Here’s the podcast episode and transcript for the interview I did with Jonathan:
Hi, I’m Joané Hart and I’m Jonathan Hart. This is The Hart of Health. A show where we focus mainly on health and self-optimisation. Here, we like to talk about our experiences and knowledge when it comes to health and biohacking. Hope you enjoy the show.
Jonathan and Joané (0:34)
Hi, everyone. Hello again.
On today’s podcast episode, we thought it would be fun if I did an interview with Jonathan about his carnivore diet experiment.
And yeah, I’m interested to see what the questions will be.
Yeah. So just to give you a little bit of a background story, Jonathan has basically been full carnivore since the first of January this year. So it’s been six months, except for the one day where you had the infamous Easter Bunny, the Easter Bunny incident of 2021, which we will get into a bit later. So yeah, you’ve only eaten animal foods for like this whole year, except for the one day. Okay, but before we get to that, let me start with my first question. What first drew you to the carnivore diet?
I suppose it was kind of the natural progression from keto. You know, like you started learning about ketosis and the fact that you don’t need carbohydrates.
Like, according to the real definition of need, you know, like you will survive without them. Yeah. And so when you see them as unnecessary, it made it very interesting for me to experiment on, you know, like low carbohydrate diets. And then well, obviously, eating mostly animal products gives you very, very few options when it comes to carbohydrates.
So yeah, it sort of seemed to progress one into the other. But I think, for me, the most interesting thing was, if you think about it, logically, peanuts can kill some people. Yeah. So, I don’t think anyone can say specifically like, oh, peanuts are healthy. Yeah. Because it’s very hard to say that something that has the potential to kill someone is a healthy food because you know, it’s a little bit, yeah, some people will be very tolerant of peanuts, and they won’t die from it.
But some guy will eat a peanut, and that’ll be the death of him. So I feel like individuals kind of need to figure out what foods they are tolerant to and not (Yes). And I saw carnivore as a very good elimination diet. So it gives you a very low tolerance to all of the foods that you might be reacting to, and you don’t know you are. So just sort of wipe the slate clean, and then you can find information really rapidly because you have you go carnivore for a month, and you have peanuts for the first time, you realise: “Oh, wait, these things really don’t agree with me or I’m fine.” You can tolerate them. They have a mild reaction. It’s not a big issue.
So I felt like there’s so much confusion in the diet world. Because you know, everyone says one thing or another thing; this is good, this is bad. So I was like: “this might be the way for me to figure out what exactly is good for my body specifically.” And I’ve been doing the pure carnivore thing this year, because it’s just been very interesting to see how long can I go without any plants being introduced? So that’s my latest experiment.
So, how is this carnivore diet experiment different from the ones you’ve done in the past? Because you did the month-long carnivore diet in 2018 at the end of 2018, just after we got married, and then you did a month-long carnivore diet when you were in Cape Town. You’ve been mostly animal-based in between, but where you are strict carnivore?
Yeah. The difference, this time, is that the first time, I didn’t really cut out chicken or pork. So this is the first time I’ve been more aware of my linoleic acid intake. The second time I went carnivore, it wasn’t full carnivore. I was still having things like pepper and turmeric. With the first one, I thought “let me do it as an elimination diet”. I learned quite a lot from it but almost felt like I introduced foods too on top of each other. Yes, even though we did it every two days, but you realise that a food can have an effect for a week or longer, especially if you have a very low tolerance to it.
And then they kind of overlapped and it was hard to see exactly what caused what. Yeah, I learned that macadamia nuts were a really bad idea. Like, that was quite clear, because it was one of the first things I introduced and had a very clear and knock on response in my body. So then I did the second time.
And I didn’t completely cut out all plant food. So then, you know, I learned that liver is definitely beneficial to add to your diet. Yes, but it was less of an elimination diet that time.
And so, yeah, now this last time, it was very strict on no plants. And I don’t know, I just haven’t had a desire to reintroduce plants yet. I’ve been sort of experimenting between dairy and eggs and seeing what exactly their effect on my body is because, same with peanuts, same with dairy, same with eggs. Some people aren’t going to respond well to eggs. And it might not be the yolk, it might be the white, it might be that for some people, the yolk in the white is fine. So I feel like it comes down to the individual. So now I’m playing around with dairy and eggs. And soon, I’ll be probably playing around with fruit, like apples and bananas and maybe olives. And also, I’m going to do it much slower. So I’ll dedicate maybe a whole week to trying out a certain food. So like recently, I have been like saying “Okay, now this week is a cheese week. Yeah, this week is a yoghurt week. Okay, now this week is eggs week.”
Yeah, it’s more just trying to learn my body better. Yeah, and try get better intuition on what works for me and what doesn’t? Yeah.
It’s almost like once you realize you don’t need plant foods, the motivation to eat them goes down a lot, especially when cooking because it’s much quicker to just cook meat than it is to chop vegetables and peel them and to do that on and to still cook your meat and stuff. And then when shopping. I mean, we just go straight to the meat section, get our eggs, get our butter, and get out, pretty much, you know. Yeah, there’s definitely a lot less prep. When it comes to cooking, it’s much easier to prepare meals. It saves us a lot of time not having to prepare a whole bunch of vegetables.
Yeah. So, how do you typically cook your meat on the carnivore diet?
Yeah, even that was an experiment for me. Like where I’d try getting my steaks cooked exactly medium-rare. And it was really nice. So then you, because it’s your only thing, you put all your effort and attention into getting that one thing right. And you get really good. You get really good at cooking it. But then I started experimenting with “Okay, well, how rare will I still enjoy this?” And so, then I gradually started seeing how raw I could eat it. And I found out now that when it comes to beef and lamb, I could probably eat it raw. Like it really doesn’t matter. Yeah. How much I cook it like, adding that little bit of a sear to it is nice.
And you do cook for me a lot of the time.
Yes, and I’ve got a very good sense for how cooked meat is. Because it’s almost like I’ve been training. I’ve been training for a while now. And yeah, I’ve also learned that, you know, I will go to a restaurant now and ask for a steak rare because I’d rather get a medium-rare steak that they say is rare. Then to get a medium or well-done steak that they say is medium-rare because it’s just so much better for me. And say: “do you cook it on a skillet? Do you cook it on fire?”
Airfryer! We did get an air fryer. We’ve been using that most of the time now. But we do enjoy the other cooking methods.
Yeah, I feel like the principle I’m following the most is high heat, short cooking time. Yes. So like with the Airfryer, more than 10 minutes for a reasonably sized steak is, you know, way overcooking it. And yeah, I suppose this is also a personal preference thing but I did find that I started leaning more towards the rarer end of the spectrum when it came to cooking the meat.
And you’re very good at cooking the meat on the braai. So like barbecue is the best (the best tasting one.)
Yeah, that’s the best tasting one on a wood fire. Yeah, is best tasting.
Someone asked me on TikTok the other day after I posted a video of you cooking meat on the braai. And they asked: “So, how long did you wait for the coals to be ready?” And I said: “You know, to be honest, it’s pure Jonathan’s instinct.” You just know when it’s ready.
Yeah, it’s very hard for me to say. If you don’t want your steak to be rare on the inside and nice and caramelised on the outside, you wait for the calls a little bit longer. If you want it to be the way I like it, you wait until those coals have just been put down. And they’re very hot. Yeah. And then you cook your steak. So you can basically kind of gauge based on the outside of steak, so then obviously, everyone wants their steak to be nice and caramelised on the outside.
So, that can happen quickly or can happen slower. And so, depending on how hot your coals are, when you put your meat on, it will sort of determine how long the caramelisation happens. So if the caramelisation happens over a longer period of time, then your steak will have a longer period of time to cook more into the middle. Where if that criminalisation happens in a very short period of time, like when there’s actual flames coming up from the coals because it’s still so hot, then there’s not going to be enough time for the heat to get to sort of the middle of the steak. So it’s going to still be more rare on the inside. And when you cook liver, the same principle. I definitely noticed. I never really liked liver growing up, so it took a bit of an adaptation period where I first had it as part of a sausage meat. In South Africa, we call it “wors”.
So I had mixed like in a one-to-three ratio. And in that form, it was very easy because it was very hard to actually pick up on the liver flavour. It was kind of like just a hint. And then I got used to that, just that, and then I could say like “Okay, now mix 50/50 mince and liver.” And then you get used to that. And then the next thing you know, you’re having liver. And same thing, high heat and liver cooks very quickly. It’s very easy to overcook liver.
So I definitely found that it tasted best when it was sort of just seared on the outside. And it was still nice and pink on the inside.
But it’s like everything. I’m going to recommend now that you have got to find your own sweet spot, basically, and be willing to try repeatedly and keep experimenting.
Oh, tell people how you’ve been cooking big chunks of just pure fat.
Well, the suet.
So the actual raw fat is nice because it’s got connective tissue in it. Which is important, I think, to balance how much muscle protein you get. I remember there was a study where they had mice that were eating lysine to sort of simulate if they ate a large amount of meat. And they had shorter lifespans. Yes. But as soon as they brought in some glycine, then that effect was negated. Yeah.
So, yeah, I don’t avoid the connective tissue, and the raw fat has the connective tissue in it, and then you can make it quite nice and crispy. Yes. And you need to get it into sort of nugget-sized pieces. And then you have to watch out, as there can be really chewy parts if you get a big block of raw fat, if it hasn’t really been sort of butchered and those connective tissues taken out because some of them is almost like eating pure, you know, tendon or yeah, it gets rubbery.
Yeah, it can get rubbery.
So there are certain parts of the fat that are easier to crisp up and make nice and some of them, you know, will be a bit chewy. I don’t mind getting in the chewy bits, because I know that is gonna help me with collagen production. But as far as recommending it as a food, I wouldn’t really.
And it helps you eat enough fat on the carnivore diet because a lot of people just don’t get enough fat and they don’t know how to get more fat in a nice way. And that’s one way that you found out.
Yeah, so often, you know, your steak has that little strip of fat on the side, but I always felt like it wasn’t really enough. So then having those few extra nuggets of fat to go with your steak definitely helped balance out the protein to fat ratio and helped my calories get higher up. Because obviously, I don’t want to be eating in a calorie deficit because I don’t want to lose weight, but gain weight,
You try to eat like 3000 calories a day just to maintain pretty much. Yeah, pretty much. Okay, so I’m gonna combine two questions here.
So how many times a day do you eat on the carnivore diet? And do you still do intermittent fasting while you’re on the carnivore diet?
Yeah, I started periodising those things. So I’ll go through periods where I’ll eat three times a day. So breakfast, lunch, and supper. And then I’ll take a break from it. And I’ll only have lunch and supper. And then there’ll be periods where I’ll intermittent fast, where I’m trying to finish supper as early as possible, and then eat later in the morning. But then there’ll be times where I’m having an early breakfast and a late supper. I’m mixing it up at the moment. I’m not doing anything specific and regimented.
Every few months, you might do a 24-hour first.
Well, generally, once a month at least, I’ll do a 24-hour fast. But that’s also just like “oh, seems like it’d be a good idea to do it now, today, or whatever.” And then I’ll do it. It’s not something that I plan weeks in advance. I’m not trying to make my diet super rigid.
You don’t track fasting, nothing like that.
No, I’m sort of just saying that I’ll go with my intuition. Be like: “Okay, now it feels like it’s time to do a 24-hour fast.”
Yeah, I’m doing intuitive fasting, basically. And I’ll be like: “Oh, you know, I’m really hungry this morning, I’ll have breakfast. Or I’ll be like: “I’m not really hungry this morning, let me fast until lunch.” You know, it’s almost like I’m trying to see if my body has an intuition and see where that leads.
Yeah. So are you a no-carb carnivore? Or do you eat honey and then higher-carb dairy sources?
Yes, I do include carbs. But I try to tailor it to my activity level. And I don’t really go above 150 grams ever. Under 50 grams of carbs. There will be days where I’m like: “No, okay, today’s ultimate Frisbee day, so I’m going to up the carb intake.” Or, you know: “I’m just going to be recovering from yesterday’s ultimate Frisbee or hockey. If today’s a recovery day, I might have a little bit of carbs. And then on a day where I’m not doing anything, and I’m not recovering, I’ll have zero carbs. So it’s an attractive answer. It’s not a specific answer. It’s not like: “Oh, I do exactly this.” It’s kind of like I’m, I am low carb and I’m higher carb, depending on the day.
Yeah. It’s just a lot of people who are on the carnivore diet think: “No, you have to be no carb and eating honey doesn’t count”. I just know that #nocarb hashtag goes along with the carnivore diet a lot on Instagram. So yeah, so that would be interesting to bring up.
Yeah, I just didn’t see something like honey as inappropriate. Because you look at all that all the hunter-gatherers, and they will call off a hunt in order to go find honey. So I don’t think honey is a problem.
Describe the perfect carnivore diet day for you.
Well, what are your favourite foods?
Okay, so a carnivore day that I’d really enjoy?
Yeah, like what is your ideal?
Because I know you can also eat the same foods over and over again. What day could you have over and over again?
Well, lamb chops for breakfast, lamb jobs for lunch, and then maybe a T-bone steak for supper. Some honey and some honey in between.
I like chaffles. We make cheese and egg waffles. You have egg yolks. You don’t have egg whites.
I learned that egg whites can be problematic for me. And that I do better with just the egg yolk.
Oh and biltong. That would be nice.
Yeah biltong for a snack. Part of the reason why I’m able to experiment with my diet is I don’t have a very emotional attachment to food. (Yeah, no) So to express my ideal day.
Okay, so tell us about the Easter Bunny incident of 2021.
Yeah, I thought okay, you know, it’s Easter. Let me make an exception.
Yeah, just back up. His parents bought us these two dark chocolate Lindt Easter bunnies. They get it for us every year. So Jonathan decided he will eat his for Easter.
So I thought: “Okay, you know, let’s see, Lindt is a very high-quality brand. They normally don’t put too much in their chocolates that’s unnecessary.” But yeah, I paid for that chocolate bunny. Three days. I think it really, really upset my large intestine.
Yeah, I had no plant foods for at least 75 days because you did the 75 Hard challenge. And then after that, yeah, how many days into the year is Easter?
Joh, April? Don’t make me count.
You can do the math if you really want to know. Yeah, but it was that day of no plants that many days no plants. And it was like three and a half months. It was the first thing And so yeah, I think if it had gone better, I might have introduced more fruits and other stuff by now but because it went so badly, I was just like: “No, I’m gonna carry on experimenting in the animal-based realm for longer.”
It’s like the Easter Bunny scared you back straight to carnivore?
Well, yeah, it wasn’t fun.
No, it really affected your digestive system badly.
Okay, what advice would you give someone who is interested in starting the carnivore diet as an experiment?
Taper into it, if you don’t want to get the runs. Your body is used to getting a certain amount of fibre. And so it releases a specific amount of bile acid in order to counteract being absorbed by fibre. So if you suddenly go from one day, you’re eating a fair amount not like you have to go from a high fibre diet, but even just a moderate fibre diet to a no fibre diet, you’re going to get some bile acids going into your large intestine because it’s going to sort of be expecting something to sponge up those acids and then there will be no sponge to soak it up. So then they get to your large intestine. As soon as they get into your large intestine, you get the runs. Yes, so tapering, tapering. So I’d say shift to your non-sweet fruits and meat for maybe two to three weeks before you go full carnivore. that’ll definitely help with that and get adequate salt intake.
Make sure you get enough electrolytes or at least make sure then you’re keeping your carbs high because as soon as you lower your carb intake, your body starts losing water and there are essential minerals attached to that water. And so, taking things in like salt and electrolytes will help you maintain that balance and prevent you from depleting your magnesium and potassium and those things that are pretty important for your muscle function and athletic performance. So yeah, my next experiment is to try and weigh out my salt. So I want to weigh out 10 grams of salt. And, you know, basically, see if I would use that amount in a day. Because if you’re very low carb, then you probably need about 10 grams of salt in a day to sort of keep your electrolytes balanced. Where if you are having some carbs, you’re looking at more around 5 grams of salt. So you can then use that as a rough guideline. But obviously, you need to see for yourself if you’re getting like muscle spasms and cramps, then you need to probably look at your magnesium and salt intake.
I’m totally gonna make you write a blog post about your self-experiment.
It’s tough because if you buy something like a sausage that already had salt put into it, you don’t know how much is in there?
Yeah, no, but you don’t eat things that other people really make? Well, yeah, I suppose we do order sausage, I guess.
Yeah. So like it, it has to be a day where I only eat the whole meat that hasn’t been put in a sausage or anything. And then I can control and also it’s tricky, because like if you sprinkling salt on your meat, and like 1/3 of your salt ends up on the table, or on the plate, you know…
But that’s why maybe it’s better to just aim for a range like you want between eight and 12 grams of salt, because you know, like, well, maybe two grams will get lost or things will happen.
But you know me, I want the experiment to be accurate. I wanted to figure out a way to have like less waste and have a very accurate.
Well, yeah, we can just not add salt before cooking and just added afterwards.
Yeah. And one thing that I’d recommend to try is salt ageing the meat for a day.
Oh, we could have covered this in a cooking portion. But I’m glad we’re getting to it.
Yeah, that’s one thing that’s really nice: it brings out the flavour of the meat. If you know you’re going to have your steak tomorrow, put salt on it, and let it sit on a rack or something where it can breathe nicely in the fridge for a day before you cook it. It makes a difference, definitely makes a difference.
Kind of a cooking tip.
Because it will let the salt absorb into the muscle meat, which is quite tasty. And yeah, so it’s hard if you do that because then you don’t know how much salt exactly could be absorbed into your meat. Yeah. And how much are you getting in? But still, it’s just like: don’t be shy of salt if you’re going to go carnivore. Yeah, that’s that I can say, for sure. If you’re going to be not putting a lot of salt on your food, then make sure that you take a magnesium supplement and a potassium supplement, and hopefully get some sodium or even if you have to take it as a supplement. But if you’re not, if you’re trying to limit your salt intake on carnivore, you’re probably just going to get muscle cramps.
Yeah, that would suck. Well, thank you, Mr. Jonathan Hart, for agreeing to do this interview for the listeners of The Hart of Health podcast.
Yeah, it’s quite new to be asked questions instead of just talking in general. But yeah, it was cool.
Hey, well, I want to get good at interviewing people. One day, we might have guests on the show.
One day, I’m not ready yet. Until next week, have you have a great day. Bye