The slow-carb diet is another carbohydrate-restricted approach. While it’s not new, it has seen a resurgence in popularity. Here’s a look at what this diet entails, its potential pros and cons, and whether it’s worth a try.
What Is the Slow Carb Diet?
A slow-carb diet is a diet that involves eating primarily low-glycemic foods for most of the week. This diet was created by author and podcast host Tim Ferriss and is detailed in his 2010 book, The 4-Hour Body.
How fast can you lose weight with the slow carb diet? Ferriss says it is possible to lose 20 pounds of body fat in 30 days by following a slow-carb diet “by optimizing any of three factors: exercise, diet, or medication/supplement regimen.”
However, it’s well known that the results of all low-carb diets vary widely, depending on someone’s starting weight, exercise, general health, how strictly she or he follows the diet and other factors.
What are the Rules of the Slow-Carb Diet?
The slow carb diet is based on the following five basic rules, which Ferris also detailed on his blog:
- Avoid white carbohydrates. If you are on this diet to lose weight, then you need to avoid all processed carbohydrates (such as bread, pasta, cereals, baked goods, etc.) for six days a week. If you are on the diet to increase your muscle and strength, then you can eat these foods within 30 minutes of completing your resistance training.
- Eat the same meals over and over. Basically just recreate the same meal from the five approved food groups (animal protein, vegetables, legumes, fats and spices).
- Watch what you drink. Most beverages provide calories, but little nutrition. Ferris recommends sticking to water, unsweetened tea, coffee or other calorie-free beverages.
- No fruit. Even though fruit is technically part of a balanced diet, the slow carbohydrate diet suggests that fruit is not helpful when you are trying to lose weight. This idea is based on the fact that fructose, which is found in fruit, may delay the weight loss process by increasing blood lipid levels and decreasing fat burning capacity.
- Take one day off per week. The slow carb diet allows you to choose one day a week on which you can eat whatever you want. On this day, you don’t have to follow any other rules. Therefore, this day to eat whatever you want is designed to allow you to indulge in any food and drink you may crave without worrying about gaining all the weight back.
What can you eat on the slow-carb diet?
If a slow-carb diet sounds a bit restrictive, that’s because it is. Ferris says he mostly mixes and matches from the list of foods below. He chooses one food from each of the three groups, and the foods with stars represent the foods he thinks are particularly helpful for weight loss.
According to the diet rules, you can choose any kind of food and eat as much as you want, but keep your diet simple. Create three to four meals from this list, and then repeat, repeat, repeat.
Ferris also recommends eating your first meal within an hour of waking up, then spacing the remaining meals about four hours apart. He recommends eating a total of four meals a day. In short: four meals, each four hours apart.
*Egg whites with 1–2 whole eggs for ﬂavor (or, if organic, 2–5 whole eggs, including yolks)
*Chicken breast or thigh
*Beef (preferably grass-fed)
Fats in the form of nuts, oils and clarified butter or ghee are also allowed, as well as most spices and some flavorings.
What Foods should You Avoid?
The slow carb diet suggests only some foods that you can eat as often as you like. However, it also outlines some foods to avoid forever during and after the diet.
Here are some of the foods that this diet recommends you stop eating:
As stated in Article 4, fruit is not allowed in the slow carb diet.
According to the slow carb diet, fruit contains fructose, a monosaccharide that can increase blood lipid levels.
In addition, the diet suggests that fructose promotes the absorption of iron in humans and lowers levels of other minerals such as copper.
Therefore, the diet recommends that you do not eat any fruit or drink juice on your diet days. However, you can still consume them on cheat days.
Dairy products are not recommended in a slow carb diet.
This diet explains that even though dairy products have a low glycemic index, they can cause your insulin levels to rise, which does not seem to be conducive to weight loss.
The diet plan says that the insulin surge caused by dairy products is comparable to that of white bread. For this reason, the plan states that it’s best to avoid dairy products on weight loss days.
Nevertheless, cottage cheese is allowed on the slow-carb diet. The authors of the diet plan claim that it contains high levels of the protein casein and is lower in lactose than other dairy products.
3. Fried Foods
The slow carb diet does not allow any fried foods on diet days.
Fried foods are occasionally cooked with breadcrumbs, which is not allowed on the diet. In addition, fried foods are high in calories and often low in nutritional value.
The Pros of the Diet
Slow-carb diets do have some advantages, including an emphasis on vegetables, the inclusion of legumes for plant proteins such as beans and lentils, and the liberal use of antioxidant-rich herbs and spices.
In addition, a dietary pattern that reduces the intake of added sugars and refined grains is also associated with a lower risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other chronic diseases.
While weight loss may also be an advantage, it is only true if it is sustained. Another potential benefit is the development of a pattern of eating four times a day, which may help end erratic patterns of nibbling all day or waiting too long to eat and then overeating.
What are the Cons?
According to some experts, there are very few advantages to fad, restrictive diets like this one. You can definitely lose weight, but they warn that it may not be sustainable for everyone. As soon as you reintroduce the healthy food groups that were removed, such as whole grains and fruits, you’ll regain the weight and likely lose more weight than you initially lost.
Experts also warn that you may feel guilty about going off the program, and if you feel deprived by omitting simple carbohydrates, alcohol and more for six days of the week, you may end up going overboard on restrictive foods. In addition, the concept of free days or cheat days may create a confusing relationship with foods, reinforcing the notion that they are “good” foods and “bad” foods, some of which are vitamin-rich fruits and whole grains.
How to Know if Slow Carb is Right for You
By considering the potential downsides and benefits, you will be able to build a better idea of what to expect from this approach.
If slow carbs seem a lot like something that hasn’t worked for you in the past, there’s no reason to think that labeling it “slow carbs” will do you any good. Instead, you may want to try a more consistent and straightforward low-carb approach, such as a keto diet.
For those who haven’t tried a similar slow carb diet, the only way to know if it will work is to experiment with it for 2-3 months.
Throughout the process, make sure you’re monitoring your physical health and mental health. After each month, your body composition, mental health and blood work should all be moving in a positive direction.
Now that you have a good idea of what a slow carb diet is, deciding if it’s right for you versus other popular low carb diets will be easier. Whether you try slow carb, keto, paleo, or a more relaxed low-carb approach, each has the potential to improve health and promote fat loss. The most important question to consider is whether this diet will help you maintain better health and weight loss over time.
If sticking to your new diet wears down your health over time and requires endless willpower and restriction, then the diet and the results you get from it will be much harder to maintain.
Given our different food environments, lifestyles, and health conditions, it takes some trial and error to develop the ideal diet for you – whether it’s a slow-carb, keto variation, or something completely different.
But the most important thing is to consult your doctor before you make lifestyle or diet changes to make sure they are right for you.