Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Wait — why eat only meat?

I want to briefly clarify our position about the 30-day trial. Although we hypothesise that there may be benefits to avoiding or minimising plants, it is definitely not necessary to avoid plants to gain the benefits of ketosis! None of the studies that form the basis of our beliefs about ketogenic diets had any such restriction. As we said in the explanation of the experiment, you can even formulate a vegan diet that is ketogenic.

The 30-day trial can be compared to the original Atkins (1972) induction phase [1] or the Eades' “meat weeks” in their book The 6-week cure for the Middle-Aged Middle. While both of those allow a small amount of certain vegetables, one basic idea is shared:

More carbohydrate restriction can be more effective, especially at the beginning, even if you ultimately find a comfortable long-term diet containing more carbohydrate.

In addition to minimising the carbohydrate amount, the main reason we recommend an all-meat diet for the 30-day trial is that it helps avoid these pitfalls:

  • Accidentally misunderstanding carb sources (we've had several people tell us later they never realised that a food they were eating had that much carb in it).
  • More generally, not having to count things, which can be a source of anxiety and error.
  • Slippery-sloping: a little leads to a little more until the threshold is passed.
  • If you happen to fall on the low side of carb tolerance, you might miss the benefits entirely by choosing the wrong arbitrary cut-off, and then conclude it doesn't work for you.
  • Interference from food intolerances, fiber, or anti-nutrients (such as goitrogens or lectins).

Also, anecdotally, I and several people I have met had profoundly higher benefits from eating just meat. We don't know the mechanism for sure. Since you are going to all the trouble to try a keto diet anyway, you might as well find out if you are one of those at the same time.

If you are not one of those, you can go back to eating plants and no harm will have been done. I wish you much enjoyment. Vegetables can be exquisite, and I'd cry into my plate about my fate, if I didn't feel so fantastic and my choices weren't also excellent.


I categorise the Atkins diet into 3 major releases.

In the first edition, Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution, there were no products, and there was no notion of “net carbs” (in which you subtract fiber from your carb count). You were allowed up to 2 cups of vegetables from a short list (mostly leafy greens). In the second major release, Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution, this becomes up to 20 grams, which he says is approximately 3 cups of salad, but which can be made up of any foods resulting in that count. The third major release, The New Atkins for a New You, came after his death, and was written by Drs. Westman, Phinney, and Volek. Its induction phase allows 20 grams of net carbs, which ultimately translates into a lot more vegetable matter.

There are groups to be found on the internet who live on what they call Atkins 72, because they have found that only that level of restriction works for them.


  1. I started with all meat yesterday. I first thought about making some exceptions but then decided to listen to you and I´m already glad that I did so. It´s actually easier that way. I was amazed how much I enjoyed day one. After almost 3 month of VLC without adapting, yesterday was the first day in a while without constant hunger. So happy about that :) Now I´m really looking forward to the next weeks of eating nothing but meat. Energy´s good too. I had thought about giving up this lifestyle because I felt crappy often but now I have hope again. Thanks for inspiring me to try this! I enjoy your blogs very much, they are truly refreshing.

    1. I'm so glad to hear it! I do think that one of the main advantages of eating only meat, is the simplification that comes from not having to decide what amount of carbohydrate-containing food is acceptable. Getting that out of the equation, even just for a couple of weeks, can be really helpful.

      Thank you for keeping us in the loop.

  2. A week ago I started my all meat diet after two years on low carb high fat with no fruit. When I accidentally stepped on the scale this morning I noticed that my weight has since then gone up by 1,3 kilo's (about 3 punds) in just this week. To me this means that my bone density has improved, as my clothes still fit just the same. I like that!

    My hypothesis is that meat is full of nutrientes and that these nutrients are much better absorbed in an all meat diet. What do you think?

    1. Hi, Marijke,

      That is very interesting to me. There *is* an epidemiological association between animal protein and bone density (and the reverse for plant protein).

      I'm impressed with you for recognising that increased weight at the same size is a positive change. That would send most people into a panic (even if they knew it wasn't rational). How is it now?


    2. What a bunch of bunk! Even people with osteoporosis who have fractured who are put on the most potent agents available to increase BMD don't show results until 3 months out. Prior to the 3 months, they measure biochemical markers of bone turnover which translate into what type of BMD increases can be predicted by whatever intervention currently being tried. One week of any intervention would do absolutely squat at increasing BMD.

    3. I agree that it is completely implausible that Marijke gained three pounds of bone in a week.

  3. I have been frustrated that I have extremely slow wright loss despite staying in ketosis most, 95%, of the last six months. I use a blood ketone monitor and stay above .5 generally. I did far too many fasts and starvation diets the last twenty years. Age isn't helping now I am in later middle age . I'm starting this tomorrow for the 30 days, and look forward to seeing what happens, and comparing to data from daily recording my food on MyPlate. This blog is a tremendous resource. Thank you!

  4. being very low carb(<10-15 grams only from veggies),high fat lifestyle for 2 years i want to try my 30 day only meat challenge to find more benefits from that...i hope i will find some)

  5. My first effort at all protein for 30 days was derailed by weddings, anniversary, etc, which I should have considered more carefully. I am hopeful I will be able to do the 30 days starting today. If anyone reading would like to join for support that would be helpful.

  6. Digby-I'm doing it too... I use is a great forum with lots of support!!! I'm mblanchard1981.
    Good luck this round!

  7. Wouldn't eating only meat give you too much protien?

  8. Hi there, I'm really interested in this diet and I'm now 4 days into it :) I feel like I'm maybe struggling with the amount of meat I should be eating as I need to keep adding lots of additional fat to get my calories in..what do other people eat in say one day?