The Progress I’ve Made So Far On Carnivore
This is where carnivore gets fun. I’ve decided to throw in the towel on the bulk and call off the ascent at 100kg. That’s far and away the heaviest I’ve been since I began training some seven years ago. So I’d call this a success. That being said, carnivore suits fat loss far more than it does weight gain.
Much of the nine months I spent bulking has been on a straightforward carnivore diet, but I’ve had to bring in a few carbs to keep climbing the scale. And while the use of carbs has solved the scale problem, a few outstanding issues have proceeded to get worse. Sleep is continuing to crater, the resting heart rate has jumped from 60 to 70bpm, and the belly is beginning to jiggle. Now that I get to downsize the calories and virtually cut out all carbs, I’ve got a feeling that everything is going to work itself out.
I’ve got a bad habit of spending far too long in deficits, and I’m bent on doing things a little differently this time around. In an effort to keep the metabolism-revving along, the calories will be kept as high as possible while still forcing weight loss. Since I’m sourcing those calories from the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, it should have the effect of limiting the metabolic kickbacks from dropping weight.
I want this latest diet to be a cakewalk, for the most part. At least until I arrive at sub 8% body fat. And after the effort of getting to 100kg, the sleepless nights from overdosing on buttered steak, I’d rather not lose the muscle in a hurry.
So in the beginning, the diet won’t be much different from the one I’ve used over the last few months of bulking. All I’ve done is drop the carbs, which leaves me with one simple lever to guide fat loss.
Messing With The Fat To Protein Ratio
The carnivore diet is as basic as it gets, but there’s one variable where people tend to trip up. The fat to protein ratio effectively dictates your energy levels, performance in the gym, and the potency of ketones. Simply put, protein is a terrible fuel source. It works best as a building block, with carbs or fats doing the work to keep you on your feet. That’s why I always recommend a 1:1 fat to protein ratio, by the gram. Concerning bulking, that’s perfect. Maintaining, great. Dieting down, up to a point. For most people, a small deficit still allows enough calories for a similar ratio.
I’ve given myself a generous target of 3000 calories, which works out at around 230 grams of fat, 215 grams of protein. That also gets me to my normal target for protein, one gram per pound of bodyweight. Now I’ll just see how far I can take this before having to whittle the calories down further.
The sheer thermogenics of beef should keep the metabolism whirring along for a while, but eventually that’s going to have to drop. Keeping the same ratio at 2500 calories gets me 188 grams of protein, which I’m also happy with. It might be under the one gram per pound rule, but only marginally, and ketones are muscle protective. Basically, because ketones end up sparing amino acids from the fate of being burnt up instantly for energy, there’s more being kept for the duties of protein turnover. So there’s a solid argument that you’d need less protein on keto.
However, once I finally have to nudge it under 2500, that’s the point where I’ll start to skew the ratio in favour of protein. Something in the region of 0.7 to 1 fat to protein. That’s the stage where I’d expect the diet to become a bit of a grind. Less energy, the occasional bout of hunger, and the pain that comes from having to drop butter. I may even have to cut down on my brisket intake, which will take some doing.
As for fasting, I’m probably going to keep that to a civil 16-20 hours. During last year’s shred, I regularly went for 23-hour fasts, but I feel that had the effect of pushing the stress dial a little too far. The fasts themselves were fine, but the first meal that followed just never felt big enough. By the end, I needed two big meals to get past the hunger pangs. And that problem didn’t go away until a few weeks of maintaining after the diet.
The matter of protein absorption is still up for debate, and there’s no evidence to imply that one can break down 200 grams of the macro in a single meal. With some estimates ranging around 60-80 grams, I’d rather play it safe and split my intake over two large meals and one smaller one.
Training Isn’t Changing Just Yet
The big goal of my cutting season will simply be to maintain muscle, holding on to whatever ground I’ve made over the past nine months. The modus operandi of fat loss training has often been pushed towards high reps with moderate weight. This is taken from a few ideas of physiology.
1- Muscle growth is correlated to increases in volume
2 – High volume depletes muscle glycogen, eventually exhausting that fuel and forcing the body to switch to burning its fat reserves
But despite these points being reasonably accurate, I don’t see any need in changing up my current regime of daily undulating periodisation. That being, combining high reps and heavy weights in the same session. Even if volume is key, so is weight, and the setpiece compound exercises are still going to be crucial for providing the muscle fibers with a complete workout.
Recently I’ve been working up to five rep maxes, with the rare one rep effort when my ego, or curiousity, gets the better of me. So I’ll just settle for dropping the one rep maxes, and keeping training much the same as its been through the bulk.
I fully expect strength levels to dip slightly, but not too far. My sleep, as I’ve often admitted, hasn’t been the best on this carnivore bulk. It’s not been a low carb problem, because I ended up sneaking in white rice, and nothing changed. If anything, it’s probably just down to the sheer volume of thermogenic foods I’m eating on an incessant basis. Considering how long protein and fat stay in digestion, the body rarely gets a chance to cool off.
Now that’s been dealt with, and the calories practically halved, I fancy my chances at pumping my dismal sleep scores on the oura ring. This in turn should make for better energy, if not strength. I’m all ready to begin enjoying life again.
Carb And Calorie Cycling
One extra measure I plan on throwing in, is a weekly carb-up. It’s not going to be crazy. One of the first diets I ever attempted was The Ultimate Diet 2.0 from Lyle Mcdonald. It involved low carbs for four days of the week, with a steep 50% deficit. That was an absolute grind to get through.
That spell was bookended with a massive carb up, having to shuttle in something like 1300 grams of carbs within a 36 hour window. The coma that came with it was something else, there was no getting past the fact that the weekends sucked. And so did the 50% deficit that came beforehand. Once the sugar crash was over, I still had to wade through an uncomfortably long window before I ran out of liver glycogen and re-entered ketosis.
So while I did get decent results on that programme, I’ll be going for a mildler approach to carb-ups. The doses won’t be getting ratcheted up to the point where I only get back into ketosis late into Tuesday. I’ll be hovering around 400 grams of carbs over the weekend, while also pumping calories back up to maintenance, about 3500 calories.
Effectively that gives me five days of hard dieting, and two days of refeeding. Monday through to Friday will be spent mostly in ketosis, letting me dig into the fat stores without feeling any lethargy or cravings. Then the weekend carb-up will pulse leptin, lower cortisol, and patch up muscle glycogen.
When I staged my last cut, which was mostly keto rather than carnivore, I lost a ton of mass. It was bound to happen, since the gyms were offline and I only had bands to play with. But I suspect that I went too hard on the fasts, too steep a deficit, and didn’t nail the timing for carb-ups.
And to top that off, my keto diet was still peppered with Omega 6, which is inherently obesogenic, and contributes nothing to satiety. Whereas I’m now taking on a deficit with virtually every calorie coming from highly satiating, highly nutritious sources. So I’m keen to see how it turns out.