Episode 10 – Giddy Up!
We’ve gone over some of the physical changes you will see in your pet when making the switch to a raw food diet, but you may ask: will this affect their mood/behavior too? You betcha! With all of the bioavailable nutrition, digestible protein, and biologically appropriate animal fats available in a raw food diet, your pet will have the nutrition and fuel it needs to put a spring in its step!
First of all, it’s important to understand that cats and dogs obtain nearly all of their required energy from fat and protein. This differs from omnivores, like humans, who typically rely on carbohydrates for a high source of energy (though omnivores do use fat and protein for energy as well). Interestingly, it’s not the familiar “carbs” that provide energy, but glucose. Glucose is readily available in the types of carbs we are used to (like grains and sugar), but glucose can also be obtained from fat and protein in a process called gluconeogenesis. The body prefers to use carbs to obtain glucose because it requires the least effort. It has to put in a bit more elbow grease to get glucose from fat, and even more from protein. So if carbs are readily available, they will be processed first, and the “extra” fat and protein are likely stored as fat.
Dogs and cats have a very limited ability to break down plant material and digest carbs, so they’re totally unnecessary to include in their diet from an energy standpoint (though the bioavailable nutrition provided from fruits and veggies is very important!). Have you ever heard of a carbohydrate deficiency in pets? That’s because dogs and cats don’t have an actual need for carbohydrates.
It’s true that carbohydrates can provide a boost in energy for your pet, but it’s also important to note the type of energy. Since carbohydrates are so easy to metabolize, the glucose both enters and leaves the bloodstream quickly. That fast burst of energy results in an energy low in a short period of time. That process isn’t optimal for the body since glucose highs and lows can cause fatigue, dizziness, brain fog, irritability, and even cardiac symptoms. It also isn’t useful for times when energy needs to be sustained for any period of time, such as when exercising or training. When there are no available carbs, fat and/or protein are used as the source of glucose, and energy levels remain constant for a much longer period of time without resulting in a slump afterwards. Surprisingly, fat actually provides more energy per gram than carbs do, so they’re more effective in more ways than one!
(Quick note: When we say “fat”, we are referring to animal fats specifically. Animal fats are a natural and healthy aspect of your pet’s (and your!) diet, whereas plant-derived fats such as corn oil or canola oil are very difficult to digest and do not break down in the same way. A good rule of thumb is: if it’s not naturally “greasy”, don’t eat its “fat”)
With all of this natural and sustainable food energy, you can expect your pet to be more focused when training, have more endurance when exercising, and keep a lean a trim physique. So what is the best way to provide digestible, usable and beneficial energy for your pet? Lots of healthy animal fats and proteins. And you can find those and more in (you guessed it) raw food!