The carnivore diet and the keto diet are two of the top trending low-carb diets of today–and while there are several similarities, there are also many drastic differences you should consider before deciding which diet is best for YOU.
The carnivore and keto diets are different primarily because plants and plant-derived products are permitted on the keto diet. Carnivore diet proponents consume animal products exclusively. The keto diet is a low-carb diet, while the carnivore diet is a zero-carb diet when followed strictly.
People follow these particular diets to try and lose weight while improving their overall health. Despite their popularity, it is easy to wonder what makes them so different.
Here is a detailed comparison of the carnivore and keto diets, so you can decide which is best for you.
What is the Carnivore Diet?
The carnivore diet is an elimination diet that limits all food intake to exclusively meat, fish, and other animal products like eggs and select dairy products.
The carnivore diet is essentially a zero-carb diet. It completely eliminates fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, nuts, grains, and seeds. And, you must actively limit or eliminate your intake of certain dairy products containing the sugar lactose in order to remain true to that zero-carb name.
Many carnivore diet advocates believe that several of today's health problems are caused by ingesting plant toxins, while animal foods represent the best source of nutrients for humans.
Fat and protein consumption fuels your body with energy on the carnivore diet. Diet guidelines do not specify serving size, calorie intake, macronutrient composition, or the number of meals and snacks to eat per day. Instead, let satiety be your guide and eat when you're hungry. As long as you're eating game, it's fair game.
People who have transitioned to a carnivore diet have reported remarkable results. The claimed benefits include weight loss, improved bodily health, and optimized cognitive function.
SUMMARYThe carnivore diet is a zero-carb eating plan that eliminates plant toxins by limiting all food intake to meat, fish, and animal products to lose weight and improve bodily health.
What is the Keto Diet?
The keto diet replaces carbohydrates with fat, which the body burns for energy.
Restricting carbohydrate intake tricks the human metabolic system into a state of "starvation." When your body feels like it is starving, it begins to break down fat into compounds called ketones, an alternative fuel source.
The body enters a metabolic state called ketosis due to the reduction of carbohydrate consumption. The body becomes extremely efficient at burning fat as fuel in this state.
In addition to the increased ketones, the Ketogenic Diet can cause significant reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels while offering numerous other health and weight-loss benefits.
The ideal macronutrient composition for the keto diet is high fat, moderate protein, and low to zero carbs. The typical macro breakdown of the keto diet looks something like this:
- Fat - 60-75%
- Protein - 15-30%
- Carbs - 5-10%
As mentioned above, this diet plan intends to induce the metabolic breakdown of fat in the body. Therefore, tight control of macronutrient intake is crucial, or your metabolism may be thrown out of ketosis.
Weight loss and improved blood-sugar control are two of the major reported health benefits that have kept the keto diet relevant in this era of dynamic diet trends.
The keto diet is a diet plan designed to shift your body's dependence from carbohydrates to fat as the primary energy source to lose weight and improve bodily health.
Keto and Carnivore Diet Similarities
Despite their differences, the keto and carnivore diets have many similarities. Below are a few of the primary points the diets have in common.
Both reduce carbohydrate intake
Though the level of carbohydrate consumption varies between the carnivore and keto diets, both significantly reduce total carbohydrate intake by a significant amount.
People consume roughly 50–75% of their calories from carbohydrates on a typical diet because the body is burning carbs for fuel. Carbohydrates are limited to just 5-10% of daily consumption on the keto diet, and the carnivore diet aims at 0% carbohydrate intake.
Both rely on fat for fuel
Though the carnivore diet does not have a recommended macro breakdown like the keto diet, both rely on fat as the primary source of fuel.
For the keto crowd, the main goal is to transition the body into ketosis's metabolic state. This state enables the body to burn fat for fuel efficiently.
On the other hand, the carnivore diet has no direct objective to enter ketosis. The only emphasis of the diet is to cut out all plants and limit the diet to virtually zero carbs. This change in the diet naturally transitions the body to burning fat for the primary fuel source.
Both may be effective for weight loss
Among the primary reasons for the popularity of keto and carnivore diets is their potential for weight loss.
While significant studies prove that the keto diet is safe and effective for weight loss sustained over more extended periods, there are fewer published studies regarding the carnivore diet. There are, however, hundreds of testimonials online from carnivore diet advocates.
The keto diet significantly reduced the body weight, and body mass index of patients studied. In addition, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and blood sugar were decreased, while HDL cholesterol was increased. In terms of side effects, patients who were given a ketogenic diet for a relatively extended period did not experience any significant effects.
Despite the lack of studies specific to carnivore diets, we found a related study that suggested that reducing carb intake and increasing protein may have better-sustained weight loss than diets high in protein and low in carbs.
The carnivore and keto diets replace carbohydrate intake with higher amounts of fat and protein to efficiently and effectively lose weight.
Keto and Carnivore Diet Differences
One of the key differences between the carnivore and keto diets is the breakdown of macronutrients or lack thereof.
The keto diet is specifically engineered to promote the metabolic state of ketosis. There is a rigorous breakdown of daily macronutrient intake to follow in order to achieve this state.
With this state in mind, there are daily macronutrient goals that you need to set for yourself in order to achieve and maintain ketosis. In addition to tracking macros, some people purchase Keto Test Strips to ensure they're sustaining the metabolic state.
On the other hand, the carnivore diet provides no macronutrient intake goals. While the diet is low-carb high-protein, there is no focus on entering ketosis.
The carnivore credo is simple: eat animal products and avoid plants at all costs.
Carnivore Diet purists eliminate all seasonings except for salt because seasonings like paprika and garlic powder are plant-based. Additionally, the purists limit their liquid intake to only water and bone broth while avoiding tea and coffee since they are produced from plants.
The carnivore diet encourages eating however much you want as long as you're strictly consuming animal products, while the keto diet requires a specific breakdown of macronutrients consumed per day.
Which One Is Healthier?
It seems quite obvious that the keto diet is the healthier long-term choice by all appearances.
Several impressive claims have been made regarding weight loss, mood issues, and blood sugar regulation with the carnivore diet. This diet, however, is quite restrictive and likely to be unhealthy over more extended periods of time. And, its purported benefits are not yet backed by research.
The carnivore diet seems to work best as an elimination diet where foods are reintroduced one at a time to determine personal food sensitivities.
Due to its highly restrictive nature and complete elimination of most food groups, the carnivore diet may lack certain micronutrients and beneficial plant compounds. It certainly lacks fiber, a non-digestible carbohydrate only found in plant foods that promote gut health and healthy bowel movements.
The keto diet allows for more balance and flexibility of food choices to obtain the wide variety of nutrients your body needs to consume on a daily basis. Freedom within these food choices makes the keto diet easier to maintain long-term with less potential to be socially isolating.
The keto diet promotes weight loss, increased 'good' HDL cholesterol levels, reduced blood sugar and insulin levels, and numerous other health benefits. And, according to previous studies, it is safe to use a ketogenic diet for a more extended period of time.
Both the carnivore and keto diets have the potential to be healthy, but the keto diet is more likely to offer a greater range of nutritious options. The carnivore diet can be challenging to maintain due to the extreme dietary restrictions.
The Bottom Line
The keto diet is distinguished by its high fat and low carbohydrate content. If followed correctly, it may be effective for weight loss and blood sugar control.
The carnivore diet emphasizes eating exclusively animal products and eliminating plant compounds entirely. It works well as an elimination diet with the intent of introducing foods one at a time to determine food sensitivities as you return to a normal diet.
Both diets have the potential to impact your health when appropriately planned positively. Though, there is currently a lack of studies supporting long-term health benefits relating to the carnivore diet.
The keto diet is a better choice for most people because it has more flexibility with food choices than the carnivore diet, which makes it easier to maintain long-term.
Ultimately, the best diet is the one that works for you long-term.