Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: December 9, 2022

I’ve been on a carnivore diet for a decade, so you’d think all my meat needs are taken care of. However, I’m no stranger to meat cravings, and I experience them from time to time.

I talked with a health expert and spent hours going over the available data to learn why meat craving happens.

Here’s everything you should know about craving meat and how to deal with red meat cravings.

Quick Summary

  • There are many reasons why you’re craving red meat.
  • Several physical signs show you should eat more meat.
  • You can deal with meat cravings by drinking more water and eating protein-rich foods.

6 Reasons Why You Crave Red Meat

Here are the potential reasons why you might suddenly feel like eating meat.

1. Lack of Protein

An image of a person wearing a hat who's craving red meat

Protein deficiency is a common reason for certain food cravings, especially red meat.

Meat is a great source of protein, but if you aren’t eating red meat, you aren’t getting sufficient protein.

When you don’t have enough protein, the body starts to look for ways to restore the protein levels. This leads to an increase in appetite, which in turn causes you to crave meat [1].

Weak nails indicate you’re lacking protein and should eat more meat.

2. Lack of Vitamin B12

Vitamin deficiencies also lead to food cravings. Vitamin B12 causes meat cravings but can also lead to mood swings [2].

If you’re on a vegan diet, you’re at a high risk of Vitamin B12 deficiency because this diet lacks meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. All of these foods are good sources of this vitamin, which is why vegans can crave meat.

Optimal levels of Vitamin B12 will regulate your mood and give you energy, so if you plan to go hard at the gym, make sure you have enough of this vitamin.

3. Lack of Iron

An image of a woman eating steak at a fine restaurant

Lack of iron is the most common reason why people crave meat. Iron is crucial for the production of red blood cells and oxygen transport. A lack of iron can make you feel tired because the body isn’t getting enough oxygen through the bloodstream.

Also, if you’re a non-red meat eater and you find yourself craving steak, it’s most commonly a sign of iron deficiency [3].

The daily upper limit of iron is 45mg, which includes iron intake from other food sources, not only red meat [4].

If you have a balanced diet, getting this amount of iron won’t be an issue. But, if your diet isn’t balanced, you’ll find yourself craving meat.

Note: Lack of iron can lead to iron deficiency anemia. This condition is especially common in women of childbearing age who aren’t menstruating.

Also, iron deficiency is common for women who have heavy periods. Loss of a large amount of blood leads to a lack of iron, so you should eat seafood and lean meat to obtain enough iron.

4. Lack of Zinc

We need zinc to boost our immune system and for good eye health. Zinc also creates the protein we need for bones and muscles [5].

Meat is a good source of zinc, so if you don’t eat enough meat, you’ll have zinc sufficiency, which leads to red meat cravings.

For example, vegetarians are at a high risk of zinc deficiency because the body absorbs zinc better when it comes from meat than from plants.

5. Lack of Meat

A close up image of a vegan meal on a bowl

If you aren’t eating enough meat, your body is asking for it by making you crave red meat. This is the case with other foods as well, not only meat.

If you go too long without a certain food type, your body will start to crave it.

Vegans commonly suffer from craving meat because their bodies are deprived of it.

Also, people on restrictive diets experience meat cravings. The rule is that the more you restrict a certain food, the more you crave it [6].

6. Lack of Nutrients

Lack of certain nutrients also causes you to crave red meat, such as Omega-3 fats and magnesium.

For example, if you are consuming plant-based meat only, you’ll only have Omega-3 fatty acids in one form — alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). You’ll be missing the other two: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Their lack causes you to want meat.

"Salt cravings can occur if you're falling short on minerals, specifically calcium, magnesium, and zinc."
- Alissa Rumsey MS, RD

A lack of magnesium can also cause meat and chocolate cravings.

Also Read: Nutrients Only Found in Meat

Physical Signs You’re Craving Red Meat

An image of a tired woman holding her head craving for red meat

Here are more signs you should eat meat:

  • You’re tired — If you feel sluggish and low in energy, you probably have an iron deficiency, so you should eat more meat, especially chicken, fish, and beef. 
  • Tingling hands — This is a side effect of Vitamin B12 deficiency. This vitamin is naturally found in animal protein, and your hands can tingle if you don’t have enough animal protein. This is a sign you should have a juicy burger.
  • Low immune system — If you’re sick often, it’s a sign your zinc is low. Low zinc results in a low immune system [7].
  • Brittle nails — If you have weak and brittle nails, it’s another sign you don’t have enough protein, especially the meat kind. Vegans and vegetarians commonly suffer from brittle nails.
  • Muscle pain — If your muscles are hurting, especially if you’re an athlete, it means you’re craving meat. You should fuel up after a workout to keep the muscles strong.
  • Heavy periods — Heavy periods leave you deficient in iron. If you struggle during that time of the month, try eating some meat.

The Best Ways to Deal With Meat Cravings

These are the best ways to deal with meat cravings:

  • Drink plenty of water — Water keeps you feeling full and aids digestion. The body can mistake thirst for hunger, so drinking water can help you avoid cravings.
  • Eat more protein-rich foods — Protein deficiency is one of the main reasons you’re craving meat. Protein and fiber will keep you satisfied for longer, which means fewer cravings, so you should eat protein-rich foods.
    Tip: Eat protein-rich foods with healthy fats for a full feeling.
  • Don’t wait long between meals — You probably know you should eat three meals a day. If you skip a meal, your body thinks you’re starving yourself and sends signals to the brain that make you feel sugar and salt cravings. Eat small meals often to activate the metabolism and avoid cravings. This will also keep the blood sugar stable.
  • Make a plan — This goes hand in hand with not waiting long between meals. If you’re busy or you forget to eat, make a meal timetable and stick to it.

Red Meat Food Substitutes

A top view image of different red meat food substitutes

Too much red meat isn’t healthy and can lead to diabetes, constipation, stroke, and even cancer [8]. However, there’s no reason to worry as long you eat red meat in moderation.

You can occasionally substitute red meat with these foods for a balanced diet:

  • Eggplant — Has a texture similar to meat. You can bake, grill, or fry it.
  • Tofu — Is a soy-based vegan protein. Add spices to enhance the flavor.
  • Avocado — Great choice if you’re craving ribs. There’s about 13 g of fat in half an avocado, and fats in plants are mostly the good, unsaturated kind.
  • Toast — Gives the same aroma as bacon, and your taste buds won’t know the difference. Toast the bread, make a tempura, or pan-fry it.
  • Mushrooms — Also have a texture and flavor similar to meat. Make creamed mushrooms with rice, or make a mushroom burger.
  • PB sandwich — A peanut butter sandwich is a good source of protein. Make it on whole-wheat bread for complete protein, the same you get from meat.
  • Lentils — Good substitute for ground beef and very high in protein.
  • Beans — Use them in salads or tacos instead of meat.
  • Cereal —  A good source of nonheme iron. Fortified cereal has 100% of the daily recommended iron intake.

Related Articles:

FAQs

What Should I Eat if I Crave Red Meat?

If you crave red meat, you should eat chicken, beef, fatty fish, and plants high in iron, such as spinach.

Can Lack of Red Meat Make You Tired?

Yes, a lack of red meat can make you tired. This happens because you lack protein and iron.

Is Craving Meat a Sign of Anemia?

Craving meat can be a sign of anemia as it’s brought about by the onset of iron deficiency. There are other reasons why you crave red meat besides anemia, including B vitamins and zinc deficiencies.

Should You Eat Red Meat?

You should eat red meat but in moderate quantities. This will ensure you don’t have iron, zinc, or vitamin deficiency.

Brittle nails, feeling tired, and muscle pain are all signs you should eat more meat. However, not all cravings are physical. It’s normal to crave meat, so if you’re craving steak, eat it. It’s alright to indulge from time to time. Moreover, you need meat to have sufficient nutrients.

However, not all meat is equal. You should buy meat from trustworthy suppliers. We’ve been using ButcherBox meat delivery for several months.

The delivery is always on time, and the meat is high-quality. They only sell sustainably sourced cuts and grass-fed beef of the highest quality. Check them out, and satisfy your meat cravings.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17513410/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3404901/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257743/
  4. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-Consumer/
  5. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-Consumer/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17466108/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3724376/
  8. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/risk-red-meat
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