Is The Carnivore Diet Too Restrictive For You?

16 min read

Steak. Butter. Liver. That’s It.

Rinse your pans, and get ready to do it all over again. There has to be an easier way of doing this.

You might be getting slowly reeled in by the promises of a carnivore diet. It’s just the best weight-loss tool on the planet, with all the potential to double as a lifestyle upgrade. 

Enhanced fat loss, slashed stress levels, zero bloating, and these are just some of the mechanics that you’d be signing up for in the cult of carnivore.

Unfortunately, then come’s the catch. The carnivore cult expects sacrifices from the freshlings. Your dinner plates and social calls take a beating, with all plant products swiped off the menu. It can feel lonely. 

Despite the boatload of perks, it’s a hard diet to justify, when you could just download an app, count calories, and hit macros. For most, that’s going to be more than enough to get through a successful weight loss programme.

The carnivore diet may be science-based, but it’s still a foreign quantity for most who’ve grown up with low-fat cornflakes drilled into the breakfast routine, with peanut butter sandwiches following up for lunch.

Making the switch from plant-friend to carnivore can just be too daunting to think of attempting. And that’s why it might not be the best starting point. It would be all too predictable if you threw in the towel after experiencing a motivational blip after a few weeks of steady progress. Old habits don’t die easy. 

Maybe you don’t need to head straight for carnivore 1.0. I’ve laid out a multi-tiered system that will help people pick out the version that will be most suited to their current eating habits. 

Apex – Red meat and butter
Ketovore – Red meat and low toxicity veg
Meatarian – Meat and low toxicity carbs
Protein Power – High protein foods 

So perhaps you can try carnivore, without having to jump feet first into the minimalist version that I take on each week. But which of the tiers should you pick? By taking you through carnivore’s five main upgrades, I’ll be able to help you make the call.

If you’ve been keeping track of my carnivore beginner guides, you’ll probably be able to make a fair guess at the levers that make this meat-fest a complete metabolic and lifestyle upgrade. 

  1. Total nutrition
  2. Lowered inflammation
  3. Ketone magic
  4. A tamed gut
  5. Simplicity

So let’s dive into each of the levers of the steak transformation, and see whether they are exclusively owned by meat and water 1.0. 


1. Red Meat Is A Total Nutrition Source

Ruminant meat is uncontested as the apex source of nutrition, plant and animal alike. It’s not just the fat and protein that counts here, there’s still the plethora of micronutrients to consider. B-vitamins, iron, zinc and are all found in abundance in red meat. When you add in a few portions of liver, you’ve practically got the whole set of nutrition needed to survive and thrive.

See The Article – The Nutritional Content Of Red Meat

No single plant source can provide anything close to that range. So if you’re looking for a vegetarian alternative, I’ve got bad news. As for other meat sources, chicken and pork are poor sources for micronutrients, while containing excessive amounts of inflammatory Omega 6 fats. The next best option to ruminant meat would likely be oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel. Although you’d have to watch out for the metals that can come along for the ride. 

Close on the coat-tails of your smoked salmon could be pasture-raised eggs. And I’m not trying to be an organic elitist here, the quality of the hens really make a difference. Just like chicken can contain too much Omega 6, so can their eggs. Any monogastric animal, ones with a single stomach, are going to be heavily affected by the food they’ve been raised on. So in this case, read the labels and seek out the ones with darker, orange yolks. Eggs are essentially multivitamins, including a wide range of nutrients. Chicken liver and cod liver can also be adequate replacements for ruminant liver.

Then there’s the question of fats, which have to be high in a carnivore-style diet, in order for the body to get enough energy. Oily fish and eggs certainly help, but that still might not be enough to get the right 1:1g fat to protein ratio. Grass-fed butter would be the best like-for replacement for ruminant fats, while also happening to be a fantastic sauce in its own right.

If you’re after some extra points, find and test out goat’s butter, which will be lower than cow butter in inflammation.

For the rest of your protein intake, you can pick from lean fowl meat, whey or egg protein powder, and fish, as these will be low in Omega 6 fats.

That gives us the following alternatives to red meat in a carnivore-style diet.

Red Meat Replacements
Oily Fish
Pasture-Raised Eggs
Chicken Liver
Grass-Fed Butter
Lean Fowl & Fish

If you take your pick from these alternatives, you’ll still find benefits from including a B-vitamin complex and a Zinc Magnesium supplement. With that nitpicking aside, meat-based nutrition is still a league away from a vegetarian diet. The cellular structures of humans and animals resemble each other far more than plants, and the quality of nutrition reflects that fact. So by picking any meat, even if it were grain-fed pork, would be a better option than loading up on grains.

2. Lowered Inflammation

Inflammation, which can be difficult to define, is the emergency response of the body. It’s not inherently harmful, and is an essential phase of the process of adaptation, or getting the muscles thick and juicy. In the context of a diet however, inflammation is decidedly a bad effect. Eating something shouldn’t cause the alarm bells to start ringing. Unfortunately, much of the western diet, including the healthy versions, contain large quantities of foods that are designed to cause inflammation. Seed oils are one we’ve already touched on, but then there is still the vast range of plant toxins that don’t want to fight fair. 

A carnivore diet is defined as one made only of animal products, but for the reason of fighting the flames of inflammation, that could still mean cutting out dairy as well. And then potentially avoiding fatty chicken, pork, and grain-fed eggs for good measure. This leaves you with ruminant meat and oily fish, which can feel a little claustrophobic. So what other foods could you possibly include that won’t trigger you too hard?

First, it would be worth seeing which forms of fermented dairy you can cope with. 

Low Inflammation Foods
Grass-fed butter, greek yoghurt, and hard cheeses are generally easy on digestion.
Chicken, pork and eggs are great sources of nutrition if you can pick out the ones that have been raised on pastures.
Lean fish are decent sources of protein, if lacking in other areas, but they’ll help fill up the plate.
Good quality olive oil (a fruit rather than a seed) and coconut oil (a good saturated fat source) can be used as alternatives to butter and beef fat.
White rice is refined enough to be free of most toxins. Yes, white is much better than whole-grain. Ditch the fiber.
Cucumbers, squash, and zucchini are good examples of vegetables that don’t contain many plant toxins.



3. Powered By Ketones

The fact that carnivore is very much a keto diet goes under the radar amongst all the talking points. And before you say it, the level of ketosis can certainly be lower than the classic Atkins diet of 90% fat and 10% protein. But pumping up ketone numbers can lead you to down a blind alley, there’s nothing to say that there’s any value in maxing out. It’s better to go with a simple checkbox. And the fact is, despite the sky-high levels of protein that can hike up gluconeogenesis, a carnivore diet will still grant you the many wonderful layers of ketone perks. There’s a bit of science behind that, but in the spirit of keeping it short, protein spikes glucagon rather than insulin, and that helps stem the release of sugar into the bloodstream.

And if you’re unaware of the fuss about ketones, these are the energy molecules that make low carb diets so potent at turning on the fat loss switch. An alternative fuel source to glucose, which also emits specific signals that suppress appetite and power up the mitochondria. Effectively making the dieting process much easier. Ketones also have great therapeutic potential for people who suffer from stress, due to the fact that these molecules can pass through the blood-brain barrier.

See The Article – 11 Ways Keto Boosts The Brain

But none of this is as important as the effect ketones have on fixing metabolic dysfunction, or insulin resistance. By default, the presence of functioning ketones means you’re also low on glucose. The longer you spend in a state of ketosis, the better the body becomes at using fat as a fuel source. Couple this with a diet that’s low in inflammatory vegetable oils, and you’re eroding any leftover markers of insulin resistance. 

You can absolutely continue to get the anti-stress, appetite-suppressing, energy-boosting effects of ketones, in a carnivore-style diet. There’s no set amount that you can’t cross, but keeping carbs under 50 grams will normally be enough for sustained ketosis. This sounds like a minuscule amount, but it would still allow plenty of low-toxicity vegetables and even some berries. Effectively putting you in the traditional ketogenic diet.

See My Recipe – Keto Avocado Salad

Many of the calories here wouldn’t go towards the carb total, as fiber calories are at most going to be 2 calories per gram, and insoluble fiber doesn’t count at all. So that leaves you with net carbs, rather than total carbs.

Go above that, and you’d need to incorporate high-intensity activity or fasting in order to slip in and out of ketosis. This is partly why I still keep intermittent fasting within my carnivore routine, so I can still get those productive mornings that lured me into this diet in the first place.

It’s certainly worth remaining low carbs even if you can’t be sold for the full carnivore version. Especially in the context of a weight-loss programme, where ketosis can really shine.

Keep your net carbs under 50 grams. If you go above that, ketones will cease to have much of an effect in your biochemistry.

4. A Tamed Gut

A diet without the fiber could still be good for the gut? This might be the craziest fact of carnivore to take in, but your microbiome can cope perfectly fine without a single gram of fiber to feed them. That’s because you’ve got the perfect replacement just waiting in the wings. The gut uses butyrate for fuel, and while it can convert fiber to make ends meet, it also has the chance of simply making use of your main fuel source on a zero carb diet. Ketones.

See My Article – Mythbusting Meat

The main ketone at play during ketosis is Beta-Hydroxy-Butyrate (BHB), which can happily lend its butyrate towards gut maintenance. And it stands to reason that ketones, as a fuel made in large quantities, could feed the microbiome to a greater quantity than 10 or so grams of fiber.

But that’s not the full tale of the carnivore microbiome, as it will also inevitably starve out vast populations of bacteria that feed on processed junk. So less bad bacteria, and more of the good-natured ones that just want to see you succeed.

What would happen to this dreamland if you started reintegrating some carbs in your quest to achieve a somewhat normal diet? It very much depends on which foods you shoot for. 

High fiber vegetables may keep the net carbs low, allowing for ketosis to remain in the picture, but this may not play out so well in the gut. The higher the fiber content, the greater the chance that the food is coming parcelled with an inflammatory array of plant toxins. Lectins, for instance, coming with foods like kidney beans, can tear at the stomach lining and cause leaky gut. Whole-grain rice contains phytic acid, which impairs nutrient absorption.

Fiber itself interferes with absorption and scratches at the gut wall. It’s inherently a problem for anyone wiith a sensitive stomach.

Low Fiber
There’s a case to be made to avoid high fiber and focus on fruits, low toxicity vegetables and refined carbs to make up your plant allowance.  

5. Simplicity

Despite the fact that I can talk for hours on the intricacies of a zero carb diet, the carnivore lifestyle takes simplicity to a level that no other diet you can. Don’t want to count calories? Hate complicated recipes? RDA’s give you headaches? If you just want the ultimate autopilot diet that as a high risk of working out for the best, then this is your stop. 

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, the daily grind could be made ridiculously easy. 

  1. Find a fatty meat, preferably red meat.
  2. Add salt. Maybe butter. Or eggs.
  3. Repeat ad infinitum.

Would you just get mind-numbingly bored and cave in after a few weeks? Maybe. But you also might decide by then that you really like steak, and the comfortable satiated feeling it gifts for hours afterwards.

Adding some carbs won’t necessarily tangle the setup. A small portion of white rice can be slotted in nicely, along with vegetables that don’t take ages to prep. 

See My Article – How To Add Carbs On Carnivore For Muscle-Gain

Keeping It Short
Carnivore itself is outrageously simple, and that’s a big part of what makes it so effective. So when you add foods to it, try not to go crazy with extra ingredients. Add one carb source at a time, and skip the salads and obscure seasoning strategies.
The Carnivore-Style Diet

As you’ll have across each of the carnivore perks, you don’t necessarily have to dive straight into the full uber-restrictive version. The primary objectives are pretty clear.

  1. Improve nutrition – With red meat, other meat, eggs, and some forms of dairy
  2. Reduce inflammation – By moderating sugar intake, reducing plant toxins and seed oils.
  3. Achieve ketosis – Lowering sugars and raising fats
  4. Tame the gut – Removing plant toxins, fiber, and seed oils
  5. Simplify the diet – Basing your nutrition on red meat

Takeaway – By breaking each of the perks down in detail, you’ll now be able to understand exactly how the carnivore juggernaut works its magic. You may even be sold on skipping the foreplay and going straight to the real version. And that’s certainly what I would recommend first and foremost. 

But let me bring this all together and give you my best recommendations for nailing your carnivore approach. 

Carnivore Style Diets
Tier 1 – Apex – Carnivore 1.0 – Steak, Lamb, Liver, Eggs, Oily Fish, Butter, Cheese – This would put you straight in the thick of it, and let you find out once and for all whether I’m just blowing smoke. There’s no risk, it just might be a hard sell if you’re feeling committed to your weekend Ben and Jerry tubs.

Tier 2 – Ketovore – Red Meat-Based Ketosis – Steak, Lamb, Liver, Eggs, Oily Fish, Butter, Cheese, Greek Yogurt,  Berries, Watery Greens – Also known by many as a Paleolithic Ketogenic Diet (PKD), or the more catchy Ketovore. This will give you all the nutrients necessary for surviving and thriving, by virtue of steak getting first dibs on your dinner plate. Carbs are kept low, allowing you to remain in ketosis for your stay.

Tier 3 – Meatarian – Red Meat-Based Nutrition – Steak, Lamb, Liver, Eggs, Oily Fish, Fowl, Pork, Butter, Cheese, Greek Yogurt,  Berries, Watery Greens, White Rice – This is the place for those who just want to get the upgrades without having to make huge sacrifices. There’s no more ketosis to speak of, unless you cycle between days of Tier 2 and Tier 3. Which is actually not a bad idea. As it is, this is potentially the best version for gaining muscle, as I can bid you good luck trying to pile the pounds on while shunning carbs. It can be done, I’ve certainly done it, but it’s a lot of steak.

Tier 4 – P-Power – Protein-Based Nutrition – Eggs, Oily Fish, Cheese, Greek Yogurt, Butter, Whey Protein Powder, Berries, Watery Greens, White Rice, Sweet Potato, Butternut Squash – Finally we have the version set up for vegetarians and pescatarians. I’d struggle to come up a vegan one. Despite the fact that it lacks red meat, there’s still plenty of metabolic bonuses gifted by the elimination of vegetable oils, moderation of sugar, and another eye for plant toxins. 

Which one you pick is completely down to your comfort zone. Perhaps Tier 1 is too far up the street. In which case, you could start with Tier 3, and potentially moving across to Tier 2 after a few months. And then, eventually, the step on to the promised land. Keep your options open.