Are “Cheat Days” Allowed on the Carnivore Diet?
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Some diets or protocols allow for one day every week in which you are allowed to binge on sugar, carbohydrates, pizza, ice cream, or whatever your heart desires. On the Carnivore Diet, this is discouraged, so no, a cheat day isn’t technically allowed on the carnivore diet.
Generally speaking, carnivore diet doctors and proponents state, in my opinion, good reasons for why cheat days are not allowed on the carnivore diet. Some are obvious, and others more nuanced.
The bottom line is that if you are attempting anything in life, there is going to have to be discipline, and discipline is what you will need for any diet…the carnivore diet is no exception.
Carnivore Diet Quickie
If you are new to the idea of a carnivore diet, I can offer a simple run-down. The carnivore diet focuses on nutrient-rich animal-sourced foods like muscle meat, organ meats, seafood, and even dairy if your body is able to handle it.
Dr. Shawn Baker, the author of “The Carnivore Diet,” sums it up by saying, “…it’s either the total elimination or limitation of plant foods as needed to optimize and improve health.”
Elimination of Toxins and Poisons
My personal journey into better health started with a paleo diet, then keto, and finally carnivore. The reason being is I had underlying health issues like a parasite infection, gluten intolerance, autoimmune issues, bacteria overgrowth, and candida.
What helped improve my health? The elimination of plant foods and processed foods like flour, sugar, and seed oils.
You see, the carnivore diet is the ultimate elimination diet, and when you include a cheat day, you are potentially reintroducing toxic and health-damaging food into the equation.
Carnivore Proponent Dr. Paul Saladino’s Take
Dr. Paul Saladino is a carnivore diet proponent and wrote, in my opinion, the most informative book on the carnivore diet called “The Carnivore Code.” He has a page dedicated to the idea of cheat days while on the carnivore diet.
When asked, “what about cheat meals?”, he replies, “I’m not a fan.”
He believes allowing yourself a cheat day at the end of the week sets you up for failure as you are eating based on scarcity. This way of thinking positions junk food as a reward, but in actuality, eating non-junk food for better nutrition is the reward.
Don’t think of eating a diet or protocol as deprivation.
Dr. Saladino says, “a carnivore diet is not about limiting what we can eat, it’s about understanding that on this type of diet, we are able to eat the most life-giving, nutrient-rich foods on the planet. It’s a diet of abundance…it (cheat days) sabotages our efforts to make lasting, positive lifestyle changes.”
There is also a potential immunologic issue as Dr. Saladino says, “cheat meals are a train wreck…the immune system has a memory, and if we keep reminding it of the triggering foods it won’t calm down.”
He goes on by reiterating, “the point is to allow enough time to understand how it feels to be well and then investigate which foods may be triggering with careful reintroduction. Cheat meals undermine this process.”
The 4 Hour Body Days
Back in the day, I read Tim Ferris’s book, “The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman” and in it, he mentions that cheat days are all good. The funny thing is that my brother and I were trying the diet together and every Saturday or Sunday we would binge some Haagen-Daz or eat some pizza or whatever.
Soon cheat days turned into cheat weeks! Over time cheat days destroyed our self-will and our discipline went out the window as well as sticking to Tim Ferris’s guidelines.
However I do recommend Tim’s book, just not his diet and not his idea of cheat days.
A Keto Perspective
Some if not all carnivore dieters are in ketosis meaning our bodies are using ketones and fat for energy rather than glucose/sugar.
Dr. Brett Osborn says that those on a strict keto diet for at least 8-12 weeks won’t get knocked out of ketosis from one cheat day. However if you are just starting out on carnivore or keto you will most likely get knocked out of ketosis.
You basically don’t want to have a heavy carbohydrate cheat day during your adaptation period. He says that if you want to cheat to at least wait until you are fully adapted which I guess is after the 8-13 weeks.
Which brings us to what if you cheat???
Cheat Day Recovery
Dr. Eric Berg goes into detail on his YouTube video about what happens to your body when you cheat. If you cheat this is what happens:
- Blood sugar spikes
- Insulin takes the sugar
- Sugar is now stored in fat cells
- The body now has low blood sugar
- Low blood sugar stimulates hunger, cravings, brain fog, irritability, confusion, fatigue, and weakness
- The next day you may feel worse
He uses a roller coaster as an analogy of what happens with chronic cheaters. You feel up one day and crappy the next and the cycle repeats.
Dr. Berg has a few ideas on how to recover from cheat days. He says to do the following:
- Apple Cider Vinegar/Water Mix Drink
- Try fasting
- Exercise (helps burn off stored sugar/glycogen)
- Take some electrolytes. My go-to brand for electrolytes is Redmond Real Salt Re-Lyte. Plus they give our readers a whopping 15% discount when you use the link or input Wild at checkout.
- Try to get B vitamins. Organ meat has a lot of B Vitamins! When organ meat is not available I use Ancestral Supplements Beef Liver Capsules. They are of high quality and it’s from grass-fed cows.
My Simple Hacks of How Not to Cheat
Cheating usually happens from social pressure. We all have lives, and going out to socialize, party, conventions, and working on a daily basis is normal.
These are the times when it may not be easy to refrain from sugar, soda, diet soda, alcohol, or non-carnivore snacks.
What I do to combat this. Stay satiated! Before you go out, have a big meal if you go out to a bar, order a seltzer, or spring water, or anything without sugar.
Keep snacks and sparkling water handy. I have a nice collection of different sparkling water, sugar-free jerky, and biltong. These are my favorites:
- Jerky (People’s Choice Jerky is Sugar Free)
- Biltong (Kalahari is bomb!)
- Sparkling Water (S. Pellegrino Essenza is refreshing.)
Don’t Be a Cheater!
Whatever you are doing, you owe it to yourself, not to cheat. Of course, you have that little voice in your head saying, “it’s ok, you deserve that cookie; you’ve been so good for 6 days.”
This voice also comes up when it’s time to work out or wake up early or do your chores.
That’s the voice that needs to be ignored.
So there are a few perspectives on this whole idea of a cheat day. Hopefully, it’s been a helpful article, and you can have a few takeaways. If you are new to the carnivore diet, here are a few posts that will shed some light on it.
- Carnivore Diet 101: A Meaty Resource
- How to Get Started on the Carnivore Diet|First 28 Day Plan
- Top 11 Carnivore Diet Mistakes
Good luck, and thanks for reading!
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. Consult with and ask your doctor about any diet or medical-related questions. No information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease or condition.