** This is not a prescription for anyone. This is a recap of one individual’s experience. We believe in going deep on something for ourselves before making judgements / conclusions / recommendations on it. **
Also, worth noting before there are any ethical arguments, we will be doing a vegetarian month before the end of the year. This isn’t about ethics or morals. This is about human health and performance.
Most that follow this page know that a few of us from the gym trialled a carnivore month. We dove right into it with four weeks of strict eating. Animal products (not with added processing like milk or cheese), tea, coffee with heavy cream and water is what we limited ourselves too. I’ve broken this post into the areas that I believe were most impacted by the diet. This is from Dan’s perspective:
General mood and energy:
Unreal. Consistently awake, alert and full of energy. No lulls throughout the day. Always wanting to use that energy for something (train / work / read / cook / anything to be productive). I think because I’d done a low carb diet in the past, I didn’t have the ‘carb comedown’ that many talk about in that first week or so of removing carbohydrate. Often when someone removes sugars from their diet, they experience almost a withdrawal type of feeling – the severity no doubt depends on how much sugar was in the diet to begin!
Like an absolute log. 8.30pm – 4.30am every night. Never restless and always woke refreshed. I’ve always been a decent sleeper anyway but waking up seemed easier. I never felt like sleeping in or taking a nap throughout the day.
Never hungry and never full. I felt like I could eat as much as I wanted at meals and I would never describe myself as full, just satisfied – completely satisfied. Early on, the want for snacks was definitely there which made me realise that had been a habit of mine – as soon as I’d feel even slightly hungry, I’d grab a snack. It took under a week before I wasn’t even thinking of snacking.
I’m usually a two-meal-a-day person anyway but fasting every morning was an absolute breeze. I honestly never ate because I was hungry, I would only eat because I knew I needed the calories (I didn’t track any calories).
I found myself drinking a lot more. Tea, coffee and water were my only beverages. I had heavy cream (all fat and no sugar) in my coffee and black tea. I’d sip on 2-3 of each plus 2-3 glasses of water throughout the morning and that was more than enough to satisfy me during my daily fast. It’s definitely worth noting that I threw in 2-3 24-hour fasts just to see how I’d respond. They too, were a walk in the park and had me feeling great.
This may have been my biggest concern coming in. Usually, I have a ‘big ass salad’ for lunch and a plate full of coloured veggies alongside a protein for dinner. I thought I’d miss these things much more than I actually did. The first week I tried to keep variety amongst animal products e.g. beef, chicken, turkey, pork, bacon etc. but by the end of the month I was super content with steak (scotch fillet or porterhouse) and scrambled eggs for both lunch and dinner. To me, these are delicious foods and I found it so enjoyable to prepare them, cook them and eat them every day.
I definitely missed a big glass of milk after a training session and a beer after a day on the tools. As the end of the month came closer, the idea of a cheat meal became more and more real which certainly cranked up some sugar / junk cravings. The lack of variety made shopping and cooking a piece of cake. By eliminating so many things, decision fatigue was non-existent. I didn’t have to think at all about what was going in my shopping cart or what I was going to be having for dinner. The lack of variety also made any idea of snacking almost redundant too. ‘Snacking’ on animal products is quite difficult. Cold cuts of meat or hard boiled eggs are pretty much the extent of snacking options.
This is the part that seemed to be negatively impacted the most among the few of us that tried this experiment. For me, I was coming off minor surgery in late June so my training had to take a bit of a back seat anyway. For that reason, I initially didn’t notice too much difference in regards to training output. This could be a perfect time for someone to utilise this diet – when their training load is considerably decreased.
But when I started pushing the pace (weeks 3 and 4), I felt like my muscles fatigued earlier than they usually would particularly on something like an assault bike. Leg muscles seemed to fatigue before the cardio-respiratory system in running efforts. This could be a combination of the diet and the recovery from surgery.
It’s worth noting the day after the cheat meal (homemade pizza, donuts and ice cream), I had my best running performance since surgery. It’s like I had filled my body with energy! I would imagine that I’d continue to adapt to more intense training with this style of diet if I continued it for an extended period of time.
It’s also worth noting that not everyone that trains needs be concerned with ‘pushing the pace.’ Many, many people don’t need to worry about maximal outputs.
I usually sit at 86-88kg. I lost a comfortable 6-7kg for the month. This was by no means the goal. I felt light and lean without feeling like I’d wasted away – I have felt wasted away at 80kg in the past when I went through some pretty nasty sciatic issues – this wasn’t like that at all. I felt fit and athletic. Skinfolds were notably lower. I certainly wasn’t starving myself to achieve this weight loss. As mentioned above, I experienced extremely little (if any) hunger throughout the month.
I’m not aesthetically inclined so this weight loss didn’t mean too much to me. But body fat is a real problem in this country. More people should probably take their body composition more seriously. To see results like that in only a month of strict eating habits, maybe leaves something to consider for those in need of weight loss. Those that are driven by their looks may also have something to think about.
Only worth mentioning because I didn’t get any of the diarrhoea / uncontrollable bowel movements that many talk about when going carnivore. I’d consistently go for number 2 once a day. I’d pee a lot because of how much water I was consuming.
There were a lot of positives to this diet. Moving forward I don’t think ‘strict’ carnivore would be for me, purely because I’m interested in pushing performance. If I just wanted to look good, feel good and train a little bit, mainly for health reasons, this might be a great option.
I will definitely keep the strict aspect of carnivore handy, almost as a bit of a weapon – to be used for short bursts, similar to this last month – if the time called for it. Examples may include if I wanted to lean out relatively fast; if I was preparing for a long fast; coming back from an injury or any other reason for a lighter than usual training load (as mentioned above); if I wanted to dial in extreme mental focus for an extended period of time (such as developing a business or taking a short course).
For me, A carnivore ‘ish’ diet sounds right up my alley. Lots of high-quality red meat and eggs, fruit and veg (mainly sweet potato) added in around training, as well as a cheat meal or two a week (because I love to indulge) would suit me perfectly. More importantly, be sustainable.