The Carnivore Diet: Zero Carb Ketogenic Diet

So what is all the hype over Carnivore? The zero-carb, somewhat “keto-ish” diet that lots of people are really enjoying and loving the results.

A carnivore /ˈkɑːrnɪvɔːr/, meaning “meat eater” (Latin, caro, genitive carnis, meaning “meat” or “flesh” and vorare meaning “to devour”), is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of animal tissue.

The carnivore diet – also known as the all meat diet or the carnivorous diet; entails eating almost nothing but meat for every meal, every day. That means a lot of protein, fat, and almost zero carbs. Any carbs come from non plant sources such as any trace amounts found in various curing methods in foods like bacon, pepperoni etc.

The carnivore diet is based on the theory that our ancestors ate mostly meat because it wasn’t energy efficient to gather a lot of fruit or vegetables. As a result, our bodies have evolved to run optimally on a meat-centric diet. So the theory goes.

From my experience it seems carnivore achieves a few things:

Reduces inflammation.
Better gut health
Relieves constipation (yup without needing to add fiber)
Drops water weight – reduces cortisol and inflammation
Better sleep
Better gym performance
Easier “weight” loss.
Solves digestion issues
…and some other non fat loss related things

Carnivore foods

Coming from 20+ yrs Keto to Carnivore this is the changes I made:

My keto foods:

Meats, some fish, no veggies (hate them), cheese, bacon, sausage, pepperoni, turkey, chicken, eggs, whey, casein protein powder, almonds, mixed nuts etc, nut butters, mayo, low cal ketchup, cottage cheese, powdered peanut butter from time to time to add to my whey protein, flax/chia/hemp seeds/meal etc.

My carnivore foods:

Meats; fish, bacon, pepperoni, turkey, chicken, sausage, etc

If you like to use protein powder supplements to meet your protein needs for the day you can use beef protein isolate and egg white or whole egg protein powder.

Eggs and cheese are okay for some and not for others; I did not incorporate them. So my food choices are simple. Meat and water.

I have been keto for over 20 years and started carnivore on 3/22/18. After starting strict carnivore for 7 days and I felt amazing, down 8lbs (lots of water) and just feel darn good. Coming from an already great feeling you get from keto, this was also unexpected since I already lost all the water weight from keto a long time ago.

Other notable things I experienced:

Great digestion/never any issues (whey and dairy and nuts would bloat me)

Never feel bloated or full, always feel good/empty in the stomach but not hungry.
Great energy.
VERY good workouts, great pump and energy.
No gas
No heartburn
Need less sleep
Don’t need as many electrolytes as I did on keto and less occurrence of headaches.

Why carnivore “works” for some

Helps breaks a “keto stall” (which is not really a stall just bad calorie tracking; read more HERE to learn why).

Since there are no foods to snack on or really over eat on, those foods that you forget to account for that add up to hundreds of calories a day are removed so weight loss starts again. You also lose water from reduced cortisol and inflammation and expelling all the bulk from veggies.

Helps digestion and inflammation, cortisol issues; possibly the biggest reason people do the diet. These things mostly cause water retention.

I decided to go strict carnivore mid March 2018 for a few reasons. I had been dieting since Thanksgiving 2017, a good solid 4 months. Weight was moving down but not as fast as prior dieting phases. Then for 6 weeks I kept losing and gaining the same 2 to 3 lbs. It was very odd because the way I diet is I lose a consistent 1 pound of fat per week.

It was odd because I NEVER stall. Me, stall? HA! cmon now I am a pro at dieting. Interesting tidbit: I also started doing less and less carb ups in fact I was maybe doing once a month and I still believe that’s one of the reasons why I was “stalling”. I had doing a CKD (Cyclical Ketogenic Diet) for over 20 years I never stalled, not once and I owe that to the switching it up with the sporadic carbohydrate refeeds and I was not doing that for the past 4 months. Agree or not I felt that was a factor for the problems I was experiencing.

I was also thinking maybe I was suffering from the perils of Adaptive Thermogenesis: stress, cortisol  inflammation, water retention – which in fact doesn’t mean you’re not losing fat but it’s not seen in the mirror or scale because of the water weight you’re holding onto while you’re losing fat (scale doesn’t move). *Trigger warning*: carbs as well as a diet break are one of the handful of tools used to help offset this for those who try to fix it.

Adaptive Thermogenesis often kicks in after you have been in a caloric deficit too long, too low, it’s a response to the stress of dieting. You’re body is trying to maintain homeostatic often referred to “set point theory”.  The biggest side effect seen other than inability to lose weight is holding onto a lot of water. I may or may not have experienced true Adaptive Thermogenesis but one of the side effects was the same, I was looking soft/holding water.

To fix this and drop the water etc I figured let me do what I used to do back in the 90s which was an Atkins “Fat Fast” (silly name but people know it) which is basically strict carnivore: meat and water and nothing else. I have people that I help that are stalled do these and it works wonders but I haven’t had to do one myself in decades.

As I mentioned about it works for a couple of reasons; it can help with cortisol issues, removes any sort of inflammation and water retention you’re having from any potential food allergies or sensitivities to dairy etc. Veggies often cause issues with people (no veggies on carnivore).

It also works for another reason: it’s a 100% strict tracking because you’re not snacking on anything because those snacks are not part of carnivore it’s meat and water and that’s it. No sneaking in some nuts or nut butter here and there, no cheese even whey protein is eliminated (replaced with beef protein isolate and egg and egg white protein powder if need be). So the biggest snack foods (calories) and water retention, inflammation offenders are eliminated.

Cyclical Carnivore Diet

In 2+ months doing this I have adapted it to my style and been having great success for what I coined the term “Cyclical Carnivore Diet” aka CCD.

In fact it’s quite genius because on a regular keto diet (or any diet) you’ll find a couple of things; you’ll find people like me that cycle carbs sporadically (CKD) and then you’ll find people like me or just your average keto dieter who does not cycle carbs but that has episodes where they’re craving carbs very bad. The great thing about carnivore; I don’t crave carbs but once in awhile I do crave standard ketogenic macros/foods which is such a beautiful thing because if you go off plan for one day – who cares because you’re eating standard ketogenic macros within your caloric limit and can still lose fat. Your “cheat meal” is not a cheat at all.

So what I’ve been doing is 5 days on 2 days off for 6 days on 1 days off where I go super strict carnivore all week (meat and water) and then one or both days over the weekend I just eat my standard keto macros. I don’t add veggies back since I never ate them anyway but typically involves a lot more cheese and nuts, flax meal, whey protein for my “protein sludge”.

It gives the same effect that I had on a cyclical ketogenic diet with regards to mentally staying the course and always looking forward to the weekend and not eating junk on the weekend. It does wonders for diet adherence. In fact this is the longest I have gone in decades without a “carb up” and I will see how this goes and how long I will do it.

So for those looking to change things up or maybe you feel you are having some food intolerance issues, holding water or just stuck at a certain bodyweight for too long; going carnivore, even if for only a short while may be just the thing you need.

To learn more visit the Facebook group:

Atkins Fat Fast | Egg Fast | Beef and Butter Fast

What is a Fat Fast

Atkins Fat Fast, Egg Fast, Beef and Butter Fast for all intents purposes for this blog post these will be treated as one in the same with regards to the reasons why they are done and the results they are purported to provide.

From time to time we see these phrases or dietary protocols thrown around that some people like to incorporate into their keto lifestyle to accelerate their weight loss or break through a “stall”.  Decades ago Dr. Atkins would recommend his patients try a fat fast if they were extremely insulin resistant and had a hard time getting into ketosis or having a stall for longer than 3 weeks. Even though most “stalls” really are not stalls at all (read more about that here).

The original “Fat Fast” designed by Dr Atkins consisted of a 3 to 5 day cycle in which you consume around 1,000 calories a day. 85%-90% of those calories would come from fat. In addition, Dr Atkins preferred people eat 4-5 small meals per day instead of 1-2 larger ones during the fat fast.

Unlike, Atkins’ general advice of eat all you want (until satisfied) and just count carbs, the Fat Fast is a calorie, carb and protein restricted approach where one eats a very narrow range of fat-based foods for a short period of time.

Why the fat fast works

The fat fast is often (but not always) lower calorie than what you were previously consuming. Atkins had people keep calories at around 1,000 and the typical Atkins dieters on their normal days kept calories between 1,500-1,800/day. So this large reduction of calories down to 1,000 calories/day will of course cause weight loss.

It is a nearly carb free protocol, so even more water is lost similar to when a keto dieter first starts a ketogenic diet; hence scale weight drops. This is also good for those who are very carb sensitive and need to severely restrict carbs to become fat adapted, be efficient at using fat for fuel or enter ketosis at all (even thought ketosis does not equal fat loss as discussed here)

Typically most dairy type of foods (but not always) are removed during the fast, especially during egg and beef and butter fasts. Those sensitive people who remove dairy during the fat fast will have better results due to reduced water/cortisol/inflammation. Certain individuals are sensitive to dairy as well as certain protein sources that leads to inflammation and water retention. The removal of these foods often cause a large drop in water weight rather fast.

Removing any sort of plant based foods, veggies, nuts, etc will also help offset inflammation, bloat and water retention; for those sensitive to these things.

So in essence the “fat fast” was a quick way to drop water weight.

On average the typical dieter would lose around 1lb a day (of scale weight) on a fat fast. It’s rather hard to lose pure fat that fast, especially for someone who has already been dieting and losing weight for a while; so it is mostly water. It could though lead to more weight loss and a higher percentage of it being fat if one was to do the “fast” (large deficit) longer.

In my opinion, a huge reason why the fat fast works is because it requires precision with tracking, no snacking or cheating. You are taking a person who may not be counting those nuts they eat here and there, maybe some food they picked on while making dinner, maybe a few tbsp of heavy cream in their coffee etc. Often 500-600 calories a day are going “unnoticed” or unaccounted for by the typical keto dieter. So this removes all those “mysterious calories” that you are eating and did not realize and thus stalling your weight loss.

Dr Atkins was very specific in saying the Fat Fast is a calorie, carb and protein restricted approach where one eats a very narrow range of fat-based foods. This makes a person track with near precision and not “lazy keto” as we call it. So those extra 500+ calories are no longer being consumed and yet another reason why these fat fasts “work”; the people are eating less.

The Fat Fast is a controlled carb program where you COUNT CALORIES. (Atkins, Robert C. Dr Atkins’ New Diet Revolution. New York, 2002. 272-274.)

From the Atkins official web site:

The Fat Fast is a low-calorie, high-fat program (1,000 calories/day and 80% fat).

*They do not recommend the Fat Fast without medical supervision.
*All it does is shift water balance.
*You will see the scale move, but as soon as you start eating normally again, some weight will creep back often to the same starting point.

Typically the way we did the fat fast in the early 1990s was just have lots of meat and water, basically a zero carb carnivore diet; a “carnivore fast”. Things like ground beef, sausage, bacon etc. No condiments, no mayo, ketchup, sauces (regardless of how low carb they were) etc. This did work well, it did result in “scale weight loss”.

The “eat more fat” segment of the ketogenic world

These “fat fasts” are what I blame for all the misinformed keto dieters who chant “eat more fat” to accelerate fat loss because they heard from the 80’s and 90’s that FAT fasts causes people to lose weight (not fat) and break through a stall; they assumed it was the fat intake causing the weight loss. But it was not. They also assumed it was fat loss, it is not. It was lower calories and water loss that caused the weight loss during the “fast”. Do this too long (high fat, low protein) and then you start losing muscle, hence more “scale weight” loss. Not a good idea.

So are these “fasts” a gimmick”?

Yes and no.

They are not fasts because a fast is the act of not eating. If you are eating you are not fasting. Period.

I think the word fast is thrown in there to imply your body will be acting as if it is fasting and magically lose weight super fast while you are still “eating”. So who really knows. They are though very gimmicky, “egg fast”, “beef and butter fast” there is even a “avocado fast”. These are just wacky names for those who feel they need some gimmick to lose weight when in fact all they need is proper tracking of their daily food intake and consistency. Nothing else.

The #1 reason deiters fail is because lack of consistency in their diet. Understand that all diets work, it is the dieter that has an issue adhering to the diet and the reason for less than desirable results on most “diets” a person follows.

I would avoid doing these things, which are often short term and stick with a sensible long term way of eating; ie ketogenic diet with tracking your food intake. The ketogenic diet is regarded to be superior to just about any other dietary protocol with regards to adherence. Adhering to the diet, adhering to the meal plan/food choices, adhering to the being able to control your food intake ie; maintain a caloric deficit. So don’t try to fix what isn’t broken.

Do you need a fat fast to break a stall?


Or better yet understand what it is and why it works:

It is lower calorie then your previous intake.
It is nearly zero carbs.
It is limited food choices.
It requires you to count calories.
It results in a large caloric deficit.
It often reduces water retention, inflammation

BUT you can do that without having to partake in some fancy named short term dietary gimmick.

How? By tracking everything you eat so there is no guessing and no cheating on your diet.

Avoid snacking, avoid eating while you prepare meals. Nuts, and nut butters are notorious for pushing people over their daily caloric maintenance. A serving size is so small that most people hardly ever keep it to “one serving”. Also they taste great and have a “Doritos effect” where you can’t have just one. Stop using so much creamer and heavy cream or “BPC” coffee that just results in a huge amount of often nutrient void calories. So in essence, control/watch your food intake.

If you would like to learn more how to overcome a stall on a ketogenic diet click here.

BUT before you go… what if there WAS a super effective “fancy named short term dietary (non gimmicky) protocol” that would ensure you not only break through a stall but to lose fat at an accelerated rate?

Good news; there is one.

Enter, The Protein Sparing Modified Fast.

First developed in the 1970s, the PSMF has been fined tuned by Lyle McDonald in his Rapid Fat Loss Handbook and is regard by those in the health and fitness and dieting world as the gold standard and most effective fat loss protocol that has ever been put down on paper.

To read more about the PSMF click here.