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You’re starting the carnivore diet, also known as the zero carb diet or all meat diet. Not to be confused with the ketogenic diet, let me explain the difference and give you the ultimate meal plan.
Maybe you’ve flicked through The Carnivore Diet book by Shawn Baker in a store and were inspired to give the diet a go after reading testimonials from people who have treated their depression, anxiety, arthritis, obesity, diabetes, and more. If you’ve followed other diets to lose weight only to put it back on again later on, maybe this diet is what you need to achieve your weight loss goals and build lean muscle mass.
Whether you’re just annoyed by vegans, trying to cure a chronic illness, or wanting to protect yourself from heart disease, the carnivore diet may be the remedy. If you enjoy eating meat and you’re wise to the health benefits of doing so, a high protein, low carb, meat-only diet could work for you.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably not someone who can slurp down two bowls of pasta and a beer and feel fine the next day. If you are, well, screw you, I’m jealous.
Countless times I woke up feeling like a steamroller had just run over me after the wrong meal. Eyes red with eczema flare-ups and an impending date with my toilet.
I was tired of it. I was always tired, in general.
It was time for a change.
It can be a significant change to move to such an extreme diet.
When I started to follow the carnivore diet, this is the guide I would have loved. Here are some tips that I discovered that will help you transition to the diet.
Before we go on, disclaimer: this is not medical advice and I am not a doctor. Please make sure to work with a doctor before making any changes.
An Important Update On My Carnivore Diet (2021)
If you’ve been following me on social media, you’ll know that I’ve recently moved away from a strict carnivore diet.
The carnivore diet helped me tremendously for 2 years, especially with some of my gut issues.
But earlier this year, I started to hit a wall.
My thyroid levels fell (specifically t3), my sleep quality declined, my gut health deteriorated, and it was a clear signal it was time to move on.
After doing some more research, I realized that carbohydrates were not the enemy they were made out to be. And that they were often mistakenly disparaged because high carb foods are also loaded with other gut irritants (like starches, and lectins) and components that are not great for health.
Adding back in easily digestible carbohydrates in the form of fruit juice and honey tremendously helped my health.
The foundation of my diet is still everything you’ll find below, but I now eat about 150g – 250g of carbohydrates a day.
If you’re interested in learning more about my views on carbohydrates, check out this article here.
As always, feel free to reach out with any questions too on social media or over email.
I still think that a carnivore diet can be helpful as an elimination diet for very short periods of time, but then it’s worth adding carbohydrates back in.
Now, onto the meal plan…
What Can You Eat on the Carnivore Diet?
The carnivore diet is a radical elimination diet.
By centering the diet around foods we’ve physiologically adapted to eat over 100s of thousands of years, it can reduce inflammation.
Reducing inflammation is one of the core pillars of the diet. Inflammation can cause leaky gut and many other “incurable” issues that the carnivore diet has successfully cured, like Crohn’s disease and Rheumatoid arthritis.
The key is to start as simple as possible and then add in other foods later once you see improvements.
The Ruminants. #The Ruminati
Think of your favorite machine on earth. Is it the iPhone? The car? Wrong and wrong.
The best machine on earth is the ruminant. Objectively.
They are machines that convert cellulose, which is indigestible by humans, into energy and nutrient-dense and TASTY food for humans. This cellulose covers a substantial portion of the globe and would just go to waste without the ruminant digestive system.
One cow + water + ambient sunlight can feed a human for an entire year. Take that, Edison!
The Carnivore Diet centers around these four-legged magical creatures.
Ruminants are the Holy Grail of the Carnivore Diet
How do they conduct this sorcery?
Digestion occurs sequentially in a four-chambered stomach. The cellulose and plant material first makes its way into part of the digestive system called the Rumen. Here it is processed mechanically and exposed to bacteria that ferment and break down the cellulose. Hence the name Ruminant.
Cellulose contains a lot of energy, but most animals do not have the enzymes to break it down. Cue bacteria that steps in to do the hard work, breaking down the cellulose.
Fun fact: One drop of rumen fluid has 10x more microbes than all people on earth.
The rest of their digestive system processes and breaks down the plant matter further. The ruminant digestive process takes cellulose plant matter, ferments it into short-chain fatty acids to energize the cow, and ultimately stores that as bioavailable nutrients for humans to eat.
Even though the cows are not eating a high-fat diet, they’re getting all of their energy from the fat that the bacteria creates.
This digestive process results in the best combination of nutrients and energy for humans to eat.
Unlike pigs, fish, and fowl, which do not have a rumen (they’re “simple stomached”), ruminants are better suited to handling the plant waste.
Ruminants can eliminate plant-based chemicals and toxins from their digestive systems so that the food we eat is free of them.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is also only found in ruminants. The bacteria in their digestive system are vital to the formation of CLA, which is why it appears almost exclusively in ruminants.
Studies show CLA has benefits, including:
- Reduced atherosclerosis
- Enhanced immune system
- Prevention and treatment of diabetes
- Weight reduction; reduced body fat and increase body protein
- Enhanced bone formation
The body cannot manufacture CLA. So if you want the benefits, you need to eat high protein beef every day.
Before we go further if you want my guide to mastering the carnivore diet, sign up below
Additionally, if you’d like to join 20,000 others who I’ve guided through the 30-day carnivore diet challenge, learn more here.
Fatty Steaks Are the Perfect Food on the Zero Carb Diet
What is the perfect food?
Optimized diets center around three things:
- Energy: Fat / Carbs
- Nutrient density: Micronutrients
- Lean Muscle Mass Gain: Protein Targets
(I’ll assume that everybody on this diet is trying to gain lean muscle mass and not just lose weight. It is one of the most important ways to improve health and extend longevity. If you’re not yet, start now.)
Because of the ruminant digestion process, beef checks all three of these boxes.
Consuming cow meat is the best and most bioavailable source of every single nutrient.
Cuts of meat have that are high in fat: protein ratio and high nutrient density.
Beef ribeye has equal grams of protein and fat, which equate to about 70% fat and 30% protein by calories. This ratio is close to our hunter-gatherer ancestors, who ate high amounts of protein – anywhere from 20% to 35% of calories from protein.
A common issue on this meat diet is not getting sufficient fat. I benefited when I started eating closer to 80% animal fat.
If you’re eating too little fat, you may suffer from what Viljammur Stefannson called rabbit starvation, resulting in unsavory symptoms like headaches, lethargy, and diarrhea. In fact, too much protein is one of the most common causes of diarrhea when transitioning to the carnivore diet.
Make sure to look for cuts of beef that are close to equal grams of fat and protein.
The best cuts of beef to eat are:
- Ribeye steak
- Ground beef
If you’re doing the carnivore diet on a budget, go for the ground beef and roasts over ribeye steak. However, experiment with fat intake because, with ground beef, you may be getting substantially less fat.
Compared to other animals, ruminants and beef have a better omega 6: omega 3 ratio, which affects inflammation. Pork bacon has 8000mg of Linoleic acid, whereas there is only 159mg for beef.
Here’s what you need to know: beef is also much higher in almost every single nutrient than pork bacon.
Eating organ meat is a controversial topic, but you may need to be eating organs on the carnivore diet. Optimal nutrition comes from eating an entire animal, nose to tail. One part of it does not contain sufficient nutrients.
Eating animal meat, including muscle and organ meat, should make sense intuitively. A full animal contains all the nutrients it needs to function. Eating the whole animal provides us with all of those nutrients.
Beef liver is nature’s multivitamin. It’s by far and away the most nutritious food you can eat. It stores and filters several essential nutrients. Eating beef liver is one of the 16 reasons why the carnivore diet works.
Beef liver is packed with Vitamin A, B, C, K, and other essential nutrients for the brain.
At first, I was terrified of eating beef liver. There were horror stories about the taste.
But adding organ meats like liver to my diet supercharged my energy and made my skin look better than someone fresh out of botox treatment.
If you’re just eating steaks, you may be deficient in Vitamin A, C, K, and copper.
(However, with that being said, our RDAs are completely wrong. Many carnivores have survived without beef liver. BUT, for optimal health, I’d add it in)
The problem is that until now, beef liver has tasted like something on Fear Factor. I changed that with my brand new beef liver crisps. They’ve now helped over 1000 people experience the benefits of adding beef liver to their every day diet. If you’re interested in trying them, check them out below.
Carnivore Diet Food List
Here’s a list of food you can eat on the carnivore diet:
- Organ meat
- Bone broth
Above is a carnivore diet food list.
If you want to learn more about why these foods are appropriate, check out the ultimate carnivore diet food list.
Ruminants are king on this diet. As much as possible, I suggest eating fatty ruminant cuts.
However, when adapting, I found that it was helpful to add in other animals too. I know, I’m a real daredevil.
Incorporating other animal meat helped me transition gradually to the ultimate carnivore lifestyle. On an ongoing basis, I stick to beef and lamb 95% of the time. Who doesn’t love lamb chops?!
As you progress further through the carnivore diet, you’ll also want to add some glycine containing foods.
Carnivore Diet Meal Plan
Now for the fun stuff. How should you plan your meals every week?
The goal with this plan will be to transition you from more variety in meat to less. But still cut out the inflammatory foods.
When you start the carnivore diet and are mainly eating only meat, many people experience gut issues like diarrhea and constipation. But think of this like burning off the deadwood. It’s only short term. Growth always comes with pain. Don’t let these pains in your butt stop you.
With that being said, my carnivore meal plan is formulated to minimize the gut pain you experience.
My philosophy is to jump right in and go cold turkey on the vegetables and carbohydrates.
If you’re addicted to something, it doesn’t make sense to have a little bit of it. You don’t tell an alcoholic it’s okay to have a shot of vodka before bed.
However, when it comes to meat, you may want to try starting with more variety so that you don’t quit out of boredom as you transition. Over time, however, you’ll come to love beef, and most cravings can and should go away.
These are just suggestions. Use this as a template. You don’t need to follow it to a tee.
Carnivore Diet Meal Ideas: Week 1
Here are some meal ideas for a week on the carnivore diet. From lamb chops to ribeye steak and ground beef, week one also includes pork and fish—no plant foods in sight.
How Much to Eat on the Carnivore Diet?
Throw away your calorie counter with the veggies. Counting calories isn’t the magic bullet for weight loss or losing body fat like many people think it is.
Typical weight loss fights tell you to stop eating despite your hunger. Ignore this. Eat until you’re full. The only tip that was helpful for me is to eat sufficient animal fat every day.
If you find yourself with an insatiable hunger, you may not be eating enough high fat meat. If this is you, try eating fat first to satiation, then adding in the muscle meat after.
Many people end up eating 1-2 lbs of meat a day. Mine was much higher with lower fat, and vice versa.
Carnivore Diet Shopping List: Week 1
When I shop, I open up a spreadsheet and map out how many meals I plan to eat of each animal foods and the amount per meal.
Assuming that each meal consists of ~16oz of beef (you’ll figure this out over time), I calculate the total amount to bulk buy.
Creating a spreadsheet on a computer is precisely how our hunter-gatherer ancestors did it too….lol, kidding.
If you want to add some variety to your carnivore diet beyond what’s below, check out my top 10 favorite carnivore diet recipes.
Based on the calendar above, you’ll need to buy the following amounts in the right-hand column:
Sample Meal Plan: Week 2
Here’s another sample meal plan for the carnivore diet. I introduce organ meat alongside the usually ground beef:
Carnivore Diet Grocery List: Week 2
Based on the week two meal plan, you’ll need to buy the following amounts in the right-hand column:
Other Shopping to Do
A superhero is nothing without his superpowers. You need your carnivore toolkit
Where to Shop for Food on the Carnivore Diet?
Here are some places where you can buy the things you need to get started on the carnivore diet:
- A local grocery store or butchers shop
- Farmers market
- Chain: Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Costco
- Eatwild.com and Localharvest.org are an excellent source for local farms.
Carnivore Diet Recipes: How to Cook Your Meat?
Cooking? That’s for modernized losers?
Yes, some people do eat raw meat. But that’s not what I recommend.
There are many options for how to cook your meat. If you have a particular method for cooking organ meats, ribeye steak, or ground beef, fire away. If you want to learn how to cook organ meats to make them taste amazing, check out my recent blog on the subject.
But you should make sure not to overcook your meat. Treat your steak with love and care. You want your steak to stay juicy when you’re finished cooking it.
If you overcook your meat, you can reduce the nutrient content. Cooking can sometimes lessen the following nutrients from meats like ribeye steak or lamb chops:
- Water-soluble vitamins: Vitamin C and the B vitamins
- Fat-soluble vitamins: Vitamins A, D, E, and K
- Minerals: Primarily potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium
I prefer rare to medium rare for meats and steaks. It allows more flavor to come out. And if you’re feeling adventurous, here are my top favorite liver recipes.
What Food to Avoid on the Carnivore Diet?
At first, we want to keep the diet as simple as possible so you can get to a good baseline.
Avoid the following:
- Anything that’s not meat or salt.
- Vegetable oils.
- At first, don’t eat chicken. The macronutrient profile is inferior to the other options above.
- Processed meats contain too many additives. Look out for nitrates and nitrites, and avoid them.
- No dark chocolate at first. Sorry.
- Bitching and moaning.
Wait, vegetables? Yes, you read that right. Vegetables are loaded with endogenous pesticides that can irritate you. Abrasive compounds like oxalates, which can cause kidney stones. Goitrogens damage your thyroid. And lectins, which destroy your gut. Eight ubiquitous vegetables destroy you from the inside.
The goal is to cut out as much as possible and then do a controlled test by adding it back later to see if you can tolerate it.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Grass Fed or Grain Fed?
“You should eat grass fed meat because it’s higher in Omega 3’s”. I hear this all of the time.
But from an omega 3 / omega 6 perspective, it’s not necessary. Grass fed beef is indeed higher in omega 3’s, but the absolute differences are minuscule. If you’re concerned about omega 3’s, you shouldn’t be getting them from beef anyway. You need salmon roe and fish instead.
The omega 6 quantity is dwarfed relative to the other foods in most people’s diets. By cutting out foods like Tofu, Walnuts, and most importantly, soybean oil, your omega 3 / omega 6 ratio will be better than 99% of the population.
When it comes to nutrients, I wouldn’t worry either about the feed of the steaks and cuts of beef you consume. Red meat, regardless of feeding regimen, is highly nutrient-dense. Grass fed fat is higher in nutrient concentration, but grain fed beef tends to have more fat, which may even things out.
Long time carnivore Amber O Hearn, for example, doesn’t go out of her way to consume grass fed red meat.
However, with that being said, when consuming fat directly (like bone marrow or beef tallow), you should eat grass-fed.
Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat-soluble and are thus primarily stored in the animal’s fat. When you’re consuming fat directly, for both taste and nutrient density, I recommend grass fed beef.
Additionally, Vitamin A retinol is converted from the carotenoids in plant foods and tends to be more concentrated in grass fed beef. Given you’ll be getting the bulk of vitamin A from beef liver, I also recommend grass fed beef liver.
Hormones are also not something to worry about either. Cattle metabolizes and expels them rapidly and does not store substantial quantities relative to the other foods in our diet.
However, with all this being said, from an environmental and ethical perspective, grass fed and pasture-raised beef is better. If you can afford it, you should support local farmers.
- Don’t worry about buying meats like grass fed steaks unless money is not an issue, and you care about it from an ethical perspective.
- Eat grass fed beef tallow, bone marrow, and beef liver. Nutrient density and taste are better.
Learn more about grass fed vs. grain fed beef here.
What About Coffee and Tea?
Some carnivores still drink coffee; studies have found tea and coffee can cause inflammation and gut permeability issues.
However, some people have crippling coffee addictions. If this is you, don’t cut it out at first. It will cloud the results of the carnivore transition.
If you think you can go a week without coffee and tea without ripping your boss’s head off, try slowing consumption and transitioning out. Especially if there’s something specific you’re trying to treat.
Eggs and Dairy?
Both eggs and dairy products can be inflammatory triggers for some people. But you know your body best. It’s up to you to make that call.
Egg whites contain protective proteins that can irritate the gut, trigger autoimmune disease, and cause acne. Egg whites are one of the most prevalent allergies, affecting 1-3% of the population.
When I eat eggs, I try to filter out the yolk and eat that alone. The yolk is much more nutritious anyway. And the funny part is that it’s the exact opposite of what most people try to do.
Dairy can cause inflammation for two reasons: lactose and dairy proteins. If you’re just lactose intolerant, you can try hard cheeses and fermented products that have had lactose fermented away. If that still irritates you, you should drop the dairy altogether because it’s likely the proteins that bother you.
On the first 15-30 days of the carnivore diet, given how frequently eggs and dairy cause inflammation, you should not eat either. If you feel great after your first month, then experiment with adding them back.
What Should I Eat for Breakfast When on the Carnivore Diet?
It’s a misconception that you need to eat three full meals per day.
Yes, breakfast is not the most important meal of the day. I discuss this more in detail, where I talk about the fasted and fed states.
When to Eat on the Carnivore Diet?
At first, eat when you’re hungry. Over time, you’ll probably find that you only need 1 to 2 meals per day. But experiment with this later on.
However, I’m also a proponent of intermittent fasting. In addition to lowering insulin (which you already do on this diet), it activates the AMPK pathway and down-regulates mTOR.
This is why the carnivore diet may be able to reverse insulin resistance. And reversing insulin resistance is the MOST critical thing to do if you want to prevent disease in the long term.
Intermittent fasting is something to experiment with later on after transitioning to the carnivore diet.
My schedule is the following:
- Eat for 8 hours per day.
- Fast for 16 hours per day
Most people on the carnivore diet do not feel the need to snack. But if you’re looking for something to munch on, here are my six favorite carnivore diet snacks.
Other Minor Optimizations to the Carnivore Diet Meal Plan
A few other notes on what to eat that helped me:
- I upped my fat intake to 80%.
- Bone marrow is an excellent source of DHA.
- Salt foods copiously when transitioning. Salt will help with dehydration and keto flu (when you become a carnivore, you’ll be in ketosis). Over time your electrolytes will normalize, and you can reduce electrolyte supplementation.
To some people’s surprise, some supplements can help with the carnivore diet, especially when transitioning. The carnivore diet has most of the nutrients you need, but if you want to ensure all your bases are covered, check out these carnivore diet supplements.
Other Animal Products to Add Later
Beef is highly nutritious, irritates people the least, has an excellent fatty acid profile and fat content, and most importantly, is TASTY.
At first, I stuck almost entirely to beef. BUT…you may get bored.
However, as mentioned, center the carnivore diet around beef and ruminants, especially at first.
After the first 30 days on the carnivore diet, you can experiment with adding more foods to your diet.
(I’d also add eggs, dairy, and bacon to the list below).
You’ve got this.
If you feel like quitting, message me immediately. Remember how much of a badass you are.
Wait, why am I even wasting my time. You’re a badass. You won’t even think about quitting
Disclaimer: this is not medical advice and I am not a doctor. Please make sure to work with a doctor before making any changes.