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The Tim Ferris ‘Slow Carb’ Diet

​Tim Ferris’s book The 4-Hour Body aims to tell us how to achieve maximum results with the least amount of effort required. Essentially, he attempts to give us the ‘minimum effective dose’ required to achieve the body we are after.

In the book Tim focuses on something he calls the ‘Slow-Carb Diet’. His first rule is to avoid white carbohydrates like bread, cereal and pasta. They are bad from his perspective because they are ‘fast’ carbs – that is, are broken down quickly by the body and mitigating these will reveal the abs and give you a flat stomach. This is a major over-simplification of how fat loss occurs. He makes a blanket statement without any reference to the caloric intake of these foods.

I am inherently sceptical of individuals who label certain foods ‘good’ or ‘bad’ because fundamentally food is just energy, and fat loss simply requires an energy deficit. If you eat in a calorie deficit, then the speed at which carbohydrates are broken down by the body is irrelevant. Furthermore, is it realistic to ban certain types of foods long-term? No. Whilst cutting these out may help you lose 10lbs (4.5kg) in a month, what good is that if you bail out after four weeks and end up gaining the weight back when you return to these banned foods afterwards?

His other rules are to repeat the same meals, don’t drink calories, don’t eat fruit and one day per week have a blow-out day or a ‘cheat’ day. This blow-out day is not optional, you have to do it. And you can go crazy, eating whatever refined carbohydrates you want. Bread, ice-cream, fruit(!) and anything else you fancy. 

Frankly, in my opinion, these rules are dangerous. What they amount to is eating-disorder like habits. Huge restrictions throughout the week, followed by a binge. These are not long term healthy habits that foster a good relationship with food. Instead they perpetuate a starve, binge, repeat cycle which is exactly what leads to yoyo dieting, not long-term consistent results.

Towards the end of the book Tim also says we need to experiment on ourselves. Not everyone will lose weight in the same way or gain muscle in the same way. This essentially nullifies everything he says up to that point. His irresponsible rules about bingeing and restricting may work for him, but it would be stupid to recommend that as a healthy way of eating to others who want long-term, sustainable results. The book is an over-simplification and far too reductionist in nature. The only rules that we need to follow to get the body we are after are as follows:

1)      If you are trying to achieve a flat stomach and reveal your abs, adhere to a calorie deficit.
2)      If you are trying to build muscle, progressively overload in the gym through a gradual increase in the weights you are using over time.

Rob Webster
Bodyscan Consultant