One of the most controversial topics on the carnivore diet is whether you need supplements. The carnivore diet itself requires no specific supplementation. It’s possible to get all the nutrients you need from this diet. However, there are cases where supplements could be beneficial.
These typically come down to those who frequently exercise harder and longer, meaning you deplete resources faster than an average individual. Supplementation may also work for you if you’re looking to optimize your nutrient intake or need help during the transition process. If you have a medical issue that impedes your ability to get specific nutrients, supplements are your best bet. But you need to consult your physician to ensure your nutrients levels are up and which supplements you may have to take to keep it that way. Let’s look at some supplements you need to consider while following the carnivore diet.
When you switch to the carnivore diet, your gut health will change drastically. Your body uses different metabolic processes to digest fat, carbs, and protein. While on a high-carb diet, your body is used to digesting carbs, and the metabolic machinery for digesting fats and protein is under-utilized. So when you transition to a high-fat, high-protein diet, your body takes time to adapt, and that’s why most people who begin the carnivore diet experience diarrhea.
Protein needs to be broken down into amino acids and peptide chains to be absorbed, and your body releases HCL, which activates pepsinogen synthesis. However, as your body tries to adapt to the new diet, this process can be slow. This is where Betaine HCL supplements can help. This supplement assists protein digestion by activating pepsinogen to pepsin. It also helps support gut function by providing additional acidity to maximize digestion. Studies have found that inadequate stomach acid levels increase the risk of maldigestion or malabsorption.
Bile plays a crucial role in the fat digestion process. After fat intake, the gallbladder releases bile into the small intestine, where most fat digestion occurs. Bile dissolves dietary fats into minute, microscopic droplets so lipases can more easily break them down. Bile enables the digestion and absorption of fats and transport and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as K, A, E, and D.
Although the liver constantly makes bile that’s transported to the gallbladder, the additional fat consumption needs more bile than produced regularly. Your gallbladder works similarly to a muscle. It takes time for the gallbladder to adapt to high-fat food digestion.
Supplementing with ox bile provides adequate support to your gallbladder, ensuring seamless fat digestion.
Magnesium is crucial for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including maintaining normal muscle and nerve function, supporting a healthy immune system, maintaining a healthy brain function, keeping the heartbeat steady, adjusting blood glucose levels, and helping bones remain strong. It’s an important electrolyte and plays an active role in transporting potassium and calcium ions across cell membranes.
Magnesium deficiency has far-reaching effects, including:
The recommended dietary allocation for magnesium is 310mg per day for women and 400mg per day for men below thirty years. Over thirty years, the recommended amounts increase to 320mg and 420mg per day, respectively.
However, RDAs were developed based on a standard American diet, which is high-carb, high-sugar. RDAs also account for plant antinutrients like oxalates and phytic acid, which affects nutrient bioavailability. That’s why most carnivore dieters believe the RDA for magnesium is too high for someone on the carnivore diet since nutrients are more bioavailable on the carnivore diet.
But due to the lack of an alternative RDA recommendation, we have to work with the current recommendations. One pound of steak contains an average of 100mg of magnesium, so if you eat 2-3 pounds of steak, you fall short of the RDA by 100-200mg. While you can get the additional magnesium from magnesium-rich foods like shellfish, also you can take supplements to fill the gap.
If you’re still adapting to the carnivore diet, you might want to increase your magnesium supplementation. When you go carnivore, your body gets rid of excess fluid, resulting in depleted magnesium levels.
The liver has a unique nutritional profile of all foods. It contains many of the nutrients and vitamins that are absent in other plant and animal foods. Liver complements the meat-heavy carnivore diet. Eating a single serving of liver can help you meet your daily RDA of most vitamins and minerals such as folate, vitamin A, iron, copper, and vitamin B.
While muscle meat contains vital nutrients and vitamins, it doesn’t compare to the liver amounts. Steak is fairly low in vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, B7, and B9 and virtually contains no vitamin A, copper, selenium, riboflavin, and choline, which are in abundance in the liver. Most carnivore dieters add liver to your carnivore diet, but others find organ meats unpalatable, which brings us to the liver supplement option. According to Dr. Saladino, taking desiccated organ capsules from high-quality grass-fed animals is an excellent option. This is because the freeze-drying process is very gentle and involves low-temperature dehydration, which preserves the organs’ nutrients extremely well.
Sodium is an essential nutrient and the most concentrated electrolyte in your body. It maintains the proper balance of water and minerals in the blood, regulates blood pressure, helps send nerve impulses, and is required for muscle contractions. The body tightly regulates sodium levels in the body. When there’s too much sodium, your brain makes you thirsty to excrete excess sodium, and if there’s too little, your body releases aldosterone, which causes sodium to be absorbed.
But this balance comes at a cost since aldosterone also promotes potassium excretion, which can negatively impact your electrolyte balance. People who often experience adrenal stress and elevated cortisol on the carnivore diet most likely have a low sodium intake. Supplementing 4-5mg of sodium per day allows you to achieve optimum sodium levels. This is equivalent to 10g of salt. During the transition, you may want to increase your sodium intake more than this.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid that’s vital for brain development. DHA accounts for 97% of all the omega fatty acids found in the brain and makes up 25% of the brain’s total fat content. DHA is also linked to better vision, reduced inflammatory response, reduced risk for heart disease, prevent and slow Alzheimer’s disease, reduced risk of early preterm births, improved ADHD symptoms, and improved heart health.
DHA is challenging to obtain from red meat but is mostly found in seafood like fish oils, shellfish, and fish. The minimum recommended amount of DHA for adults is 250-500mg, which is very hard to obtain from red meat alone. According to the USDA, 4 ounces of raw grass-fed ground beef contains a mere 45mg of DHA and EPA, another omega-3 fatty acid. If your carnivore diet comprises steaks mostly, you aren’t going to meet your standard DHA requirement, but this may not be an issue if you also eat beef liver.
You can incorporate high DHA foods in your diet a few times a week or take DHA supplements. You can also take fish oils supplements since they also contain DHA.
We’re all different, and supplements on the carnivore diet may be necessary for some people. Most of the nutrients on this list can be found on the carnivore diet in whole food form, but if you’re unable to obtain it for one reason or another, supplementing is the best option.
Paul is a nutrition freelance writer contributing to carnivore dieting topics, trends, and recipes. He expresses his prowess in creating insightful and educational pieces. His content is a product of deep research, wide reading, and clear understanding. When not on his desk, he spends his time hiking and camping with his wife, son, and dog.