The steak on steak template is a force for fat adaption, mental clarity, and food freedom. It’s a beautiful exercise in simplicity, the type of diet that takes minimal effort and extracts maximal results.
But then we have the masters of complexity. Women have a track record of changing skins on a daily basis, as their hormones sweep across the menstrual rollercoaster. There’s a good reason why the vast majority of nutritional studies are done with male participants. Men are straightforward, with their 24-hour hormonal cycles. Women on the other hand, are just too awkward to deal with.
Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are all locked in a battle for dominance, with each leaving an imprint on both psychology and physiology. There’s a lot more context to deal with, and many more variables to dance around.
So we’re going to look at how a well-formulated carnivore diet could interact with those variables.
- The inclusion of fasting
- The different phases of the menstrual cycle
Could This Apply To Keto?
While the carnivore diet can be wildly different to a ketogenic version that includes copious amounts of nuts and seeds, it still follows many of the same mechanisms. And when compared to a ketogenic diet where red meat is given its rightful prominence, there’s not much to separate them.
Carnivore will put you into ketosis. Both provide fat adaption, brain boosts, and freedom through simplicity.
As such, this guide will still very much apply for those following a ketogenic diet. Especially the meat-heavy ones.
Should Women Fast On Carnivore?
I’m already on record saying that you shouldn’t go crazy on the carnivore fasts. Since fasting raises cortisol, and carbohydrate restriction allows cortisol to stay elevated, there’s the potential for long fasts to cause excessive amounts of stress.
This is actually a greater issue with women, since the luteal phase is dominated by progesterone, and progesterone has to compete with cortisol in order to be synthesised. When there’s too much cortisol being produced, progesterone numbers can be dented, and the cycle gets thrown off course. A deficiency in progesterone makes way for estrogen dominance, which include the following symptoms.
- Decreased sex drive
- Mood swings
- Hormonal weight gain
So in the spirit of skipping that catastrophe, it might be a good idea to keep the fasts down to 14-16 hours around the luteal phase, while potentially raising it to 16-18 hours in the follicular phase. If you still want to branch out into longer fasts, just make sure you feast when mealtime comes around. Carnivore is a source of total nutrition. Make the most of it.
Carnivore Across The Cycle
For those with functioning cycles, your metabolism can change dramatically depending on which half of the rollercoaster you’re sitting on.
The Follicular Phase – The first 16 days (on average) of the cycle is ruled by estrogen, which increases insulin sensitivity. This in essence makes you better at handling carbs, which can be leveraged in a carnivore diet to boost muscle building. Not that you have to, chances are you’d be absolutely fine shunning carbs altogether. But if there were ever a time to bring in carbs, it would be in the first half. Before things get messy.
The Luteal Phase – The last 12 days of the cycle, where progesterone gains the upper hand. It isn’t a bad hormone by any means, just look at the issues with estrogen dominance, but there can be some unsavoury side effects that upset the apple cart.
Insulin resistance can increases over this phase, as well as ghrelin, the chief hunger hormone. This means you are not only likely to crave carbs, you’re going to be worse at handling them.
Adding in carbs would just give you a front seat ticket on the sugar rollercoaster. Whereas ketones could act to suppress ghrelin and give you an alternative fuel source to the unstable carbohydrates.
To sum up, if you want to play with carb cycling, stick to the first half of the cycle, when the metabolism is better able to control blood sugar levels. For the second half, you’re best off proceeding with either straight carnivore, or carnivore with workout carbs.
That being said, you could take the ride armed with steak alone, and be absolutely fine, assuming you’ve already put in the time and become fat adapted. That’s a call for you to make.
Carnivore For Menopause
Menopause, also known as reverse puberty, tends to throw a wrench into the best laid weight-loss plans. The discarding of the menstrual cycle and the demise of estrogen shunts the body towards a state of testosterone dominance. This has some wild effects in physiology, not least of which is the shift in fat storage.
Despite being a crucial hormone for both genders, testosterone has a somewhat different effect in women. While it typically causes men to lose fat around the abdomen, higher relative testosterone levels in women favours fat storage on the midriff. Along with that, it also increases insulin resistance. As we’ve already discussed, that puts a significant dent in carb handling.
The solution for carb intolerance is simple. Much like it would be with a gluten intolerance. Remove the source of the irritation, and the body gets better. In this case, it makes perfect sense to at least minimise carbohydrates. With carnivore, you get to dispense with them entirely.
Then there’s the matter of muscle wastage, which can be quite pronounced in post menopausal women, thanks to the estrogen deficiency. In such a scenario, what could be better than a nutritional template that comfortably meets protein requirements?
The state of menopause is primed for a carnivorous intervention. It addresses to core issues of insulin resistance and muscle atrophy that plague women who have just had their hormonal balances revoked.
Carnivore For PCOS
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a state of hyperinsulinemia and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) that when allowed to run amok, can lead to insulin resistance and testosterone dominance. Without a way to curb high blood sugar and high insulin, the disease is free to progress and exacerbate the situation.
There’s no prizes for guessing which style of dieting I’m going to suggest, and there’s research suggesting that treating insulin resistance should be first line for those with PCOS. A ketogenic diet can lower insulin resistance by 75% in as little as two weeks.
To ram that home, there’s a 2021 study showing that women with PCOS who were placed on ketogenic diet, managed to improve their BMI, blood sugar, androgen, and menstrual markers.
Insulin resistance is one of the chief drivers of metabolic dysfunction, so it’s not just those with PCOS or menopause who have to worry about it. But if you are involved with either, then a ketogenic diet like carnivore makes a great tonic for alleviating the symptoms, balancing the hormones, and making the best of the situation.
Pregnancy & Breastfeeding
On one hand, pregnancy is a process of building, so it doesn’t make the best time for steep calorie deficits. A diet like carnivore can be a misfit in that sense, since it can dramatically lower appetite. Pregnancy generally requires at least a maintenance of calories to account for the baby building, so a sliver of steak simply won’t do. The plates need to be piled high with meaty goodness.
But on the other hand, the pregnancy period involves the placenta releasing hormones that increase insulin resistance, and therefore lead to gestational diabetes. Once again, this means that the body suffers in its ability to handle carbs, and an excess of dietary sugar would exacerbate the situation. Worse glucose tolerance have been linked to unsavoury outcomes like high birth weight, neonatal hypoglycemia, and preterm birth.
While I wouldn’t go as far as to suggest straight carnivore, especially when the 500 extra calories required for breastfeeding rolls around, it may be practical to carry out a low carb meat-heavy diet across that period. With low toxicity carbs, of course.
Like I said, women are complex, and there are several confounding variables to look out for when deciding which style of carnivore is going to suit you best.
Whatever you do, don’t be a slave to dogma. Practicing a carnivore diet doesn’t mean you have to follow it to the letter. It doesn’t get cancelled when you allow a slice of cake to sneak through your mouth-hole.
You can do straight carnivore with organ meats.
You could shun organ meats and opt for steak and eggs.
There’s carnivore with workout carbs.
Or a low-carb low-toxicity diet with a base of steak.
All of these could be done while subscribing to the carnivore principles of low inflammation and total nutrition. You can do it with ketosis, or without ketosis. That much is up to you. So don’t sell yourself short by being pedantic without listening to the body’s feedback. Everyone’s optimal diet is going to look a little different.
Besides, carnivore will already be ticking the same boxes. Let the diet do its job.