Physique, Fitness, Fat Loss and Performance on the Carnivore Diet
I’ve been obsessed with “health and fitness” for over 2 decades. But for the 1st 15 years or so, it was mainly “fitness” obsessed. How to lose fat. How to build muscle. How to build the physique I wanted. It took me longer to figure out how to have this fitness AND health. This is the ultimate goal, look great AND feel great. (The keys to this kingdom are in the Meat Health Masterclass which you can watch at the end of this article)
Warning: If your concern, your #1 priority, is short term fat loss, I think there are better strategies.
But if you want to have a body composition you love, long term, and health, you are in the right place.
First place to start when using a meat-based, Carnivore Diet, to create your ideal body composition is getting adapted. Use the 30-Day Guide to get there.
I don’t recommend any kind of tinkering to the Carnivore Diet until you are adapted and healed. For some people this takes 3-6 months, for other it can take years depending on the damage done.
That said, I like to get very lean on an occasion. I like to bulk on an occasion. I want to perform my best.
Is the Carnivore Diet optimal for these things?
While some carbohydrate can optimize some body composition and performance goals, there is no doubt you can get extremely lean as well as build significant muscle on the Carnivore Diet.
Nearly 100% of people see a drop in performance while getting adapted to the Carnivore Diet.
Don’t go carnivore if you have a strength training meat (pun intended) this month.
Strength tends to catch up and improve quite rapidly. More glycolytic type training, like hypertrophy training that bodybuilders tend to focus on, takes a bit more time to get to the level you were at. It also takes more time to regain some of the muscle fullness (which might always be a bit less full than if you incorporated carbohydrates).
It takes many athletes 3-6 months to recover their prior level of performance, however, after this recovery period I’ve seen people who had not been able to make strength or size or performance improvements start to shatter their previous bests.
During adaptation you may experience increased soreness. Explosiveness takes some time (the highly glycolytic stuff) to get back. Strength generally goes up quite rapidly, but athletes can take up to 3 months to get fully back up to speed before dominating to new heights.
Having been in the bodybuilding world for many years, I’m not going to say this is the optimal diet. I don’t believe there is such thing as a blanket optimal bodybuilding diet.
But if you want to find a diet where you can feel and perform amazing while having health (ENERGY, FOCUS and VITALITY) I think this diet is one where you can have your steak and eat it too.
Before diving into some of the common questions PLEASE read this on “TINKERING” with the Carnivore Diet. It’s absolutely not something you want to do when starting. But for thriving carnivores that want to tinker, there are strategies to stay on protocol while optimizing for various variables like strength or size or fat loss or endurance or performance.
Post Workout Carbs and Cortisol
Many people worry about the elevated cortisol. And post workout carbs is often used as a strategy to lower cortisol post-workout. But these transient spikes in cortisol isn’t something to worry about. Your steak is all you need. As a thriving carnivore your chronic systemic inflammation is low day in and day out. Your non-carnivore bodybuilding friends have higher amounts of chronic systemic inflammation. Acute inflammation from a workout is good and natural. Your delta between your chronic systemic inflammation and your localized acute inflammation as a carnivore is large which is good, your body knows how to allocate resources most effectively to repair and grow those muscles you just put to work. Just feed it the resources it needs. Steak. Your non-carnivore friends have a smaller delta between their chronic systemic inflammation and their localized acute inflammation. They likely have chronically higher cortisol levels and allocation of resources for repair are not as efficiently resourced because some need to go help the whole body inflammation (chronic) and some to the (acute). It’s important to see the forest through the trees.
Plus, there’s no difference in glycogen replenishment eating immediately vs 4 hr post-workout.
There’s no need to supplement, but it’s up to you. Some people add “Whey” like other carnivore add “sides” like (cheese, whipping cream).
Note any supplement will disrupt your natural balance, you may be able to make the argument that supplementing creates an even more optimized balance. You’re free to make your own decisions. For example, creatine is a proven, effective, safe supplement. But red meat is the best source of creatine there is. Most people’s creatine stores will be “topped off” on a Carnivore Diet. Adding a couple grams a day probably has little to no negative impact, and could cause a slightly positive impact in strength and size.
Whey Protein: It’s not needed. Almost always you would be better off eating whole, real, meat. BUT while not optimal – doesn’t mean you can’t have it. The glycemic impact leaves me drained, but if you do fine with it and you want it – then go for it.
Creatine: Meat has lots of natural creatine, though it take can 3-5lbs of beef daily to saturate creatine stores. For explosive strength trainers, you may see some benefit to supplementing with create, for most, it’s simply unnecessary.
Counting Calories and Macronutrients
I think being “aware” is better than being “analytical” here.
For example, if you are focused on building strength, eating a bit more is going to help. Like I’ve mentioned you shouldn’t be tinkering if you haven’t healed, and if you have healed you have a good idea on average how much you eat, of what, to thrive. If you are wanting to gain strength and size you need to give the body the raw material (steak) it needs to add on this growth. All this requires is eating enough, and if strength or size has stalled you may need to eat just a bit more.
If you are wanting to get really cut. Being aware that you need to fulfill the equation: burn more energy than consumed. Generally you just need to substitute in slightly less fatty cuts, and burn some more energy.
Stalled Weight Loss
Weight loss is not linear. Most people who are focusing on fat loss and have above 10% body fat for males and 15% for females, just need to continue to eat meat and heal. They need to throw out the scale and just trust the process. Healing can take 3-6 months or a couple years depending on the extent of the damage. Focus on good nutrition, health first. Then focus on getting stronger and fitter. Lift weights, increase your HIIT capacity. Stalled fat loss should trigger you to focusing on increasing strength and cardio capacity, not decreasing meat.
If fat loss has stalled and you are wanting to get super cut. See the Meat Health Masterclass at the end. Naturally, the body doesn’t like 4% body fat, so you have to force it there.
Regained Weight and Plateaus
Remember – weight loss is not linear. And weight or fat gain when starting a carnivore diet is not uncommon. As hard as this sounds, you have to trust the healing process. You need to throw out the scale. You need to keep eating meat when hungry until full. Your focus during this healing time should be on getting healthy first.
If you want to learn more about how to discover your ultimate body composition with a meat-based / carnivore diet, I highly recommend watching the Meat Health Masterclass: