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Man: A Carnivore Or Vegetarian?

A world without predators…

No lions roaming the Serengeti, tigers scouring the Siberian tundra, or men standing at the grill, spatula in hand, waiting for their steak to hit that perfect blend of medium and rare.

When you think of it in modern-day terms, man is no longer a hunter gatherer. But we were for a lot longer than we have been the sedentary mess of a species that we are today. For hundreds of thousands of years we thrived on diets that consisted primarily of meat, with a wide variety of berries and vegetables accompanying our catch of the day. We’re made, evolved, and bred to hunt, to kill, and to consume the most nutrient-packed source of food we can

digest effectively: meat.

So what if lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!) were taken out of their natural habitats? Well, to put it simply, the shit would hit the fan… possibly indefinitely. No longer would the wildebeest, giraffe, or the zebra populations be held in check by these predators. Their numbers would explode. Uncontrollably so. The great plains would be stripped raw, replaced by the sand that now covers the Sahara.

Think of the ‘circle of life’ more like a wheel with each species making up it’s spokes. Take away one group, like the predators, and the wheel can no longer support the weight of those that remain.

So where do we fall in line with this circle, and how does it effect what we should eat?

I remember sitting in class, it must have been the 7th grade because my arm was broken, in a sling, and I was sporting a nice set of braces (in short, I was the definition of cool). The teacher walks in with a chart. On it; a pyramid. He plasters it on the white board and tells us, “this is what you should eat.”

At the top were whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. At the bottom was red meat.

From a young age we’re indoctrinated with the belief that a low fat/low meat diet is what’s best for us. The reasoning behind such a theory is relatively simple – although grounded behind no science whatsoever:

Low amounts of fat consumed = low amounts of fat stored.

Fat forward… I mean fast forward a couple years and I’m in the living room with the TV on. With a lack of quality entertainment to be viewed, I stumble across investigative reporting at its finest: The Maury Povich Show.

It’s “fat kids day”. The line-up of obese children is astonishing. 5 year olds cracking the two hundred pound mark, their mom’s and dad’s, of course, leading the way. With all that I had been taught in school, I was a little puzzled when these obese kids primarily ate carbohydrates.

With carbs accounting for up to 80% of America’s diet – you wonder: could there be a correlation between carbohydrates (even the ‘whole’/healthy ones) and the obesity epidemic, or the fact that type II diabetes is, for the first time in our history, showing up in young children?

Could the ‘healthy’ carbohydrates, as we’re taught as youngsters, be a – or the – cause for the declining health of the human species?

And are we the predators that our ancestors were, or should our role be to preserve the animal kingdom that we seem to be destroying at an alarming rate?

Do we still need meat like they did, or should vegetables and grains replace the animals that we used to hunt, kill, and consume?

Enter, vegetarianism.

Vegetarianism is making you stupider…

(Note: NOT vegetables… read on.)

Vegetarianism has gained a lot of momentum in the last 20-30 years, and with good reason… in theory. Vegetarianism – and its more radical sister, veganism – holds the idea that the slaughter of animals is wrong. That humans are more suited to a vegetarian diet. That we don’t NEED to kill animals. So we shouldn’t.

Teaming up with environmental organizations like PETA, vegetarianism has planted itself (haha) as the “environment-friendly method of eating and living”. I have no problem with this. I want the environment to be in tact and thriving for my children, and their children, and so forth…

But consider this statement from former vegan, and now author of “the Vegetarian Myth”, Lierre Keith :

“Agriculture is carnivorous: what it eats is ecosystems, and it swallows them whole.”

Agriculture is at the heart of vegetarian and veganism. They want people to eat MORE grains, corn, and soy because they feel that by NOT eating animals, we’re going to save them and the planet in turn. Do you see the major flaw in this thinking?

She goes on to say that “The truth is that agriculture is the most destructive thing humans have done to the planet, and more of the same won’t save us. The truth is that agriculture requires the wholesale destruction of entire ecosystems. The truth is also that life isn’t possible without death, that no matter what you eat, someone has to die to feed you.”

This is a bit of a touchy subject precisely because of the good intentions of vegetarians. Their reasons are good. Their logic isn’t. I applaud why they do what they do. There’s just no reasoning or science backing this belief system. It’s also a touchy subject because it truly is a way of life. My intent, nor anyone else’s in this article, isn’t to attack; rather, to shed light.

The irony: where vegetarians promote the saving of animals and the saving of the planet, they’re actually contributing to the greatest destruction of natural habitat and the greatest mass extinction of species’ worldwide there has ever been.

Intentions aside: is vegetarianism a healthy way of eating?

No.

Michael Eades, Ph. D, and author of “Protein Power” says “the vegetarian way of life is absurd” because we – our biological make-up – are carnivorous. Just have a look at a humans GI track in comparison to a lions or a pigs. We share the same make up as a lion, with one stomach designed to digest the nutrient-packed meat that we have consumed for hundreds of thousands of years.

Our make-up DOES NOT resemble that of a pig or a cow and their multiple stomach’s, which are designed to breakdown and digest the nutrient-low grains that now flood our pantries and fridges.

Eades goes on to note that Vitamin B12 is vital to our existence”, and unless we’re using supplements, the best source of B12 is in meat. We don’t have B12, we die.

Paleo cave paintings

The 2 Million Year Old Fad

A Fad: An intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, esp. one that is short-lived; a craze.

If the Paleo diet is a fad, then it’s a fad that has been taking place for over 2 million years… not much of a fad then huh?

So what of this belief that our place in this circle of life that I mentioned earlier IS NOT at the top with the other predators? Or the notion that red meat and a high protein diet is bad for us? And that vegetarianism is instead the way to eat because it’s more in line with how we’re made up?

Well, we dispelled the theory of it being in line with how we’re made. But what of the notion that we’re evolving in a way that makes us better suited for a vegetarian lifestyle, or a diet with little to no meat?

As a result of the recent introduction of grains into our diets, we’re seeing some not so good evolutionary changes:

a) The narrowing of our noses making it harder for us to breath.

b) The shrinking of our jaw, which is why we now have to remove our wisdom teeth.

c) The shirking of our brains (why a vegetarian diet will make us – as in the human race – “stupider”).

The size of our brains, our intellect, and the development of said characteristics is directly linked to a period in our history as a species where our consummation of omega-3 fatty acids increased. In short, we began to eat more meat, so our brains got bigger (over a very long period of time, of course).

If we stayed as vegetarians like we were only at the beginning of our 2 million year existence, we wouldn’t be talking or forming sentences like we do today. Our brains wouldn’t have been given the nutrients they need to develop and evolve.

“What we’re adapted to is not what we’re eating right now” says Mike Richards, Professor Department in the Department of Human Evolution for the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Mike is part of an expedition finding the make-up of early human bones in order to figure out exactly what we did 10,000 or so years ago. Science has held theories based on the tools, weapons, and other bones that have been found buried with early humans, but never before have we had PROOF of what early humans an Neanderthal’s ate. Until now.

The results:

At the height of our height, strength, brain size, and evolution, we were indeed eating primarily animal meats, and fish, with a much more diverse collection of vegetables, nuts and berries in our diets than we do now. Grains, soy, and rice didn’t exist as a source of food.

Again, “what we’re adapted to, is not what we’re eating right now”.

Why else should we have meat?

Like I said in a previous article, “Is Your Breakfast Killing You?”, our liver can take protein in a time released fashion. Work harder, our bodies release more glucose. Essentially this means steady energy all day. Therefor, each meal should start with a major source of protein. Accompanying this protein with a diverse selection of vegetables and nuts (that are high in brain-feeding omega 3’s), and you are eating in a way that will not only boost testosterone, but raise your energy levels, ability to focus, and maintain this for MUCH LONGER periods than an insulin spiking, crash-inducing source of carbohydrates will.

The liver has an adverse effect with the insulin-spiking carbohydrate. We experience a short boost in energy, followed by a lull or a crash.

As for exercise, the Palaeolithic man was moving all the time. We are not. So start moving. I talked about how a MAN should train in the article “Why We’re Fat”.

As It Is…

We’re heading down a slippery slope that will not only destroy our planet, but the thousands of years of positive evolution within our species that has got us to where we are. With the introduction of grains (and dairy) into our diets, we’ve experienced diseases and infections and allergies never before seen in our history.

Meat is not only NOT bad for us, it’s the primary food group we should be eating.

Where Do We Stand Amongst Other Predators?

We are at the top. Not because of our physical tools, but because we developed the mental tools to get us there. Meat is a part of who we are and who we have become. Grains are not.

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  • Max

    I usually really like your website, but this article is really full of half-baked logic. What about the fact that most of the "grains, corn and soy" are used to raise animals? What about the ridiculous impact of mass animal farming on the environment? What about the fact that we DO NOT have the same GI tract as a lion? ( http://dpcpress.com/natural_diet.html this is just the first best link I found but that's actually a very common argument AGAINST eating meat)

    • http://www.chadhowsefitness.com/ Chad Howse

      Hey Max, glad to hear you usually like the site. Disagreements happen.

      You have a couple of good points. Here's where where I'm coming from:

      1. Grains used to raise animals? Exactly. Because they have the digestive systems to cope with this diet. They've had this diet forever. We don't.

      2. Very good point. Especially cattle farming. You could also say that today's meat isn't the same as yesteryear – which is very true (in which case grass-fed organic is always better). But the impact of farming pales to that of agriculture. The land lost forever due to agriculture is unbelievable.

      3. The point I'm making is that our GI tract is much more similar to that of a carnivore than that of a herbivore. Which it is. I skimmed the article you sent over, looks good.

      The fact is this:

      A high meat, vegetable, fruit diet helped us evolve for the better. High grains and processed foods are having the opposite effect.

      I'm not arguing with anyone with this article, simply stating what is.

      Does this mean we have to go nuts? I haven't. But I do eat a diet that is primarily meat, veggies, and fruits. And yes, I throw in grains there every now and then around a workout.

      • Spovednik

        Actually, our GI is most similar to the one of a pig, both in lenghth and structure. even teeth are similar. pigs are omnivores, they resort even to cannibalism. yet modern farming made them vegetarians, not by their choice. it was all the panic about BSE and similar diseases of other species that made countries forbid any proteins of animal origin for animal feed.

  • John Kursh

    Hey Chad,

    So if according to the paleo diet grains should be avoided, what should our pre work out meals consist of? Will veggies supply enough energy for an intense workout compared to something like a boal of oatmeal?

    • http://www.chadhowsefitness.com/ Chad Howse

      If you're gaining mass and you want to go Paleo (and I'm not saying that you have to), I've been messing around with a meat + nuts + veggies pre workout meal (steady energy), then adding a fruit + protein powder shake for my post workout meal.

      That being said, I ate A LOT of grains to account for my lean muscle mass gains. I didn't know what I know now, but it helped me gain lean muscle mass. And I'd do it the same way again because it worked so well.

  • http://www.thewallenway.com Daniel Wallen

    Interesting read, Chad. I personally don't adhere to paleo, because it takes a huge carb intake for me to gain muscle–you should see how much whole grain rice and spaghetti I eat on work out days (it is insane)–but this might be something I'll try when I'm content to maintain. I have a lot of vegetarian friends I end up debating with sometimes, so going to look into the ecosystems effect more. I was totally unaware of this.

    • http://www.chadhowsefitness.com/ Chad Howse

      Hey Daniel,

      Precisely why I put that little note at the end of the email (could have put it at the end of the post too). I ate A TON of carbs when I was gaining, and actually suggest other hardgainers to do the same as well. Carbs are great calories when gaining lean mass – so we shouldn't forget this.

      But now that I'm maintaining from a weight standpoint (still getting stronger, more athletic, leaner – more of a composition than a weight change) I'm able to test things like this.

      Eat carbs – and lots of them – when you're gaining (just like you're doing). Re-visit this when you're maintaining.

      I'm finding that even though I'm not eating grains, but weight remains the same. It's my composition that is altered in a good way.

  • Josh

    Great post Chad.

    To some people with doubts, I encourage you to try it for a two week period and report back. No need to be dogmatic. I myself have eliminated most gluten and grains, occasionally having quinoa (gluten free and actually a seed) post workout. Most or all of my other carbs are from sweet potato and other varieties along with berries. And, as said above, copious amounts of vegetables. Love me them vegetables… I'd argue it is possible and optimal to gain mass following a diet simmilar to paleo, without submitting to dogmatism…I don't even like calling it "paleo"…

    Again, awesome article.

    • http://www.chadhowsefitness.com/ Chad Howse

      Josh, great point!

      Fire me an email with some of your stats so far. This article's been a popular one so I'll be doing a follow-up at some point.

  • Spencer

    I really enjoyed this article Chad! I have a cousin who used to eat a lot of meat, but then his wife convinced him to go vegan. Yes, he lost weight, but not in a good way. He used to be a big strong guy, but now he is skinny and gaunt. He has lost a lot of streingth as well. I have always eaten a lot of meat, and I always will. Fruit, veggies, and nuts come after that, and grains are limited. All in all, I think your article is great and your points are right on the money. For the recourd, my cousin went from 220 at 6'2 to 170. I have went from 170 up to 190, and I keep gaining strength and size. I see the conection, and I appreceate it greatly.

    • http://www.chadhowsefitness.com/ Chad Howse

      I feel for your cousin man. That REALLY sucks.

      Good to hear about your gains though! Thanks for the comment – and glad you liked the article. Glad I can help.

  • Brad Borland

    Good stuff, Chad. Good points to discuss.
    I have always found it interesting from a totally scientific standpoint (and literal one too) that their are essential proteins, essential fats but technically no essential carbs. I am on board with the high protein/fat and fiber diet outlook.

    As a competitive (drug-free) bodybuilder, I can vouch for the diet points mentioned in the article.

    • http://www.chadhowsefitness.com/ Chad Howse

      Good point Brad. I'm mystified at the direction nutrition has gone in the past 50-60 years. Fads have ruled the landscape and science has taken a back seat. It looks like things are finally starting to turn back around in the right direction.

      Finally some clarity!

  • KLT

    From the research I've seen, it takes somewhere around 9 lbs of grain to make one pound of meat. If agriculture is destructive, which it is, that means carnivores are causing more agricultural destruction than vegans. Add in the increased clear-cut forests for grazing, higher greenhouse gas production (about 66% more) and antibiotic resistance being created by raising cattle and I find it to be ethically difficult to consume meat.
    As to the stories about guys losing their manliness by not eating meat, I’ve personally seen children in developing countries die from anemia caused by lack of protein. They were living in areas where soy beans (which are a good source of protein) were raised and fed to cows. Unfortunately the meat was too expensive to for the village families. So was the soy because the farmers made more money using it to produce beef. The beef was mostly being sold to westerners. I don’t see how eating that beef makes someone more of a man.
    I'm not asking everyone to stop eating meat. Just do some honest research if you are trying to justify your actions.

    • http://www.chadhowsefitness.com/ Chad Howse

      Eating beef doesn't make someone more of a man. I think you're missing the point here.

      Yes, it increases testosterone. But it's also how we're (human beings) meant to eat. Meat is packed with nutrients – including protein and B12 – that we need to thrive. A vegetarian diet is, simply isn't optimal. It lacks so much that we need that we're devolving as a result. This site and everything I cover on here has one purpose in mind: get people the best results possible. You can't get the best results possible from an athletic, muscular, or health standpoint on a vegetarian diet. If you follow it over time (even with heavy supplementation) you're going to run into problems.

      Can meat be processed and farmed better? Yes – in a big way. In which case you make a great point. Grass fed beef is also a lot better for us than the stuff that we find in our supermarkets.

      • Rick

        Your efforts are certainly appreciated Chad. there are plenty of controversial topics you’ve posted about, such as school and vegetarians etc., and it is to be admired that you go into these topics well-informed and not afraid to put your stuff out there. (Let’s face it, no matter how much research you do and how helpful the articles are, there will be rebuttals with research against anything.) Like you said (quoting Teddy), it’s about being in the arena, not on the sidelines.

  • Mijnheer

    You say, "we began to eat more meat, so our brains got bigger." This is called the "expensive-tissue hypothesis". Recent research appears to have refuted this theory. Here's the article in Nature: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v480/n7375/f

    • http://www.chadhowsefitness.com/ Chad Howse

      Hey Mijnheer – thanks for the article I'll check it out. The research I did for this article holds that with the increase in omega-3's (from meat and fish increases to our diets) results in bigger brains – to put it simply. They found this through studying the bones of early humans and neanderthals. They found that the early human's diets were primarily meats. With veggies, fruits, and nuts a distant second.

  • Frank Sparticus

    Not to mention, vegetarians believe their beans, legumes, lentils and the such like will give them the protein they need. What they do not realise, is that these sources of protein are incomplete unless coupled together. So they are depriving themselves of ALL protein, unless they have like fish and eggs (I don’t think vegans do, not sure on vegetarians…may differ per individual)

    • http://www.chadhowsefitness.com/2011/01/20-characteristics-of-a-real-man/ Chad Howse

      Well said, their proteins – if vegan – are incomplete.

  • Scott

    I’ve been vegetarian for two years. When I first started, everyone made claims similar to those seen here- that I would lose all muscle, would feel crappy, and destroy my body. My first two months I packed on five pounds lean muscle mass. I have now had total gains of 15 pounds of mostly muscle. I feel better than I ever have. Today, the entirety of my grain consumption was four slices of bread and a bowl of oatmeal.
    B12 is added to most vegetarian “fake meat” meals. Protein is easy as well- eggs and whey protein amounted for the bulk of my protein today, and my total was 150 grams.
    Would it be easier to pack on muscle with meat? Absolutely. I would never argue otherwise. I also highly recommend the Paleo diet. But to ignore the scientific data that supports vegetarianism as a healthier lifestyle (if one does it right) is just silly.
    As a last point, you talk about agriculture as a destructive system. But it takes 9 pounds of corn to raise one pound of beef. Meat is simply not an efficient food if you want to talk about the destruction of ecosystems.

    • http://www.chadhowsefitness.com/2011/01/20-characteristics-of-a-real-man/ Chad Howse

      Therein lies my point, to be a vegetarian you have to supplement. You don’t need to supplement if you’re consuming meats along with your veggies and fruits. The vegetarian diet is an incomplete diet, and one we were never supposed to be on.

      With that said, if it works for you, that’s awesome. Seriously. If it’s making you healthier, more energetic, then keep going. Arian Foster is one of the NFL’s best running backs, and a vegetarian, so it’s clearly possible to be strong, athletic, and muscular on the vegetarian diet, I just don’t see it as optimal.

      • Rick

        *Cows aren’t made to be on a corn diet. They’re made to graze.
        Just throwing that out there, good points were made.

  • Nate

    Chad, in response to your claim “The irony: where vegetarians promote the saving of animals and the saving of the planet, they’re actually contributing to the greatest destruction of natural habitat and the greatest mass extinction of species’ worldwide there has ever been” I have 2 quick questions for you: what exactly do you think farmed animals feed on? And what would happen if all that food were used to feed, say, humans? Please take the time to seriously consider those questions and research the answers, and I think you’ll find just how flawed your argument and resulting conclusion are. One last thing – this guy’s vegan: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFPsvF3UOdo). No need to jump to such bold conclusions Chad. I think enough’s been said.

    • http://www.chadhowsefitness.com/2011/01/20-characteristics-of-a-real-man/ Chad Howse

      Good questions.
      a. Humans aren’t supposed to eat grains. That’s been proven by a lot of research. They just aren’t good for us. b. a. answers b.