How to Build Muscle on the Carnivore Diet

How to Build Muscle on the Carnivore Diet

How to Build Muscle on the Carnivore Diet

how to build muscle on the carnivore dietBefore discussing “How to Build Muscle on the Carnivore Diet” I should answer the frequent question: “Can you build muscle on the Carnivore Diet?

Yes. Yes you can.

But you need to take an intelligent approach.

If you have a chance to listen, I discussed this in a podcast episode on Kevin Stock Radio.

How to Build Muscle on the Carnivore Diet

What’s your goal?

There are a lot of ways of training to build muscle. Strength training, olympic lifting, crossfit all work. They all can build muscle. But all can give different results as well.

What kind of training you do depends on your goals.

For example, I’ve trained for over two decades with a primary motivator of body composition – i.e. bodybuilding. The vanity side of fitness 🙂

Others care more about how much weight they put on the bar. Neither is right or wrong – but the training styles are quite different.

Yes, I incorporate some aspects of strength and some explosive and some metabolic training but hypertrophy is the main target of my gym sessions. It’s important to know what your goal is.

But whether your goal is to look good (bodybuilding) or put as much weight as possible on the bar (strength training), the nutrition approach with the Carnivore Diet is fairly similar regardless.

And that’s what we’re going to focus on here.

But you need to know your goal. Often people say “I want to build muscle and lose fat.” That’s great. And it’s possible. But ideally you should have a primary driver – either fat loss or muscle building.

An easy way to decide:

  1. If you are overweight – focus on losing body fat while also training in the gym – this is a great time to master execution (more on this later…)
  2. If you are lean – focus on building muscle – the rest of this article is for you.

But before any of this – First Things First…

First Things First – Adapting to the Carnivore Diet – Homeostasis

The first thing you have to do is get adapted to the Carnivore Diet. Without this, none of the rest matters. Tinkering with the Carnivore Diet too early causes more harm than good. Trust me.

Read about John and Sally.

They are very different, but they both have one thing in common – they have to get adapted. Often people come to the Carnivore diet for fat loss. And when they gain weight they are shocked, upset, confused. They didn’t understand that they were a “Sally.” You may be a “John” and everything is smooth sailing. But whether your goal is fat loss, muscle building, mental performance, or disease reversal the FIRST STEP is adapting to the diet.

You need to reach a new homeostatic setpoint.

During adaptation there are myriad of changes. Hormones are flying and fluids are re-balancing. The body is healing.

You have to let the healing and balancing process happen first.

Adapting to Training

Training tends to suffer when starting the Carnivore Diet.

Generally speaking, the more glycolytic the activity the longer it takes to adapt.

For example, long distance running isn’t super glycolytic and people tend to adapt quick to this highly aerobic activity. Crossfit, however, is quite glycolytic which takes more time to adapt to.

An example from the gym: People tend to adapt quite quickly to strength training because it mainly uses the creatine-phosphate energy system. Whereas, something like bodybuilding, where time under tension of a particular set may be 1 minute or longer, takes more time to adapt to.

It took me at least 8 weeks, probably closer to 12, to regain my training capacity.

For many, perhaps most people, the following is unnecessary.

Just following the Carnivore Diet often results in muscle building without any tinkering needed. People seamlessly achieve a body composition that makes them happy (generally beyond what they even thought possible). The following is for people who want to build muscle beyond that which the body would naturally want to carry. It is for people where the muscle achieved during their adaptation period has stalled.

So with that caveat (that most people don’t need to do this to achieve their muscle building goals! Just follow the diet!) here’s how you can tinker with it to add on some more muscle.

How to Build Muscle on The Carnivore Diet

Assuming you have given your body the necessary time to adapt to the Carnivore Diet and reach a homeostatic set point, lets go through how to build muscle on the carnivore diet.

#1: Daily Baseline

You should have a “ballpark” feel for how much you eat on a daily basis. Once adapted to the Carnivore Diet, appetite regulates. You have a daily “normal.” You should have a good feel for how much this is.

Let’s say, for example, you eat 3lbs of meat per day. And this meat is mainly fatty cuts. And your macros are around ketogenic ratios (70:30 fat:protein calories or 1:1 fat:protein grams). No need to count or worry about exactitudes. Just ballpark it. And if yours isn’t keto ratios that’s fine, just know what it is.

Also if you eat “Level 1” foods (cheese for example), know how much on average. The whole point is to know what your daily average consumption is. If you don’t know, than you probably haven’t done the Carnivore Diet long enough to even be messing with this. First things first.

#2: Increase Over Baseline

Once you know your baseline food consumption, you want to increase this. Add a bit more food.

Now I recommend this food contain at least some protein. Don’t just add butter. Add meat. Add eggs. It doesn’t have to be a significant. In fact, you just want to add in maybe 200-300 calories. Don’t worry about counting. Just ballpark it. Add a bit on top of your baseline.

#3: Progressive Increase

Then every month (or every 6 weeks or whatever you feel is a good pace) increase consumption again.

How many weeks you go in between increases is not as important as the idea of progression. You want to add in a little more. Another 200 calories or so.

Continue this month after month.

What you don’t want to do is go from eating 3lbs meat/day to 5lbs/day in one month. Because progressing on top of 5lbs/day is not going to be easy. You’ll be too full to continue to progressively eat more. Plus a big jump like this will likely result in more fat gain than you want. Then you have to eat to maintain body fat levels plus the extra on top of that to fuel new muscle growth.

Slow progression is the key.

#4: Supplements

I wouldn’t even think about supplements until you get to the point of saying “I really can’t eat any more.

This should be 6, 9, 12+ months down the road. In the podcast I talk about how this may be a good time to do a short “cut” before continuing with a progressive muscle building focus.

I rarely advise supplementing on the Carnivore Diet. When it comes to achieving health and the attainment of most people’s goals, supplements do more harm than good. Bodybuilding can be an exception.

Carrying around a lot of muscle isn’t something the body necessarily “wants” to do. Muscle is energetically expensive to maintain. So if you’re goal is to keep building muscle and you’re hitting a wall, some supplements can help.

Whey Protein

Not until you get to the point of not being able to eat more whole food would I recommend adding in whey protein. But it can be advantageous for a couple reasons. First, it helps increase total consumption without getting overly full. In addition, it is quite insulinogenic. For most people this is a bad thing, but for bodybuilders its beneficial. Insulin is one of the most anabolic hormones we have. It can also stimulate appetite. A win-win for muscle building.

What I’d do is add 50 grams of whey protein post workout. Then, maybe an hour so so later, eat your normal post workout meal.

More Protein

If you added in whey for several months and need to increase consumption further, and you can’t do it with more whole food, then I’d try adding in some more protein powder.

I would use a combination of beef collagen peptides and whey. And I’d probably add it before bed. The collagen will provide a more diverse amino acid profile while the whey keeps a high concentration of branched chain amino acids.

Creatine Monohydrate

Red meat is really your best source of creatine. But if your creatine stores aren’t “topped off” then supplementing with creatine can be a cheap and easy way to help the muscle building process along.

More Supplements

Besides whey protein and creatine, I don’t think you need anything else. In the podcast I mention a few things like beta alanine and caffeine which can enhance some performance. But I really don’t think these are needed.

What about Carbs?

I often get asked “don’t I need carbohydrates to maximize muscle gains?” My answer is always vague because it’s extremely complex “Maybe, but probably not.”

Research by Stuart Phillips, one of the world experts on protein, shows that protein and carbohydrates combined don’t provide any additional benefit than protein alone when it comes to rates of muscle protein synthesis or decreasing muscle protein breakdown. Where carbohydrates may provide a benefit is in speed of glycogen replenishing and perhaps recovery. (r) So for crossfit athletes or people who train the same muscles twice a day, carbohydrates may benefit them. In most training scenarios, muscle glycogen and recovery without carbs is not a problem.

Also an amazing thing happens when you get fat-adapted. Dr. Voltek showed in his research that athletes replenish glycogen at the same rate as high carb athletes once fat-adapted. They also showed that they had glycogen stores comparable to high carb athletes. (r)

How to Build Muscle on the Carnivore Diet – What to AVOID

The Scale

The biggest mistake I see people make is using a scale to try and gauge progress. Muscle building is a marathon, not a sprint.

Putting on even a few pounds of muscle in a year is GREAT. Measuring this by a scale is impossible/pointless.

If you’re goal is just to get the number on the scale to go up, I’d argue that’s not a good goal (unless you are trying to hit a certain weight class for a competition or something).

If the scale is moving up quickly it’s more likely a sign of fat gain than muscle. And, for most people, the goal would be to limit putting on fat while maximizing muscle gains.

Now some fat gain is ok and should be expected. If you don’t gain any fat you are either under-eating or not maximizing muscle gains that could be had.

Ditch the scale. Trust the process. Commit to the marathon.


Broadly speaking, too much cardio is going to interfere with maximizing your muscle gains. Some cardio can be good, and actually help stimulate appetite. So keeping in some cardio is fine, but I wouldn’t recommend progressively increasing it.

How to Build Muscle on the Carnivore Diet: Workouts


Addressing a workout plan is way outside the scope of this post. Like I mentioned, there are many ways to train. If I were still personally training, every single person would be on a different plan. So it’s impossible for me to try and standardize something here.

But one concept that you should take with you is progression. There are many factors to manipulate progression in workouts. You can increase the weight on the bar, the time under tension, the reps, the density, etc…

My best recommendation is to find a trainer (or invest in education) that understands 2 things:

  1. Execution
  2. Progression (and the variables)

It’s not easy to find a trainer that really understands both of these. But it’s so important. I’ve spent decades in the gym, and I did things wrong for a long time, and have had to pay the price.

Getting a good trainer is worth their weight in gold.

If you’re consistent in the gym, but doing things wrong, it’s not a question if you’ll get hurt, it’s when.

So whatever modality of training you employ, execution should come first.


I’m not affiliated with either of these, but for training advice, I have 2 “go-to” places I turn to:


Ben Pakulski’s program Hypertrophy Execution Mastery is fantastic. His partner in it Joe Bennett is also phenomenal. You are in good hands with these two guys. Both focus on actually understanding the role of a muscle, how it contracts, and how you can set up and execute properly to maximize muscle growth, and perhaps more important, avoid injury.

Functional (Strength, Power, Olympic)

One of my best friends, Dr. Aaron Horschig, is a physical therapist and runs Squat University. He has a great book on squatting and just overall great stuff on biomechanics. If you want to do things right, check out Squat University.

If you’d like to learn more about how to create health and fitness (including building more muscle and losing fat), I’d highly recommend watching the Meat Health Masterclass:

65 Replies to “How to Build Muscle on the Carnivore Diet”

  1. Kevin my main concern with the carnivore diet is the mTor affect. Can doing an every day 14 hour fast and 10 hour eating window counter act the effects of two much amino acids? I read this from another anti aging doctor:

    Of all the components that stimulate mTOR, amino acids are the most potent stimulators. Hence, eating large amounts of protein is also one of the quickest ways to shut down autophagy, which prevents your body from effectively cleaning out debris and damaged cells. According to Rosedale, even if you do everything else right to keep glucose and insulin low, your mTOR would still be elevated if you eat too much protein.

    He also notes that virtually all cancers are associated with mTOR activation, so activating mTOR is something you’ll definitely want to avoid. This is why I recommend limiting protein to about 40 to 70 grams per day, depending on your lean body mass.

    1. I disagree with this overall premise / assumption (mTOR is some bad / evil process and that maximizing autophagy is some miracle pathway only achieved by prolonged frequent fasting).

      If your goal is to build muscle you need mTOR activation.
      If your goal is longevity your goal should be to maintain muscle mass as long as possible (i.e. you need mTOR to do this)

      I’ll be writing much more on longevity in the near future if that is your main concern.

    2. Ok dr Saladino has a good interview in his podcast with another female doctor on Mtor and they say eating carnivore diet doesn’t effect it negatively. Made sense from different studies.

  2. Hey Kevin, thank you for responding. I want long term goals of leanness and health due to having lost fat. I am skinny fat at this point. I am vain and don’t want to gain but i understand the healing involved. Ive only been zc 3 weeks, should i focus on eating when hungry or trying to eat leaner cuts? Thank you. See earlier post from me. 😁

  3. Hi Kevin, I am 5’4″ 106lbs. I was keto for 2 yrs and in the last 2 weeks have gone from 102 to 106lbs. Im freaking out! I know im not overwt, but im vain and worked hard to lose 20+ lbs on keto. Its a mind game to be gaining on carnivore. Ive read ur guide and want to trust the process. I weighed daily, but ive now gone to weekly. The weight gain is playing mind games with me. Advice? Don;t want to gain so much Im back where i was pre keto. Its hard to not restrict calories and im loving the eating meat til full! However, I feel , without actual knowledge of why, im overeating. I can literally eat 2lbs meat easily. Help! Encouragement and advice. Is 30 days not enough time to eval? Thx.

    1. Hi Kim, when you say you read the guide are you referring to the 30 day guide or “how to lose fat on the carnivore diet” guide – either way – I’d highly recommend reading both.

      What I would ask you is “do you care what the scale says or what you look like and feel like?” And “are you looking for long term results or short term fat loss?”

      If you just care what the scale says I have all kinds of strategies on how to make that number go down, but I have a feeling that isn’t really the goal 🙂

      And 2lbs of meat is just great (not uncommon for females) – I eat well over 3lbs / day.

  4. Hi Kevin. I would like to gain fat on this diet in addition muscle. I am currently 82 lbs due to a lot of digestive issues including g gastroparesis. 5′ tall 59 yo. I’m not sure how to eat at a surplus in my current condition. Thank you ahead for any insight; I like your site; very informative and helpful best carnivore site I have found.

    1. Hi Maria, my advice would to be to gradually increase how much you eat over time.
      For many people, I think the easiest way to do this is to focus on fats (fatty meats and perhaps even including things like tallow, butter, even heavy whipping cream) to increase your total caloric intake.

  5. Great article Kevin – especially on how not to waste cash on supplements that probably give marginal if any benefit.
    I’m 4 weeks into the carnivore diet (after a year of keto) and sure as heck hoping the energy levels return soon as the mental battle to stay on it is quite intense.

  6. Hi Kevin,

    After adapting very well to the carnivore diet with practically none of the side-effects and my digestion/GI tract feeling better than ever, I’m led to believe that a meat-based diet is the way to go for me – however, I’ve noticed that my mood and sex-drive have decreased somewhat and my muscles look “flat”, whereas when I “cheat” and eat some carbs, my mood/libido seem to improve and my muscles look fuller again?

    What’s your take on this? Should I persevere with carnivore, or should I do a “modified” carnivore diet where I include some carbs? And if so, how much? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks, and keep up the good work

    1. One of the problems with “cheats” is that they may be the very reason you are “flat” with a libido that has not recovered. Because they can prevent you from fully adapting and gaining the metabolic flexibility you are wanting.

      It takes some time for the muscles to fill out and for some peoples libido to return. Carbs can delay this and for some people prevent it (thereby staying in this “yo-yo” middle ground – been there – not a super great place to live).

      1. Ok, so any idea roughly how long it would take for the muscles to fill out and the mood and libido to go back to normal again?

        As I said, I’ve adapted to Carnivore level 1 really easily from keto and have been strict for 6 weeks, but I have been suffering with the above problems since starting carnivore and they’ve only resolved once I ate a load of carbs (of course, the carbs have screwed me in other ways though!)

        Wouldn’t these things have improved after 6 strict weeks on level 1?

  7. Hi Kevin, i’ve been on carnivore for 4 months now and have lost about 17lbs. I now weigh 133lbs. At first I loved the weight loss, but now I am concerned that i’ve lost some muscle mass and my skin has lost some elasticity too. i only have 2 meals a day but I don’t feel hungry enough to eat 2-3lbs of meat a day. I would estimate I eat about 1 1/2 lbs of meat + 3 eggs and maybe some cheese in a typical day. Would it help to supplement with whey protein and collagen maybe add some creatin too? I’m 65, have always had a good level of fitness, but due to severe arthritis have had to have both hips replaced a month ago. I’m well into recovery and out walking every day. I’m going to add some strength training to my regime. Thanks for all the time you put into answering all our questions!


    1. For most people I don’t think whey protein is a great idea (it can spike insulin and cause some blood sugar swings – like hypoglycemia) – but in some cases it is helpful in getting in more protein and building LBM – so I would say it’s worth experimenting with. Taking a couple grams of creatine a day is usually not necessary (due to all the red meat eaten which is the best source of creatine there is) – but I also don’t think it would hurt.

      I think adding resistance training will be the biggest thing though (which can subsequently increase appetite) and am glad to hear you are planning on that!

  8. Luar biasa, artikel anda yang sangat membantu saya karena semuanya dijelaskan secara lengkap dan menjawab semua pertanyaan saya. Terima Kasih Kevin

  9. Hello Kevin

    How do you eat more? By eating more meals, or by eating more on each meal? I am more than happy with just 2 meals, but I think I would feel not as good if I increased my food intake by 25-50% on each of the two meals. And I don’t want either to eat more than 2 times/day. What are your thoughts on this?

    1. I remember when I first started eating this way, I’d eat ~1 lb beef/2x day. I was satisfied and it was great. But I wanted to put on a bit of size so then I started eating 3X/day usually 1 lb in the first and last meal, but I added a mid day “snack” of maybe 0.5-1lb. That lunch then turned into 1lb, so I was eating 3 lbs/day. Then I increased the size of each of these meals just a little bit over time. Now I’m eat 1.5-2.0 lbs/meal 3 meals a day (4-5lbs meat/day on average).

      But if you don’t want to eat more than 2 meals a day, you really only have one option – eat more at those meals.

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