An Introduction to The Carnivore Diet
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An Introduction to The Carnivore Diet

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An Introduction to The Carnivore Diet

Posted 4 years ago

Brian Stanton

Brian Stanton

Author

Dr. Kevin R. Gendreau

Dr. Kevin R. Gendreau

Author and Scientific Reviewer

Expert Approved

If you haven’t heard of the Carnivore diet, you can probably guess what it’s all about. On Carnivore, you eat only animals and animal products. 

Many folks are raving about this meat-centric regimen. They report less stomach trouble, less hunger, more fat loss, and a host of other benefits. 

These benefits align with the benefits of Keto. The Carnivore diet is, after all, a form of Keto diet. 

In the next five minutes, you’ll learn what you need to know about the Carnivore diet: allowed foods, potential benefits, potential concerns, and how to decide if carnivore works for you. 

What Is the Carnivore Diet?

The Carnivore diet is a high-protein Keto diet without any plant foods. It’s high in fat, high in protein, and extremely low in carbs. 

Carnivore is a diet of meat, salt, fish, animal fats, eggs, and sometimes dairy. Keto staples like low-carb vegetables, nuts, and avocados are strictly forbidden. 

Carnivore gathered steam after Shawn Baker’s book, The Carnivore Diet, hit bookstores in 2019. Baker has subsequently appeared on Joe Rogan’s uber-popular podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, along with Carnivore advocates like bestselling author Jordan Peterson and his daughter, Mikhaila Peterson.

Because it disallows the majority of food groups, Carnivore is considered an elimination diet. (Elimination diets are typically used to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms). More on that soon. 

Meat is the focus on a Carnivore diet. Many Carnivores consume only meat, skipping eggs and dairy for gut health reasons. 

Let’s explore the Carnivore menu now.

Carnivore Diet Foods

On a strict Carnivore diet, you can only consume animal products, water, and salt. This limits your options. 

The main category is fatty cuts of meat like ribeye, lamb leg, and chuck roast. Unlike leaner cuts of meat, fatty meats have the proper macros—both protein and fat—to keep you in the unique fat-burning state called ketosis.

They also have enough fat to keep you energized. On a lean-meat-only program, most of your macros would come from protein. And while protein is crucial for building muscle and synthesizing hormones, your body is better at synthesizing ATP—the energy coin that powers all living things—from carbs or fat.[*

And so on carnivore, marbled meat and fatty fish generally comprise the bulk of one’s calories.

Other Carnivore-approved foods include:

  • Offal. Organ meats like liver, kidney, and heart are exceptionally nutrient-dense foods. They provide vitamins (like folate) that usually come from plants. 
  • Animal fat. Lard, tallow, ghee, and butter are sanctioned for cooking and consuming on Carnivore. You’re not supposed to have olive oil and coconut oil, but nobody’s calling the carnivore police if you enjoy these Keto-friendly fats
  • Eggs. If tolerated, eggs are a perfect Keto food. High in fat, high in protein, high in nutrients like choline. But many carnivores have trouble digesting eggs (or egg whites) and avoid them. 
  • Dairy. Dairy is an animal product, but carnivores with gut issues often avoid it due to casein or lactose intolerances.
  • Fish. Fatty fishes like salmon, sardines, and mackerel make excellent additions to your carnivore menu, plus they contain omega-3 fatty acids for brain health.[*]  
  • Honey. Since honey comes from bees, some carnivores eat it. But since honey is pure sugar, it’s definitely not Keto. Up to you.

Carnivore Diet Benefits

The potential benefits of Carnivore are similar to the potential benefits of Keto. There isn’t much research on the Carnivore diet, per se, but the research on Keto provides a good proxy.  

#1: Gut health

Those with chronic gut issues like IBS, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis have reported improvements in gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea on the Carnivore diet. What’s driving this? 

As discussed earlier, Carnivore is an elimination diet. When you eliminate all plant foods—grains, fruits, vegetables, etc.—you eliminate many foods that can cause inflammation and symptoms in a sensitive gut. 

Also, eliminating sugar and fiber on Carnivore can starve pathogenic gut bacteria of their fuel. This is why folks with IBS often do well on low-carb, low-fiber diets.[*][*] Check out this article on Keto for gut health for more on this topic. 

#2: Ketosis

Carnivore is a very low-carb diet. And when you keep carbs very low, it signals your cells to start burning fat and making ketones.[*

This fat-burning state (called ketosis) is linked to many potential health benefits beyond fat loss, including cognitive improvements.[*] But weight loss is the benefit that gets top billing.  

#3: Weight loss

Keto is well-documented to promote weight loss in obese and diabetic populations.[*][*] Since Carnivore is a type of Keto diet, we can assume it has similar effects. 

Why may Keto be an effective weight loss diet? Here are a few reasons:

  • Carb restriction keeps the hormone insulin low, decreasing fat storage.
  • Hunger hormones are suppressed in a ketogenic state.[*]
  • Keto limits empty calories (like sugar) that are easy to overeat.  

Anecdotal surveys on individuals following a Carnivore diet suggest improvements in triglycerides and HDL (good cholesterol) as well as reductions in BMI and HbA1c.[*]

Let’s move on to concerns now. 

Concerns About The Carnivore Diet

Some worry that eliminating plants will cause micronutrient deficiencies. This is a valid concern, but it can be mitigated by eating organ meats. Beef liver, in particular, is like nature’s multivitamin. 

Another concern is that a long-term low-fiber diet could negatively impact the gut microbiome. This is also a valid concern, and the proper response will depend on the person in question. 

Fiber can feed good gut bacteria, but it can also feed bad gut bacteria.[*] If your gut feels best on carnivore, you’re probably on the right track. Listen to your body. 

There are a handful of concerns about meat too. For instance, consuming saturated fat may elevate LDL cholesterol levels, but the real-world population data still doesn’t show a link between dietary saturated fat and heart disease.[*][*][*]

Cooking meat at high temperatures also generates potential carcinogens like heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and advanced glycation end products (AGEs).[*] To minimize the formation of these compounds, cook your meat low and slow. 

Animal-Based Eating vs. Carnivore

Animal-based eating is a more flexible variation of the Carnivore diet. When you eat an animal-based diet, you consume meat and organ meats (like on Carnivore)—but you’re also allowed a small amount of “nontoxic” carbohydrates like fruit, some tubers, and honey. 

And so if you can’t live without carbs, or you find Carnivore socially impossible, or you want to see how increasing carbs affects your bloodwork—animal-based eating might be worth a shot. 

Animal-based advocate Dr. Paul Saladino recommends consuming 1 gram of red-meat-based protein and 0.5 to 1 gram of non-0toxic carbohydrates per pound of target body weight if you’re metabolically healthy.[*] But if you’re struggling with obesity or diabetes, he recommends keeping carbs close to zero.  

Deciding If Carnivore Makes Sense For You

You might want to try a carnivore diet if…

  • You have chronic gut issues.
  • You love meat and want to simplify your Keto diet. 
  • You’re curious how carnivore will affect your energy, fat loss efforts, bloodwork, etc. 

If you decide to go Carnivore, make it a proper experiment. Give it two to four weeks. Get bloodwork before and after, and pay careful attention to how you feel at all points in time. Be sure you are meeting all your micronutrient needs by including organ meats in your diet, and if necessary, work under the guidance of a health practitioner.

Did things move in the right direction? The answer to this question will determine your next move, including your next shopping list.

Comments 30

  • FavorableKale254511

    FavorableKale254511 2 years ago

    I have removed all sugars and my carb addiction brain has settled down quite a bit. I eat more meat, fish, eggs and dairy. Sometimes my brain gets a trigger for sweets most times I have eggs, bacon or cheese as my go to. However an electrolyte beverage usually does the trick in putting off eating anything. I have had to reprioritize my thinking of meals, seem to get by on 2 meals a day. I now don't have breakfast until I am actually hungry, from 10am to 2pm is when my first meal occurs and my last is around 4-5 pm. So there is a huge gap between meals from last to first meal. I am losing slowly. I see that some have mentioned constipation or relief from. My whole life I have been constipated, and as soon as I took out wheat, grains, processed oils, sugar and most of the fruit and veggies out of my diet it all changed. I have always loved liver and I know how to cook it, sometime twice a week. Wild caught fish, fatty meats and chicken wings, thighs and legs. I will say it is a process to learn what is best for your body.

    • Super Seraphim

      Super Seraphim 8 months ago

      i don't crave sugar much anymore, but i do crave french fries.

  • MirthfulKale567268

    MirthfulKale567268 2 years ago

    I think, while this way of eating works for many people, there are an awful lot of unknowns that potentially make it risky. In my own situation, I have resistant hypertension do to a medical procedure that damaged my kidneys. I was so excited to try carnivore, with the hope that it might help everything function better. In one week of strictly animal products,, my resting BP was over 200/105. And it stayed like that all day. That night I had a reguar meal with some carbs, and the next morning it was back to my normal, 145/85. I can’t explain it, other than the high protein stressed my kidneys. I am disappointed, but regular keto has never bothered me. My overlong point is, beware and watch your body closely!

    • Melpritchard

      Melpritchard 2 years ago

      Um, I hear everywhere that too much protein turns into fat!!! How much is too much???

      • Sarah

        Sarah a year ago

        If your brain needs some glucose, your body will take some of the protein (or fat!) you ingest to convert it to sugar. This process is known as gluconeogenesis. High protein diets don't lead to fat formation, unless one is also consuming too many calories for one's body size and basal metabolic rate.

      • Carnivore_Girl

        Carnivore_Girl 2 years ago

        Wrong.

    • Rcochran

      Rcochran 2 years ago

      Can you have coffee

      • Carnivore_Girl

        Carnivore_Girl 2 years ago

        Yes

      • Iwilldothis8

        Iwilldothis8 2 years ago

        Even carnivores gind coffee one of the things they still have. It is plant derived but quite low carb if u take it black. I add coconut milk but I am more of a ketovore who dabbles in carnivore.

    • Marbellis

      Marbellis 3 years ago

      How much protein fat to maintain a weight of 140lbs for a female 37y/o

      • FantasticRadishTexan

        FantasticRadishTexan 3 years ago

        How do I track micronutrients in CM when eating the Carnivore way? I was able to enter my daily goals for micros but do not know where to find results of my intake. Thanks in advance.

        • Keto-rific-Suzi

          Keto-rific-Suzi 3 years ago

          When I decided to go Carnivore from Keto, my carb intake was already low because I was eating 10 total carbs or below. I experienced no flu-like symptoms at all - I only felt better, and loved it.

          • Carnivore_Girl

            Carnivore_Girl 2 years ago

            Glad to hear that. Thanks.

        • Zesty 🍋

          Zesty 🍋 3 years ago

          Does a carnivore diet affect/reduce a healthy gut microbiome? Would it be ok to take a daily probiotic and fibre capsule? I'm a short, fat woman with insulin resistance. Does eating more than 25gms of protein result in surplus protein being stored as fat?

          • Tabitha

            Tabitha 3 years ago

            How much meat should one eat at one sitting? I’m a female, 167lb, 5’8” and doing OMAD (one meal a day), on carnivore?

            • Carnivore_Girl

              Carnivore_Girl 2 years ago

              We are close in size and weight.

            • Carnivore_Girl

              Carnivore_Girl 2 years ago

              I just ate 11 Oz of meat and 4 eggs.

            • Windollyn

              Windollyn 2 years ago

              Eat until you are satisfied.

          • Asnyder01@att.net

            Asnyder01@att.net 3 years ago

            How does anyone deal with constipation?

            • Keto-rific-Suzi

              Keto-rific-Suzi 3 years ago

              @Zesty, - I think that is just one more big fat lie. From everything i've experienced and read - human beings do not need to eat plants, fiber or fruit to stay healthy, have a healthy gut (actually carnivore is very healing to the gut) It's the best way of eating that I have experienced.

            • Keto-rific-Suzi

              Keto-rific-Suzi 3 years ago

              I had chronic constipation for years - it was horrible. I still had it on Keto. When I changed to carnivore, my constipation resolved within just a few days - I LOVE it! no more hard painful stools

            • Zesty 🍋

              Zesty 🍋 3 years ago

              Surprising! We were all taught to "eat our veg to stay regular".

            • Tabitha

              Tabitha 3 years ago

              My constipation cleared up on carnivore

          • thebedrockdiet

            thebedrockdiet 3 years ago

            One of the advantages of this over Keto is that sometimes inflammation can come from the vegetables, and particularly cruciferous veg. For a system already overloaded, removal of vegetables, seeds and nuts from the diet can assist with reduction of inflammation. I was able to lose 11 kg on Keto, but have gone on to lose another 19 kg on The Bedrock Diet - which is based on a carnivore way of eating.

            • SpectacularKale179632

              SpectacularKale179632 3 years ago

              After reading this I realise I have been on the carnivore diet most of my life. I love meat and dairy products and can’t push myself to eat more than the blandest vegetables. I could quite easily never eat a vegetable, fruit or grain again in my lifetime. I have been forced to eat vegetables and bread etc since young and have never been happy with it. Thank you for the article on the diet.

              • IncredibleRose

                IncredibleRose 3 years ago

                There are many people doing wonderful on carnivore for years. I am more ketovore.

            • Graham

              Graham 3 years ago

              Is carnivore an all or nothing proposition? I consider myself to be mostly carnivore but not strictly so. I have a small salad one per day.

              • Keto-rific-Suzi

                Keto-rific-Suzi 3 years ago

                That's cool Graham - that makes your way of eating - Ketovore.

              • IncredibleRose

                IncredibleRose 3 years ago

                You sound like me. Ketovore.

              • IneffableArugula861753

                IneffableArugula861753 3 years ago

                I believe having vegetables is considered ketovore a combination of keto and carnivore