Written By: Medically Reviewed By:
Ken Power Mariyam Fatima M.B.B.S.
The carnivore diet is a ‘2.6 million-year-old fad’ where people are turning their back on the modern carbohydrate based diet in an attempt to balance their blood sugar, reduce inflammation and take their health back, by eating foods solely from the animal kingdom just like our ancestors did and excluding all foods from the plant kingdom.
In short, The Carnivore Diet is a Zero Carb Animal Based Diet.
This article is a comprehensive exploration of every important aspect of the Carnivore Diet for those new to this way of eating.
Feel free use the clickable table of contents to jump directly to an area of The Carnivore Diet that is of interest to you.
Carnivore Diet Contents:
- What is the Carnivore Diet?
- Carnivore Diet History
- What is Pure Carnivore?
- Carnivore Potential Benefits
- Problem with Plant-based Foods on Carnivore Diet?
- Common Side Effects of Plant-Based Anti Nutrients
- Advocates of the Carnivore Diet [Past and Present]
- Carnivore Diet Podcast Guide
- Why Start The Carnivore Diet?
- Can I Eat Eggs and Dairy on the Carnivore Diet?
- Carnivore Diet Food List [here is what you can eat]
- Foods to Avoid On The Carnivore Diet
- Carnivore Diet and Cooking Oils. What to Avoid, What to use.
- How Much to Eat Each Day On The Carnivore Diet?
- Eat Fat First, Then Protein
- Typical Carnivore Diet Meal Plan
- How Many Times a Day to Eat on a Carnivore Diet?
- Can I Drink Tea and Coffee?
- Lack of Fiber and the Effects of Carnivore Diet
- What are the Common Side Effects of the Carnivore Diet?
- Importance of Salt on the Carnivore Diet - Electrolytes!
- How To Get Started On The Carnivore Diet?
- 5 Keys to Success on The Carnivore Diet
- Cravings on Carnivore Diet and How To Control These Cravings
- Traveling While on the Carnivore Diet
- 4 Tips to Staying Carnivore While Travelling
- Is Fasting OK on the Carnivore Diet?
- Exercise and Sports Performance on The Carnivore Diet
- Research on Fat as a Fuel During Exercise
- Lack of Specific Research: Is the Carnivore Diet Healthy
- What's The Difference Between The Carnivore Diet and The Ketogenic Diet?
Image: Paleolithic cave paintings in Lascaux, France depicts hunting and the eating of animals but not plants.
What is the Carnivore Diet?
This is a carbohydrate-free and plant-free diet which means no vegetables or fruits. If it can run, fly, or swim you can eat it. If it came from the ground (other than salt) you don’t eat it.
The Carnivore Diet comes from the belief that our human ancestors ate mostly meat before the introduction of agriculture some 40,000 years ago so therefore an animal-based diet is a ‘species appropriate’ to humans and one which accelerated the human brain size and human potential as a whole.
Advocates of the Carnivore Diet also believe that the modern carbohydrate, grains, plants, produce, and seed oil-based diet are to blame for high levels of chronic illness and inflammatory disease today. Therefore, these foods should be avoided and a return to an animal-based / saturated fat and protein-based diet.
Diagram Credit: drcrate.com Medical thinking over the past 60 years maintained the stance that High Saturated Fat = Heart Disease. But does it? The Carnivore and Keto Diet strongly challenge this.
Carnivore Diet History
If the Carnivore Diet is a fad, it is at 2.5-million years old that has merely seen a resurgence in popularity. To look at this recent animal-based diet, we have to look at human dietary history itself.
Brain development, size, and physical appearance all took a huge leap forward right when our ancestors ate a diet dominated by animal-based saturated fat and proteins in meat.
- Zooarchaeologists who study the early stone age, have found carcasses with signs of butchering by hominins, especially the larger ones such as Mammoth.
- A 2021 piece of research on the early human diet from Tel Aviv University, showed through carbon dating, tooth enamel, and human genome analysis that Homo Erectus (early humans) were in fact apex carnivorous predators for over 2 million years before the discovery of basic agriculture some 40,000 years ago.
- Separate studies like this piece have shown during this period where Homo Erectus ate a meat-based diet, brain size also grew in physical size by 50%, and cognitive ability developed.
It is difficult to argue against the modern carnivore diet community when it comes to what our ancestors ate.
What is a Pure Carnivore Diet?
There is a cohort within the carnivore community that subscribes to a pure Carnivore Diet which is just meat, salt for seasoning, and water.
Some even take this a step beyond what you might expect and eat a raw Carnivore Diet which is eating some or all of the muscle meats and organ meats in raw form, completely uncooked.
The thinking behind this raw carnivore approach is, this is how our very earliest ancestors would have eaten raw meat before the discovery of fire to cook with. Dental plaque analysis from1.2 million year old hominin at an archaeological excavation site in Northern Spain showed only traces of raw uncooked meat.
To date, there is no scientific evidence to back up the practice of eating a raw carnivore diet.
Carnivore Diet Potential Benefits Living Off Animal Products only.
Based on an avalanche of anecdotal evidence across all media platforms, advocates of the carnivore diet believe that this way of eating has numerous mental and physical health benefits. Carnivore diet proponents passionately claim that this way of eating improves or even heals the following conditions and many more:
- Autoimmune illness
- Water retention
- Body Pain
- Depression and Anxiety
- Substance abuse and addiction
- Digestive issues such as IBS and chronic constipation
- Poor mood / Poor cognition
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Psoriasis and Eczema
What is the Problem with Plant-based Foods from a Carnivore Diet Perspective?
Two key problems:
1. The high use of Artificial Pesticides and Herbicides on modern crops and produce.
2. Natural Plant Pesticides.
Many plants contain and release natural endogenous pesticides which are a built-in protection mechanism for plants to prevent them from being eaten by insects, by creating a severe immune response in insects. However, it appears these same plant endogenous pesticides also arouse immune responses in humans also.
These substances include:
The problem according to the carnivore community and plenty of formal research is that these endogenous pesticides cause a notable immune response in humans. Due to their propensity for damage, this group of chemicals is known as anti-nutrients.
These anti-nutrients contain digestive inhibitors and phytic acid - which is designed to bind to plants but also binds to Magnesium, Zinc, Calcium, and Selenium in the human gut by limiting or preventing their absorption.
It should also be added, that the additional and now widespread spraying of artificial pesticides and herbicides such as Glyphosate on produce and crops does not make things better.
Image Credit: justmeat
Examples of plants with high levels of the most common anti nutrient i.e., Oxalates include but not limited to spinach, tomatoes, and all nightshades, potatoes, leafy greens, grains, vegetable oils, broccoli, and kale.
- Leaky gut
- Severe Fatigue
- Chronic auto-immune and impaired immune response
- Chronic Inflammation
- Kidney stones
- Weight gain
- Low mood / depression
*Studies have shown Oxalate levels 3 times higher in the bloodwork and urine of autistic patients.
Advocates of the Carnivore Diet [Near Past and Present]
Eating a diet high or exclusively on meat is not new in human history and many cultures today continue to live on a Carnivore Diet.
- The German writer, Bernard Moncriff, authored the book “An Exclusively Animal Diet” in 1856 which highlighted the perceived benefits of an all meat-based diet.
- The explorer, Vilhjalmur Stefansson in his 1960 book “The Fat of the Land” recounts his time living with the Inuit of Canada for over a decade, the good health of the Inuit tribe, and the positive effects he experienced when he ate as they did on a diet of meat, fish, seal, whale blubber and bones.
Image Credit: Dartmouth College. Vilhjalmur Stefansson dragging a hunted seal back to camp, circa 1920.
“...If meat needs carbohydrates and other vegetable additives to make it wholesome, then the poor Eskimos should have been in a wretched state. But, to the contrary, they seemed to be the healthiest people I had ever lived with...”
- Dr. Shawn Baker. The father of the modern-day carnivore movement is Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Shawn Baker who authored the 2018 book ‘The Carnivore Diet’. His website meatrx.com has gained a huge following and is full of impressive client testimonials outlining many Carnivore Diet benefits and substantial weight loss results, with before and after pictures. The sheer numbers make the anecdotal evidence compelling.
In an effort to address the lack of formal research and scientific evidence around the Carnivore Diet, Shawn Baker has launched a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign to finance peer reviewed formal research on the subject.
- Dr. Paul Saladino, MD. aka The Carnivore MD and author of the book ‘The Carnivore Code’ and the podcast ‘Fundamental Health Podcast’ takes a multifaceted deep dive into all things carnivore using his background in integrative medicine and nutritional biochemistry.
- Mikhaila Peterson. Mikhaila Peterson has shared a lifelong struggle with chronic arthritis, anxiety, and depression. At age 17 she had already had a hip replacement and two ankle replacements.
Without any effective remedy from conventional medicine, Mikhaila Peterson started eliminating food groups she felt were making her ill. Ultimately and instinctively, she ended up on a carnivore diet without knowing it was ‘a thing’.
- Jordan Peterson, Ph.D. The controversial Canadian author of the bestselling book ‘12 Rules For Life’. Dr. Jordan Peterson is also the father of Mikhaila Peterson. Dr. Peterson followed his daughter onto the Carnivore Diet in an effort to successfully beat long-term depression.
All of the above modern-day Carnivore Diet advocates have one thing in common: They have all appeared on the Joe Rogan Podcast at least once to talk in detail about the Carnivore Diet, its benefits, and their direct experiences.
Joe Rogan himself has become something of an advocate when he tried the carnivore diet for a separate 30-day and two-month periods where he reported significantly more energy, weight loss, less joint pain from long-term Jiu-jitsu injuries, and a better mood.
Carnivore Diet Podcast Guide
Here is a handy guide to all the main Joe Rogan Carnivore Diet Podcasts by guest, episode number, and link.
Joe Rogan Episode #
Dr. Shawn Baker
Dr Paul Saladino, MD
Jordan Peterson, PhD
Each Joe Rogan Podcast interview will give you a solid understanding of the Carnivore Diet and why this animal-based approach is proving so successful and intriguing.
Dr. Rhonda Patrick PhD
Here is a Joe Rogan podcast excerpt where biomedical scientist, Dr. Rhonda Patrick, who specializes in longevity and optimal health give her views on the Carnivore Diet.
Other Carnivore Diet podcasts include the following great resources:
Why Start The Carnivore Diet?
Inflammation / Autoimmune: If you suffer from high levels of inflammation or an autoimmune illness such as arthritis, but have had no success with conventional medical treatments or the mainstream Keto Diet, then the Carnivore Diet could be a very good option for you to try.
Weight loss: As the Carnivore Diet is highly restrictive in nature, anecdotal evidence and my own personal experience have shown that the Carnivore Diet is extremely effective for rapid weight loss.
Brain Fog / Mental Clarity: Due to the lack of carbohydrates and especially modern grains on the Carnivore Diet, it does appear many practitioners of the Carnivore Diet report greater mental clarity, better mood, and less brain fog.
In the main, this positive side effect is most likely due to more stable insulin levels, because of the non-consumption of carbs and perhaps the slightly elated feeling reported by those in a ketogenic state.
Carnivore Diet Weight Loss: Before and After. Transformations...
Carnivore Diet before and after images are easily found all over on the internet and make for a compelling argument to at least try this diet protocol. The progress people make whilst on a meat only / animal-based diet certainly appears to be astounding.
Don’t Start the Carnivore Diet If... [may not be suitable for some]
There is a cohort of the population where the carnivore diet would not be advisable, if not downright dangerous. This cohort would include the following:
- People with kidney disease must limit protein.
- Pregnant or lactating women.
- Those who suffer from eating disorders.
- If you are sensitive to cholesterol.
Can I Eat Eggs and Dairy on the Carnivore Diet?
Eggs are a rich source of fat and protein. For the first 4 to 6 weeks on the Carnivore Diet, endeavor to abstain from both eggs and dairy, then try to reintroduce these slowly whilst checking for any reactions.
The reason for the initial abstention of eggs is because modern egg whites are the source of most common egg allergies and gastritis which irritates the gut lining, so do be mindful of this. If eggs cause no negative response i.e., lower digestive tract distress, itching or hives, then eggs can become a daily cornerstone of your Carnivore Diet.
Dairy and Cheese
Dairy and cheese on the other hand may be more complicated for many people due to the potential inflammatory response brought on by lactose (which is a sugar), casein, whey, or from naturally occurring molds in blue cheese.
It is important to start reintroducing dairy slowly so you can easily spot any bad reactions, then either stop or continue to enjoy.
There is no doubt the high protein and fat content in most dairy products will be a great source of energy on the Carnivore Diet but do tread cautiously in the beginning.
Carnivore Diet Food Pyramid: Courtesy of @healthcoachkait
Carnivore Diet Food List [what you can eat]
If it comes from the animal kingdom - go for it! As you are not consuming any carbohydrates or plant-based foods, it is extremely important to get enough animal fat and protein into you. This may sound easy but when you are eating fat and protein each and every day, this can be a challenge.
- All ruminant animals e.g., beef, lamb, elk, bison, deer. Preferably Grass-fed Beef and Organic.
- Grass-fed steaks.
- Organ meats e.g. liver, kidney, heart, tongue, beef cheeks, beef heart. All Preferably Organic and from Pasture-raised animals.
- Poultry e.g., chicken, goose, pigeon, turkey
- Fish e.g., fatty fish such as sardines, mackerel, and salmon
- Shellfish e.g., oysters
- Crustacea e.g., crabs, lobster, shrimp
- Eggs - Preferably Pasture Raised eggs.
- Marrow Bones
- Neck Bones
- Ancestral Blend Ground Beef and Organ Meats
- Ancestral Blend Beef Burgers
- Bone broth
- Milk, Hard and Soft Cheese (if no adverse reaction)
- Cream (if no adverse reaction)
Is All That Saturated Fat Bad For Us On A Modern Diet? Perhaps not...
Diagram: 'The French Paradox' - a pan European wide study in the late 80's found a low incidence of heart disease among countries with the highest saturated fat consumption. France, namely the city of Toulouse, showed a diet that was 39% Saturated Fat.
Foods to Avoid On The Carnivore Diet
When in doubt with foods to avoid on the Carnivore Diet, follow this advice to keep you straight: “If it didn't come from something that didn’t walk, swim or didn't have a mother - don't eat it”
Basically, anything that is not from meat, fish, eggs, and dairy (if eggs and dairy cause no reaction).
Avoid the following foods on a Carnivore Diet:
- All forms of carbohydrates, grains, bread, breakfast cereals.
- Cakes, desserts, candy, chocolate, sugar, artificial sweeteners.
- All ‘Keto’ snack products.
- All vegetables. All fruits. All plants.
- All legumes. Lentils, beans, etc...
- Anything from a can or container.
- Processed meats or meats with chemical smoke flavors or nitrates.
- Salad Dressings, sauces.
- Spreads, jams, marmalades.
- Spices, herbs (dried or fresh).
- Alcohol, coffee, and tea (if possible).
- Nuts and seeds.
- Vegetable oils / cooking oils.
Carnivore Diet and Cooking Oils. What to Avoid, What to Use.
Essentially, on this new animal-based diet, you will be going back to cooking with fats that our ancestors used, and well before the industrialization of fats and oils.
Let’s starts with the bad stuff:Here is a comprehensive list of oils to avoid on the Carnivore Diet
- Canola Oil
- Rapeseed Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Grapeseed Oil
- Corn Oil
- Walnut Oil
- Cottonseed Oil
- Sesame Oil
- Peanut Oil
- Flaxseed Oil
- Safflower Oil
- Rice Bran Oil
- Hydrogenated Oil
- Refined Palm Oil
Seed Oils are polyunsaturated fats aka PUFAs. Highly oxidative, go rancid quickly and highly inflammatory in the human gut. Their consumption in the US has grown steadily since their inception by Procter and Gamble in 1907 as a way to turn cheap seeds into soaps then cheap cooking oils.
The rest is a tragic history of public health as diabetes, obesity and cardiovasvular disease have risen almost in tandem with PUFAs usage in the homes of Americans.
Diagram: As the consumption of 'Vegetable Oils' (Shortening) took off in the USA, traditional forms of saturated fat such as Beef Tallow and Butter fell off. Yet, we have never been more unhealthy.
These ‘Vegetable’ seed oils as they were incorrectly called (to sound healthy), like canola oil, are highly unstable and mostly omega 6 fatty acids, such as linoleic acid. These oils can oxidate easily, damage cell walls and create cancer-causing free radicals.
These high Omega 6 containing oils have been shown to create chronic inflammatory responses in the body and overburden the liver.
Also, here in the US, there appears to be very strong link of the growth of seed oil PUFAs consumption and the explosion of diabetes and also through oxidation, creating a dangerous build-up macrophage which in turn leads to plaque build-up in the arteries then heart disease.
Considering that Americans get 80% of their fats from these PUFAs, it should come as no surprise since the inception of these ‘Vegetable Oils’ in the early 1900s, that cardiovascular heart disease has climbed from being rare to highly common.
List of Fats and Oils to Use on Carnivore Diet
- Grass-fed Butter
- Grass-fed Ghee
- Bacon Grease
- Duck Fat
- Goose Fat
- Lamb Suet / Lamb Tallow
- Beef Suet / Beef Tallow
- Fat Trimmings
It’s quite a short list right? What do they all have in common?
- They are all highly stable single bond saturated fats.
- All come from the animal kingdom.
- They are all in fat form, not liquid fat form, and not hydrogenated.
When in doubt with oils, always remember this:
“UNsaturated fats are UNstable and Saturated fats are Stable.”
How Much to Eat Each Day On The Carnivore Diet?
The answer to how much to eat each day on the Carnivore Diet is generally summed up by three overriding principles:
- Always eat until you are satiated.
- Always eat when hungry.
- Listen to your body.
The average daily consumption of meat amongst the Carnivore Diet community is counted in pounds and not calories, with 2 to 3 lbs. appearing to be the sweet spot for most. Ultimately it boils down to your own gut instinct, quite literally!
Carnivore Diet macros will be animal fats and proteins as your sole source of energy, not glucose. Because fat is more than twice the caloric energy density as sugars, you will therefore become fuller quicker. As you won’t be eating any fiber, you will also be consuming a much smaller quantity of food each day.
CALORIES PER GRAM
Huge Nutritional Value
Huge Nutritional Value
No Nutritional value
On the Carnivore Diet, the 2,000 Calorie RDI we were taught in school goes out the door. The argument put forth by Carnivore / Animal-Based diet thought leaders like Dr. Paul Saladino is that, this 2,000 calories daily amount is highly flawed and based in the main on eating most of your calories from grains, processed carbs, and refined sugars.
These are considered low energy or ‘empty calories’ insofar as they are primarily glucose-based calories that spike your insulin up then crash again only needing more of the same to bring your energy and insulin back again.
On this animal-based way of eating, you have broken away from the glucose-laced traditional food pyramid and are now eating a diet of nothing but animal-based fats and proteins.
Some days you will need more than 2,000 calories but most days, surprisingly not.
Both protein and fat give our stomach and brain a clear sense of fullness. It is surprisingly difficult to consume 2,000 calories worth of fat and protein each day which is one obvious reason for the pronounced weight loss commonly reported by those on the Carnivore Diet.
Eat Fat First, Then Protein
Despite little scientific evidence, most thought leaders in the Carnivore Diet space, appear to recommend starting a Carnivore meal with fatty meat / fish / dairy first to get full quickly then finish the meal with the leaner cuts after.
We also suggest trying to expand your range of meats from just beef into other ruminants such as lamb and mutton, bison or even venison.
To help give you an idea of what a typical Carnivore Diet meal plan and carnivore diet shopping list would look like, here is a Monday to Sunday example.
*Note: This meal plan is based on the assumption of eating two meals per day, with Meal 1 at noon and Meal 2 at 7 pm, then fasting overnight. It is also based on the assumption you wont be feasting on the expensive cuts like Ribeye and Beef Tenderloin every day but choosing a much broader base of animal products.
|Ribeye + 3 eggs|
|2 Lamb Chops + 6 slices of cheese|
|Fried Liver + Butter Sausage|
|Chicken Wings + Marrow Bones|
|2 Salmon Fillets + Salmon Roe Shrimp|
|Fried Heart + 10 oz Cheese|
|Oxtail + Bone Broth|
|Ground Beef + 4 eggs|
|Suet, Fried Eggs + T-Bone Steak|
|Sardines, Oysters + Blue Cheese|
|Heavy Cream, Ribeye Steak + Butter|
|Braised Chuck Roast|
|Beef Bacon + Butter|
|1st Meal||Ribeye +
|Fried Liver +
|2 Salmon Fillets +
|Suet, Fried Eggs +
Ribeye Steak +
|Beef Bacon +
|2nd Meal||2 Lamb Chops +
6 slices of cheese
|Chicken Wings +
|Fried Heart +
10 oz Cheese
|Ground Beef +
|Sardines, Oysters +
|Braised Chuck Roast||Pork Belly|
*Note: There is no snacking on this Carnivore Diet meal plan. Proponents of this animal-based diet commonly report experiencing no need or craving for snacks in between meal sitting.
How Many Times a Day to Eat on a Carnivore Diet?
When starting your animal-based Carnivore Diet, it is advised to simply eat whenever you are hungry. Maintain this protocol until you get past the adaptation phase when your body is used to using fat / protein and not sugars as its energy source.
Anecdotal evidence points to eating twice a day as most common. This is due to the feeling of satiety derived from eating a higher level of fat and protein.
To date, there is no prescribed ratio of Carnivore Diet macros and it is entirely down to the individual preference, but a good rule of thumb would be 60 to 70% Fat and 30 to 40% Protein.
Can I Drink Tea and Coffee on the Carnivore Diet?
As they are both derived from plants and have been shown to cause kidney stones and contain high amounts of oxalates, technically, it is a no for both of these.
However, due to the sheer popularity, addictiveness of caffeine, and depending on which part of the world you live in, this is perhaps one of, if not the toughest things to give up.
High natural oxalate levels aside, which is a certain cause of inflammation and gut permeability issues, the coffee crop is the most pesticide-treated plant on earth that humans consume. Most store-bought coffee carries mold after drying which carries into the final cup of joe.
Lack of Fiber and the Effects of Carnivore Diet
By not consuming any fruits or vegetables on this meat only animal-based diet by default, you will be getting next to no fiber. This will have one very noticeable consequence: You will be pooping a lot less as your body will absorb almost all you consume.
As fiber is indigestible, it adds volume to the stool, so without the fiber, the sheer mass of food passing through you will be considerably less.
The widely held belief is, we need fiber in our diet if nothing else to prevent constipation and/or bowel dysfunction.
Yet, in most developed countries including the US, scientific and medical evidence suggests constipation and bowel disorders are highly prevalent for example, this study showed 1 in 4 adults met the criteria for Functional Bowel Disorder.
All these Bowel Disorders , despite having access to natural fiber from fruits, vegetables, and fiber supplements.
The treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a multi-billion dollar business and growing all the time. Something is clearly wrong with the modern diet.
This must beg the question: Do we need Fiber at all?
This piece of research by Ho et al showed that either reducing or completely stopping fiber intake clearly reduced constipation and it’s symptoms.
Image Credit: Dr. Paul Mason
In this 6-month study by Dr Paul Mason, it was revealed constipation and its associated symptoms can be effectively reduced by stopping or even lowering the intake of dietary fiber.
This leads us to our next subtopic, Side Effects of The Carnivore Diet.
What are the Common Side Effects of the Carnivore Diet?
The most common side effects of the 'Carnivore Diet Diarrhea', Nausea, Fatigue, Fluid Loss.
In the context of this animal-based diet, nausea and fatigue is normally down to eating too much or not eating enough. This simply takes time to find your ‘sweet spot’ for fats and proteins.
Fluid loss is generally down to not getting enough or any electrolytes. This highlights the importance of taking a good quality salt at mealtimes and also added to water.
Rather surprisingly, diarrhea seems far more common in the early stages than Carnivore Diet constipation-related issues.
‘Carnivore Diet Diarrhea’ appears to be the most widespread side effect and generally appears in the early stages as you transition from a conventional diet to an all animal-based products diet. This is mainly down to three factors that are unrelated to fiber i.e.
- A dramatic alteration of your gut microbiome balance and population.
- A sudden increase in fat consumption.
- Overeating protein on a meat only based diet may cause 'Protein Poisoning' which is simply an excess of protein consumption which in turn may lead to the infamous ‘carnivore diet diarrhea’ as many can only absorb approx 35 grams of protein in a meal. The rest gets passed out the other end in a ‘distressed state’ due to excess protein causing a build-up of ammonia and urea.
Switching to an all-meat diet will mean big changes in your microbiota. A 2014 study found that putting human volunteers on an animal-based diet resulted in significant changes to the gut microbiota in as little time as 2 days.
Importance of Salt on the Carnivore Diet - Electrolytes!
When on a diet, either low or devoid of carbohydrates, our bodies need more electrolytes. When insulin levels are low on this type of diet, our kidneys will excrete more sodium which alters our electrolyte balance.
This is the main cause of the “Keto Flu” or “Carnivore Flu” which manifests as fatigue and brain fog. To avoid this, get yourself a good quality salt so you can top up your sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
2 teaspoons of salt per day is a good guideline and if you are active then aim for at least 3 teaspoons of salt per day. Make sure you season steak or any meat generously with salt.
Our Favorite Brands of Salt are:
A Word on Condiments
The purists stick with salt, some are prepared to go as far as pepper. However, widely used condiments like mustard, herbs, spices, horseradish, pepper sauce are avoided due to their source in the plant kingdom and potential immune / inflammatory responses.
How To Get Started On The Carnivore Diet?
If you are currently eating a typical American Diet of high carbs and high sugars, I would recommend a common-sense, two-stage phased approach for 20 days until you are eating a pure Carnivore Diet.
This will make the initial adaptation phase easier on your digestive system and gut microbiome which is about to go through a massive change, due to the very different nutritional properties of the Carnivore Diet.
Stage 1: Days 1-10. Start by reducing your coffee and tea intake by 50% over the course of these 10 days. Begin to slowly reduce your intake of vegetables, salads, bread, soda, and alcohol by 50% over the course of the first 10 days.
At the same time increase the amount of water you drink to at least 2 gallons a day and replace the starches and vegetables etc. with more meat and fish. Eat until you feel full.
Stage 2: Days 11-20. Now gently and slowly phase out your consumption of all remaining vegetables, starches, sugars, etc. and replace them with meat, fish, butter, ghee. Likewise, endeavor to further reduce tea and coffee intake as much as possible (ideally down to none if possible).
This two-stage, 20-day adaptation period will give your body and digestive system a chance to slowly adapt to this new way of eating and may even help you avoid a phenomenon known as the ‘Keto Flu’.
5 Keys to Success on The Carnivore Diet
Sleep and Avoid Stress. The most important aspect to achieving success on the Carnivore diet, especially in the initial stages is to get plenty of sleep and avoid stress as much as possible.
No matter how strict you maintain the diet, if you are encountering a lot of stress, your body will produce the stress hormone, cortisol which will in fact negate almost all of the dietary benefits.
- Willpower and Commitment. You will need these two in abundance especially in the early days of the Carnivore diet, when your body still craves sugars and carbs which you will no doubt encounter in your everyday life. Prepare for temptation in advance, accept this will happen but commit yourself to overcome it at all costs.
- Emergency Carnivore Kit. In the early days of your carnivore adventure, there will be times where you are either tempted to break the protocol, encounter stress and may want some comfort food, or just flat out hungry.
I strongly suggest always keeping a small Tupperware close by with some cooked meats. Ideally, some fatty cuts you’ve made at home like sliced-up steak, a boiled egg, and some butter. This combination will get you over the hump.
- An understanding partner, family members, and social circle. Just inform your loved ones you are going on a new way of eating to better your health. Let them know you need their support, and would want to avoid temptation, and prefer not to be pressured into eating conventional foods at social gatherings.
- Salt. This one's a keeper throughout the Carnivore Diet. You will need a good quality salt on the Carnivore diet for trace minerals and electrolyte balance.
Cravings on Carnivore Diet and How To Control These Cravings
Initial cravings on the carnivore diet are common but generally occur in the first few weeks of the adaptation phase.
The most commonly reported cravings are sugar, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, and especially coffee which many people find difficult to completely withdraw from.
The key to controlling cravings is to eat animal proteins and fats whenever needed and stay hydrated. If I feel cravings, I will go for my favorite steak i.e. Picanha. The combination of buttery smooth fat cap, lean meat and salt brings any cravings under control.
There are two trypes of cravings:
As your body transitions from using glucose (carbs and sugar) to fats and proteins as your source of energy, there’s going to be some notable changes in how you will feel for a while.
Without carbs and sugars, insulin levels will be on the floor in the initial week to 10 days on a pure Carnivore Diet, so low energy / lethargy are all common.
The stomach and gut no longer receive carbs, sugars, and caffeine. There will be a palpable neurological response with your gut telling your brain to crave and seek out these specific foods.
Learn to tell the difference between actual hunger and emotional cravings.
3 Steps to Control Cravings On the Carnivore Diet.
1. Keep your Carnivore Emergency Kit handy and feed yourself as many animal-based proteins and fats to provide you with energy, which also switches off the cravings and takes away any perceived hunger.
2. Drink plenty of water. Perceived hunger or cravings can simply be dehydration. Aim for a solid 2 gallons of water per day on this animal-based diet.
3. Use Salt. A good quality salt will keep your levels of trace minerals up such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium and keep electrolytes in balance.
Diagram: Typical metabolic cycle on a standard American Diet with a constant Insulin spike and crash
It is important to keep in mind that your body has been trapped in a near-constant insulin and caffeine response your entire life and suddenly this stops with an all meat diet, so almost everyone experiences some kind of initial cravings.
Your body will also be dumping oxalates and lectins, which are natural endogenous pesticides found within plants that build up in your body.
You will also experience potential detoxification on the trace of heavy metals, artificial fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides from produce, fruits, and processed foods.
Within 3 to 4 weeks, you will find you are in much stronger control of cravings, if you experience any at all.
This is mainly due to much more stable blood sugar / insulin levels, being in a ketogenic state (some or all of the time), and also autophagy, where the damaged cells are ‘cleaned out’ of the body.
Your body and mind will also begin to ‘make peace’ and you will find that you instinctively start to make the clear distinction between real physical hunger (time to eat for fuel) and emotional or perceived hunger (comfort eating / eat out of boredom).
Traveling While on the Carnivore Diet.
One of the greatest challenges for anyone adhering to a strict diet protocol is when we leave our home to travel for work, on business, or on vacation.
We are away from the controlled environment of our own homes. It will be difficult to have access to animal-based products to keep you on track like we do when at home, plus you will be surrounded by temptation or limited food options at hotels, restaurants, and airports.
4 Tips to Staying Carnivore While Travelling
- Bring an air fryer with you on your travels. This is a great investment for anyone on the Carnivore Diet as it allows you to cook or reheat meat anywhere where there is a socket. Air Fryer Lamb Chops for example is quick and easy to make. Learning how to cook marrow bones in an air fryer is both tasty and will satisfy hunger due to the high fat content.
- You need to store your meat safely so pack a cooler box with your own meat, fish, eggs, butter, and cheese. Ideally, pack some pre-cooked meat so you're good right from the start of your travels. Pre-order meat from your favorite online butcher and get it delivered to your destination or hit the local grocery store upon arrival. This will ensure you stick to your Carnivore Diet; in addition, this saves you a lot of money from eating out.
- If cooking your own meat is not accessible whilst traveling, I suggest ordering plain burger patties at a restaurant (aka Meat Cookies in the Carnivore Community).
- Finally, ensure to bring a large water bottle to remain hydrated. Bring your own quality salt, to add to your food and to your water for taste and electrolyte balance.
Useful Guide for Air Fryer Meat Cooking Times:
Image Credit: Cooksmarts
Is Fasting OK on the Carnivore Diet?
By virtue of the high caloric density of animal-based fats, you will get full quicker and for longer. This alone lends itself perfectly to trying some intermittent fasting.
As your body adapts to burning fat for fuel and not glucose, your insulin levels will stabilize, meaning fewer hunger pangs and cravings. Stable blood sugar means fewer cravings which means an easier time fasting.
This stable insulin level puts your body in the perfect metabolic setting to fast successfully and induce autophagy. First, try a simple 16:8 fast and see how it goes. Skipping breakfast, with the first meal at 12 noon and the second animal-based meal at or before 8 pm.
After you build confidence, you can stretch things out and experiment with a 12-hour eating window, or even an 8-hour eating window, and 16 hours fasting or more.
Video: Dr. Jason Fung, The 5 stages of fasting
By combining a Carnivore Diet with fasting, you are beginning to mimic the daily metabolic experience of our hunter-gatherer ancestors who would go many hours or even days between meals as they ate what they killed.
Eating meant hunting which meant expanding energy… and this leads us to our next subtopic i.e., Exercising on the Carnivore Diet.
Exercise and Sports Performance on The Carnivore Diet
Just like our ancestors 4 million years ago, nothing has changed when it comes to exercise. For any physical activity, you need food to fuel for the activity and food to help recover from the activity so it can be repeated.
Fat is the most energy-dense food available at 9 calories per gram. Protein is what our muscles need for growth and repair, and also provides caloric energy at 4 calories per gram.
Fat and Protein combined, you have excellent fuel and recovery sources for exercise to any level be it endurance, power / strength, or combat sports). There is no physiological need for sugars to fuel your workout or chosen sport.
Cheerios did not exist 2 million years ago yet our nearest cousins, Homo Erectus were able to scavenge meat until they found it. This took energy and it certainly wasn’t found at the bottom of a cereal bowl or Pop-Tarts.
Research on Fat as a Fuel During Exercise
There have been studies done on fat as a primary source of fuel like this one in well-trained athletes.
But there are as yet no specific studies on sports on the Carnivore Diet.
There is some interesting research to show fat working as an optimum fuel source in the Low to Moderate Intensity levels i.e. at around 60% of VO2 Max effort.
This phenomenon is known in sports science as the ‘Cross Over Effect’. This metabolic response strongly points to endurance sports being particularly suited to fat as fuel protocol.
Diagram: The Cross Over Effect: where fat works as an optimum source of energy during exercise.
Proving fat can fuel records in the sporting realm, well known elite endurance athletes on either a very low carb Ketogenic Diet or a pure Carnivore Diet include : World Champion Ironman Triathlete, Pete Jacobs
Ultramarathon runner, Zach Britter who holds the US record for the 100-mile marathon. Britter has championed his very low carb / high fat diet with his performance and sense of wellbeing.
Many top pro cycling teams that compete for victory in Tour De France, Italy, and Spain have publicly stated they have ditched the traditional carb intensive diet with some of their top riders are on Ketogenic diets, dialled in for fat as the primary energy source.
These ultra ensurance cycling events last for 3 weeks, cover 3,500 kilometers on average, 5 hours in the saddle each day, and average daily caloric burn between 4 to 7,000 calories per day.Clearly, fat has a place in sports performance and fuel.
Carnivore Diet: Lack of Specific Research and Scientific Evidence: Is the Carnivore Diet Healthy?
While anecdotal evidence of a Carnivore Diet results and benefits are impressive and easily found across websites and forums, there is still no specific or formal published scientific research with a direct focus on the Carnivore Diet.
It is yet to be found if this diet has a positive long-term health benefit. This lack of research has naturally led to scepticism, which is understandable.
Image Credit: Discorewalks
There is a plethora of research on tribes and cultures such as the Maasai of Ethiopia that eat a low to no carbohydrate diet with high animal fat, no fiber and show vibrant health, teeth condition, and little to no chronic health conditions such as heart disease and obesity.
In theory, this historical research, should give solid indications as to the benefits and effects of the Carnivore Diet due to their commonalities.
Other tribes and cultures who appear to have thrived on an animal based diet are:
- Samburu tribe from East Africa
- Canadian Inuit
- Russian Arctic Chukotka
Dr. Shawn Baker is addressing the lack of research and currently leading a crowdfunding campaign to raise $500,000 for specific and formal research via a planned 6-month long randomized control study on the Carnivore Diet.
Nutrient Deficiency from Carnivore Diet
By consuming an all meat diet/ animal based diet, there is huge interest on forums and across social media platforms on the potential nutrient deficiencies while living on the carnivore diet especially Vitamin C.
In truth, no formal scientific evidence has done any solid research for any length of time to suggest there are potential nutrient deficiencies.
Within the Carnivore community, the consensus is to eat a broad range of muscle cut meats e.g. steaks along with Fats like Suet / Tallow / Ghee / Butter and Organ Meats e.g. Liver, Kidney, Spleen and Heart which are well known to contain a very broad range of essential nutrients.
Vitamin C can be found in Liver. A typical serving size of 1 liver piece (or 589 g) contains 7.66mg of Vitamin C. This corresponds to an RDA percentage of 13%.
When taken as an entire food group, muscle cuts of meat, organs and fats from the animal kindoom do indeed provide every vitamin and mineral humans need to function at an optimum.
What's The Difference Between The Carnivore Diet and The Ketogenic Diet?
Both of these diets work with protein and fat as their key components, however, a Ketogenic Diet permits plant-based foods, whereas the Carnivore Diet does not.
A typical Keto-based Diet will permit somewhere in the region of 5 to 10% from carbohydrates. A Carnivore Diet is essentially a zero-carbohydrate diet. Ketogenic Diets have been well researched. To date, there have been no formal studies done specifically on the Carnivore Diet.
- Humans have been eating an all-meat diet for millions of years.
- The Carnivore Diet is essentially a Zero Carb / No Plant Food based diet.
- The Carnivore Diet has gained traction in popular culture and mass media through individuals like Dr. Shawn Baker, Dr. Paul Saladino MD, Joe Rogan, and Dr. Jordan Peterson PhD.
- Anecdotal evidence of the Carnivore Diet suggests many positive benefits from weight loss, better mood, stable blood sugar levels and much more.
- Some Carnivore Diet advocates eat their animal products completely raw just as man did before the discovery of fire to cook on.
- The Carnivore Diet is broadly ketogenic in nature which does have a plethora of research to demonstrate numerous benefits from weight loss to sports performance.
- There is a lack of meaningful scientific research specifically to support the carnivore diet but perhaps 2.5 million years of evolution is proof enough??