When You Follow The Carnivore Diet, Here's What Happens To Your Weight

The carnivore diet — created by doctor, author, and athlete Shawn Baker — is controversial, to say the least. Concerns about the diet include a supposed rise in chronic disease due to red meat consumption as well as questions about consuming animal protein sources based on ethical and religious reasons. Since the meat-only diet advocates cutting out foods like vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds completely and focusing only on meat and some animal products, it sure does raise a lot of eyebrows. 

However, according to proponents of the diet, including podcaster Joe Rogan and psychologist Jordan Peterson, there are many different benefits to following a strictly meat-only diet. In fact, Baker even alludes that following the carnivore diet has helped him reverse autoimmune disease. Additionally, a 2021 study published in Current Developments in Nutrition recorded self-reported information from 2,029 participants between the ages of 18 and 85 who had been practicing the carnivore diet for at least six months. A majority of them reported improvements in overall health, food cravings, hunger, mental clarity, strength, endurance, sleep, chronic disease, and memory. 

Weight loss is one of the most touted benefits of the carnivore diet. In fact, according to those who've followed it, your body won't be the same after the carnivore diet. Median body mass index (BMI) dropped from 27.2 to 24.3 in participants of the 2021 study. Interestingly, the rapid weight loss that follows the onset of a carnivore diet might be due to shedding water weight but over time, here's what happens. 

How does a carnivore diet support weight loss?

With a meat-only diet, what you're automatically also doing is cutting out carbs, processed foods, and sugary treats. Restricting all of these can be beneficial when you're looking to shed some pounds. Although, carbs are your body's default source of energy, excess carb intake along with consuming highly processed foods and sugary treats can lead to weight gain.  

Plus, with a meat-only diet, your body goes into a state of ketosis. Ketosis is when your body adjusts to a lack of its usual main source of energy — carbohydrates — and instead starts burning fat. When you have low glucose stores, your body breaks down fat and produces ketones, which take the place of glucose to become your main source of energy. One of the side effects of ketosis is a reduction in hunger which could be caused by increased consumption of satiating protein and fat and changes in your hunger hormones. When you're full for longer periods of time, you're also less likely to give in to cravings. 

Protein also has a higher thermic effect, which basically means that it boosts your metabolism and helps you burn more calories. A diet rich in protein can also help you build muscle, especially when combined with physical activity, and the more muscle you build, the more fat you burn. However, sustained weight loss from this diet requires time, physical activity, and a healthy balance of protein versus fat. 

Does this mean the carnivore diet is safe for weight loss?

This is a bit of a tricky question to answer, especially when there is science linking red meat consumption with rising inflammation levels and yet other research saying otherwise. Perhaps, the problem is that there is just not enough cause-and-effect-based research to back either claim. 

However, experts believe that the carnivore diet is not sustainable in the long run. For one, you might have vitamin deficiencies from going on the carnivore diet because it eliminates other food groups like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Plus following the carnivore diet can wreak havoc on your digestive system. Without any fiber in your diet, you might experience constipation. Also, there is meat's fat content to consider. "If you have a pre-existing chronic condition, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, any history of stroke or other cardiovascular diseases, you should definitely not try this diet," shared dietitian Kate Patton (via Cleveland Clinic). Meat is high in saturated fat and has been linked with raising bad blood cholesterol levels (LDL), although there is also some debate over whether dietary saturated fat can lead to cardiovascular risk.  

At the end of the day, the choice is up to you. If you're looking to shed some pounds fast, the carnivore diet might be for you, but it comes with its own set of risks. It's important to note that weight loss can happen by consuming a balance of all nutrients — lean protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats — too. Seeking the advice of a dietician is not a bad idea.