Adaptation

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If you have recently started a an All-Meat diet and you find yourself “lion” around – or wanting to – more than normal, rest assured that nothing is wrong. Switching from a diet high in plant foods to one low in or completely devoid of plant foods requires the body to shift metabolic gears. Many people who go on a high fat low carbohydrate ketogenic diet often experience a constellation of unpleasant symptoms which have come to be known as the “keto flu.”

People who adopt an All-Meat diet, often experience a similar phenomenon, even if they have already become “keto-adapted” by eating a low-to-very low carbohydrate diet. Why this is remains a bit of a mystery, but it seem that some people are extremely sensitive to carbohydrates, or something in plant foods, and when they stop eating them altogether, they experience the “keto flu” all over again. This is not true for every one, of course, but it happens often enough that it is worth mentioning.

More than likely, many people are actually addicted to some of these plant foods (or other non-food keto-friendly substances such as artificial sweeteners), and – as long as they continue to ingest even small quantities of them – they avoid experiencing the unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal from these foods or chemicals.

There are other reasons besides addiction for some of the symptoms people experience when first embarking on a low-to-no carbohydrate diet. These symptoms are more a result of the changes in fluid and electrolyte balance. Carbohydrates cause the cells to retain fluid, so when you abruptly reduce or eliminate them, the cells begin to release the excess water.

A side effect of this process is the concomitant flushing of electrolytes from the body. It takes the kidneys a little while to re-organize themselves and begin preserving and recycling the minerals from the diet in a more appropriate manner for your new way of eating. This transition can take a few weeks or longer.

Another reason for some of these symptoms has to do with change over from burning sugar for energy to burning fat. These two entirely different metabolic pathways and require different enzyme systems. Up-regulating the necessary enzyme systems does not happen over night. It is a process that takes a few week or longer to get fully up and running. This is why exercise is discouraged in the adaption phase. You are no longer providing the glucose your cells have been used to, but your fat-burning capabilities are also not quite up to speed with the energy needs that vigorous exercise demands.

Danny Albers, author of the blog Primal North, wrote an excellent post about his adaptation to an All-Meat diet, which I highly recommend: Keto-Adaptaion vs. Low-Carb Limbo.

As a result, you may experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Brain Fog
  • Light-Headed
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Muscle Twitching
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Muscular Weakness
  • Blurry Vision
  • Keto Breath
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Intense Thirst
  • Nausea
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Insatiable Hunger
  • Carbohydrate Cravings
  • Sleep Disturbances
  • Nighttime Urination
  • Severe Headaches
  • General Achiness
  • Hot Flashes

None of these symptoms are dangerous in the context of beginning an All-Meat diet, and they should resolve themselves within the first 2-8 weeks.

People have tried a variety of different therapeutic measures to reduce or eliminate these unpleasant symptoms. However, 99% of the time they will resolve without any alterations, additions, or interventions to the diet. Anthropologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson and early explorers who spent time with Native Arctic peoples – and eating their tradition All-Meat diet – have discussed this adaptation process in their writings.

It appears that Lt. Frederick Schwatka was the first explorer to mention the adaptation process in his diary dating back to the 1880s. While making the transition to an All-Meat diet, Schwatka, Stefansson, and others have noted that the initial few weeks can be almost incapacitating, making arduous work or travel virtually impossible. But once they have made it through a month on an All-Meat diet, most would find themselves feeling better than ever.

Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek probably have the most comprehensive discussion of keto-adaptation in their books The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living and The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance.

“Keto-adaptation is a term coined by Steve Phinney in 1980 to describe the process in which human metabolism switches over to using almost exclusively fat for fuel (i.e., a combination of fat burned directly and as ketones derived from fat). While well studied and documented mainly in the context of starvation, ketone metabolism is not well-understood by most physicians (let alone nutritionists, dietitians, trainers, and athletes) as an approach to improve health and performance.”

Many people new to the concept of a Zero Carb diet are concerned about how it will affect their athletic performance. But this study by Phinney demonstrates that once a person is physiologically adapted to a fat-based diet, their performance will actually improve:

“Steve first wandered outside the box three decades ago, performing a pair of studies that established the human capacity to adapt to very low carbohydrate ketogenic diets[6, 14]. One of these experiments was conducted in lean highly trained cyclists (VO2max >65 mL/kg/min) who normally consumed a high carbohydrate diet. The athletes performed an endurance test to exhaustion on their usual diet and then again after being fed a very low carbohydrate diet for 4 weeks. The diet consisted of 1.75 g/kg protein, <10 g carbohydrate, >80% of energy as fat, and was supplemented with minerals including sodium. Riding a stationary cycle at over 900 kcal per hour, the average performance time was almost identical before (147 min) and after (151 min) adapting to the very low carbohydrate diet. This study demonstrated complete preservation of endurance performance after 4 weeks on a diet that contained virtually no carbohydrate. There was however a dramatic shift in metabolic fuel from a heavy dependence on carbohydrate to nearly complete reliance on fat in the keto-adapted cyclists. The rate of fat use during the exercise test at 64% VO2max was approximately 90 grams per hour (1.5 grams per minute). This is over 3 times the average peak fat oxidation recorded by Venables et al[9] in 300 people that included highly trained individuals with maximal oxygen uptakes exceeding 80 mL/kg/min. Even if you cherry pick and take the participant with the highest peak fat oxidation (60 g fat/hour) observed by Venables et al[9], that value is still less than the keto-adapted participant from Steve’s study with the lowest peak fat oxidation (74 g fat/hour). On average keto-adaptation resulted in peak fat oxidation rates of 90 g fat/hour – 50% greater than the highest recorded value for any participant in Venables’ study. A couple of Steve’s keto-adapted cyclists had fat oxidation rates approaching 2 grams per minute compared to 1 gram per minute when they previously did the same exercise on their high carbohydrate diet. Thus these highly trained athletes, who already had very high fat oxidation rates, were able to dramatically increase them further – not by changing their training, but by changing their diet.”

There are quite a few interesting and complex metabolic changes that occur during the adaptation process which Phinney and Volek describe in detail throughout their ground-breaking books. Some of these changes can result in temporary and transient increases in both Uric acid and LDL cholesterol. They explain why this happens and why it is nothing to be alarmed about. He cautions people to wait about 6 months before having a lipid profile done and that people with a history of Gout may need to take prophylactic measures to prevent an attack during the adaptation period. If you are concerned about these possibilities, please read his books for a complete explanation and understanding.

Phinney’s primary suggestion to reduce the unpleasant symptoms associated with adaptation is to make sure you are consuming enough sodium chloride because this spares potassium. You can read what he has to say about this on my page dedicated solely to the subject of Salt. He also recommends the short-term use of magnesium for muscle cramps if the extra salt does not provide the desires results.

Many veterans of Zero Carb will tell you that they have tried these suggestions without much success and that adaptation is just a process that must run its course. I, however, am not convinced that these or other measures are completely ineffectual. The thing that I personally found most helpful while going through the adaptation phase was bone broth. I drank almost two quarts of bone broth every day when I was able to afford it, and I could really feel the difference when I ran out and could not afford to make more for a few days or week. Now, after almost 4 months of eating a Zero Carb diet, I no longer feel the need for bone broth, but I still make and consume it whenever possible simply because I enjoy it.

I did add salt to my bone broth, but the salt alone (when I ran out of bone broth) did not prevent my legs or feet from cramping, or my heart from beating irregularly during my first two months on Zero Carb) the way bone broth did. Bone broth contains significant amounts of the important electrolyte mineral potassium. The symptoms of potassium deficiency include muscle weakness, muscle achiness, muscle cramps, and heart palpitations, all of which are on the above list of frequently experienced symptoms during the initial Zero Carb adaptation period.

So, from my perspective – based on my own personal experience and what authors like Cate Shanahan (author of Deep Nutrition) and Kaayla Daniel (author of Nourishing Broth) have explained in their books about the many valuable aspects of bone broth (potassium being just one) – I consider it to be a potentially helpful addition to the diet when one first begins eating this way. Please read my article Can Bone Broth Be Used on a Zero Carb Diet?

For more information on the beneficial properties of this nutritionally rich elixir, please see my Bone Broth page. And again, if you choose to do nothing at all besides continuing to eat meat and drink water, all of the unpleasant symptoms you may experience should go away of their own accord after the first few weeks of eating an All-Meat diet.

In addition to their excellent book mentioned above, Phinney and Volek have given many informative lectures in which they describe the adaptation process. However, I want to make it clear that an All-Meat diet – as practiced by Stefansson and the Native Arctic peoples he lived with and studied, as well as the Zero Carb veterans I have interviewed  – is not the same as a low carbohydrate high fat ketogenic diet as promoted by Phinney and his many ketogenic diet colleagues, in the sense that there is no need to measure ketone levels, adhere to certain macronutrient ratios, or to restrict protein intake when eating only meat. For more about the Zero Carb perspective on ketones, please read my page on  Ketosis where this is explained and explored further.

Never the less, much of the science presented by Phinney, Volek and other low carb proponents still applies. Here one of my favorites (many more are available on my Resources page):

Jeff Volek – The Many Facets of Keto-Adaptation: Health, Performance, and Beyond

 

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106 thoughts on “Adaptation

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  5. I’m wondering if anyone has experienced horrible heartburn since going Zero Carb? I was Zero Carb for about 5 weeks a few months ago and experienced the same issue. I don’t know if it is because I barely want to eat, drinking coffee or eating just from the animal kingdom, that is the cause. I am trying to drink a lot more water, which helps ever so slightly. Initially I slept so much better but now heartburn keeps me up half the night. It seems to strike about 8-9 days in. If anyone has experienced this and can advise me I’d appreciate it. I really want to stay Zero Carb but if the heartburn doesn’t clear up soon, I won’t be able to. Thank You.

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  6. Wondering if you have ever heard of these symptoms during adaptation: shortness of breath with chest discomfort, dry skin on hands and face, cold extremities, anger/irritability. Those are the issues I was dealing with. As soon as I ate carbs, mood improved, shortness of breath went away. I am really wondering about the safety of continuing this diet with the shortness of breath and chest discomfort. Also, I hated the way it made my skin feel/look.

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    • You might trying drinking more water and supplementing with potassium gluconate powder by NOW, available through Amazon. It sounds like an electrolyte imbalance and dehydration. You lose a lot of fluid in the initial weeks of Zero Carb.

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      • Thank you so much for writing back. I will try that. I’ve also been thinking that perhaps it is due to not enough fat. I notice a lot of the people interviewed ate mainly red meat and even the Bear said to eat the fat first until full. I am trying to buy fattier cuts, but I have a stupid question – the white part surrounding the red meat, is this the fat or is it something else? This white part is still there after I cook but it’s really chewy and I don’t like that; I thought fat was suppose to melt when you cooked it. Sorry for the dumb question, but I don’t cook red meat a lot (chicken with skin is more what I like).

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        • The white stuff on the outside of the meat is mostly fat with some connective tissue. The connective tissue has important nutrients in it which help to keep your own connective tissue healthy and strong.

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  7. Hmmm, I started this this week, after being in Ketosis for over 7 months (regularly measured through blood samples, urine strips, and breathalyzer).

    I started full zero carb on monday only and I have had diarrhea since. I wonder if this is normal, especially since I was already keto adapted.

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    • Yes, bacteria in your gut changes when you eliminate plants. But certain types of fats (especially those that have been rendered) can also cause diarrhea in some people. Can you tell me what you are eating on your ZC diet?

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  8. Hi Esmee, I am impressed by your blog (read length and breadth :)). I went to the ZC (I’m on the fourth day only) from LCHF. I am from the Polish and on foreign forums I find meaningful information (in Poland, the awareness is zero eh). I decided to write because for several days I feel the heart beat faster and constant, of varying severity, abdominal pain. It is strongly bulging despite a smaller portion meals. Pain diffuse, often on the left side, a centrally above and going down. I’m not overweight (167 cm, weight 54 kg). In addition, I’m tired, lethargic, but I know that this is normal. I am concerned about the belly. I have just finished the treatment of fungal infection of the vagina (One day Triaxal orally, the rest are pessaries, ointments). I eat beef, pork długodojrzewającą, bacon, lard, ghee, chicken and turkey’m going to set aside, for the moment the fish sometimes, lamb, mutton, drink water. I have the impression that the digestion is slowed down (and before I ate a lot of fat), appear bounced. I try to eat 80% fat and 20% protein. Lack of potassium? Can you handle something on this issue? Maybe something you can think of :). Best wishes!
    P.S. Forgive me for my English! 😉
    Tłumacz Google dla Firm:Narzędzia dla tłumaczyTłumacz stronNarzędzie analizy rynków

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    • The faster heart beat sounds like electrolytes. Try increasing your sodium intake first. Use at least 1 tsp of sea salt per day, more if desired. I add 1/2 tsp to each quart of water I drink. I usually drink 2-3 quarts a day. The abdominal issues sound like more of a digestive issue, or a reaction to some food you are eating. We usually recommend sticking to just beef and water for 30 days. If the beef is too lean where you live, then you will need to add butter. Try this and see if it makes any difference.

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  9. Thank you for the quick reply :). It is to improve: heart no longer beats (I eat a lot of salt from the beginning. Adapted to.), And the belly forgiven after discontinuation of medication (suppositories), as it turned out. I’m sorry, I panicked because everything happened at one time. Cuts mięsko far different (I leave out of the freezer), but I strive to consume mainly beef, pork,. długodojrzewającej, lamb, mutton + fat, drink only water. You mention butter, I love it (accept only pasteurized!), But I still have no objections to it because of the casein and lactose, that is a form of dairy products and badly affects min. hormone. Do you have them in your menu? Regards!

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  10. Thank you for your beautifully crafted and informational site, Esmee!

    I started a zero carb diet 9 days ago (I had my usual daily 2 tbsp of ground flax seed on the first couple of days, but none since) to see if it can help with my bloating, carb cravings and unstable blood sugar (likely all caused by SIBO and Candida overgrowth). I ve been on a very low carb diet for over a year so the transition is very smooth, and I actually feel better than my ordinary baseline in terms of energy and overall wellbeing, EXCEPT for one symptom which is very puzzling to me because it suggests a flar up in my candida: I have had a very extreme and intensely uncomfortable yeast infection (vaginal) starting from day 4 of the ketogenic diet. This is not something I usually suffer from (although I did periodically when I was eating higher carb and could link it very systematically to high carb consumption, but I never experienced anything as bad as what I am experiencing now). I searched around on this site, but couldn’t find anything that could explain this seeming flar up in my candida since I started the zero carb diet, so I searched the web and came across several sources that claim that “ketogenic diets can aggravate candida and make it systemic”. Do you, Esmee, or anyone else in here know anything about this? Or do you have any other ideas about why this yeast infection is coinciding with me starting the zero carb diet? Did some of the other ladies in here experience something similar during adaptation?

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    • Keto is different than an all meat Zero Carb diet. I have not heard anyone say that they developed yeast infections after adopting a ZC diet, and many many many folks have reported the disappearance of long standing chronic fungal infections of their toenails. You are still very early on the diet, so my only suggestion at this point is to try and do it for 30 days and get through the adaption phase. Do not eat flaxseed or any other plant food. And if you are including any dairy other than butter, eliminate it.

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  11. Forgive me if you covered this question already in another post, but… what are your thoughts on slowly working my way down toward zero carb? You know… maybe starting at 40gr. of carb and going down 5-10 gr. every week or so, until I’m down to zero.

    I’m one of those who really struggles w adaptation. I attempted this several times but this last time was my longest. I went HF very LC (ketogenic by most people’s standards) last Nov 2016 and it was debilitating for me. I surprised myself and pushed through 4.5 weeks, after which I threw in the towel because I was so miserable, cranky and tired. Who knows, maybe I would have adapted within a day or so, or maybe it would have taken another month or two… In any case, the holidays were nearing, I was depressed the quality of my life sucked and I was very depressed, so I called it quits, and decided to try it again at a later date. It also put a real damper on my holidays… At the time, I didn’t think it would take that long — I was visualizing myself gnawing on one of the two turkey drumsticks at our Thanksgiving table. After a tough battle with my son-in-law, I had the drumstick alright… however, it shared my plate with sweet potato, bread stuffing, gravy, peas, carrots and a green salad.

    My family already thinks I’m nuts but I really want to try a zero-carb diet since I probably enjoy animal protein more than any other food. Unfortunately, I just can’t seem to make it through the fat-adaptation process. I’d appreciate your thoughts on gradually lowering carb intake?

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    • If that works better for you, then there is nothing wrong with doing that. Michael Frieze had to do that after several failed attempts to go strict Zero Carb. You can find his story under the interviews link and the top of my blog.

      Can you please explain to me what you eat when you do zero carb? How much meat? What kinds of meats? What other Zero Carb foods? How much salt? Any supplements? How tall are you?

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      • I eat mostly beef: steaks, ground beef, roasts, calves liver, and bone broth. The beef is pasture raised angus. I also like pork, especially slow cooked pork shoulder (which I typically would eat w kraut but no kraut when I’m doing 0-carb) it’s also a very fatty cut and I love the juices, I also enjoy ground pork sausage. Occasionally bacon and eggs fried on bacon grease.

        I don’t know how much… I never weigh or count calories, but I will say that ever since I started intermittent fasting, I eat a LOT less than I once did. Maybe half as much. I’m trying to get away from “the diet-mentality” of counting anything ie.carbs, grams, calories etc. I know what carbohydrates are, so I eliminate all (greens, sugars and starches) until I can’t stand it, I feel so bad, my next move is usually a sweet potato.

        I use a lot of pink salt. I read that Himalayan salt as well as sea salt have a lot if minerals which processed white table salt does not. I’m not sure if its true, but I will say that, when I am having cramps in my hamstrings that feel like a death-grip, a tsp. of pink salt in water seems to do the trick. I’ll just say that cramps are only a fraction of what brings me down when eating this way… The lethargy and depression are really tough, and I wouldn’t be surprised if my age was a factor as well — I will soon be 69. ie. lot of years running on glucose.

        Yes, I take quite a few supplements: a good multi for women, slow-release magnesium, potassium, a cardio combo for my heart and arteries, Vit K, Vit D, Vit E, methylated B12, ALA, bio-ident-hormones, and 2 grains of natural (pig) thyroid daily. Those are the basics I take daily. There are a few more sups that I take as well maybe 2-3 x a week

        I’m female 5’3″ weigh 157 lbs. I’m typically a high energy old gal w a sharp mind, albeit my short term memory is getting worse. I’m still working as a flight attendant for a major airline — I’d like to continue for a few more years, so I need to keep my energy up.

        I hope this answers all your questions.

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        • The two things which seem to make people tired during adaptation are 1) not eating enough food; and 2) not getting enough sodium and potassium. It sounds like you are okay on the salt, but how much potassium are you actually taking per day as a supplement?

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  12. Instead of bone broth, would supplementing ~1/2 to 1 teaspoon of potassium chloride per day be another possible option (in addition to ~1-2 teaspoons of himalayan sea salt)? It tastes very similar to salt.

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    • Yes, you can used supplemental electrolytes. However, the amounts you suggested might be a little too much. I would start with 1/2 tsp of potassium chloride powder per day taken in divided doses, and only 1 tsp of salt. Himalayan is fine.See how this works. You can always increase the amounts if needed.

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  16. Hi
    I have been on zero carb (just living off rib eye steaks, no salt) for four days now and this evening I quite quickly started feeling very sick and then threw up everything in my stomach. I know stomach pain is normal during adaptation, but is throwing up?
    I’m planning to keep going and drink plenty of water.
    Thanks 🙂

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    • My guess would be that you ate too much fatvtoo soon possibly. But it may also be part of your body adjusting. Giving up both carbs and salt at the same time is a huge change for the body, so I think nausea and vomiting could certainly happen.

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  17. Someone please help. I’m going through one of the side effects of fat adapting and that’s excessive thirst. I’m getting plenty of sodium in my meals but I get extremely thirsty especially after a salty meal. I read that if you drink too much water you’ll either bloat, get water Renton, or flush your electrolytes out. I feel like down a gallon of ice cold water. Is this safe?

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    • Too much salt is not good. You may actually need potassium. Sodium and Potassium need to stay in balance. You coukd also be eating too much protein. Please give me a breakdown of your food and salt intake.

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      • thanks for responding. Breakfast: 4 eggs, a few slices of bacon, cooked in butter, and cheese
        lunch: about a pound of beef cooked in butter, maybe have a little bit of cheese
        dinner: usually another pound beef, but sometimes salmon occasionally
        snacks: a few more eggs with more bacon, (sometimes ill snack but not everyday)

        I salt all of these meals pretty intensely, but I also workout every other day and sometimes drink a little bit more water than I should, which probably flushes out my electros but who knows. All together I probably get 2 teaspoons of salt a day not inlcuding the the dietary sodium in my foods. I also took my bp last night which was 133/73 which is relatively high for a 19 year old? Please help im so confused on how much sodium I really need

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        • You are eating too much salt. Sodium and potassium have to stay in balance. You always want to comsume at least 4 times more potassium tham sodium. Fresh (non-preserved) meat naturally has this balance. Most hunter-gatherers ate a ratio of 12:1. Bacon and cheese have more sodium than potassium and adding salt to your meat also upsets this balance. High blood pressure is not a result of excess sodium, but of too little potassium in relationship to sodium.

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          • So I I used a lot less salt today, just had a fat steak and my BP is 141/73. Could my home kit not be accurate or do I just need to chill and trust the process and give it Time. Sorry for the questions I’m just freaking out. And could eating too frequently be a problem even if it’s zero carb all meat?

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          • What’s your take on Shawn Baker? He salts all his steaks and drinks salt water before the gym

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          • I think too much salt in relationship to too little potassium will eventually be a problem. He is an elite athlete and may need extra sodium. He also eats a lot of meat to supply his energy needs and, therefore, is taking in a fair amount of potassium. Hopefully, it will continue to work well for him.

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  18. Hello! I have been eating zero carb since November 2017. In feburary and March I have noticed major hair loss! Do I need to bring back some carbs via vegetables? I take a potassium, sodium, d3, magnesium glycinate supplement and just started k2 and zinc supplements hoping this will help. I am 42. 5’4. I jog and workout every day. Help!!!

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  19. Hello esmeelafleur. Excellent article. I have an important question, I just started this diet about 5 days ago and I have noticed that my waiste is widening and my stomach looks like it is protruding outward. I only eat one meal a day and it is usually 2 16 oz Rib eyes cooked in a tablespoon of grass fed ghee butter with no salt. I work out 3 days a week (full body weight training) in a fasted state. Is this just a part of the adaptation phase?

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    • My guess would be yes, but it’s really hard to know until you have been on ZC for at least 30 days. Does it feel like fat or bloating? Are your symptoms present all the time or only for a period after eating?

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  21. Esmee, I joined your facebook group under but then Facebook locked me out for not verifying a picture. will all the data breaches of Facebook in the news lately, I am very leery of it. would it be ok for you to answer a question here? I’ve been very since since I was a teen, like you (CFS/ME) fribomayalgia, environmental illness, intersistial cystitis, horrible depression, allergies etc ( you know the drill) I’m housebound and near-bed ridden at this point after trying so many different things for the past 20 years. I started Carnivore on May 20th ( 3weeks) and I felt great the first 2 days, then keto flu hit. now, I’m feeling worse with headaches, and increasing depression. I’ve got my electrolytes balanced (sea salt, potassium, calcium, mag supplements) I’m just wondering if this in indeed still adjustment or if it’s histamine making me feel worse. I do know I’m histamine intolerant. which is why normally, I only eat chicken and lower histamine foods. I can’t seem to ever tolerate beef (I’m wondering if it’s a legit beef allergy or just that beef tends to be really aged before it hits the stores) so I’ve been eating pork, and chicken and eggs and lard. I was so excited bc this diet has changed lives, but i’m starting to feel hopeless bc I’m 3 weeks in and I feel so much worse. any thoughts would be sooo appreciated. I am down 7 pounds, but I don’t care so much about the weight, just want to be able to get up out of bed and my house and live a normal life.

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    • If you are histamine intolerant and you are eating beef that is too old, it could absolutely make you feel worse. Where are you getting your beef? What cut? Chicken is definitely lower in histamines in my experience, but its too low in fat and it never satisfies me. Even when I have teied adding extra fat like butter, I’m still not satisfied no matter hiw much I eat. Fatty beef is the only meat that completely satisfies me. I have to be really careful about where I get it. I have had the most success with buying cryovac’d bulk PRIME grade New York Strip or Ribeye from Costco. It is vacuum sealed 48 hours after slaughter. There are less histamines because there is no oxygen. Oxygen allows bacteria to grow on the surface and the bacteria produce the histamines. Once the package is opened, it is best to cut into steaks and vacuum seal individually and freeze to prevent histamines from forming. I also have found two sources of 80/20 ground beef I can tolerate from local markets that make it daily from freshly opened cryovac’d angus beef. Both markets are privately owned and have a good turn over, so the ground beef is always fresh. But, when you are extremely sensitive, a few hours of air exposure can allow enough histamines to form to be a problem for you. I’ve been at this now for 3.5 years and it has not been easy. When my histamine bucket gets full, my only recourse is to fast for several days to several weeks. It’s the only thing that helps me regain my tolerance for some level of histamines which are always present in beef even when relatively fresh. I have been to 5 specialists this past year and none of them have had a patient with total food intolerance like me. They are sympathetic for the most part, but have no clue how to help me. I now believe I have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) of which histamine intolerance is one of the symptoms (CFS is likely also just a symptom of MCAS), but there are no specialists in my area who have any knowledge of this illness. I have discovered thousands of others just like you and me through MCAS Facebook groups, so we are not alone. But it has only been in the medical literature for 7 years, and most doctors have never heard of it. I strongly believe that glyphosate (Round Up) is one of the major causes based on everything I have read. Most everyone I know with MCAS is on medication, a route I am trying to avoid if at all possible.

      You can read more about MCAS here: https://www.mastocytosis.ca/en/diagnosis/signs-symptoms

      Regarding electrolytes, after 2.5 years of experimenting with salt and potassium, I finally stopped both because they were making me feel much worse. I’ve never been able to take magnesium. But it took me a long time to realize that that salt and potassium were making me feel so bad. Both made me bloated and gave be migraines. Potassium Citrate was the worst and made my entire body hurt.

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      • You are so kind and sweet for this lengthy reply. all your info really helped. I will look into how fast things are packaged and cryovacced after slaughter. modernity is really creating havoc for those sensitive people like us, eh? I’m sure you probably tried (of heard) these things already but just in case you haven’t, please let me share some things that have helped me cope and help with symptoms. who knows they could be a major life changer for you:

        infra red sauna (before this, I couldn’t tolerate ANYHING, and my mood was much worse–but u have to be careful to keep your electrolytes up)

        electric zapper — I feel noticeably better when I use this. I believe pathogens are one of our biggest puzzles pieces

        wim hoff breathing and cold showers ( this is a powerful one–careful if you are sensitive) I did this for 2 weeks only and couldn’t believe it. I stopped it tho bc I wanted to focus on the Carnivore diet and not start too many things at once

        emf protection (I use EarthCalm products)–If I don’t use these, I faint, have seizures, go into anaphylaxis etc

        You’re a beautiful soul Esmee, and with all your suffering, the amount of help you give others, is amazing. one day, we’ll get to the bottom of all this and our children and their children, on no other human, will have to suffer with these things.

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  22. Hi there, great info here. In regards to electrolyte supplementation, if I added no salt to meals how much is ideal to supplement with for sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Also after adaptation phase, do these imbalances correct themselves and further electrolyte supplementation is unnecessary? Thanks for your time

    Like

    • All the successful long term zero carbers I know do not use salt or any supplements. It’s just a process of adaptation. When you stop carbohydrates, you lose a lot of excess fluid and electrolytes are lost in that fluid. LoSalt is a good option to replace both sodium and potassium, and just use it according to taste. After you adapt to no carbs, you can then discontinue or slowly taper off the LoSalt if you wish. Just keep in mind that your body has to again adapt to that change. I stopped cold turkey and it took my body a full month to adapt. I was extremely dry, tired, hypotensive, and experienced tachycardia sometimes. All of those symptoms resolved practically overnight at about the one month mark.

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      • Great, thanks a lot. And in regards to magnesium citrate for bowel function? Same thing? The body adapts and doesn’t require that amount of electrolytes? This concept is a confusing one for me. Does the body not require electrolytes after adaptation? Thanks again

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        • Meat has sufficient electrolytes, unless you are an endurance athlete. Most people don’t require assistance for bowel function. You may not go poop as often on ZC as you did on a mixed diet, but as long as you are not uncomfortable or experiencing pain, then you are not actually constipated. If you are constipated, more fat is usually the answer.

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          • Thanks again for all your responses and knowledge sharing. I am trying to figure out if the meat I’m consuming has enough fat in it. For example, if I eat 2-3 lbs. a day of ground beef (85% lean 15% fat), cooked in butter with maybe 3 eggs a day, is that sufficient for a lot of people. I tried to avoid lack of fat/constipation by eating beef trimmings for breakfast for about a week and got very sick, and consumed no meet for a week and am just now getting back in. Thanks for your time

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          • It depends on your height and activity level. If you need 3 lbs of beef, i would say you’re not eating enough fat with it. 80/20 or 75/25 will give you more fat as long as eat all the fat that has cooked out of it. Otherwise, add more butter. I am satisfied on 1.5 lbs as long as i get enough fat. Being a man, you might need more, but i doubt you need 3 lbs unless you are super active. However, the best thing to do it experiment with different ratios and see how you feel. If you are not used to eating a lot fat, especially cooked aninal fat, it might make you nauseated initially. Gradually increase it as your digestive system learns how to process it.

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  23. I can not figure out to get my electrolytes to work. I eat about 5g of sodium a day and take about 3000 mg pottasium. Is there anything else I’m missing? I have some anxiety attacks that I think are due too electrolyte imbalance. Have been at 0 carb for 1 week and 2 months on keto before that.

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  24. I love your website, with loads of information I can read and re-read. I am 10 Days into my 30 day ZC experience, and I am okay. I finally quit coffee today after ramping from 3-2-1 cups per day. So far, so good. I was keto for almost six years, now trying ZC to help resolve some issues that came and never left, like a dry/shedding/swollen tongue. I think I can feel marginal improvement in my tongue. As always, time will surely tell. Thanks again.

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  25. Hello. Thanks for all the help and info you are providing. I have to share my symptoms that are troublesome that I was hoping would be better. I’ve been only red meat and water for 3 weeks and have been experiencing constipation. I’ve immersed myself in this diet and know it is constipation. I eat 2 fatty ribeyes a day, cooked in butter, and maybe a hamburger patty and some eggs. I add salt to my food as well. 5’10”, 155 lb male. I’m eating enough fat and quantity in general. One of the reasons i switched to this diet was severe constipation. I have days where I have significant bloat and discomfort. Is this the gut microbiome adjusting? Electrolyte imbalance? Without supplemental electrolytes does the body adapt on its own? I hope this isn’t too personal and really appreciate your time, thank you.

    Like

    • Three weeks is still early on in the adaptation process.

      How much salt are you consuming per day on average?

      If you have discomfort and pain associated with bowel movements, or a lack there of, then that would indeed be constipation.

      However, if you are just going less frequently than you did on a mixed diet, without discomfort for pain, then that would not be constipation.

      If constipation has been a life long issue for you, then you may need to be patient and give you hody more time to work things out.

      However, it could be that the cause of your constipation is not entirely related to what you eat.

      For example, people with mast cell activation syndrome, like myself, have constipation no matter what we eat.

      Food intolerances in general can cause constipation as well.

      I would suggest that you try eating only steak… no butter, no eggs, no ground beef… for 30 days and see if that makes a difference. People have reported reacting negatively to all of those.

      I would also suggest cooking your meat rare.

      Here is an article on the potentially problematic aspect of ground meat:

      https://zerocarbzen.com/2015/05/04/dr-h-l-newbold-on-ground-meat/

      Like

      • Interesting thank you. I have noticed headaches after ground beef. Also the second week, after some diarrehea the 1st week, my bowels were every other day and were more satisfying. I was drinking bone broth every morning then. Would this indicate that it will probably just take me a few more weeks to adapt? Was I having easier bowel movements due to the hot liquid and electrolytes. After 3 weeks despite the constipation, all other terrible health issues I was having have already begun to improve. Thanks so much again

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      • Great, so would you recommend I start up again with the bone broth for a few weeks? Or is the fact that I’m constipated at this point in adaptation not out of the ordinary and due to my prior symptoms and gut issues I just need to give it a few more weeks?? Thanks so much for your time

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        • It would be interesting to find out if the bone broth would make a differnce. Believe it or not, it’s much more common for people to experience diarrhea rather than constipation during adaptation.

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          • Yes as I experienced diarrhea for the first week. In your experience, if there is legitimate constiption, which I seem to have, what is it generally indicative of since I get enough fat? A longer adaptation period needed due to weak intestinal function?

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          • I figured 2 rib eyes a day cooked in butter is more than enough. I’ll probably work in some ground beef again, which I’ve stayed away from the last 2 weeks or so. Do you think this is a concern or everyone’s adaptation is different based on context? It is just troublesome because this is definitely the way to healing for me but this aspect hasn’t normalized yet.

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          • I would need to see photos of your ribeyes to know. There is quite a difference depending on whether it is choice or prime grade and whether it is trimmed or untrimmed.

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  26. Hi!

    I’ve started like a month ago (had cheating moments) and then last weeks ate only beef. I thought that when I ate only chicken I had thoughts about sugary stuff. So I started to eat heavier. I had my adaptation couple of days of liquid bowel movement it wasn’t painful. But then after a week I’ve been on a someones birthday and eat all things I wasn’t supposed to. So next day I went back and adaptation phase came back. It’s now a forth day and it’s not that smooth as it was first time I have feelings in my gut that slowly wear me out. So my questions are:
    Is second adaptation ok or I should go check doctor?
    I’m thinking about supplements of potassium and sodium but I’m not sure some of them say that they have something that make water stay in your cells and I thought it will make adaptation break?

    Thanks in advance

    Like

    • If you go off the diet, you will suffer negative repetcussions and have to go through adaptation again.

      Some people take sodium and potassium. It can help reduce symptoms of adaptation. But it’s not necessary.

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      • Thanks gor quick answer. It’s just that’s it so much harder right now.

        About potassium and sodium they’re all in “restoring electrolytes after diarrhea” supplement box and there’s a lime acid and all other E152 and such, so am I doing a disservice to a process by drinking that or it’s ok?

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  27. Hi esmeelafleur! I hope you answer my question, i have a few question i doing this zero carb for a couple a month but why i still feels very weak and tired or low energy but i don’t craving any carbs it cause my athletic performance, what should i do? I’m sorry for my english i hope you understand. btw i’m 20 years old

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    • I do intermittent fasting in my eating window i spread my meal into 3 mealsa day.
      -first meal: 4 eggs cook with tallow (use salt and pepper
      -second meal: 500gr ribeye steak cook with tallow (use salt and pepper)
      -third meal: 4 eggs cook with tallow (use salt and pepper

      I train 7 times a week. No cheat day or refeed carbs and no supplement. My weight: 70kg/155 pound height: 188 cm

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  28. Hi,

    I’m 10 weeks ZC now.
    First 2 months I didn’t experience any problems nor any serious adaption symptoms.

    Previous week I started getting some diarreah and turned out to be sick.
    Heavy diarreah for 3 days , really tired, headaches and lots of muscle pains.

    It got better by the weekend but i have had small diarreah attacks every time I eat and since yesterday I feel really tired again and the diarreah is back full force.

    I eat beef, eggs, bacon and drink bone broth.
    Occasional coffee and dairy (eggs, cheese, milk since month 2).

    Any ideas?

    thanks!

    Like

    • I contracted a gastrointestinal virus in my small intestine on July 2 and it took a full three weeks for my immune system to eradicate it. You may have the same one. So, try to be patient and not worry too much about it.

      Like

  29. Howdy. Day 12 going on here of the ZC living. Was really enjoying up until a couple days ago… Adaptation seemed to be going pretty darn soon. Even more so then my keto adaptation that I did some months ago. Anyway, my main issue that flared up a couple days ago is this serious brain fog that I can’t seem to shake off. My brain feels tired and even forming basic sentences seems like a struggle. Will this pass? It’s getting to the point where it’s starting to give me serious anxiety. I don’t wanna damage my brain 😅 I have tried taking a pinch of salt here and there but it doesn’t seem to be helping much… My heart rate is also definitely up today. But I think that’s because I’ve been a little anxious. I mean I haven’t taken a serious amount of salt… Should I give it a go? What can there be done about this brain fog other than to tough it out?

    Thanks for the help!

    Like

  30. Pingback: Why Am I Only Eating Meat??? – Carolina Girl Carni

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