Eating carnivore and wondering why you’re gaining rather than losing? Then this is for you. We’re going get back to the basics and cover the mistakes you’re making that are sabotaging your carnivore diet weight loss.
Let’s get started.
3 Reasons Why You’re Gaining Weight
Every body-fat weight loss journey is unique.
Some people gain weight on a zero-carb diet despite reducing their food intake, and others eat as much as they can and quickly lose body weight in as little as two weeks.
Here are some important factors to consider if you’re gaining weight.
1. Fluid Rebalancing
As you are on a meat only diet, you lose a lot of water weight. This is the dramatic long-term drop you would like to hope you see. No one tells you that, depending on your body composition, you might retain water instead.
If you don’t have much fat to lose, your results will be vastly different to somebody who has been eating too much. This is because glycogen is stored in human muscle with at least 3 g of water .
2. Famine to Feast
If you’ve switched from a vegan or restrictive diet, your muscle mass and protein intake may be low and your body in famine mode.
When you increase your fat intake and caloric intake, it transitions into feast mode.
Your body is excited to start eating high-fat meat, and you can easily end up eating 4,000 calories of animal products like ground beef and red meat per day!
It’s important not to go back to your old way of eating. When you switch to eat meat through the ketogenic diet or carnivore diet, focus on how you feel good rather than the number on the scale.
Even if you’re gaining weight, after 3 months, your body will find its balance, and you will lose body fat without eating as much. Your appetite and number of meals a day will reduce. You’ll feel much better, and your body will feel like it’s ‘fed’.
In an online meat-based diet and intermittent fasting forum, one user shared: “Within about 2-3 months, the weight I had gained was completely gone!”
Keep in mind, with no-carb diets, cortisol, insulin, and estrogen can all affect fat storage within the body. It’s also worth checking your blood sugar, insulin levels, and blood glucose with your local physician/healthcare provider.
When I started eating meat only, I didn’t notice any negative symptoms or side-effects as I was keto before carnivore. It’s helpful to transition slowly into a different eating style and keep active throughout to see the best results.
Is the Carnivore Diet a Fat Loss Diet?
While the carnivore diet may be a fast and easy way to lose belly fat, it’s designed for many other benefits too.
Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson and his daughter Mikaila Peterson, who have suffered extremely debilitating autoimmune disease for years, were looking for a solution to eliminate their autoimmune symptoms like depression, anxiety, and arthritic pain.
The first thing that went away with the depression was the sadness, the anger, and the irritability. That went away. Then the fatigue went away.
- Mikaila Peterson, CEO of The Lion Diet
I started this diet because I was watching what happened to Mikhaila, and I have low level systems of autoimmune disease. One day I woke up and that’s gone. I lost a lot of weight and girth. And then the next thing that happened was-- like, I could stay awake forever. I never get sleepy, you know?
- Dr. Jordan B Peterson, Canadian Psychologist
Building Lean Mass Not Fat
Yes, like any diet, you can get fat on the carnivore diet if you consume too much food and do no exercise.
If you overeat and sit on the couch all day, you will notice weight gain. It makes sense if you don't think about it.
It's estimated that you need to burn about 3,500 calories per week to lose 1 pound. This is because 3,500 equals about 1 pound (0.45 kilogram) of fat .
Let’s say you’re an average American 30-year-old, 200-pound man consuming 3600 calories a day.
If you’re doing no exercise, you would burn roughly 2400 a day. Every day you have a surplus of 1200 to use.
To lose 1 pound a week, aim for a calorie deficit of around 3500 per week. If you’re not moving and using the fat as fuel, this additional energy will be stored as fat.
Like the old saying goes, move it to lose it.
Do Calories Matter?
Yes, the amount of calories you eat does matter on the carnivore diet.
However, you don’t need to be calorie counting all day. Focus on strength training and muscle building rather than your body fat levels.
Excessively counting calories can lead to unhealthy habits, but it’s important to be aware of what and how much you’re eating.
If you’ve been on a low carb diet for less than 6 months, try a fitness app to monitor your calories and meal frequency. Keep doing this until you get an idea of roughly how much you’re consuming each day, and how many you’re burning throughout the day.
It also depends on what your fitness goals are. If you’re a weight lifting athlete like Shawn Baker, you might be looking to put on size or maintain muscle. While Shawn is stable at 110kg and eating 4000-5000 cal/day, his strength is increasing.
Myself at 6’5” 245lbs as a carnivore eating 3-4lbs of beef/day only consumes about 1200lbs a year, so I use only about 60% of what the average American does. On the Keto Diet I saw great improvement in my health, when I went carnivore I saw even more.
- Dr Shawn Baker MD, Author of "The Carnivore Diet"
Strategies to Losing the Weight
Here are some simple, easy-to-follow fat loss strategies that may help you lose weight.
- Move more, eat less. The general rule of thumb here is to burn more than you consume.
- Incorporate intermittent fasting. This can be a cycle of 2:5 (2 days of restrictive eating and 5 days of normal eating) or restricting your daily eating window.
- Drink more water. Staying hydrated is essential. Sometimes you may think you’re hungry, when in fact, you’re simply dehydrated. Fruit & vegetables contain water. As these are eliminated, your body must be getting enough electrolytes and essential minerals, supplements can help.
- Get to know when you’re actually hungry versus eating out of habit. Eating is a highly social and ritualistic behavior. Cutting down your meals from 3-5 to 2 can help you monitor when you’re eating out of habit rather than because you are hungry.
Starting With a Baseline
Let’s start with the baseline and averages to see how much you’re burning on a typical day-to-day basis with no exercise.
According to USDA reports, below is the caloric breakdown for the average American woman and man.
The daily calorie breakdown for a sedentary woman is as follows:
- Women aged between 19 to 30 burn about 1,800 to 2,000
- Women aged between 31 to 50 burn about 1,800
- Women 50+ burn about 1,600 each day
What If My Progress Stalls?
Your body is always trying to find its optimal muscle-to-fat ratio. There are stages where your fat loss will plateau the same as weight training gains plateau. Here’s what you can do.
- Don’t compare yourself with others. Everybody gets different results in different time frames. What works well for you might not get the same results for somebody else.
- Reassess. It’s helpful to write down or record in an app what you eat daily. With the businesses of day-to-day life, sometimes we are mindlessly eating and not aware of how much we’re consuming.
- Be mindful not to be overambitious. The weight will come off, and you will see relief from your autoimmune and the weight loss you’re hoping for with time. The important thing is to stay focused.
- Stay focused and committed. If you’re stuck or at a plateau, phone a friend and have a whinge. Done? Okay, now back to it. It helps to have a support network for these times.
- Before you start any diet, get a coach, fitness trainer, or group of friends for support. Try joining a carnivore diet Facebook group or a fitness challenge at your local gym to help you stay accountable. Ultimately, find what works for you and stick with it.
So, Is the Carnivore Diet Good For Losing Weight?
Your body can put on a few pounds and may take time to adjust to a carnivore diet. Many people come from a vegan or restrictive diet, which could see you go up in size while your body recovers. Fluid rebalancing can sometimes make you feel and look heavier. But overall, the carnivore diet is useful in losing weight and body fat.
However, it’s important to get your hormones checked by a health professional. Focus on how you’re feeling to get an overall picture of your health. Consistency is key. As research shows, changing to healthier eating habits can lead to many positive outcomes.
For more information, helpful tips on the carnivore diet, check out the other blog posts on my site.