Keto vs Carnivore: Everything You Need to Know
The keto and carnivore diets are two distinct styles of eating that both fall into the low carb camp.
But don’t confuse them for the same, while they are both a far cry from the food pyramid, there are some distinct differences that set them apart.
Ketosis & Eating Styles Defined
The diet definitions are included here for those of you who have been living under a rock for the last few years or so. If you’re clear on the difference go ahead and skip down.
Ketosis is the metabolic state of using fat for energy instead of sugar. Any diet that is low enough in carbs to make this fuels switch can be categorized as ketogenic.
Entering into ketosis is a little different for everyone. Depending on body composition and activity, ketosis can generally be achieved when calories from carbs are around 10% or less of the total diet. Larger people can usually get away with slightly more carbs, but in general around 10% does the trick.
When people say they are doing “keto” it generally refers to a classic ketogenic diet:
Classic Ketogenic Diet: A low carb diet comprised of animal protein, non-starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils, and dairy products. Many variations of the ketogenic diet exist. A classic ketogenic diet will allow for 10% or fewer calories from carbohydrates.
The carnivore diet falls under the umbrella of ketogenic in that it promotes a state of ketosis but it is more strict than classic keto.
Carnivore Diet: A more restrictive version of the ketogenic diet that is virtually carb-free. The CD is made up primarily of meat and some fat. No plant foods are included and organ meat is encouraged.
What are the Similarities?
There are in fact, quite a few similarities between keto and carnivore diets as you might expect. Both styles of eating cut out grains, beans, fruits, starchy vegetables, milk, and sugar. What else do they have in common?
- Low in carbohydrates. I know, Captain Obvious, right? Both keep carbs to a minimum.
Push the body into ketosis. Without carbohydrates, the body burns fat for energy. This includes fat you eat and body fat
- Fat is encouraged. Both the keto diet and the carnivore diets throw out the low-fat doctrine of the 70’s and 80’s that has been embraced by the medical community. Fat has a role in human health that cannot be ignored.
- Blood sugar is stabilized. The body is running on fat in both the keto and carnivore diets. Because of this, blood sugar is held stable. There is evidence that low and no-carb diets that induce ketosis can reverse type 2 diabetes (*).
- Cravings are squashed. Getting off the blood sugar roller coaster and avoiding addictive foods like sugar and white flour kills cravings. Cravings are typically the result of fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin as well as chemicals in the brain released in response to sugar and gluten (*,*). Without them, cravings don’t occur nearly as often if at all.
- Storm before the calm (aka keto flu). As the body transitions from burning sugar for energy to burning fat, many people experience flu-like symptoms. This holds true for both the keto and carnivore diets. It usually includes fatigue, sluggishness, brain-fog, and irritability. The keto flu is sort of like a right of passage before flipping the metabolic switch and entering the much more welcome high energy phase.
- Appetite decline. Loss of appetite is a hallmark sign of ketosis. Any diet low in carbs will turn off appetite (*,*). This is one of the best parts of ketosis and somewhat of a payoff after getting through the keto flu. For those who have struggled for years with their weight, food cravings and mindless eating – loss of appetite is a welcome and freeing side effect.
- Weight loss. When the body burns fat for energy, weight loss is pretty much inevitable (*). This is a strong benefit for both diets, especially given that obesity and diseases associated with excess body fat like diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease are an epidemic right now.
- Reduced inflammation. Ketosis reduces chronic inflammation, an immune response that typically accompanies disease (*).
How are Keto and Carnivore Different?
The biggest difference is quite simply that the carnivore diet is more restrictive. The classic ketogenic diet allows for more variety as long as the carb count is low enough to maintain ketosis. Whereas the carnivore diet is primarily meat (flesh and organ meats) and animal fat.
Check out the complete breakdown in the chart below.
Carnivore vs Keto Foods
Although most carbohydrate-rich foods are avoided on both carnivore and keto, this chart is an easy reference for foods that are included in each.
Get Access to the 30 Day Guide to Mastering the Carnivore Diet
As you can see based on the chart, there are no plant foods at all on the carnivore diet. No, you do not need vegetables to be healthy.
Humans are able to survive off of animal products alone. The same cannot be said about plants or carbohydrates. A well constructed carnivore diet, consisting of beef steak, beef liver and eggs is 100% nutrient sufficient.
In fact, many of the nutrients in plant foods are less bioavailable than those in animal products. This means that it’s harder for our bodies to absorb the plant version of the nutrient than the animal version.
Our ancestors knew this and that’s why they only ate plant foods as a last resort when animal foods were not available.
Another striking difference between these two diets is simplicity. The carnivore diet is infinitely more simple and takes all the guesswork out of counting carbs or macros or anything for that matter.
Prep time, including planning, shopping and cooking, takes much less time and effort than the keto diet. There is no carnivore adapted recipe for cinnamon buns or pizza, you’re not mixing cauliflower with everything under the sun to make bread sticks. It’s simple and easy to follow.
So, Which One is Better?
It all depends on you goal and what issues you’re having. In my opinion, there’s no better diet in the world for inflammatory, gut and autoimmune related issues than the carnivore diet.
My preference is for testing the carnivore diet first in most cases of persistent health issues. When you are dealing with a number of health challenges, you want to reduce the variables and go on a strict healing protocol. The carnivore diet can do this – as it has for Brett and many others.
Unlike the keto diet, the carnivore diet removes fiber, fodmaps, toxic vegetable oils, and anti nutrients that can erode gut health and make you more sick. The gut is the home to your immune system and its how you use the food you’re eating for energy and nutrients.
All a keto diet guarantees is that your body is running off ketones. It is not necessarily as nutrient rich as a carnivore diet. And it can still include a number of inflammatory foods.
Benefits of the Carnivore Diet
Are you sick and tired of feeling sick and tired? The carnivore diet has many benefits. I’ve touched on a few here but in case you weren’t paying attention, the biggest takeaways are:
- Simplicity. You don’t need fancy meals, you need a plan that works.
- Cools Inflammation. The CD removes foods that cause inflammation like processed junk foods and highly refined vegetable oils and induces ketosis. Ketones are anti-inflammatory (*).
- May Improve your Mental Health. Depression is linked to inflammation and CD is anti-inflammatory (*,*). CD is also high in nutrients like zinc, DHA, B12, Iron and B6. Deficiencies of these nutrients are linked to depression (*,*,*,*,*).
- Supports Weight Loss. CD is a strict version of keto, where you will be burning body fat for energy. Blood sugar and insulin are controlled in the absence of carbohydrates so your body will finally tackle the body fat you’ve been wanting to get rid of for years.
Want to read up on more benefits of the carnivore diet? Look no further, this article has everything you need.
Maybe you’ve been doing keto for a while and you’re still feeling sick and tired or maybe you just haven’t seen the results you’ve been hoping for.
If this sounds like you, it’s time to make the switch my friend and see what real health feels like for a change.
Carnivore vs Keto Results
Before going carnivore I tried keto and it didn’t work nearly as well. I still had eczema flare ups, gut issues and my energy wasn’t great.
Carnivore improved all these.
Don’t just take it from me, I am not alone.
Take it from Mr. Endurance who experienced relief from lower back pain, stiff joints, and was able to drop an additional 11 lbs nearly immediately. All this after shifting from keto to carnivore.
And Jane who credits the carnivore diet for clearing up her colitis and bringing back her confidence.
Last but not least, Brett. Keto helped him with weight loss but his depression didn’t relent until he transitioned fully to the carnivore diet.
How to Make the Switch
To make the switch over to the carnivore diet, it’s pretty simple – start taking out plants and dairy and replace with a wide variety of meat, fish and poultry.
If you want a more scientific approach, sign up for my free 30 day guide to getting started with the carnivore diet where I will walk you through step by step how to implement a carnivore diet, including:
- Calculating your energy needs.
- Determining how much you need to eat each day.
- Incorporating organ meats to boost essential vitamins and minerals.
- What to buy each week at the grocery store.
- How to prepare food for the 30 day plan.
Take Action, You Won’t be Disappointed
It’s time to make the switch your mind and body will be thanking you for. Yes it will be difficult, but you know what else is difficult? Depression. Obesity. Acne. Fatigue. You get the idea.
Need some support to make the change?
Sign up below for a 30 day getting started guide to the carnivore diet.