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Tim Ferriss: The Slow Carb Diet

by jenny sansouci on April 3, 2011

The 4-Hour Body:

“A cookbook of minimalist methods for rapid body transformation – a practical crash course in how to reinvent yourself.” – Kevin Kelly, Wired Magazine

Tim Ferriss, of 4-Hour Workweek (4HWW) fame, is known as the king of efficiency. His 4HWW book focuses on the best ways to get the most bang for your buck in business, while doing the least amount of work and having more time for leisure, travel, learning and pleasurable life experiences. I recently read 4HWW, and became completely enamored by his approach and non-traditional way of looking at life. He prides himself on being “as unrealistic as possible,” and it’s working for him. When he came out with the 4-Hour Body, I naturally couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

The 4-Hour Body (4HB) is a huge book. It’s filled with over 10 years of Tim’s personal experiments on his body – everything from rapid fat loss to fast muscle building to improving sleep — overall, becoming “superhuman.” Yes, that is a bold claim, but the phrase “Tim Ferriss changed my life!” is not an uncommon one to hear these days.

There are hundreds of pages of great content in 4HB, but what I’m focusing on here is mainly his dietary recommendations, namely, the “Slow Carb Diet.” Tim has experimented with tons of different foods and this particular diet is the one he says works the most efficiently for rapid fat loss and building muscle. The thing I like about this diet is that it’s primarily whole-foods based and it makes sense to me. I’m ignoring most of what he writes about supplements & other muscle-building powders/capsules (he encourages readers to take what works for them and leave the rest). I’ll give you an overview of the food guidelines. I’m currently trying it out for a little while as an experiment, so I’ll report back with more findings later.

Here are the basic guidelines for the Slow Carb Diet:

  • No whites (flour, bread, rice, sugar, etc)
  • No grains/fruit/sweeteners
  • No dairy (milk) products
  • Meals consist only of protein, legumes (beans) and vegetables
  • 1 “cheat day” per week, where you can eat ANYTHING you want. He actually encourages binging on the cheat day, to speed up the metabolism and prevent it from slowing down due to lower calories on the other days. While Tim chooses to eat chocolate croissants and pizza on his cheat day, you can easily incorporate whole grains and fruit as your “cheat foods” to keep your body clean and healthy.

What’s an example of a Slow Carb meal?

Tim recommends meals like organic eggs, lentils and spinach for breakfast. For lunch and dinner, same idea – pick a protein (organic ideally), a legume (lentils and black beans work best) and some vegetables (go for the dark greens).

For me, the idea of this diet is super simple. I already eat lots of beans and vegetables, so all this entails for me is to eat less grains & fruit & focus more on protein & veggies. All herbs & spices are OK as well as fats – mostly from oil used in cooking — I prefer coconut oil. Tim recommends macadamia oil, which I’ve never tried.

An example of a slow-carb meal (clockwise from top- tempeh & sauteed kale, an organic hard-boiled egg, white-bean mash, roasted brussels sprouts, lentils). Please note you can eat any meat on this diet if you choose to. The pic below has a major bean focus.

Now, I don’t think this is the ideal diet for everyone. If you’re already eating a clean, whole foods diet and are feeling great, you probably don’t want to change anything. But if you routinely overdo it on the carbs, sugar and processed foods, cutting back will definitely help shed unwanted weight.

Check out the book if you’re intrigued or want more details & specifics. I’ll report back in another post about my thoughts on Slow Carbing after I try it for a little while. Either way, the book is fascinating and worthy of a read whether you try anything or not. He offers tons of shortcuts and tidbits on fat loss, such as squeezing a lemon on your food to lower your body’s glycemic response to the meal. I guarantee you’ll be inspired to at least try something from his 592 total pages of experiments (!) 🙂

Have you tried the Slow Carb Diet? Has it worked for you?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Fit Tip September 23, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Love, love, love this diet and book! This is an awesome way to lose weight, keep it off, and change your life for the better!


l December 18, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Pitifully low calories for ectomorphs that need it. I’m 5 7, 103lbs, weight lifter/runner…how do you expect athletes to survive on this? I’m starving at 1800 calories? There is only so much protein, fat and vegetables one can eat.


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