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The Lion Diet Review: We Consumed Only Meat, Salt and Water for a Month | The Hart of Health Podcast

Here is the transcript for our podcast episode “The Lion Diet Review: We Consumed Only Meat, Salt and Water for a Month”.

Jonathan 0:08
Hey, everyone, on today’s episode, we’re going to be giving you all a review on our carnivore month in January doing The Lion Diet.

Joané 0:50
Yes, it was quite a fun experiment. I’m glad we did it.

Jonathan 0:54
I’m glad you did this. I’ve done it quite a bit already.

Joané 0:59
Yeah, you have a bit of experience with The Lion Diet. I know you’re a fan. But last year, I missed out on World Carnivore Month. So then I said: “No, this year we’re doing it. I’m not missing out.” And yeah, we decided to do The Lion Diet for a month. So just ruminant meat, salt, and water.

Jonathan 1:21
Yeah, for those of you who don’t know what The Lion Diet is, a ruminant is an animal that has multi-chambered stomachs and is able to ferment plant fibre in order to create all the essential amino acids they need from bacteria.

Joané 1:39
So this includes lamb, beef…

Jonathan 1:43
Any kind of venison is normally ruminant. Rabbits are technically ruminants.

Joané 1:49
Yeah, there’s no way I’m eating that. We have a pet bunny.

Jonathan 1:53
It’s not about if you have a pet or not. It’s just that rabbits are very lean, and they actually don’t offer a lot of sustenance.

Joané 2:02
Well, the reason I wouldn’t eat it isn’t because we have a bunny. So yeah, how was your experience during the month? The Lion Diet gave your digestive system a bit of a break from a lot of fibre, I guess.

Jonathan 2:17
Yeah. So towards the end of last year, I was having fruit, which, you know, it has benefits and its drawbacks. But I think that, for the most part, fruit is beneficial. But yeah, I felt like I could notice the difference between carbs and no carbs. And then it took like a few days for my body to catch on to it and be like: “Okay, so we are now going low-carb again.” So yeah, there was a bit of like a lag period, but then my body was like: “Okay, well, we know what’s going on”, and immediately sort of got into that low-carb state. I had to increase my salt intake a bit, and then I was fine.

Joané 3:01
Yeah, I always think it takes at least three days for my mind and my body to adjust to a diet at first. Like I always say: “The first three days are the hardest.” If you can get through the first three days, you can survive the whole diet, I guess, for me, the lineup was interesting. I also had fruit before, so it was going from a kind of medium-carb diet to a zero-carb diet. And that can make you lose a lot of water and electrolytes, which is why you need more salt. I also feel like having more salt gave me more energy. Because I definitely noticed a drop in my performance in the gym for the first while. But I also know that is because switching to a zero-carb diet can take a few days for your body to adjust – maybe even a few weeks. But then, having salt before my workouts would increase my performance and improve it. So I just made sure to have enough salt before my workouts and that helped a lot.

Jonathan 4:09
And yeah, eventually, you can’t even notice a difference between before and after tracking performances. So the first sort of test in January came from a game of Ultimate Frisbee. And so, it wasn’t like I was that far behind the pace, but I noticed a little bit of a dip but then by the next week, I was already back to my sort of usual standard of performance.

Joané 4:40
Yeah, it’s not like The Lion Diet lowers your performance. It’s just while you’re adapting to it. That’s what people need to know because I’ve heard people say they tried keto or carnivore and their performance in the gym suffered or they noticed they felt tired. And so, they thought after a week: “oh, this diet isn’t for me.” But they didn’t realise that you’re in an adaptation phase, you know?

Jonathan 5:08
Exactly. And even with reintroducing fruit, there is also an adaptive phase where your body gets used to the fibre again. And so, you get an increase in gas and stuff like that. But then, you know, it subsides because you adapt. It’s more if something causes a really big issue if you decide to reintroduce it, that you should try and weigh up for yourself. Is it worth it?

Joané 5:33
Yes. So after The Lion Diet, I’ve added fruit back in my diet as well. And you as well. And I haven’t noticed any side effects. Feels good. It’s actually nice to just have the variety. And I end up feeling a little fuller, I guess, with the fibre.

Jonathan 5:55
The way I like to look at it, as you know, is that you want to almost make your diet seasonal. So yeah, sure, you know, if fruits are being grown in your specific country or area, and they are very seasonal and readily available, then that is when you should eat the fruit. But then, when it comes to like wintertime or a time when there’s actually not any fruit grown locally in your area, then that’s probably a time to do more The Lion Diet, where you’re not having a lot of fruit.

Joané 6:27
I’d love to try it in winter. That was one thing I was thinking about. Because it’s summer, it’s hot. And I was craving fresh, cold things like fruit. And all we could eat was meat. And we were actually talking about the fact that it would be much better to do it in winter. So here in South Africa, that’s like in the middle of the year. I think that’ll be good to do in the future.

Jonathan 6:53
Yeah, exactly. So World Carnivore Month is January. But you know, that should be northern hemisphere World Carnivore Month, and in July should be like Southern Hemisphere Carnivore Month. Because I feel like it’s more appropriate to do it in those times. And like you said, in winter, you’ll probably be craving richer, warmer, cooked meats, naturally.

Joané 7:23
I also think so. We did it for basically like 31 days, and I would love to do it for three months at some point and do it for 90 days. But that can be like next year in winter or something.

Jonathan 7:38
Yeah, especially if you start in late autumn, and you finish your three months in spring. So you kind of do it basically for the whole winter. So you can make it really appropriate for the season. Because I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are almost way fewer social obligations in winter as well. So it’s definitely a recommended time of year to be trying out The Lion Diet because, you know, The Lion Diet is very restrictive. I think this is the most restrictive diet out there, except for the potato diet.

Joané 8:18
Or the cabbage soup diet. Okay. There are many very restrictive diets, but this is one of them that’s really restrictive. I definitely knew that it was going to be one of the hardest diets that I’ve ever done. Because we’ve done carnivore before, but we were having different kinds of meats. It wasn’t as strict as The Lion Diet.

Jonathan 8:38
Cheese, dairy, seafood, eggs…

Joané 8:42
Yeah. I definitely craved seafood. But I suppose you want variety, but I definitely didn’t crave pork or chicken. That doesn’t intrigue me as much. What I did love is that, sometimes, I feel like you get freedom in constraints. And yes, the diet is very restrictive, but it made me want to explore the diet. So I was trying to get different cuts of meat, cook things that I haven’t cooked before… I cooked oxtail for the first time in my life. That was amazing.

Jonathan 9:15
We had that amazing rack of lamb.

Joané 9:17
Yes, we had this beautiful rack of lamb, and we should totally do that again. And that was fine. I really loved doing that. And I feel like, you know, if you want to work on your cooking skills, it’s hard to look at people like on MasterChef when they cook all these different things and you feel pressure to be able to learn every recipe in the world. But when you’re only eating meat, then you just have to focus on getting really good at cooking meat. And I feel like that gives a lot of freedom. It’s not as overwhelming. And you can just become really good at cooking meat and that’s like your speciality, especially with us with an animal-based diet. What are we going to cook other than meat and fruit and some other animal products? So doing The Lion Diet made me excited about exploring cooking and becoming better at it, and doing it within the carnivore, carnivore-ish, animal-based space.

Jonathan 10:14
I think people underestimate the depth at which you can go in cooking meat, as I was listening to a podcast with the chef, Chef Philip from Scratch Bar, and the level of detail he goes into when it comes to cooking is amazing. He’ll have different protocols for different cuts of meat, and it’s super detailed and very technical, but it’s basically all by his experience and feel and preferences for how he likes it. And are you cooking it on a stovetop? Or, you know, are you cooking it on an open fire? There are huge differences in the taste and experience of actually eating the meat? Or you can smoke it? Yeah, and there’s your slow cooking, smoking methods. There are so many options on how to cook the meat that gives you such different results. So not only can you choose between the different ruminant animals, but you can also choose between the different cuts, and then each cut comes with its sort of unique, preferred way of cooking it. You think it’s just simple: just eating steak, steak, steak, steak. It’s like, no, you can take that ruminant animal and try so many different cuts of it and so many different ways of cooking it. Yeah, play around with it. Like you don’t have to eat the same meal for every meal in a week. You can have a different meal.

Joané 11:51
Yeah, I definitely didn’t find the diet boring. Like I actually got excited at mealtimes. Like: “Oh, what are we having now this time?” And yeah, sometimes we’d have the same thing a few meals in a row. But I mean, come on, it’s still delicious.

Jonathan 12:07
And it was more out of convenience. So you’ll find a cut of meat that has a good fat-to-meat ratio. And it’s pretty simple and quick to cook. And, you know, you seem to lean towards those. But if you take a little bit of extra preparation for the cuts of meat that are more for slow cooking, so you know, okay, you’re going to quickly grill a steak in the morning for lunch or whatever, but then you also put in something to slow cook until that evening. If you just plan ahead a little bit more, you’ll be surprised at how much variety you can get. And we haven’t even mentioned organ meats.

Joané 12:48
Yeah, we were just talking about muscle meat.

Jonathan 12:51
And so I mean, now you add the liver, you add the kidney, bone marrow… that stuff’s good. Yeah, and I mean, you can try even more exotic cuts like spleen or thymus. And there are actually so many options. If you think: “Oh, I’m only limited to red meat.” It’s not the right way of looking at The Lion Diet. It is basically saying, as long as it comes from a ruminant animal, or its salt, or its water, you can have it for that month.

Joané 13:25
Yeah. And the thing is, the diet includes the only seasoning, you really need salt. We’ve been cooking with just salt, no other spices for what… three years? We actually used to buy a bunch of different spices. And I remember like, running around at the farmers market trying to get like a whole bag of turmeric and cinnamon. And things just got complicated. What I love about this diet is how simple it is. And we’ve spoken about the simplicity of the carnivore diet before. And even the simplicity of an animal-based diet, even though it’s not as simple as the carnivore diet or The Lion Diet. Which, by the way, I don’t know if we’ve mentioned was started by Mikhaila Peterson, just to give credit where it’s due. So yeah, we’ve been just cooking with salt and it’s made everything much simpler. I don’t have to worry about what spices will complement each other and work-based in a dish. We don’t spend a lot of time food prepping. Like, think about it… if you’re cooking vegetables, and you’re making this like a five-vegetables stir fry thing, how much time are you spending preparing vegetables? Like I remember when I started to learn how to cook and for the first like, I don’t know, 10 years of me cooking, most of the time was spent prepping the ingredients prepping the vegetables, cooking the sides, you know, and then cooking the meat… If you just cook your meat, you’re done. You don’t have to worry about sides. You don’t have to worry about timing the sides and meat properly, you just go straight for the main event.

Jonathan 14:59
Yeah, and I mean, especially if you have bone marrow as a side, you cook the bone marrow first because it holds the heat really nicely. And then you cook your meat. And then you’ve got your steak with the side of bone marrow, which is amazing. They complement each other really well. Beautiful bone marrow goes with any meat really well. . Especially if you like having your steak a bit more on the well-done side, it just adds that, you know, richness of flavour to meat that’s cooked a bit more, because I know some people don’t like their steak. But that sort of melted, gooey bone marrow on top of the meat is a really good combination.

Joané 15:49
What I loved is how nutrient dense the diet is. Like, I don’t know, people keep telling us we’re gonna get nutrient deficiencies. But I tracked everything that I ate on The Lion Diet on the Chronometer app. And then I could see like, every day, I was getting more than enough choline, more than enough of everything, really. I was getting a lot of iron, which helps because I tend to struggle to get enough iron, and I never had to worry about getting enough protein. Vitamin D was good, all the amino acids are good, I definitely got enough omega 3s. And that’s without eating any fish. Like people always tell you to eat fish to get omega 3s. But I got more than enough if we ate really fatty cuts of meat like short rib, whenever I had short rib, and if I had liver on the same day, I really didn’t have to worry about nutrition. Because I just had like 100 grams of liver the one day and it said that I’d had like 1,000% of my vitamin A requirements for the day on the app. Like obviously, I don’t know how accurate the recommended daily allowance is. But it was so reassuring and awesome to see how much nutrition I was getting. I was getting in a lot of folate, getting in a lot of potassium from the meat. Like it wasn’t even really necessary to supplement I was actually getting more than when I have some fruits and stuff.

Jonathan 17:23
Yeah. And the one that people always ask: “What about vitamin C?” You were also like above 100% of the RDA on vitamin C. Yeah, like when you had the liver.

Joané 17:32
If I had liver, yes. But we both know some days the vitamin C said that it was under. But we know that if you don’t have any carbs in your diet, you don’t need as much vitamin C. So the app suggests you have a certain amount of vitamin C, but that’s for people who have a reasonable amount of carbs in their diet, that’s for the average person. If you’re on a zero-carb diet, you need a lot less vitamin C from your food. So I was definitely eating enough. Even if it wasn’t what is recommended per day. My body needed less.

Jonathan 18:08
I mean, yeah, I’ve done long stretches of just eating animal products with no citrus, no vitamin C supplements, nothing, you know, to sort of give me vitamin C, and I haven’t developed any scurvy symptoms.

Joané 18:23
Yeah. Like people back in the day on the boats that got scurvy, they were eating a lot of carbs, because it was easier to transport like crackers and bread and stuff.

Jonathan 18:34
Yeah, they’re eating stuff that would keep for long enough. So it was all grain-based, and it was very sort of preserved because I didn’t want it to go off. And yeah, you couldn’t take anything, protein or meat with you unless you brought the actual animals on the boat with you. But that obviously takes up a lot of space. And you’re kind of stuck with nothing except the crackers or the porridge or whatever sort of grain-based food you have. And then you get the scurvy. It’s not because you only ate meat.

Joané 19:15
It’s because you only ate like grains, carbs… and they couldn’t have fruit because that would have given them vitamin C. But yeah, they’re basically just having grains, not having meat, where it’s a whole different story. If you’re eating a carnivore diet, like The Lion Diet, you need less vitamin C, which is amazing.

Jonathan 19:37
Yeah, so you always get asked that question. “Oh, but what about nutrients? And no one can really tell you what specific nutrients you’d be missing. And they don’t realise that you’re actually tracking what nutrients you’re getting. And that now that you’re doing The Lion Diet, you’re actually getting more nutrients than you used to before you started The Lion Diet.

Joané 20:00
Yeah, like people kept telling me: “You need the nutrients in vegetables and fruit.” And then I asked one of the people: “Which nutrients?” And they couldn’t answer me. It was quite funny.

Jonathan 20:15
Yeah, so tell me exactly what nutrients are so important that I’ll be missing. If I stick to The Lion Diet.

Joané 20:24
Yeah, like, tell me a nutrient, and I’ll tell you in which animal foods you can get it. Because I’ve like, basically started like a whole table of the nutrients you need, and then which animal foods you can get that. And I think it would be mind-blowing for people to see.

Jonathan 20:44
I agree. People seem to look at animal products as being “Oh, that’s protein and fat, saturated fat.” You know, that’s all they see it as… they see it as the macronutrient. They don’t realize the huge variety of micronutrients in it. And it’s already in the right form. I’m like, if you want to be building muscle, then surely you want to give your body the exact building blocks for muscle. Exactly, what are the exact building blocks for muscle?

Joané 21:17
Yeah, I mean, amino acids you get from muscle. Yeah, and you need complete proteins, which means that protein sources that contain the amino acids your body can’t produce — the nine essential amino acids. And there are no plant foods that provide you with that. The only place you’re going to get complete proteins naturally is from animals. Like if you’re eating plant sources, you have to combine like two or three different types, just to get all the nutrients you need — the amino acids, but just because they’re all represented, it doesn’t mean they’re in good enough quantities. Like, are you getting enough?

Jonathan 22:00
Yeah, people would like to think you will. But the reality of the situation is that if you actually track the different amino acids, you will see that it becomes very tricky on a purely plant-based diet to get the correct levels of protein in the right amino acid ratios. And obviously, some people will argue with us on that, obviously, but you have to understand that if you’re shorting a specific type of amino acid, it kind of acts like a bottleneck for the other amino acids. So you can get a lot of leucine, or whatever. But if you’re not getting enough myrcene, then that’s going to almost act like a chokepoint for the other amino acids. And so then you kind of have to say like: “Oh, I know it’s a little bit complicated. But hopefully, you guys can understand that getting higher levels and a balance of the amino acids is actually the most effective way to get all your amino acids, instead of just getting a lot of one type.

Joané 23:14
Yeah, and a lot of people don’t get enough glycine. They will get a lot of leucine because they eat a lot of muscle meats, but they don’t get enough collagen. They don’t eat like the cartilage, they don’t eat, you know, good sources of collagen from them. They don’t have bone broth, which you don’t need, but you should eat those chewy bits, eat the collagen,

Jonathan 23:38
Or if you don’t like the chewy bits, then get a good collagen powder. Yeah, that’s easy. You can do that too. But I think for most people who really like meat, if you cook the connective tissue properly, like brisket is a good example, for Americans. Brisket is actually quite a tough cut. Yeah, until you cook it right because then that collagen breaks down and becomes soft. And so, all that really tough connective tissue melts in your mouth. And then so then, you know, suddenly becomes a lot easier to eat. If you take like a sliced brisket and try and just sear it, it’s going to be a very tough cut of meat and it’s not going to be as enjoyable because that connective tissue is not in the right sort of formation or texture to actually enjoy.

Joané 24:31
Yes. So on The Lion Diet, it is super easy to get all of them.

Jonathan 24:36
We need all the micronutrients.

Joané 24:42
One day, I will write a blog post that lists out all the nutrients you need, and which animal feeds you can get it. And so, if anyone ever then questions my diet, I can just send them the link.

Jonathan 24:53
Yeah, and I mean, some people will say like: “Oh, yeah, only the only macronutrients are important” And I think that’s a little bit overconfident. I think people don’t think about eating choline, carnitine, carnosine, carnitine as being important because it’s not listed as an essential one. But I feel like if you’re not getting that, so if you had to look at your diet and you realise: “Oh, wait, there is no creating carnitine, carnosine, choline in your diet, then you might actually be the one who’s missing out on something really important. Versus if you’re eating all the veggies, you know, you’re not getting something super important from those.

Joané 25:44
No, there’s not anything in veggies that you need that you can’t get in meat. And yeah, I mean, just looking at creatine, you know, they’ve taken like vegetarians and vegans and given them creatine as a supplement, and I saw like a cognitive boost like they had an improvement in their mental performance. That is not essential, but it’s not essential. And the thing is, and they did the same with people who were meat-eaters, and they didn’t see that same boost. So that was fascinating.

Jonathan 26:18
Oh, that was a very fascinating study. And it’s a good example of creatine is not labelled as an essential nutrient, because your body can synthesize it. But as soon as you cut it out, then suddenly you run into problems. So I suppose it’s how you define essential. Yeah, but I’d say like, for optimal performance, creatine in your diet is essential.

Joané 26:43
I’d say the meat is essential.

Jonathan 26:46
Well, because meat contains choline, creatine,

Joané 26:51
Things you need… to potassium and I get those electrolytes. Plus, you add salt to that. That’s good.

Jonathan 26:58
Yeah, obviously, salt has been highly revered by humans for a very long time. And I feel like if people were willing to be paid in salt back in the day, I’m pretty sure it was always really important. So yeah, and then the water’s a no brainer. We don’t really need to talk about water and hydration. It’s, you know, we can save that for another podcast. But that’s basically The Lion Diet. In a nutshell, it’s the most nutrient-dense foods that don’t accumulate polyunsaturated fats, like pigs and chickens. It’s simple to follow. And you’re getting salt, which is a super important mineral for humans, and water. So it’s those three things — very simple.

Joané 27:44
Yeah. And I mean, we’ve done a podcast answering the question: “Is The Lion Diet the ultimate elimination diet?” And I still believe that it is,

Jonathan 27:53
You won’t get an elimination diet where you check so many boxes and nutrients at adequate levels, and sort of be able to eliminate the majority of things that will be triggering your sort of health issues or autoimmune conditions or digestive issues. There’s like a whole laundry list of things that you could find the cause of if you do The Lion Diet as an elimination diet.

Joané 28:22
Yeah, I don’t think any other elimination diet comes close to it.

Jonathan 28:27
Now just eating potatoes is a bad idea. Very bad idea.

Joané 28:31
Well, I guess, by now, you can tell we’re fans of The Lion Diet, and we had a really good experience doing it. I definitely will do it again in the future. Right now, I’m happy to have fruit just like in summer here in warm weather. And it’s just nice to have. It was my birthday recently, and I definitely wanted mango on my birthday.

Jonathan 28:55
Yeah, so for some people, The Lion Diet” might be necessary to do long-term. But for the average person, as long as you are, you know, doing it periodically, so you choose maybe a month or two months in a year where you do it, I think it’d be super beneficial for most people to do that kind of protocol.

Joané 29:17
It’s definitely eye-opening, very beneficial, and just a great diet to try. Anyways, until next week. Bye for now. Bye

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