August 26, 2012


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My first 30 days on the Tim Ferriss Slow Carb Diet. (I’m eating a bag of Cheese Puffs right now.)

the four hour body by tim ferriss

Diet fads are really not my thing.

Up until I was 32, I ate anything I wanted, at any time I wanted and never really thought much of it. I was very active up until then and my weight never strayed much from 135lbs. Pretty light for a guy who is 5’9. Part of it was genetics. Part of it was exercise. And (to my eventual surprise) part of it was my diet.

The only time I ever thought about what I ate was when I started training for a half-ironman triathlon. At that point, eating was almost all about fuel and very little about enjoyment. Little did I know that the moment I stumbled across my final race finish line, I also stumbled across a metabolism line too. After that, I quit training altogether. I gradually became sedentary. Buying a home, getting a puppy, running a non-profit board and running a business simultaneously tended to eat up the gym time.

Years later, after noticing a trend of getting sick without a noticeable cause, I went to see a nutritionist and get tested for food intolerance. I learned that I was gluten intolerant (which would explain why beer was kicking my ass) and lactose intolerant (which would explain why my farts could be classified as a weapons of mass destruction). Taking gluten out of my diet was hard. Taking cheese out was even harder. I still cheat occasionally on the cheese part. But gluten, well, taking that out of my diet made a massive impact. I have and continue to feel immensely better each and every day. That was two years ago.

Fast forward to today. I’m 39. Not nearly as fit as I was in those days, but still healthy. I no longer burn hours at the gym, but I do go. I’m more focused on other pursuits, but I’ve become more aware that my body doesn’t quite look or function as well as it used to. So, it’s time for an experiment.

Enter the Slow Carb Diet

The Slow Carb Diet is a simple diet plan outlined in Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Body. The 4-Hour Body is a brain dump of information from a self-described data cruncher and body hacker. The book covers a range of topics around diet, exercise, sleep, sex and overall health. To be perfectly honest, the book is all over the place. It’s a bit of a mess. But there are pockets of information that I found very insightful—especially the diet plan. So I thought I’d give it a try.

Here is the Slow Carb Diet in its most basic form(this excerpt taken from Tim’s blog, The Four Hour Work Week):

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Rule #1: Avoid “white” carbohydrates

Avoid any carbohydrate that is — or can be — white. The following foods are thus prohibited, except for within 1.5 hours of finishing a resistance-training workout of at least 20 minutes in length: bread, rice, cereal, potatoes, pasta, and fried food with breading. If you avoid eating anything white, you’ll be safe.

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

The most successful dieters, regardless of whether their goal is muscle gain or fat loss, eat the same few meals over and over again. Mix and match, constructing each meal with one from each of the three following groups:

Egg whites with one whole egg for flavor
Chicken breast or thigh
Grass-fed organic beef

Black beans
Pinto beans

Mixed vegetables

Eat as much as you like of the above food items. Just remember: keep it simple. Pick three or four meals and repeat them. Almost all restaurants can give you a salad or vegetables in place of french fries or potatoes. Surprisingly, I have found Mexican food, swapping out rice for vegetables, to be one of the cuisines most conducive to the “slow carb” diet.

Rule #3: Don’t drink calories

Drink massive quantities of water and as much unsweetened iced tea, tea, diet sodas, coffee (without white cream), or other no-calorie/low-calorie beverages as you like. Do not drink milk, normal soft drinks, or fruit juice. I’m a wine fanatic and have at least one glass of wine each evening, which I believe actually aids sports recovery and fat-loss. Recent research into resveratrol supports this.

Rule #4: Take one day off per week

I recommend Saturdays as your “Dieters Gone Wild” day. I am allowed to eat whatever I want on Saturdays, and I go out of my way to eat ice cream, Snickers, Take 5, and all of my other vices in excess. I make myself a little sick and don’t want to look at any of it for the rest of the week. Paradoxically, dramatically spiking caloric intake in this way once per week increases fat loss by ensuring that your metabolic rate (thyroid function, etc.) doesn’t downregulate from extended caloric restriction. That’s right: eating pure crap can help you lose fat. Welcome to Utopia.

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Sounds boring doesn’t it? Well, everything but the cheat day. Well, I have to say that boring seems to work. Below is my weight breakdown while on the diet for the last 30 days. My goal on this diet was to lose body fat and—more importantly—gain energy throughout the day so that I’m happier, healthier and more productive. My workouts have consisted of alternating treadmill runs and lap swimming 4 – 5 times per week, for 30 minutes, with low to moderate intensity.

The Results

Pre-diet weight: 145lbs

Week 1 weight: 141lbs
Week 2 weight: 138lbs
Week 3 weight: 137lbs
Week 4 weight: 136lbs

Losing 9 pounds in 4 weeks on my frame is pretty significant. Most of it has been body fat. I’ve noticed a definite increase in energy throughout the day, but have also had some major energy crashes and a tendency to have brain fog—not good for someone who has to create on demand every day. I’m told that this is common on low carb diets, and to be perfectly honest, I haven’t always followed this diet to the letter. Getting the protein into every meal isn’t a problem. Getting both the legumes and the vegetables in has. I also have been doing a couple of cheats: A bit of sugar with my morning coffee, the occasional cider/gf beer, and some mixed nuts and dried fruits as snacks.

The first week was the hardest. But the difficulty has decreased as the weeks have gone on. My stomach also had some adjusting to go through from digesting white carbs to a higher protein and veggie intake. The biggest challenge is eating enough vegetables and legumes to get your necessary carbs. Beans get pretty freaking boring after a while. But the intent of this diet isn’t excitement or satiating a desire for variety.

My Take

I have to say that I think this is a diet worth trying. You need to commit to it, though. If you don’t follow it to the letter, you’ll probably occasionally hit the wall like I did because you end up undernourishing yourself even though you may be eating your fill. Moving forward, I will keep on the 6 days of simple diet, 1 day of indulgence as it forces me to eat vegetables, which I have steadfastly avoided in the past. As for completely eliminating white carbs, I’m still on the fence with this. I may reintegrate some into my diet, but try to keep it to a minimum. I just like rice too much.

Next steps are adapting my workouts following Tim’s recommendations and see if I can put 10 – 15lbs back on my frame—but have it be muscle. In the near future, if you see me flexing uncontrollably and in a socially inapproriate way, you’ll know its working.

OK. Back to the bag of cheese puffs. Its cheat day. And I have some serious damage to do.

You can buy the Four Hour Body here.

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A note on health: Tim makes no claims of being a doctor or nutritionist. I don’t either. I’m just a person looking to adjust his health for the better by taking a more proactive view of what I consistently put in my body. What I like about this approach is that it isn’t about counting calories or grams or any of that. It’s about diet simplification and improvement. Nevertheless, it might not be a bad idea to talk to your doctor or a nutritionist before you radically change your diet. It’s your body. Might as well be responsible for it.

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