Is the Carnivore Diet Crazy or Healthy

The Carnivore Diet is thought to help you lose weight, control blood sugar and auto-immune conditions. But there's a catch.

It restricts all of your eating to animal-based products, nothing else.

This all-meat eating style excludes other foods, like fruits and vegetables, grains and legumes. Some of these food are full of nutrition needed to live right?

It is thought to help with weight loss, blood sugar control and auto-immune conditions.

Here’s the issue with carnivore:

Where are these health claims coming from? Can you lose weight and feel better going carnivore?

This article explains the Carnivore Diet, including its benefits, where to start, meal plans, carnivorous foods, FAQs and more.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about going carnivore and more.

First a quick caveat: my company makes and sells the absolute best tasting carnivore-friendly bone broth on the planet. You can find some at Bluebird Provisions.

What is a Carnivore Diet

The Carnivore Diet consists of fish and animal products like cheese and eggs. You can eat some dairy items, not others.

Remove all vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, legumes and grains.

You can eat dairy items which are low in lactose (ex: butter and hard cheeses). However, carnivores restrict any dairy items containing lactose, which is a sugar. These include milk, yogurt and ice cream.

Carnivore Diet Health Benefits Infographic

How the Carnivore Diet works 

Like any other weight loss eating plan, the Carnivore Diet works by restricting food groups and calories. Carnivorous proponents cite that ancestral populations consumed more animal flesh and fish and not much else.

They claim that carbohydrate and sugar based foods (basically what we eat in the west) are to blame for obesity and chronic health issues.

By restricting food, proponents claim it decreases inflammation because you're removing harmful compounds in many foods.

Unlike keto or paleo, carnivores completely exclude any carbohydrates. Some people do it to get into ketosis.

Carnivorous Diet history

Shawn Baker created the modern application of the Carnivore Diet. He’s a former orthopaedic doctor turned author and podcast host who wrote a book on the subject in 2019 (1).

Since then, it gained popularity due to influential public figures like Joe Rogan and Jordan Peterson

Both are supporters of the eating style. Peterson claims on a podcast that it helped him cure auto-immune conditions that plagued him for his whole life. 

Rogan went tried it for 30 days in January 2020. He claimed it helped him lose weight and gave him more energy. It also gave him explosive diarrhea. Evidently, this is one of the major risks.

Now he opts for carnivorous foods with fruit.

The all-meat eating plan was created in 2019. Since then, it has gained popularity. 

bone broth quiz

Does an all-meat diet have merit?

The all-meat eating style has no research or scientific basis. Proponents use testimonials to promote these diets.

Those on it claim it can treat arthritis, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, obesity, anxiety and depression (2). 

There are case studies, but not scientific studies to prove that this eating style is safe and effective. 

Carnivore Diet for weight loss

Can going carnivore help you lose weight? Many proponents of it report weight loss. 

Some aspects of going carnivore may help you lose weight. 

Research shows that high protein, low carbohydrate eating plans like carnivore help with weight loss (3, 4, 5).

Why?

Protein does two things:

1. Helps with satiety

It makes you feel full after meals. This helps you crave less food and eat less food throughout the day. You eat fewer calories and you lose weight (6).

2. Increases your metabolism

Protein helps you burn more calories by increasing your metabolic rate (7, 8).

It makes sense that carnivore would help you eat fewer calories and lose weight. You would feel full and perhaps your metabolic rate would increase… in the short-term. 

Many studies show that high protein leads to weight loss compared to low protein diets (9). These lead to more sustained weight loss well.

The issue with going all 'steak and chicken' is compliance and restriction. Are you really going to eat only chicken breast for the rest of your life?

It doesn't seem viable or sustainable as a long-term plan or weight loss strategy. You are restricting too many food groups the issues with sticking to this strict diet compounds.

Losing weight doesn’t require you to eat like a carnivore.

Moreover, you do not need to remove carbs and vegetables to lose it.

Carnivore Diet benefits 

Claimed Carnivore benefits include:

  • Weight loss
  • Curing autoimmune conditions
  • Reducing joint pain and arthritis
  • Helping control blood sugar and diabetes
  • Increasing energy

Here is an important tidbit on these health benefits. 

All the benefits can be attributed to what you are not eating, not necessarily what you are eating. 

What do I mean by this?

Going carnivore restricts your eating to… beef, chicken, pork, etc. Meaning you are not eating refined carbohydrates, sugars and vegetable oils. 

Gone is the days of soda, donuts, candy and bagels. 

These processed foods have more calories but low in vitamins and minerals. They don’t belong in any balanced eating plan. 

This is why carnivores lose fat eating this way, you are so limited. It is difficult to stuff yourself with 2500+ calories of steak per day. 

You are naturally creating a caloric deficit. 

Autoimmune Conditions Benefits

Proponents of carnivore claim it helps control autoimmune conditions. Some claim it leads to remission of symptoms.

My hunch is that eliminating inflammatory compounds and foods like grains, legumes and dairy contributes to these benefits. However, no research has been done.

Reducing Joint Pain and Inflammation

Similar to autoimmune conditions, removing foods that cause inflammation may help reduce joint pain.

Moreover, adding collagen rich foods like bone broth also helps reduce joint pain (10). Curing arthritis may be a stretch, but improving joint pain symptoms seems plausible. 

Blood Sugar Control

Eliminating sugar and refined carbohydrates will generally help control your blood sugar. 

You know that sugar and ultra processed foods like Impossible Burger are bad for you. They spike your blood sugar and can lead to blood sugar issues like type 2 diabetes. 

Eating like a carnivore does not have any blood sugar spiking foods. 

More importantly, glycine is found in some cuts of steak and bone broth. Glycine is used to control insulin and blood sugar in type 2 diabetics (11). 

Increased Energy on Carnivore

Incredibly hard to measure subjective energy levels. Many proponents claim to have improved energy and clarity of thought while on carnivore.

These are not substantiated by any science. 

Carnivore diet cons

The cons of going carnivore are the lack of vitamins and minerals, it's high in fat, sodium and cholesterol and it has zero fiber.

The Carnivore Diet is not safe because we do not know the long-term effects. It restricts many more important food groups for your health and wellness. 

Removing these nutrient rich foods makes the Carnivore Diet dangerous. Here are the cons of eating animals foods only.

  • Lacks vitamins and minerals for your health
  • High in fat, sodium and cholesterol
  • Has zero fiber
  • Not suitable for some people

1. Lacks vitamins and minerals for your health 

lack of vegetable and salad nutrition on carnivore diet

Many of the non-compliant carnivore foods provide crucial vitamins and minerals for bodily functions. 

Thanks, captain obvious. It goes without saying that an eating plan devoid of vegetables will lack important micronutrients. 

Eating vegetable rich foods is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease (12, 13, 14).

Turns out that plants have more than just vitamins and fiber. There are sterols, antioxidants and other unique compounds in plants for health and longevity. 

The Carnivore Diet restricts all plants and fruits. Meaning you could end up with major nutrient deficiencies (15).

You also may end up with an overconsumption of other nutrients like methionine. Not good.

2. High in fat, sodium and cholesterol 

Speaking of overconsumption, the Carnivore Diet can easily make you over do it on sodium, cholesterol and fat.

Animal-based foods are higher in saturated fat and cholesterol. Does this matter?

Saturated fat and cholesterol are not the demons we once thought. We now know that cholesterol is not linked to blood cholesterol or heart disease (16).

Saturated fat doesn’t seem to be linked to heart disease anymore either (17,18).

I’d like to emphasize that Carnivore may push the limits in terms of saturated fat and cholesterol intake. We do not have studies or information on the long-term health effects of consuming this much saturated fat and cholesterol.

If you are going carnivore, stick to real beef, fish, chicken, lamb and pork products. Why? Processed products like bacon, cheese and lunch meats are incredibly high in sodium. 

Overdoing it on sodium does have major health implications. Too much sodium leads to high blood pressure, kidney issues and many other scary health issues (19).

3. Has zero fiber from fruits or carbs

types of fruit with fiber and carbohydrates

Fiber is an important part of gut health. It is a non-digestible carbohydrate that keeps you regular and is only found in vegetables and fruits.

Low fiber can lead to constipation in some. Although, I’ll note that many anecdotal Carnivore Diet reports mention the opposite while on the diet. Just ask Joe Rogan.

What’s important about fiber is its effect on your gut health. Fiber is needed to seed and fuel our gut bacteria. 

The gut is the cornerstone of our immunity. Messing with your gut bacteria has adverse health effects (20).

4. Not suitable for some people

Anyone with a history of eating disorders should never try Carnivore or any restrictive diet. If you have anxious thoughts or a poor relationship with food, an animal centric approach is not for you.

It goes without saying that the Carnivore Diet is not for those who must limit protein intake. Those with kidney disease should not follow the Carnivore Diet (21).

You should not go Carnivore if you are sensitive to saturated fat or cholesterol rich foods. 

Lastly, if you have specific nutrient needs, then do not try this diet. 

How to start with a meat only diet

If you are going to experiment with all-meat diets, read this. Going carnivore makes your life and shopping list simple. All you eat are animal based foods. It should be easy to follow… in principle. 

Foods to eat on Carnivore

Here’s what you can eat on the Carnivore Diet:

1. Steak, chicken, pork, lamb, game animals, etc

steak and rib browning on a grill

Your main source of food will be animals. You should opt for fattier and more nutrient dense meats like organs These include liver, heart and kidneys. 

In fact, the best way to maximize your nutrient intake on Carnivore is to eat nose to tail. Nose to tail ensures you are getting all the nutrients and minerals from an animal. 

Other fattier cuts include: rib eye, 80/20 ground, flank and thighs. 

2. Fish

Choose the fattiest fish you can find. Salmon, sardines, anchovies and mackerel are all great. Small fish are great because you can eat the bones. Small fish bones provide calcium and other important nutrients.

3. Eggs

Perhaps the most nutrient dense animal based food. Eggs are crucial if you are carnivore. They’ll provide vitamins and minerals to keep your systems in check. 

4. Bone Broth

Stock vs. bone broth for carnivore diet

Rich in hydrating electrolytes, collagen and important amino acids (glycine) that buffer out the negative effects of high animal flesh intake. Bone broth should be consumed daily when you are eating carnivorously.

You can find the best bone broth from Bluebird Provisions. Disclaimer, that is my company.

5. Bone Marrow 

Contains many vitamins and minerals for carnivores. Also, rich in fat. 

6. Low-lactose Dairy 

Carnivores are split on whether dairy is allowed. Many proponents recommend keeping dairy out of the Carnivore Diet as people develop allergies to it. Others will consume milk, certain hard cheeses and grass-fed butter. 

7. Lard, Tallow, Animal-Based Fats

A great alternative to most cooking oils. Cook your food in tallow, schmaltz or other animal based fats. 

8. Low-Carb Spices and Herbs 

Salt, pepper, herbs and spices are carnivore compliant. Just make sure these spices do not have sugar and carbs. Some carnivores allow zero-calorie condiments like hot sauce. 

Some carnivores also consume yogurt and softer cheese. However, these are higher in carbs, which go against carnivore beliefs. 

Note: Some leaders like Shawn Baker don't think you need to eat pasture-raised, organic, grass fed or wild caught animals. I do.

If you are going to eat all-meat, you must eat the highest quality that you can afford. 

What is an all meat keto diet?

An all meat keto diet aims for zero carbs per day. This is different from keto, which will have some carbs throughout the day. An all meat keto diet allows you to only eat steak, chicken, pork, fish, eggs and some animal-based products like tallow. Non of these foods have any carbs, allowing you to get into ketosis faster. However, these meats might kick you out of ketosis, so some experimenting is needed.

Foods to avoid on Carnivore Diet

Ready for the ‘no-fun police’? Here are the foods you must avoid when going carnivore.

  • All vegetables: Including condiments made from vegetables and broth.
  • All fruit: Any fruit like bananas, berries, etc
  • Sugar: Even sugar alcohols, natural forms of sugar and sugar substitutes are not compliant.
  • Processed foods: Carnivores avoid additives like nitrates, MSG and nitrites. Processed food like bacon, shelf stable products or canned foods and non-compliant.
  • Most dairy products: A hot button issue among the carnivore community. Some advocate low-lactose dairy like hard cheese or kefir. You should avoid yogurt and processed dairy.
  • All grains, pastries, bread: No refined carbs like grains, rice, pasta, donuts, etc.
  • All nuts, seeds, legumes: Not allowed. These include peanuts, almonds, macadamias, cashews, chia, flax, peas, etc.
  • Any other products: Including alternatives like Beyond, lab grown or Impossible Burger. Candy or chocolate.

Carnivore Diet Meal Plan + Food List

Here is a 7-day meal plan to get you started with the Carnivore Diet.

Day 1 carnivore diet meals

  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs
  • Lunch: Baked or canned salmon
  • Snack: Bone Broth
  • Dinner: Beef liver fried in lard or beef tallow

Day 2

  • Breakfast: Kefir and steak
  • Lunch: Chicken wings
  • Snack: Pork rinds 
  • Dinner: Flank steak

Day 3

  • Breakfast: Eggs fried in lard or beef tallow, bacon
  • Lunch: Beef kidneys or steak
  • Snack: Sardines
  • Dinner: Chicken and bone broth soup

Day 4

  • Breakfast: Feta cheese omelette
  • Lunch: Fried beef heart
  • Snack: Mackerel 
  • Dinner: Chicken thighs 

Day 5

  • Breakfast: Eggs fried in beef tallow with bacon
  • Lunch: 80/20 ground beef patties 
  • Snack: Bone Broth
  • Dinner: Baked salmon

Day 6

  • Breakfast: Fried eggs with cheese
  • Lunch: Beef liver
  • Snack: Canned anchovies
  • Dinner: Bison burgers

Day 7

  • Breakfast: Bacon and eggs
  • Lunch: Grilled chicken
  • Snack: Pork rinds
  • Dinner: Beef or lamb roast cooked in beef bone broth

beef bones with meat on cutting board

See the simplicity? You can eat any of these foods all day, every day. Do your best to work in some organs like liver, heart and kidney as they are crucial for vitamins and minerals. 

You should experiment with what you enjoy, but also ensure you are getting adequate fat and nutrients. 

Carnivore Diet tips to get you through month one

You should know that the first month is difficult. The first week, in particular, will be hard.

Here are three things to do and expect.

1. Get blood work done

Get your blood tested before you begin and at 6-week intervals while on carnivore. This look under the hood is crucial to see how your system is reacting to eating animal nutrition only. Consult your doctor or primary care provider about blood work and carnivore before proceeding. 

2. Expect appetite changes

Your appetite will fluctuate like crazy. Some days you’ll feel full and satiated. Other days you can’t get enough food in your mouth. Experts say that your appetite will adjust eventually.

3. Expect to feel awful

Much like the keto flu, you will feel like crap on the Carnivore Diet. This is because you are switching your primary fuel source from carbohydrates to protein and fat. 

Our bodies need time to adjust to ketosis. You’ll likely experience fatigue, irritability, headaches and flu-like symptoms. These will pass. 

Carnivore Diet Bottom Line

The Carnivore Diet is new and dangerous. There are no scientific studies backing to substantiate the claims and possible benefits of it.

If you are going to try it, do yourself a favor and get some bone broth before doing so in order to get enough hydration and electrolytes. You will thank me later.

You should be careful and do your research before trying it. It is restrictive in terms of foods, but also nutrients and minerals. 

You will have a hard time getting adequate vitamins and minerals while only eating animal-based foods. As such, proceed with extreme caution and under the guidance of a physician. 

FAQs about Carnivore Diet

Is the Carnivore Diet keto?

No, the carnivore diet is not keto. Eating that much steak and chicken will kick you out of ketosis. Why? Our bodies are cleverly designed to convert protein into carbohydrates for fuel via a process called gluconeogenesis. 

Can the Carnivore Diet heal leaky gut?

The carnivore diet may help your leaky gut. We do not have enough research or information. Some claim it helps improve gut health. Others believe it is damaging to gut health due to a lack of fiber and fermentable carbohydrates to see gut bacteria. 

Can the carnivore diet cure cancer?

No, the carnivore diet cannot cure cancer. 

Can you eat eggs on the carnivore diet

Yes you can eat eggs on the Carnivore Diet.

Can you do the carnivore diet without red meat

You can do the carnivore diet without red meat, but it is not recommended. Why? Red meat provides many beneficial vitamins, compounds and minerals to your body. These include iron, b vitamins and many other that you cannot get without it.

Can you do an all red meat diet?

You can do an all red meat diet, but there are significant health risks associated with it. Be sure to get bloodwork done before and during to measure how it is effecting you. You should also consult a doctor before doing so.

Why do I need salt on an all meat diet?

You need salt on an all meat diet because the diet is low in carbs and carbs are needed to store sodium and potassium. As such, your body will flush out electrolytes while eating animal based foods only. You must supplement or get enough natural sources of electrolytes to stay hydrated while on Carnivore. 

Does a carnivore diet work for athletes?

For strength-based athletes, the Carnivore Diet may work. For mixed sport (soccer, basketball, tennis) or endurance athletes, Carnivore Diet will not work. Your body needs carbohydrates to excel at any mixed or endurance sport. You are handicapping your performance on these sports by not eating carbs.

How long does it take to adapt to a carnivore diet?

A carnivore diet requires an adaptation period for your body to get used to it. Most people take 3 weeks or so to begin getting used to its effects on the body. There are many compounds that need to get reset.

Can you gain muscle on a carnivore diet

If you are working our correctly, then yes, you can gain muscle on the Carnivore Diet.

What are carnivore diet side effects?

Carnivore diet side effects include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, constipation, headache, hydration issues from fluid loss, dizziness, fatigue and insomnia. Some of these are short-term and will last for days to weeks.

Many of them are a result of electrolyte imbalances due to no carbs in your eating plan. It will take some trial and error to figure this out as ketosis and difficult to adjust to.

If any of these persist, you should consult your doctor.

What are the long-term side effects of an all meat diet?

The long-term side effects of an all meat diet include fatty liver, hypoproteinemia, kidney stones and vitamin deficiencies. Let's look at them in more detail below.

Fatty liver disease: occurs when fat accumulates in your liver and disrupts its normal function.

Hypoproteinemia: Abnormally low blood protein levels can be life-threatening.

Kidney stones: When your urine is too acidic, crystals can form in the kidneys and pass into urine.

Vitamin deficiencies: Vitamin and mineral deficiencies have very serious long-term health issues.

Disclaimer: this information is for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the FDA or CFIA. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any illness. Please consult your primary care physician for advice on any of this or the specific compounds mentioned in the article.

Photo by Matheus Gomes 

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