Who needs to calorie count on the carnivore diet? Less people than on any other diet… BUT… Certain groups of people do benefit from calorie counting on the carnivore diet.
- People who can’t afford to lose weight due to already being underweight.
- Those who would like to lose but aren’t doing so and don’t know why.
- Individuals who just don’t feel good, or aren’t loving the carnivore diet
- Anyone with known hormonal issues who may ‘feel hunger’ when it’s not there, or not feel hunger signals as the rest of the population does. Diabetics, those with thyroid disorders, PCOS, etc.
- People with a history of disordered eating, whether it’s binging or restricting or just not having a healthy relationship with their hunger signals. Who is that? Sadly too many in our modern culture.
We’re talking about the common sense approach to calorie counting on the carnivore diet. This is not your mama’s calorie counting. Oh, no, it’s CARNIVORE calorie counting. It’s empowering calorie counting that will nudge your body into balance and healing.
Let me know how calorie counting is going for you in the comment section! I want to hear- do you spot check like I do? Or do you completely ignore them? Do you love the details and log every bite of food?
Why count calories on the carnivore diet?
Calorie counting spot checking – not obsessing- does have a place in eating plans. Calories are a unit of measurement, they are used by your body to have energy and maintain mass.
Thankfully, with the carnivore diet we can nearly always eat until we’re full of carnivore-allowed foods and our hormones will regulate so that we are hungry when we need more fuel, and not hungry when we could skip a meal.
But.. of course there is a but… as you’re transitioning onto your eating plan you may find that you’re just feeling off, or not losing weight like you’d like, and calorie counting has a place in this program!
If you’re doing great eating when you’re hungry and drinking to thirst, that’s awesome, and this is not directed at you :) This is for those who have had their hunger hormones messed up by insulin resistance, over snacking, restrictive dieting, nutrient depletion, and/or using food as an emotional tool – whether it’s punishment or reward or comfort.
When your hunger hormones are messed up, you will feel hunger that does not correlate with your body’s needs. Thank goodness the carnivore diet helps correct your hormones and you will soon be restored to your body’s natural ability of desiring what it needs! But in the meantime, you can help it out with a little structure.
Most people under eat at first on carnivore.
Red meat is calorie dense, and this is a good thing. The most common reason people bail on the carnivore diet is that they are *overestimating* how many calories they are eating in meat. This has been drilled into our heads, as our health problems and cultural obesity crisis has been blamed on red meat.
It’s not the red meat, most people who overeat on the carbs they have with their red meat. It’s the fries, not the burger. The bread, not the steak. And the taters, not the roast. So, you might want to spot-check any calories that you’re eating to make sure you’re not under-eating calories on the carnivore diet.
When we undereat in calories, we might be lethargic or just feel off. So spot checking on the carnivore diet, especially if you’re avoiding dairy or eating mostly chicken or seafood.
To know how many calories you need:
Go to a TDEE calculator and input your height, DESIRED weight, and underestimate your activity level unless you are a true athlete exercising for over an hour of intense exercise a day. These calculators are notorious for overestimating calories burned from exercise.
This gives you a rough estimate of what to aim for – it’s not going to be down to the calorie for each person, since metabolisms do vary, but it is more accurate than what most people are guesstimating on their own.
To spot-check calories on the carnivore diet:
Checking your calories over a few days helps you know where you’re at calorie-wise on the carnivore diet. When spot-checking calories check every day for a 4-5 day stretch rather than here or there since we all tend to eat more on certain days than others.
Meal Plan Method:
Make the recipes in the Carnivore Meal Plan for a 3-4-day stretch— I have calories on each recipe, and a total for each day!
You can make a few days’ worth of recipes- free sample of the meal plan is available here – and then you’ll know how you feel on those daily calories. If you’re used to eating vastly over or under the amount set in the meal plan, you can adjust your daily meals until you are used to a calorie amount more reasonable for your needs.
Calorie tracking apps & weighing your food:
Calorie count for yourself for a 2-3 day stretch of average eating. This is more tedious, but it’s an investment in your health. To do this, weigh and measure- don’t guesstimate – for the best results. Weigh your steak, weigh your fats, weigh (especially) your dairy.
That splash of heavy cream in your coffee 2-3-16 times a day may ACTUALLY total more like 1/2 cup, and that is over 400 calories. Good if you’re trying to gain, but maybe notsogood if not.
The importance of accuracy
Also, when you’re inputting your calories into a calorie tracking ap; I use MyFitnessPal but Chronometer is also a good ap, make sure you’re selecting the correct item! Using heavy whipping cream, as above, if you select 1/2 cup they are often assuming that is *whipped*. And would be about 100 calories. For fluid heavy whipping cream, that is quadruple the amount of calories- big difference, right?
To make this easier I did all this for you, and I’ve calculated out the calories in the recipes in the Carnivore Meal Plan – just follow my recipes, and you can get an idea of what your calories look like.
Then you can adjust as needed, and your hunger hormones can catch up and start directing you to eat the actual amount of food that you need, not what your wonky hormones are indicating.
Who else can benefit from spot-checking calories on the carnivore diet?
Those who need to gain weight on the carnivore diet
Knowing that you are eating enough calories can actually lower your stress, and allow those calories and nutrients to be absorbed better into your digestive tract. If you’ve been ‘trying to eat as much as you can’ while worrying about losing weight, you may accidentally be stressing yourself out and rushing your food through your digestive tract because of it.
Many people who need to gain weight are worried about an allergy elimination diet, and might be nervous to start the carnivore diet. But remember, an inflamed gut is a gut that isn’t extracting nutrients from food. So if you’re eating foods you’re allergic to, you may be eating a large amount of calories, but they aren’t being absorbed because your gut is compromised.
If you find that you are under calories when you do your spot-check of calorie requirements vs actual calories consumed, the most effective way to gain weight is to add more fat to your food!
Troubleshooting if you are losing too much on carnivore
If you’ve checked your calories, and you’re eating the correct amount of calories for the weight you would like to gain, try removing common allergens- dairy, eggs,
You may protest about reducing your dietary choices even further. In this case, treat each meal of hypoallergenic food (I recommend grassfed beef) like it’s a needed medical treatment – because it is!
Solving nutrient deficiencies and gut imbalance/leaky gut is essential when you are trying to gain weight. If you are eating all beef, lots of fat, taking needed digestive supplements, and still not gaining, I recommend addressing potential heavy metal issues, and being sure to include liver and heart for the extra nutrients.
Cook: Chicken Liver Pate
Those who need to lose weight on the carnivore diet
If you’re gaining weight on the carnivore diet, or not losing weight like you had hoped, counting calories certainly has its place. When you see what’s going on calorie-wise with your diet you can either see that – one – calories are an issue and they need to be cut back or – two – your calories are on track, so there may be something hormonal, digestion-related, or inflammatory going on!
Reasons you may be overeating calories on the Carnivore Diet:
- Dairy is high calories. Butter, cream, cheese, cream cheese, Moon Cheese, and especially heavy cream can all contribute to a large calorie load. Dairy is allowed on the carnivore diet, but it also a common ‘food with no brakes’ – to borrow a term from Melissa Urban of the Whole30 diet. A food with no brakes is a food that is hard to stop eating once you start. For many, creamy dairy qualifies as this kind of food.
- You are eating for comfort, eating for addiction, eating for distraction, or eating for reasons other than you are actually hungry. Some people with an addictive personality, or who are avoiding feeling uncomfortable emotions, may be using food for comfort. Learn more about this in the video: Why Addiction is the Root of a Problem, not THE Problem here.
- Your hunger hormones are confused. That feeling of hunger that you experience is from hormones. Just like sleepiness is triggered by sleep hormones, hunger is triggered by hunger hormones. If you’ve been feeding your body every 3 hours, your body adjusts its hormones to expect food every few hours. These ‘small frequent meals’ send your body into a constant state of hunger, just like if you took 3-4 naps a day you’d have trouble ever feeling truly ‘awake’. Intermittent fasting of some kind helps regulate hunger hormones.
- You are not sticking with the carnivore diet strictly – sauces, sweeteners, or other keto ‘treats’ all add up. If you’re venturing out to commercial jerky, barbecue ribs, and flavored pork rinds you may be getting too much of that coveted sweet-savory combination that can cause addiction and for us to eat beyond our nutrient needs.
- On the carnivore diet your stomach isn’t *stuffed* like you may be used to if you were filling your plate half full of worthless vegetables. If you’re trying to achieve that stuffed feeling, thinking it’s ‘fullness’ on the carnivore diet, you may well be overeating.
Reasons for not losing the weight you’d expect even if your calorie count is low on Carnivore:
- Inflammation– if you’re eating food that you’re having an inflammatory response to, you will gain water weight.
- Hormonal issues – if your hormones are out of whack, you will both feel hunger abnormally, and have a slower metabolism. The goal is to balance the hormones, not to blame the hormones! Heavy metals can be at play here, so be sure to read Heavy Metal Removal with Advanced TRS.The good thing with the carnivore diet is that it provides the intense nutrition and lack of inflammatory foods (grains, sugars) that disrupt our bodies and our hormones. With time, your body will heal, repair, and balance hormones.
Those who don’t feel good on the carnivore diet should spot-check calories on the carnivore diet
If you aren’t feeling great on this diet, after the initial adjustment to ketosis, you absolutely want to spot-check your calories and make sure you’re not only getting enough calories but also getting enough fat! Too much protein can make many people feel ‘off’ so when in doubt, up the fat! As you up the fat, or if your tracking shows that you are eating plenty of fat but you still feel low energy,
If you have known hormone issues, spot-check calories on the carnivore diet
Those with known hormonal issues who may ‘feel hunger’ when it’s not there, or not feel hunger signals as the rest of the population does. Diabetics, those with thyroid disorders, PCOS, other hormonal issues.
- Hormones are part of your body as a whole, and can’t be ignored, and they absolutely do influence how hungry you are. If you have little kids, you’ll notice that they eat a ton for a couple weeks, then sleep a ton for a week, and then all of a sudden their pants are all too short. This is a hormone-driven growth spurt!
- Women, you know there is one or two days each month before your period that you can eat a pound of beef for each meal and still be hungry? And yet you don’t even gain weight? Again, these are hormones dictating this!
- Insulin circulating in your blood causes hunger.
- Ghrelin is the intense hunger hormone that gets released by your body when it expects you to eat. This is why if you are fasting you only get hungry around the times you usually eat. It can be trained, much like you set a consistent bedtime to regulate sleep hormones, to only be released at certain times.
If you have a History of Eating Disorders, spot-check calories on the carnivore diet
Those with a history of disordered eating, whether it’s binging or restricting or just not having a healthy relationship with their hunger signals. Who is that? Sadly too many in our modern culture.
- If you have a varied weight, with highs and lows that are more than 15 lbs apart, you probably could benefit from spot-checking your calories on carnivore every once in a while.
- If you feel shame or guilt about food, you probably are impacted by some form of disordered eating.
- Food is fuel! Food is delicious! We’re going to re-train our brains and bodies to have a better relationship with our food :) And for many people, yes, this does include some form of calorie counting!
Eat Meat, Drink Water, Thrive
Yes, the goal is to eat meat to hunger, drink water to thirst, but if you need to use a few helps along the way – whether it’s digestive enzymes or calorie counting, it’s absolutely okay to make those accommodations!
A reminder as you track your calories- there is no judgment or shame associated with calories. Too often we have shame attached to calorie counting, and it results in avoidance and denial. Calories are a unit of measurement.
Next up check out the number one reason people feel off not he carnivore diet – you need a LOT more salt during your first 4-6 weeks on the carnivore diet as your body adjusts to lower inflammation. We talk about why that is, and what to do about it in this video here.