Have you started the carnivore diet and thought that following this way of eating was guaranteed to help you lose weight but you started gaining instead? Or did you start the carnivore diet hoping it will help you gain muscle without putting on fat but now you’re noticing a little extra padding around your midsection?
Don’t listen to anyone who says that you can’t gain weight on a carnivore diet. You definitely can. I have in the past.
It really depends on how you do it. If you’ve been gaining fat on a carnivore diet, find out some potential reasons why below. Your weight gain might be due to a few simple mistakes you’re making and all it will take to get the results you were truly after on a carnivore diet will be to make a few adjustments.
Now, if gaining weight is actually your goal, you can use this article to help you come up with a great weight-gain strategy.
You’re Eating a Lot of Calories
Even though calories aren’t all that count on a diet, they still count — even when you’re on a carnivore diet. If you still eat more than your body can burn and use, you will generally store some of that excess as fat.
You can start to count your calories, which can be an effective strategy, or you can just start reducing your portion sizes, reducing the number of times you eat in a day, and swapping out some fattier cuts of meat here and there with leaner ones, which are all great strategies for reducing your calorie intake.
If you want to gain weight, you can use calorie counting to make sure you are eating more calories than you burn in a day, which will help you gain weight.
You’re Eating a Lot of Dairy
Some people include dairy on a carnivore diet, but for many, dairy products can be inflammatory, which can lead to fat gain.
Dairy can also be addictive, and it’s easy to overdo it. For many, it’s very hard to practice portion control when it comes to dairy.
Cheese contains casein, which the body breaks down into casomorphins. They trigger cravings by attaching to the dopamine receptors in your brain. (1, 2, 3, 4)
Plus, if the dairy products you’re consuming include milk and yoghurt, and you consume a lot of carbohydrates as a result, it can spike blood sugar and insulin levels and lead to weight gain. (5, 6)
If you’ve been eating a lot of dairy and have been gaining weight, consider limiting your dairy intake or cutting the dairy entirely for a while.
If gaining weight is your goal and you’ve been struggling to achieve this goal, you can increase your dairy consumption, which should help.
You’re Consuming a Lot of Carbs
You might think that a carnivore diet includes no carbs, but the truth is, it can.
Some carnivores include honey and dairy products like milk, cheese, kefir, and yoghurt, which are sources of carbs. Some people opt for a carnivore-ish or animal-based diet where they still include some plant foods like fruit.
It’s actually quite easy to consume a lot of carbs on a carnivore diet, which is great if you want to gain weight, but if you want to maintain your weight or lose weight, it’s best to not do so. Eating carbohydrates can lead to spikes in insulin, the storage hormone. Frequently spiking insulin can make your body store fat.
Plus, chances are that if you’re on a carnivore diet, you’re consuming a lot of fat. If you pair a high-fat diet with a high-carb diet, you’re asking for weight gain. The combination of fat and carbs often trigger us to want to overeat. (7)
For weight loss and maintenance, it’s usually best to either choose a high-fat, lower-carb diet or a lower-fat, higher-carb diet — the former obviously being the best option on a carnivore diet.
You’re on a Dirty Carnivore Diet
Are you the type of carnivore that likes to go to fast-food chains and order things like chicken wings coated in sauce and spices or burgers without the bun or any garnish — just burger patties and cheese? Do you frequently eat processed meats and sausages without questioning how they were made? If it’s meat and contains zero carbs, you can eat it, right?
The truth is that it’s not all about zero carbs and eating animal foods. It matters how your food was made and cooked. At restaurants and fast-food chains, your meat is probably getting cooked in seed oils like canola oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil. These oils can also be used when constructing your burger patties and sausages.
Seed oils can cause inflammation and make you gain weight. They’re high in linoleic acid, which triggers fat gain. (8, 9, 10, 11, 12)
If you’re gaining weight on a carnivore diet and you’ve been following a dirty carnivore diet, cleaning up your diet and avoiding processed meats and those cooked in vegetable oils can make a huge difference and stop the scales and your waistline from going up.
Even if your goal is to gain weight, I would still recommend that you stay away from seed oils and processed foods as much as possible.
You’re Eating a Lot of Linoleic Acid
Believe it or not but your weight gain could be caused by eating too much pork and chicken, as well as seed oils.
The first time I tried the carnivore diet, I mainly ate pork and chicken, because it was more affordable, and I ended up gaining weight that month. Little did I know that the pork and chicken were higher in linoleic acid, a type of polyunsaturated fat that can cause your body to gain fat. (13, 14, 15)
If you get free-range pork or chicken, and the animals were allowed to roam freely and eat a natural diet, the meat will contain less linoleic acid. But if you get pork or chicken that lived on diets high in grains and soy, they will contain more linoleic acid. (16)
I’m not saying you can’t eat pork or chicken at all, but if you’ve been gaining weight on the carnivore diet and your goal was the opposite, try to reduce your intake of these foods and, if you can, source properly raised pork and chicken with lower linoleic acid levels.
You’re Eating too Frequently
Have you been snacking a lot on your carnivore diet and eating more than 3 times a day? Even if you only eat animal foods, every time you eat, it will cause your insulin levels to rise. As mentioned earlier, insulin is the storing hormone, and when elevated, it’ll make it harder for you to lose fat. If you’re currently snacking on things like cheese, pork rinds, beef jerky or biltong, salami sticks, or eggs, perhaps all you need to do to start losing weight or to stop gaining weight is to cut out the snacks and stick to 2 or 3 meals a day.
Are any of the things I listed above things that you’ve been doing on a carnivore diet? If so, then you know what you need to do in order to stop gaining weight on a carnivore diet or what you can start doing to help you gain weight. But please, regardless of your goals, limit the seed oils.