Carnivore Diet Adaptation -Side-effects, Symptoms, and Risks

When you begin your journey with a carnivore diet, you need to understand its benefits and side effects. Is the journey worthwhile? What are the long-term or short side effects that you might experience? A meat diet can change many of your body functions. Are you ready for it? 

First, let’s understand what happens to your body in a carnivore diet. 

What happens to your body when you start a carnivore diet?

In a carnivore diet, you are shifting from a carb diet to a zero carb diet. This may often result in some adverse effects and symptoms. These changes generally happen to your body when you start something new, and your system needs time to adapt. In a carb diet, your body uses glucose as a source of energy, but in a carnivore diet ketone bodies are used as a source of energy.

During the adaptation period, your body may react in many different ways. Let us understand more about these changes. 

To begin with, you may start experiencing flu-like symptoms as you go to zero carbs, and your body is starving to get some carbs. Your body glucose levels are drained off. You may feel tired and exhausted soon. This generally happens for a very short interval until your body gets adapted to the diet.  

The tiredness you experience may send signals that warn of starvation; this also happens when you are obese and have a lot of fat deposits in your body. When your body starts adapting, it starts utilizing fats for energy. Breakdown of fat releases ketone bodies in your bloodstream. With this, initial tiredness and other symptoms slowly start reducing and disappear. 

Generally, the symptoms experienced are similar to that of a low carb keto diet. Once the adaptation period is over, you feel energized than ever before, and you would never turn back to a carb diet.

Below is the list of flu-like symptoms, which you may experience during the adaptation period. 

Symptoms Experienced During the Adaptation Period 

During your adaptation period, you likely to experience some of the side effects, namely, 

  • You might find trouble focusing or Brain fog
  • You might experience occasional headaches due to dehydration
  • Due to hormonal changes, you might have mood swings
  • You can experience a change in your bowel movements.
  • If you alter your mealtime or delay your mealtime, you may experience nausea
  • You can experience digestive problems as your gallbladder needs time to adjust
  • You might feel fatigued because of the lack of glucose in your body 
  • You might feel sleepless at night, due to increased intake of water leading to frequent urination
  • You might experience dehydration due to glycogen reduction
  • You might have your favorite food cravings like donuts, pizza, and desserts

You might experience fewer symptoms if you are coming from a keto diet or a high-fat low-carb diet. 

Why do you Experience Such Symptoms?

When you make a sudden shift in your diet, then your body undergoes a lot of changes. Your body needs time to adjust to a new diet style. This may happen if you have led a less health-conscious lifestyle.

During a carnivore diet, there are many changes your body might undergo that you should be aware of;

1. Fluid Rebalancing 

During the first few days to 2 weeks of your diet, you would be excited to see a massive weight loss, this is due to the shedding of retained water in your body. In a carnivore diet, your glucose levels drop, and you would be utilizing the retained glycogen reserves.

Generally, one gram of glucose ties three grams of water, so quickly with glucose, you would be shedding a lot of water from your body. It is estimated that you would be losing around 4 to 6 pounds of water from your body. It’s essential to keep yourself hydrated.

2. Transitioning To Fat From Sugar For Energy

The utilization of sugar is the standard and favored method due to its easy metabolic absorption. It is the reason why we get fat.

During the carnivore diet, you would be removing complete sugar from your nutritional diet; fatty meat becomes your source of energy. If your diet does not supply enough fat, then you feel restless and tired. Even if you work for a small duration, you will get tired soon. 

Another important benefit of no sugar in the body is that it reduces the inflammation that is associated with arthritis.

3. Hormone Response And Rebalancing

Studies have shown that hormonal fluctuations, especially cortisol hormone, would negatively affect the carnivore diet, with mood swings and irritability.

During the initial stage, your body will lack carbs, and as a sign of starvation, cortisol hormone levels increase in your body.  Since cortisol is closely related to stress and anxiety, sudden fluctuations can make you moody.

All these changes are temporary, and this will pass in a few days. You might have experienced the same during your keto diet or high-fat, low-carb diet. 

In a carnivore diet, T3 thyroid hormone levels may decrease. It is closely connected with dietary carbohydrates and produced by the thyroid. T3 hormone plays a vital role in the maintenance of body temperature, metabolism, and heart rate. This may result in increased heart rate and fatigue. 

4. Brain Changes

Many of you think a lot about brain fog; it is a state where you cannot focus. This happens during the adaptation phase before hitting ketosis. 

Brain fog is a normal condition that happens to all of us when we are on a strict diet, and when our body is sending signals of starvation to the brain. This results in stress and anxiety. Thus we tend to get mood swings and lose our focus. 

5. Gastro-Intestinal (GI) Problems

It is observed that gastrointestinal (GI) issues are common, especially when you shift from a low-fat diet or a plant diet. 

Your pancreas might not be able to handle the workload caused due to increased fat intake. Generally, you might be producing insufficient bile and lipase that is required to digest the increased fat intake. This may cause diarrhea or GI problems. 

How to Reduce the Symptoms?

Some tips and tricks can help you reduce these unwanted symptoms. Following these methods can help you to go on with your carnivore diet. 

1. Eat More Fat Meat

Do not try to restrict yourself; eat more fat meat. Always keep yourself full. Do not worry about fat and calories; the beauty of a carnivore diet is that fat is your energy source. 

2. Hydrate

You should always keep your body hydrated. Make sure you drink more water than you drink regularly. 

3. Electrolytes

Since you would lose excess water, you might require electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and chloride.

4. Solving GI Problems. 

Experts suggest the intake of lipase supplements before meals, for a certain number of days. All these symptoms are temporary, and you need not worry much about them. Give some time for your body to adapt. Drink more water; you can also go for antacids until your body gets adjusted to the new diet.

5. Sleep

People complain about the sleep cycle during the adaptation period. Insomnia is one of the common symptoms seen during this diet. This may be due to frequent urination or zero crabs. 

Here are a few Sleep hacks to follow:

  • Avoid eating food a few hours before you go to bed
  • Drink less water 1 hr before your sleep
  • Keep your room dark and cool

6. Sweat

Exercise or workout helps. Sweating is a natural detox mechanism and makes you feel tired, and you can get adequate sleep. Since your body is getting a sufficient amount of nutrition, it’s time for you to make the body detox with exercise and sweat.

Bottom line

When we move from a plant diet to a zero carb diet, we expect to develop certain side effects; our body takes time to adjust to the new diet. The majority of the symptoms and side effects are temporary and would not be seen after we get adjusted to the diet. 

Once you enjoy the carnivore diet would never turn back to a carb diet. A carnivore diet is nutritious and helps you to lose weight with a healthy approach.