Why Carnivore Outperforms Other Diets For Shedding Pounds

16 min read

What you’re getting yourself into

A deep dive into the mechanisms by which you can use carnivore to spearhead fat loss without needing to count calories. You don’t even need to get hungry.

Having spent most of my four years on carnivore in bulking phases, I haven’t given as much attention to its unrivaled ability to strip fat. Much of my oversight has been due to the fact that it’s incredibly hard to add enough body fat on this diet to vindicate going into a cutting phase.

But the time has finally come, and after peaking at 101kg (222lbs for the separatists), I’ve decided to take the plunge and drop the calories.

Bulking on carnivore takes some graft when you’re already an advanced lifter. Satiety comes easy and early, meaning there can be some force-feeding involved to hold onto an energy surplus.

Check Out My Ultimate Carnivore Bulking Guide

So there’s certainly a case to use low toxicity carbs on top of a carnivore base during a bulking phase. Yes, I know that’s heresy for some. No, I don’t really care. It’ll work for some, but not for others that either have bad reactions to any form of carbs, or just don’t want to sacrifice the mellow high of ketosis.

Personally, I’ve tried both, and the latest one just involved some big servings of double cream to jack the calories up. It was a slog at times, and I’ve done my fair share of retching. But that’s in the past now, and now comes the part where life gets easy.

Carnivore is a demon for fat loss. Plain and simple. It has all the nutrients needed not only to preserve muscle mass, but also to keep the metabolic whirring along, and the metabolism thriving. Then there’s the unmatched satiety, due to high concentrations of protein, micronutrients, and saturated fat.

Dietary adherence itself is made considerably easier by the departure of foods that would normally spark cravings and invite binge episodes. Finally, there’s the state of ketosis itself, which has its own independent effects on suppressing appetite and increasing energy efficiency.

All this spells out a fat loss phase that only gets easier with every week you get through, and lets you hold onto your hard-earned gains, and maybe even add some extra muscle mass. Just like cattle on grass, the carnivore cut is the holy grail of sustainability.

This a very low-level overview of what carnivore can do for fat loss, so have no fear, I’m going to explain every bit. Because I need to keep it scientific.

Otherwise I’m no better than the vegans.

1. Preserving Muscle Mass.

sama carnivore muscle gain

The people who reluctantly concede that the body can function without carbohydrates will still stubbornly stick by its critical role in stacking muscle. The evidence will be right there in the notable absences of carnivore bodybuilders operating at the highest professional levels.

And there is a modicum of truth to this. If you’re trying to build as much muscle as possible, to the neglect of everything else, and with pharmaceutical enhancement, then carbohydrates will likely be necessary.

But if we’re simply looking to build significant amounts of muscle without aspiring to become Mr Olympia, then that vision is completely attainable through the carnivorous route.

And as for holding onto muscle that you’ve already built, then you’ll have no issues no matter the goal. Because carnivore has all the nutrients and mechanisms you need to retain shape as you push deeper into a fat loss phase.

MTOR signalling – Insulin is often portrayed as the critical force in setting off the muscle growth cascade, but that same role can be filled up by leucine, which is available in abundance when you’re eating 200 grams of protein a day.

Protein requirements – I think you’re going to be fine as long as your ancestral diet doesn’t just consist of drinking melted tallow. 1 gram per 1lb of ideal bodyweight is the principal goal, and there’s no evidence to suggest you need to go higher than that.

Anti catabolism – By using ketones instead of amino acids for generating energy, the body can preserve those proteins for the business of repairing and building lean tissue. This means that theoretically your protein requirements might even be lower on a carnivore diet.

How Ketones Protect Against Muscle Loss

Glycogen repletion – This is where the citizen scientists really lean their weight into the no carb debate. Carnivore is naturally low on glucose, which can theoretically lower glycogen reserves in the muscle, and therefore diminish performance in the gym. Mechanical tension, the emperor of anabolic signalling, is lowered in times of low glycogen.

The logic can then wrap itself up by assuming that carbs are necessary for glycogen repletion, and that you need them if you’re serious about bodybuilding. Carnivores in shambles.

But here are a few caveats to this paradigm.

First, you have evidence showing that keto-adapted athletes retain the same level of glycogen stores as carb-adapted athletes. Clearly, adherence to a ketogenic diet will gradually make you able to use triglycerides and ketones at higher intensities and negate the need to drain the glycogen pool. Which in turn can be replenished at lower rates using gluconeogenesis, glycerol, and lactate.

This isn’t a complete rebuke of the glycogen paradigm, since localised glycogen depletion can still take place in ketosis without being reflected in the drop in overall glycogen reserves. This could definitely negatively impact performance.

But then there’s the second caveat, which is based on the hard science of what it takes to build muscle. As I’ve already set out in a comprehensive (by my standards) article, you can maximise hypertrophy in the 4-6 rep range, as long as you’re training to failure. There’s no reason you need to be taking it into the higher ranges.

The Science Behind Powerbuilding

A 6 rep set doesn’t involve a ton of glycogen depletion, and it is fuelled mainly by the phosphocreatine system. The glycolytic system will still contribute from the outset of the set, but its contribution only dominates once the set is taken past 20 seconds.

Assuming a 1 second raising and 2 second lowering tempo, you can wrap up a 6 rep set within 18 seconds. That’s going to cost some glycogen, but the need is going to be significantly negated by the supply of creatine.

Guess what nutrient red meat has plenty of?

In case you have any more reservations, they can be easily attenuated by adding a serving of dextrose during workouts. But I wouldn’t class it as necessary, and I wouldn’t advise deploying it while you’re spending the first few months adapting to training in ketosis.

10 Mistakes You’ll Want To Avoid On The Carnivore Diet

2. Mitochondrial Supremacy

morning workout fasted

Metabolic health is the lynchpin for giving a diet the legs to last the long run. And forming the very grassroots of metabolic health, are the mitochondria. Those symbiotic creatures act as the motherboard of your body’s circuitry, and they are extremely vulnerable to damage and dysfunction.

Mitochondrial dysfunction spells out all manner of symptoms, such as lethargy, mood swings, hunger, and just straight-up disease. The difficulty level of a diet gets ratcheted up. This is part of what makes weight loss programmes destined to fail, because only 12.2% of the population are metabolically healthy.

So you don’t just want to protect your precious mitochondrial powerhouses while stripping fat. You want them to get stronger. And you’re in luck, because as a ketogenic diet, carnivore is specifically suited to this task.

Ketones aren’t just sources of energy. They are miracle signaling molecules that protect, replenish, and revitalise your mitochondria. This is the bit that’s got lost on people who label long-term ketosis unsustainable. It’s anything but a starvation state. You’re literally healing your metabolism and reaping better rewards the longer you can keep carbs off the menu.

You become more energetic, more stable, more focused, by virtue of carnivore’s mitochondrial supremacy.

The Science Of How Ketones Heal The Metabolism

3. Maximising Satiety

best of steak

Satiety is a painfully misused term, with many people portraying it simply as a feeling of fullness. By that logic, fiber can be satiating because midway through eating a spinach salad, you lose the desire to finish the meal. Unfortunately, what you’ve taken in is mostly indigestible, which defeats the point of eating.

The same can be said for lean protein foods, like the vegetable of the carnivore world, chicken breast. It’s hard to eat in large amounts, because it’s very filling and not particularly appetising. At the same time, it doesn’t contain many calories, making it a champion contender for the satiety per calorie gimmick that Ted Naiman is bandying around.

But here’s the issue, satiety isn’t about just eating till you decide you want to stop eating, whatever that reason is. Satiety is about eating foods that help you reach internal energy balance. It’s about eating to meet your needs, and contrary to Naiman’s hottake, your body doesn’t just need protein.

The inefficiency in the conversion of protein to energy, and the cap on protein intake placed limit to nitrogen breakdown means this macronutrient doesn’t serve well as an energy source. That’s where fats come in. Then you have all the minerals and vitamins that the body requires for daily functioning.

For satiety, you need nutrient density. Copious amounts of fat, protein, and micronutrients. And there are no better sources than the following:

  • Red meat
  • Eggs
  • Fatty fish
  • Unpasteurised dairy

The 10 Best Foods On The Carnivore Diet

Choose from these foods, and hunger becomes a pale shadow of its former diet-demolishing threat. Add to that the fact that ketones actively suppress ghrelin, your chief hunger hormone, and you basically write off the biggest threat to any weight loss programme.

4. The Lack Of Metabolic Slowdown From Omega 6

vegetable oils dangers

It’s an accepted fact of life that human body temperature is designed to hover at 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 F). But that was the case when it was recorded in 1851. Nowadays it’s closer to 36 C (97.5 F). Meaning that something, or multiple things, have dropped our body temperature over the past 150 years.

This is backed up by research showing that our average metabolic rate has been tuned down over the last century. We have become colder, and slower, predisposing us towards obesity.

Now, a lot of things have changed in the average human’s lifestyle over that timeline. But a defining role has been played by the stratospheric rise of seed oils in the diet. In 1900, animal fats represented 98% of the added fats. Now, seed oils make up 86%. Obesity has crept up by a small 3400% margin over that period.

There are multiple mechanisms by which seed oils can do us dirty, and I’ve covered many of them in a previous article. But in this case, we’re simply looking at the effect it has on metabolic rate.

Seed oils contain large amounts of Omega 6, which may be labeled ‘essential’, but in reality is only needed in trace amounts. Meaning it’s not a fat that you need to actively seek out in the diet. Ideally, you’re avoiding it, because Omega 6 suppresses glycolysis, causes mitochondrial dysfunction, and leads to insulin resistance and fat gain. All of these make you slower.

This shouldn’t be a surprise when you consider the evolutionary niche that Omega 6 would have occupied. It’s naturally found in nuts and seeds, foods that would have been briefly available before the winter months, and are utilised by some animals to get fat and ready for some quality hibernation.

It’s highly questionable how much use our ancestors would have made of these foods, when you consider the feat of cracking a walnut husk without first running it over with a pickup truck. But nevertheless, they have a similar effect on us to that they have on a grizzly. They send us toward a state of torpor.

There are a litany of reasons to avoid seed oils, and other foods that are high in Omega 6. But this is one of the big ones.

Clearly we have no business eating these foods in high amounts, and we aren’t repairing the 20:1 Omega 6:3 ratio by slamming rancid fish oil capsules. The solution to this metabolic slowdown should be to eliminate high Omega 6 foods from the diet.

Ditching plants instantly takes out the large majority of Omega 6 sources, but there is something to be said for reducing pork and poultry, since they are monogastric animals that store the Omega 6 they eat in their fat stores.

You don’t have that issue with ruminants, since they have the digestive wizardry needed to convert Omega 6 to saturated fat. Hence why even the worst ‘factory’ beef will only contain around 320mg of Omega 6 per 100g.

Grass-fed beef is the ultimate low Omega 6 diet, and you’ll be happy to know that virtually all the beef (and lamb) in the UK is grass fed. Don’t let cherry-picked documentaries like Dominion fool you.

5. Turning Up The Heat With Saturated Fat

why fatigue lowers hypertrophy

Just like Omega 6 makes you colder, saturated fat makes you hotter. This might be what people are getting when they talk about “meat sweats” after demolishing a 20 ounce porterhouse.

The mechanism is a fairly simple one to grasp. Reactive Oxygen Species act as a signal during energy production in the mitochondria. Omega 6 generates low ROS, sending a weak signal that the mitochondria reacts to like it would with glucose. The fat cells remain insulin sensitive, allowing them to suck up the incoming fuel and become larger, and more dysfunctional.

Saturated fat, meanwhile, produces a powerful ROS signal that causes insulin resistance in the fat cells and creates a bottleneck effect in the electron transport chain. This leads to protons reversing their trajectory, flowing back up the chain, and being used for mitochondrial uncoupling. Which spells out extra heat generation.

So not only are your fat cells becoming insulin resistant, which produces signals of satiety and prevents storage, but you’re also turning up your body temperature by wasting some of those calories as heat.

Another welcome bonus of carnivore, which is absolutely loaded in saturated fat that is absolutely benign for your arteries.

How Saturated Fat Ramps Up Fat Loss

6. It’s Not Just The Calorie Deficit

vegetables calories don't matter

A final point to make on how carnivore can leverage more fat loss, is that it’s not simply going to come down to keeping a calorie deficit. Technically, carnivore does make it a lot easier to run a deficit, due to high satiety foods, and the absence of hyperpalatable foods that hijack your emotional state, create cravings and override satiety signals.

But as much as the CICO bros will overstate the simplicity of weight loss, it’s not as straightforward as just lowering intake and increasing or maintaining energy expenditure. 

Because even if caloric absorption is assured, it’s extremely difficult to ensure good energy expenditure when you’re throttling the metabolism with a nutrient-depleted diet.

In other words, while it may seem like you can control both ends of calories in vs calories out, it’s actually quite hard to regulate the latter. Less calories in can just lead to less calories out. The metabolism operates as a constrained model, and has its ways to counter your attempts at forcing weight loss. Starvation leads to system shutdown.

A low caloric diet of chicken breast and broccoli, with peanut butter slathered over celery for a midday snack, is a great way to plunge yourself into a state of lethargy that training five times a week can’t fix.

You’re effectively playing the diet with the difficulty slider pulled all the way to legendary. The body simply doesn’t have enough energy being made available for optimal functioning.

You might point to the tens of thousands of calories in your adipose tissues that can be used to make up the difference. But the fat burning pathways get swept into cold storage when you spend a lifetime burning sugar. You need to change your endocrine state to one that enhances the release and oxidation of fat. That’s ketosis.

The longer you spend in ketosis, the better you become at burning fat, and the more obliged the body is going to be at using its own energy stores to meet its needs. Meaning you can create a deficit without having to drastically lower calories and risk metabolic slowdown and muscle loss.

You get to lose weight, and hold onto that new weight, because you didn’t have to claw over the line. When you reach your goal weight and relax, you don’t catapult back up. This is a mythical setting that most diets can’t accomplish.

Wrapping Up – Don’t Try To Speed It Up
sama personal trainer total fitness

The best results on a carnivore cut will come if you ensure you’re always eating to satiety, and letting the diet work its magic. Any diet will create problems if you use it to chronically undereat, and carnivore is not different. If you’re intentionally trying to maximise fat loss, you’ll end up cannibalizing your muscle tissue.

With carnivore, you can eat at what would otherwise be ‘maintenance’, while steadily burning through your fat stores. The scale might fluctuate, but it should trend down over time as long as you’re not underweight. So for peace of mind, focus on waist measurements and pictures over scale weight.

If you have any further questions on how to set up your carnivore cut, reach out to me on Twitter, Instagram, or sign up to my coaching programme below.

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1 month ago

Thanks Sama, bookmarked this for reading later today
@artex18 on X

24 days ago
Reply to  Sama

Thanks. It was very interesting. I’ve read a few other blog posts too. I’m now way more meat based than 4 years ago. I’ll probably end up going close to full carnivore. But I still like my latte and beer. That’s a problem.

BTW my local Waitrose fresh meat counter does crazy meat reductions every day around 6-7 PM. Almost always something for half price, often one third of original price and occasionally 10-20% of original price. If you’re near one it might be an a good thing to pop in. However, I know other Waitroses don’t discount quite as much as mine for some reason.

22 days ago
Reply to  Sama

Thanks for the reply. JI want to support you but can’t see Patreon or any non-free guides to buy. Coaching is paid-for of course but wouldn’t be for me. Just want to give a little something in return for your help here and on Twitter over the years.

18 days ago
Reply to  Sama

I went on Patreon and could only see the monthly subscription. I thought Patreon allowed one off payments of a lump sum. I want to pay a lump sum so I can budget my outgoings. So is there another way or do you sell ebooks I can buy?