What Slow-Carb Diet Is All About

  • The slow-carb diet aims to replace “fast” carbohydrates found in highly processed foods with “slow” carbohydrates found in whole foods.
  • The diet involves six days of calorie restriction and one “pig-out” day per week.
  • Experts warn, however, that this highly restrictive diet, which eliminates key foods such as fruits and whole grains, is unsustainable.

What is the slow-carb diet?

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The slow-carb diet aims to replace so-called “fast” carbohydrates (refined carbs found in highly processed foods) with “slow” carbohydrates that take a longer time to digest (such as those found in vegetables).

The slow-carb diet, however, has more restrictions in place.

According to a book entitled The 4-Hour Body,¬†written in 2010 by Tim Ferriss, the slow-food diet includes being “on” or following five strict rules for six days a week, then taking one day “off.”

He claims that the diet restrictions result in weight loss because it forces the body to break down fat stores for energy.

List of allowed foods

Ferriss recommends the following foods from each of the three groups. The starred foods represent foods that he feels are particularly helpful for weight loss.


  • *Eggs
  • *Chicken breast or thigh
  • *Black beans
  • *Beef (preferably grass-fed)
  • *Fish
  • Pork


  • *Lentils
  • Pinto beans
  • Red beans
  • Soybeans


  • *Spinach
  • *Mixed vegetables
  • *Sauerkraut, kimchee
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Green beans
  • Peas

Some fats such as nuts, oils, and clarified butter or ghee, are also allowed, as well as most spices and some condiments.

He recommends building three or four meals from this list to form a rotating meal plan. He advises eating your first meal within an hour of waking, then spacing your meal about four hours apart.

Specific Rules

Rule #1: Avoid “white” carbohydrates.

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Processed carbohydrates, which are usually made from refined flour, tend to be “white” or pale in color compared to those made from whole-wheat grains.

Rule #2: Build a rotating meal plan.

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Ferriss suggests mixing and matching the allowed foods to build a rotating meal plan.

Rule #3: Don’t drink calories.

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Ferriss suggests replacing sugary drinks with water, unsweetened tea, coffee, or other calorie-free drinks.

Rule #4: Don’t eat fruit.

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Ferriss does not recommend eating fruit because he believes that their natural sugars may delay weight loss.

Rule #5: Take one day off each week.

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Ferriss shares that he “strategically eats like a pig” one day per week — on Saturdays — to the point of making himself “a little sick” such that he wouldn’t “want to look at any junk for the rest of the week.”

Is the slow-carb diet scientifically supported?

Ferriss is not a diet, nutrition, or medical expert.

There are also no studies showing a six-day low-carb/high-protein diet.

The term “slow carbs” is also not actual nutrition terminology. However, it is indeed true that minimally processed foods take longer to digest, keep you feel fuller longer, and are also healthier.

A one-day “eat all you want” period, particularly a high-carb day, has also been shown to boost levels of leptin — which helps mitigate the negative effects of calorie restriction — and prevent your metabolism from dipping.

Nevertheless, the all-out cheat day can be problematic.

Cynthia Sass, M.P.H., RD, CSSD, a plant-based performance nutrition coach, warns, “This pattern can lead to overindulging one day a week in ways that leave you feeling bloated and lethargic for a few days. It also prevents you from learning how to healthfully incorporate special treats into any balanced day.”

While eating more whole foods is indeed recommended, the diet is “too limited, and cuts out nutrient- and fiber-rich whole grains, fruit and starchy veggies, like potatoes,” Sass added.

Sass concludes, “Any diet that is difficult to stick with long term is unlikely to support sustainable, healthful weight loss.”


Source: Eating Well

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