Be aware my health conscious and fitness oriented friends, we have a new diet on our hands. It’s not the paleo diet, it’s not the flexitarian diet, it’s not even the skinny tea detox diet. No, this diet has a new and catchy name that’s easy to remember and easy to promote: the slow carb diet.
While it isn’t that new (the book promoting it came out in 2010), this diet has been making the rounds recently in a second wind of popularity. Much like the other fad diets that come and go every few years, this one is no exception when it comes to quirks and simple tricks to lose weight.
Is this one different though? Will somebody out there benefit from this diet in terms of general well being and fat loss? We will find out in this article by breaking down the diet rule by rule.
So, What Exactly Is The Slow Carb Diet?
Put simply, the slow carb diet is a restrictive diet that heavily limits carbs from pretty much every source.
It recommends four meals a day and allows you to have one cheat day with no restrictions a week. The diet has five rules to adhere to, with many subcategory tips and hints that it recommends to make the diet easier.
- Rule 1: No white carbohydrates. This mainly means processed carbs, like white flour and white bread, but also includes white potatoes, white rice, etc. You can consume a limited amount of these carbs when it is right before or after a workout to help give you more energy.
- Rule 2: Eat the same meals over and over again. According to the author of the diet, even though there are limitless foods you can eat, there are only certain foods that will not cause you to gain weight. Using a very limited number of foods, you are supposed to mix and match them in your four meals to lose weight.
- Rule 3: Do not drink your calories. Whether it’s from alcohol, a pumpkin spice latte, or soda, this diet preaches non-caloric drinks only. Water is highly recommended, but zero-calorie tea, coffee, soda etc. are also acceptable.
- Rule 4: No Fruit. Even though they are full of nutrients and fiber, this diet restricts all fruit from your meals (besides tomatoes and avocados in small amounts) because they contain the sugar fructose and allegedly spike blood sugar too much.
- Rule 5: You can have a cheat day. One day a week you don’t need to watch what you eat. The rationale behind this is that your metabolism will be kick-started and will stop you from giving in to your cravings the other six days.
The diet consists of five food groups: meats, legumes, veggies, fats, and spices. The author recommends limiting the last two as much as possible.
A few examples of foods that are allowed includes eggs, chicken, pork, black beans, lentils, soybeans, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, butter, olive oil, nuts, salt, and herbs. The list is a bit bigger, but not that much, as this diet is very strict on the foods you can eat.
The diet also tells you to take very specific supplements including potassium, magnesium and calcium tablets, policosanol, alpha-lipolic acid, green tea flavonoids, and garlic extract.
There are more subcategory rules and tips you need to follow but it would take too long to go over all of them here. You can search for the rest of the diet parameters online but I recommend reading the rest of this article beforehand…
Is The Slow-Carb Diet Legitimate Or Nonsense?
Hopefully I am not the only one who sees more than a few issues with this diet…
First off, the biggest flaw in this diet is that there is no tracking put in place. It claims that as long as you eat food from the list of 30 or so foods outlined as acceptable, you will magically lose weight. Of course this is not how energy balance works, as no matter what we eat whether it be gummy bears and onion rings or veggies and lean protein, we will gain weight if we consume more than we burn and lose weight if we consume less than we burn.
Put simply, it doesn’t matter how healthy and restrictive your diet is, you will not lose weight if you do not eat in a calorie deficit (which is done much easier when calories are tracked).
Next is an issue I think all of us should have picked up on, the restriction of fruit. While, yes, fruits do contain a decent amount of natural sugars when consumed in their raw form, they usually also contain some protein and fiber that will significantly lower the glycemic impact (which is the biggest concern listed in the book about fruits).
I would agree that fruit juices that contain mostly added processed sugar should be limited, but definitely not apples, oranges, and the like that are full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. When tracked along with all other foods, fruits should be a daily part of our diet for overall health and can easily be added to a successful fat loss routine.
When it comes to carbohydrates, these claims are also very thin. Consuming no white carbs doesn’t make sense, even for diabetics who actually need to be concerned about higher blood sugar spiking foods.
The truth is when mixed with a decent amount of fats and protein, carbs are digested slower and don’t spike your insulin levels as high as when consumed alone. Some individuals actually add simple carbs like dextrose or maltodextrin to their post workout shakes as these sugars are intentionally extremely high on the glycemic index with the belief that the more insulin released from the sugar, the faster the protein in the shake will be shuttled into the muscles for recovery.
To sum it all up, it makes no sense to limit white carbs when they are essentially as healthy as brown or any other color carbs when part of a balanced diet.
Rule 2 states that we should be eating the same foods over and over again for the same meals everyday… And I can’t think of a better way to hate a diet faster.
Limiting our food selection to 30 foods that are probably foods the author of the book likes makes no sense since we all have unique flavor palettes and preferences. This is why some people pay for personalized diet plans from trainers that utilize foods they actually enjoy and will stick to.
When you have to eat five egg whites for breakfast, chicken breast and broccoli or asparagus for lunch, and tilapia with black beans for dinner, you will quickly begin hating your life. You should never do a diet that will restrict your food choices since you can easily eat what you want in reason as long as you count your calories to stay in a deficit, hit your macros and experience the exact same fat loss results. Smarter, not harder, is the moral of this story.
Lastly, we will talk about the cheat day briefly. Personally, I am a fan of cheat meals or refeeds, but entire cheat days have been shown to be quite detrimental for some individuals. The difference between a cheat meal and cheat day is you are limited to how much your stomach can hold for a cheat meal, which can be 800 calories for some or 1,500 for others. In a cheat day, you have the chance to eat those 1,500 calories multiple times throughout the day.
Doing some quick maths, a daily deficit of 500 calories adds up to 3,500 calories at the end of any given week. This means an entire week’s calorie deficit can effectively be undone and reversed with a cheat day where you consume more than 3,500 calories in that day. Since you get a cheat day once a week, you can pretty much stop your progress in its tracks before it even starts.
Cheat meals on the other hand, usually happen at the end of the day and are much safer, as you will eat light throughout the day and stuff yourself with pizza or ice cream and end your night with a food coma. Those extra 1,000-1,500 calories from the one dinner will make a dent, but not undo your week-long deficit progress.
Take home message
My apologies to anybody who is currently doing this diet or the author of the unrevealed book, but there was no way I would support this fad/crash diet.
I didn’t even get into some of the other restrictions, such as no dairy besides cottage cheese, timing your meals exactly four hours apart, or the recommendation of taking expensive fat loss supplements before every meal and bed for months on end.
At the end of the day, the best kind of fat loss diet you can do is one that includes mostly healthy foods of your choice that you can stick to for the long term, that ensures you track your calories and macros to fit your goals, and is one that you can enjoy. Don’t worry about flashy names or false claims, because these diets are only meant to look good on the outside to sell books and programs online, not to help you reach your individual goals.
With all that being said and wrapping this long review up, skip this diet and build your own from scratch by researching and expanding your knowledge of the subject with more articles like this!