Complete Guide: How to Start a Carnivore Diet

“You eat nothing but meat?

This is the question friends, family, and strangers frequently ask me as they look on with bewilderment and maybe a little bit of curiosity.

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Of course, in the beginning, I went out of my way to defend my choices, but now, I nod and reply, smiling, “don’t worry too much about me.”

To be clear, Carnivores are not dogmatic. Most are following a lifestyle without plants simply because there are many compounds in plans that over time, can significantly degrade our health. This is especially true today due to the methods used in producing commercial crops.

Michael Pollen’s book In “Defense of Food” gives an eye-opening looking into the extraordinary mechanisms plants use to protect themselves.

Carnivores tend to be open-minded and pardoning of other’s dietary choices. There are no hard feelings to anyone unlike themselves, and they likely won’t try to convince of their diet.

No matter the root of your carnivorous curiosity, this guide will tell you everything you need to know to get started.

There are many reasons why all-meat diets are receiving so much attention. Many have seen radical improvements in their health and performance, leaving those in the conventional-medicine community scratching their heads.

Benefits of the Carnivore Diet

Many people turn to a Carnivore Diet as a last resort to health problems they are battling. This diet is essentially the most comprehensive elimination diet conceivable, as it removes all potential plant toxins.

There are many improvements or complete reversals individuals following the Carnivore Diet experience. Some Carnivore Diet benefits include:

  • Brain fog elimination
  • Autoimmune condition reversal (Hashimoto’s,
    Lupus, etc.)
  • Clearing of digestive problems (IBS, Crohn’s, UC,
    general indigestion, acid reflux)
  • Increased energy and stamina
  • Weight loss
  • Increased lean muscle
  • Increased Testosterone
  • Cold and flu immunity
  • Relief from food allergies or intolerances

If you find battling any of these issues, the chances of you seeing beneficial results from a Carnivore Diet are high.

What Do You Eat On On a Carnivore Diet?

Meat

Meat usually accounts for the majority of the food consumed on a Carnivore Diet. Quality raised beef is a nutrient powerhouse, and the vitamins it contains have a much higher bioavailability than do the vitamins and nutrients found in plants.

All unprocessed meats are allowed, including deli meats without additives like sugar or nitrates.

  • Best: fatty meats (ribeye, pork shoulder, ground
    chuck, etc.)
  • Acceptable: Uncured bacon without additives

Organ Meats

Organ meats, like liver, are possibly the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. Vitamins that liver contains include:

  • Iron
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin A
  • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
  • Folate (Vitamin B9)
  • Copper
  • Choline

If you cannot find quality organ meats locally, I recommend supplementing
with beef liver capsules.

Many people do not like organ meats at first because they expect them to taste like muscle meats. Organ meats can be delicious, and once you change your expectations to be something novel, most people begin loving organ meats.

Other common organ meats you can include are kidney, heart, tongue, tripe, sweetbread.

Aside from the fact that organs have many beneficial nutrients, it is good to mention that our ancestors ate the entire animal when they managed to hunt one down, this included the muscle meat, bone marrow, organs… even the brain, intestines, and testicles. Eating brain provides everything we need in our own brains.

You don’t have to eat those last few, and you don’t have to eat organs at all. There are plenty of carnivores who solely eat muscle meat.

Fish

Fish are a great source of food, primarily if you can source locally. Many people live nowhere near a lake or ocean, so wild-caught fish from the store are great. Wild-caught sardines have everything we need to survive and can be shipped right to your door very inexpensively.

The healthiest fish are cold-water fish with high concentrations of DHA and EPA:

  • Best – Cold-water fish:
    • Salmon
    • Cod
    • Sardines
    • Herring
    • Mahi-mahi
    • Mackerel
    • Perch

Note: refrain from buying farm-raised salmon that is marked as “color added.”

Whole Eggs

Eat the whole egg because the fats in the yolk are beneficial to you, and the combined egg has a much higher protein utilization level than the white or yolk do individually.

Dairy

In general, carnivores believe dairy is okay, especially at the beginning of the diet. Dairy is problematic because a surprising percentage of the population is reactive to its proteins and sugars, like casein, whey, and lactose.

If you love the taste of butter, I recommend using ghee as a replacement. Ghee is a clarified form of butter, meaning there is a lower chance of it containing lactose or milk protein.

As is common knowledge now, lactose intolerance is pervasive and can contribute to:

  • Digestive issues:
    • Constipation
    • Diarrhea
    • Acid reflux
    • Stomach pain
    • Bloating/gas
  • Cognitive problems:
    • Brain fog
    • Fatigue
    • Headaches         

Dairy also hijacks our reward centers by providing us with a rare treat in the natural world: fat and sugar combined. Any food containing this combination is perceived as highly valuable to our brains.

For this reason, dairy can make it more difficult to distinguish when you are full and often pushes us to eat more than we intend to.

In the beginning, keeping dairy included can help you adjust, but eventually, you should remove it for a week or two and gauge if you feel any change. If there is no change, have all the dairy in the world!

Bone Broth

Bone broth is another excellent and nutritious food we can add. Here is where we find a great source of vitamins and minerals, namely:

  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin K
  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • Manganese
  • Magnesium

 

Kettle & Fire Bone Broth

Bone broth also is an excellent source of collagen, which is the protein that connective tissues in our body are composed of, think of collagen as the glue that holds our bodies together.

Collagen promotes skin youthful-looking skin, improves joint health, and can even reduce inflammation.

I highly recommend the bone broth Warrior Strong Wellness produces, as it is very high quality and doesn’t contain additives.

More Fat

Fat is a crucial component to succeeding on a Carnivore Diet. Therefore when eating meat, especially lean cuts of meat, extra fat needs to be added.

This fat can come from dairy fats like ghee but if you are looking to eliminate dairy, stick with animal fats like:

  • Tallow
  • Lard

If you aren’t comfortable buying the non-organic tallow or lard at your grocery store, there is high-quality, inexpensive tallow on Amazon.

Condiments

Some spices are okay in the beginning stages of the diet, but ideally, you should aim only to add salt to steaks. By eliminating all plants, including peppercorn, you can determine if there is any real improvement in health.

  • Salt
    • You may be surprised at how tasty fatty steak
      with just salt is.
  • Others
    • In Phase I and II, spices are okay.

Recommended Supplements

  • Magnesium: 250 – 500mg/day
    • Magnesium is the only mineral that can be difficult to obtain on a Carnivore Diet. When taken before bed, magnesium promotes relaxation and thus sleep quality.
  • Omega 3’s: Fish oil, krill oil, or salmon roe will cover your bases for DHA and EPA requirements
    • I recommend using salmon roe, as the fats are entirely uncompromised from their natural form.
    • Note: Grass-fed animals and fish have enough omega 3’s without needing to take a supplement.
  • Vitamin D3
    • Most people are deficient in vitamin D due to not being in the sun much.
  • Organ meat supplements (optional)
    • In case you want the beneficial vitamins from these meats but do not wish to eat them
  • Collagen
    • Collagen increases the bioavailability of the meats you are eating, especially if it is muscle meat. By adding collagen to a steak, the methionine-glycine ratio is more balanced, resulting in more of the protein being utilized for repair and building.

Salmon Roe – High in Omega 3’s

Sample Carnivore Meal Plan

At the beginning of the Carnivore Diet, eat whenever and whatever you want, so long as fats are eaten at every meal. Most carnivores eat twice per day, as these meals are generally large, but initially try to eat along the same schedule you have been, so that the adjustment is more
comfortable.

Even if you are transitioning from a ketogenic diet, “keto flu” symptoms are likely. Therefore, ensure proper mineral intake with salt, potassium, and magnesium.

Meal 1 – Breakfast: Scrambled whole eggs, extra ghee, salt, cheese (optional)

Meal 2 – Lunch: 1 lb. chuck steak w/ extra ghee and salt

Meal 3 – Dinner: 1 lb. ribeye w/ extra ghee and salt

Note: If fatigued after eating, add fats to each meal until
you feel energized afterward.

Protein Utilization of Various Animal Meats

Another reason to eat all parts of an animal comes from a protein absorption standpoint. Muscle meat contains a large number of amino acids, but without being in the necessary ratios, only a set amount of protein can be utilized.

When only eating muscle meat alone, the protein utilization amount is about %30. Eggs come out to have the highest utilization percentage at 50%, and whey protein is even lower with a utilization percentage of 17%. That means that only 17% of the whey protein shake you slam after workouts are absorbed, the rest is sent out as waste, burnt off, or converted to glucose and stored.

The protein absorption of muscle meat can easily be increased by adding collagen to the meat or drinking a collagen shake with a meal. Because of this, I sprinkle collagen on all of my steaks if I am only eating muscle meat.

Macronutrient Ratios

The macronutrient ratios of fat and protein are crucial in successfully adapting to a Carnivore Diet.

Our bodies are capable of operating on two sources of energy, glucose, and fat. The Carnivore Diet is a zero-carb diet, meaning no glucose in the body has been ingested in the form of carbohydrates. Glucose is still essential to some bodily functions, those primarily being in the brain, but the body is capable of converting proteins into glucose to meet this need.

Converting protein into glucose is an energy-intensive process, and for this reason, eating only protein on a Carnivore Diet can lead to increased fatigue and brain fog.

The solution is to provide the body with the fat that it was made to thrive on. To ensure we have enough fat, strive for at least a 1:1 ratio of fats-to-protein. Even better would be a ratio of 2:1, because fats are the primary source of energy in this diet.

Proteins can be very satiating, and when the ratio of fats-to-protein is too low, you will feel full but become lethargic after eating. This symptom is because you are filling up with proteins, which the body has a difficult time using as fuel.

Not eating enough fat will result in low adherence to this diet because you are essentially starving the body of all fuel.

Once we meet our daily protein needs the remaining food eaten should be fats, as excess proteins are burned off as heat or converted to glucose and if not used, stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles.

What to Expect When Adapting to the Carnivore Diet

Even if you are transitioning to the Carnivore Diet from a low-carb diet like the keto diet, you will likely experience some symptoms of carbohydrate withdraw or otherwise known as the “keto flu.”

This phenomenon is called the keto flu because the symptoms experienced are flu-like, including:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty sleeping

This period of adaptation is when the body is transitioning from operating on glucose to running on fats. The body flushes minerals during this process, and this significant loss of minerals accounts for the majority of symptoms experienced.

Therefore, most issues of the keto flu can be avoided by:

  • Adequate water intake
  • Supplementing with minerals:
    • Salt
    • Potassium
    • Magnesium
    • Calcium
  • Also including an electrolyte supplement like this

An easy way is to add salt to your water. Eventually, you will begin enjoying saltwater.

I like to buy this brand of salt, as it contains no microplastics from the ocean and has higher micronutrient contents than other salts.

Schedule Outline

To ensure you have a much higher chance of succeeding on a Carnivore Diet, this schedule will help with any adaptation issued you will face.

Review the carbohydrate withdraw symptoms section in addition to this one.

  • Phase 1 – Beginning to Week 3:
    • Immediately begin eating as close to a pure carnivore diet as possible.
    • Some foods are okay as you make the transition.
    • Eliminate carbohydrates. Expect keto flu symptoms after two days.
    • Coffee is okay for now.
    • Condiments without sugar are okay.
  • Phase 2 – Week 3 to 5:
    • Remove all plant foods.
    • Begin reducing coffee or caffeine intake.
    • Some spices are still okay.
  • Phase 3 – Week 5 and on:
    • Try to only eat animals, salt and the few supplements mentioned.

When to Eat on the Carnivore Diet

Eat when you are hungry.

A great thing about the Carnivore Diet is that you will be in mild ketosis all of the time, even after you punish a 20 oz juicy ribeye!

Ketosis is significant because you only become hungry when your body needs food, which has to do with the suppression of the hunger-signaling
hormone ghrelin.

Only being hungry when food is needed is different from the Standard American Diet (SAD), where blood sugar swings lead to most routine eating habits. The ups and downs you ride on the SAD are a result of carbohydrates and the insulin spikes around that. It’s why we can’t have one breadstick at the restaurant; one turns into two because our reward centers crave that.

The up and down rollercoaster is also a reason caffeine dependence is pervasive, and coffee is required to make it through the after-lunch or 2 pm feeling.

What Are the Best Sources of Pasture-Raised Meat?

Luckily today there are many sources of clean, pasture-raised animals. It is not necessary to purchase the highest quality meats if you are on a budget. Many carnivores function well only eating ground and shaved beef, as ground beef often costs $5.99 for 3 lbs. So it only costs $6 for food every day. Most peoples’ coffee cost $6.

Here are five sources where you can find high-quality meats:

  1. Local Butcher – ensure pasture-raised
    beef
  2. AmazonFresh
  3. US Wellness Meats (try the Braunschweiger)
  4. Thrive Markets
  5. Local Supermarket

Reasons Fasting Can Benefit a Carnivorous Diet

Ignore this section if you are new to this diet.

Once you are in Phase III of the diet for a period, you will want to aim for a daily fast of 16 hours. It will not be difficult if you are eating enough fat.

This 16 hour fast reduces the time of the mTOR pathway being activated. The mTOR pathway causes building and repairing to occur in the body, but excess growth signaling can fuel unwanted formations like cancer cells and aging in general.

mTOR is unavoidable, but there are ways to mitigate the effects, such as through a 16 hour daily fast.

Aside from the mTOR point, many doctors, such as Dr. Rhonda Patrick, have published articles and podcasts detailing the benefits that occur with time-restricted eating. Common benefits she cites are improvements in metabolic health and performance for both endurance and strength athletes.  

Frequently
Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

“Does meat need to be organic?”

No, in the beginning, regular grain-fed beef will be enough to get started. Ideally, organic, pastured meat is ideal, as these cows have higher concentrations of omega 3’s and were raised in a better environment than those raised in cattle feedlots.

“How Much Do You Eat on the Carnivore Diet?”

You eat whenever you are hungry. This amounts to twice per day for most people. The elimination of carbohydrates results in much lower ghrelin levels, which play a significant role in when we feel hungry.

“Do I have to eliminate coffee on a Carnivore Diet?”

Coffee was, in fact, the hardest part of a pure Carnivore Diet for me. I did not eliminate coffee from my diet until four months after beginning the Carnivore Diet. I did not feel there was a reason to until I was four months in, and I realized I still had a dependency on coffee to sustain my energy.

After five years of drinking three cups per day, I decided to quit cold turkey.

It was not easy, but it was surprisingly more relaxed than I thought it would be.

Coffee can be a massive help for those going through “keto flu” or carbohydrate withdraw symptoms in the initial stages of a zero-carb diet like the Carnivore Diet. Therefore, if you are caffeine depended, I suggest keeping coffee on the menu until you are a few weeks in. If you wish to remove coffee at that point, it is your call.

All of this is to say that you do not have to eliminate coffee but know that the coffee comes from the seed of the coffee plant, which is inside the coffee cherries.

We know that seeds are often the most highly defended part of plants and thus have some of the highest concentrations of plant toxins. Nuts are an example of this, as the cases of food allergies around nuts have skyrocketed. Not much has changed with nuts themselves in the last 50 years, but likely other environmental aggravators are causing the increase in food allergies.

Either way, no one is going to call you out and criticize you for not being a “real” carnivore for drinking coffee.

I know this book has been a big help to many people trying to kick their coffee addition.

“Don’t I need fiber to keep from becoming constipated?”

The research around fiber being beneficial to have regular bowel movements is not supported. This research paper shows the exact opposite. The participants in the study ultimately resolved all symptoms when fiber was eliminated from the diet.

In the beginning stages of the diet, many people report the exact opposite issue. Loose stool is a common symptom of the adaptation period in a Carnivore Diet.

“Vitamin C isn’t in meat, and don’t you need it to have a healthy immune system?”

There is, in fact, vitamin C in meat.

This is a commonly circulated myth about the Carnivore Diet. Although people have followed this diet for millennia, there are no documented cases of scurvy resulting from a well-composed carnivorous diet.

Aside from this point, Carnivore advocates like Dr. Paul Saladino are convinced that vitamin C is not necessary or beneficial to a “nose-to-tail” Carnivore Diet.

Anecdotally, when switching to this way of eating, you should expect a lower occurrence of the common cold and flu, as the immune system seems to be strengthened.

“How should I cook my meat?”

It is best to cook meat with the lowest temperature possible, so as not to cause excessive damage to the protein. Cooking ground beef at high temperatures can render it virtually useless, as almost all B vitamins are lost and then if the fat is also discarded, you have a mound of minimally renderable protein.

Try to use pressure cookers, slow cookers, or Sous Vide (I had to look up what that means too…) to avoid high temperatures and the carcinogenic compounds associated with cooking meat that way.

My favorite method is the pressure cooker, as you can transform a 3 lb, raw roast into a tender, delicious dish in just 45 minutes, with minimal nutrient loss.

I use this pressure cooker because it works perfectly and makes my life much more comfortable.

“How long does the keto flu last?”

Depending on the diet you are transitioning from, you may take a shorter or longer amount of time. If coming from a ketogenic or low-carb diet, expect to see minimal symptoms of carbohydrate withdraw. If transitioning from a high-carb diet, you could experience symptoms for a few days or a week, but certainly less than two weeks.

Most of these symptoms can be avoided with proper mineral intake.

“Does too much protein cause damage to your kidneys?”

This is a common myth and can be applicable in some cases. More often than not, there is no issue associated with consuming large amounts of protein. I suggest watching this video where Dr. Paul Saladino answers this exact question.

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