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The Carnivore Diet For Bodybuilding

By Liam McAuliffe Updated on

As the all-meat carnivore diet has grown in popularity, it has captured the curiosity of athletes and bodybuilders looking for an edge over the competition. And it’s paid off, with the 2023  European Pro bodybuilding Champion crediting the carnivore diet with his success. 

In the world of bodybuilding, fueling your body with the right nutrients for muscle growth is the key to achieving an enviable physique. 

The carnivore diet fits the bill by focusing on the most nutrient-dense foods on earth–MEAT–while cutting out all “empty” and inferior calories from processed and plant foods. 

Though this eating regimen defies conventional dietary norms, it may offer numerous benefits for increasing muscle mass, recovery from bodybuilding workouts, and overall health and wellness. 

In this article, we will explore the carnivore diet and explore how it can support your bodybuilding journey. We’ll look at the science behind this controversial approach, and shed light on benefits and drawbacks, and offer practical tips to help you find success. 

Table of Contents

What is the Carnivore Diet for Bodybuilding? 

The carnivore diet calls for cutting all plant foods and eating only animal products. 

Though carnivore eliminates many foods, there are actually many varieties of carnivore that may be more or less suited to support bodybuilding. 

There are a few simple rules that most carnivore dieters follow: 

  • Eat only fatty meat and animal products–usually centered around ruminant red meats like steak, bison, and lamb. Many people supplement with eggs, fatty cheese, organ meats, pork, and seafood. 
  • Eliminate all plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, and vegetable oils. 
  • Drink only water. However, some people allow for black coffee and unsweetened tea. 
  • No need to track portions. Eat when you’re hungry, and stop when full. 

Though this way of eating runs opposite to the low-fat “balanced” diet dogma of mainstream nutrition, research suggests that carnivory is the way our human ancestors ate for nearly two million years. That was until the recent advent of agriculture only 10,000 years ago.

It’s also important to consider that processed industrial foods like toxic vegetable oils, refined grains and added sugars that comprise the bulk of many people’s diets have only been around for about 100 years. 

Grass-Fed  Pasture-Raised beef organ supplements

Vince Gironda: Original Carnivore Diet Bodybuilder

The carnivore diet has gained widespread popularity since enthusiasts like podcaster Joe Rogan, Dr. Sean Baker, and Psychologist Jordan Peterson began sharing their success stories

joe rogan before and after carnivore diet

Baker is a competitive powerlifter with the deadlift record for forty-year-olds at 711 pounds.6 While Rogan is a dedicated weight lifter and MMA enthusiast. 

Dr. Shawn Baker carnivore diet weight lifter

The fitness results for these modern carnivore enthusiasts are impressive, but let’s not forget that the first proponent of the carnivore diet for bodybuilding was the legendary Vince Gironda.

vince gironda before and after carnivore

Souce: NSP Nutrition

Known as the “Iron Guru” for his commitment to experimentation and sharing wisdom, Gironda discovered that eating only zero-carb animal foods like steak, eggs, and cream, while cycling in carbs every four or five days was the optimal diet for building muscle and staying shredded. 

At the time, this easy of eating was simply called the “steak and eggs diet,” but today, it would be considered a cyclical keto-carnivore diet

Gironda describes his classic carnivore diet for bodybuilding like this: “To begin with, all carbohydrates must be removed from a maximum definition diet. This means – all fruit, all vegetables, all salad greens, and all milk products. The only milk products that can be used are butter and cream. Any kind of meat, fish, or fowl and eggs are the only foods permissible. You must, however, eat some carbohydrates every four or five days because you will find that you will smooth out and veins and cuts will disappear. You will find also that you are not getting the pump you should and your strength will decrease. This is because a zero carbohydrate diet drains all the stored glycogen from the liver, and only carbohydrates will replenish it. But don’t try to eat a small amount of carbohydrates each day. You will only find that you are smoothing out.”

But is carb cycling necessary? Not everyone thinks so. Hard-training carnivore thought leader Dr. Anthony Chaffee, believes that there is no better fuel source for physical performance than fat. Remember that a carnivore diet is, by default, a low-carb, high-fat, moderate-protein diet. 

This means that carnivore is essentially a keto diet that compels your body to make fat its primary fuel source. 

Below you can watch Dr. Chaffee explore the carnivore diet for bodybuilding with award-winning bodybuilder Richard Smith. 

Smith shares how he went from being clinically obese, with type 2 diabetes, cystic acne, and crippling anxiety to the British and European Pro bodybuilding Champion by switching to a carnivore diet. 

Research on The Carnivore Diet for Bodybuilding

To date, there haven’t been any studies looking specifically at the carnivore diet for bodybuilding. However, there have been a number of studies exploring the keto diet for weight training and bodybuilding. The results of these studies provide some interesting results that are likely replicated and even enhanced on a carnivore diet. 

One 2020 study compared a group of healthy young men on keto to a group eating a Western high-carb diet. Both groups completed a 10-week resistance training regimen. At the end of the study, the keto group gain 2.4% of lean body mass and reduced the body fat mass by 2.2 kilograms. The keto group also saw significant testosterone gains.

In a 2012 study, a group of elite gymnasts trained while practicing a ketogenic diet for 30 days.  When the study concluded muscle mass was unchanged, while they significantly reduced body fat.

A 2017 study looking at athletes in a CrossFit program who ate keto for six weeks had similar results. The participants maintained muscle mass while experiencing significant weight loss and reduced body fat mass and percent body fat.

A 2021 study looking at the effects of a 60-day keto diet on body composition, muscle strength, muscle area, and blood parameters in competitive natural bodybuilders revealed the following results

  • Despite the reduction in hypertrophic response the keto bodybuilders maintained muscle mass. A phenomenon that does not happen on non-keto low-calorie diets. 
  • Keto was a good strategy for reducing body fat, or “cutting.” 
  • Keto resulted in decreased markers of inflammation.
  • Keto increased BDNF
Doctor Kiltz Nutritional Supplements

How the Carnivore Diet Can Benefit Bodybuilding

The possible benefits of the carnivore diet for bodybuilding and generally improved body composition can be attributed to a number of factors that we’ll explore below. 

Increased Testosterone 

Testosterone activates androgen receptors in muscle fibers, which stimulates muscle-building hormones and protein synthesis.

The carnivore diet is high in saturated animal fats. Studies show that saturated fat increases sex hormones, including testosterone.

In contrast, a systematic review of numerous studies found that low-fat diets are associated with lower levels of testosterone when compared to higher-fat diets.

The 2020 study on the ketogenic diet combined with resistance training that we referenced above found that after only 11 weeks, testosterone increased significantly (+118 ng·dl). While for the control group on a standard high-carb Western Diet suffered significant testosterone decline (-36 ng·dl).

High-Quality Protein 

Animal products, including red meat, eggs, pork, poultry, fish, seafood, and dairy, are loaded with complete proteins. 

Protein is the building block of muscles and is crucial in muscle repair and growth. 

Nutrient Density 

The most nutrient-dense foods on earth are all carnivore diet staples like red meat, eggs, seafood, and dairy products. 

It’s worth comparing these foods to alternative nutrient sources, i.e., plant foods. 

For example, 625 grams (1.37 lbs) grams of steak provides as much iron as 2,400 grams (5.2 lbs) of spinach. While beef liver, an even more potent animal-sourced food, supplies that iron in only 300 grams.

meat supremacy diagram

In addition to iron, animal products are packed with nutrients that support muscle growth and performance, including 

These nutrients contribute to muscle function, energy production, and overall well-being, enabling bodybuilders to train harder and recover faster.

Nutrient-Dense-Food chart



Eliminating Plant Toxins and Antinutrients

By eliminating plant foods, the carnivore diet eliminates various plant toxins and antinutrients that can wreak havoc on your digestive system. 

Plant compounds like oxalates, lectins, phytic acid and excess fiber can damage your gut lining and bind with important nutrients. Together these factors can inhibit nutrient absorption and cause widespread inflammation that can lead to autoimmune disorders.


The carnivore diet can help bodybuilders repair digestive issues improve mineral absorption, and enhance recovery. 

Simplicity and Consistency

The simplicity and consistency of the carnivore diet give bodybuilders a clear way to track the effects of their food choices and more precise control over nutrient intake. 

Foods to Eat on the Carnivore Diet for Bodybuilding


The carnivore diet means eating only animal products. But there’s a bit more to it than that. 

Most carnivore diet bodybuilders center their diet around the most nutritionally complete animal products–ruminant meats. 

Ruminant Meats

Ruminant meats include

Ribeye steak regions supreme, while budget meats like 70/30 ground beef are a great choice when you’re trying to bulk up by eating ridiculous amounts of meat. 

ribeye chart of nutrients

Animal Fats

The carnivore diet eliminates nearly all carbs, but this doesn’t mean it’s a high-protein diet. In fact if you get more than 1 gram of protein per 1 gram of fat, you run the risk of protein poisoning. 

This can be confusing for bodybuilders new to carnivore who may be familiar with the idea that protein is the key to muscle growth. 

Though protein is important, the carnivore diet requires getting 70-80% of your calories from animal fats. 

You can meet your fat goals by adding generous doses of animal fats to fatty cuts of meat. These fats include


Eggs provide a powerful combination of healthy fats, complete high-quality proteins, and an abundance of vitamin D, and vitamin K that aid in bone health and muscle growth for bodybuilders. 

Organ Meats

Organ meats are the most nutrient of all meats, and pack an incredible amount nutrients that directly enhance body composition including B vitamins and vitamins A, E, K2, D, and C.

Bone broth made from bone marrow also provides collagen which helps repair the intestinal lining and support joint health–which can be important when heavy lifting. 

Fatty Cheese

Fatty, creamy, ripened cheeses like pecorino and blue cheese provide healthy fats, and proteins, and tens of thousands of bioactive compounds that have been shown to promote heart health and reverse aging on the level of your organs.


Fatty fish like Salmon, sardines, and anchovies provide a combination of high-quality protein, healthy fats, including omega-3s, and a complex of B vitamins.

Mussels and oysters provide are some of nature’s most abundant sources of  B vitamins, vitamin D, zinc, selenium, and copper. 

The Carnivore Diet for Bodybuilding: The Bottom Line

The carnivore diet, with its exclusive focus on animal products, has been a part of the bodybuilding community since at least the 1950s. 

However, with growing mainstream popularity, more bodybuilders are exploring the carnivore diet’s potential to support muscle growth and overall athletic performance. 

Some of the ways that the carnivore diet may benefit bodybuilders include

  • Increasing lean muscle mass 
  • Reducing body fat
  • Increasing testosterone
  • Supplying complete proteins 
  • Increasing intake of vitamins and minerals that support muscle growth
  • Eliminating plant toxins and antinutrients that cause inflammation and inhibit nutrient absorption. 

If you’re interested in exploring how the carnivore diet can support your bodybuilding goals start here! 

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