Cold hands and feet on carnivore diet? Here’s why!

Feeling cold on carnivore diet, especially cold hands and feet? It’s actually not that uncommon.

Some people, when they start the carnivore diet, will start to feel really good and even hot. So over time, starting to feel cold might seem odd. How did I feel hot initially and now cold? Could it be the carnivore diet?

Yes, let me show you.

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Two main things happen that make you feel cold. An increase in catecholamines (noradrenaline and adrenaline) and a decrease in thyroid hormones.

Elevated noradrenaline and adrenaline can make you feel cold on carnivore diet

Noradrenaline and adrenaline help to speed up the metabolic rate and they help with focus, mood, libido and energy. However, in excess, they cause unwanted vasoconstriction. And what happens when your extremities (hands and feet), don’t get enough blood? They start to feel really cold.

Common symptoms of excess catecholamines include hard and short flaccid, tight balls, premature ejaculation, waking up early mornings, anxiety, cold hands and feet, hypertension, insulin resistance, etc.

Catecholamines go up during a ketogenic diet to stimulate lipolysis (R).

Rats fed the ketogenic diet had two-fold higher extracellular noradrenaline levels than rats fed the normal diet (R).

Doing a carnivore diet (zero carb) for too long will eventually nip you in the butt due to excess catecholamines.

Can elevated catecholamines make you feel cold on carnivore diet? Yes, and this becomes more prominent the longer you do it. Not everyone experiences these symptoms, but if you do, you likely have elevated catecholamines.

cold on carnivore diet thyroid section

Low T3 can make you feel cold on carnivore diet

Hypothyroidism, low T3, commonly causes cold hands and feet and cold intolerance in general.

Thyroid hormones (TH) play an important role in the proper function of brown adipose tissue (BAT) and cold-induced thermogenesis (CIT).

Thyroid hormones are crucial for maintaining a normal body temperature (~37C or 98.6F).

Hypothyroid individuals tend to have a slower metabolism than euthyroid individuals. In warm temperatures, it’s about an 8% difference. In mild cold, it’s about a 15% difference. Cold-induced thermogenesis doubles when hypothyroidism has resolved (R).

In the graph below you can see the energy expenditure differences between hypo- (dark blocks) and euthyroid (white blocks) individuals.

cold on carnivore diet thyroid metabolic rate

This is why hypothyroid people love warm places (think Florida, Brazil, and other Tropical places).

cold on carnivore diet thyroid science

Ketogenic diets on T3 levels (scientific evidence)

It’s relatively well known that a ketogenic diet suppresses thyroid function. TSH stimulates the thyroid to produce thyroid hormones. T4 is the prohormone to T3, which is the active form. Deiodinase 1 and 2 converts T4 into T3. But T4 can also be converted to rT3. rT3 blocks the effects of T3. So a high rT3 to T3 ratio is non-ideal and can cause thyroid hormone resistance.

In most cases, a ketogenic diet will lower T3 level (impaired conversion from T4) and increases rT3.

Even a short 3-week duration is enough to lower T3 and decrease the T3 to T4 ratio (R).

If your doctor is only looking at TSH and T4, it might seem like you’re doing better. TSH might go down and T4 up. Looking great right!?

Not so fast, look at T3 and rT3 as well.

Doing a keto diet for 12 weeks has been shown to significantly reduce T3 and fT3 values by 13.4% and 10.6%, respectively. It also increased fT4 by 12.1% and slightly increased rT3 (R). All in all, it dramatically lowers the T3/T4 and T3/rT3 ratio putting you in a more hypothyroid state.

cold on carnivore diet thyroid
cold on carnivore diet anecdote

Anecdotal evidence of carnivore on T3

Example 1: 51-year-old male

He did a carnivore diet for 2 years after which his free T3 ended up on the low end. He said that he suspected a thyroid problem prior to testing because his morning temps are always around 96.3F (ideal is 98.6F).

Example 2: 41-year-old male

This guy did keto for at least 2 years after which, his free T3 was on the low side, despite his TSH and fT4 being “normal”.

Can low T3 make you feel cold on carnivore diet? Yes. Not everyone will get a drop in T3. I’ve worked with a couple of ex-carnivores who had T3 in the upper range of normal and no hypothyroid symptoms. But almost always they still had high SHBG and low free testosterone.

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How to fix this?

Eat more carbs and protein. Simple as that.

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How much? Start with 200g daily.

A study in 1976 found that large amounts of carbohydrates (200g, but not 50g) were required to restore a normal T3 level after a brief fast (R).

Having enough glucose around in the body (not just stable blood sugar or glycogen) assists in the conversion of T4 to T3.


In this study, 35% of calories from protein had higher T3 and lower rT3 to T3 ratio than those eating 10% despite eating the same amount of carbs (R).

Regarding amino acids, NADPH and glutathione are in large part responsible for increasing T4-5′-deiodinase activity, the enzyme that
converts T4 to T3 (R). Feeding animals both glucose and amino acids, but not fat, increased NADPH levels.

Summary – feeling cold on carnivore diet?

After starting the carnivore diet, you might start to feel better than ever. Mood is through the roof, energy and focus are on point, libido is back, testosterone is up, joints are feeling better, etc, etc.

However, over time, you might start to experience cold hands and feel, waking up earlier and earlier, experiencing high blood sugar, low libido, ED and even anxiety and so on.

This is because free testosterone, T3, DHEA and DHT are dropping and catecholamines are increasing.

It’s relatively easy to reverse. Just start eating 200g of carbs daily. If you’re scared of that much carbs, start with 100g for 1-2 weeks, then 150g for another 1-2 weeks and then 200g from there on.

Taking thyroid hormone T3 directly to try to boost your is unlikely to work. The body will quickly deactivate it into T2. Best add the carbs first and don’t reduce protein. But obviously, reduce fat while adding carbs, or else you’ll start piling on fat.

More carnivore-related content:

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