What is adaptation you may wonder? When you look at a diet change from a primary carbohydrate-based to a protein and fat-based you experience some physical changes which help you to start the digestion of these foods. While many may think that the gut bacteria are the same this is bot the fact, and many times your microbiome has to adjust.
How Long to Adapt to a Carnivore Diet? For almost all diet changes that go to low or no-carb, the transition time will be around a week to two weeks. This time can be shortened by managing your electrolyte losses and replenishing them frequently. Then upwards of a month for energy balance to hit an equilibrium where you don't feel lethargic or hazy.
Now let's talk more about adaptation to the diet change and what happens during your adaptation along with the "carnivore flu". There are easy ways to navigate through the adaptation phase and how you can successfully enjoy the change in diet and get amazing results!
For most of your adult life, you have been eating a largely carbohydrate-based diet focused around eating a "balanced" meal of mostly agricultural products and manufactured "boxed" foods. When you make your decision to move to a carnivore diet you are changing this to be a protein and fat-based diet.
This change will start a dramatic shift inside you as your body starts to make the machinery that would use fat for fuel up and operational and at full ability. Since you have only ever used this over the 8 hours of rest it isn't able to keep up immediately.
What almost everyone uses to make energy is the glucose-based system that is there to provide you energy from the sugars and carbohydrates you consume. This is then used to power you while you do high energy workouts, the glycogen that is created can be stored in your muscles and in your liver in limited capacities (around 2600 cal +/-).
Meanwhile, since this has been our primary fuel source we have pushed our fat-based functionality to the hated stepchild, mostly around the hatred that was incorrectly given to fat and saturated fat. Our food pyramid was born listing the need to eat very sparingly of fats and that we should focus and get the majority of our caloric intake from carbohydrates like wheat that the US created.
Your start of the carnivore diet will kick this energy system into overdrive while it is looking for sugars and carbohydrates to burn. This is exactly what this needs to get moving and to really get the furnace of fat-burning revving. This engine will drive your production of energy in the coming month and must get dusted off, this will lead to energy swings which you may have never experienced before, don't bend and don't eat carbohydrates and you will move past this phase.
Due to the changing of your body, you will experience some peaks and valleys in your overall output. One minute you may feel like it is time to run a marathon while in the next minute you may feel like tonight is the night for couch and tv while not moving a muscle.
This will get better as the first week progresses if you manage your electrolytes well and you allow yourself to go with the ebb and flow of your energy. Just remember that this is normal and a part of your process to move to a carnivore diet, don't give yourself additional stress that is only going to hamper you.
A new and interesting thing will happen which will make you a slave to meal times no more, yes, you can now eat more aligned to when you are hungry instead of because a clock says so. You may also go long periods where you are very hungry and you should eat, the balance will be struck automatically for you in almost all cases. Unfortunately, those carb burners among us will feel the need to say:
But I'll be starving if I don't eat every 2-3 hoursCarb Burners Everywhere
What you will find out as you change your eating is that it takes much longer to become hungry when you aren't eating carbs, like hours and hours longer. This is due to the fact that once we have our fat metabolism running we have access to the vast stores of bodyfat most of us have stored for just such the occasion.
While this doesn't always equate out to weight loss, it will help stabilize your energy, meaning no more tired 2pm at work feelings. This will enable you to get a lot more done each day so while the day is still only 24 hours you will become better at using all of the minutes available to you.
You will want to start working on your other habits also as many of us have secondary addictions to soda, energy drinks, or coffee. You will want to start working to make these changes to water to give your body the fluids it needs to process protein well, this doesn't mean drink a gallon of water a day though as that can cause you additional issues due to losses in electrolytes which aren't being replenished.
Additionally, you may find you are being pulled towards artificial sweeteners if you are avoiding normal sugars. If this is what you need to make it through your first few weeks then use them to help, don't allow them to become a crutch to your progress and learn to cut them out.
This is very similar to what is called "keto flu" from people moving into ketosis. This is due to the fact that this is actually what is occurring since a carnivore diet is essentially a zero carb diet. This means you will start to get an initial weightloss from shedding water weight if you came from a carbohydrate-based diet like the Standard American Diet.
When this occurs you will have some issues with flu-like symptoms that occur due to the sudden loss of excess water weight. This water weight is actually a lot of your body's storage of the core electrolytes and some minerals, like sodium, potassium, and magnesium.
This is a big reason why you don't or shouldn't overconsume water as overhydration will make this much worse, or more pronounced and feel worse.
Once you start changing your diet over you will face the loss of electrolytes which is a cause of cramps, brain fog, and other flu-like symptoms. These imbalances are a way of life for many but not all, the people like yourself reading this will typically experience these issues less because you are researching before and can make proper preparations.
Carbohydrates cause your cells to retain water, so as we stated above when you remove them fro your diet those same cells will release the water as they don't require it any longer. This side effect means you start to have flushing of your electrolytes from the body.
This process of a change in the diet takes time for the kidneys to start to withhold or begin preserving and recycling these minerals from your diet in a more useful way. This transition can take a few weeks or longer.
One of the long-held traditional methods to manage the keto flu was to add electrolytes to each time you eat and drink, this way you are keeping those levels higher. This way you don't lose more electrolytes and you are maybe balancing the intake to the losses incurred. During this time you should strive to add in at least sodium, into each meal, salting liberally to taste.
There are definitely some adjustments you have to make when you start your adaptation to a carnivore diet. As time has passed, knowledge has grown, this knowledge helped us maneuver through the electrolyte issues which has made this a very small issue to well-read carnivores.
I would love to hear from you if you are about to make the change or if you already have. I love hearing personal stories about the benefits and any possible issues you may have encountered as they may help someone else out!
If you read this far you are amazing! I would love to hear from you in the comments below if I helped you gain knowledge and useful information, additionally I would like to know if I got anything incorrect that you believe should be researched more and updated. As always to get the word out please join our new Carnivore Rx group on Facebook and share this out on social media!