Low-carb diets are all the rage, and a version of the approach has taken things to the extreme with the meat-only diet for weight loss, or the carnivore diet, getting a lot of attention lately.
Enjoying a nice rib-eye steak or dining on some decadent stewed lamb sounds fantastic, but is eliminating everything but meat sustainable long-term or just a tool to use to boost weight loss and aid in breaking through a weight-loss stall—a short-term fix?
Should You Eat a Meat-Only Diet for Weight Loss?
Whether to choose a meat-only diet will have a lot to do with personal preference and your goals, but for some, it is an answer to a lifelong struggle with overweight and obesity.
A low-carb, high-fat, ketogenic diet often consists of a significant amount of meat products, unless decidedly not, and advises limiting produce to that which resides at the lower end of the glycemic index.
However, those who opt to try a carnivore, meat-only, low-carb diet are advised to eliminate all fruits and vegetables as an initial premise of the diet—a plan that may feel a bit extreme to some.
Those with any number of digestive issues or those with severe allergies may look to attempt a meat-only diet to identify the cause of adverse symptoms in the body through a process of elimination, but the question becomes: how do we get enough nutrients in the absence of fruits and vegetables?
Do we have to compromise our overall health to lose weight on a meat-only diet? Or is it possible to receive adequate nutrition from animal food sources alone?
For the sake of context, think of it this way: even though the highly-therapeutic practice of intermittent fasting provides many with a variety of health benefits, refraining from food for very long and consecutive periods can pose health problems, especially in women.
Besides, more than whether a meat-only protocol can produce weight loss, the point may be to determine whether this is a fling, something only useful short-term, or a keeper and a sustainable lifestyle.
With that being said, a meat-only diet can lead to rapid weight loss in the absence of all carbohydrates and sugars. Here are some benefits of trying a meat-only diet and ways to best approach the protocol to set yourself up for success.
Benefits of a Meat Only Diet for Weight Loss
If you love to eat fish, meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, and other animal products, a meat-only diet may be exactly what you've been looking for!
Whether you choose to try the diet for a quick jumpstart to your weight-loss efforts or find it an approach that fits for the long-haul, a meat-only approach likely has a place, to some degree, within your keto arsenal.
If the removal of carbs and sugars, limited to 20 net grams a day, can produce rapid weight loss, eliminating carbs and sugars and subsisting on fat and protein alone will undoubtedly aid in the quick transition to nutritional ketosis with the resulting side effect of accelerated fat loss.
The protein and fat found in meat and seafood help you feel fuller, longer. Also, entering nutritional ketosis aids in appetite suppression, which can help you eat less without even trying!
Here are some excellent meat options to eat on a meat-only, ketogenic, diet:
- Wild-caught Fish
Although caloric intake and our activity levels still contribute to weight loss, the great thing about a meat-only, carnivore, ketogenic diet is that it can result in faster weight loss—even if that's mainly the result of the diet creating feelings of fullness as opposed to something intrinsically magical about only eating meat, seafood, and fish.
Unstable glucose levels can contribute to mood instability as it can cause disruptions in metabolic and overall hormonal health. Furthermore, the absence of sugar and carbs and the presence of increased ketone bodies, thanks to nutritional ketosis, will aid in keeping your mood balanced.
It's pretty powerful, being in metabolic ketosis may enable you to ditch mood-stabilizing medications once your hormones are balanced and functioning correctly. Work in concert with a medical professional to determine the best therapeutic and dietary course of action before you start a carnivore-style, ketogenic diet.
So, in addition to helping to keep ketones high and carbs low, eating a meat-only diet may prove beneficial to boost feelings of calm, balance, and well-being.
Blood Sugar Regulation
Any version of a ketogenic diet will help to manage glucose levels throughout the day, helping you avoid the unwanted dips and spikes that can wreak havoc with your metabolism as well as your mood.
The initial goal when starting a ketogenic diet is to signal to the body that it should switch from running on glucose to running on fat and ketones by eliminating all refined sugars and any high-glycemic carbs (e.g., corn, potatoes, carrots, etc.).
As we become fat-adapted, in the absence of carbs and sugars in our diet, a steady state in our glucose levels is a nice additional benefit and one that aids in weight loss, as it helps keep our hormones happy and working well to maintain an ideal weight.
What to Eat for a Meat Only Diet for Weight Loss
The diet's name is a bit oversimplistic. Many on a meat-only diet also eat seafood, eggs, and even dairy products. The main idea is to stick to animal fats and proteins as the foundation of your diet to the exclusion of all else.
A day of eating on a meat-only diet might look something like the following:
Eggs and sausage—hold the hash! Also, add to your meal some coffee with heavy cream and stevia.
Steak and eggs could also serve as an ideal breakfast on a carnivore diet, a classic and straightforward option to add into your meal plan.
Sear some wild-caught salmon in flavorful, herb-infused, ghee. Also, sugar-free seasonings and a splash of lemon, along with a side of bearnaise sauce, will serve up a decadent zero-carb dish that's sure to treat to the taste buds.
Many of us on keto gravitate toward eating meals traditionally thought of as breakfast foods for lunch or dinner, and there's nothing wrong with mixing things up. Go ahead and whip up a basic cheese omelet with a side of bacon for a fast mid-day meal.
Sear up a juicy grass-fed beef burger, preferably 80/20 for the highest fat content, topped with melted sharp cheddar cheese for an effortless American classic you can have ready in minutes.
Indulge and make it a party by smoking up some slow-cooked brisket, and incorporate it onto a platter with savory sausage, pulled pork, and other barbecue favorites; again, just watch your seasonings and sauces to avoid unwanted sugars and preservatives.
The following are some more staple foods to enjoy on a meat-only, ketogenic diet:
- Fatty Meat (especially grass-fed beef)
Your Go-To Meat Cuts:
- Steaks (ribeye, sirloin, flank, strip, or chuck eye, et al.)
- Roasts (prime rib, brisket, etc.)
- Ground beef
- Organs Meats (e.g., liver), optional
Although you'll be saying goodbye to fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and seeds on a meat-only diet—as you can see—there are still a lot of delicious food options to enjoy.
Furthermore, the addition of dairy and eggs can undoubtedly broaden your food options—enabling you to whip up an egg, tuna, or chicken salad as a part of your weekly meal prep to break up the variety of your hot and cold meal options.
Some suggest abstaining from coffee when beginning a carnivore diet to see how you fare without it, but most coffee drinkers would find eliminating sugar, carbs, fruits, and vegetables, and coffee all at once might be a bit too much to bare.
Plus a morning keto coffee is a great way to start your day with energy-boosting fats and muscle building protein. Honestly, it's probably best to hang onto your caffeine fix for a bit as you transition your diet and take it easy on yourself; you're making a lot of changes, after all.
What to Avoid on a Meat Only Diet for Weight Loss
It's no surprise that the carnivore diet is limiting in some ways, and some foods are best to avoid on a meat-only diet:
- Seasonings and Sauces: As we mentioned, sauces can be a landmine for hidden sugars and may derail your efforts to keep your carbs to nill. Specific seasoning blends also contain loads of sugar and pose a threat to ketosis.
- Processed Meats: Along with many containing cancer-causing elements like nitrites and nitrates, aged meats are often filled with loads of histamines, which can increase inflammation, intolerances, and sensitivities, avoid them.
- Alcohol: Most diets will advise the elimination of alcohol due to its added calories and possible adverse health effects, long-term, and the same is true on a carnivore diet.
At least limit consumption of alcohol, if you can't give it up completely.
Supplementing a Meat Only Diet for Weight Loss
Some may find a carnivore diet something they can sustain for the long haul, while others will simply use the eating style as a means to jumpstart initial weight loss or break through a fat-loss plateau.
Some approach a carnivore diet by eating one meal a day (OMAD), while others may opt to eat two or three meals. The critical factor with a meat-only diet is to eat when hungry and until full; don't focus too heavily on minding macros. Your body will soon adjust to its natural hunger point.
If you eat an abundance of fatty meats and protein and eat until full, you should feel satiated. If you find yourself hungry often, you may need to eat more at each meal or eat more frequent meals throughout the day.
Many find that metabolic ketosis helps to suppress the appetite, and snacking tends to fade once fat-adapted. Ease into the zero-carb lifestyle and trust the process as your body becomes fat-adapted.
To this point, it's wise to approach the carnivore diet in levels to make the transition easier. Here's a breakdown of how to get started:
Level 1 Protocol:
Stick to eating meat and fish in this initial phase. Sip some java with heavy cream in your morning coffee or tea, and scramble up some eggs and cheese in grass-fed butter. Keep it simple, zero-carb, and delicious with ease.
Consider supplementing with Himalayan sea salt for added minerals, and enjoy some chilled coconut water for a boost of added electrolytes.
Also, supplements like lipase, Betaine HCl, and Ox Bile may aid in alleviating symptoms from digestive issues you may experience in the absence of fiber—consider them if noticing issues as you transition.
Level 2 Protocol:Continue to eat primarily meat and stick to water as your beverage of choice. Also, in addition to ditching sugary drinks, avoid eating processed meats.
OK, here's where things get real: at this point, you'll eliminate all 'exceptions' (e.g., coffee and tea), along with eggs, butter, cheese, and heavy whipping cream.
In this phase, you'll eliminate all supplements, save Himalayan sea salt.
Level 3 Protocol:
In this phase, you'll want to eat beef, preferably grass-fed and grass-finished exclusively.
A ketogenic diet already imposes a certain level of restriction, but a meat-only diet is the ultimate elimination diet. At this point, you will exclude everything but grass-fed and grass-finished beef, and water.
This phase does require discipline and may put a bit of a dent in your pocket, but the metabolic benefits from a short-term zero-carb diet may be just what you need to set your weight-loss efforts on the right track.
If grass-fed beef is out of your budget, go with the best quality beef you can find and drink lots of water to keep your body flushed of toxins.
Once you get through the first 30 days of a meat-only protocol, you can begin to reintroduce eliminated foods into your diet. Here is the process to use to return to a less restrictive level of the carnivore diet:
Reintroduce beef that isn't grass-fed, if you were able to go with grass-fed and finished beef during phases two and three. Also, start to add in other meats into your meal plan, like seafood and poultry.
Lastly, reintroduce eggs, organic dairy, coffee, and tea.
Start slowly and go with level 1 to begin to allow your body time to adjust to a new way of eating. Many oscillate between levels one and two, and you'll eventually find the level of the diet that works best for you with a little experimentation.
Initially going through all three phases will help you determine which level of the carnivore diet suits you best, as well as whether you'd like to be a life-long carnivore or one who uses the approach seasonally.
Even if a more standard ketogenic diet, complete with low-glycemic fruits and vegetables, along with nuts and seeds, may be more your speed, you may just want to experiment with living zero-carb to prep for a big event to aid in more rapid fat loss, or to reset your program if you find yourself in a dietary rut.
Whichever method works best for you, know that a meat-only diet has its place among the helpful low-carb—or in this case no-carb—protocols and is a tool that you can use to your benefit as you wish.
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