The Slow Carb Diet was introduced in Tim Ferriss' Four Hour Body book – his long-awaited guide to 'hacking' the human body, for improved results in weight loss, muscle building, better sleep, better sex and countless other subjects.
The diet was developed by self testing and refining other approaches, with a pragmatic and quantative twist – building on whatever worked and constantly tweaking and adjusting until the simplest and most effective principles could be readily distilled. Readers familiar with different diet plans will recognize elements of low carb / high protein plans, with some paleo, glycemic index / glycemic load theories, and other styles … But although much of the doorstop-sized tome relates to the slow carb diet in some way, the rules for Slow Carb 101 are actually very short and sweet:
Avoid ALL white carbohydrates , or carbs that can be white (even in the non-white form). So that means ALL bread, Cereals, rice, potatoes, pasta, and any fried food that is breaded. The only workable exception appears to be cauliflower, which is actually very low in carbs and high in fiber.
Eat the same few meals over and over Ferriss is a bachelor who does not like to cook! So this element has been a bit controversial and does not suit everyone. And since the publication of the book a wide canon of recipes and general slow carb literature is exploding across the blogosphere … You can of course make your meals as varied as you like provided you stick to the rules, but Ferriss' intention was to simplify ruthlessly down to first principles, making it easy to shop, plan a head, keep on track, and not fall off the wagon because you have no suitable food in or you have bought the wrong stuff.
The main thing with food is that you have to get food from each of the following groups, in every meal
– Protein – such as lean meat, eggs or fish (no dairy, except cottage cheese in small amounts)
– Legumes and beans – such as lentils, black beans, haricot beans, pinto beans, soybeans, kidney beans … any kind of beans are good!
– Vegetables – especially green vegetables … Ferris particularly recommended spinach, but anything green is good, cooked or raw (salad)
Do not drink calories – that includes milk or soy milk, juice, cans of soda, beer, and so on. Ferriss permits himself up to two glasses of dry red wine per day, but confirms that this is optional rather than a requirement! The main message is, it's way too easy to overlook the amount of calories and sugar you are knocking back in liquid form without a second thought …
Do not eat fruit This is because of fructose, the natural sugar in sweet fruits (and the ban does not apply to non-sweet fruits like tomatoes and avocados). Fructose contributes directly to fat storage via trigyceride formation, and they are generally high in glycemic load. This aspect of the plan many people find shocking at first, because fruit is generally recommended on most healthy eating plans. But as Ferriss remarks, most of the fruit we eat today would not have formed part of our ancestors diets in Northern Europe. Vegetables yes, but fruits are a more recently acquired habit, and as such are not what we are evolved to thrive on.
Have a day off once a week! – cheat day, binge day, dieters gone wild day … once a week eat fruit, bread, cake or whatever you like, as much as you like.
This has two purposes – spiking your calorie intake once a week resets your metabolic rate and reassures your body that you are not starving! It stops your weight loss from slowing down as a result, and your body simply becoming more efficient at managing on fewer calories. This is the main factor behind rebound weight loss, when people return to eating 'normally' after a restricted plan …
The second purpose is behavioral. Knowing that 'cheat day' is never more than six days away makes it easier to stick with yet another bowl of beans. Because slow carb is NOT about a quick fix – while weight loss can be dramatic at first or if you have a lot to lose, for optimal results you will have to stick to this plan for some time. When you have a blowout day to look forward to (and that you can adjust the date of to suit social occasions and so on), it is so much easier to still to a less varied and indulgent diet the rest of the time
That really is it, for the slow carb diet – everything else is just refinements. Do these 4 things, consistently over time, and you will lose fat and build a leaner body. You have nothing to lose but your excess pounds!