The main differences between the Keto and Carnivore diets are in the levels of restriction of certain food groups. They both may result in ketosis, and they’re both restrictive diets. But one may be healthier or safer than the other. We’ll discuss the nuances of each in this article.
The Keto Diet and the Carnivore Diet are two popular and highly debated eating styles in the diet industry today. The internet contains loads of information about both of them, and some of it is conflicting and confusing. These two diets can seem similar at first glance. But there are significant differences to be aware of.
Let’s get into it. We’ll unpack Keto and Carnivore and explain each of them in easy-to-understand terms.
The Keto Diet is an eating method that gets the body into ketosis. Ketosis is a state where the body uses primarily fat to fuel activity instead of glucose. When not in ketosis, the body’s go-to fuel is glucose, mainly from the carbohydrates we eat.
Before “keto” became a buzzword, many people, especially people familiar with diabetic health issues, confused “ketosis” with “ketoacidosis.” Ketoacidosis is a deadly condition where blood sugar elevates to a dangerous level for too long. Ketosis is NOT that. It’s an entirely different and healthy state of being.
To get into and remain in ketosis using the Keto Diet, your daily diet would consist of mostly fat, some protein, and a minimal amount of carbs. Protein, carbohydrates (carbs), and fat are the three main macronutrients that make up a diet.
The rule of thumb for a macronutrient split on keto is 70% of total daily calories from fats, 5% from carbs, and 25% from protein. This structure can vary depending on your activity level and your body’s metabolism. Athletes, for example, may benefit from adding more carbs and still be able to stay in ketosis.
Transitioning into ketosis takes anywhere from one to three or four days. It varies from person to person. And it’s easy to slip back out of ketosis if the diet is not maintained because even if your body has plenty of fat, it will use glucose first whenever it’s available.
An excellent long-term goal of the Keto Diet could be to get the body metabolically healthy to switch in easily and out of ketosis, depending on its needs and available resources.
What Can You Eat on a Keto Diet?
Ideally, foods you should eat on a Keto Diet are whole foods that are naturally high in fat, plus lower-carb vegetables. Some examples are:
Food manufacturers have gotten on the keto train and are creating highly processed “keto-friendly” foods. Some of these packaged options can make it more convenient to sustain ketosis. The main drawback to them is that it’s straightforward to replace micronutrient-dense foods like vegetables, meat, and nuts with processed convenience food that contains only trace amounts of healthy nutrients.
To reap the true benefits of a keto diet, you need to be sure the majority of the food you eat satisfies your body’s nutritional needs. It’s about giving your body what it needs to run efficiently on fat vs. just removing carbs.
Is Keto Diet Healthy?
The Keto Diet can be a healthy eating strategy for most people. However, because of the high volume of saturated fat typically consumed, patients with health conditions should consult their healthcare provider before making a radical change in their diet.
This way of eating has benefits that can be helpful for specific conditions. It functions as a dietary intervention for people with epilepsy, for example. It can also be an effective solution for losing weight.
Is Keto Good for Weight Loss?
Yes, the Keto Diet can help some people lose weight. Weight loss is the result of being in a calorie deficit. When you consume fewer calories than you burn, you lose weight. Several things can impact both sides of the equation. Diet, among other things, can influence metabolism, affecting how efficiently the body burns calories.
For some people, the macronutrient breakdown in the Keto Diet can cause a calorie deficit because high-fat foods are satiating. This helps the person consume fewer overall calories and feel less hungry.
Some people also find it more convenient to eat less throughout the day and enjoy not feeling hungry often, which is a good side effect of the diet when done correctly.
Using the Keto Diet for weight loss is not a magic bullet. Being in ketosis is not the cause of weight loss. Being in a calorie deficit is the cause of weight loss. The Keto Diet can be an effective tool to obtain a calorie deficit. But it’s not the best weight loss strategy for everyone.
Who Should Not Do Keto?
The high-fat content of the Keto Diet can be a concern for certain people. People who are severely obese, have kidney, heart, or cardiovascular conditions, or are pregnant or nursing should talk with their healthcare provider before starting a Keto Diet.
These are just a few examples of conditions that a Keto Diet could negatively impact. If you have any health issues, especially ones that affect major organs in the body, it is critical to check with your healthcare provider before attempting the Keto Diet.
Sustainability is something else to consider with any diet. The Keto Diet can be hard to sustain for some people. For example, it’s not easy to eat such a low carbohydrate diet while eating out or eating on the run. It requires careful planning and cooking to maintain the strict macronutrient rules of the diet. For some people, this just does not work long term.
The Carnivore Diet has only one main rule: eat only meat and select a few animal products like eggs, organs, and bones (broth). The diet excludes everything else, even vegetables, fruit, grains, and nuts.
Ketosis can be a result of the Carnivore Diet. But it’s not the end goal, and it’s not guaranteed. The amount of protein consumed in this diet can influence the body’s ability to switch to ketosis. Protein’s primary function is to serve as building blocks for growing muscles and regulating hormone balance. But over-consuming protein can cause the body to convert some of it into glucose to use for energy.
Generally, over-consuming protein is not something to be concerned about for most people. The body is highly adaptable and efficient in using the most available resources for fuel. But if the goal is to get into and maintain ketosis, eating a diet that is primarily protein with no accompanying carbs is not the best method.
As simple as it sounds, this way of eating can be challenging to sustain and can cause essential micronutrient deficiencies. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. “Essential” micronutrients are micronutrients the body cannot make and must consume. We find essential micronutrients critical to good health in vegetables, fruits, and grains. Eliminating all of these food groups can be risky.
As with the Keto Diet, people with health conditions should consult their healthcare provider before attempting the Carnivore Diet.
Speaking of health conditions, the Carnivore Diet can be helpful as an elimination diet because it removes foods most people with food allergies or sensitivities can have reactions from. People with severe adverse reactions to certain food groups, like dairy, grains, or nuts, have reported reduced symptoms on the Carnivore Diet.
The Carnivore Diet is also a potential tool for treating auto-immune diseases and reducing inflammation, although there is no scientific evidence yet to back up that claim.
It’s important to note that all benefits reported from the Carnivore Diet are anecdotal, as there haven’t been clinical trials on humans to study its effects yet.
What Do You Eat on a Carnivore Diet?
If it walked, flew, or swam, you can eat it on the Carnivore Diet. And this includes almost all parts of the animal, including organs and bones (bone broth). Some examples are:
Any meat is ok, but when choosing cuts of meat, you may want to opt for fattier cuts to get more calories since you’re not getting calories from other food groups.
Technically, coffee and tea are not part of the Carnivore diet since they’re plant-based. But some people keep them in their diet when practicing the Carnivore Diet.
Do You Lose Weight Fast on a Carnivore Diet?
As stated above, weight loss results from the body being in a calorie deficit. The Carnivore Diet can cause weight loss because it cuts out complete food groups, which eliminates some sources of calorie-dense foods.
Remember that cutting out complete food groups also eliminates the consumption of essential micronutrients like most vitamins, minerals, and fiber. For this reason, it may not be sustainable for most people.
What are the Benefits of a Carnivore Diet?
People who advocate for the Carnivore Diet tout benefits like fewer digestive issues, weight loss, reduced insulin resistance, and mental clarity. This diet eliminates all foods that are common triggers for people with food allergies and sensitivities.
Therefore, health issues caused by inflammation within the body can be improved. There have been no clinical studies on the health benefits of the Carnivore Diet, but there is anecdotal evidence of some of these benefits.
Another benefit of the diet is its simplicity. There are no complex, hard-to-understand rules and guidelines. You simply eat lots of meat and nothing else.
The 3 Main Differences Between the Keto Diet and the Carnivore Diet
Now that you know each diet's basic structure and benefits let’s compare and compare the three main differences between Keto and Carnivore.
Keto Allows Vegetables and Carnivore Does Not
As mentioned above, the Carnivore Diet eliminates all carbohydrate sources, even vegetables. For this reason, the Carnivore Diet can feel too restrictive for some people. It may require strong motivation and discipline to follow it.
The Carnivore Diet may sound appealing if you’re a meat-lover and not a fan of vegetables. But eating this way will require you to be diligent in monitoring your vitamin levels and consider supplements to fill the gaps.
Keto is More Structured than Carnivore
The Keto Diet has guidelines around suggested macronutrient breakdown of the diet: 70% from fats, 5% from carbohydrates, and 25% from protein. This structure has variations for more active people, athletes, or people with certain conditions.
The Keto Diet has evolved over the years. It’s been studied in human clinical trials. Therefore, we’ve learned more about how this high fat, low carb way of eating affects the body.
Conversely, the Carnivore Diet is simple and vague. The rules are to eat meat and only meat (and some other select animal-based food).
The Keto Diet WILL get You into Ketosis - The Carnivore Diet MAY get You into Ketosis
The goal of the Keto Diet is to cause the body to get into a state of ketosis. This is precisely why the macronutrient breakdown is so specific in the rules of the diet. It is a scientific method of achieving ketosis.
The Carnivore Diet does not state ketosis as a goal. However, people following the diet may get there. This diet’s high amount of fat and no carbohydrates can facilitate ketosis, but you may not reach it if the protein content of the diet gets too high.
Frequently Asked Questions
The similarities between the Keto and Carnivore diets raise questions for people. We’ll answer some of the most common ones here.
Is Keto better than Carnivore?
It depends on your goals and what you’re looking for in a diet. The Keto Diet may be safer for most people because it encourages eating vegetables. Even though it restricts the number of carbs to a tiny portion of the diet, it does not completely restrict any food group. Instead, it focuses on the macronutrient breakdown of the calories eaten, with fats being the majority by a large margin.
Scientifically, we know more about the Keto Diet than the Carnivore Diet. Scientists have studied Keto for a few decades. Recommendations from experts and guidelines for the diet have been modified over the years to leverage new knowledge to improve outcomes.
There aren’t any scientific human clinical trials on the Carnivore Diet to be able to use for evidence-based recommendations that we can rely on. That’s not to say there aren’t benefits to Carnivore. Anecdotal evidence exists from people reporting results on the diet.
The knowledge used for recommendations is just not as reliable. And we don’t yet know the long-term detrimental effects of Carnivore.
Can I mix Keto and Carnivore?
A new trend is picking up steam in diet pop culture called the Keto Carnivore Diet. This combination of the two diets seems to be simply the Carnivore Diet with a few extra allowed foods. The additional foods allowed are still not plant-based, so the diet is a new version of the Carnivore Diet.
The Carnivore Diet allows only meat and other parts of the animal to be consumed. The Keto Carnivore Diet adds additional animal-based products like yogurt and milk. Those dairy products typically get banned in the original Carnivore Diet because of their (natural) sugar content from lactose.
Some people prefer to lean more toward the Carnivore side of things when following the Keto Diet by consuming most of their fat from fatty cuts of meat. This would be a modified version of Keto since the Keto diet rules limit the amount of protein to 25% of the diet. But it could be considered a mix of Keto and Carnivore.
Do you lose more weight on Carnivore or Keto?
It depends. By definition, weight loss always happens when the body is in a calorie deficit. Being in a calorie deficit is the only thing that causes weight loss, again, by definition. The good thing is that many strategies can be employed to get into and maintain a calorie deficit.
We’re all different. We have different eating preferences, and our bodies respond differently to certain foods related to metabolism. So which one of these diets causes more or quicker weight loss highly depends on the individual.
Weight loss from either the Keto or the Carnivore diets results from consuming fewer overall calories than is necessary to maintain the body’s current weight, lifestyle, and activity. Most of the time, this is due to the types of foods consumed on these diets, causing the person to feel fuller quicker and stay satiated longer. Cravings for carb-heavy and processed foods can eventually wane, and hunger cues can become easier to detect and follow.
Both diets can provide the benefit of feeling satiated quicker and longer. The Carnivore Diet can cause fewer calories to be consumed because of the extreme elimination of all but one food group. Therefore, when put side by side in this light, Carnivore may have a leg up for weight loss.
All of that said, the benefits of weight loss can be reduced if the body is lacking essential micronutrients like certain vitamins and minerals.
Does Carnivore put you in Ketosis?
The answer is… maybe. We touched on this earlier, but it’s worth going into more detail here. Ketosis is not a stated goal of the Carnivore Diet, but it can be a result of it.
Getting into a state of ketosis requires access to glucose to be so low that the body begins to use fat for fuel. Glucose is the first thing the body burns for fuel. When you eat a low-carbohydrate diet, your body can run out of glucose to burn and will turn to burn fat for fuel.
Restricting carbohydrate intake, as the Carnivore Diet does, is one way to achieve ketosis. But the Carnivore Diet does not always result in ketosis. The reason for this is likely the high protein content of the food consumed on it.
Under extreme circumstances (and the Carnivore is extreme in its food restriction) if the available protein is high enough related to the availability of fat, the body can convert the compounds in protein to glucose to use for fuel. This can reverse or prevent ketosis.
On the Carnivore Diet, People Are Eating Only Meat: Here's What to Know - Retrieved from
What is the Keto Carnivore Diet? Retrieved from https://ketogenic.com/what-is-the-keto-carnivore-diet/
On Ketogenic diets - Retrieved from https://www.biolayne.com/coaching/faq/part-k-ketogenic-diets/
Dom's thoughts on the carnivore diet - Retrieved from https://youtu.be/8nRBKrrg6Mk
Are Low Carb Diets Sustainable? Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXzXHfdQ5s8