What Is The Slow Carb Diet?
The Slow Carb Diet is a diet made famous by entrepreneur and self-titled “human guinea pig” Tim Ferris.
Tim Ferris discusses the Slow Carb Diet in detail within his book, The 4-Hour Body. We suggest starting with the book before delving into the diet, but it’s certainly not mandatory!
The goal of the Slow Carb Diet? To burn fat by avoiding foods that promote fat storage and instead consuming healthy, filling proteins and hearty vegetables.
In a trial run by Lift with over 3,500 individuals taking part in the Slow Carb Diet over the course of 4 weeks, 84% of participants lost 8.6 lbs, while 14% of participants lost more than 14 lbs!
So yes, it works!
Losing Weight Without Exercise: The Dream Come True
One of the major premises of the Slow Carb Diet / 4 Hour Body is that you can lose major amounts of fat without any exercise at all.
Now of course there are plenty of reasons not related to weight loss that may inspire you to exercise. Exercise is really good for you. It’s good for your mental and physical health. But it’s not essential for weight loss.
Studies have shown that fat loss is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise, so the logic goes, why not put the majority of your energy towards the tactics and changes that will be most effective?
This is why Tim Ferris’ diet is nutrition based. Exercise is certainly a great added component, but you’ll still see tremendous results without lifting a single dumbbell.
What Makes Slow Carb Diet Different?
The Slow Carb Diet has a lot in common with the paleo or Whole30 diet, but you’ll notice a few exceptions.
For one, on the Slow Carb Diet, no sugar is allowed. Not just added sugar, but natural sugars too – fruit is out, which is a pretty rare exclusion for most healthy eating diets.
The Slow Carb Diet also allows you one cheat day each week, in which you can dig in to your heart’s desire – all is allowed on your cheat day!
For many folks, the cheat day allowance turns the Slow Carb Diet into an eating regiment that can actually survive past a month or so. Having a built-in exception day allows this diet to adjust to your schedule and let’s you indulge on appropriate occasions.
A diet that doesn’t make room for life’s holidays and special events simply isn’t sustainable for most.
Food Allowed On Slow Carb Diet
Let’s start by going over all the awesome food you can eat on the Slow Carb Diet (SCD)!
Lean meats and poultry are a major source of protein on the Slow Carb Diet.
Examples Include: Chicken Breast / Chicken Thighs / Beef / Pork
Seafood and fish are allowed on the Slow Carb Diet.
Examples Include: Halibut / Salmon / Tilapia /
Beans and legumes are another huge protein source on the Slow Carb Diet.
Examples Include: Lentils / Pinto Beans / Red Beans / Black Beans / Snap Peas /
Vegetables should be what you’re eating most of – eat much as you want!
Examples Include: Broccoli / Green Beans / Peas / Asparagus / Spinach / Cauliflower /
Other Stuff That’s OK on SCD
- Nuts. Nuts are allowed in moderation – however, they’re easy to overdue to be careful and limit your quantities.
- Hummus. Hummus is another food that’s allowed, but you’ll want to be careful about servings because it can be easy to go overboard.
- Wine. Yup, you read that right – you can have up to 2 glasses of wine on the Slow Carb Diet. Are you hearing angels singing from the heavens?
- Coffee. Coffee and tea are allowed – but no adding cream or milk!
Food Not Allowed On Slow Carb Diet
No white carbs are allowed on SCD.
Included on the banned list is: bread (of any kind) / potatoes / corn / quinoa / pasta / cereal / pasta / tortillas / grains / rice (even brown rice).
No sugar or sweets of any kind are allowed on the Slow Carb Diet!
Examples Include: Halibut / Salmon / Tilapia /
All dairy is out on SCD.
That means no: Milk / Cream / Cheese / Yogurt. However, almond milk is OK!
Fruit is not allowed on the Slow Carb Diet.
Banned foods include: Apples / Oranges / Grapes / Pears / Strawberries / etc.
Tomatoes and avocados are allowed – in moderation!
Let’s Talk About Fruit
Many folks are absolutely horrified at the prospect of not eating fruit. It’s natural, it’s healthy, what’s the problem?
Ferris’ argument is that our ancestors certainly didn’t eat fruit 7 days a week, year around, and we shouldn’t either.
The truth is that even all-natural fruit is loaded with sugar – fructose to be precise.
Fructose isn’t good for you. In fact, in Tim Ferris’ own experiments, he found that increased fructose consumption (while maintaining an otherwise identical Slow Carb Diet) led to startlingly high jumps in cholesterol and aluminum.
The carb content in fruit is quite high, and it’s easy to digest. This ultimately results in higher blood sugar and makes it more difficult to tell your body to shed fat.
While I too find it difficult to imagine a long-term life without fruit, cutting it out for while will likely do anyone a lot of good – think of all the good veggies you’ll learn to eat in fruit’s place.
Don’t forget, you can still eat all the fruit that you want on your cheat day (more details below).
BTW – don’t forget that avocados and tomatoes are allowed in moderation!
Major Rules of the Slow Carb Diet
Rule #1: Eat The Same Meals Over And Over Again
The Slow Carb Diet works around the concept that simplicity is best.
If you’ve ever tried to get involved with a complicated eating regiment before, you know how overwhelming it can be – the shopping lists, the meal planning, the prep work and cooking!
Instead, the focus for this diet is keeping your meals as simple as possible to increase your chances of success. Just stick to three or four meals and repeat them.
For example, when it comes to breakfast, just stick to eggs. Eggs + Salsa, Eggs + Spinach, to mix it up. Simplicity is the secret to success!
Just remember: this diet is, ﬁrst and foremost, intended to be effective, not fun.
– Tim Ferris 4 Hour Body
Rule #2: Don’t Drink Your Calories!
If you’ve read anything about nutrition and weight loss, you know that the quickest easiest thing you can do to lose weight fast is cut sugary soft drinks from your diet.
For Starbuck’s addicts, cutting out the late-afternoon lattes can also be a pound-shedding move.
It’s very easy for folks to drink down calories like they’re nothing. For one, we don’t realize how calorie-dense liquid drinks can be.
Our bodies also process liquids differently than hard, whole foods.
In fact, the same ingredients blended together in a smoothie won’t provide the same sense of fullness that eating those same whole foods would provide.
When it comes to the Slow Carb Diet, you can drink water (we suggest LOTS of it), unsweetened tea, coffee, and other no-calorie or low-calorie drinks as much as you’d like.
Milk, soft drinks, and fruit juices are out – although you are allowed one diet soda per day (which may prove a lifesaver for those Diet Coke addicts).
As mentioned above, one or two glasses of red wine are allowed (hurrah)! However, beer and white wine are out.
Rule #3: Start Your Day With Protein ASAP
Tim Ferris suggests aiming to consume 30g of protein within 30 minutes of waking up in the morning. In fact, this was shown to boost success rate by 11%!
Eggs are the easiest way to do this, so don’t skimp on those eggies!
Other Tips for the Slow Carb Diet
- Eat Lots of Protein. You should be getting at least 20g of protein at each meal and 30g for breakfast.
- Don’t Stress About Calories. Eat until you are full. If you’re eating the right foods, you should be fine, so don’t stress about counting calories.
- Eat Slowly. Take your time eating to give your body enough time to alert you when its full. 30 minutes is good!
Eating Out on Slow Carb Diet
- Mexican Food. Lots of Mexican to-go spots like Chipotle can be easily made compliant with the Slow Carb Diet if you lose the rice, skip corn salsa, cheese, and sour cream, and instead load up on beans, meat, veggies, and guac.
- Salads. Many salads should be compliant with the Slow Carb Diet – just hold the cheese and croutons.
- Thai. Keep a look out for non-dairy thai curry and hold the rice.
- Indian. Go for lentil dishes, bean dishes, or dairy-free veggie fishes.
- Burgers. Grab a burger and hold the bun. It’s becoming more common for some burger spots to even offer a bed of lettuce as a bun substitute.
- Protein + Veggies. Most restaurants should have at least a few basic and veggie dishes.
We suggest keeping a list of a few Slow Carb Diet friendly restaurants and take out joints.
Research a few before you start and you’ll have a couple great built-in security nets for those nights when you’re starving but don’t have time to cook.
About Your Cheat Day: Go All In!
The crowning jewel of the Slow Carb Diet – the cheat day!
So how does the cheat day – or as Tim Ferris calls it, the Dieters Gone Wild (DGW) day – work?
During your cheat day, every rule goes out the window. Eat whatever you want, as much as you want. This applies to the entire day!
It may seems nuts, but there are a few major benefits of the cheat day strategy.
Reason #1: It makes it much easier to say no to cravings when you can say to yourself, “I can’t eat that cupcake today, but I will devour it on Saturday.”
Reason #2: You often end up indulging so much that even glancing at that box of double chocolate brownies will make your stomach churn.
Reason #3: Spiking your caloric intake once a week can actually help with your fat loss goals by making sure that your metabolic rate doesn’t decrease its rate of caloric restriction. I don’t quite get it – we’ll have to take science’s word I suppose (no complaints here).
If You Have To Ask, Don’t Eat It!
Tim Ferris has an interesting rule for the Slow Carb Diet that is simple, but quite helpful for many.
If you have to ask if it’s allowed, don’t eat it.
Many other diets, such as the Whole30 diet, have tons of questions listed in online forums, as eaters try to figure out rice vinegar is allowed vs. balsamic vinegar, or argue the similarities and differences between sweet potatoes and white potatoes.
While these questions are interesting and important when discussing the science behind gastrointestinal distress, it can become confusing and overwhelming fast.
The easiest solution of course is to just eat what you know, with 100% confidence, is allowed, rather than pull apart hairs and stress over specifics.
Tim Ferris’s diet is not as concerned with gastrointestinal issues as it is with losing weight – fat specifically. Just stick to what you know it allowed and you’ll be good to go.
Slow Carb Diet Breakfast Ideas
Not sure where to start for breakfast meals? Try some of these tried-and-true classics, all equalling about 30g of protein to start your day right!
- 3 eggs with 3 slices of Canadian bacon
- 2 eggs with 1/2 cup black beans, salsa, and guac
- 3 servings of spinach or broccoli frittata
Slow Carb Diet Lunch & Dinner Ideas
When it comes to lunch and dinner, your main strategy should be simply pairing a protein with a heaping pile of veggies.
- Lentil stew
- Ground beef + bean chili
- Meat and veggie curry
- Roasted pork loin with spinach
- Roasted chicken with Brussels sprouts
- Shredded meat + cauliflower rice (burrito bowl style)
We recommend making a big batch so you can eat leftovers the following days. Alternatively, cook large batches and freeze leftovers for the following week or later.
Resources For A Victorious Slow Carb Diet
- Tim Ferris’s Three-Minute Slow-Carb Breakfast. This quick video demonstrates how Tim makes his high-protein slow carb breakfast in just three minutes.
- Paleo Leap. When you need recipe ideas, Paleo Leap is an awesome resource. The paleo diet shares a lot in common with the Slow Carb Diet. Just be careful because paleo doesn’t include beans (which are a major focus on SCD).
- Real Plans. A great meal-planning tool that makes it easy to create recipe plans for the week and print out shopping lists.
- Tim Ferris’s Slow-Carb Diet Cookbook [Free Ebook]. A small but handy online collection of easy recipes for the Slow Carb Diet.
Have you done the Slow Carb Diet? What did you think of it? Did you find the diet successful? Share your experience in the comments!