Fighting The Diet Demons
The single biggest factor in a bungled diet isn’t the inability to weigh your overnight oats correctly. It’s a simple fact of life, rather than statistical error. When you deprive the body of energy for long enough, you get hungry. For many, the process doesn’t take long. After a few hours of torture, you’re trying to stave off those nagging craving with carrots drenched in hummus. That might get you across the line to the lunch hour, after which the dance can resume. In the standard caloric deficit, hunger is an ever-present threat. The diet, therefore, is largely a mind game. It shouldn’t be.
The carnivore diet is primed to fix the core issue with weight loss, and thereby radically improve your chances of successfully completing a transformation. To put it simply, there’s no diet quite like it when it comes to appetite control, and that’s not just down to the fact that your options have been narrowed down to five or six ingredients.
How Carnivore Suppresses Cravings
- Ketones reduce ghrelin, the chief hunger hormone
- The absence of carbs prevents rebound hunger from hypoglycemia
- High nutrient density maximises satiety
- Fulfills protein requirements, averting metabolic kickbacks from muscle loss
With all that being said, it’s not foolproof. There’s plenty going in its favour, but there are also a few scenarios where your hunger demons can sneak back in. Fortunately, in most cases, there are simple solutions close at hand to ensure your cravings get kicked to the curb.
1. Be Patient
Sometimes, you just have to bite your lip and wait for father time to work his magic. When you’re early in the carnivore game, and especially if you’re jumping ship from the standard western diet, you better be braced for a few bumps. The metabolism is having to switch over from glycolysis to lipolysis and finally to ketosis. That transition isn’t going to wrap up overnight.
You’re looking at a few weeks to start effectively using ketones, and then another few months to master them. The first stage will generally be enough to dampen cravings, but you can expect further kickback if your gut is busy rescuing itself from dysbiosis. The bad bugs want their cake, and for them, it’s a matter of life and death. Hunger can come and go during that period, but there’s plenty you can do to keep them down to mild bursts.
See The Article – How Long It Takes To Become Fat Adapted
2. Pile On The Fat
Here’s where many raw recruits tend to trip up on the carnivore trail. They arrive off the back of their chicken breast and rice diet, swipe those carbs off the plate, and keep the chicken breast. When they add red meat, it’s lean ground beef, sirloin, flat iron, the usual low fat cuts.
This puts the body in a pickle. With the carbs hovering around zero, your engine is left to fuel itself with fats and proteins. If the fats in the diet are low, the body is unlikely to make full use of the stores available in adipose tissue, since that requires a decent level of fat adaption. That leaves the engine with protein, and it’s a terribly inefficient energy source. It doesn’t oxidise easily, doesn’t store easily, and the amount you can absorb is capped.
If you want to see the repercussions of chicken breast and ground turkey diet, look no further than the cases of ‘rabbit starvation’ that waylaid the explorers of the old American frontier. When they couldn’t find enough plump prey to hunt down, they had to resort to lean options like rabbit, which often resulted in a form of malnutrition that exhibited itself in insatiable hunger and diarrhea. Then, eventually, death.
Not that we’re really dealing with death as a potential side effect, since it would need an extreme scenario to play out. What we are dealing with, is the fact that eating too little fat on a carnivore diet can result in excessive hunger and low energy levels.
This phenomenon was likely the driving force behind our ancestors departing their hunter-gatherer lifestyles and kickstarting the ill-fated first agricultural revolution. The mammoths had been virtually wiped out, alongside countless other megafauna, large blubber-rich herbivores. Instead, they had to settle for hunting smaller, leaner prey. Fat became scarce, protein alone wasn’t enough, and they had to make a hard choice to ensure their survival. They had to add carbs.
Luckily, you have the luxury of avoiding that choice. You can simply ditch the chicken breast for chicken thighs, with a side of butter. You can swap the lean mince for full-fat mince, with a side of butter. The golden ratio we’re aiming for is 1:1 protein to fat, by the gram. Manage that, and there are going to be plenty of fats coming in for the body to make use of.
3. Don’t Portion Control
Another classic stumbling point for carnivore newbies. They go in with the express intention of limiting calories on a diet that’s already highly satiating, and thermogenic to boot. Meaning many of the calories get wiped out during the digestive process. As a result, they just don’t end up eating enough.
They’ll lose weight, but it’ll be a grind. The body isn’t healing, it’s not repairing nutrient deficiencies, and it’s not getting enough fats to restore long-dormant fuel pathways. Limit portions on carnivore, and you miss the point of this way of eating. The goal is to provide the body with all the nutrients and energy it needs to heal and become revitalised. Hunger gets erased, and fat loss becomes a happy side effect. You don’t get there when you’re dropping straight into a 50% deficit with cardboard beef. That strategy might get you losing weight, but you’re going to have to battle through many periods of nagging hunger to get there.
Make it easy for yourself. Don’t treat carnivore like just another diet that boils down to calorie counting. Indulge, don’t restrict. Let the body get back to its ancestral baseline.
4. Don’t Overdo The Fasting
Intermittent fasting has numerous benefits. Reduced hunger, raised autophagy, improved fat loss, and better cognition, just to name a few. To make things even better, it slots in seamlessly with carnivore, since both effectively share the same fuel state. Ketosis is just another form of fasting, since insulin levels are kept low and the catabolic AMPK pathway remains open. There’s barely a bump when you make the transition from a fasted to fed, and you continue to pick up many of the same benefits even as you roll through the feeding window.
The intense level of satiety from those nutrient-rich meals in turn make the subsequent fast that much easier. You can push it from 16, to 18, even as far as 23 hours without feeling a pang of hunger.
But you can have too much of a good thing, and going with the OMAD (One Meal A Day) format is often a step too far. Fasting is stressful on the body, and the dose makes the poison. By raising cortisol, it can compound the fact that carnivore already is a potent cortisol pump. Then there’s the question of protein absorption per meal, where practically all research at this stage agrees can be too much for OMAD to cope with.
All of which means that a large fasting window can increase stress to unhealthy levels, while hamstringing the body’s ability to digest and utilise protein. Which leads to loss of lean tissue, and subsequently raises hunger.
We’re looking for fat loss, not starvation, and we need to be careful with the fasting switch. So let ketosis do the work for you, space the meals out, and maximise your protein absorption. You can still fast, but keep it under 18 hours.
5. Eat Salt Liberally
A generous dab of salt is the simplest and most effective hack at your disposal on the carnivore diet. Many of the initial issues with hunger and lethargy can be put down to keto flu, a state of dehydration brought about by the body flushing out excessive amounts of sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. The quartet otherwise known as electrolytes, with sodium having an outsized effect on the others.
Raise your sodium levels through the consumption of salt, and the body can start to retain and balance the other electrolytes, subsequently restoring insulin sensitivity, quelling hunger, and revitalising the system. To put it simply, you have to more to lose from eating too little salt, than eating too much. The body’s perfectly capable of excreting excess salt, but it can’t create some out of thin air.
Salt also happens to be your number one workout supplement on carnivore, as it maintains performance by preventing dehydration and promoting better blood flow. A teaspoon of a good mineral salt or electrolyte blend can be a gamechanger provided you’re training hard enough to use it.
- 1.5-3 tsp of salt per day
- + ⅔ tsp to minimal requirement for hard exercise
- + ⅔ tsp to minimal requirement for keto or carnivore induction
- ⅔-1 tsp of salt per day for carnivore
- Maintain at least 3500mg of potassium per day, ideally in a 3:1 ratio to sodium.
6. Supplement With Liver
When your hunger doesn’t seem to go away, no matter how big your steaks are, or how much butter you’re slabbing on, then there’s a good chance that you’ve got a nutritional deficiency that isn’t getting quenched. That’s where you need to be taking your carnivore multivitamin, otherwise known as liver, an incredibly nutrient-dense and diverse organ meat that can taste surprisingly delicious.
Liver is loaded to the brim with Vitamin A, B5, biotin, folate, and a whole cluster of other critical micros. When coupled with steak, you can pretty much tick off all of your nutrient requirements. And you don’t need much, just a few ounces a week will be more than enough to cover your bases. So all you have to do is flash it for a few seconds in the pan over some butter, chop it into small pieces, down the hatch, and chase it down with mineral water.
But if you want to make a meal of it and get fancy, check out my Liver Pate Recipe.
7. Prioritise Recovery
In other words, make sure you’re spending the biggest chunk of your time in parasympathetic dominance. Get your sleep in, practice regular breathwork, keep a meditation routine, and take regular walks in nature.
If you’re not able to de-escalate, then you’re going to pay some heavy prices, not the least of which will be raised hunger levels. Insomnia gives you insulin resistance and a spike in cravings. Chronic cortisol impedes digestion. Lack of regular activity compounds all these problems. An apex lifestyle shouldn’t be condensed down to a few narrow windows around training and mealtimes, it has to be allowed to span the day.
Summing Up The Hunger Hacks
- Give it two weeks to get over the initial keto flu
- Maintain a 1:1 fat to protein ratio (g)
- Don’t opt for a caloric deficit over 20%
- Don’t fast for longer than 18 hours
- Add plenty of salt to both food and workouts
- Include 2-3 ounces of liver a week
- Add in stress management practices