My First Carnivore Cut
Amongst all the crazy diets I’ve tried so far, this might be the one that gets to take the steak. Having spent 10 months cultivating mass on carnivore, it’s finally come time to test its potency as a fat loss aid. Which if anything, is where this diet gets to show its true potential. And eight weeks in, it’s been delivering at a worryingly rapid rate. Fast enough that I’ve decided it warrants its own post.
And if it gets any better from here, I’ll have to start the book.
As of this post, the scale has cratered down to 86.3kg, making it over 13kg lost over eight weeks. And yes, some of its muscle. That’s an inevitable part of dieting at lower digits. But with incredible energy, a solid protein haul, and a disappearing waist, I’m fairly confident that the vast chunk has been hacked from the fat stores.
This post isn’t going to be a stack of meandering words explaining how to combine butter and beef. You should have that part figured out by now. If you haven’t, that skill is virtually foolproof.
This isn’t the straightforward version of the carnivore diet. It’s putting its own spin on the caveman template, by adding in a chunk of carbs.
It’s carnivore, optimised for bodybuilding. By which I mean we’re trying to melt the blubber while doing our best to protect any hard-earned muscle we have going in. Maybe even gain a little, providing you’re green enough.
5/2 Carnivore Cycling
With workout carbs
And weekend carbs
Along with a weekend boost in calories
All this means you get the best of both worlds. Fat and protein get to do the brunt of the work, just as nature intended. Carbs, in the meantime, are added on as performance fuel, where small doses enable powerful results. The rough result is metabolic flexibility, a system that switches back on forth between different fuels with barely a hiccup.
I’ll get into the details of why this particular setup is priming me for the perfect fat-loss phase. As of seven weeks, at least. There’s still time for this to go pear-shaped. In which case, I’ll probably just slide this off the site.
Why Add Carbs?
If you’ve been following my progress posts so far, the inclusion of sugar shouldn’t be surprising, since I’ve already had to call on the carbs to keep the bulk train chugging along. To put it concisely, the zero sugar version is incredibly good, too good, at warding off weight gain. At some point you’re destined to hit a wall that you can’t climb, even if you can grit your way through another 1000 calories of ground beef.
That’s more or less what happened to me, getting stuck at 87kg for what felt like several months while staying true to the carnivore doctrine. I was getting through 100 grams of butter a day, along with at least 3 pounds of steak. At some point, I caved, and added the carbs.
So the last few months of my bulk had a moderate amount of workout dextrose and post-training helpings of white rice. There weren’t too many side effects, besides my resting rate climbing all the way from the mid 50s to 70. And the blood pressure. The noticeable fat gain as the waist climbed two inches. The perpetual insomnia from the body running like a furnace across the night. But it was all worth it, because I finally cracked that elusive 100kg.
So it might seem a bit odd that I’ve decided to keep the carbs in, even more so since I’m a huge fan of ketones. But I’m bent on making sure I don’t go as deep as last time on keto, where I went all the way down to 78kg, the kind of territory where a gust of wind is a health hazard.
For the sake of optimising performance, and recovering from intense exercise, I’m leaving the carbs in play. And they might well help ameliorate any side effects that carnivore has on the adrenals and thyroid function. There are a host of good reasons to ditch sugar, but there are also several avenues by which it can help a fat loss programme.
- Add extra explosiveness to lifts
- Psychological pick-me-up from appearing fuller
- More force output due to increase in muscle cross-sectional area
- Suppressive effect on high cortisol levels
- Increase in leptin and T3, potentially boosting metabolic rate
- Potent thermogenic combination of starch and saturated fat
- Change of scenery
All this comes with a little caveat. Carbs are a valuable fuel, just as long as the dose is controlled. Without a cap, the positive effects quickly get replaced with chaos. Perpetual spikes of blood sugar ratcheting up inflammation, high insulin to spearhead fat gain, and the inevitable addition of various plant toxins. So it’s a matter of finding the sweet spot.
The 5/2 Split
Carnivore cycling takes on two phases over a week.
The Shred – Monday to Friday
Five days of zero carb dieting at around a 25% deficit, alongside weight training with a mix of rep ranges. This is designed to get the body into ketosis, enhancing fat loss while suppressing the predictable swing in cravings. Just as long as nutrient density is prioritised, it shouldn’t make for a bumpy ride.
The deficit itself doesn’t have to be huge, and that’s because the body will create the rest for you. Red meat does a great job of wasting itself as heat, ketones themselves are thermogenic, and there’s a solid chance of you under-eating calories. The quality of nutrition itself will inevitably give you more consistent energy during the day, enabling you to stay on your feet, skip the slouching, making for a healthy metabolic rate. All this means that the eventual deficit is closer to 40%.
I’ve added in servings of dextrose during workouts, just to provide the extra kick and avoid getting too flat across the week. 30-50 grams appears to do the job, and there haven’t been any hypoglycemic episodes after intense workouts. The muscles do their job as a glycogen sink, and the body goes straight back into ketosis. The workout itself ends up being powered by both ketones and glucose, giving me the best of both worlds.
As I’ve said, I go through a mix of rep ranges across the week, training each muscle group at least twice. One heavy, one high rep session. Whenever I can help it, I’ll position the heavy workouts at the beginning of the week, making the most of the extra glycogen off the back of the weekend.
So for a significant chunk of this phase, I’ll be in steak-fuelled ketosis, which lends the diet a few significant advantages.
- Suppressed appetite
- Mitochondrial fusion, AKA the body wastes calories as heat
- Complete nutrition, further suppressing appetite and ensuring I get optimal energy levels across the zero carb phase
- Lowered perceived stress levels, through the improved GABA:Glutamate ratio
- Less lactic acid buildup during training, allowing more reps with light to moderate weights
- And then it’s on to the carb fix.
The Pump – Saturday to Sunday
The shred is followed by two days of moderate carbs at maintenance calories. That’s the aforementioned sweet spot. Not too much that I hop on the sugar rollercoaster and spend a couple of days getting back into ketosis. Not so little that I arrive on Monday feeling just as flat as I did Saturday morning.
My go-to carb up meal so far has been a big bowl of brisket, butter, and basmati rice. The perfect combination of saturated fat and starches, that gets the body going like a furnace. In case you’ve missed out on the science, saturated fat results in increased reactive oxygen species, which ramps up thermogenesis through mitochondrial uncoupling. The addition of starches appears to amplify that effect.
So the carb-up won’t just improve the metabolism through the standard means of raising calories and leptin. The saturated fat and starch duo will send it into the stratosphere. Or thereabouts.
The weekend gives me the pick-me-up I need to bounce into the next run of zero carb days. Which isn’t exactly a grind, there’s a ton of calories throughout, but I’m might need to change that further down the line.
This can’t continue to be that easy.
My Current Setup
The 5/2 carnivore cycle is very much in its alpha release, and I’ve been more than happy to be the guinea pig. Here’s the blueprint I’ve been following so far.
Zero carb deficit – 3200 Calories – 40g carbs per workout
Moderate carb maintenance – 4500 Calories – 250g carbs each day
Like I’ve said, it’s a metric ton of calories to be losing weight on, but that’s been the game so far. As long as I can keep the calories high, the heavy nutritional load should keep the metabolism revving along. The one thing I haven’t quite nailed down is sleep, despite still making significant improvements
Bulk to Diet Sleep Stats
- Resting Heart Rate – 65 – 47
- Heart Rate Variability – 32 – 53
- Sleep Efficiency – 82% -86%
Sleep is the angle where I’m happy to throw away the dogma and add supplements to carnivore. Cavemen didn’t have to deal with social media. Their retinas weren’t getting assaulted by blue light. In my mind, it makes perfect sense to add a little bit extra to help the body wind down for bedtime.
- Glycine – 3g – Lowers body temperature
- Magnesium Glycinate – 1g – Improves sleep quality
- Theanine – 200mg – Increases GABA
- Tart Cherry – Increases melatonin
Given that sleep deprivation is a key reason behind metabolic suppression, the bedtime routine is front and center on my priority list. Incidentally, I’ve actually found I sleep worse on the weekend, despite having carbs. Which doesn’t quite jive with the idea of carbs lowering cortisol. But I’m not going to read too much into that one. Until this formula stops firing, I’m not changing much.
I want this wrapped up in 12 weeks, which gives me another 4 to play with. As of now, I’m planning a shift towards leaner meats for the last few weeks. That lets me drop calories further while ramping up protein to stop the mass from falling off. The drop in fat is also likely to result in increased hunger and lethargy, but I’ll cross that bridge with an open mind.
Should You Try Carb Cycling On Carnivore?
This format certainly should appeal to those who find the standard steak and butter version a little too restrictive. Here you still get to have your cake, providing you source it from low toxicity carbs. Just like basmati white rice, scrubbed and polished of all those nasty toxins. And there is much more to like about carb cycling, since it allows the dieter to retain true metabolic flexibility, while getting the best out of each macronutrient.
Carbs are a hell of a performance fuel when they’re leveraged sparingly. Fats are magnificent at providing an unquenchable supply of energy. Ketones soothe the fragile mind, and protein ensures the metabolism doesn’t fall apart. They all get to play their part in this 5/2 split.
The only worry is whether the influx of carbs prompts any bingeing symptoms, which can derail the diet and spoil any momentum. So you’ll have to be real with yourself and define whether you’re currently suffering from sugar addiction. It’s real, and it might not let you spice things up.
If you still have the green light, then this carnivore cycling template is perfectly honed to retain muscle mass, enhance performance, while continually tapping into the fat reserves. Even better, it’s ridiculously simple to follow. Meat during the week, meat and carbs over the weekend. Rinse, repeat, till you arrive at wherever you want to be.
Carnivore Diet Coach And Personal Trainer