But here’s the thing: there's no one eating regime that suits all appetites. Some people thrive on eliminating certain food groups, others (*cough cough*) would keel over if they couldn't have their peanut butter on toast every Sunday a.m.
That’s exactly why the Slow-Carb Diet exists. Founded by Timothy Ferriss (an entrepreneur, author, and podcast host), it involves eating five food main groups (animal protein, vegetables, legumes, fats, and spices) and chowing down on four meals a day, six days a week. And the best part? You get one cheat day, where you can eat whatever you want guilt-free.
“Basically, the idea is to follow a very low-carb regimen on the premise that it will increase your body’s ability to break down fat for energy and reduce your overall fat stores,” Brigitte Zeitlin, a registered dietitian and owner of BZ Nutrition tells Women’s Health.
So, what are the fundamental rules of the Slow-Carb Diet?
- Avoid white carbohydrates.
If you are on this diet to lose weight, then you need to avoid all processed carbohydrates (like breads, pastas, cereals, baked goods, etc.) for six days per week. If you are on the diet to increase your muscle and strength, then you’re allowed to eat these foods within 30 minutes of finishing a resistance-training workout.
- Eat the same meals over and over.
Basically just re-make the same meals from the approved five groups of foods (animal protein, vegetables, legumes, fats, and spices).
- Watch what you drink.
This diet boasts the importance of drinking water and other unsweetened tea or coffee. Consuming alcohol, juice, smoothies, sodas, or any calorie-filled beverage is discouraged.
- No fruit.
This diet bans all fruit intake on the premise that they contain too much sugar for weight loss. (Btw, many experts still recommend fruit on a weight-loss plan!)
- Take one day off per week.
One day a week of your choosing, you can cheat and eat and drink anything you wish. (More on that later.)
What foods are allowed on the diet?
- Animal proteins: Eggs, cottage cheese, chicken, beef, pork, and fish
- Legumes: Lentils, black beans, pinto beans, red beans, and soybeans
- Certain vegetables: Spinach, asparagus, peas, green beans, sauerkraut, kimchi, and cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts)
- Fats: Butter, olive oil, grapeseed oil, nuts, ghee, and dairy-free creamer
- Spices: Salt, pepper, herbs, and seasonings
Worth noting: several food groups are off-limits, including fruit, dairy (except for cottage cheese), fried foods, white-flour products and alcohol.
So, far so straight-forward... But what *actually* is a slow carbohydrate?
"I believe the name of this concept comes from the approved-food lists and the fact that the carbs that are allowed are all complex carbohydrates, meaning they have fibre in them and therefore take your body longer to break down and process," says Zeitlin. "In other words, they move through your system at a slower rate than the simple, or white, carbs that are off-limits on this diet."
For those not in the know, white-flour items or simple carbs move through the body faster than complex ones (think legumes or dark leafy greens.) This makes them far less filling and satiating, plus they spike your blood sugar.
What would a day of eating on this diet look like?
The following are a few examples of meals you could enjoy that would fit the Slow-Carb Diet bill, provided by Zeitlin in his book The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman:
- Scrambled egg whites (or with one yolk)
- Spinach omelette
- Cottage cheese with sliced almonds
- Grilled chicken with asparagus
- Lentil bean salad
- Spinach salad with tuna fish
- Salmon with roasted broccoli
- Stir-fry with all the allowed vegetables and soybeans
- Grilled steak with cauliflower
What’s the deal with the cheat day?
The book describes this as a “free day” you can use to eat and drink whatever you want.
"[Ferriss] believes this eases the mental stress that often comes along with dieting and that it may help to boost your metabolic rate, which can sometimes slow down with calorically restrictive diets like this one," says Zeitlin.
Cool. Should I try it?
Yes and no... depending on your needs. The diet cuts out processed foods, sugary beverages, and other not-so-nutritious foods, which can definitely help you see weight-loss results. Plus, allocating a whole day where you can munch on whatever you want can help ward off any feelings of deprivation when dieting.
On the other hand, the Slow-Carb diet is still relatively restrictive which can lead to bingeing when you eventually go back to your regular food fare.
"Diets that encourage cutting food groups out completely don’t support your health-goals long-term and can leave you yo-yo-ing up and down with your weight," Zeitlin explains.
“As soon as you reintroduce the healthy food groups that have been removed, like whole grains and fruits, you will regain weight and likely gain back more weight than you originally lost. Additionally, the concept of a free or cheat day can create a messed-up relationship with food, reinforcing the notion that they are 'good' foods and 'bad' foods, when some of those 'bad' foods are vitamin-rich fruits and whole grains."
Instead, Zeitlin recommends "concentrating on foods you should be adding in versus taking out.” Meaning, more fresh veggies, lean proteins, whole grains instead of white flour and fruits. "Keep your grains and fruits to two servings each per day and don’t forget to add in more water, along with sleep and physical activity," she says