By Rohan Arora
The Carnivore Diet is built on one simple rule; you cannot eat anything that does not come from an animal. That means that it is very high in animal protein, which has benefits for certain athletes.
If you are wanting to build muscle, that is probably music to your ears.
Building muscle on the carnivore diet, however, is not a slam dunk. Many people I’ve known have tried and failed. After a lot of trial and error, and a whole lot of research, I’ve identified seven crucial hacks that you need to follow if you plan to use the carnivore diet to build muscle.
In this article, I lay out the 7 things you need to know about muscle building on the carnivore diet.
1. Focus on Increasing Your Calories to Build Muscle on the Carnivore Diet
Muscular weight gain starts and finishes with excess calories. When it comes to the carnivore diet, you need to be ending each day in a caloric surplus. This will provide the extra nutrients to trigger protein synthesis.
A great way to beef up your calorie count is to add more fat to your diet. Fat contains more than twice the calorie count as protein or carbs. So, getting the right fats in plentiful quantities makes a lot of sense.
Add fat to your meals in the form of tallow, or goat butter. Be liberal in the amounts you use. For example, I’ll add a stick and a half of goat butter to a piece of steak.
Butter is an especially good form of fat because it is so easy to digest. You can eat it right along with your meat content without even realizing it. That means that your fat intake won’t hamper your protein consumption.
Focus on adding fats, especially in the form of butter, as a complement to your proteins, and you can easily add 1500 calories each day.
You can also add a mass gainer shake to get in a few extra hundred calories.
2. Do Not Be Overly Strict About Cutting Carbs on a Carnivore Diet
The carnivore diet is not the same thing as the keto diet. When you’re following a carnivore diet to lose weight, you will still be quite strict about cutting carbs on a carnivore diet. But, if your goal is to add muscle mass, you can be more lenient about it.
You need carbs to build muscle.
On a carnivore diet, your energy needs will be met by fat. The carbs that you ingest will provide a positive insulin response to promote protein synthesis. It will also help to increase your anabolic hormone response throughout the night.
Split your carb intake up before and after your workout. Taking some carbs before your workout will also make your training sessions more explosive. Post-workout carbs will replenish glycogen stores and help to speed up your recovery.
Getting extra carbs on the carnivore diet will take some effort. Two carnivore diet-friendly carb sources include goat yogurt and honey. You can also include sweet potatoes, though this is not strictly carnivore diet-friendly.
Here are four more carb foods that you can add to your carnivore diet to boost workout performance and recovery …
- White Rice
- Butternut Squash
Aim to take in around a hundred grams of carbs per day.
3. Avoid Going Into Catabolism on the Carnivore Diet
When you are in a catabolic state, your body is spending more energy than it is taking in. This can result in muscle and strength loss. It is the opposite of what you want for muscle growth.
When you go on a fast, you put yourself into a catabolic state. Some people try to combine intermittent fasting with a carnivore diet to add muscle tissue while staying as lean as possible. A popular form of intermittent fasting involves fasting for 16 hours out of every 24-hour period.
That means that you will be in a catabolic state for two-thirds of every day. It also means that you are severely limiting the time that you have to eat.
Eating to gain serious muscle mass is hard work. It requires frequent meals, evenly spaced throughout the day. Compressing those meals into 8 hours will not give you enough time to do that.
You won’t be able to get the 3500-4000 calories you need to build muscle in just a couple of feedings. Trying to do so will make you very uncomfortable, leading to gas, bloating, and excess time on the toilet.
That’s not fun!
The bottom line here is that you should not combine muscle building on the carnivore diet with fasting or any type of fad diet.
4. Increase Electrolyte Content on the Carnivore Diet
One of the effects of a low-carb diet, such as the carnivore diet, is that it reduces electrolyte levels. Low carbs mean a greatly reduced level of insulin release. When insulin is low, water is flushed out of the body.
Along with that water loss, you will also lose electrolytes.
These include magnesium, potassium, and sodium. When your electrolyte levels are low, you may suffer from a lack of energy and lethargy.
A key to building muscle mass is to make every workout as intense as possible. You cannot do that when your electrolyte levels are low. So taking efforts to boost your electrolyte levels will help you to train harder.
To overcome electrolyte loss on the carnivore diet, salt your meats. I recommend adding Himalayan Pink Salt. Prior to your workouts, you should also consider adding an electrolyte powder to water. Throw in 5 grams of creatine to help replenish your ATP energy levels during the workout.
5. Eat Organ Meats on the Carnivore Diet to Build Muscle
Organ meats are a rich source of micronutrients. Adding them to your diet will provide an energy boost as well as many more benefits. That’s because they are packed with energy-giving B-vitamins.
You will notice the extra energy in the gym that comes with eating organ meats. Those B-vitamins will also boost your fat-burning efforts.
Organ meats are very high in protein. They are an especially rich source of leucine, the most important of the three branch chain amino acids. Leucine stimulates protein synthesis, which is the starting point of muscle growth.
The protein in organ meats is also extremely bioavailable. They are also very nutrient-dense. That means that you can get more benefits from eating a lower amount. That’s good news when you are trying to meet a daily caloric intake to build muscle.
Here are three more reasons to add organ meats to your carnivore diet …
- Organ meats may support brain health
- Organ meats boost immunity and antioxidant power
- Organ meats are a source of Vitamin A Retinol to promote skin health
6. Stay Away from the Scale
The scale is an unreliable gauge of your muscle-building progress. It doesn’t differentiate between weight gain and muscle gain. That means that you really don’t know what that extra weight gain is due to.
The other problem with using the scale to measure your progress is the slow rate of real muscle growth. If you are able to add a pound of lean muscle mass per month, you will be doing very well. That rate of gain is very hard to gauge on the scale.
Our scale weight fluctuates from hour to hour. That’s due to several variables, including when you’ve eaten, when you’ve visited the bathroom, and when you’ve worked out.
If you rely on the scales of your measure of weight gain success on the carnivore diet, you’ll be doing your head in. Instead, use the mirror and the tape measure as your main gauge of progress. Then, every couple of months, a complete body composition analysis is done.
7. Minimize Cardio
To build muscle, you need to limit calorie burning. That’s the case whether you’re on a carnivore diet or any other program for muscle gain. Limiting your activity will help you to maintain the positive calorie balance needed for muscle growth.
Of course, you need to be working out hard and heavy on the gym floor to build muscle. Doing so will consume plenty of energy, which needs to be replaced with food. You do not want to dig an even deeper caloric hole by burning more calories with cardio exercise.
That’s why you should cut your cardio way back when you are following a carnivore diet to build muscle. I recommend limiting it to a 20-30 minute walk two to three times per week.
The Carnivore diet is an effective nutrition program for muscle building. To find success, though, you need to follow these tips:
- Focus on eating more calories by adding liberal amounts of animal fat
- Eat about 100 grams of carbs, split before and after your workouts
- Do not combine the diet with intermittent fasting
- Add Himalayan Pink Salt for electrolytes
- Include organ meats in your diet
- Don’t use the scale as your muscle gain gauge
- Cut way back on cardio
It should go without saying that you also need to train hard and heavy in the gym to add muscle mass on the carnivore diet. Check out this awesome beginner routine that will propel you toward your muscle-building goals.
View the US Wellness Meats blog for more health-related articles & nourishing recipes!
Rohan Arora is a personal trainer and sports nutritionist and has been actively involved in the fitness community for over 8 years. Together with his team at GainingTactics, he has helped hundreds of hard gainers gain healthy weight and live a healthy lifestyle.