Many people have transitioned to the carnivore diet to lose weight and experienced natural weight loss on this diet.
Though I can’t give you a guarantee, it is highly likely that you will experience the same mainly because of this very simple principle: when you eat what you are meant to eat, your body instinctively knows when it has had enough. It is very hard for you to overeat on the carnivore diet and as a result, your excess weight will naturally fall off.
In this post, I will first cover the basics of what is the carnivore diet and the food that you should be eating on this diet.
Although you might be familiar with this diet, this part is necessary because there are a good version and a bad version of the diet. If you cheat and eat unhealthy food on this diet, you may not be getting the many benefits from this diet, including natural weight loss.
In the second part of the post, I will then go into detail as to why you will lose weight naturally on this diet, including:
- It’s hard to overeat meat which is what your body is designed to eat
- Carnivore diet food has a high satiety level which results in lower calorie intake overall
- Carnivore diet food is high in proteins which support muscle synthesis and boost metabolism
- Carnivore diet food is low in carbohydrates which inhibit fat storage and encourage fat burning
- The carnivore diet can improve mental health and further support weight loss.
Carnivore diet’s foods and drinks
Three versions of the carnivore diet
A carnivore is an animal that feeds on other animals. Therefore, strictly speaking, by definition, someone on the carnivore diet will basically just eat animal source food such as ruminants, pork, poultry, and seafood and drink water. This is a strict version of the carnivore diet.
However, there are people who consider all foods that come from or are produced by an animal are part of the carnivore diet. In that sense, ruminants, pork, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy, and honey are all okay on this diet. This is a broad version of the carnivore diet.
A more relaxed version of the carnivore diet includes all animal source food and a small amount of seasonal fruits and vegetables and is called the ancestral version of the carnivore diet. This is because although our ancestors ate mostly meat for millions of years, in all likelihood, they were not exclusively carnivores and would have eaten plant food for survival had the need arise.
Choosing the right version of the carnivore diet
Which version of the carnivore diet you should follow will depend upon your health conditions and your goals.
If you have health issues that are resolved by eating only meat, then the strict version of the carnivore diet is for you. This version is also great for weight loss because it has almost zero carbohydrates.
If you can’t handle plant food but are okay with dairy and have no weight issues, the broad version of the carnivore diet would be more suitable.
If you are lucky enough to be able to eat everything and only want to improve general health, then the ancestral version of the carnivore diet is for you. This is also the easiest version to follow.
Best carnivore diet foods
I have written in detail about the healthy eating principles of the carnivore diet and the best foods to eat on this diet.
In summary, to get the best out of this diet, follow closely the five healthy eating principles below which try to mimic the way our ancestors ate:
- Eat from a wide variety of animal sources
- Eat nose-to-tail or as many different parts of an animal as you can
- Eat from naturally or well-raised animals as much as you can afford
- Eat unprocessed or minimally processed foods
- Eat a mixture of cooked, lightly cooked and raw.
Based on these principles and by looking at how the majority of our animal source foods is produced today, this is what and how you should eat on the carnivore diet (for more detail, please read this post on carnivore diet food list).
Best drinks on the carnivore diet
The 3 best drinks on the carnivore diet are water, bone broth, and milk.
Drinks that are generally okay in moderation are protein shakes and herbal teas.
Drinks that you should definitely avoid are all soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, flavored milk, coffee, tea, and alcohol.
I have written in detail the reasoning behind the above drink recommendations in this post. If you are interested in finding out, please check it out.
Why you will lose weight naturally on the carnivore diet
1. It’s hard to overeat meat which is what your body is designed to eat
The human body is well suited to a diet of mostly meat through millions of years of adaptation. The totality of evidence from human physiology and genetics, archeology, paleontology, and zoology shows that humans were hyper-carnivorous apex predators that ate mostly meat from large animals for 2 million years.
When you feed your body what it is designed to eat, it will instinctively know when it has had enough and the weight problem will take care of itself.
If you start the day with a bowl of sugar-laden cereals, your body will sense that there is no nutrient in this breakfast and soon it will want more. Later on, if your lunch is a pizza or a hamburger with a side of chips and sugary drinks, there’s still not much nutrient in this meal. You will feel full, bloated but unsatisfied and subsequently will experience that mid-afternoon slump. Unhealthy snacks are likely to follow and so it goes on.
But if you start the day with a steak, a slice of meatloaf, or just a bowl of cheap ground beef, I guarantee that you will feel full and satisfied afterward and probably won’t even feel hungry at lunchtime. And if you eat something similar for lunch, you definitely won’t experience that after-lunch crash. This is what many people experienced on the carnivore diet, their energy level is amazing and there’s no crash. You are less likely to have that craving and feel the urge that you need to eat something every now and then.
In simple words, what you eat will decide how much you eat. How much you eat, of course, will then determine how many calories you put in your body.
2. Carnivore diet food has a high satiety level which results in lower calorie intake overall
As can be seen above, on the carnivore diet, you will eat food from the animal kingdom only.
On this diet, if you eat a variety of animal source food, eat fresh unprocessed food, and eat nose-to-tail, your diet will be a nutrient-dense high protein diet and this is another reason why the carnivore diet is great for weight loss.
Research has found that protein is a highly satiating micronutrient because it suppresses the hunger hormone, ghrelin while increasing the satiety hormone.[3, 4, 5, 6, 7]
Eating a protein-rich meal and you will feel full and satisfied for hours afterward. Your craving will reduce, so will your need to snack, and consequently your overall calorie intake.
3. Carnivore diet food is high in quality proteins which support muscle synthesis and metabolism
Because the carnivore diet is rich in high-quality proteins, this supports muscle synthesis. This in turn supports weight loss because the more muscles you have, the more calories you burn while you are at rest.
Animal proteins are top quality
As can be seen in the table below, animal proteins are ranked the best in terms of efficiency, biological value, utilization, and digestibility.
Animal proteins are great for muscle synthesis
Research has found that animal proteins, which are complete proteins, are better than plant proteins for muscle synthesis. In particular:
plant-based proteins have less of an anabolic effect than animal proteins due to their lower digestibility, lower essential amino acid content (especially leucine), and deficiency in other essential amino acids, such as sulfur amino acids or lysine. Thus, plant amino acids are directed toward oxidation rather than used for muscle protein synthesis.
Muscle building supports weight loss
As mentioned above, muscles burn more calories when at rest compared to fat and other tissues. The resting metabolic rate of skeletal muscle was 12.6 compared to only 4.4 for adipose tissue and 11.6 for most other tissues.
In summary, a high protein diet like the carnivore diet supports muscle building which has a positive effect on metabolic rate and consequently fat loss.
It is also worth mentioning that proteins have a higher thermic effect than carbohydrates and fat. The thermic effect of food is the amount of energy needed to digest. Proteins’ thermic effect is around 15% to 30% compared to only about 0% to 3% needed to digest fat.
4. Carnivore diet food is low in carbohydrates which inhibit fat storage and encourage fat burning
When consumed, carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars and released into the bloodstream. As the blood sugar level rises, insulin is released to enable cells to access glucose. Insulin also promotes fat storage when there is excess energy.
If your body is used to using simple sugars as energy, when the blood sugar drops and you experience a crash, you’ll want to top it up with a sugary snack (cookies, muffins, donuts, granola bars, etc) or another carb-rich meal. And you’ll have little to no chance of using up the fat storage.
On the carnivore diet, however, there is only a negligible amount of carbohydrates in animal source food if you don’t eat honey or dairy.
In the absence of carbohydrates, your body will learn to use fat for fuel. After a while, it will be very good at it and you will be fat-adapted. If there isn’t enough fat coming in from food, it will seamlessly switch to burn the fat reserve for energy without you even noticing.
And that’s why you don’t experience that dreadful after-lunch crash on this diet.
And that is also why the carnivore diet is great at helping you lose excess fat without calorie counting or watching macro and micronutrient intake.
5. Carnivore diet can improve mental health and support weight loss
Stress, cortisol and weight gain
You may wonder what mental health has got to do with weight loss.
The answer is a lot actually.
When you face a dangerous or stressful situation, the adrenals secrete cortisol. Cortisol prepares your body for a fight-or-flight situation by increasing sugar supply in the bloodstream, brain, and muscles for immediate use. Once the stressful situation is over, your hormones return to normal levels.
However, if you constantly feel stressed, your fight-or-flight mode is permanently turned on, high cortisol can lead to weight gain in the following ways:
- Visceral fat storage. Cortisol can mobilize triglycerides from storage and relocate them to visceral fat cells. Cortisol also aids adipocytes’ development into mature fat cells
- Overeating. A consistent high level of cortisol means a consistent elevated blood glucose level. However, cortisol also inhibits insulin production to prevent glucose from being stored, favoring immediate use. As a results, cells are starved of glucose and hunger signals are sent to the brain. This can lead to overeating and excess energy eventually will be stored as fat
- Stimulating appetite. Cortisol may directly influence appetite and cravings by binding to hypothalamus receptors in the brain. Cortisol also indirectly influences appetite by modulating other hormones and stress responsive factors known to stimulate appetite.
There is currently no study that I’m aware of on the ability of the carnivore diet to improve or treat mental health. I don’t think there will be any study on this topic for a long time unless the carnivore diet becomes one of the mainstream diets rather than being labeled as a fad diet as it currently is.
However, many people have experienced improvements in mental health after switching to the carnivore diet. Perhaps, the most well-known ones are Mikhaila Peterson and her father, Jordon Peterson.
Mikhaila Peterson was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and depression. At 17, she had her hip and ankle joints replaced. Her problems continued when she was at university and she experienced mouth ulcers, bleeding gums, thinning hair, and skin not healing.
She did everything her doctors told her and everything they tried failed.
At the end of her rope and refusing to give up, she tried the elimination diet and started cutting out gluten, dairy, soy, and lectins. She felt better as she cut out more food groups and by December 2017, all that was left was beef, salt, and water. All of her symptoms went into remission and she stopped taking all medications.
Urged by his daughter, Jordan Peterson, a Canadian professor of psychology, also found significant improvement in his health. In an interview with The Atlantic, he said his lifelong depression, anxiety, gastric reflux (and associated snoring), inability to wake up in the mornings, psoriasis, gingivitis, floaters in his right eye, numbness on the sides of his legs, problems with mood regulation were all gone.
You can read more interviews and testimonials about the benefit of the carnivore diet here.
Carnivore diet is the best diet for healthy weight loss
In my view, the carnivore diet is also the best diet of all for healthy weight loss because carnivore diet foods are:
- The most nutrient-dense foods that you can ever eat. Animal-based foods provide you with complete proteins, good fats for energy, and all nutrients that your body ever needs (please read this post for an in-depth discussion of this topic).
- Free from anti-nutrients or plant toxins by definition. Animals have teeth to bite, beaks to peck, legs to run, wings to fly, poison to kill, or ways to disguise. Because plants are stuck to the ground, to defend themselves from predators, they produce toxins that are harmful when consumed. Plant toxins are present in their leaves, stems, flowers, seeds and roots. It is estimated that average Americans eat about 1.5 g of natural pesticides per person per day, which is about 10,000 times more than they eat of synthetic pesticide residues.
If you want to start the carnivore diet for whatever reason, better health, weight loss or hoping to fix a health issue that modern medicine has failed to help you with, please check out this 16-week carnivore diet plan series.
If you’ve already been on the carnivore diet for a while, adapted to this way of eating, and just want some tips to become leaner or lose the last few pounds, here is an article written to help you achieve that exact goal.
Disclaimer: The information in this post is for reference purposes only and not intended to constitute or replace professional medical advice. Please consult a qualified medical professional before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.