FAQ’s and troubleshooting
- Why am I feeling so fatigued and lethargic? Most energy issues on the carnivore diet are related to an electrolyte imbalance, or are due to an actual need for energy in the form of food. For more detailed information on fatigue please read the section titled Transition period information.
- Won’t I get constipated without having fiber in my diet? Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need fiber to poop. In fact, a bigger problem for some first time carnivores is actually diarrhea. True constipation is very uncommon on a carnivore diet, although it is likely that you may notice a reduction in the amount and frequency of your bowel movements. Everyone is different in this respect. Some may be as regular as clockwork, and some may find they only need to have a bowel movement every few days. This is because you are absorbing more nutrients, and thus there is less waste. However, if you are experiencing discomfort or bloating, signaling true constipation, make sure that you are properly hydrated, are keeping your electrolytes in balance, and increase your fat intake. As long as you’re well hydrated, upping your fat will help get things moving again. Additionally, supplementing with magnesium will also help.
- When does the diarrhea stop? For most people this problem resolves after a week or two, though some have reported having diarrhea for more than a month. Taking a good quality probiotic with many different strains of bacteria, for the first month or two, can help prevent diarrhea stemming from bacterial die-off during the transition period. Another common cause of diarrhea, in the beginning, is due to the fact that your body has not yet adjusted to eating so much fat. In general, if you’re having diarrhea, back off of the fat a little. Remember that aside from being an inconvenience, and uncomfortable, diarrhea can also lead to a loss of electrolytes, and dehydration. If for any reason you are experiencing diarrhea, make sure to drink plenty of water and to take your electrolytes. Electrolytes can be found as both drops and sugar-free drink mixes that you can add to water.
- Will I get Scurvy? What about vitamin C ? A vitamin C deficiency is characterized by bleeding gums, bruising easily, loose teeth, cracked fingernails, joint pain, and brittle bones. Thousands of people are on the carnivore diet, and most don’t have any of these issues, even after many years. The popular theory on the reason for this is the belief that in the absence of carbohydrates, the body requires much lower amounts of vitamin C. Surprisingly, small amounts of vitamin C is found in many carnivore foods. Foods like eggs, seafood, and organ meats all contain vitamin C. Fresh meats also contain trace amounts of vitamin C. If vitamin C is a concern for you, you can look for an electrolyte powder that also provides a small amount of vitamin C.
- Do I need to take any supplements or maybe a multivitamin? The carnivore diet is so nutritionally dense that most carnivores do not need to take a vitamin supplement, unless there is a known deficiency. The exception to this rule is Vitamin D3. Most people are deficient in Vitamin D, especially if they live in a colder climate, or during the colder winter months when time spent outside is more limited. During the warmer months, if you’re able to spend at least 30 minutes a day out in the sun without sunscreen, no vitamin D supplementing should be needed. However, if you don’t have regular access to natural sunlight, then supplementing might be a good idea.
- Why can’t I sleep at night? Most people on a carnivore diet report having the best sleep of their lives. If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, it could be another sign that you’re not eating enough, or that you’re drinking too much caffeine. When you go to bed hungry, you have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your blood. High cortisol levels can interfere with sleep. While it’s not a good idea to eat a meal too close to bedtime, because laying down with a full stomach can result in digestive issues such as heart burn, try to make sure that you eat enough at your last meal of the day so that you don’t go to bed hungry, and keep an eye on your caffeine intake.
- Do I need to practice fasting? Though many carnivores do practice fasting, it is neither a required nor recommended part of the diet. Personally, I don’t practice fasting and I don’t recommend it. Over time, your appetite will adjust on its own, and you may find yourself eating fewer meals, further apart. This is perfectly fine. If you’re not hungry, you shouldn’t eat, but in the beginning especially, it’s important to eat when you’re hungry, and eat until you’re full.
- Do I need to eat raw meat? Eating raw or undercooked meat is not a requirement of the carnivore diet, and I strongly recommend against it. Eating undercooked or raw meat can lead to severe illness. No matter where you source your meat from, raw meat can be contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, or toxins. Common pathogens in raw meat include Salmonella, Clostridium Perfringens, E. Coli, Listeria Monocytogenes, Yersinia, and Campylobacter. In conclusion, cook your meat to your favorite amount of doneness, but don’t eat raw or undercooked meat.
- Do I need to eat organ meats? Eating organ meats like liver, kidney, and heart is not a requirement of the carnivore diet. In fact, many people never eat them and still seem to be thriving. That being said, organ meats are super foods that are chock full of essential vitamins and minerals. For example, liver is a good source of vitamin C. One 3 ounce serving provides 33% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin C. Liver also is a great source for vitamin B12, vitamin A, riboflavin, and copper, and it’s also rich in folate, iron, and choline. Beef heart is a great source of folate, iron, zinc, and selenium, and is also a good source of vitamins B2, B6, and B12. So, while eating organ meats isn’t a requirement, if you can fit them into your diet once or twice a week, it will definitely benefit your health.
- I’ve been carnivore for two weeks, why aren’t I losing weight? Everyone comes to this diet in a different physical state. Weight loss, therefore, happens differently for each individual. There are some lucky folks who seem to have amazing results straight off the bat, but for most of us, weight loss comes after the body has had some time to heal. That means losing weight can take weeks or months to begin, depending on how much healing was needed. I’ve seen testimonials from people whose weight didn’t budge for a year, and then all of a sudden the weight began to melt off.
- Why am I gaining weight on the carnivore diet? Again, the answer to this question is related to the individual, and the amount of healing needed. If you’re new to the diet and gaining unwanted weight, it means that your body needs the nourishment. This can happen to anyone who has been on long-term restrictive diets, has suffered from eating disorders or digestive issues, or to anyone whose body just really needs time and good nutrition to heal. If you find yourself gaining unwanted weight, give yourself the time and grace to heal. Your body will, in most cases, begin to shed the excess weight once it has healed. Long-term carnivore Kelly Hogan has publicly reported that she gained weight for 6 solid months when she first started the carnivore diet on Oct. 23, 2009. She had been very sick when she began, and suffered from boils, carb addiction, and infertility. After those first 6 months, though, she began to lose weight. Over time, she lost 120 pounds, regained her fertility, and gave birth to three very healthy, beautiful children. She herself is a happy and completely healthy person, too. You can check out her whole story here: http://myzerocarblife.jamesdhogan.com/wp/category/my-story
- What should my protein to fat ratio be? As I stated earlier, there is no tracking of calories, macros, or ketones on the carnivore diet. Eat the foods from the carnivore food list that appeal to you. If you’re craving a fatty steak and some eggs, have that. If you’re in the mood for chicken wings, go for it. Some days, you’ll crave more food and more fat than others. The idea is to let your body dictate what it wants/needs. If you have been carnivore for a long time (at least 6 months,) and are not seeing the results that you were looking for, then you can try tweaking your fat to protein ratios to see what works best for you. No one can tell you this ratio because again, it’s individualized. What works for me might not work for you. Many people, women especially, do seem to require a higher fat to protein ratio, but there are those, women included, who do better on a higher protein version of the diet. For the large majority of people, though, no tweaking of macros is necessary.
- What about gluconeogenesis? Gluconeogenesis is how the body creates glucose from a non-carbohydrate source, such as from proteins or fats. Many people seem to have concerns that eating too much protein in a meal will cause a spike in their blood sugar, but according to Dr. Benjamin Bikman, who is a biomedical scientist, a professor of pathophysiology at Brigham Young University, and quite possibly the premier expert on insulin resistance, gluconeogenesis is demand driven, not supply driven. What this means is that, although your body does make glucose from the proteins that you eat, it only does so when your body actually needs more glucose. Gluconeogenesis does not happen simply because you have eaten a lot of protein.
- Will eating an all meat diet give me gout? According to board certified Doctor Robert Cywes, a carnivore diet will not give you gout. If you’ve previously suffered from gout, starting a carnivore diet may result in a temporary gout flare up, but eventually this will pass for good. You can learn more about this from Dr. Cywes himself here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpFCoSKbg0U
- Will eating an all meat diet give me cancer? This is a very controversial topic, but recent studies have shown that eating less red meat has little effect on cancer outcomes. You can read more about it here: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/09/190930215122.htm
- Why is my hair falling out? When a person loses a lot of weight quickly, regardless of how that weight is lost, it is not unusual to experience some hair loss. However, meat, eggs, and bone broth are very high in biotin, collagen, and vitamins, all of which are needed to support and enhance the health of skin, hair, and nails. If you do experience some hair loss due to rapid weight loss, be assured that strong, healthy new hair will take the place of the hair that fell out.
- Won’t I get bored eating only meat? There are so many different cuts of meat, fish, and poultry that boredom is never really a problem. Cooking also becomes much less of a chore, because you don’t need to spend hours prepping and chopping up vegetables. One of the other upsides to the carnivore diet is the freedom it gives you. Although you will always enjoy a good meal when you’re hungry, you will find that life no longer revolves around food. If you’d like some great carnivore recipes, visit my recipe blog.
- I can’t afford a bunch of expensive steaks. Can I do carnivore on a budget? Yes! You can make the carnivore diet as expensive or as budget friendly as you like. For one thing, you’ll have more money for meat, since you’ll no longer be purchasing vegetables and processed foods. You’ll save money on not buying produce that always seems to go bad before it gets cooked, and thus gets tossed in the trash, and you can buy the meats that you like and can afford. Any meats, from spam to ground beef, or pork, chuck roast, and chicken thighs are fine. Of course, if you have the money and want to buy grass-fed beef and lamb, or king crab legs, go for it! It’s all good. Eat the meats that fit your budget and taste. You don’t ever have to buy an expensive steak or roast if you can’t afford it, or just don’t want to.
- Don’t I need to eat fruits and vegetables? We have all been told at one point or another that fruits and vegetables are an important part of our diets, but for people coming to the carnivore diet, these same fruits and vegetables are often the root cause of many of their health issues. This is especially true for those with food sensitivities or autoimmune disease. The majority of plant life on this planet is poisonous when eaten, but many of the edible varieties also contain something called antinutrients. Antinutrients are naturally-occurring substances, found in plant-derived foods, that interfere with the absorption or function of nutrients in the body. For many people, eating certain plant foods can lead to an increase in inflammation and illness. One example of this is gluten. Many doctors believe that ingesting gluten can damage the protective mucus layer of the gut walls. This damage can lead to inflammation and autoimmune disease, even in those without celiac disease or gluten sensitivities. Nightshades are another example. Nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and potatoes contain an alkaloid called solanine, which is toxic in high concentrations. Most autoimmune protocols call for the removal of nightshades from the diet. Other examples of antinutrients, as per the Harvard School of Public Health, include the following:
- Glucosinolates, found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage, can prevent the absorption of iodine, which may then interfere with thyroid function.
- Lectins, found in legumes like, beans, peanuts, and soybeans, and in whole grains, can interfere with the absorption of calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc.
- Oxalates, which are found in green leafy vegetables, can bind to calcium and prevent it from being absorbed.
- Phytates or phytic acid is found in whole grains, seeds, legumes, and some nuts. Phytates can decrease the absorption of iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium.
- Saponins, found in legumes and whole grains, can interfere with normal nutrient absorption.
As it turns out, meat and dairy are full of essential vitamins and minerals, and the nutrients in meat are far more bioavailable than those found in plant foods. As for fruits; fruits contain high levels of sugar, fructose, and carbohydrates. They may taste good, and contain some vitamins, but fruit truly is nature’s candy, and as such, they are not an essential part of the diet.
Beginners Guide to the Carnivore Diet: Table of Contents