Can you build muscle on a carnivore diet? If you’ve done some research about building muscle, you’ve probably come across the advice that you should eat carbs to help you gain muscle. This advice is pretty mainstream. Bodybuilder diets are often low in fat and high in carbs because they believe the carbs will help them build muscle. Those who don’t have aspirations of becoming bodybuilders and just want to gain muscle to look good and become stronger also typically opt for more carbs.
This popular muscle-building diet approach has lead to many fearing that if they go on a low-carb diet like the carnivore diet, they’ll struggle to gain muscle. If you want to try the carnivore diet but you’re worried it will interfere with your goals, then hopefully I can put your mind at ease.
How Do You Build Muscle?
First, it’s important to understand what is required for your body to build muscle. To build muscle, you need to:
Do resistance training and focus on progressive overload, which is when you make exercises harder by doing things like lifting heavier weights, slowing down your tempo, adding reps, and adding sets.
Eat enough protein (aim for 1g to 1.2g per pound of body weight)
Eat enough calories during the day and aim for maintenance calories or higher. You’ll struggle to build muscle if you’re in a calorie deficit. If you prioritize fatty meat on a carnivore diet, it shouldn’t be too hard to reach your calorie goals.
Prioritise sleep and recovery: proper rest is very important for building muscle and helping your muscles repair. Sleep helps you produce more human growth hormone, which plays an important role in muscle building and strength.
Do You Need Carbs to Build Muscle?
Many voices in the health and fitness community will tell you that, in order to build muscle, you need to eat enough protein and load up on carbs.
The carbs fill your muscles with glycogen for you to use during your workout, and eating carbohydrates can help your performance in the gym.
But you don’t need to eat carbs to help you build muscle, as long as you consume enough electrolytes, eat enough fat, and provide your body with the calories it needs.
When you first switch to a low-carb diet like the carnivore diet and the keto diet, your performance when working out will likely decline for a few weeks while your body adjusts and becomes fat adapted. This is because you lose quite a bit of stored glycogen and you’re body hasn’t switched over to using fat as its main energy source yet.
But once you are fat-adapted, your performance when training should improve and it will become easier to build muscle. Where will you get glycogen from? Well, your liver produces it. And if you consume more protein than your body needs, it will turn the extra protein into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis.
But if you want, you can have carbs on a carnivore diet. I know, I know, many people in the carnivore community don’t approve of the consumption of honey and dairy products but these come from animals and can definitely be included in a carnivore diet.
So if you want the power of carbs to fuel you for your workouts, why not just have some honey or raw milk? If you can’t tolerate dairy (like me), then you can get all the carbs you need from honey. You can be strategic and have your carnivore carbs before you train to give you energy and then again after to help restore the glycogen in your muscles.
How Can the Carnivore Diet Help You Build Muscle?
So many people who are trying to build muscle don’t eat enough protein. You need to eat enough protein so your body gets the amino acids it needs to build muscle.
If you’ve never tracked how much protein you consume in a day, you might be shocked to discover that you’re not close to your protein goal of 1g to 1,2g protein per pound of body weight.
If you’re on a carnivore diet, you can easily get to your daily protein goal. Before I started doing The Lion Diet in January for World Carnivore Month, I struggled to reach my protein goals, but then once I started doing the carnivore diet, it became incredibly easy to reach this goal.
Meat also provides you with a lot of creatine. Many people who are trying to build muscle will supplement with creatine because creatine helps give muscles more energy. Your levels of phosphocreatine will increase when you consume creatine, which your body then uses to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
Creatine is found in meat. You can skip the supplements if you’re on the carnivore diet due to the fact that you eat so much meat.
If you don’t consume enough fat, your testosterone levels also won’t be optimal since you need fat and cholesterol to produce it. Following a low-carb, high-fat diet like The Carnivore Diet can boost your testosterone levels, which will aid muscle growth. Animal foods like red meat are also great sources of zinc, which your body also needs to produce testosterone.
On the carnivore diet, you won’t experience blood sugar fluctuations like you would on a high-carb diet. Stable blood sugar levels mean stable energy levels, which means you’ll perform better during workouts and can train harder. Your chances of experiencing a mid-workout energy dip are much lower on a carnivore diet.
The Carnivore Diet vs Vegan Diet
The carnivore diet is far superior to the vegan diet when it comes to building muscle. First of all, animal foods are higher in protein than plant sources of protein like beans, nuts, rice and lentils.
But, here is the truth. There are 20 amino acids your body needs to build muscle and 9 of them cannot be produced by your body, so you need to get them from your food. Foods that contain all nine essential amino acids are called complete proteins.
There are no plant proteins that meet this criterion. You need to combine different plant protein sources (like mixing rice with beans) to get all the essential amino acids.
But, meat and other animal sources of protein like cheese, eggs and yoghurt, are complete proteins. There’s no combining necessary.
Plant foods are also harder to digest. You definitely won’t get the most out of the protein you’re getting from plants. Meat and eggs are two of the easiest foods for the body to digest and get protein from.
If you’re on a muscle-building journey, why not try the carnivore diet for a few months and see how it affects your progress? I think it’s also a great idea to do it if you were gaining muscle but have now hit a plateau. The carnivore diet could be just what you need to start seeing progress again and build that muscle you’re after.