Google the best weight loss diet, and you’ll get millions of hits in return. How can they all be the best diet? It’s mainly because any diet that restricts your food intake can work. Eating fewer calories forces your body to burn fat for fuel. This is called a calorie deficit or a negative energy balance.
There are lots of different ways to create a calorie deficit, including eating smaller meals, eating fewer meals, and replacing high-calorie foods with lower-calorie foods, such as switching from full-fat dairy to fat-free dairy.
Other diets work by banning certain foods or food groups. These are called exclusion diets. There are lots of different exclusion diets to choose from, including paleo, keto, and, more recently, the carnivore diet.
Exclusion diets are very simple, which is part of their appeal. You simply eliminate all the foods on the banned list, and whatever is left is what you eat. In most cases, the foods you can’t eat are also the most fattening, leaving only weight loss-friendly foods to choose from.
In this article, we discuss the merits and drawbacks of the carnivore diet, so you can decide if it’s the right weight loss eating plan for you.
The Carnivore Diet
What Is the Carnivore Diet?
In nature, carnivores are animals that eat almost nothing other than meat. The carnivore diet is true to this concept, and you’re only allowed to eat meat, fish, eggs, and a few select dairy products.
That means, on the carnivore diet, you CANNOT eat:
Pasteurized, processed dairy, i.e., regular milk, yogurt, etc.
Beverages other than water or bone broth
Unlike many diets, there are no meal plans, meal timings, recommended calorie intakes, or serving sizes to follow. Instead, carnivore dieters are allowed to eat as much and as often as they like.
The Carnivore Diet and Weight Loss
The carnivore diet is a popular weight loss diet, and followers lose weight quickly. In part, that’s because the carnivore diet is also a very low-carb ketogenic diet.
Ketogenic diets limit your carb intake to less than 50 grams per day. Faced with so few carbs, your body has no choice but to burn more body fat for fuel, leading to accelerated weight loss. Meat, fish, and eggs, which are staples on the carnivore diet, are all carb-free.
Another reason the carnivore diet could help you lose weight is because of something called taste fatigue. Eating a large plate of a single food, such as grilled chicken, will soon get boring. This will lead to eating less than you would if your meal consisted of a wider range of flavors.
Carnivore staples are also high in protein and fat, which are very satiating. A small serving of meat will leave you feeling fuller for longer, so you won’t need to eat as much or as often. This will lead to even faster weight loss.
Given all these factors, it’s no wonder that carnivore dieters lose weight quickly. Unfortunately, eating nothing but meat is also very restrictive, and you may find yourself craving all the foods that are banned on this diet. Subsequently, the carnivore diet may not be sustainable for long periods.
So, what does a typical day on the carnivore diet look like? Here’s an example:
Breakfast – Bacon, and eggs
Lunch -Tuna and grilled scallops
Dinner – Pork and lamb chops
Snacks – Beef jerky, boiled eggs, tuna pouches, bone broth
Ultimately, you can eat any combination of meat, fish, and eggs to make your meals. You can also use carb-free seasoning like salt, pepper, herbs, and spices to make your meals taste better.
Some advocates of the carnivore diet also allow small servings of unprocessed dairy, such as raw milk, heavy cream, and unpasteurized cheese. However, carnivore purists tend to avoid these foods.
Drawbacks of The Carnivore Diet
The carnivore diet is VERY restrictive. It’s based on the idea that carbs are unhealthy and fattening. While the carnivore diet could help you lose weight, it has some significant drawbacks:
Very Limiting Food Choices
Eating the same few foods over and over again will soon get old. Eating unlimited amounts of meat, fish, eggs, etc., may seem appealing at first, but most people get bored even if they eat steak every day. Faced with so few food choices, most people will give up after a few days.
High in Fat, Cholesterol, and Sodium
Eating so much meat means your fat intake will be much higher than is usually recommended. Much of this fat will be saturated. Also, most animal products are high in cholesterol.
Both saturated fat and cholesterol are linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Processed meats, such as ham, jerky, and bacon, are high in sodium, too. High sodium foods are linked to increased blood pressure and a greater risk of kidney disease.
Low in Fiber
Meat, fish, and eggs are all but devoid of fiber. Fiber is indigestible plant material that is calorie-free but very good for your digestive health. Not eating enough fiber could cause constipation and a host of other digestive issues. In the long-term, not eating enough fiber could cause diverticular disease, which is characterized by bacteria-filled bulges in walls of the large intestine, which often have to be removed surgically.
Your primary source of dietary vitamins and minerals is vegetables and fruits. Meat, fish, and eggs do contain some vitamins, especially fat-soluble A, D, E, and K, but are mostly devoid of water-soluble B and C. The easiest (if not the only) way to get a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals in your diet is to eat a variety of foods, both animal and plant-based.
Animal products are usually more expensive than most plant-based foods. Eating meat, fish, or eggs at every meal means your food bill is going to increase. You could get by on cheap, processed meats, but that would make what is already an unhealthy diet even less so. Compared to a balanced diet where you only eat modest amounts of meat and fish, following the carnivore diet will cost a lot more.
Are There Any Benefits to The Carnivore Diet?
The carnivore diet is very controversial and is usually labeled as a fad diet. It’s not balanced, is missing some vital nutrients, and too restrictive for long-term use. However, it’s not all bad news, and there may be a few benefits too.
The main benefit of the carnivore diet is that it eliminates all sources of refined carbs and sugar, including cookies, candy, sweets, and soda. These foods contain a lot of calories but have no nutritional value and are usually linked to weight gain and poor health.
Also, the carnivore diet is straightforward to follow. Just base every meal on meat, fish, or eggs. This requires minimal planning, and there are no difficult recipes to make. The foods allowed on the carnivore diet are readily available, and most are easy to prepare.
Eating nothing but meat means you’ll be getting plenty of protein. As such, it could help preserve or increase your muscle mass. On the downside, with no carbs, you may find that you don’t have much energy for exercise.
The final benefit of the carnivore diet is that there is no need to weigh or measure the amount of food you eat or eat according to a predetermined schedule. You might overeat for the first few days but should find that, after that, you automatically regulate the size of your meals as the novelty of eating unlimited amounts of meat starts to wear off.
Can You Survive On An All Meat Diet?
Can and should are two very different things! You can survive on an all-meat diet, possibly for years, but your health will soon start to deteriorate.
For example, the lack of vitamin C will reduce the strength of your immune system, increasing your risk of illness.
Old-time British sailors used to suffer this problem, leading to a disease called scurvy. They countered this by eating lemons and limes at sea, which is why people from England are often called limeys to this day.
Lack of fiber will cause problems, leading to chronic constipation. A build-up in waste in your intestines will soon lead to stomach upsets. Straining to go to the bathroom also increases the risk of hemorrhoids.
So, while you could survive on a meat-only diet, it’s unlikely that you’ll thrive. Your body needs more than fat and protein to function correctly. The carnivore diet is just too restrictive to be considered healthy.
When it comes to weight loss, there are lots of diets to choose from. Some are sensible, balanced, and sustainable, while others are not. But, so long as they force you to eat less, any diet will lead to weight loss.
However, trying to lose weight too fast invariably causes problems. Very restrictive diets are hard to maintain, even if they produce good results. For a diet to really work, you need to be able to stick to it for as long as it takes to reach your target weight. Then, you need to continue eating healthily to avoid regaining the weight you’ve just worked so hard to lose.
The all-meat carnivore diet could help you lose weight, but it’s probably not sustainable. It’s so restrictive that carvings are all but guaranteed, and the lack of plant-based foods will invariably lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Eating nothing but meat, fish, and eggs makes meal planning and grocery shopping very easy, but the reality of eating the same foods at every meal will soon get old. This is NOT a diet for people who enjoy varied meals.
So, while the carnivore diet could help you lose weight, you probably won’t enjoy the process, and your health could suffer. Something like the ketogenic diet or paleo, both of which allow a wider range of foods and are less restrictive, will be much easier to live with.
Patrick Dale is an ex-British Royal Marine and owner and lecturer for a fitness qualifications company. In addition to training prospective personal trainers, Patrick has also authored three fitness and exercise books, dozens of e-books, thousands of articles, and several fitness videos.