Carnivore Diet: Everything You Need to Know (Updated 2020)
Let’s face it. Vegetables suck.
You haven’t liked them since the first time your mom served you bland, microwaved broccoli.
You’re tired of having to starve yourself and eat like a rabbit when you want to be healthy.
Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to be a slave to plant foods to have the body, mind and energy you want.
The carnivore diet is the exact opposite of what we’re fed by today’s diet culture. Yet it has:
- Cleared people’s skin
- Supercharged energy
- Helped people drop weight faster than a vegan drops $16 on avocado toast
All while eating the juiciest, most flavorful, mouthwatering foods in the world.
It may not do these things for you, but it’s still too interesting to ignore.
Read more to learn everything you need to know about the carnivore diet: the benefits, meal plan, results and how it works.
What is the Carnivore Diet?
Everything You Need to Know
The carnivore diet is a high-fat, high-protein diet consisting mainly of animal products. Yes, that’s right. No more grains. No more sugar. No more vegetables. And no more bitching.
Wait, vegetables? The healthiest foods in the world? The foods God put on our beautiful earth so Karen from yoga could have her green smoothies?
It’s surprising, but you should be happy. After all, don’t we only eat salads for the dressing and the bacon bits? Let’s be honest.
The carnivore diet is a more restrictive variation of the ketogenic diet. It’s very low in carbs and will put you into ketosis, which has tremendous health benefits.
Some people say that if your ketones are high enough, you can talk to electricity. I haven’t confirmed this yet, but please let me know if you can.
The carnivore diet took the world by storm when Shawn Baker appeared on Joe Rogan’s podcast The Joe Rogan Experience. Dr. Baker is an athlete in his fifties, and to put it bluntly, he’s absolutely ripped.
I tried counting his abs but lost track at 3,412. He recently set two indoor rowing world records, and he attributes his success to the carnivore diet.
Other prominent advocates include clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson and his daughter Mikhaila – both have reversed lifelong autoimmune and mental health issues by adopting the carnivore diet.
I get it – this may be shocking at first. The carnivore diet preaches the exact opposite of all mainstream nutrition recommendations. We’re told to limit our meat intake and subsist mainly on whole grains and vegetables. But are we any healthier for it?
If you look at the state of health around the world, it shouldn’t be all that surprising that people are looking for a change. What everybody is doing is undoubtedly NOT working. And as I’ll argue, the exact opposite will. Eating meat. Cutting out plant foods. And walking backwards.
Think of this diet like Noah’s ark: if it’s an animal, hop on board. Noah left plants behind – why shouldn’t you?
Join me on this journey.
6 Carnivore Diet Benefits
How meat can transform your health
There are many potential benefits to trying the carnivore diet.
For some people, it’s cured the incurable. The carnivore diet erased diseases they had been plagued with for their entire lives:
For others, it’s the greatest biohack in the world. It’s like Superman putting on his cape, taking his energy, focus and mood to greater heights.
Carnivore diet potential benefits are too numerous to list here, but I’ve included the most important ones below:
“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.” – Henry David Thoreau
One of the biggest benefits of the carnivore diet is how simple it is. Simplicity is all about identifying what is essential and eliminating the rest.
Food doesn’t need to be complicated. Most diets practically require a PhD in “making shitty foods taste good,” sucking up valuable time and energy.
Even on Keto, for example, people spend countless hours counting their fat calories and devising ways to make their healthy dishes taste like the unhealthy ones they’re addicted to (I’m looking at you, cauliflower pizza).
I mean…look at this meal plan below? We’re not Michelin Star chefs!
Instead of spending hours preparing your meals and thinking about food, you can read a book. Start a business. Hang out with loved ones. Do the things that actually matter and use food as medicine to optimize your energy for the things that really matter.
#2 Might Improve Your Mental Health & Mood
The carnivore diet just may improve your mental health and mood. You don’t have to take my word for it, read Brett Loyd’s story here for a first-hand account of how the carnivore diet singlehandedly saved his life..
Studies show that the prevailing approach to mental health is ALL wrong. Pharmaceutical companies and doctors have persuaded you that mental health issues all arise from chemical imbalances.
Recent studies suggest that low serotonin levels are likely not the cause of depression[*]. So what is the true cause? Elevated inflammatory markers and nutrient deficiencies have been implicated[*] [*].
The carnivore diet helped some people to reverse these issues.
Brett Lloyd, for instance, was prescribed dozens of different medicines over the course of 25 years. None worked, but the carnivore diet cured him in 25 days.
The carnivore diet may reverse inflammation by cutting out all the junk you’re intolerant to: seed oils, fructose, glucose, and even many vegetables (like nightshades).
Ketones like beta-hydroxybutyrate help to reverse inflammation [*]. (For those wondering, Ketones are like rocket fuel your body produces when it switches from burning carbohydrates, to burning fat as fuel).
#3 The Carnivore Diet Might Supercharge Your Energy
I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that the Carnivore Diet turned me into the Energizer Bunny. Literally. I might as well have grown bunny ears and started playing the drums.
Why? Inflammation and nutrient deficiencies can also lead to fatigue.
Nutrients aren’t just those things on the back of your food label. They’re fuel for your mitochondria, the metabolic engine for your cells. When you don’t get sufficient amounts of protein, vitamins and nutrients, your body slowly sputters to a halt.
This study found that people with chronic fatigue have low levels of carnitine [*]. The best source of carnitine? Red meat.
Furthermore, the foods you’ve replaced your red meat with may be throwing a wrench in your mitochondria engine as well.
For instance, studies have found that people with fatigue have higher levels of omega 6 fatty acids [*].
One culprit: seed oils. Seed oils are cooking oils made from processing seeds like corn and canola. Throughout the 1900s, consumption of these seed oils skyrocketed as people replaced “dangerous saturated fats” with them. Turns out they’re loaded with these omega 6’s and may contribute to many chronic diseases.
Lastly, ketones are superfuel for your brain. They have more ATP per gram than glucose, and they lead to more efficient energy usage. Why would you submit your brain to glucose sludge when you could power it with high-octane ketones?
#4 The Carnivore Diet May Increase Weight Loss
The carnivore may be one of the best ways to lose weight.
Studies show that the main causes of weight gain include:
(1) Persistently elevated insulin, locking your body fat in storage mode
(2) Eating processed foods that throw off your innate satiety mechanisms (your internal fullness signals) therefore causing you to eat more than food than you need.
The carnivore can potentially help to eviscerate these issues.
First and foremost, it reduces insulin levels by removing all foods on the Mount Rushmore of glycemia.
A Virta Health study on the ketogenic diet revealed that 94% of subjects with Type 2 Diabetes were able to eliminate or reduce their insulin dosage after starting the diet.
Body fat isn’t just a fashion statement – it’s supposed to be stored for later energy use. But when insulin is perpetually elevated, body fat is locked into storage.
When insulin levels fall, you shed body fat for fuel.
The second punch: cutting out processed junk and powering yourself off of protein, fat and ketones will reduce your hunger. You’ll be more satiated even at a lower caloric intake.
This study, for instance, found that simply eating processed foods increased caloric intake by an average of 500 calories a day [*].
This is why some people on the carnivore diet are losing 50+ pounds, even without exercise.
#5 The Carnivore Diet May Help Your Skin
Acne is not natural. It’s a disease of western civilization – that’s why a 2002 study found that 0 out of 1200 Kitavan Islanders of Papua New Guinea had acne, while over 90% of 16-18 year olds in Westernized societies do [*].
I wasted thousands of dollars on acne meds and countless hours trying to dissect my pimples like a surgeon.
In reality, all I needed to do was change my diet.
Remember the phrase “you are what you eat?” If you eat junk, your skin will be junk. If you eat good foods, you’ll have good skin. If you eat porcelain, your skin will look like porcelain… okay, maybe not.
Studies show that you break out because of inflammation and nutrient deficiencies that increase sebum production [*]. Both of these things cause a hormonal explosion that results in a big, red pimple right before that first date.
The carnivore can help with inflammation and provides you with copious amounts of nutrients:
- Vitamin A (if you eat beef liver): Vitamin A is the most important nutrient for your skin’s health.
- Vitamin E
How do you think my skin looks so good?
#6 The Carnivore Diet May Help Prevent Chronic Disease
Insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia are related to almost every disease [*]:
It may not cause them all. But at the very least, persistently high insulin levels exacerbate them.
Good news: you may be able to reverse insulin resistance.
By increasing protein, cutting out high-glycemic foods and removing the weapon of mass destruction that is vegetable oil, you’ll cut out some of the biggest culprits.
Ready to start already? Sign up for my 30 day getting started guide below.
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What are the Downsides of the Carnivore Diet?
Not What You’d Think…
The only downside: it’s painful to leave your inner weakling at the door.
The carnivore diet will take willpower, but it is the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do.
At first, certain social situations will be challenging to deal with. Say goodbye to pizza nights. But you’ll quickly realize that it doesn’t matter what other people think.
What matters is that you’re living your best life. And that will come from eating the right fuel.
With that being said, there is no long term clinical trials on the carnivore diet. If you have health issues, like chronic kidney disease, please make sure to talk with a physician before starting this diet.
The Science Behind the Carnivore Diet
Why does it work?
How does the carnivore diet help with these issues? Is it a healing spell whipped up by the wizards at Hogwarts? Sort of.
The carnivore diet works through two mechanisms:
First, it cuts out the poison that causes insulin resistance and inflammation.
Next, it adds back in the nutrients you need for optimal health.
Simple as that.
First, It Cuts Out the Junk
The carnivore diet may seem radical, but that’s because almost every single thing you’ve been told to eat is junk.
Almost everything you eat is NEW. It’s like giving an iPhone to a Neanderthal that hasn’t even discovered fire yet. Your immune system can’t even begin to recognize many of these strange foods.
The safe assumption is for your immune system to react as if something new can kill you – the result is inflammation.
How do you determine the culprit? Start by cutting everything out.
It’s time to ditch everything on the Mt. Rushmore of disastrous foods: seed oils, fructose, glucose, and yes, even vegetables.
Even supposedly innocent plant foods can cause depressive symptoms. Gluten, for instance, is associated with depression in non-celiacs [*].
Contrary to popular belief, “organic” cannot save you. Plants produce their own natural pesticides to fend off predators like you. Lectins, saponins, oxalates, and goitrogens in plant foods all play a role in disease.
Almost every single plant food has one of these booby traps. Learn why you don’t need vegetables here.
Next, The Carnivore Diet Adds Back the Healthiest Foods in the World
Most of all, you’ve been told to avoid one of the only food humans were actually made to eat.
The one food that can most efficiently give you all the nutrients you need. The food that made us human in the first place. And that’s animal food.
It’s crazy. We’re cutting out a primal human instinct, something we’ve been doing since the dawn of man.
It’s like telling us we shouldn’t breathe, have sex, or argue with our families on Thanksigving! These are the very things we need to survive!
Back to meat… because your immune system can recognize it, it reduces inflammation and allows the body to focus on what it should really be fighting: infectious predators and preachy vegans [*].
A nose-to-tail carnivore diet is the most nutritious diet in the world. After all, humans are carnivores. We adapted over 2 million years to eat a diet high in meat and animal fat. Evolution demands that we give our bodies these nutrients.
Meanwhile, a virus of junk continues to infect modern society. It’s festering, and it’s time to get well.
For more information on this, here are 16 reasons why the carnivore diet works.
What to Eat on the Carnivore Diet?
Finally, good food.
Diets should be optimized around three things:
- Energy: Fat / Carbs
- Nutrient density: Micronutrients & protein
- Minimizing toxins
My recommended food pyramid tackles all three.
First, on energy: the base of the pyramid is animal fats. Fat made us human, and we now need fat to power our large, complex brains. In fact, without fatty acids, we’d still probably be in trees slinging poop at each other.
Regarding protein, most people are not getting nearly enough. I recommend .5g – 1g per pound of body weight for muscle gain, maintenance and overall health.
The muscle meat on the carnivore diet will be more than sufficient, and muscle from ruminants contains all the essential amino acids you need. That is, they are complete proteins.
Lastly, on micronutrients: organ meats are the most nutritious foods in the world. Frankly, they make spinach look like cardboard. Beef liver has almost every micronutrient you need in optimal proportions.
Beef liver is packed with Vitamin A, B, C, K and other essential nutrients for the brain.
Adding it to my diet supercharged my energy and made my skin look fresh out of Botox treatment.
Here’s an overall food list:
What to Avoid on the Carnivore Diet?
Almost everything you currently do…
At first, you 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
- Chicken, at least at first. The fat and nutrient profile is inferior to the other options above
- Processed meats: they contain too many additives. Look out for nitrates and nitrites, and avoid these especially.
- Dark chocolate, at least at first. Sorry.
- Bitching and moaning
What About Vegetables?
Wait…you thought they were good for you?
As I say…plants are decoration, not food.
Not only are plants less nutritious than animal foods, but it turns out they may even be bad for you. It’s almost like finding out your doctor moonlights as an axe murderer.
Plants look innocent, but it turns out they’re loaded with booby traps to kill predators. Almost like Kevin McCallister in Home Alone.
Almost every vegetable contains toxins that can irritate the human body.
A 1990 study identified 27 rodent carcinogens that plants produce for self defense. [*]
The table below summarizes some of the toxins you can find in plants.
Nightshades contain alkaloids, which damage fat and carbohydrate metabolism as well as DNA function.
The list goes on and on.
Even when it comes to nutrients, you’ve been sold a false bill. Spinach, the “most nutritious vegetable,” pales in comparison to foods like beef liver.
How Much to Eat on the Carnivore Diet?
It’s time to rebel against the tyranny of calories.
Forget counting calories. On the carnivore diet, you don’t need to restrict yourself and overanalyze your every bite.
On the carnivore diet, you’ll eat until you’re full. When you’re consuming healthy, natural, satiating foods, your body won’t become a slave to sugar or crave an endless stream of empty calories.
One helpful tip for me was to eat sufficient fat.
For most people, eating more protein is the answer. But on the carnivore diet, once you reach sufficient protein, too much protein can actually be detrimental.
If you find yourself with an insatiable hunger, you may not be eating enough fat. If this is you, try eating fat first to satiation, then adding in the muscle meat after.
Most people end up eating 1-2 pounds of meat a day.
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When to Eat on the Carnivore Diet?
What the hell is breakfast?
At first, eat when you’re hungry. Over time, you’ll probably find that you only need 1 to 2 meals a day. But you can experiment with this later on.
However, I’m personally also a proponent of intermittent fasting, or consuming all of your calories within a certain time window.
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 and fasting may help to reverse insulin resistance.
However, intermittent fasting is something to experiment with later on after transitioning to the carnivore diet. Jumping from your current trash diet to both intermittent fasting and the carnivore diet would be pretty overwhelming, seeing as both are big changes on their own.
My eating schedule is the following:
- Eat for 8 hours a day
- Fast for 16 hours a day
Carnivore Diet Results: Before & After
These transformations are unbelievable.
It would be a lot easier for them to get away with saying the carnivore diet is dangerous if people weren’t:
– Clearing acne
– Gaining energy
– Healing their gut
– Losing 100+ lbs
– Curing depression
– Reversing type 2 diabetes
If that’s what dangerous is, sign me up.
You can find stories like these and many more in my facebook group Carnivore Nation.
Carnivore Diet Meal Plan & Shopping List
How to get started.
Now for the fun stuff. What does eating like a carnivore look like? Other than beautiful skin and limitless energy, of course.
This is an example of a week in the Carnivore Aurelius life (cold showers and daily ultra marathons have been redacted):
To plan out my shopping, I open up an Excel spreadsheet and map out:
- how many meals I plan to eat of a certain food, and
- the amount of food per meal
Assuming that each meal consists of ~16oz of beef (you’ll figure this out over time), I calculate the total amount to buy in bulk.
This, obviously, is exactly how our hunter-gatherer ancestors did it too…
Based on the calendar above, you’ll need to buy the following amounts in the right-hand column in the image below.
If you’re interested, here’s a more comprehensive carnivore diet meal plan and a 30-day guide for getting started.
Frequently Asked Questions About the All Meat Diet
There’s a lot more to know…
#1 Is the Carnivore Diet a Fad?
The only fad here is not eating meat. Fat and animal products made us human.
For over 1 million years as hunter-gatherers, we were eating animal products. It’s only just in the blink of an eye that this changed.
This study below, for instance, shows that isotopes from our bones put us closer to the category of lions and wolves than any other animals.
#2 Don’t I Need Fiber in my Diet?
One of the most common concerns with the carnivore diet is the lack of fiber.
It’s claimed that fiber treats constipation, and it’s widely believed that it’s a necessary component of our diets.
There is not a single trial that backs this up.
Check the graph below: it shows that reducing fiber actually reduces several issues. This isn’t an error – on the right side of the graph, you can see that there is zero occurence of digestive issues when fiber is removed [*].
Why does this happen? Fiber makes feces bigger. People think that since constipation is caused by not passing stool, making more and larger feces will improve it.
But that’s like arguing that we should make cars bigger to speed up traffic.
Because you can’t digest fiber, it increases the size and volume of your feces. But this just ends up making the constipation worse.
#3 Can I Drink Coffee and Tea?
Some carnivores still drink coffee, but both tea and coffee have been known to cause inflammation and gut permeability issues.
To be fair, some people have a crippling coffee addiction. If this is you, don’t cut your six daily cups of joe out immediately. This will cloud the results of your carnivore transition.
If you think you can go a week without coffee and tea and not rip your boss’s head clean off, try slowing consumption and transitioning out. Especially if there’s something specific you’re trying to treat, a slow transition away from coffee and tea will ultimately help you achieve your goals.
#4 Am I Allowed Eggs and Dairy?
Both eggs and dairy can be inflammatory triggers for some people, but you know your body best. It’s up to you to determine what works and what doesn’t.
Egg whites contain protective proteins that can irritate the gut, trigger autoimmune disease and cause acne. Egg whites are actually one of the most prevalent causes of 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. The funny part is that this is 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 the lactose fermented away.
If that still irritates you, then you should drop the dairy altogether – 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 you can experiment with adding them back.
#5 What About Vitamin C?
The RDAs for carnivores are completely wrong. For all intents and purposes, carnivores and people on the standard American diet belong to two different species.
Using the same RDA is like trying to pour gasoline into an electric car. We need different types of fuel to function.
A carnivore diet uses different metabolic pathways and coenzymes, and it cuts out many anti-nutrients that block vitamin and mineral absorption.
Despite this, meat has actually been known since early times to cure scurvy. Humans are carnivores, and no human populations that subsist on a largely meat-based diet (Maasai, Mongols, Chuktoka, Comanche) show any signs of scurvy.
Yet based on the RDA, meat is woefully deficient in Vitamin C. How is this possible?
Vitamin C is almost identical to glucose biochemically.
Glucose and vitamin C compete for absorption, so the lower your blood sugar, the higher bioavailability of the Vitamin C that you do have [*]
If you’re still worried, try some beef liver – it’s one of the best animal sources of Vitamin C.
With that being said, there may still be some benefits of additional vitamin C consumption. We need more studies here to find out.
Get Access to the 30 Day Guide to Mastering the Carnivore Diet
DISCLAIMER: The goal of Carnivore Aurelius is to educate and motivate others to take charge of their health. I am not a medical doctor, registered dietitian, or qualified to give individualized recommendations regarding health, nutrition or fitness. All views expressed are based on my own personal research and experiences. For specific health-related questions, please consult your doctor.
Lindsay Malone PhD, MD, RN
Lindsay is an integrative and functional medicine dietitian specializing in wellness and cancer. Lindsay has 10 years of experience working with individuals and groups using food as medicine to heal and create optimal health.