mind pump male fitness myths

Carnivore Vs. Vegan | Dr. Will Bulsiewicz and Dr. Paul Saladino on Mind Pump #1360

Key Takeaways

  • Diet is not one size fits all
  • Some people do well on vegan or plant-based while others are better-suited for carnivore or carnivore’ish diets
  • Look holistically at what is and is not working about your diet, without strict dogma
  • Above all, drown out the noise and listen to your body


The Mind Pump team consists of Sal Di Stefano (IG: @mindpumpsal), Adam Schafer (IG: @mindpumpadam) and Justin Andrews (IG: @mindpumpjustin).

Dr. Will Bulsiewicz (@theguthealthmd) is a gastroenterologist and author of Fiber Fueled. He discusses his personal experience switching from SAD to plant-based and finally veganism. Dr. Paul Saladino (@CarnivoreMD) is an authority on the science and application of the carnivore diet and author of Carnivore Code.

In this episode, Sal separately interviews Dr. Will Bulsiewicz about the vegan and plant-based diet and Dr. Paul Saladino about the carnivore diet.  

Plant-Based Vs. Vegan

  • The difference between plant-based and vegan: plant-based is broader and inclusive, orienting diet towards plant-based but not necessarily the complete absence of animal products
  • Plant-based is on a spectrum and doesn’t have to be 100% of the way you eat
  • A vegan diet contains no animal products and is motivated by ethics, animal welfare and concern about the environment
  • Reality is you can be a junk food vegan but that doesn’t mean it’s a healthy diet
  • However, you are less likely to have a low-quality plant-based diet

Tenants of the Carnivore Diet

  • The carnivore diet entirely composed of animal foods, but a broader definition is a diet that appreciates two main premises: 1. Animal foods are the most nutrient-dense foods humans can eat 2. Plants exist on a spectrum of toxicity and can be harmful to some people (e.g., glutens, lectins, etc.) – we can get to a place of mostly animal foods with maybe some lower toxicity plant foods and still have improvements
  • Animal foods are an indispensable part of evolution and have been incorrectly vilified

Common Ground Between Plant-Based and Carnivore Diets

  • Dr. Will Bulsiewicz was unhealthy and unhappy and now believes in eating without restriction, enjoying food, regaining health
  • Dr. Paul Saladino was battling persistent eczema which disappeared when he switched his diet  
  • Both Dr. Will Bulsiewicz and Dr. Paul Saladnio found their diet through self-experimentation and extensive research
  • Both doctors believe in eating to satiety and not worrying about counting carbs or calories
  • Above all, eating whole foods needs to be a priority above packaged and processed foods
  • There is a component of health that comes with eliminating processed foods and regardless of dogma, that’s a universal foundation for health

Universal Agreement About the Faults of Research

  • There’s a difference between the epidemiological studies (associational, survey-based) and interventional studies (randomized-controlled trial, causation)
  • It’s hard to do good nutritional studies with people because staying accountable to “diet” is difficult in non-controlled settings
  • Many people rightly criticize nutritional guidelines from USDA (e.g., recommendations against saturated fats) but that also leads to confusion
  • We saw people replace saturated fats with vegetable oil but that’s not making people any healthier
  • There’s an educational problem with nutrition

In Support of Plant-Based and Vegan Protocols

TMAO: Unhealthy Biomarker in Meat Eaters

  • TMAO: marker in the blood connected to coronary artery disease, stroke, chronic kidney disease
  • Microbiome plays a role in converting carnitine to TMAO so in order to have TMAO you have to consume red meat
  • TMAO has been identified as an independent risk factor for cancer, heart disease, stroke, chronic kidney disease

Dr. Will: Evolution, Ancestral Eating, and Life in 2020

  • Reality is that the argument about eating like our ancestors (e.g., meat) is not an apples-to-apples comparison
  • Our ancestors lived in famine, violence, and lifespan was short
  • We ate with the intention of surviving long enough to have kids and not thinking about much else beyond that
  • We went for high calorie, animal foods to get more bang for the buck
  • If we want to be healthy in your 70s and 80s we have to use science and not look to how people ate in the past – we’re living to an unprecedented age and need to adapt our approach  
  • Antagonistic pleiotropy: the way we evolved to support life during pre-historic times is coming back to bite us in the ass –
  • The genetics we built during that time is becoming our enemy: we evolved to clot blood, now the number cause of death is heart disease
  • We evolved to absorb nutrients, now we’re absorbing low-quality foods and see sharp rises in type 2 diabetes

Plant-Based Diet and Satiety

  • Many people falsely believe you cannot get the sensation of fullness on plants alone
  • Protein and fiber activate satiety hormones
  • In a controlled environment and when one is able to eat unrestricted calories, plant-based dieters consume 600 calories less but achieved the same level of satiety

Can You Get All of the Proper Nutrients on A Plant-Based Diet?

  • It’s not always appropriate to recommend 100% plant-based (i.e., in the presence of an eating disorder, don’t change diet)
  • Dr. Will has never had a patient under his care become nutritionally deficient on a 100% plant-based diet
  • There are weak points to any diet that excludes food groups
  • In a plant-based or vegan diet, we do lack B12 which is easy to supplement
  • However, 40% of people in the US are deficient in B12 anyways so many of us should be supplementing
  • Omega-3 deficiency can also occur (as it can with the Standard American Diet) so people should supplement with DHA/EPA supplement
  • Vitamin D deficiency has more to do with lifestyle than diet per se

Vegans, Cognitive Function and Creatine Supplementation  

  • A popular meta-analysis linked veganism with higher rates of anxiety and Alzheimer’s – but the study has a major conflict of interest: it is sponsored by Cattlemen’s Beef Association
  • It is true, there is no creatine in vegan diet
  • In one study, vegans who were given creatine experienced a notable cognitive boost – but the study lacked a control group
  • More recent studies have found no difference in creatine levels in omnivores versus plant-based
  • Dr. Will believes creatine is helpful in exercise performance but doesn’t feel it’s necessary to avoid cognitive decline

Yes, It’s True: Animal Proteins Are Better For Muscle Growth And Density On Pound Per Pound Basis

  • On a gram for gram basis, meat has more branch chain amino acids which activate protein synthesis methods
  • While it’s true animal proteins are pound for pound better for muscle growth and density, it’s important to assess your fitness goals and trade-offs you’re willing to make to accomplish these goals
  • But in reality, we don’t eat gram for gram of these foods so you can just eat a little more plant-based protein and achieve the same goals  
  • Fair to say different people have different body types and can achieve different things with their bodies

In Support of the Carnivore (or Carnivore’ish) Diet

Plant Toxicity

  • It’s not debatable that toxicity is necessary for plant survival
  • Animals have their own defense mechanisms like sharp teeth, claws, they can run
  • Animals and plants are in an arms race and plants have needed defense chemicals to co-evolve with animals
  • Seeds (including nuts, legumes), stems, leaves, roots are most toxic portions with defense chemicals
  • Cooking plants can reduce toxicity but it still depends on how well individuals tolerate the plant – some are not denatured even with cooking
  • Bottom line on plant toxicity: some people can tolerate plants and that is ok, but many people with inflammation issues, mental health adversity may benefit from removing plants
  • Removing plants is controversial because society has a hard time saying that something like spinach might be bad for us

Are Any Plants Healthy to Eat?

  • Plant toxicity exists on a spectrum
  • As a general rule of thumb, fruit is less likely to be toxic – ideally remove the seeds if you can (e.g., cucumber, avocado, squash, olives, berries)
  • As an aside, fructose in fruit form is not as concerning as fructose in processed form
  • Most toxic: leaves, seeds, roots legumes, nuts, grains, lectins (e.g., gluten)

Missing Fiber on Carnivore Diet

  • Interventional studies looking at the importance of fiber are abysmal
  • Fiber failed to prevent cancer (specifically colon cancer) in interventional studies
  • People who had precancerous lesions and followed with colonoscopy surveillance experienced no change over five years on a high fiber diet
  • A common myth is that fiber will reduce constipation
  • Fiber and constipation story is different than mainstream information
  • Fiber can improve the size and frequency of bowel movements but does not alleviate other symptoms of pain, blood in the stool, use of laxatives
  • Fiber is giving people who have difficulty clearing bowel more movement which causes more pain and bleeding because you’re increasing frequency
  • Interventional studies show the removal of fiber resolves gas, bloating, constipation

Missing Nutrients on Carnivore Diet

  • There is minimal vitamin C in animal products
  • The main role of vitamin C is to add hydroxyl group to collagen molecule to join groups
  • In reality you only need about 10 mg of vitamin C per day
  • You can get 10mg of vitamin C by eating ½ – ¾ pound of meat per day
  • We worry about scurvy with vitamin C deficiency, but scurvy has been treated with fresh meat in the past

Isn’t the Carnivore Diet Full of Bad Saturated Fat?

  • Dogma regarding saturated fat has changed significantly
  • A well-raised ruminant (e.g., cattle, elk, etc.) is about 50% saturated to unsaturated fat
  • “It’s undeniable we’ve been eating meat throughout our evolution. It’s likely it would’ve been selected out if it was harmful” – Dr. Paul Saladino
  • LDL in itself is not able to initiate and progress atherosclerosis
  • It’s a different picture to see LDL rise in metabolic health versus the rise of LDL in metabolic disorder
  • LDL has some value and serves an immunologic role
  • In metabolically healthy individuals, higher LDL is associated with lower rates of sepsis and greater longevity in animal studies and observational human studies
  • LDL needs to be interpreted contextually: LDL increases in the presence of insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome which are more likely the underlying causes of atherosclerosis
  • On a carnivore diet, fasting insulin goes down, triglycerides go down, inflammation goes down and LDL slightly increase but we need to look at full picture and direction of changes

Misleading Information About “Blue Zones”  

  • Ansel Keys’ “Seven Countries Study” is an epidemiological study now known to be wrought with bias and cherry picking
  •  So-called “Blue Zones” are regions of the world where people live longer than average
  • However, in those seven countries there is a predilection for eating meat
  • In three of the regions, Ogliastra (Sardinia), Ikaria (Greece), and Okinawa (Japan), the national dish is animal-based and there no plant-based culture
  • The Nicoya region of Costa Rica is only a Blue Zone for males, not females
  • Also in Nicoya, residents of the region eat more animal-based foods than the rest of the country
  • Not noted a “blue zone” region but Hong Kong has third highest life expectancy rate in the world and among the highest rates of meat consumption per capita
  • Iceland is the same story, high life expectancy and high meat consumption

Don’t Carnivore Athletes Miss Carbs?

  • Carbohydrates do have performance improvement, but the carbs don’t have to come from plants
  • Ideally use continuous glucose monitor and see how different carbs affect glucose levels
  • Dr. Paul Saladino uses honey for carb supplementation (about 60-75g) and only sees a small bump in blood sugar

Diet and Nutrition are Individual (Mind Pump Cast Review)

  • Some people do well on plant-based while others are better-suited carnivore or carnivore’ish diets
  • Neither doctor says unequivocally that every person should follow a certain diet but offer more of a general framework with some flexibility  
  • There is a huge variance in people – psychology, microbiome, physiology, etc.
  • There’s an undeniable psychological aspect to “diet” that cannot be discounted
  • It’s about finding out what works best for you and not adopting strict dogma
  • Look holistically at what makes you feel better and what changes can help  
  • It all boils down to this: drown out the noise and LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
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Notes By Maryann

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