In This Article
- Seven weeks into my carnivore bulk
- Why I have carbs on the weekend
- 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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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