If you believe the hype, the Slow Carb Diet will cause your body to burn fat, to fuel your sex drive and minimize decision fatigue by only allowing you to eat from a tiny list of approved foods.
Hear me loud and clear, Slow Carb Diet: I call BS.
The Slow Carb Diet is supposed to be a healthier alternative to other diets by limiting carbs and eating high-protein foods. But does it work? There is no research to support this diet.
The diet is no better than any other low-carb diet, making it not actually worth trying. In this blog post, I will debunk the Slow Carb Diet in favor of – you guessed it – Intuitive Eating. I’ll also cover what intuitive eating is and how you can use it to eat healthy without restricting yourself or counting calories!
Who created the Slow Carb Diet?
Timothy Ferriss, author of the book The 4-Hour Body, is the creator of the Slow Carb Diet. It has been around since 2010 and is a discussion of how to get the most results in lifestyle and fitness goals with minimal effort. The 4-Hour Body includes things like how to sleep 2 hours per day and feel fully rested as well as the Slow Carb Diet.
Before we dive into the Slow Carb Diet, it is important to note that Tim Ferriss discloses zero training in health and nutrition on his website bio. While I 100% advocate for personal experimentation to find the foods, drinks and eating patterns that make you feel and move your best, that does not equate to the ability to provide nutrition counseling to others: that is the realm of registered dietitians like me.
This is kind of like going to therapy and reading self-help books. Excellent for your own personal growth and healing, but not actually equipping you to provide therapy for others.
What is the Slow Carb Diet?
Ferriss claims that the Slow Carb Diet is effective at rapid weight loss, and suggests it's possible to lose body fat by optimizing any of these three factors: diet, exercise or your supplement regimen.
There is overlap with the Ketogenic diet and the Slow Carb Diet because both are lower in carbs. While we’re debunking fad diets, feel free to check out my post Does Keto Work? A Risk Benefit Analysis To Read Before Hiring A Keto Coach.
The Slow Carb Diet is based on five fundamental rules. In general, it involves consuming a limited list of foods for six consecutive days, with one free day once a week. This kind of “good food vs. bad food” mentality is just setting you up for a restrict and binge cycle - ugh! My blog post Why Binge Eating Happens: The 2 Types goes into further detail about what this cycle is and strategies to stop it.
Meanwhile, what are the five rules of the Slow Carb Diet? Let’s explore what they are (and also be prepared to debunk them, because that’s coming too).
The five rules of the Slow Carb Diet
While following the diet, you are limited to a list of approved foods for six consecutive days per week. Here are the five rules of the Slow Carb Diet.
Rule #1: Avoid “White” Carbohydrates
The Slow Carb Diet avoids all processed carbohydrates, including pasta, bread and cereals. The one exception to this is if you’re aiming to build strength, you can eat “white” carbs such as pasta if it is within 30 minutes of exercising.
Rule #2: Eat the Same Few Meals Over and Over Again
The creator of this diet claims that out of the infinite number of foods available, there are only a few for which people won’t gain weight. This is 100% bologna.
While I am on board with reducing stress around meal planning and decision fatigue, I do not advocate for limiting your usual foods to a regimented shortlist. We need diversity in our meals and snacks to optimize our nutrition and satisfaction. I have some tools to share about this at the end of the post - keep on reading!
Rule #3: Don’t Drink Calories
Ferriss advocates for drinking only water, coffee, plain tea and so on. No wiggle room for a latte or glass of juice. Or fruit at all (we’ll discuss this later). The diet plan allows for the occasional diet soda and glass of dry red wine.
While I agree that water is a healthy beverage, and coffee is a regular part of my routine, there is room for fun drinks, too. One example is my Easy & Quick Banana Protein Shake.
Rule #4: Don’t Eat Fruit
Oof. Poor fruit. What did it do to deserve this bad reputation of too much sugar and not a crucial part of a healthy eating plan?
Ferriss advocates cutting the fruit in order to promote weight loss. I disagree 1,000%. This is because I have science on my side - huzzah!
Not only does fruit taste great, it is jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals that nourish our body from the inside out; fruit is also hydrating and satisfying to eat. Fruit promotes mental health, clearer skin and...dun dun dun...and does not cause weight gain, as evidenced by study after study. Saying that fruit inhibits weight loss is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S (hit it, Gwen!)
Rule #5: Take One Day off per Week
The Slow Carb Diet allows for one “cheat day” each week. Not only do I hate the term “cheat day” – eating fun foods is not cheating – labeling foods as “good” and “bad” sets us up for unhealthy, complicated relationships with food.
One of the misconceptions about Intuitive Eating is that we are no longer advocating for health; “eat all of the chips and doughnuts you want.” But we also know – intuitively (ha!) – that if we only ate those foods, we wouldn’t actually feel all that great.
Instead, Intuitive Eating is a journey where you learn to eat what feels good so that you can nourish your physical body and your mental health. Vilifying doughnuts and other enjoyable fun foods takes a toll on your mental health. If you want a doughnut - eat one! And if you need a new recipe to try, check out this recipe for Easy Glazed Blueberry Cake Donuts - they’re delish.
As an Intuitive Eater, I advocate for giving yourself full permission to eat what feels good, 100% of the time, not just one day per week. And I know it’s hard to believe but… it’s probs NOT going to be all of the food that’s deemed “unhealthy”! Our bodies are smart and know that wouldn’t feel good.
What can you eat on a slow carb diet?
The Slow Carb Diet allows five food groups, except for your cheat day once a week. The diet allows for a very limited number of foods from these groups: protein, legumes, vegetables, fats and herbs.
The proteins allowed on the Slow Carb Diet are:
- Whey protein powder
- Egg whites and a few egg yolks
The legumes allowed on the Slow Carb Diet are:
- Black beans
- Pinto beans
The vegetables allowed on the Slow Carb Diet are:
- Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale
- Fermented vegetables including sauerkraut and kimchi
The fats allowed on the Slow Carb Diet are:
- Olive oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Macadamia oil
The seasonings allowed on the Slow Carb Diet are:
- Garlic salt
- White truffle salt (does this seem random to anyone else besides me?)
...and that’s it y’all. That’s the whole dang list of what you’re allowed to eat, six days a week, for this restrictive diet plan. The Slow Carb Diet excludes dairy, fruit, fried foods and most anything that can be remotely fun...except for on your cheat day.
But don’t worry...they have a few supplements to recommend, too.
What about those supplements?
I mentioned earlier that the diet plan recommends a few supplements. A quick note about supplements: they can be a tool in the wellness toolbox, but I don’t just recommend a blanket approach for all of my clients. We talk through what your usual foods are and then I might choose to fill in some gaps with high-quality, 3rd-party approved supplements.
The Slow Carb Diet plan recommends that participants take the following four supplements. The goals here? All about the weight loss and metabolism...even if the science isn’t there to support them. They recommend these four:
- Alpha-lipoic acid
- Green tea flavanols (decaffeinated)
- Garlic extract
They also recommend boosting electrolytes with the following three, with specific advice on when to take them and how much:
Supplements are a very individualized thing and not one-size-fits all. If you’re concerned about needing to take a supplement I’d recommend talking to a Registered Dietitian for more legit and individualized advice. I’d hate for you to not only risk your health by taking something potentially harmful but also waste your $$$.
What is a list of slow carbs?
The allowed foods on the Slow Carb Diet are quite limited. The slow carbs are mainly from the legumes. The vegetables provide some carbs as do the nuts. Other than that, no other carbs are allowed! Boo!
What is the 4 Hour Body diet plan?
The Slow Carb Diet is from Tim Ferriss’ book The 4-hour Body Plan. You may have heard of this diet as one or the other name, but they’re both referring to the same diet and lifestyle plan.
FYI - Ferriss is also the author of a book called the 4-Hour Workweek, which you may have heard of as well as a few other books in the 4-Hour theme.
Discussion of the Slow Carb Diet
I’ll cut to the chase first: I do not advocate for any restrictive diet. They simply don’t work and they cause harm in the meantime. This includes the Slow Carb Diet as discussed here, but really any diet is not going to be promoted in my community. I am committed to what works: developing a healthy relationship with food, your body and eating.
Even so, I don’t disagree with everything about the Slow Carb Diet. There are a few benefits to consider incorporating, without actually following the diet.
Benefits of the Slow Carb Diet
The Slow Carb Diet does have some helpful features, but we can incorporate them into our Intuitive Eating lifestyle without following a restrictive diet and opening the door to those risks.
One benefit is a focus on beans. Most of us do not have enough fiber in our daily eating patterns and beans are a sure-fire way to boost that number and enjoy those health benefits...not to mention some musical after effects.
I also like that this plan advocates for a protein-rich breakfast. Most of us feel better when we have meals with multiple food groups. A lot of the common breakfast choices are carb-heavy (not a bad thing), but if we only eat carbs, we tend to get hungrier more quickly. Many of us feel best when we combine carbs with fats and protein at most meals and snacks, including breakfast. Instead of just cereal, pair it with a hard-boiled egg or two.
Finally, I know that for many people, cooking and meal planning can feel really overwhelming. It is so common for folks to say to me, “just tell me what to eat” and “can you make me a meal plan” once they find out that I am a registered dietitian.
But, that doesn’t mean that we need to follow a very restrictive diet such as The Slow Carb Diet in order to reduce decision fatigue. Instead, I advocate for Meal Planning in a way that matches your lifestyle and goals. More on that here: How to Meal Plan for Intuitive Eating.
What are the downsides of the Slow Carb Diet? Plenty.
Downsides of the Slow Carb Diet
This diet is extremely restrictive and eliminates – completely unnecessarily – healthy foods, including fruits. It is not backed up by any scientific research and contradicts known scientific research. It would be a challenge for most people to follow long term.
Plus, labeling foods as “good” and “bad” complicates things, makes us actually want the “bad” foods MORE, harming our relationship with our body and eating. Food is intended to be nourishing, but that isn’t its only function: we need food to express our cultural identity, to offer comfort, to honor cravings and more. Food rules sabotage our ability to build trust with our body and our hunger.
Rather than listening to restrictive diet culture – “all fruits are bad” or “all fried foods should be banned” – I recommend enjoying those foods when you want them. Not with a healthy substitute for the sake of being healthier, such as oven-baked fries when you really want the real deal. (Unless you like oven fries better – the point is to enjoy what you actually enjoy and in a way that feels good).
Key takeaways: Slow Carb Diet
A diet is a diet and I’m not a fan. I do not advocate for any diet, but I do believe that by evaluating and understanding different diets we will be able to see those aspects that can be applied in our lives to help us like what we eat...without buying into the need to restrict our eating.
I hope that this blog post allows you to make your own empowered choices about food!
I truly believe in the idea of experimenting with things and "trying them on for size." This is how you develop your own unique style of eating that allows you to feel good, mentally and physically! I talk about this a lot in The SociEATy and seeing others begin to develop that style of eating is just so exciting! If you’re ready to move forward with Intuitive Eating and true food freedom, check it out!
Need more guidance? Be sure to check out my YouTube channel for more tips to help in your intuitive eating journey!
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