How To Mix Carbs With Carnivore For Muscle Gain

6 min read

In This Article

  1. Seven weeks into my carnivore bulk
  2. Why I have carbs on the weekend
  3. The results so far

Carnivore As A Muscle Building Diet

From what I’ve seen, in my own dieting, and a basic understanding of physiology, carnivore is the ultimate weight loss tool. So I enjoyed that phase while it lasted. Repurposing it towards gaining muscle can be a problem, it’s just perfectly geared to get you to eat fewer calories. Opportunities for binge eating are sparse, and the appetite gets drowned out by excessive amounts of nutrition.

Right now, despite my best efforts to load up the steak buckets, I’m not gaining weight during weekdays. But over the weekend I can shift the pendulum, with a generous helping of non-inflammatory carbs. So this isn’t carnivore as it might be defined by the letter of tribal law. It’s more of a hybrid that is heavily carnivore based

My Previous Carnivore Update

Carbs Aren’t The Problem Here

Carb cycling is generally pretty popular with ketogenic dieters with a penchant for lifting weights. With the carnivore community, it’s a little murky. Carbs provide the inflammation, screw up digestion, causing a swathe of downstream negatives in metabolism. Since there isn’t an actual physiological need for sugars, it might seem sensible to keep the intake down at zero.

Things aren’t actually that clear cut. Sugar itself, when the rollercoaster is tamed, can be an asset for those looking to up or maintain their fitness game in a ketogenic diet. 

  1. Easy Calories – As has been the case for me, it can be difficult to raise weight on a zero carb diet. There’s always the option to simply eat more steak, but eating ridiculous amounts of fat can have downsides. If it’s more than your stomach acids can cope with, then you can expect to deal with waves of nausea, reflux, and terrible sleep. Refined carbs, however, are easily processed through digestion.

     

  2. Psychological Break – This isn’t an issue for me, but it can certainly be for many dieters. Carnivore is heavily restrictive, and that in itself can push rigid dieters towards disinhibition. Getting told you can’t have something can just make the culprit seem so much more appetising. Finding a way to occasionally and intentionally bring carbs back into the fold can help avoid any future breakdowns.

     

  3. Stress Relieving – Here is something that might initially appear a contradiction. I’ve repeatedly pointed out that a ketogenic diet can be a stress killer. And that’s still true. It’s just that things are never black and white. It can still result in raised cortisol, especially when combined with fasting, training, and other cortisol boosters. That isn’t a downside, but it is something that needs to be managed. A strategic burst of carbs can boost serotonin levels, lower cortisol, and haul the stress meter back to baseline.

     

  4. Glycogen Repletion – Glycogen is stored carbohydrate in the muscles, making up a decent portion of your lean mass, while being a valuable source for explosive exercise. In a zero carb affair, there’s going to be considerably less of it coming in. While keto adaptation does eliminate much of the problem by better conserving muscle glycogen, there would still be some losses over a week’s hard training. This can create a flat look in a physique, cancel pumps, and hampers high-intensity performance. And while I still haven’t reached the stage in the post-lockdown era, where I can call my lifts ‘high intensity’, I would like the peace of mind.

Would Carbs Break Carnivore?

So why do carbs cause so much pain? There can be a few more reasons out there, but I’d like to whittle it down to two major fears.

  1. Carbs Cancel Ketosis – Many people will dig the carnivore way for the ketones, and that’s completely understandable. Ketosis has that subtle sedative feel that shelters you across the day, without actually making you feel lethargic. There’s less appetite, fewer emotional rollercoasters, and a sustained sense of wellbeing. Once you do the keto dive and understand the hype, carbs can take on a dangerous quality. You might shun them altogether, and avoid the social occasions that could put you back on the sugar train.

    In one sense, any appreciable intake of curbs will suppress the effects of ketones, and put a pause on dietary therapy. But there’s nothing stopping you from resuming ketosis once the insulin pulse comes to an end. Especially if the carbs get funneled into the muscle glycogen tank, rather than causing the liver to spill. This would see ketones remain as the dominant fuel source. 

  2. The Inflammation Wave – There are several ways that carbs can interfere with normal digestion and cause nasty downstream effects. Plant toxins come with an array of problems, sugar itself can be damaging when the spikes aren’t controlled, and PUFAs (Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids) cause insulin resistance.

Pick the right foods, and you won’t have to deal with these issues. The reason I’ve picked white rice for my weekend top-up, is because it’s largely benign. The toxins are removed, the sugar can be controlled by simply adding a healthy serving of steak, and PUFAs don’t get to factor.

The Zero Carb Working Week

So this is my case for carbs for carnivore, which I keep within the weekend. Monday through to Friday, it’s a pure zero carb affair. I’ve even dropped my intra-workout helpings of dextrose, because it just didn’t seem to affect my performance. At this point, I simply feel better, fitter, without any carbs in the system. 

Sugar seems to make me complacent, sluggish, and emotionally unhinged. None of this suits the tempo I try to keep across the working week. Rather than relying on hot streaks of motivation, I just tap into the steady lease of energy from ketones, red meat, and butter. Despite the fact that I am sitting down to eat the same meal, day after day, it doesn’t feel restrictive. The flavors still hit all the right notes.

Strength is increasing steadily, my old shape is pretty much back, and there’s nothing to suggest that progress won’t continue to trickle in. I’m in this for the long run. There might be a mini cut every now and then, but this bulk is going stretch out for at least a year.

Seven Weeks Of Steaks & Shakes

  • Average Calories – 3200
  • Average Fasts – 18 Hours
  • Carb-Ups – 2 Days Per Week
  • Steps – 17,000 Per Day
  • Weight Gain – 6 Kg
  • Waist Size – Up by 0.5 Inch
  • Cravings – Only For Steak
  • Mood & Energy – Like A Predator Mixed With A Monk

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Scott Steely
Scott Steely
1 year ago

How many grams of carbs did you have on the weekends? Was it just one single meal with rice or more than one? I’ve leaned out considerably and want to slowly add some muscle but it seems virtually impossible to eat the amount of food/calories I need without it being excessive amounts of fat. Thinking some carbs might be the answer but I’m not sure how much….

Sama
1 year ago
Reply to  Scott Steely

I kept it to around 100 grams each on Saturday / Sunday, with the carbs kept to one meal. Although some people struggle digesting carbs with ketosis-induced glucose intolerance. In which case I’d split it over two meals, with 20 grams in the first, and 70 in the second. That’ll fix the glucose intolerance, since it’s only temporary. Hope that helps!

Chris
Chris
10 months ago

I was carnivore for a few years and got a lot thinner. Was always a heavier guy that can put weight on easily. I’m 35. Fell off the wagon as I had 2 kids and was at home a lot, started having a few beers here and there then injured my hip. Now I had surgery and back on carnivore. The issue is I ended up getting burned out and had really bad electrolyte status after 1.5-2 years. Was thinking this plan would be good for me I am just scared it will keep me from losing weight. I want to do strict carnivore all week like you said, skip breakfast then on the weekend do Cream of rice with mixed berries and maybe a little honey before the gym. And some white rice and beef for dinner. Maybe 35-40g of carbs at most in each of the meals on the weekend. You think it will take me long to get back into ketosis because of my body type/genetics? Or should I not add carbs for 6 months and let full zero carb lean me out first?

Sama
10 months ago
Reply to  Chris

Hey Chris, there’s no reason carb cycling will prevent you from losing fat if you’re taking the carbs in small amounts and in conjunction with weight training. They’ll just be swallowed up by the glycogen sink.

As for the electrolytes, make sure you’re getting enough fats, and consider adding an electrolyte solution to your workout drink. Both will help massively.

Chris
Chris
10 months ago
Reply to  Sama

Thank you so much mate!

Dwayne
Dwayne
8 months ago

He Sama,

Thanks for taking the time to put this article together. I found it to be helpful as I have been Carnivore for 15 months and I was thinking of adding in some carbs. I’m 55 and have worked out my adult life. Although I physically feel great on Carnivore I feel like I am missing something in the desire department. Not just a desire for sex, but a desire for anything I used to like. Could be age catching up with me but I’ve always felt 20 years younger than I am and excepting for this desire drop I still feel that way now.

I was looking for an ideal carb. Plain white rice it is.

I also like you weekend schedule. I think I’ll try it.

Thanks.

Sama
8 months ago
Reply to  Dwayne

I totally get where you’re coming from, carnivore can sometimes flatten your mood out a little too effectively. Adding carbs is definitely an option at this point, and seeing as you’ve already spent 15 months straight carnivore, you’ll have already gained the best adaptations on the diet. A few helpings of low toxicity carbs over the weekend shouldn’t hurt, potentially alongside workout dextrose.

Dwayne
Dwayne
8 months ago
Reply to  Sama

Thanks for the reply. I agree.

Can you go into more detail on the workout dextrose?

Sama
8 months ago
Reply to  Dwayne

Sure thing, I take 30 – 50 grams of dextrose and sip that during the workout, which helps replenish glycogen and prevent me from having any issues reaching my explosive best.