I often get asked, “Why can people eating carnivore eat as much protein as they want and still lose weight?”
Well there are several answers for that. One is that they may not have ever dieted before and will lose weight doing anything lower carb and reducing processed foods. Another could be that they are caloric restricting and this will always result in weight loss in the short term. What I want to look at today is adding onto the last article I posted about protein absorption per meal and looking at how that affects the macros and the actual amount of protein a carnivore is actually using as protein. This is the last article:
From the previous article, and the literature I referenced, a person can only absorb 0.25 to 0.3g of protein per meal. If you want to see the literature you can click the post above and it is all there. Lets break down a day of carnivore ala Shawn Baker style. This would be something like 2lbs of steak only. I will use a 145lb woman as an example because the math is easy. 🙂
2lbs of steak has 227g of protein.
She is 145lbs or 66kg.
She can only absorb 0.30g x 66kg of protein per meal. That is roughly 20g.
If she eats one meal a day that is 20g per day of protein she is getting as amino acid that will contribute to maintaining lean mass. The rest is converted to glucose or used as intermediates for metabolism or energy. 207g goes to other.
If she eats 2 meals that is 40g of protein she contributes to lean mass and the rest is used for other and glucose. 187g goes to other.
If she eats 3 meals a day that is 60g of protein she contributes to lean mass and the rest goes to other and glucose. 167g goes to other.
About 40% of the protein remaining gets converted to glucose so:
- 1 meal – 82.8g is converted to glucose
- 2 meals – 74.8g is converted to glucose
- 3 meals – 66.8g is converted to glucose
Lets look at her caloric and macro intakes for these 3 scenerios:
2 lbs of steak:
- 227g of protein
- 172g of fat
- 0 carbs
- 2458 calories
Knowing what we know about protein absorption this is what it actually looks like for the 3 meal scenerios.
- 20g of protein (80 calories) – 4% of calories (she will be protein deficient and run into problems eventually such as sarcopenia (loss of lean mass))
- 172g of fat (1548 calories) – 80% of calories (great)
- 82.8g of carbs (331 calories) – 16% of calories (at OMAD she is doing similar macros to keto except with carbs and protein reversed)
- 1959 total calories
At one meal a day she may be losing lean mass unless she does strength training which has been shown to stop losses though increased release of growth hormone. I would still be worried about long term risk of sarcopenia.
- 40g protein (160 calories) – 8% of calories (adequate)
- 172g of fat (1548 calories) – 77% of calories (great)
- 74.8g of carbs (300 calories) – 15% of calories (Getting closer to keto macros but pretty much same as above)
- 2008 calories
- 60g of protein (240 calories) – 12% of calories (probably perfect for her)
- 172g of fat (1548 calories) – 75% of calories (pretty much the standard view of ketogenic fat ratio. Low for my liking but adequate for maintenance)
- 66.8g of carbs (267 calories) – 13% of calories (still high for keto but for most this would be adequate for weight maintenance and even weight loss)
- 2055 calories
You can see when we factor in the way protein is absorbed that she is restricting protein by a different mechanism. There is no way to store excess protein so if you eat a huge bolus in one meal you only get a small amount of usable amino acids. We do not have storage for excess amino acids so they are converted to a form for storage. That is glucose. Being that they eat no carbs other than the converted ones, the converted glucose is easily shunted into liver as glycogen and is used to maintain blood glucose. This is not a bad thing per se but you will see a common trend when you look at the blood work of a long term carnivores. You will see elevated A1c and a higher fasting blood glucose. That is because they are always converting amino acids to glucose and always have liver glycogen providing glucose for blood sugar levels. They A1c will not be crazy high but higher than even a moderate carb eater. If you look at Dr. Baker’s last A1c it was 5.9. My last A1c was 4.9. I have seen several posts in other groups from carnivores with similar A1c levels.
I hope this helps get a better view of what unlimited protein actually looks like in a carnivore diet.
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