero carb but I think I overdid it on the protein.

      1. Darren wrote: “ZC forerunner ‘The Bear’ had a heart-attack, which he tried to blame on the ‘poisonous brocolli’ he was fed as a child – hard to take him seriously after that.”

        Trish wrote: “Actually the Bear got cancer…”

        Actually, the Bear developed BOTH cancer AND a heart attack, and he did attribute the heart attack on the broccoli his mother forced on him in his childhood, despite many years of veggie avoidance afterwards. Talk about confirmation bias! It was reported in his obit
        http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/15/us/15stanley.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 and elsewhere.

    2. The Eskimos/Inuits may have been healthy, but they were also short-lived.

      I have heard that in a few places. Do you know where I can find the hard data to confirm it?

      1. Actually the data on them being short lived was after they had started adopting the Western diet and lifestyles. The current life span is 67 years, but is based upon a western diet, poverty, alcoholism and glue sniffing as widespread problems and limited access to health care. There is no direct lifespan data with the traditional diet but in the 1830s 25% of the population was over 60. And there had been significant contact at that time.

      2. Good point. They became short lived after adapting “civilized” foods. I am not sure about eskimos, but our Yakuts (an north- Asian population in Siberia) who used to have very similar very low carb intake were reported to have an average life-span of 130. Even ages like 150 were not uncommon there. Same with traditional Mongols who only eat meat (all parts) and milk and are true zero carbers.

  19. I personally don’t like vegetables at all, I just eat them because they are supposed to be healthy.

    1. I always tend to be suspicious of people who say they don’t like vegetables… my suspicion is that they’ve never had vegetables that are properly cooked and seasoned. Overcooked veggies are horrid and don’t need to be on ANYone’s plate… same with under-seasoned/under-fatted (adding butter, EVOO, bacon, whatnot…)

      I wish someone could explain to me how it’s possible to hate properly cooked, properly seasoned veggies. I just don’t believe it!

      1. Nah, it’s true. I’ve had veggies cooked every way you can imagine and I’m not a fan. Never have been. I mean, I like some of them ok, but I don’t really ever crave them. I’d just as well not eat them, but I do.

        It’s like when I eat a really tasty veggie, I think “hey, this is great! for ________ (insert vegetable name here).

        Fruit is another matter.

        1. I agree, I hate the taste of veges! I have had to eat them for years now.. trying to heal an autoimmune disorder. I have buttered them, seasoned them, roasted them, boiled them.. I never LIKE them or crave them, but force them.

      2. Sugar addicts or newbies generally won’t like veggies in my experience. An acquired taste for many recovering SAD people. Not saying these commenters are, just saying…. 😉

        1. Not a newbie or a sugar addict. Just don’t really like veggies. Not that I thought you were talking about me, mind you 😉

  20. The Inuit survived in a barren, arid environment by eating whatever was available: marine animals, fat, blubber, organs, and fish. It wasn’t by choice. They weren’t turning their noses up at bushels of berries and teeming fields of wild cabbage; the opportunity simply wasn’t there. In every other case, humans will eat both plants and animals if they are given the chance, and plant matter is mostly available all over the world, depending on the season.

    Actually the Inuit did have access seasonally to vegetable matter, and they included it in their diet.

    They also drank raw spirits (alcohol) year around.

    Even when eating only meat they weren’t zero carb. I recall that their meat consumption alone would provide over 50 grams of carbs a day. Nor were they much for muscle meat, unless it was during a period of starvation.

    (if you think sourcing grass-fed beef is tough, trying finding a steady supply of pastured thyroid glands, kidneys, livers, brains, tripe, and heart!)

    That is an easy one. Just buy raw pet food! 🙂

    I want to have my sensible vices, like wine or dark chocolate.

    Vices? Naw. These foods have been with us from the beginning (especially alcohol) and not only are they a part of what makes eating enjoyable, but their very enjoyability adds to our health and vigor.

    1. The inuit drank alcohol year-round? Where does this notion come from? Thanks.

      1. Alcohol was introduced into Inuit societies by western settlers…I don’t think they have any traditional form of alcohol production. They have the same allergy induced problems with alcohol dependency these days as the more southern Native American people.

        1. Exactly! They can’t metabolize it, which has been a tragic disaster for them and, as you say, the more southern peoples.

      2. Stefansson.

        He reported they made their own raw spirits. The ability to make alcohol is as old as man himself. I’m sure it was a type of ice wine/spirit since water freezes at a higher temp than alcohol. Very easy to do.

        1. Michael,

          I can’t recall ever reading anything to that effect in Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s works, and I’ve been going through searchable indexes trying to match likely terms and still haven’t come up with anything. If you provide a reference that would be awesome.

        2. @fireandstone

          I don’t remember exactly. It might be My Life With The Eskimo. It was about six years ago when I was hanging out with my then fiance in Maine and she had the book lying on her couch. I do vaguely recall also seeing the reference on the internet.

          Not all that hard to imagine: http://bit.ly/cJllyo

  21. Inspired by Taubes and Stefansson I embarked on a six-week all-meat and eggs diet last winter. http://curiousfarmer.wordpress.com/meat-diet/
    Commenters steered me to MDA as well as other sites and I realized I wasn’t alone. Thanks, Mark!
    I took a before and after blood test for the basic markers and my cholesterol shot up. Unfortunately, the subparticles of the LDL were not measured, but by the amount of HDL, 106, commenters assured me I wasn’t in any danger.
    My problem on an all-meat diet was weight loss. I lost 15 lbs. in six weeks and it didn’t appear to be leveling off.
    I’m still working on perfecting my diet and am thankful for such a great community to interact with.

  22. I giggled because this:

    It’s not, though. For one thing, the sheer volume of raw vegetation is immense. Three cups of raw spinach quickly become less than a cup’s worth when exposed to butter and a heated surface. A few cups of buttered broccoli might displace enough three-dimensional space to fill a plate, but it won’t fill you up; the ten ounces of steak to the left will take care of that. In that sense, vegetation can and often does form the foundation of a Primal diet, calories notwithstanding, but it’s not a ton of calories derived from plants.

    …sounds almost exactly like the comment I left on the forum post that asked why fruits and veggies were at the bottom of your pyramid. I’m so glad I understood what you meant and could explain it properly!

  23. The zero carb diet isn’t paleo or primal. Even though the Masai and the Innuit eat a lot of animal products, they don’t follow a zero carb diet. Besides, they are just two among thousands of hunter-gatherer tribes that have been studied. Other tribes eat plenty of plants, such as the ?Kung and the Kitavans. If you want to eat like your ancestors, you must eat animals and plants.

  24. THANK YOU so much for this article, Mark. I don’t advoce zero carb at all, not even very low carb – especially for those who weight train.

  25. I’m another one who experiments with zero-carb to boost fat-loss, but I’m actually at the point where I’ve proved to myself that my body prefers to avoid fibrous foods. I’ve switched back and forth at various points in the past 6 months, and whilst switching to the carnivorous diet is effortless and easy, adding fibre back into my diet is less pleasant. I’ve tolerated the reintroduction symptoms for up to a month before – I guess it will take much longer for my body to get back into the ‘groove’ of having fibre scraping its way through my intestines… Without the fibre from fruit & veg & nuts, my digestion runs more smoothly, I don’t have bloat issues, my weight is stable, and I burn fat easily. As much as I enjoy the taste and variety afforded by those primal fibrous foods, I’m happier trading them out for the physiological benefits.

    I eat every kind of meat (organic, wild, grass-fed, etc), eggs, and my special treat is dairy, which I’m using regularly at the moment since I’m out of lard and coconut oil. I try to make sure I eat fish once per day – I adore salmon sashimi and salmon roe, so that makes it very enjoyable!

    I currently get 70-75% of my daily calories from fat. No problems here whatsoever.

    I’d love to see a study which examines the best ‘treatment’ for severe insulin resistance. I have polycycstic ovaries (not the syndrome) which may impact on my body’s insulin production, etc. Since restricting my diet to just animal products works so well for me in a range of ways, I’m interested on this WOE’s effect on increasing insulin sensitivity… Hopefully someone out there is looking at that, but if anyone knows of a completed study, please reply 🙂

    Perhaps I am lucky in that I don’t need food as my ‘variety entertainment’ – I love cooking, and will happily play with the whole spectrum of primal foods to create feasts, but would I put myself through bloat and other digestive issues, plus fatloss stalls and skin issues, just for the ~20 minutes it took to eat that meal?

    I’m not sure if I actually have more energy and vigour whilst eating carnivorously, but the avoidance of the aforementioned issues with reintroducing fibrous foods is certainly an improvement on my way of life. I have played with including organs since my organic butcher stocks them, but I’m not a huge fan as yet. I do take a range of supplements to boost my nutrition – I do this even when I’m eating from the full primal spectrum.

    Like others, I hope that when I reach my body composition goals I can work on enjoying a wider range of food. Perhaps, with longer periods of re-introduction, my tolerance of fibrous foods will improve. But while my goal is shedding extra fat, the animal-based WOE is perfect, and not even vaguely boring.

  26. Just wanted to comment on the idea of consuming stomach contents. I can see how a wild feline or canine would do that, but a human? Have you ever emptied the stomach of a ruminant? I’ve several times been poking around in there after lamb slaughter, looking for the sweetbreads, or saving the heart, liver, stomach and lungs for haggis. The stomach contents of a ruminant are invariably a vile, stinking mass of half-digested grass. It’s not pleasingly fermented like sauerkraut. We don’t eat fresh grass, so why would we eat rotten grass. I’ve seen my dog eat fresh horse poop, so he would have no problem with it. But for us I don’t think it’s just acculturation. I suppose we’re calibrated differently. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    1. My brother in law lived on Victoria Island for a few years – yes, they eat the stomach contents of caribou, and caribou eat lichen. Basically, pre-digested veggies. He couldn’t bring himself to eat that, or the buried fermented fish heads (even though his background is Finnish!), but he tried everything else.

  27. I actually went Zero carb for a while and I actually liked it . For the first time in my life I didn’t have the urge for binge eating, constipation, IBS… I would eat once a day without any problem… It was a great experience….

    HOWEVER i just couldn’t get myself to eat organs on regular basis so i knew i couldn’t just live on flesh and fat… also I was feeling the lack of vitamins on my skin and other minor issues.

    I now do 30-40gr of carbs a day, less than 10-12gr of fiber, making sure of getting all my vitamins and minerals, and it also feels great.

    For people that say going Zero Carbs is extreme and unnecessary , they should try realize that the fact 50-100-150gr of carbs works for them it doesn’t for everyone, I mean have ever experienced what binge eating disorder feels like? If something saves you from that then you will be so pleased to keep doing it for the rest of your life… What about people with IBS? Wont you do ANYTHING in order to get rid of the symptoms? Most of the zerocarbers had a problem that Zerocarbing solved, it’s not like: I’m going to zero-carb just for fun, in most of the cases is out of necessity.

    1. I would say that going Zero Carb is extreme and unnecessary FOR MOST PEOPLE. No one is belittling this WOE for those who have certain health issues, just suggesting caution against the ground beef and water method for long periods of time. Another thing to consider is that the body can heal and nutritional needs can change. For years I couldn’t eat lettuce or raw vegetables without experiencing severe digestive issues. Some zero carb advocates would claim that this is proof that humans aren’t intended to consume plants, but after a couple of years of mostly animal protein, fat, and cooked vegetables, my guts have healed. I never imagined that this would happen, but I feel healthier for it.

  28. I agree 100% Mark.

    I big fat steak with plenty of veggies draped in butter sounds good to me.

  29. Apparently, the Ache hunter-gatherers of Paraguay get about 10% of their calories from honey. Honey tastes good and it is most of the Aches’ favorite food.(They eat a boatload of meat too.) African hunter-gatherers eat honey as well.

    I don’t advise eating honey, or other sugar, but I am pretty sure it was part of the actual paleolithic diet.

  30. Since going lacto-primal, I’ve really begun to enjoy the flavor of vegetables. My favorite combos are meat with salad or meat with onions and peppers. I’ve always liked the style of Vietnamese cooking which serves deliciously flavored meats with lettuce in which to wrap it. Very primal!

  31. Great sensible posting.

    Hey, anyone else hoping Mark does a followup posting sometime about the advantages and disadvantages of consuming “stomach contents”?

  32. EEEWWW. Those scurvy pictures are gross. Goin’ to eat my BAS with bell peppers now.

  33. Veggies are great, and you can definitely stay very low carb if you choose em right. Its the sugar that gets ya.

    Right now I am on a sub 50g carb load because I am trying to lose a lot of weight (200lbs) and ketosis will help me do that. Also, I am trying to only eat healthy veggies grown by clean growers, so that severely limits my options in the wintery months of Chicago. All in all I am feeling great, but that does include a plethora of onions, brocolli, peppers, mushrooms, and leafy greens when available from cheap/healthy sources.

  34. It is thought that the races split several hundred thousand years ago. This would mean that for a good portion of the human race, those living in the northern climates, vegetation was not even present for 4 – 6 months of the year.

  35. Zero Carb is NOT primal… whoever thinks it is needs to take anthropology 101, what do you think Grok didn’t eat a fig, an apple, or any fruit? Even on days he was out of MetRx 😉

    1. I’ll quibble on a point: wild apples are disgusting. Unfit for human consumption. I know they didn’t eat ancient apples.

  36. When I am trying to gain mass, I eat carbs for hunger and weight gain. Weight gain is a little harder to do on low-zero carb.

    But in general, my body and mind run so much smoother on zero carb. I am of northern ancestry so maybe this is why, but my blood inflammation is very low on ZC, my skin clears up and I have more energy/better mood. I also think my test. levels go up substantially but I haven’t gotten tested on ZC so I can’t prove it.

    I know it’s not healthy to subsist entirely on walmart 80/20, injected top loin, eggs and heavy cream. Funny you pointed that out because that’s just what I got 4 hours ago…lol And I am going ZC after a bulk cycle now so this post is timely in that regard as well.

    But it is only for a few weeks and then I will be back to the vegetables and chicken/beef and berries. I need to just buy half a grassfed cow.

  37. I love the wide range in recommended carbohydrate intake of the PB. There is too much contextual variability in each individual’s life (and in paleo food availability) to advise low or narrow range of carb intake. I definitely fall in the >150g a day range. I have been on Rippetoe’s SS routine for six months and am approaching intermediate programming. I am an energy consuming and expending machine. There is no way I could maintain progress and growth without tons of food including energy rich carbs.

  38. This is a very hard diet to achieve! Carbohydrates are what the body needs to sustain energy. I don’t think I can handle this kind of diet.

    1. Fundamentally not true. If anything, once you are keto adapted, your energy levels go up. It is a myth you need carbs. Your liver makes all the carbs that your body needs.

  39. Nice post. I think this diet is pretty hard to achieve too but if you get the benefits of it then it’ll be well worth it. There’s so many diets out there, it’s insane! Just listen to your body.

  40. First of all it is very difficult to eat a truly zero carb diet. You will find trace amounts in many non-plant foods. Also, even if you could prevent any carbohydrate going into your mouth, your body is still capable of synthesising glucose (which is really the only carbohydrate your body actually requires) to allow those cells that absolutely cannot adapt to other energy substrates to function. It is really because of this latter fact that we have no physiological requirement for dietary carbohydrates.

    I personally do not eat much in the way of plant-based foods because I do not believe fibre is required in the diet either and most plant sources of nutrition are meagre on a mass basis and of poor bioavailability; many of them come with antinutrients and toxins. Most of these nutrients you can get at much higher concentrations and in much more bioavailable form from animal foods, including eggs if not dairy.

    Vitamin C is about the only vitamin that seems to be best supplied by plant foods (and it is one of the vitamins we have lost the ability to synthesise ourselves) and this may lead one to think that this occurred because we began to rely on plant foods but the uric acid, which we synthesise as a result of meat consumption, is a powerful endogenous antioxidant that serves many of the same functions as vitamin C and is probably the reason why the Inuit and the explorers like Stefansson who ate the Inuit diet for long periods never suffered scurvy.

    1. Said it better than I could, although I would add one thing: as someone who consumes mainly [cooked] animal foods along with ascorbic acid-rich plant foods (berries, salad greens, bell peppers) I find it quite insane that anyone would avoid liver because it has carbohydrates in it. Pound for pound, it’s easily the most nutritious food on the planet, and muscle meat and fat alone would likely lead to zinc/copper imbalance as well as a deficiency in vitamins A and K2. Egg yolks are in the same boat. Technically speaking, it is impossible to avoid glucose anyway, not only because your body produces it but because trace amounts of glycogen are found in muscle meat.

      It’s also important to remember that Stefansson cured his fellow explorers of scurvy using a combination of lightly boiled meat and fresh or frozen raw meat. We don’t know definitively if the anti-scorbutic effects of this diet were due to raw or undercooked meats. Also, during the all-meat experiment on Stefansson and Anderson, these men were eating meat that was likely grass-fed, and I’ve seen it mentioned (though I don’t have a citation for it) that grass-fed meat contains more vitamin C than grain-fed. How much more I don’t know, but it could be significant. Stefansson and Anderson also occasionally ate things like calf brains, which contains significant amounts of vitamin C (much more so than liver does).

      So as someone who has defended all-meat (or, should I say, all-animal-carcass) diets on this site in the past, I have definite reservations about strict “zero” carb (since it is impossible and a silly goal besides) and I would agree with most of what Mark has stated. It’s definitely possible to eat an all-animal diet and thrive, IMO, but it’s overly difficult to avoid *any* carbohydrates while doing so, and it’s really difficult these days to procure things like brains because of the mad cow scare. Fatty beef muscle and water alone is not a sensible basis for life, methinks.

      1. I actually rarely eat organ meats because I do not really like the taste, smell or texture! I can just about eat liver as pate (and I did try some home-made faggots – that’s a food in the UK, BTW, in case US readers were a little worried! – made with liver and kidney). I eat eggs and I have dairy in the form of double (US: heavy) cream and cheeses. The only plant-foods are herbs and spices as condiments/flavouring. I’ve been eating this way for at least 18 months and no problems with vitamin C deficiency. Health and immune system are A-OK.

        It is my understanding that glycogen is only present in liver (perhaps some other organs) and that any glycogen in muscle meat is depleted during the rigor mortis that occurs after slaughter (laughterhouse procedures may be different in the US, though).

        I guess I get around 5-10g of dietary carbs per day due to the traces of lactose in cream and cheese (so averages 1-2% of total energy intake per day) – not quite zero carb but close!

  41. I tend to roll with 50-70 grams of CHO a day during the winter months and i tend to consume 90% of it PWO meal. All veggies, no fruit. I will start back on some limited fruit when it comes into season around here.

  42. That´s the common thinking of keto; some stupids just eating cheap beef to loose fat. IMO ketogenic is a solution for lots of health issues but never good for reduction diet. There is no masterplan of how our ancestors ate and why it should be the same way today. There are only some facts, n-6= evil, grains=poison and fructose=killer. Everything else is absolutely individual. If someone likes paleo frankenfood, bon apetite, another loves “healthy” vegs go for it. I do fine on meat, fish and hard cheese only plus tons of ghee and red palm oil. Since 1 year. Before I was a low carber for more than 12 years. I have asthma, 1000 allergies and intolerances, hashimoto and asperger´s. Can breathe again, no eczema anymore and my brain works phenomenal. That´s because I avoid everything what ruins my GI and/or affect my mind. People should think for themselves.

  43. An awesome post! Many congrats Mark. Possibly the best primal/paleo post ever. Incredibly sensible and comprehensive. Anyone interested in the topic should start by reading it.
    Best regards,
    Glenn

  44. I heard from several people once they start eating Primal they “feel” Soooo Good that’s the only way they choose to eat for “life”! It just makes sense!!!

  45. Vegetables are awesome. Just avoid wheat and sugar. I do disagree that very low carb is difficult to healthily employ, at least for me. Before I got into cooking and using more vegetables for variety I lived on a pastured beef (just ground beef and steak cuts), pastured eggs, and raw pastured milk/butter/cheese. My only source of carbs was maybe 50 grams of lactose a day. I did this for years and my numbers were great and I felt awesome.

  46. Wow, no opposing views yet? That’s unusual.

    I believe all of Mark’s concerns have been adequately addressed. However, everyone needs to find out for themselves what their own carbohydrate tolerance level may be. Assuming your metabolism isn’t too damaged, you can probably settle for simply avoiding the “neolithic agents of disease” a la Dr. Kurt Harris.

    1. The ‘opposition’ can see that Mark’s post is just designed to sooth the non-ZCers who were worried that they were doing something wrong. Mark doesn’t actually put forward a balanced argument, so there’s no point in arguing. His strongest point is that ZC misses out on the variety of foods out there and must therefore be bored, which is easy to ignore given that it comes from a guy who hasn’t even tried ZC. 🙂

      However, off-site, Charles Washington has put together a much more detailed and well-researched response to Mark’s “points”: http://blog.zeroinginonhealth.com/?p=1479

      Don Matesz hasn’t directly responded, but has noted some facts about the Masai (and therefore other carnivorous tribes) that may be of interest – on his post (http://donmatesz.blogspot.com/2010/01/masai-use-of-herbs.html) he notes:

      “Many people tell me they dislike the “gamey” flavor of wild game or, as Joel Salatin calls it, “salad bar” beef from 100% grass-fed animals. That “gamey” flavor disappears when we feed animals corn (witness corn-fed bison), because that flavor comes from the fat-soluble secondary plant compounds present in the green leafy vegetation eaten by wild or grass-fed animals. So a real hunter-gatherer would get a daily dose of “greens” via the phytonutrients in his meat, even if s/he didn’t eat a lick of leaves directly. (This is one reason I recommend regular consumption of green leafy vegetables, unless you eat only grass-fed meat and do so every day.)”

      That’s why I don’t worry about missing out of vital veg nutrition 🙂

      1. There is no question that you can thrive on an all meat diet. The Masai however were neither all meat or low carb by anyone’s definition. My problem is when people suggest it (all meat) is the only way to thrive, ignoring abundant evidence to the contrary.

        I also have a problem with the body cavity argument. Yes the Eskimos gave away all the organs of the body, but they did eat all the organs in the head. That is not up for dispute. Stefansson clearly recorded that in his work.

        1. Exactly 🙂 They also usually ate the kidneys. And then there are cultures who do almost the exact opposite – throwing the muscle meat to the dogs and eating all the body cavity organs, so who knows what’s best?

          I just eat what’s available, what tastes good, and what makes me feel best, physiologically and psychologically. Works pretty bloody well for me 😀

  47. Also, all foods upon digestion report to the kidneys as either acid or alkali (base). The typical American diet is net acid producing. Fruits and veggies reverses this metabolic acidosis.

    1. According to most nutritionists, government health agencies, almost the entire medical establishment, pop culture and conventional wisdom, the entire premise of Paleo/Primal/Mark Sisson is all a bunch of fanaticism. So be careful where you wave that stick.

      Mark: I’m not a proponent of “no carb”, but the use of scurvy scare-tactics ignores the fact that raw and rare animal flesh contains significant vitamin C content and will completelt sustain a human being and prevent scurvy. A carnivorous diet can be healthful in every way if done in the right spirit.

      1. Stefansson actually hypothesised that is was the act of cooking the meat well (leaving just a little pink on the inside of big chunks of meat) that somehow prevented scurvy – preparing the meat in the manner of the Inuit. So it seems like cooking meat isn’t harmful either.

        1. Better not tell that to the founder (A. Vonderplanitz) of the “Primal Diet” 🙂

          I think they boiled their meat also, which is a method most moderns do not like.

        2. I wouldn’t buy that theory. If any cooking method were to at least partially preserve water soluble vitamin C content in the flesh, it would likely need to trap the natural water moisture in the meat. Intense searing/grilling/broiling the exterior and leaving the interior rare seems to be the best bet…other than just eating it raw of course. 😉

        3. I don’t think anyone was advancing a theory rather noting how the eskimos prepared their meats.

        4. Well, it was implied that *because* the Inuit prepared meat that way, that it must have not had an effect on the vitamin C content due to lack of scurvy. But Inuit also ate, and still do, quite alot of fresh raw meat directly from their kills.

        5. “But Inuit also ate, and still do, quite a lot of fresh raw meat directly from their kills.”

          Apparently not the case whilst Stefansson was living with them. Keep that mind open, John…

        6. There are quite a multitude of reference to both the Inuit and himself eating raw meat from many animals, including fish and deer, in “My Life with the Eskimo” and in his personal journals…much of which is free to read on Google Books if you’re interested. They also at meat roasted, boiled, fried etc. For instance

          “Most of the Eskimo I know will pick up and eat without concern a piece of blubber, cooked meat, raw meat, fish etc., that falls on the floor, no matter in what the state the floor is, but most of them would throw away a piece of bread that dropped in the same way”.

          Some cuts of meat, and from certain animals, are preferred raw, and other are preferred cooked in some way, but they all seem to eat everything raw when it’s more convenient to do so.

        7. Another interesting tibit is that the Inuit tribes also preferred their fish to be in various states of “rot”, and each tribe had it’s own customs as to how long and how rotten it should be for maximum enjoyment.

        8. Sweetie, I’m well aware of all of that. The point is, Stephansson and the Inuit community he was living with survived on well cooked meat (nothing else) for a long period of time without falling victim to scurvy.

          So, it’s not impossible to remain healthy whilst eating primarily or only cooked meat.

        9. I was not responding to you when I said that I wouldn’t buy that theory. I was addressing “Stefansson actually hypothesised that is was the act of cooking the meat well (leaving just a little pink on the inside of big chunks of meat) that somehow prevented scurvy”. So if an argument was created against you, it was one you imagined.

      2. I fully agree that one can live healthfully on cooked meat…I’m not sure that it can *always* be well cooked though if you want significant vitamin C, and especially not boiled due to the direct loss of the vitamin into the boiling water. My point isn’t to win an argument, but to simply convey the proper information for people that wish to eat at or close to pure carnivory. Though I imagine that this sub-thread within a 2 day old post is currently populated by the eyes of only two people 🙂

        1. All you did was create an argument where one wasn’t necessary. I noted that they boiled their meat also not that they boiled their meat exclusively. It was an additional piece of information to the information that Girl Gone Primal had offered about the cooking of their meat. I added it because when people think of the various ways to cook meat they rarely if ever think of boiling. It is just not something we normally do.

          Then you come back with “I wouldn’t buy that theory.” I wouldn’t either since no theory was being offered, but you did seem to view it as an occasion to expound about your own ideas of the Inuit diet.

          Everything you said we are acutely aware of. I have a three part series on my blog about Stefansson’s time with the Eskimos. Nothing has been said to deny other forms of cooking meat. In fact you left one thing unsaid about why boiled meat would not have been a problem even if they ate it exclusively, they drank the water from the boiled meat. Not that it would have been a problem if they did not, since they did include other forms of cooking in their meat diet.

        2. I was not responding to you when I said that I wouldn’t buy that theory. I was addressing “Stefansson actually hypothesised that is was the act of cooking the meat well (leaving just a little pink on the inside of big chunks of meat) that somehow prevented scurvy”. So if an argument was created against you, it was one you imagined.

        3. @ John S who said:

          I’m not sure that it can *always* be well cooked though if you want significant vitamin C, and especially not boiled due to the direct loss of the vitamin into the boiling water.

          I was simply connecting the dots between your first and last point. My apologies for misunderstanding you, but I think I will blame it on the comment box setup. 🙂

  48. Carb consumption should be based on activity, muscle mass and genetic tolerance to carbs. Asian people are more adapted to eating neo-carbs than Europeans. Northern european blood lines have limited tolerance to wheat and other grains. I was wondering if generic recommendations are too vague and individual and genetic differences should be taken into account.
    On a side note, I have had great results (male, 30 yrs, 170lbs@9%BF) by listening to your body on what macro nutrients work best for you. Broccoli is great, but some people can’t handle it well. Your body gives you feedback and if you use it wisely, you can get great results. If your body tells you to only eat Pizza, you’re probably spoiled, grew up in America or both 🙂

  49. Another great post about balancing carbs in a way that works for the individual. Of course it looks better when we can pin macronutrients into neat little windows, but the truth is what works for someone definitely won’t work for someone else out there. We’ve tried low-carb for a couple months and found it isn’t the best route for us! We’re kind of used to eating low-carb now, so I’m going to very slowly reintroduce a few more into our diet, and hopefully we’ll run across our ideal range somewhere along the way!

  50. For those of you disturbed by the picture of Danny Roddy’s leg (presented out of context, for some reason…) it may help you to know that he cured his issues by eating a higher volume of pemmican – not by adding vegetation into his diet. If it was scurvy, it was cured by eating more meat & fat. That sounds like a win for carnivory to me.

    Why did Mark put forward someone like Danny, who is coming from a background and mercury & lead poisoning, as the poster child for ZC? Why not look at Lex Rooker, The Bear, or Charles Washington (who runs marathons – so much for “Carbohydrates are what the body needs to sustain energy.” Glycogen (carb) stores will last you about 2 hours before being fully depleted. That’s hardly going to get you through an entire marathon.

    As I’ve said before, I’m not a hardcore ZC type, but I feel best eating just meat and eggs and a bit of butter. Some comments here have been very wise, noting that the individual should do what works for them, echoing Mark’s own sentiment, “Now, avoiding all carbs because you feel better without them? I can get behind that.” (And very few ZC-ers got there without finding this to be true – from what I’ve read on forums, most ended up following ZC because other WOE’s didn’t work for them. It’s logic, really, not fanatacism. Just like we rave when low-carb works for us, ZC-ers rave because ZC works for them.)

    But all the comments that echo the Conventional Wisdom attitude of ‘ooh, that sounds weird, I like eating my ____ too much, it’s too hard, I could never do that…’ – come on. You should know better, being on Mark’s site, than to bash a lifestyle choice that works for someone else. They’re not eating poisons. They’re not breaking PB rules. And it makes me really, really sad that, on a site that has already targeted the dogmatic attitude some people have towards diet, that we’re still seeing individuals who want to ‘win’ and celebrate when their leader agrees with their side of a discussion. Divides only exist when minds aren’t open and accepting.

    1. Great comment, but in all fairness I have seen CW do the same thing on his forum. The one that immediately comes to mind is when someone posted about the Kitavans but there were other instances as well.

      No matter though. In the end everyone finds their own way, anyway.

  51. 10-4 to that! Going carnivore on muscle meat or meat from any store is just crazy. You don’t know where it came from! Don’t going thinking businesses are all ethical. I personally know agri-farmed chickens have been re-packaged as free-range in my area.

    I’ve thought about going carnivore for a while and have done it for weeks here and there, but then I asked myself why?

    I have way better access to good meats (fresh killed) than most PB-ers or “carnivores” from what I can tell. Just look at my 15 pages of twitpics ( http://twitpic.com/photos/CastleGrok ) or my website. I eat animals from the head back and do not discriminate!

    I had salmon skin for my dinner’s protein/fat tonight. Scales, fins everything… right now the hatch 🙂 I eat/suck out the entire heads, entrails and eggs first thing, and freeze the rest.

    I prefer just about any part of an animal over the muscle meat. There just happens to be more muscle meat on the animal that other parts.

    I’m almost anti-fruit, but that’s a personal choice based on my failure at moderation. I try to limit nuts, but I pretty much fail at that too.

    Veggies I stick to mostly green. When I logged on Fitday, I was still easily landing at the top of the PB carbo chart without any starches.

    I believe in metabolic typing. I don’t think Mark does? But that’s a whole other topic…. My body functions much better on high meat and fat (mostly red meats), but those veggies are just too damn tasty with all their textures & flavors, so I find myself eating a lot of them (taking one for the team ;)). But more importantly, they also easily provide many nutrients I want and balance PH.

    I designed my own food pyramid at the top of the page here:
    http://castlegrok.com/how-paleo-is-your-diet/

    Everyone should do what works for them! You need to test, and test, and test, then maybe test some more. Zero-Carb may be Ok for some, but so might high-carb. There is no “one” solution, just like there is no “one” paleo diet.

  52. Great post. I really like the paleonu site too, but the slight air of intellectual snootiness and didactic dismissal of so much food, so fast is leading me to visit it less and less.

    You are right to say this ascetic approach will limit the appeal of the core primal principles. Even the Buddah left his ascetic life for the middle way.

  53. Hi Mark!

    I was wondering, since you said that a zero-carb regimen can be used as a catalyst for weight loss, for how long should this be followed?

    I certainly don’t pland to ZC forever, but I’d like to use it before easing into a more moderate regime…

    Thanks!

  54. One of the best sites I’ve ever seen on this site.

    Thanks, Mark. It really puts macronutrients vs. the importance of micronutrients and pure enjoyment in perspective.

    Vicky, just as an aside, MANY bodybuilders have successfully used:

    5-5.5 days per week low carb
    1-1.5 days per week higher carb

    … to both lose weight and maintain or build muscle.

    I’m not saying it’s the absolute ideal program or anything like it, just that it has a track record of success.

    At least it allows some more vitamins, nutrients, and fiber periodically.

    And the theory is by going in and out of ketosis, you keep the “catalysis” going, over and over again, week after week.

    So you shed weight in more of a “step-wise” fashion, rather than “steadily”, which is probably a good thing because the human body is a biological dynamic system anyway.

  55. And Vicky, of course that should really be:

    5-5.5 days per week low carb
    2-1.5 days per week higher carb

    Gee. I need an editor just to post a comment or something.

  56. Thank you Christoph! I never thought about the benefits of going in and out of ketosis.. very helpful!

  57. A lot of what constitutes healthy can depend also on what an individuals insulin response is like.

    Fructose shoots my blood glucose high, I need to avoid fruit except on the rarest of occasions. Some may get cravings for sugar and grains from eating even vegggies. Each of us has to implement our own plans based on our individual reactions, which are as varied as our dna.

    The problems come when those of us who need a more rigid plan try to impose those unique boundaries on others, when fruit, or more veggies, or even dairy may be very doable for many. Broad minded approaches are really needed when talking about diet and restrictions. Unforunately, too many times zero carbers dump on primal eaters, or your average low carber dumps on those who like an Adkins bar from time to time. Silly really. GReat post Mark!

  58. theres a lot more to the in and out of ketosis plan you commented on. first of all, it is only for extreme body builders or else you will pile on the weight. second, your higher carb days have to be very low in fat, practically nonexistent. just upping your carbs 2 days a week and staying the same all around and dropping them 5 days a week a a perfect recipe for weight gain

  59. Hi-

    I’m new here, this is my first post. I discovered this blog by accident and bought the book, then bought a copy for a friend. I’m halfway through but I’ve also read a lot on the site. I’ve only been lurking here so far. So, hi everyone.

    I did go check out the forum- so imagine me, a new visitor, I don’t know any of you. I’m looking at stuff and it becomes apparant to me that yes, there is a theme in the forum to see who is willing to “go carnivore”, and even starve every second day to simulate a scarce, difficult winter.

    Well, this raised an eyebrow. At first I thought it was an encouraged theme until Mark just made this post, which I’m thankful for because he said a lot of things I had been thinking as I read that stuff. I was starting to wonder if I got the wrong idea about the hunter/gatherer diet, but no, I had not. It just seems that there are folks here that are on a completely different diet than the one Mark describes.

    I remember I saw something once- there was a body builder who was a woman, in great shape- every muscle bulging out of her body. No steroids or anything, just lean and built. Well, in her late 30’s, she broke a bone. She went to get treated. There was something not quite right and after testing, they discovered her bones were brittle and she already had osteoperosis. She was nutritionally deprived. Oh, she had plenty of protein, but not much else. No thank you.

    Anyway, nice to meet you all.

  60. This totally makes sense to me.
    Mark, I am constantly stunned by the quality of your articles. I just can’t stop coming back here. Your website is like my bible. LOL

  61. About the scurvy issue – I read somewhere that scurvy was found to be caused not by the lack of vegetables and fruits but by the introduction of grains with a meat/fat only diet. Apparently the digestion of grains required more vitamin C and left people deficient because there wasn’t adequate Vit C in the rest of their diet (ie in meat/fat). Meat does contain adequate vit C, but not enough for the digestion of grains supposedly. I’m not sure where I read this though, so don’t quote me!

  62. great article. thanks!

    i think most modern carnivores (esp. in USA) are not “true carnivores” like some native tribes.

    regards,

  63. I have tried an all meat diet a few times and became sick about 3-4 weeks in each time. You need to veggies man!

    1. No PHK, YOU might need to eat veggies, but that doesn’t mean everyone else does. And you state you ate an ‘all meat diet’ – this article explains why eating muscle meat only can be problematic. Nothing to do with some perceived ‘requirement’ of veggies.

      1. Actually the Andersen family only eat muscle meat and are doing great, 20 years in.

  64. Hi, Girl Gone Primal,

    i believe you’re addressing to nathan, not me.

    (i agree with you that homosapien don’t need veggies to survive provided that we ate all parts of animals. which may not be a viable option for some tho. also such diet becomes boring.)

    regards,

    1. Ooops, looked up too far looking for the name.

      But your claim that ‘such a diet becomes boring’ is just as subjective as Mathan’s argument – don’t knock it til you’ve tried it, and the perception of ‘boringness’ is often a sign that one has not defeated their sugar cravings. Meat is delicious, varied, and can be prepared in hundreds of ways. Preparing the same meal the same way every day is bound to become monotonous, no matter the food itself. Plus, if you are released from the social bounds of food (I’m not there yet) and consider food as tasty fuel, then it’s a non-issue anyway.

  65. “boring” is only my opinion. & i need some colors on my food. vegetables provide colors & variation.

    i don’t have problem eating organ meats or other exotic cuts. but i don’t cook it, because:

    (1) i don’t know how (due to lack of practice)

    (2) i cook for 2. those exotic cuts gross him out — my husband is way too civilized. so it is very hard to cook for 1 that way. (methink most Americans are wuss in this regard.)

    (3) it is hard to find quality organ meats or even exotic cuts that most Americans do not eat (e.g., UNCURED belly pork with SKIN).

    regards,

    1. 1) I’ve been learning how to cook with offal, though I’ve been limited by my own beau’s ‘civilisation’. 😉 I’ve made some tasty chicken liver pate, but beyond that I haven’t come up with anything exciting. I have ready access to grass-fed lambs fry, which I should really get into. Until then, I just make sure to keep my intake of eggs up, not that they compeltely fill the nutrition void. They do add colour though, although I find fish cooked in their skin to be gorgeously colourful, and I love to use turmeric to add zing to chicken. But there’s nothing lovelier than the colour of perfectly cooked steak and lamb chops. 🙂

  66. Hi, Girl Gone Primal,

    yes, skin tastes good, especially saba shoyaki.

    the most “exotic” & “primal” thing i cook is roast marrow bones, or meat with skin or bones on. (pretty civilised, sigh.)

    regards,

  67. On September 16, I will have been Zero Carb for 18 months. I guess I’m suffering for being so “boring”. Ha, actually, I enjoy eating just protein and fat. I am very active–I lift weights 3-4 times a week and do cardio and bodyweight excercises. I am 5’4″, 104 lbs. with 14% bodyfat. I have no problem with energy for lifting and am never hungry during the day, so I eat a large meat at night and sometimes a small meal before lifting (do fasted cardio). Zero Carb works for a lot of us and I eat a lot of calories–more than ever–to maintain my weight. I couldn’t ask for a better lifestyle and I don’t feel the need to have carb refeeds or introduce fruit, veggies or starches. And yes, I’m female and I don’t have cravings.

    1. Hey Katelyn,

      I have been doing zero carb (well besides the minimal ones in eggs so I guess very low carb) for about a month now and I love it! I was just curious as to what your typical evening meal would be?

      Thanks for posting; it gives me the inspiration to continue this way of eating!

  68. ISNT WONDERFUL TO ALL BE DOING IT OUR WAY AND BEING ABLE TO HEAR ABOUT ALL THE WAYS …WE ARE NEVER ALONE HERE.
    MODERATION-EXPERIMENTATION-IMMERSION.
    SEASONAL AND CANNED.
    FROM THE HIGH END GROCERY STORE TO YOUR LOCAL DISCOUNT WAREHOUSE…
    IF YOU SEEK…YOU WILL FIND A PATH.
    JUST FOLLOW THAT PATH.
    GROK ON- ALL OF US!! AND HO-HO-HO

  69. I think we’re about to find that the healthiest diet does not involve meat.

    Here’re a couple of links.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/austere-lives-of-mount-athos-monks-shown-to-cut-cancer-risk-763794.html
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article3007206.ece

    The essential problem with meat, which isn’t a problem for the Athos diet
    – is that we could conceivably feed the world on the Athos diet.

    Not terribly sure that we’d want to create the sort of battery farming facilities to churn out the quantities of meat which’d be required to feed 10 billion people.

    We really do need to consider our fellow man and animals, when choosing our diet.

    Not a sentimental viewpoint – though it can be, if you like.

    1. ~btw~
      If I might just add:
      eg
      http://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/8388.aspx
      “The research, published in the December issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, shows that lean people on a long-term, ***low-protein***, low-calorie diet or participating in regular endurance exercise training have lower levels of plasma growth factors and certain hormones linked to cancer risk.”

      “”However, people on a low-protein, low-calorie diet had considerably lower levels of a particular plasma growth factor called IGF-1 than equally lean endurance runners … …”

      I cannot stress how important the Insulin/IGF-1 axis is in human health.

      Elevating human protein levels isn’t the path to health.

  70. Speaking as food scientist I have to totally disagree with most of this article.

    Plant antioxidants are there to protect plant tissues from oxidation. There is no solid evidence that plant antioxidants protect humans from oxidative stress. In fact they may actually cause damage in high doses.

    Our bodies have highly sophisticated endogenous antioxidant systems and have absolutely no need for plant based antioxidants (except vitamin C).

    Natural grasslands are basically monocultures almost totally devoid of any edible plants. The inhabitants of grasslands such as Mongols, Australian Aborigines and Native American always relied almost entirely on meat as a food source.

    Almost all plants contain substances that are toxic to humans. Only 200 or so plants species are widely cultivated. These plants have almost all of the toxins removed by centuries of selective breeding.

    Compared with animal foods plants are extremely poor sources of most vitamins and minerals. Plants are really only useful as sources of magnesium, potassium and vitamin C.

    All essential vitamins and mineral can be easily obtained at very low cost by supplements.

    You only need to eat about 100g of liver a week as a part of a carnivorous diet to get adequate amounts of every multivitamin and mineral (except vitamin C).

    There is little difference in the fatty acid profiles of grass fed and grain feed beef.

    The scientific literature shows no convincing evidence that organic foods offer any health benefits.

    1. Could you post any links to studies that back up the claim that there is no evidence that plant antioxidants protect humans from oxidative stress.

      Many thanks.

      1. I think what blogblog is saying here is, you should eat meat, but no plants because they’re poison. Instead take a cheap multivitamin made in a lab to cover your bases. Mongols, Australian Aborigines and Native Americans had invisible mobile multivitamin labs (a lot like the Iraqis did for their weapons of mass destruction) an placed no value in plant foods.

        A couple groups of people on planet earth ate mostly meat. Plants made little difference in their health. As an example of the deep flaws in this argument, Chris Masterjohn recently put this B.S. down to rest in one of his recent articles on the Masai (part II I believe).

        Phew! I’m sure glad the “plants are worthless” debate has finally been settled here by a bonafide “food scientist!” We can all go home now.

        @Dave, I’m betting blogblog along with practicing ZC/VLC, also does ZE (zero exercise) otherwise he/she might understand the power of plant antioxidants.

    2. I totally agree with you!

      I learned in school (80’s) that as soon as a plant takes damage (chewing, being cut open) the nutrients are exposed to Oxygen and oxidize. That is how oxidation was explained to me, that is why apples turn brown.

  71. What about a zero carb diet? Meat, eggs, hard cheese, and butter only for the last 5 months. BP dropped, lost 25 lbs, skin cleared up (roatia for last few years), teeth got whiter, six pack and muscle tone are now pronounced, un-ending energy, I get looks from girls in their 20’s again (me 44), and people tell me I look so much better.

    Will I stay on this eating regimine long term? Time will tell but right now I am leaning torward it.

    I have tried LC and it does not work for me. Cravings always bring me back to the starches. Eating just meat, eggs, butter, and cheese gives me no cravings what so ever. I eat half a cup of blue berries and next thing I know I have a plate of nachos in my lap.

    I have sat in multiple “pizza lunch meeting” watching my co-workers devouring one of my biggest weaknesses of all…..and I have no desire to partake of even a slice. The very thought just makes me sick.

    Some people can handle the carbs, some can’t. Humans have thrived on nothing but meat and have also thrived on meat along with fruits and vegies. Starches and grains however….I believe everyone here agrees is the enemy.

  72. I agree that humans evolved to eat SOME plant matter.
    BUT, I have been primal for 1.5 years now and I was still miserable as far my digestion went.
    I’ve been super bloated my entire life!!! Even as a child I was bloated out the yin yang, in every picture I look like some starving African kid with a HUGE belly and boney arms and legs.
    I’ve ditched grains, beans (never ate them anyways), nuts, processed sugars and vegetable oils and stool became somewhat better but not perfect.
    I just recently read K. Monastyrsky’s Book Fiber Menace and decided to ditch ALL vegetables and guess what!? For the very first time in my entire life my belly isn’t bloated. I’m not as lean as I’d like to be (because of my raw milk consumption) BUT my midsection is now flat. NO MORE indigestible fibers fermenting for 5 days in my gut producing gasses non-stop and making me feel uncomfortable and tired. Not to mention creating baseball size clumps of fecal matter.

    I do believe humans do a LOT better healthwise on a high animal diet (including everything the animal has to offer) rather than a high plant diet.

    We are the top preditor on land, why would we graze on plants? It is literally impossible to be on a 0 carb diet even eating animals.
    Eggs, liver (2 of the most nutritious foods) have carbs.
    The ones that try and eliminate ALL foods with carbs (from animal source)are the ones that get into trouble healthwise.

  73. The only reason someone should go 0 carbs is to temporarily induce ketosis to encourage weight loss. However, after a few weeks it should be stopped.

  74. trying to do a full egg plan i really can’t stand meat so i’m trying to embark on to a pure egg diet few herbs but mainly just eggs and few diet soda lemon lime no salt. I know eggs have carbs but at moment only meat item i can tolerate. I was wondering would that also be sortof zero carb diet i know its mention eggs were eating too.

  75. can u really eat as much you like on zero carb of eggs fat meat plan?

      1. In what way does one on ZC ‘feel like poop’?

        I’m in the best health of my life with boundless energy… relatively, I don’t feel anything like ‘poop’

  76. a new post for an older entry, but this article doesn’t account for the possibility of a high fat (80-90%) diet, subsisting on coconut, macadamia nuts, some avocados, cheese, and some meet. sort of like the keckwick diet, but without the 1000 calorie restriction.

  77. I’ve done zero carb for the most part for the last year. I can’t say enough good things about it. I lost a lot of weight. It cured my diabetes and high blood pressure. All I eat is seafood And meat. My digestion is perfect! When I ate carbs and vegetables it was always messed up. Also my energy was terrible when I ate carbs.

  78. hum.. no vegetables eh? what? oh that’s right they’re bad for you now days… it’s better to eat processed crap and die from arteriosclerosis.. before obesity makes you look like a fool.

    OINK OINK!

  79. Seems to me a zero carb diet is impossible. Even if all you eat is meat, won’t you be getting some glycogen/glucose from inside the animal cells?

  80. Does anyone else find that even low carb vegetables and garlic tastes like candy once you give up carbs for awhile? I seem to be so carb sensitive that I have to give them all up because after awhile even if I have garlic it tastes like candy and then I crave carbs. Does anyone else experience cravings from eating even low carb veggies? The only way I stop craving carbs is if I have NO carbs at all. Please let me know if you have the same issue.

    Thanks!

    1. Yes, i have the same problem. I also cannot eat carbs because of the digestive issues it causes and also because i get extremely dizzy a couple of hours after consuming, even veggies. I still haven’t lost a whole ton of weight but i feel tremendously better and i think it’s a matter of hormones right now. My head is clear, great endurance, my lifts have increased, and a plethora of other things.

  81. I’m not opposed to people eating vegetables if they can tolerate them, but vegetables are not necessarily harmless. Dr. Georgia Ede has an excellent website that includes some posts about why vegetables are not only unnecessary, but could be harmful to many, as they have proven to be to me, and others I know of.

  82. Danny Roddy apparently ate about 7 oz of pemmican a day, and also water fasted. Since he deleted all his food journals before he left the ZC forum he was a part of we have only the recall of the other members but they are pretty staunch that this was how he ate.

    In other words he ate a starvation diet based on mail order pemmican and not nearly enough water.

    I am not at all surprised to see Paul Jaminet the fear monger of low carb use this as “evidence” but when I see Mark Sisson using anecdotal accounts from unreliable sources who do not even have the integrety to leave their food journal up, I can only sigh.

    I agree an ideal zero carb diet includes a bunch of odd bits, hell my whole blog is about stressing that. But lets get on solid ground here.

    Most near zero carbers eat more than “beef and water” and even those that do have the sense to eat in adequate quantities.

  83. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your
    weblog and wished to say that I have really loved surfing around your blog posts.
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  84. I did ZC for about a year. For 10 consecutive months I was very strict. Didn’t cheat once. Not a diet soda or a packet of Splenda. I lost 70 lbs., which I sorely needed to lose.

    It helped that I lived in an apartment by myself. No food in the house I couldn’t eat.

    Then I stopped losing weight. Just plateaued. I got depressed and started drinking diet soda. I started gaining, so I gave it up. Still plateaued. On the forum they told me to just hang in there, and think about giving up dairy, but I was not willing to give up anything else.

    Over time I got less and less strict, out of frustration and also out of, let’s face it, utter boredom with the diet. Then I got engaged, started planning a wedding, and over a year’s time I’ve gained back 30 lbs of the 70 I lost. I’m so bummed.

    I am currently struggling with infertility, and all the crap I struggled with before I found ZC: PCOS, hypothyroid, obesity – all the typical metabolic syndrome stuff resulting from insulin resistance, etc.

    I owe a lot to Charles Washington and the great people over at the Zeroing In On Health forum. But ZC is not realistic for me. For one, I felt… gross. Yes, I lost weight, and that was FABULOUS! But I missed eating vegetables and fruit even more than I missed cake and soda. (Ok, maybe not soda…) I just felt like I was never eating freshness, if that makes sense. You are what you eat… I felt just kind of… greasy and brown. I was indeed living off Wal-Mart meat. It was all I could afford. And no veg, ever.

    I also experienced two prolonged bouts of constipation lasting about 2 weeks each and resulting in store-bought enemas, a lot of pain, and terrible hemorrhoids. Sorry for the TMI but hey, this is for science.

    During that trouble, I asked for advice on the forums, and they told me my gut had been damaged by cellulose from vegetables and that I needed to eat more fat. They told me I’d poo when I was ready, and I was like, “No seriously you guys. I’m READY.”

    I was eating TONS of fat. So that wasn’t it. Of course, deep down I KNEW I needed some kind of roughage to help food move through my bowel.

    What it boils down to is I WANT to eat vegetables. And if there is a way to do that and still lose weight and be healthy – why not?

    I’m coming off just over a year of not having much control over my diet. I didn’t want to do ZC again – I knew that. But I didn’t want to do Paleo, b/c I like dairy and I’m not convinced saturated fat is the enemy.

    I stumbled upon Primal by accident – but I don’t believe in accidents. One day in, I feel like I’m supposed to feel. I even took my fat ass for a walk, a session of outdoor play (poking around a creek), and a sprint. The latter two I have not done in SO LONG.

    I have a long way to go to be healthy and get pregnant, but I know Primal can help me get there. I’ve proven to myself I have the will power to control my diet. Now I just have to have the will power to be more active, and stick with it.

    All the articles here – especially the links in the text – are so helpful. I’ve learned a lot already… Now if I can just figure out how to do this on a budget – and get my pig-headed husband on board – I’ll be all set.

    God bless you, Mark, and best wishes to all of you.

    1. Therein lies the issue with the ZIOH group. It’s highly ‘Our way or the highway’.
      Principia Carnivora would have given you totally different advice… Want to lose weight, cut your fats back. Can’t poop… get the magnesium, coffee etc going.
      People generally don’t have an issue pooping, but then your diet of poor quality mince is what probably did it for you.
      Most ZCers I know eat a range of fish, good quality beef and other meats.

      I’m sorry you had such a lousy experience and I’m sorry you have so many health issues. Sounds like you have Hashimoto’s, not just hypo… I hope you get some answers.

  85. “Especially when eaten with plenty of fat, vegetables are excellent vehicles for delivering beneficial nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to the people consuming them.”

    Meat is by far one of the most nutritional foods one can eat.

    “Leafy greens, for example, are great sources of magnesium and calcium.

    And yet those carnivorous Inuit had perfectly strong teeth and bones.

    “Plant-based antioxidants (flavonoids, carotenoids, and other phytonutrients) in general provide a good line of defense against stress, inflammation, and the ravages of aging in the context of the former two conditions.”

    But as a whole, they have either a neutral or negative effect.

    http://high-fat-nutrition.blogspot.com/2010/07/fruit-and-vegetables-12-whel-and-cvd.html

    http://high-fat-nutrition.blogspot.com/2007/12/fruit-and-vegetables-re-post.html

  86. I loved this post. It gave me just what I needed at the right time. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of Aajonus Vonderplanitz’s writings- I’ve had the books for quite some time, perused through them, but never fully delved in. It’s been sort of brainwashing me, and now every time I cook my meat or sit down to eat a plate of veggies or grab an apple I feel like I am doing something bad, demonizing even. He says that all meat and animal products should be consumed raw, and that most vegetation should be absolutely avoided except in the form of dark green vegetable juice. He also suggests consumption of raw tomatoes. But everything is raw. And he says never to drink water unless you exercise, to only get the water from the green juice, raw milk, and tomatoes etc. that you consume.

    But while it all sounds good, on the other end it sounds like madness. All animals drink water! And I love vegetables! I never feel bad after eating veggies or a nice soup full of them. I understand the ideas behind eating raw animal products, but eating cooked meat can’t be that bad…

    Anyway, I read this article when it came out but just re-read it to get a more centered approach and some grounded recommendations about vegetation. Sure I don’t think eating enormous amounts all day every day is the most healthful, but having some broccoli or a salad and some berries or an apple in a day can’t be a bad thing.

    … And up in the rural mountains of Albania, in the Northernmost corners, people live to 130 sometimes and it largely goes unrecorded. That part of the world is still so remote and unpoliced and disconnected from the mainstream and the mainlands, but they have kept birth records since time immemorial, and I have personally met a handful of people over the age of 100 and have been shown birthday photos of a lady who turned 133. And what do they eat? How do they live? Lots of cooked meat and organs from animals they raise themselves, not even raw dairy but cooked dairy and cheeses from their own herds, homegrown vegetables and fruit, homemade wine and rakija (distilled spirits made from the leftover twigs and grapeskins from winemaking, like grappa in Italy), lots of salt, garlic, home-pressed olive oil, and everything seasonal. Topped off with lots of hard work, walking, fresh air and no pollution, strong community ties and low stress….. and that seems to be an immaculate recipe for longevity.

    When I read about Aajonus’s experiences, I think they are incredible, and I can’t help but wonder that in a diseased state, maybe eating offal and meat and rotting meat all raw is wonderfully healing. But I don’t necessarily think that it has to be this way all the time. What a sad life it would be if you had to ignore your ancestry, your cooking traditions, flavours, techniques, recipes… leave them behind… the delicate artistry… I’m Italian and I already had to leave part of that legacy behind with pasta and bread (but I make it for others homemade sometimes). The rest of it? That would be a tragedy.

    Now that I’ve written a novel nobody will read, here is a hilarious link written by someone who thinks it is unnatural for humans to eat meat. He provides a long list of “proofs” and it is hilarious. A funny read and I highly recommend whoever comes this way reads it!

    http://www.scaruffi.com/politics/vegetari.html

  87. For those of us who find most vegetables unpalatable (To me they taste horribly bitter, even if cooked in butter), what’s the minimum recommendation to get the necessary nutrients? I force myself to choke down a handful of spinach or some baby carrots most days, but I don’t want to eat more of the nasty stuff than necessary. So, what’s the minimum effective dose of vegetables? (I’m fine with fruit, by the way.)

    1. As a zero carber, there is no minimum effective dose of vegetables. If you don’t like them, stop eating them.

  88. This interests me for one reason – I am a type one diabetic with (as doctors have said) a rediculously fast metabolism – have any diabetics tried this in an attempt to live without insulin?

  89. Its the abnormal Insulin response to refined carbs that causes the body fat to pile on. As long there is lots of Insulin about, you cannot burn off fat.
    This applies mainly to the overweight rather then the lean, alas the rules are not the same for lean and fat people.
    Insulin opposes the action of Growth Hormone which is necessary for the burning of fat. For the overweight people, Insulin is an absolute roque molecule and high carbs means high Insulin. So there it is. Simple.

  90. When I do zero carb, mainly all meat w some cheese and oils, my bipolar goes into remission, my moods are stable, I don’t feel like binging, I stop obsessing about food (after 6 years of bulimia). Even with adding 20gr of carbs from vegetables all these feelings come back. Strange but true.

  91. I’ve been sticking to a paleo like diet for sometime and felt the best I have my entire life because of it. I don’t always follow all of the rules and exclude certain foods the paleo world allows, and even rely on heavily.

    Right now I’m in the middle of a 21 day all meat and vegetable diet as an experiment to see how it affects my body. Right now I’m on day 8 and feeling very good! There have been a couple rough patches in terms of cravings and what I suspect were die off reactions to removing almost all sugar from my diet.

    If anyone is curious as to the effects a diet like this can have on someone I’m documenting it all on a blog I created for just that purpose.

    http://meatandvegetablediet.blogspot.com/

    Check it out if you’re interested or in need of encouragement!

    -Rob

  92. And I should mention that I went VERY, VERY low in carbs the first few days. It was really difficult and I think it was a mistake. I took in somewhere around 60 grams of carbs over 3 days. I felt fine at first, but I think it affected me a lot in the days after. I was pretty fatigued and just felt down in general.

    But I’m back to normal now and feeling great!

  93. Just on that note…the fibre that you get from eating leafy green vegetables is actually a pretty important part of maintaining optimal health levels for your modern day human living in say, a first world country. (You can google all the fibre goodness info) Granted, you could simply eat a bunch of flax seeds for your fibre instead but they don’t really taste that great – I’d much rather have a fibre-full salad. Anyway – the true bushmen in Africa who still live relatively distanced from modern society and practise their traditional ways of living, will generally graze on vegetation for about 2-3 days at which point they will go out and hunt for meat. They generally are known for their good health and longevity. Personally I think eating totally zero carb is not very healthy, nor is it sustainable if we were all to eat that way. If you believe in evolution, then it’s pretty easy to at least consider the fact that we might still be evolving and may have already evolved enough to live at optimum health levels on a diet that includes vegetables & fruits.

  94. Agree! I am just finding my way into the PB way of life. I’m 4 months into this new found life style. It really fits my way of eating and I like it. I’m tracking everything with the “Lose It” app and tweaking as I learn more. There is too much info out on the web, too many opinions and youtube clips to the point of overload. The PB and MDA seems to be the most reliable source of reasonable information. You keep it in context!

    My 4 month macros are averaging out to Fats 104g, Carbs 18g, Protein 94g, Fiber 4g, Sugar 6g, Sodium 1533mg. Calories are currently 1310 until I reach optimal weight of 180 range. LBM is 160 range based on keto-calculator. Current weigh today is 208 down from 255 on 7/25/15.

    I am getting leg cramps at night so I’ve added 400mg of Mag at bedtime and have increases table salt on my food. I also take D3 10,000iu, and 2 GNC 1560 fish oil in the morning. Seems to have helped.

    My next goal to is start experimenting with blood Ketone and Glucose measuring. I want to be in optimal Ketosis of 1.5 to 3 and have glucose in the 70 to 80’s.

    Please email any feedback on my macro’s and tweaks to improve my numbers and progress. Thanks!

  95. So, several things here. First off I knew Bear personally, and he was flat out joking when he talked about the broccoli, and you could see the twinkle in his eyes every time he said it. So all you folks that bought into that line – he gotcha.

    Secondly, he was pretty clear that his throat cancer was either a product of an HPV infection that he picked up back in the day, or from all the second-hand tobacco smoke he breathed in all those years when he was the sound man and recording engineer for the Dead. He also thought the heart issues could have been left over from all that cigarette smoke as well. Interestingly, heart attacks among non-smokers drop by 30 to 50 percent in those cities where smoking in public is outlawed. We’ve seen that effect in every city around the world where it’s happened. He was convinced that being a pure carnivore significantly reduced both the progression of his cancer (a type that is normally highly aggressive, but which was very very slow in his case) and that his diet also mitigated the heart attacks.

    Thirdly, there are a lot of misconceptions about zero-carb. We all know that there is plenty of glucogen in muscle meat, so while we call it zero-carb, we know it is not really. And for those of us who eat this way, it seems that it doesn’t matter whether the meat is grass-fed, organic, or regular CAFO grocery meat. It all works and works well period. I probably get somewhere between 5 and 20 grams of carbs per day just from meat.

    Personally I object to CAFOs and I am also quite fortunate to live in an area surrounded by farms. I know all the farmers raising my meat. I do eat eggs (4 every morning with my slabs of bacon) but am lactose intolerant so I eschew dairy. I don’t bother with organ meats particularly but I don’t avoid them either. I’ve been in the ZC community for years and know a ton of people who just eat meat, fat and water and they (and I) are all robustly healthy. I just can’t handle plants. They do terrible things to my insides. It turns out, if it isn’t naturally present in meat then it’s not a nutrient I need.

    This is especially true with something like Vitamin C. It turns out that uric acid accomplishes the same function for zero-carbers. But if you eat even small amounts of carbs (such as the hardtack all those sailors ate, who then died of scurvy) you will absolutely get ill. I don’t know what the percentages are, but that’s never been an issue for me or my fellow Z-Cers.

    Personally, it doesn’t matter what anyone else eats. In fact the more you all are eating plants the better it is for me because then meat prices drop. Also, different meats have different nutrient sets, and my body is highly sensitive to that. If I eat half a chicken or a pound of fresh scallops wrapped in bacon, I’m starving in about 3 hours. If I eat a 1 pound ribeye, I’m good for 12 hours. If you are interested in this then there is a great web site with plenty of info and resources, including many testimonials. But hey, don’t believe me, see for yourself. It’s easy, healthy and delicious. Just eat meat and drink water for 30 days and see how you feel. You’ll be fine. 🙂

    Here’s that web site – hope you find it helpful: xerocarbzen dot com

  96. Thank you for your wonderful thoughtful detailed posts! I was going down the zero carb rabbit hole and was thinking about wild blueberries… I can’t imagine anyone turning them down. You explained everything so well. I love your site and Thank you so much for all you do!!!

  97. I have not seen Zero Carb proponents saying that a carnivorous diet is THE diet we were all meant to consume: but rather there are some of us who seem to be intolerant to plant foods. We react to salicylates and oxalates and fructose with pain, fatigue, irritable bowel, cravings and constant hunger. People have had amazing results with this way of eating. That’s what’s important. And with a beef dominant diet, they have not developed any kind of deficiencies. I have not seen any ZC advocating that every one should eat this way. The advice is to try it for 30 days.

  98. “The Bear”, Owsley Stanley, died as the result of a car accident.

  99. In my view zero-carb is a tool. I became zero carb because of digestion issues. While I don’t plan on (probably) continuing long term, in the short term it has allowed me to sleep well. I’ll do what I can to rebuild my digestion and then, if possible, I will probably add some plant materials back in. In the meantime pass the fat, meat, liver and bone broth!

  100. Well this is an interesting article.
    Firstly, you have written about how impractical it is.
    It isn’t. It’s the easiest diet I’ve ever followed. Eat a steak – job done.

    Now, where do you get the idea that ZC’ers will avoid eggs or liver because of a gram of carbs? In the ZC FB group I’m in, noone gives it a thought. Everyone accepts that it’s ZC but there’s really no such thing.

    I’m grain, gluten, dairy (casein) intolerant. I have issues with some nightshades and most certainly experience a salicylic acid intolerance to a lot of plants. I can’t drink tea even.. my joints will ache for a few days.
    I can safely eat iceberg lettuce and avocado. But I have no response whatsoever to eating pure meat.
    Therefore I’m coming up to a year ZC and loving every minute. I don’t get sick on the diet, my BM’s are doing just fine, I eat salmon, steak, pork, bacon, eggs, a bit of lamb’s liver occasionally.
    The Andersen family have eaten ZC muscle meat only for 20 years and their children are thriving on it. Time to think again, Mark.
    :*

  101. Hi.. i live zero for me is the best diat the original one!
    Here is my history… of how i heal of ms!
    Multiplesclerosisheal.com

  102. If you haven’t looked it up, you should read up on some of the zero carb sites. Specifically Kelly Hogans. There is also a group of people on Facebook who are ZC. Contrary to what you wrote, a lot of us do eat eggs. Every day even. We eat cheese too. It’s less about counting carbs and more about only eating from the animal kingdom. Meat, especially beef, is packed with nutrients. Some have been eating this way 10+ years. They enjoy it and are healthy as can be. Impractical? Maybe in the sense that it can be a bit expensive.

    In three weeks of ZC- my cholesterol is down, I have dropped 13 pounds, my energy is through the roof. It’s also incredibly simple. I don’t spend hours trying to find low carb recipes and agonize over the carb count. Eat meat. Drink water.

    A lot of this implies that you really haven’t researched very far into a ZC lifestyle. You should look a little further 🙂

  103. Mark, I think you’re missing the point. And, that is, nobody is asking you to give up any of your favorite foods. I don’t see Zero Carbers preaching much at all,, only to those who are interested.
    But more to the point. Why not try it, and then give your opinions. I ate like you, and have tried zero carb. And I can personally attest that there are improvements to my health.
    So it kinda seems, that like most who disapprove of one diet or another, one might just be needing to defend their own way of eating for some reason or another.
    Ok, one more,, it seems that most of the anti-oxidant hype is crumbling as newer research comes to the forefront.

  104. I suspect babies need carbs or they wouldn’t be in milk.
    Finally have the opportunity to watch the discussion with Mark on Joe Rogan. Maybe not all at once. How can you sit for that long? 😯