Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: July 31, 2023

The one thing that annoys me more than anything about diets is how quickly people jump to judgment on carnivore dieters. Of course, we have to have some evil death wish designed to threaten the environment, right?

While these judgments are generally the result of ignorance and misinformation, I can understand why many people get a little confused in telling the difference from the keto diet. After all, when it comes to keto vs carnivore diets, both reduce carbs and increase fat and protein-rich food.

There’s a good bit more to a carnivore lifestyle than eating steak for breakfast, but at the same time, your body will be changing metabolic processes in very similar ways. So similar that the two diets work very well together.

I like to call it the keto carnivore diet, but let’s start with some basics.

Quick Summary

  • The main difference is in carb consumption, with the carnivore diet being zero-carb.
  • The keto diet focuses on low-carb intake to switch metabolism from glucose to ketones, while the carnivore diet involves only eating meat, with no plants allowed.
  • Both diets emphasize fat and protein and lead to ketosis. The keto diet allows more variety, while the carnivore diet is more restrictive.

What Is The Keto Diet?

keto spelled out

The ketogenic diet, or keto diet for short, is a low-carb diet designed to switch your metabolism from glucose to ketones as a source of fuel.

However, this low-carb diet is not some new celebrity-endorsed idea with no proven track record through science.

Quite the opposite is the case, in that the keto diet was medically designed and clinically tested to help treat patients with epilepsy.

The keto diet concept is not all that difficult to understand, as it all comes down to how your metabolism creates the raw energy your muscles and organs need.

On a standard Western diet, you’ll be loading up on carbs throughout the day, and these transform into blood glucose. Especially when diets are high in sugar, this will lead to those common blood sugar spikes, that in the long-term, can lead to health issues, including diseases like diabetes.

Low-carb keto diet aims to turn your nutritional macros on their head and reduce carbs to a minimum and increase fat and protein consumption. The results of this change in nutrition are that your body will switch to sourcing energy from stored and dietary fat.

This high-fat diet produces increased levels of blood ketones, which provide all the energy you need for daily activities and exercise. Low carbs and high fat create a different source of energy resulting in healthy weight loss.

What Is The Carnivore Diet?

about carnivore diet

The carnivore diet involves only eating meat throughout the day, with absolutely no plants allowed.

Carnivore diet sticks to a meal plan that is not different from keto, and I’ll get into those details shortly.

Some dairy like cheese and butter are allowed in the carnivore diet, but the ultimate goal is to get to meat only.

I’ll be the first to admit that it all might sound a bit crazy, but when it comes to the benefits of carnivore diet plans, there are quite a few surprising effects.

You could say it’s keto in overdrive, and when done right, you can achieve fast and sustainable body fat reduction with the carnivore diet.

Now to the big question...

What Is The Difference Between Keto And Carnivore?

The main difference between a Carnivore diet and a Keto diet is in carbs consumption. The carnivore diet restricts all plant-based foods, meaning that the diet is zero-carb. The Keto diet allows for more variety, as long as total carbohydrates are kept under 50g.

But there are a few more details you should be aware of, especially if you have some experience with keto and its health benefits.

1. Keto Food Not Allowed For Carnivore

keto vs carnivore

On the low-carb keto diet, you’re allowed to have some carbs. For the average person, this will be somewhere around 50 grams per day or lower.

What this does is allow you to satisfy some food cravings, especially in the early days, with delicious keto recipes. The keto diet also gives you just that little bit more flexibility when it comes to your meal recipes, allowing you to add some vegetables for a bit more diversity in your meals.

And then there is fiber, which by and large is keto diet-friendly because it isn’t counted as a net positive carb as most of it passes through your stomach undigested.

So, from a digestion and micronutrient point of view, there are some advantages that the keto diet has. All those plant foods and vegetables you might like are a no-go on a zero-carb carnivore diet.

2. Cravings

sweets on a plate

When you switch your diet to only animal products, you will be cutting out all carbs and increasing fat and protein intake.

Apart from meat, water, and coffee, you won’t be taking in anything else while on a carnivore diet.

For some, the carnivore diet might seem like heaven, but it won’t be long before you start craving some starchy plant foods or even just a small donut for a little sugar rush.

Similar cravings will have noticed on the keto diet, but because you have to avoid all plant foods, your body can start interpreting this as a symptom of starvation.

Your brain and stomach will be sending your conscious mind signals that you need to eat other products and increase your carbohydrate intake. This can be quite a battle while maintaining a carnivore diet.

3. Meal Frequencies

meal frequency

When I go through the keto diet phases, I generally spread my food intake out over 5 to 7 meals per day, depending on how many calories I’m aiming for. I find this helps limit feelings of hunger a bit, regulate my carbohydrate intake, and reduce any cravings I start to have.

However, for my meat-only phases in the carnivore diet, I generally switch to 3, sometimes even just two meals a day.

One reason is that the recipes I prepare involve little more than meat and butter, and they don’t taste that good when they are cold.

So, for my carnivore diet, I prepare my meals fresh and eat them straight away. And for the odd extended fasting period, I will skip breakfast altogether, which can bring me close to 16 hours of fasting with no carbohydrate intake.

Recommended Article: Can A Person Survive Eating Only Beef?

4. Macronutrient Ratio

ketogenic diet

On the ketogenic diet, this is probably going to be close to 60% fat, 30% protein, and 10% carbs.

What that 60/30/10 split means is that 60% of all your calories will come from healthy fat, with protein and carbs providing 30% and 10% of all calories.

As such, the keto diet is a drastic shift from the 20/25/55 ratio that conventional nutritional science recommends.

When it comes to the carnivore diet, there isn’t a strict ratio to keep to, as it’s all about eating meat.

What it does mean, though, is that you will only be eating protein and animal fat, with only a tiny, almost accidental, amount of carbs that can sneak in with some dairy products.

5. Need For Supplements

diet supplements

While both the keto diet and the carnivore diet may limit the amount of plant foods you can eat, there is more flexibility to get essential vitamins and minerals while doing the keto diet.

This means that you can become a bit more reliant on supplements when it comes to eating just meat.

However, this is a bit difficult to do, as the standard keto diet bars and powder supplements often contain more carbs that could throw your metabolism off, resulting in your body becoming “confused.”

This can lead to erratic shifts in blood sugar and ketone levels and amplify the keto flu effects that bit more.

Both the ketogenic diet and the carnivore diet allow fats and proteins while completely eliminating carbohydrates. But the carnivore diet takes it one step further and is considered to be more restrictive to the already prohibitive ketogenic diet.

- Lorenz Mac, Health & Wellness Writer

Ok, so we’ve addressed the differences, now let’s look at what the two have in common.

What Do Keto And Carnivore Diets Have In Common?

Keto and carnivore diets have a lot in common, including side effects, metabolic changes, and quite a few health benefits, such as weight loss.

They are so closely related that I switch between the two on a cyclical basis, but more on that shortly.

1. Side Effects


The first thing I should mention is the keto flu. These are the flu-like symptoms of brain fog, muscle aches, nausea, headaches, and fatigue that generally last for somewhere between 1 and 14 days.

It’s not a pleasant experience, but one of those hurdles you have to get over to enjoy all the health and energy benefits that come with ketosis.

The exciting thing is that when you switch from a keto to a carnivore diet, those symptoms can pop up again for a few days, so make sure you prepare for them.

One of the common questions I get asked is, “Does the keto diet cause constipation?”

The answer is sometimes, and the same can happen on the keto carnivore diet as well. This is most often due to the lack of fiber in organ meats, which may be something you need to supplement.

2. It’s All About Fat

people running

In both diets, there is a significant emphasis on getting a lot of fat into your zero-carb diet.

As a guide, this would be around 60% of your daily energy needs, which is quite a lot. However, once your body switches to ketosis (more on this topic next), all that extra fat will be transformed into fuel.

And it’s a different form of energy that results in a lot better cognitive functions and levels of alertness.

High amounts of fat are metabolized quickly and don’t pose a threat if you have healthy exercise routines alongside your zero-carb diet.

3. Metabolic Changes


On both the keto diet and the carnivore diet, your body will switch from blood glucose to ketones for fuel.

This metabolic process is called ketosis and is a vital function and feature of human evolution.

See, in human history, food was not abundant, especially not carbs.

This is why people loaded up on carbs in the summer through fruit and veg and then resorted to scarce animal products and stored body fat in the winter.

Ketosis is essentially the way that you can naturally trigger stored fat reserves that you don’t need or want for weight loss.

4. Weight Loss

weight loss

As long as you calculate your calorie needs and stay below your daily threshold, you will trigger weight loss, whether you're on a keto or carnivore diet.

By keeping the amount of dietary fat below what you need, your body will go into starvation protection mode and use up all those high-carb, fat storage areas.

The weight loss results can be rather drastic, and as long as you stick to the guidelines of keto and carnivore, you will notice a very steady and sustainable loss of weight.

5. Increased Physical And Mental Energy

happily fit couple

One of the significant benefits of ketosis (whether keto diet or carnivore diet-induced) is that you will have a lot more readily available energy.

And the nature of ketone-derived power is that it doesn’t regularly spike as glucose does.

As a result, you will perform better at the gym and with any brain-related activities at work or while studying.

For me, it’s this mental clarity that makes me come back for more.

So, with all the similarities explained, it’s time to tell you how you can take advantage of both diets in a cyclical way.

Going Through Keto And Carnivore Diet Cycles

mixed food keto food on a table

While it is entirely possible to stick to a carnivore lifestyle long-term with the help of a few supplements, I have to admit that it can become quite tough going. Especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but also when you head on vacation, and you end up watching other people enjoy all types of tasty food, beer, and wine.

And all you can do is sip on a glass of water or cup of coffee. Yes, those summer BBQs are great, but there is a limit to the weight loss enjoyment.

What I suggest instead is that you cycle through phases of the carnivore diet and ketogenic diet. I do about 6 to 10 weeks of red meat cuts and organ meats only, two or three times a year. And I even sneak in the odd cheat week when I head on vacation where I go back to carbs.

It’s not the same as keto or 0-carb. On keto, you can still have low-carb vegetables, and on both keto and 0-carb, you can have plant fats (olive oil, coconut oil, etc.), spices, salt, vinegar, coffee/tea, and other non-animal foods for tastiness and nutritional value.

- Sébastien Noël, PaleoLeap.com

It does mean you go through the keto-flu a couple of times, but if you’ve done it once, then the next times are not as bad.

How To Go From Keto To Carnivore

how to go from keto to carnivore

OK, so let’s assume you’ve done the keto diet and now want to take it another step further with the carnivore diet. How do you eat meat effectively?

The answer lies in the following five simple and gradual steps.

1. Analyze Your Food Journal

If you don’t already keep a food journal, then start immediately, ideally with an app like Noom. You want to write down everything you eat so that you can see exactly how many calories you take in and what your macronutrient ratio is.

What I did in the past was print out my journal and then use a highlighting pen to mark all the animal products for my carnivore diet. This will give you an excellent idea of what percentage of your food comes from animals vs plants.

2. Calculate Your Calorie Intake From Plant-Based Products

Now that you know how many calories you take in from meat and plants, you can determine how much you need to make up by replacing plants with animal products. If you’re at a healthy weight, then stick to the same calories while on a carnivore diet.

But if you still have some way to go to reach your weight loss goals, then consider reducing the calories a little more. I have found that the amount of all-meat diet weight loss is higher than on keto. And the meat seems to keep me full for longer, so I can reduce my calories more efficiently with a carnivore diet.

3. Gradually Replace Greens With Meats

Even though I’ve gone through a few cycles at this stage, I still take the gradual approach over about 7 to 10 days while on a carnivore diet. Every day, I remove a few plant-based items and add some more meat.

I have found this makes it a little bit easier to transition to the carnivore diet, and the health benefits are the same. It also allows me to stick with the same exercise routines without having to worry too much about feeling drained.

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4. Diversify The Meats You Eat

The toughest thing can constantly be eating the same stuff. Even if it’s a delicious ribeye steak from Snake River Farms or grass-fed beef cooked in butter, you can quickly get sick of it. The best thing you can do is switch between beef, pork, chicken, fish, and organ meat for your carnivore diet meals.

This also has the added benefit of providing a more diverse range of vitamins and minerals. If you’re stuck for ideas, then check out our carnivore diet food list.

5. Monitor Your Ketone Levels

As you gradually eat meat more, you should notice an increase in ketones. You can buy devices and test strips that measure these levels in your urine and they are reasonably accurate.

​It’s a good indicator that you’re moving in the right direction of the carnivore diet. You should also start testing several times a day and keep track of the measures and note down what kind of mood you’re in. This can be a very motivating exercise, as generally speaking, you’ll be in a better mood with high levels.

Bottom Line: Which Diet Is The Better Option For You?

meat and fish on a plate

In the whole keto vs carnivore diet debate, it really shouldn’t be a question of which one is better. In my opinion, they complement each other, but if you’re completely new to it all, then start with keto and after a few weeks, the transition to a carnivore diet on regular on-and-off cycles.

Some people also ask me, “Is low carb better than keto and carnivore,” and I generally say it’s not. But if you’re struggling to commit to this lifestyle, then reducing your carbs is a good health move.

For more information on how to do the carnivore diet, Check out our carnivore diet meal plan. And if you’re curious about what to eat on a carnivore diet, then we have you covered with a detailed food list.

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