The Carnivore Diet: What Happens When You Eat ONLY Meat?

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woman holding two steaks

Diets limit what you eat, but what if you stick to just one food group?

That’s the theory behind the carnivore diet (aka zero-carb, meat cleanses, or zero-plant diet). This lifestyle focuses on eating only animal products — and a LOT of them! Naturally, fat is a hugely important part of this lifestyle (no one needs to become sick from rabbit starvation).

The Carnivore Code book on a counter next to some steaks

As we start diving into the Carnivore Code by Dr. Paul Saladino for our latest Hip2Keto Book Club selection, we’ve got meat on the mind — lots of it! We’re starting out this book review by covering the basics of the carnivore diet and interviewing two women who have found health and happiness by adopting this lifestyle.

Have you joined our Hip2Keto Book Club yet? Sign up here!

Dieters tend to approach the Carnivore Diet in one of three different ways:

scrambled eggs on a plate

  • Most animal products: Animal meat and by-products like fat, eggs, cheese, cream, and butter. Most avoid milk due to sugar content.
  • Meat, fat, & eggs only: Some individuals don’t like the way cheese or cream makes them feel, so dieters keep it simple.
  • Only meat: The true carnivore diet, just meat, fat, and water (and sometimes coffee if you just can’t part ways with caffeine).

you had me at bacon coffee mug

What are the benefits of a zero-carb diet?

You might be thinking, “How the heck can this be good for you?!” Well, in the same way that keto is beneficial, using fats for energy (via ketosis) is our body’s and brain’s preferred energy source — and it comes with several health benefits:

  • Improved digestion from reduced fiber intake (I know, the complete opposite of what we’re taught!)
  • Mental clarity from eating primarily fat and protein
  • Decreased inflammation from limiting carbs and focusing on fats
  • Faster weight loss from steady blood sugar levels

But it goes even further than that — the outcome of the carnivore diet can be life-changing.

woman in the center with plate of meat and two snapshots of women on carnivore diet on the sides

Take Charlene Andersen for instance (top image, left). Charlene had a laundry list of illnesses, from Lyme disease to Trichotillomania to depression to migraines to indigestion and dozens more in between. After failed doctor visits and approaching the point of thinking there would be no cure, she turned to the carnivore diet and started miraculously curing herself of sickness.

Now at age 47, she’s looking and feeling better than ever! Even more exciting, she and her husband Joe are celebrating their 22nd “Carniversary” this year!

Then there’s Kelly Hogan (top image, right), who was overweight and had tried every weight loss method under the sun from low-fat diets to starvation (she even ate only pickles for one month – and though it did have some success, it definitely wasn’t sustainable).

She was then asked by her doctor to lose 100 pounds, so he introduced her to a low-carb, high-fat diet (hey, hey — that’s keto!) which turned into a zero carb lifestyle after five years. Along with dropping the weight, this diet even reversed her infertility! She’s since had three beautiful children and at age 43, she’s living her healthiest life!

variety of meats on a table

As far as my experience, I can personally attest to the feel-good health benefits that come with eating low carb as I used to struggle BIG time with IBS and uncomfortable digestion issues.

Now I find that focusing more on high-fat, meat-rich meals alleviates these issues even more. While I try to primarily eat fatty meat and animal products (hello ribeye steaks!), I’ll snack on lean meats and almonds here and there. And naturally, I can’t resist trying out some of Lina’s amazing keto recipes!

Starting out on the Carnivore diet

woman in bathing suit in the sun

Who knew that by being so “limited”, I’d feel freer, healthier, and happier than I ever could imagine! – Charlene

“I didn’t ever have that moment in time where I decided to take a plunge or commitment. My husband and I didn’t set out to ‘do a carnivore diet.’ I was very, very sick. We dropped any and all foods that made me feel worse. First grains were dropped… I felt better. Then all dairy was dropped… I felt better still. Soon all legumes, starches, and fruits also were banished. Our daily journal showed how every food dropped allowed my health to climb.

Finally, I was willing to give up my go-to food: vegetables. And with the cessation of any and all veggies in my diet my health soared to never before reached heights! I lived every day, experimenting — having LOTS of fails and small successes. My reactions and conclusions led me to a meat (specifically fatty ribeye) and water diet. I chose to feel well and not to consume anything that brought about symptoms.

So, that was my conclusion. Enter freedom!! The best takeaway was the freedom from illness, pain, insurmountable fatigue, extreme hunger, excess weight, mental anguish and darkness, and confusion. I could name over 100 things that I became free from. Who knew that by being so “limited”, I’d feel freer, healthier, and happier than I ever could imagine!”

Looking for a way out of a demanding lifestyle is what led Kelly toward a zero carb life:

before after weight loss photo of woman

“I weighed over 260 pounds before I eliminated carbs. I lost most of the weight on a very low carb diet while still calorie restricting and ruthlessly exercising. At some point, I realized that I would not be able to keep that up forever, and I was terrified of the weight coming back. I noticed that when I dropped carbs lower and lower, I looked and felt better.

I did some searching online to see if it was possible to thrive on an all-meat diet. When I found a community of people eating this way and living their best, most amazing lives, I decided to give it a try.

I was able to stop starving myself, stop forcing myself to stay at the gym for hours at a time, and to maintain the weight loss easily. I was also able to regain my monthly cycle, which had stopped two years prior. I became pregnant and had three zero carb pregnancies, which led to three of my absolute greatest benefits of a zero carb diet… My three sweet babies.”

Challenges on the Carnivore Diet

woman on carnivore diet before and after picture

With all of Charlene’s success, she’s still had her own set of challenges on the carnivore diet:

“Before I went all-meat, my biggest challenge was imagining how anyone could be or stay lean unless they filled their bellies with lots of low-fat protein, whole foods, and (healthy?) vegetables — especially the low carb ones. One by one, I found categories of foods I had to eliminate in order to have any sort of health.

 I used to eat mounds of all sorts of veggies, all the while getting sicker. Although I would never have believed it unless I experienced it, I found the most relief when I gave up the last category in my pursuit of health and happiness — vegetables. Hate me (I’ve gotten more grief from women than I could ever imagine), but it’s true. 

After concluding with an all-meat diet, the challenge shifted to the anger from people: some family members, some friends, many from social media (though that was years later). We found and still find ourselves choosing to surround ourselves with supportive and positive people, rather than destructive/negative people. I think this is important regardless of who you are and what you do. But when my life was hanging on by the last strand of thread, it was vitally important to have positive around us.”

Similar to Charlene, Kelly faced her own obstacles with acceptance:

woman with two young boys

“Giving up diet sodas, making it through sugar withdrawals, and eating at friends’ homes when they had [unknowingly] prepared non-keto/non-Zero Carb meals are all challenging. But the biggest challenge for me was to continue my zero carb/pure carnivore diet while pregnant. In addition to the horrible cravings and meat aversions, I also had to deal with the lack of support from both the medical community and from people I knew personally.

We’ve always been taught to eat tons of fiber while pregnant and that lots of colorful fruits and vegetables are key. What I was doing went absolutely against all of that, and it made people nervous. But I knew how much better my body felt without carbs, and a fetus is just a small human. So I decided to stick with it and I’ve had zero regrets.  But I won’t lie, it was a little scary and not at all easy. But if I were to do it again, I’d go zero carb every time.”

How to approach the carnivore diet

fork holding up piece of steak from the air fryer

Charlene’s advice when approaching the carnivore diet:

“I’ve seen people achieve their best results when approaching an all-meat diet from previously having been on a Ketogenic or Low Carb diet, not that you have to do a low carb diet first. But the route has seemed to be helpful for people.

woman on carnivore diet

I would highly recommend that people eat enough fat on a carnivore diet — animal fat is king! Buy fatty cuts of meat, even ask the butcher to sell you untrimmed steaks. Ask the butcher to save you the fat that he trims off other people’s steaks. Fry this up in the pan and eat it with your meat if your cut is too lean.

ribeye steaks with marbling

In addition, make sure that you also eat enough meat! People have been trained over the years to feel that obtaining a lean body is all about exercise and calorie restriction. Neither is true! As a point of reference, I am 5’8” and around 122 pounds. I eat 1800 to 2500 calories a day. This is 1-1.5 pounds of COOKED ribeye steak (this would be about 1.5-2+ pounds, if raw). 

An untrimmed, fatty ribeye, cooked to medium, medium well is around 80% fat by calorie (not weight) after cooking. I also recommend that people eat mostly beef (or even all beef as our family does). Fatty beef is the world’s perfect food containing all the vitamins and minerals you need in the exact ratio that you need them. 

a block of freshly grated cheese

We also see many stumble and fail on a carnivore diet by including dairy. Dairy is awesome if you are an infant and you are breastfeeding. As an adult, you have zero need for dairy, especially dairy from a different species. I can’t even imagine what an act of desperation it must have been for the first human to have to get milk from a lactating ruminant!

Lastly, I recommend checking out the Facebook group Zeroing in on Health. There you will find thousands (almost 20,000 members) of others eating an all-meat diet and includes veterans who have eaten this way for many, many years. There is lots of information for studies, books, etc. to support the science behind it.”

Kelly also highly recommends finding an online zero carb group:

woman on carnivore diet riding a bike

“I would just recommend to give it 30 days and to find a support system like the Facebook group’s Zeroing In On Health, Hip2Keto Community, or Zero Carb Health. At the end of 30 Days, simply evaluate how you look and feel. How does your skin look? How are your food cravings? How is your energy level?

Most people see weight loss, mental clarity, more even moods, glowing skin, a total loss of sugar cravings, higher energy levels, better sleep, and reduced inflammation. If you don’t feel better at the end of 30 Days, just return to whatever you were doing before. Nothing lost, nothing gained. But that’s not usually what happens. If you’re looking for even more support, you can join me over on my YouTube Channel  – My Zero Carb Life

So inspirational!

While many can safely follow this diet, it’s important to note that everyone’s body, lifestyle, and preferences are COMPLETELY different — it might not be for everyone.

Listen to your body, consult with your doctor, and do what works best for you! Meat-cha later!

Join our Hip2Keto Book Club to read the Carnivore Code along with us!

Join The Discussion

Comments 19

  1. Lisa

    Here’s the deal: Any time you eliminate major food groups from your diet (or in this case, pretty much all foods except meat), you’re likely going to be eating less. Less food equals fewer calories consumed, and eating fewer calories than you need is how weight loss happens. Period.

    So, sure, you’ll probably lose weight on the carnivore diet in the short-term. You’ll have to say no to office snacks, birthday cake, and convenient on-the-go options like granola bars and trail mix.

    That said, experts caution that the diet is likely unsustainable, and any weight you lose will probably come back as soon as you start eating a variety of foods again. “There are much healthier ways to lose weight that include making lasting lifestyle changes,” says Gorin. “It would be very difficult—and wouldn’t be healthy—to maintain an all-meat diet.”

    • Cheryl

      Did you even read the entire post??? She talks about how many calories she eats a day, she’s not at starvation level. And the same is true of ANY weight loss program – if you go off of it you will eventually gain the weight back. People following low carb/keto already say no to office junk food. I think you just might be on the wrong site. Or you’re a troll.

      • Erik

        I dont understand why your so pressed Cheryl she simply stated the diet is unsutanable and the reasons why it will cause weight loss.

        • Tom

          2 years, started keto now carnivore and very happy at 53 years old and over 100 lbs lost. Seems to be very sustainable to me. Very enjoyable and super easy to stick to.

        • Jackie

          We know why it causes weight loss. Thats the ‘deal’. But with this there is NO HUNGER. As there is with all other carb diets. So which is more sustainable? Hungry or not hungry?

    • Vivian

      LOL Try this at 65! Keto and Carnivore work! Low calories did NOT for me!

    • Pat

      You have done zero homework. Your opinion is not based on any facts and you are completely wrong.

    • Iah

      I think you should try reading the article again.

    • Sandy

      I’ve always been on low calorie diets until August of last year. The “Food Pyramid” diet only kept me on FIVE different types of diabetes meds, and THREE types of blood pressure meds. I was taking all EIGHT every day, some twice a day. After six months of KETO and two months of carnivore, I am off all but one diabetes medication and one BP med. My doc says I might get off the rest at my nine month mark. From what I can see, only those who benefit from keeping others unwell, are those who fight this WOE the most. If you like the way a “balanced” diet works for you, eat it. Personally, I’m going to stick to the diet millions if not billions of people ate before big business stepped up and found a way to make us all fat and unhealthy. If a carnivore diet was so unhealthy, the human race would never have made it into this age.

    • Angie

      I eat WAY more calories on Carnivore than on regular keto and even when I ate grains and still lost plenty of weight. Please educate yourself.

    • Magdalena

      In the article (you know, the one you commented on but didn’t read), Charlene states:

      “As a point of reference, I am 5’8” and around 122 pounds. I eat 1800 to 2500 calories a day. This is 1-1.5 pounds of COOKED ribeye steak (this would be about 1.5-2+ pounds, if raw). ”

      Also, in the article, about Charlene:

      “Now at age 47, she’s looking and feeling better than ever! Even more exciting, she and her husband Joe are celebrating their 22nd “Carniversary” this year!”

      She has been eating 1800-2500 calories a day for 22 years. Your experts are the same idiots that tell people to eat mostly grains (we’re not birds) and have people eating 1200 calories and exercising for an hour every day. THAT is not sustainable.

      These women were heavy and/or unhealthy and decided to DO something about it. What exactly are you taking issue with here? If you don’t want to eat like this, DON’T, but don’t leave stupid, unfounded comments on an article you didn’t even read.

      • AmyRP

        Well Said!!!

    • Dawn

      Lisa, the math you did there at the beginning of your statement is very, very wrong. You don’t end up eating less calories on carnivore. I caution you to check the calories of a 1 pound ribeye steak and then get back to us.

  2. Kerry

    Less calories means you lose weight period??! It is all in how you body runs and what you fuel it Period. Calories as the key is an outdated myth.

  3. Mike

    This simply works, I’ve been living this for over 5 years . The reason vast majority of individuals can’t fathom how it would be sustainable is because it does require some mental effort in the form of persistence. Most individuals are lazy and lazy is not going to work irregardless what the regime may be . I’ve consumed (4) things eggs,bacon,breakfast sausage and brisket . This is very simple easy and the effect is simply the way humans we’re meant to feel before the indoctrination of lies and scams with food/business. This is not a diet it’s deciding living everyday and feeling the absolute best possible is more important than Instant gratification . It will never become mainstream because like I said too many are lazy and food industry would be turned upside down . I feel fortunate to have figured it out without any external influence .

  4. Lee chevelle

    So eating beef primarily which for the most part eats grassses throughout its life and with grass as it’s diet I am getting all the nutrients minerals and vitamins that’ll ever need to sustain the highest level of health for the rest of my life. Answer please. So wouldn’t drinking large amounts–a couple of glasses of wheatgrass be the greatest thing in the world for us ? Thank you. LC

    • Emily (Keto Nutritionist)

      Hi Lee, cows are able to turn grass into protein because they’re ruminants – their four chambered stomaches contain bacteria that ferments/breaks down the cellulose (the grass cell walls) and then cows can utilize the amino acids from the cellulose to build muscle. Humans are not able to digest cellulose. Wheatgrass juice is considered a superfood, so it could be something to add to your diet. I’m just not sure it contains enough nutrition overall to be sustainable. Typically people just take a “shot” of wheatgrass. I haven’t seen any research or come across anyone living off of wheatgrass juice. But there is some promising research that it can help fight cancer. Overall, the research is limited on wheatgrass. Hopefully that helps with some clarification. Let us know if you have any other questions.

      • Gautam

        Hi, Have one question: can coconut water be a substitute for electrolytes …. Is it okay to drink coconut water in a carnivore diet … Also can we consume lentils in such diet

        • emilyhip

          Hi Guatam, coconut water does work as a substitute for electrolytes but note that it does contain sugar. Seems like most coconut waters have about 9g of sugar for 8oz. If you can find a brand that has zero sugar, that would be okay. You could also look into actual keto eletrolyte products. On a carnivore diet, you want to keep your carb intake as low as possible. Lentils are not part of the carnivore diet as they contain carbs. A 1/2 cup of lentils has 20g of carbs. A carnivore diet generally consists of meat, eggs, and some dairy products like butter and cheese. Hope that helps answer your questions!

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