Everything You Need to Know About the Slow-Carb Diet™

A cheat sheet with for getting started, based on science and first-hand fat loss research.

Erin Frey
Erin Frey
Dec 29, 2013 · 6 min read

These hints and tips came out of two research studies I helped organize at Lift (now Coach.me). The first study helped show which parts of Tim Ferriss’ Slow Carb Diet play the biggest role in weight loss and the second study verified that the Slow Carb Diet does lead to significant weight loss.


QUICK TIPS

  • Your diet in a nutshell: Do eat lean meats, beans, and veggies. Don’t eat fruit, white foods (bread, potatoes, pasta), or sugar. Give yourself a cheat day each week, where you’re allowed to eat any of the banned foods.

WHY IS THIS DIET HEALTHY?

On the Slow-Carb Diet, you’ll rapidly burn fat by avoiding foods that promote fat storage. Metabolism hacking techniques like eating immediately upon waking up and binging on “cheat” foods once a week will help you lose excess fat.

We ran a trial of this diet with 3500 people: 84% of finishers lost weight and the average weight loss was 8.6 pounds. 14% of people lost more than 14 pounds. Read about the research.


WHAT CAN YOU EAT?

Follow these rules if you want to lose weight on the Slow-Carb Diet:

  • Stick to Slow-Carb Diet approved foods 6 days a week: lean meat, beans, and veggies and no white foods like sugar, pasta, rice, bread, cheese.

Slow-Carb Diet approved foods

You can eat as much of the following foods as you want. If the food isn’t on this list (e.g. nuts), eat it in moderation. Tim lost the most fat when eating foods that are starred. Here’s where we got the list (and other tips from Tim).

Proteins* Egg whites with 1–2 whole eggs for flavor (or, if organic, 2–5 whole eggs, including yolks)* Chicken breast or thigh* Black beans* Beef (preferably grass-fed)* Pork* Fish-------Legumes* Lentils (also called “dal” or “daal”)* Pinto beans* Red beans* Soybeans-------Vegetables* Spinach* Mixed vegetables (including broccoli, cauliflower, or any other cruciferous vegetables)* Sauerkraut, kimchee (full explanation of these later in “Damage Control”)* Asparagus* Peas* Broccoli* Green beans

Breakfast

The ideal breakfast is 30g of protein within 30 minutes of waking up. Eggs are an easy way to do this (and boost success rate by 10%). Some meal ideas:

  • Smoothie with 30g of protein powder

Caffeine is okay! Drink unsweetened coffee or tea without milk or cream. If you drink caffeinated soda in the morning, limit it to one can of diet soda a day.


Lunch and Dinner

Most of your meals will be a combination of protein + vegetables from the list above. Here’s a tip: Cook in bulk so that you have leftovers for a couple of days (or freeze individual serving sizes for much later). Here are some ideas:

  • Roasted chicken with mixed vegetables

Beverages

Drink lots of water and drinks with zero calories. Make these substitutions for beverages with calories that you’d normally drink:

  • Flavored water with lemon or vegetables

MORE TIPS

Sticking to the diet when eating out

Your default strategy should be to replace any carbs with vegetables and beans. Here are some ideas:

  • Burrito salad bowl or any dish with vegetables swapped out for rice/wheat

Keep a list of Slow-Carb Diet friendly restaurants nearby. Find meals you like and repeat them. Alternate days if it’s too boring. This makes meal planning into a breeze. 28% of people scrambled to find acceptable meals during our previous research, which put them at more risk to eat off-diet (-4% effect on success rates).


What to eat when you’re in a rush

A lot of the foods on the 4HB can be made in a snap. Keep basics like eggs, frozen veggies, canned beans, canned tuna and spinach leaves on hand so you can turn them into quick meals. Here are some meal ideas:

  • Eggs with black beans and salsa

Sticking to the diet while traveling

Sticking to the diet while traveling is all about preparation. Haphazard eating correlates with less weight loss (presumably because of off-diet eating). These 4HB foods are easy to take along on any trips:

  • Tuna in pouches or easy-peel cans

Tips for saving money

Tim calls the extra money you spend on healthier foods “fat tax.” What you spend on healthy food now you’ll save in medical bills or unhappiness later on. There are ways to save money on the diet, here’s how:

  • Buy frozen vegetables.

Don’t cut calories

Don’t worry about calories. Always eat until you are full. It turns out that your body digests calories from different macronutrients (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates) differently. Learn the science behind why.


Get enough protein

You should be getting at least 20g of protein at each meal and 30g for breakfast. This will keep you full longer and help you burn fat.


Eat your meals slowly

Your body has natural cues that tell you when to stop eating, which get messed up when you scarf down your meal. Slow down when you’re eating. Stop before each bite. Take 30 minutes to eat your food. You’ll eat less and feel better (since you won’t feel grossly full).


Limit foods you tend to overeat

Some foods like nuts, chickpeas, hummus, and nut butters are allowed on the diet but can halt your weight-loss if you consume too many calories from them. If you’re trying to lose weight, the easiest solution is to limit them or avoid them completely.


Eat lots of veggies

Not eating vegetables on the diet correlates with less weight loss, so eat up! You can eat these as many of these vegetables as you want: spinach, mixed vegetables (including broccoli, cauliflower, or any other cruciferous vegetables), sauerkraut, kimchee, asparagus, peas, broccoli, green beans.


Eat whatever you want on your cheat day

Indulge in whatever you want once a week. Ideally, your first meal should still consist of 30g of protein, but eat whatever you want after that. Last year’s research showed us that what you ate on cheat days and how excessively you indulged did not affect how much weight you lost. Sweets were the biggest craving: 61% of people ate them at on cheat days.

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most…

Thanks to Coach Tony and Dan Duett

Erin Frey

Written by

Erin Frey

YC ‘S16 Yale ‘08.

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

Erin Frey

Written by

Erin Frey

YC ‘S16 Yale ‘08.

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

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