Anant Jain

The Slow Carb Diet


I came across the Slow Carb Diet in Tim Ferris’ Four-Hour Body in early 2015. I wrote out the following notes but didn’t get started on the diet until March 2016. If you’re trying to lose fat, I highly recommend you try it out for just 2 weeks — the initial fat loss would motivate you to stick to it. If there ever was a panacea to excessive body-fat, it’s probably this diet coupled with an increased level of physical activity — I lost 80 pounds over the following year by combining this with running and lifting, and still partially follow it.

Photo by Carly Jayne on Unsplash

Part I: The Five Rules

Rule #1: Avoid white carbs.

All bread, rice (including brown rice), cereal, potatoes, pasta, tortillas, and fried food with breading.

Rule #2: Eat the same few meals over and over again.

Have your first meal within an hour of waking up (within 30 mins is better). Have four meals, approximately four hours apart. Mix and match from the following list, constructing each meal with one pick from each of the three groups. Starred choices produce the fastest fat-loss:

Proteins: *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), *Fish, Pork.

Legumes: *Lentils, *Black beans, Pinto beans, Red beans, Soybeans.

Vegetables: *Spinach, *Mixed vegetables (including broccoli, cauliflower, or any other cruciferous vegetables), *Sauerkraut, kimchee, Asparagus, Peas, Broccoli, Green beans.

Rule #3: Don’t drink calories.

Drink massive quantities of water and as much unsweetened tea, coffee (with no more than two tablespoons of cream; I suggest using cinnamon instead), or other no-calorie beverages as you like. Do not drink milk (including soy milk), regular soft drinks, or fruit juice. Limit diet soft drinks to no more than 16 ounces per day if you can, as the aspartame can stimulate weight gain. The only form of alcohol that’s allowed is up to two glasses of dry red wine per night, no more.

Rule #4: Don’t eat fruit

Tomatoes and avocados are the only exceptions. And the latter should be consumed in moderation. I know a lot of people would reflexively dismiss this rule — how can something as healthy as fruits be bad for you? Yes, fruits are great for a fit person not trying to lose weight. But they also come loaded with fructose, which is another form of sugar or white carbs and for the purpose of losing weight, you’ll have to restrict your fruit consumption only to your cheat day.

Rule #5: Take one day off per week.

Saturday usually works the best! If you want to understand why this rule is important, and want to read more about carb cycling, I recommend this post by the excellent folks at HVMN:

Part II: How to go about it

  • Keep a notepad and note all the urges over the week. Defer them to Saturday.
  • Focus on getting good amounts of Potassium, Magnesium, and Calcium.
  • Need something to flavor your coffee? If you must, use cream (not milk), but no more than two tablespoons. Also, it’s not that hard to start liking black coffee. First remove the sugar (go for cappuccinos), then remove the milk.
  • Expect massive weight fluctuations after the cheat day. It’ll disappear in 48 hours.
  • Spices and herbs, but not cream based sauces. Montreal steak rub, thick salsa without sugar added, garlic salt, white truffle sea salt (combine this with tarragon on eggs), Thai chili paste (sriracha). For salad dressing, a few drops of a nonsugar sweetener like stevia mixed with vinegar and mustard will give you a dressing to satisfy any sweet tooth. My preference, and my go-to restaurant salad dressing is balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
  • On diet days, stick to dry wines, “dry” is defined as less than 1.4% residual sugar. The driest red varietals are Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.
  • If you gain too much or plateau and get nervous, eat a high-protein meal for breakfast on your off day and then binge from lunch to dinner.
  • No matter what, throw out all bad food before the next morning. If there is bad food in your house, you will eventually eat it before your “off” day.
  • If you’re airport-hopping and cannot find a Mexican restaurant or grill, grab a bag of raw almonds or walnuts at a kiosk and commit to consuming no starch for the remainder of your travel time. There are enough calories in that single bag to give you two to three small “meals” and get you through a full 12 hours. Most airports also have chicken salads (omit dressings besides olive oil or vinegar) that you can combine with the nuts. If it comes down to it, choose mild hunger instead of deviation. If you always eat on the clock, perhaps it’s been a few years since you’ve felt real hunger.

Common Mistakes

  • Not eating within one hour of waking, preferably within 30 minutes
  • Not eating enough protein: For breakfast, First choice: down two to three whole eggs. Second choice: if that’s impossible to stomach, add other protein-rich whole foods, such as turkey bacon, organic bacon, organic sausages, or cottage cheese. Third choice: have a 30-gram protein shake with ice and water.
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Believing you’ll cook.
  • Overeating Domino Foods: Nuts, Chickpeas, hummus, peanuts, macadamias, almonds. Don’t eat anything that requires self-control.
  • Over-consuming artificial sweeteners. They stall fat loss.
  • Hitting the cardio too often. If you start losing muscle, it’ll lower your basal metabolic rate, and that will stall fat loss.

Other Pro tips

  • Minimize the release of insulin, a storage hormone: Ensure that your first meal of the day is not a binge meal, Consider a small quantity of fructose in grapefruit juice before the second meal.
  • Increase the speed of gastric emptying. Caffeine helps.
  • Engage in brief muscular contraction throughout the binge: Air squats, Wall presses, Chest pulls with an elastic band.
  • 60–120 seconds total of air squats and wall tricep extensions immediately before eating main courses. Another set 60–90 seconds long approximately 1.5 hours after eating.
  • Balance bacteria for fat loss: Get off the Splenda, Go fermented and consider probiotics and prebiotics.
  • There are two types of fat: White Adipose Tissue (WAT) and Brown Adipose Tissue (BAT). BAT is fat-burning fat and it’s found in the neck and upper chest areas. Cold stimulates BAT to burn fat and glucose as heat.
  • Place an ice pack on the back of the neck or upper trapezius area for 20– 30 minutes, preferably in the evening, when insulin sensitivity is lowest. I place a towel on the couch while writing or watching a movie and simply lean back against the ice pack.
  • Consume at least 500 milliliters of ice water on an empty stomach immediately upon waking. In at least two studies, this water consumption has been shown to increase resting metabolic rate 24– 30%, peaking at 40– 60 minutes post-consumption, though one study demonstrated a lower effect of 4.5%. Eat breakfast 20– 30 minutes later
  • Take 5 to 10-minute cold showers before breakfast or before bed. Use hot water for 1– 2 minutes over the entire body, then step out of water range and apply shampoo and soap to your hair and face. Turn the water to pure cold and rinse your head and face alone. Then turn around and back into the water, focusing the water on your lower neck and upper back. Maintain this position for 1– 3 minutes as you acclimate and apply soap to all the necessary regions. Then turn around and rinse normally. Expect this to wake you up like a foghorn.
  • If you’re impatient and can tolerate more, take 20-minute ice baths that induce shivering.

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