How To Get Started on a Carnivore Diet | First 28 Day Plan
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Alright, you’re ready to jump in and explore this crazy carnivore diet. This is a quick guide to help you get started.
It tries to explain what’s going on with your body, some recommended advice from carnivore diet proponents, and a little motivation to keep you going with your diet and lifestyle goals, plus my meal plan from my first 28 days.
Most of the inspiration and dietary suggestions come from two major carnivore diet supporters, Dr. Shawn Baker and Dr. Paul Saladino, MD. This entire post is based on their suggestions and expertise.
If you are completely new to the carnivore diet, I would suggest checking out The Carnivore Diet 101: A Meaty Resource.
What’s Your Why?
Why would someone want to eliminate basically everything out of their diet aside from meat?
Well, for a lot of people it’s because they want to get healthy. Some believe the carnivore diet is a good way to solve some of their health problems.
Many people have food allergies, chronic issues, and digestive problems and an elimination diet seems to help them. Some people even use it to help treat diabetes. Oh, and weight is a big one too as most people seem to reduce their extra fat stores.
If you want inspiration or anecdotal evidence, check out MEATRX. There are plenty of testimonials that will give you that “I can’t believe it” feeling.
Here is a small list of ailments that people have said they found relief from when switching to a carnivore diet:
- Anemia Anxiety
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Lyme Disease
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Ulcerative Colitis…and this is just a very small sample!
I had digestive problems like constipation, leaky gut, bacteria overgrowth, giardia, and was always bloated.
The beer belly and skinny fat body were uncool too. Since switching, I have resolved almost all my issues.
For a more in depth article on the illness subject check out:
Just Start The Journey
Simple right? Just start.
The carnivore diet is probably the simplest diet on the planet even beating out the Atkins diet even beating out the Atkins diet . There are minimal macro or micro food calculations. No extravagant meal recipes. Simple food prep.
Basically, just take it one day at a time and know the beginning is the hardest. The first few weeks are the more challenging as you are dealing with cravings, your body’s biochemistry is changing, and you will feel symptoms ranging from lethargy to potentially diarrhea.
Also, there is no need to beat yourself up with any temporary food selection mistakes; it happens.
Beware for those going cold turkey, it’s going to be more difficult, and most likely, the symptoms that accompany the transition period will be more severe, so there’s no shame in easing into it.
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, and this is not medical advice. Consult with a doctor for any health-related questions. This blog is for entertainment purposes only. No information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease or condition.
Fill Up Your Tank
It seems like most of the people first starting out on the carnivore diet are not eating enough meat and fat.
Most of us have been conditioned since we were children thinking that meat and fat are bad for us, so when you go carnivore, you naturally say to yourself, “this fatty Ribeye seems like too much…I should maybe stop.” Nope keep going and eat until you are full. Pretty simple.
Another psychological item we need to discuss is our previous attempts of losing weight with calorie restriction. Our minds are programmed to believe less is going to make us lose weight. Not with carnivore.
It’s time to retrain your mind and eat until satiated. The other cool thing is that when you are full from eating meat and fat, your body is not going to have room for dessert or snacks. Hence keep your tank full.
Dr. Shawn Baker says it best, “few people have the mental discipline to resist when physiology is not favorable. Stack the deck in your favor and keep yourself constantly sated with meat.”
When To Eat?
When you are first starting off, it is highly recommended to eat when you are hungry, whether in the morning, lunchtime, or dinner time. Quick note:
Many people see an improvement in sleep when they eat dinner earlier; perhaps dinner before 6 pm is better for you?
Don’t Judge Yourself or Others
We have established that the diet itself is easy but what’s not is judging yourself and comparing yourself to other people. When you go to MEATRX you will see some phenomenal transformation both in terms of body weight and health improvements.
Whatever your reason is for switching to this lifestyle, just know we are all different, and our goals are different. As an example, I may lose weight quickly, and you may get clearer skin faster.
Dr. Shawn Baker says, “constantly comparing yourself to others is a quick path to misery.” He also likes to reiterate that a lot of times, we humans get stuck on body image and compare ourselves to fitness models and internet influencers with ripped abs.
A lot of these people are, in fact, not healthy and not living an optimally healthy lifestyle.
He goes on to say, “instead of focusing on the outward physical aspect, focus on the simpler goal of restoring normal health, which is something few people enjoy these days.”
Be Wary of Fasting and Stick to Feasting
As a beginner of the carnivore diet, it is strongly suggested to eat when you are hungry; feasting is more like it. Also, this is a good time to not worry about intermittent fasting as it’s more important to get your body adapted, nutritionally optimal, and accustomed to this new way of eating.
If fasting is part of your beginning routine, there is a chance you will not be eating enough.
If fasting is something, you are interested in, maybe reanalyze your situation and implement it a few months down the road after you have had consistent success.
This article goes into more detail the fasting aspect of the carnivore diet:
Also, when you get a few months in, you will notice that your body will prefer eating only once or twice per day. It seems to be a natural progression or step that is taken months after you begin.
Ignore The Weird Comments and Stares…and Vegans.
The carnivore diet is a newer thing, from a mainstream society point of view. That means a few things will inevitably happen.
When eating out, people will look at your plate of meat funny. Waiters and cashiers will be severely confused about why you don’t want sides, bread, or anything else but meat.
Friends will try to advise against eating such an “extreme” diet. Vegans and vegetarians will want to argue and shame you into changing your planet and animal-destroying ways.
Ignore it all. If people have closed minds, it’s not even worth wasting your breath or time. You can’t reason with unreasonable people, and it ain’t worth the rise in blood pressure.
Wisdom From Dr. Saladino, MD
Paul Saladino is an MD and Functional Medicine Doctor who happens to be a strict carnivore dieter. He switched from a keto diet to carnivore and now is a major proponent.
He believes there are two major pitfalls; loose stool and the keto/carnivore flu.
Loose Stools and Fiber Misconceptions
A lot of people experience loose stools and/or diarrhea. He mentions that one of the reasons is due to the change in gut flora.
Basically, your gut bacteria has been munching on carbs and fiber forever (assuming you are coming from a more Standard American Diet or high carb diet.)
When you switch to a zero carb/carnivore diet lacking fiber, your gut bacteria will switch to the kind that is good at eating protein and tolerant of gut bile. (When you begin to eat copious amounts of meat and protein, naturally, your digestive system produces more bile.)
He says these two factors are what increases your chances of getting loose stools. Usually, newcomers to the diet see this subside within 2-3 weeks, and after one month, they will only have to go to the bathroom once per day.
Should you be concerned about diarrhea, Dr. Saladino says, nope. But be sure you drink enough water and don’t dehydrate.
Keto Flu Adjustment
If you have been eating a Standard American Diet or something similar your whole life, then your adjustment to a zero-carb/carnivore diet will be more difficult.
The reason being you are going to get some flu-like symptoms like lack of energy, lethargy, nausea, and even joint pain and aches.
He says, basically, your whole digestive biochemistry in your body is switching. You are now using fat as fuel as opposed to carbs/sugar.
Your body produces more ketones, and this is the new, more efficient high octane fuel. What this means is you now have a ketone-converted metabolism!
One way to think of it is by switching truck engines. Going from your standard unleaded engine and swapping it to a diesel engine.
Keto flu is basically the cost of having to switch over. The good news is that it only lasts about 3-4 days during your first week of going strict carnivore. (Some people report longer.)
If the flu symptoms are strong, Dr. Saladino suggests supplementing with electrolytes, high-quality salt, or even exogenous ketones.
These are what I have used:
- Perfect Keto Exogenous Ketones: Base BHB Salts Supplement. (Not Carnivore as this contains small amounts of stevia and plant extracts.)
- Redmond Real Salt (15% off with this link!)
4 Suggestions From Saladino
#1 Know What’s Up with the Biochemistry
Eating non-stop steaks is the easy part, but you need to have a healthy balance of connective tissue.
Why is that? We have what’s called a Methionine and Glycine ratio of amino acids, and when you have too much Methionine as a result of eating only muscle meat, you can potentially get some methylation challenges.
He recommends to be sure and eat connective tissue with heavy amounts of collagen and potentially supplement with collagen powder.
This one rocks as it is made with grass-fed cows and claims to be glyphosate residue-free, (that’s major!)
#2 Be Conscious of Fat to Protein Ratios
Your protein and fat ratios are going to play a critical role in preventing “rabbit sickness,” otherwise known as protein poisoning.
Saladino says the chances of getting this are slim, and you would have almost to be fat-free, but none the less it is super important to include a considerable amount of fat.
According to Saladino the ideal ratio is 2:1 fat to protein.
He says your run-of-the-mill Ribeye doesn’t even have enough fat in it to make the ratio. So now what? You have to add tallow or lard or even Ghee.
This is what I use daily so stock up and keep it ready for cooking. Plus the extra fat and/or ghee just makes everything taste better!
Save time with pre-made grass-fed tallow:
Remember you don’t have to be super perfect with the ratio just be aware of it and if you are feeling a little low energy then perhaps you need to add some fat.
#3 Nose to Tail Eating Style
Taking a cue from our ancestors, Saladino recommends eating the full assortment of animal products from nose to tail just like our ancestors did. What this means is to try to include some organ meats like liver, brain, heart, and even Rocky Mountain Oysters, (Testicles). Ok…he didn’t mention the testicles part.
Ancestral tribes knew the power of organ meats and would hand out portions of the liver first and even eat it raw which I’ve tried numerous times, it’s just not that easy to eat.
- Ancestral Supplements Grass Fed Beef Organs (Desiccated) — Liver, Heart, Kidney, Pancreas, Spleen
- Ancestral Supplements Grass Fed Brain (with Liver)
#4 EPA and DHA and Fatty Acids Oh My
Once again, Saladino is pointing out that if you are only eating muscle meat, then it is a good idea to include other non-muscle meat foods. The reason being is that you may be missing out on Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Try to include some seafood or egg yolk as these are packed with extra fatty acids.
Also, he says the grass-fed beef has more EPA and DHA so if possible try that route.
Saladino Sums It Up
Here are some quick suggestions from Saladino:
- For every 100 grams of muscle meat, you should eat 10 grams of collagen.
- Be aware of the 2:1 fat to protein ratio.
- Nose to Tale it. Be sure to try to put some organ meats in your rotation.
- Keep these in rotation, too: Eggs, Seafood and Liver. All of which are powerhouses of the fatty acids.
Food Suggestions from the King of Carnivore, Dr. Baker
If you have questions of what to eat you can keep it pretty simple by asking this one question, “does it come from an animal?” If it does it’s on the shopping list.
These animals work:
- Regular Fish
- Get the picture?
What’s up with dairy? Baker says if your stomach and body can tolerate it, then go for it. Many people try to go non-dairy to see if they perform better and then add it back into their diet slowly to see if it works.
Those of you with a gene issue or intolerance should just cut it out completely.
I go into dairy more extensively with this post:
What oils are good for cooking?
Stick to the fat, lard, and tallow! The oils that are not good for cooking are vegetable oils and synthetic oils. Throw them out immediately! Don’t even mess around with avocado oil, coconut, or MCT oil.
In fact, Baker says coconut oil has a compound called salicylate which can cause a rash, digestive issues, headache, or swelling.
Essentially, numerous plant foods are dangerous and we have two articles explaining such:
Keep it Spicy?
What’s the deal with spices? Spices come from plants, so are they acceptable? Yes and no.
Baker says, yeah, if you are starting out and need that extra flavoring, then go for it. But make sure the combinations don’t include any sugar or an insane of unpronounceable ingredients.
Try to stick to the salt and pepper combo, and if you want to indulge in a sauce, make sure it’s sugarless and not made of any toxic oils, like canola or soy.
In time your craving for extra tastes will diminish, and the need for spices and sauces will go out the window.
What Can You Drink?
This one is simple. Water and Bone Broth. (Maybe milk and electrolyte mixed water.)
Water is all you need. The carnivore diet is an elimination diet, and that also means eliminating sugary beverages, protein powders, alcohol, coffee, and even tea. (Before we forget you may want to take out chewing gum too.)
If you are gonna go for it, you might as well go all in.
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to be super strict for the rest of your life. Baker even says he has a small glass of wine every now and then.
To be honest coffee and tea are debatable and I myself still drink coffee in the morning.
There are some reports showing the benefits of coffee like a natural stimulant and even sports performance enhancement. Still, it also comes with negatives like sleep issues and the deregulation of appetite.
In fact, I was so interested in the effects of alcohol, coffee, and tea on the carnivore diet that I wrote the following posts:
- Can You Drink Alcohol on the Carnivore Diet? (Why and Why Not?)
- Can You Drink Coffee on the Carnivore Diet? (Why and Why Not?)
- Can You Drink Tea on the Carnivore Diet (Why and Why Not?)
So yeah, pretty much water and broth from here on out. If you do go the broth route, here how I make it:
Or you can buy pre-made:
How Much Meat and How Often
Baker basically says eat until you are full (pretty simple) and eat when you are hungry. However, if you want a ballpark guide he says:
- Around 2 Pounds for Males
- Around 1.5 Pounds for Females
These are just general numbers and not backed by anything other than a ballpark. Obviously, we are all different sizes, and our bodies have different requirements.
Try to eat until satiated, and remember this diet is to get healthy, not lose weight. A lot of us have been through the wringer with our health and have food-related illnesses and diseases.
Chances are your body needs all the nutrition it can get to heal and build itself back up.
- If you eat and are still hungry then eat more
- If you feel low energy then eat more
When it comes to the timing of meals and when to eat, keep it simple at first and eat when you need to. If you have to eat 4 or 5 times a day in the beginning, then do it.
Starting out, you will have a fair amount of cravings…so fix those cravings with another portion of meat.
Baker likes to mentions, “If your goal was to lose 20 pounds and instead gain 5, but now enjoy life, don’t have back pain, and are no longer a slave to processed food, you’re far better off with the 5 extra pounds for now.”
What’s Average Day of Eating Carnivore Look Like?
This is an average day for me:
- Breakfast: 2-3 eggs, sausage, and bacon or hamburger (1-2 pounds)
- Lunch: Some kind of fatty steak like a ribeye or hamburgers (1-2 pounds)
- Dinner: Stew from the Slow Cooker, or Steaks or Salmon or Hamburgers (1 pound)
I try not to eat too much at dinner as I have trouble sleeping if I go too savage. My meals are effortless. Sometimes I add raw milk in the morning and bone broth at night.
Also, I’ve been a carnivore for some time, so I can skip breakfast with no issues and just eat a large lunch and dinner—no biggie.
For those trying to cut downtime and be efficient with meal prep I put together my routine here:
What Can Happen During the Adjustment Phase?
During the first few days to weeks, you may notice some positive changes quickly but also some negatives.
Bowel Movement Stuff
As mentioned above, you may have some loose stools as your digestive system changes and the microbiome adjusts bacteria to fat eaters from fiber eaters.
Many vegans and so-called health experts say 2-4 bowel movements per day is optimal, but when your body adapts to the carnivore diet, you can expect to go about once per day.
Dr. Shawn Baker did a study, and the average was 1.2 per day.
If you want more info regarding fiber and constipation on the carnivore diet then check out these posts. They go into disgustingly great details.
Keto Flu and Low Energy
Your body is switching out its digestive engine, and when you start feeding it meat and fat for fuel, it’s just not ready.
In the beginning, the digestive system isn’t producing enough bile and stomach acid to keep up with the new fuel.
This may last for some time but usually clears up, and you may find some increases in energy overall.
A few people recommend including digestive supplements like enzymes and HCI. I used these when I first started on my journey.
- Source Naturals Essential Enzymes 500mg Bio-Aligned Multiple Enzyme
- Source Naturals – Betaine HCl Hydrochloric Acid
Acid Reflux GERD Issues
With the increase in meat and fat, some people have said that they see an increase in unwanted symptoms, but then over time, it gets better.
Remedies I have heard of include not drinking water during your meals as it dilutes the stomach acid rendering it less effective.
Maybe lowering fat intake is a good idea, and also, people say digestive supplements can help.
- Source Naturals Essential Enzymes 500mg Bio-Aligned Multiple
- Source Naturals – Betaine HCl Hydrochloric Acid
Oh yeah! Some people say ox bile can help.
When I first started I would get a few muscle cramps 2-3 times per week, usually in my calf muscles.
I think it was because of dehydration and low electrolyte issue. Carnivore people say it’s rather common. The remedies I have heard of are adding more salt to your diet, magnesium, electrolyte powders, and even frequent Epsom salt baths.
People that go carnivore and work out a lot say they drink water with some salt or straight-up electrolyte mix.
I highly recommend the unflavored Re-Lyte mix by Redmond Real Salt. It’s high quality and they offer that 15% discount by using that link (subject to change)!
Dr. Shawn Baker said he had frequent headaches for 10 days when he first started but believes it was related to electrolyte shifts.
He recommends eating more food, water, and electrolytes.
And the list goes on…
There are numerous other symptoms that may spring up like brain fog, craving, general muscle soreness, heart rate changes, insomnia, and nausea just to name a few more.
Chances are there are even more so prepare yourself mentally that there is a challenge to overcome.
First 28 Days-The Basic Plan I Used
This is a table of how I completed my first 28 days on the carnivore diet. It is a cold-turkey approach that will be more difficult to achieve especially if you are coming from a high carb, high veggie diet.
When going cold turkey, it’s possible that your adaptation symptoms are going to be more severe, and perhaps you will feel like crap for the first 2-3 weeks (or longer).
Dr. Shawn Baker recommends checking with your doctor if you are on medication, especially blood pressure meds, before switching to this diet type.
My main goal was to eat until I felt full. A lot of times, people don’t eat enough, and that’s true for me. Based on my body size, I really try to eat 2 pounds or more of meat per day. I’m not exact; sometimes I eat more and sometimes less.
The reason my food table looks so boring is that I usually go to the market on Sunday and buy meat for the whole week. I freeze as necessary to make it through to the next Sunday.
I didn’t add drinks to the table because I try to only drink water when thirsty.
Yet, I have a coffee addiction so I drink 1-2 cups in the morning.
Some people say cutting out the coffee is better, I tried but just can’t seem to kick it as I love the taste first thing in the morning after I do my water and salt mix.
My general routine:
|1 tbs of salt in 8oz. water, 2-3 eggs cooked in butter, 1 or 2 burgers
|Ribeye Steak or Sirloin plus 1-2 burgers (salted), Cup of Bone Broth
|Before bed: Magnesium Powder and Sprinkle of Salt in Water
|1 tbs of salt in 8oz. water, 2-3 eggs cooked in butter, ground pork/sausage
|Slow Cooked Meat Stew/Salted (Crock Pot), Cup of Bone Broth
|Before bed: Magnesium Powder and Sprinkle of Salt in Water
|1 tbs of salt in 8oz. water, (No Eggs this Week), 4 strips of Bacon/Ground Beef and Raw Milk
|Pork Chops/Ribeye Steak or Any Fatty Cut, Cup of Bone Broth, Cooked Beef Liver
|Before bed: Magnesium Powder and Sprinkle of Salt in Water
|1 tbs of salt in 8oz. water, 2-3 eggs and bacon
|Scallops (Lots of Butter) and Steak, Leftover burger (salted), Cup of Bone Broth
|Before bed: Magnesium Powder and Sprinkle of Salt in Water
That’s basically what I ate for the first month. It’s a tad boring, and I ate hamburgers every single day.
My coworkers thought I was insane as I would bring in 4-5 burgers in my lunch container and “heat and eat” every day.
I wanted to add that I would include random things to eat like wild-caught salmon, canned sardines, herring, tuna, and other canned or preserved seafood. I like to save money, too, so when I see a meat product on sale, whether canned or at the butcher, I usually stock up on it.
If saving money is your thing I did 2 posts on Carnivore Expenses.
- How to Save Money on the Carnivore Diet
- How Much Does the Carnivore Diet Cost? A Surprising Breakdown
How To Start with Dr. Shawn Baker
Hopefully, this post was able to answer a few questions and prepare you should you try this type of diet.
Remember we are all different and adjust to this way of eating differently. Maybe this is a good diet for you or maybe you just want to add a few veggies and fruits.
The bottom line is if it makes you feel good and become healthier then go for it!
Keeping your meals more interesting helps and that’s why we created the Wild Lumens Carnivore recipe channel…check it out!
If coaching is something you are interested in then head over to Dr. Shawn Bakers site, MEATRX, and get a health coach. They are super affordable.
Also MEATRX has amazing testimonials to motivate you!!
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or dietician or nutritionist. 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.