In today’s interview I get to speak with orthopaedic surgeon & carnivore diet advocate, Dr Shawn Baker MD.
We talk about the benefits of eating an all meat diet vs keto or a low carb diet.
Shawn is apart of the growing zero carb diet advocate movement, but he explains why he prefers to use the term carnivore diet vs zero carb diet.
In the interview you’ll hear the backstory behind why Dr Baker is a fan of this novel way of eating for optimal health.
Shawn explains his journey from health problems to fixing it with dietary changes.
This involved going on a low carb diet to then ketogenic diet to finally finding his ideal diet of just meat and water.
Dr Baker shares some great information about how easy it is to live his way of life and how he is not concerned about eating that much red meat or protein.
If you know someone who is interested in learning more about:
- What is the rationale behind eating a diet of only meat diet
- Why Dr Baker switched his way of eating to a carnivorous one
- Dr Baker’s tips on how to get started
- His personal success story from eating just meat and no vegetables
Then this episode is for them.
I enjoyed this interview as I love eating meat and I personally find animal protein makes me feel good, however, I have never chatted with someone who eats just meat and is finding it has helped heal their body.
Special thanks to Shawn for joining me on the show.
Enjoy the episode!
Need to order some meat online? Try grass fed meats from US Wellness Meats here.
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Show Notes with Timestamps
Find summarised highlights of what we talk about during the interview.
Use the clickable timestamp links to jump direct to those points in the audio file below:
[00:20] – Introducing Dr. Shawn Baker, a board certified orthopaedic surgeon (based in California), multi-sport world record holding Masters 50+ Athlete.
[01:01] – Shawn is passionate about finding out and doing what works best for him. He explains how, through a process of experimentation, he came to the realisation that nutrition should be very simple and that a zero-carb diet works best for him – a lot of other people have found this to be true as well.
[02:55] – Shawn’s personal eating journey; six years ago, when his health was suffering he started to look at his diet. He explains how – while monitoring his progress using the Concept 2 rower – he experimented with the paleo diet, the low-carb diet, and the different variations of the ketogenic diet (including the DH Kiefer carb nite back-loading method). Only seeing improvements with the ketogenic diet, Shawn decided to go zero-carb and found that’s when he felt the best.
[07:38] – Some of the other improvements due to the zero-carb diet included improvements of certain age-related skin conditions, as well as, a reduction of aches and pains. But Shawn believes that the Concept 2 rowing machine is the most objective way to measure improvement through measuring performance.
[09:31] – How is the carnivorous diet is different to a zero-carb diet? Shawn explains why this is a misnomer; most people on zero-carb diets are on a carnivorous diet and are eating some degree of carbohydrates through eggs, cheeses and certain meats. What they avoid eating is anything derived from plants. Shawn’s personal diet tends to consist of 95% red meat, the rest is eggs, cheese and seafood.
[13:59] – While he did feel good on a ketogenic diet, Shawn wanted to push to the extremes of performance. After about a month on an all meat diet his performance continued to improve and he took two seconds of his rowing time; his previous time was an American record for the 40+ age group at the time (Shawn was 49). (ref)
[15:01] – Shawn explains the benefits of zero-carb vs ketogenic diet from a performance standpoint. All meat diet results in a fair bit of time spent in ketosis with a ketogenic diet, however, there can be too much protein restriction (Nutritionist Emily Maguire mentioned this). We know creatine and protein absolutely support performance. Shawn also acknowledges there are questions around how much protein is too much? Can it knock us out of ketosis? Does it cause gluconeogenesis? Does it speed up aging? There also seem to be benefits to joint pain with carnivorous diets.
[19:01] – Can we continue to increase performance while ageing? Traditional advice dictates we are unable to recover as efficiently or train as intensely as we age. Shawn explains why he believes taking up the carnivorous diet helped his recovery and proved this school of thought to be wrong in his case.
[21:40] – Shawn’s carnivorous diet is enough to fuel his gruelling exercise regime without needing carbs for fuel. He explains how his body is adapted to efficiently convert other sources of energy into glycogen. It takes time (about three weeks) to adapt to a shift in diet. We often hear about the keto flu when going keto, similar effects are felt for any metabolic adaptation that happens when we switch to a different fuel source for burning energy.
[25:20] – Talking about the respiratory quotient shifts, which generally shift within three weeks of taking up the carnivorous diet. Other adaptations may take even longer and we may continue to improve for some time after the shift.
[26:13] – How would someone go from a low-carb to a carnivorous diet? With low-carb and keto diets there is a lot of macro manipulation but with the carnivorous diet Shawn eats when he is hungry, generally twice a day, breakfast/lunch time and early evening; about two pounds a meat per meal. Shawn believes we should be eating more like most other animals and our appetites should be a good regulator telling us when we are supposed to eat. Recently, this has been pushed out of balance with the modern way of eating.
[30:01] – There is some controversy around this, but in Shawn’s experience there is zero determined in excluding fruits and vegetables from the diet. There is a misconception about this being a weight loss diet, while that may happen it’s not necessarily the case. Shawn explains most people on a modern diet are undernourished, regardless of their weight, and are missing a lot of protein. It may take several years to reverse that and build all that structure, inside and out. Eating meat helps restore tissue. Big mistake is under-eating coming into this diet as it seems like a lot of meat.
[33:09] – While Shawn’s weight is stable (4000-5000 cal/day at 110kg) his strength is increasing. He talks about the strength-to-weight ratio which is important in terms of rowing. While the diet might not be ideal for bodybuilding, in terms of performance and strength it works great. Shawn acknowledges that in addition to his diet his outstanding athletic performance is also due to his experience as an athlete with a lifetime of training and hard work to back it up.
[34:50] – There is some anecdotal evidence to suggest this diet might help with sarcopenia which Shawn is hoping to be able to test. He also, mentions Ted Naiman’s graphic showing what the elderly population generally eats and explains why he believes the sarcopenia in addition to a loss of mass in other organs could be diet related.
[37:15] – Talking about kids diets and teaching them how to read labels and make good choices. It’s important for children to understand that food impacts their health. Shawn favours his kids eating meat first and then if they are still hungry they eat cheese, eggs or maybe a ketogenic desert. They are not on the carnivorous diet yet, perhaps when they are older.
[40:30] – There have been studies saying that too much red meat causes bowel cancer and too much protein can harm the kidneys. For the latter, a nephrologist Dr Jason Fung’s studies and have not found this be true. Unless perhaps you already have failing kidneys to begin with but even then, people have been known to reverse chronic kidney disease eating diet high in protein. Shawn talks about the weak evidence behind the WHO study classifying red-meat and processed meat as a class 1 carcinogen. Psychiatrist, Dr Georgia Ede, wrote a great critique on that on how this report was misleading.
[44:44] – In terms of side effects experienced during the transition to a new fuel source Shawn had a headache which was rectified with a bit more salt and water or by simply eating more. People might also experience low energy, might be a little lethargic and might experience a lower appetite. There is a misconception meat diets cause constipation, but this is not the case. Meat is very well absorbed and there is very little waste produced so frequency of bowl movements might reduce, however.
[47:16] – Shawn’s joint pain was reduced, his joints felt better on carnivorous and even keto diets. He believes certain foods can have a negative impact and by removing those your joints feel as good as possible. Many people report similar relief in joint pain, and it goes away even weight loss which indicates inflammation plays a big part.
[49:19] – Shawn shares some of his experiences with patients. Generally, patients fare better if they lose some weight, so how he would try putting them on low carb/ketogenic diets. In certain cases, this was so successful and their joints improved so much they cancelled surgeries. Shawn explains how the hospital took issue with this as it was cutting into profit margins. He also sheds lights on the hospital system and interests in procedures in lieu of lifestyle based interventions. This was one of the contributing factors that led to a change of focus for Shawn, who is now looking to make a bigger impact more broadly with lifestyle related solutions.
[53:52] – Shawn currently operates locum tenens, and only has anecdotal reports to go on. He talks about starting a website Nequalsmany.com where they are trying to consolidate some of the anecdotal reports and are hoping to set up studies to see how diet impacts people. There could be thousands of people participating and contributing data not biased by industry stakeholders. Currently people are signing-up to do a pure meat and water diet study and they will be logging different things.
[56:49] – Gary talks about a study published in the Journal of Anaesthetics that released fraudulent data and the idea of ‘citizen scientist’ sharing data and taking matters into their own hand. Shawn mentions Tim Noakes’ “the wisdom of the crowds” and the potential to get big numbers of people participating, as well as keeping the raw data open to allow people to make their own conclusions – a lot of research studies hide raw data and manipulate the conclusion. (ref)
[58:49] – There is a science to interpreting research papers, which can be difficult, especially if one is not familiar with the subject matter. Researcher, Zoë Harcombe, is great at interpreting data, which can often be presented in a misleading manner to the public.
[59:40] – Nutritional research can be challenging as there are so many confounders that are usually present. How does one define what ‘meat eaters’ mean? In most studies, this can include people who eat burgers at McDonalds and then follow that with a coke and fries, then there are people like Shawn. This is the advantage of the carnivorous study, it gets away from these confounders.
[1:00:49] – Shawn did some research on eating like this to see what is available to people and how affordable it is. Buying grass-fed, organic beef is not doable for most people. Shawn explains that while grass-fed beef is superior nutritiously, the difference is not huge. Eating the cheaper meat is still better than eating processed, packaged foods. See Shawn’s example photo of a bun less burger to get an idea how you can eat at a fast food place like McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King etc… even on a carnivorous diet.
[1:03:53] – The final point Shawn makes is that he believes the phytonutrients from vegetables aren’t essential. He talks about how the studies are executed to prove a chemical in a plant may be beneficial and why what he sees in practice doesn’t seem to be supporting what we have been told. Don’t be afraid to eat more meat!
[1:07:47] – To follow Shawn, or if you have an idea for a future study please contact contact please him using one of the links below.
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