Today I’m going to share with you my strategy for figuring out how much protein to eat on a carnivore diet (we’ll also talk about fat, for that matter).
My disclaimer, before we begin, is this: this is my strategy and not a standard definition for everyone. Each person, depending on their biology and goals, is going to have different protein and fat intake levels they do best on. This is why it’s so bloody important to test for yourself.
That said, let’s get to the point.
Some hunter-gatherers populations seem to cone rage around 50-60% of calories coming from protein. Let’s use 50% as a baseline. I think this would be considered high by most modern diet standards.
So assuming you need to get 50% of your calories from protein, let’s look at what that looks like within the standard 2000 calorie-a-day recommendation.
1000 calories divided by 4 cals per gram of protein would put you at 250g of protein a day.
Now I’ll use myself as an example. I don’t know if 2000 cals a day is what I eat, I suspect it might be a bit lower on some days and a bit higher on others. But as a 155lb male with under 10% body fat, for me to eat 250g of protein a day would probably require a dedicated effort on my part. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten that much in my life.
So without actual testing, I can use some guesstimating based on what I usually eat in a day.
My primary meal on a carnivore diet is a steak, probably around 8oz. If this is a ribeye, it’s going to be around 55g of protein. If it’s a strip, it’s about 52.
With this meal, I’ll often eat some butter, maybe an egg yolk or two, and if i have it, more steak, say a 10oz-12oz steak if I'm lucky to have a huge chunk of meat that day. A 10oz ribeye clocks in about 67g of protein, so let’s round to 60g of protein for my typical first meal.
Now before we continue, you should know I'm using some reverse engineering here based on what I’m doing now and what my body tends to crave. I’m not making a concerted effort to eat more protein, this just tends to be what I have available, which could be skewed by the meat I’m currently buying and have available. I also notice that I can down way more protein from steak than I can from ground meat for example. (Maybe because ground beef can be a bit boring at times.)
For you, I’d suggest taking your typical first meal and reverse engineering it like this. You’ll get a reasonable picture of where you should be granted you are following a reasonable close carnivore diet and have the rest of your life somewhat dialed in (big assumptions here I know).
So that’s meal one: about 60g of protein could be a reasonable high estimate. Since I’ve learned from experience that humans tend to overestimate things in life, I’m going to knock this down to about 50g a day meal 1 average protein intake for me.
After meal one, I usually have a 4-6 hour window of no food before my typical meal 2. Meal two is usually smaller as I rarely have much of an appetite after meal 1 (one of the beautiful things about carnivores, btw).
Meal two is often something simpler, like ground beef with some melted cheese, or if the family is cooking something, I’ll focus on pulling the protein from whatever they are making and keeping most of the other ingredients on the side, say sweet potatoes + whatever vegetable they might have prepared.
Since I’m usually sharing and/or not as hungry, let’s assume my protein intake is around 35g of protein, sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less.
I think 35g for meal two is reasonable.
This puts me at about 85g of protein for the day, which if I’m eating a 2000 calorie diet at 155lb body weight, puts me at about 17% protein intake.
I’m actually surprised it is that low. Of course, I haven’t tested these, so I need to do some tracking to get a closer estimation of what I'm eating right now.
Another point is I've realized I get a bit hungry later in the day if I eat less protein at meal two. So perhaps I should be aiming to get about 20% of my calories from protein, or about 100g a day as a baseline. I think I’m comfortable making the assertion that that would be my target protein intake each day at my body weight and activity level.
I am lifting weights, but I don’t have any goals relating to bodybuilding, for example, so I’d probably increase this number a bit more if I had a goal like that, say 25-30% of calories from protein.
Now, what I just shared with you is my strategy for figuring out my baseline. Preparing for this piece actually brought it to my attention that I should probably increase my protein intake a bit more.
Not scientific by any means, but I’m using the best data I have—myself—to form a hypothesis about how much protein I should be eating.
IF I had to guess, I would say that 50% of calories from protein is on the high end of the spectrum, 15% is a bit too low and 20-25% would be an ideal sweet spot. I also think somewhere in these ranges is the most ancestrally way to eat.
Finally, the reason I feel comfortable with this assessment for myself is just how hard it is to eat more protein. I generally feel quite full after eating these meals, and I’m making protein the centerpiece of each meal.
It’s always: where’s my chuck of protein as the basis for every meal I’m eating.
Yes, I’m doing a carnivore-based diet, but I think that might confuse some people into thinking it’s more protein than it is (or has to be).
I’m actually surprised: I thought for sure I was eating more protein than I that. And while I think I need to increase my uptake a bit, I don’t think I’m far off from my most optimal intake.
What about you? Are you eating a similar amount of protein or something else?
Are you trying to lose weight or build muscle? How are your personal goals directing your protein intake?
I hope you found this video useful and maybe have a template for figuring out your ideal protein intake following a carnivore or keto-style diet.