It’s that time of the year again. You’re feeling bloated after eating and drinking far too much over the last few weeks. Don’t worry, I have too.
Like me, many are gearing up for a leaner 2017. There are those of you who are raring to go. You’ve had your Christmas feed and you’re motivated as ever to devour rabbit food and exercise every single day in an effort to cut the fat. At least for now. Then, there are those of you who want nothing more than to lose weight but you’re confused. The bombardment of fad diets is too much, and you just don’t know what to do or where to start. You want to pick the most effective and sustainable diet, exercise, supplement, etc, but every single company is trying to sell you their latest miracle fat loss product.
My self-discipline falls to pieces over Christmas. Especially if I’m abroad and there is lots of socialising. I’m a sucker for peer pressure. This year, I spent Christmas in Tralee, Ireland, with my girlfriends family. I drank the finest Guinness and indulged in a variety of potatoes and a range of mouth watering meat. To top it off, most evenings consisted of compulsive snacking on digestive biscuits, fruit cake, and chocolate. It was YUM! followed shortly by … why … did … I … do … that? Oh the pain.
Shocking, I know. I’m supposed to be setting an example.
Even though 90% of the year I eat – what I consider to be – a very healthy diet, I don’t do moderation very well. It’s never one biscuit – it’s the entire packet. I sometimes wish I had the self-discipline of someone like Ben Greenfield. Ben eats a very healthy diet all-year-round. He never has a cheat day. A lot of people might think he’s being a bit over-the-top but I really respect his perspective and relationship with food.
But alas! Christmas is done now, and with the new year looming, I’m excited to achieve new health and fitness goals and run new self-experiments. Like you, I’ll be looking to shed a bit of fat and improve my body.
No time for my ramblings? Go straight to the action steps on how to aggressively shed body fat, read rules #1 to #5 below.
Good is often more useful than Perfect
Ninety-nine percent of people that begin the new year with a super-strict diet and intense exercise regime will give up after a week or two. The new habits are overwhelming and too stressful to maintain. Compliance is almost impossible. Whilst certain exercise can assist with fat loss, it is so far behind diet in second place that, for most of you, it’s not important in the beginning. Appropriate exercise is important for other purposes such as retaining and building muscle mass, but that comes later.
There is a popular saying among my podcast guests and that is “you can’t outwork a bad diet”. Initially, your will power should be focused on your diet. Ignore the exercise or any other distraction for now.
When it comes to diets, good is often more productive than perfect. Whilst perfect is the most efficacious, it’s useless if you can’t sustain it. For example, the Ketogenic Diet (high-fat and low-carb) is highly effective but the drop-out is high. Conversely, the slow carb diet has better compliance and – I would argue – delivers at least 80% of the fat loss results.
With the new year upon us, you will be inundated by diet plans, gym memberships and fat loss miracle drugs on every corner. Unfortunately, very few of these will provide effective, healthy and sustainable fat loss regimens. Most of them are looking to make a quick and dirty profit by taking advantage of those desperate to lose weight at this peak time.
This post will give you everything you need to know to remove your winter fat asap and keep it off over the long term.
Why should you trust me?
I’ve interviewed 30+ world class health and fitness experts on my 5-star podcast, Corporate Warrior. Guests include Mark Sisson, Dr Doug McGuff and Drew Baye. I’ve self-published two 4-star eBooks focused on optimising fat loss using the evidence-based approaches discussed on my podcast, from my own research and self-experimentation. Lastly, I’ve personally helped almost one hundred people on a 1-on-1 basis to lose at least 14 pounds in less than a month. If you’re interested in this service, please subscribe here.
The Diet Plan
Disclaimer: Most of the scientific mechanisms explored below are – in most cases – derived from the work of Tim Ferriss. For more detailed information see here (also note the impressive before-and-after photos). For more references see The 4-Hour Body. For further reading, other sources of information are provided in the references at the bottom of this post.
I am one of thousands of people who have discovered the Slow Carb Diet, a diet made popular by Tim Ferriss in his spectacular book, The 4-Hour Body. The average follower lost 8.6kg (18.9lbs) of fat, and a surprising number have lost more than 45.5kg (100lb) total. The Slow Carb Diet works by successfully controlling insulin to maintain a safe and steady level of blood glucose. It does this by mostly being focused on foods with a low-glycemic index. This enables the body to liberate fat from fat cells. Conversely, a typical western diet is one that is high-glycemic (high-carb), which causes you to retain fat and feel hungry more often.
Below is my edited and personal-take on Tim’s practical approach.
Rule #1 – 30-within-30
Eat 30g of protein within 30-minutes of waking up. Eat whole food permitted on the Slow Carb Diet food list or supplement using grass-fed whey protein. I normally cook bacon and eggs for breakfast (3 or 4 whole eggs and a couple of streaks of organic bacon).
- Increase your metabolism for the day.
- Reduce hunger cravings and especially cravings for carbohydrates.
- Decrease water retention.
Rule #2: Avoid “white” carbohydrates
The following foods are prohibited, except for within 1.5 hours of finishing a resistance-training workout and on cheat day:
- Bread (inc brown)
- Rice (inc brown)
- Fried food with breading
- Confectionary (anything with refined sugar)
- Anything heavily processed – such as the cooking sauces that normally come with a myriad of harmful ingredients.
Rule #3: 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. Try to get organic and grass-fed (if meat) if possible. Mix and match, constructing each meal with one from each of the following groups:
- Black beans
- Pinto beans
- Cannelloni beans
- Kidney beans
- Butter beans
- Chickpeas/hummus (maximum 2 tbsp per day)
- Mixed veg (inc broccoli, cauliflower, or any other cruciferous vegetables)
- Green beans
- Sauerkraut, Kimchee
- Cottage Cheese (maximum 2 tbsp per day)
- Butter (ideally Grass-fed – unsalted Kerry Gold or Yeo Valley)
- Red wine or dry white like Sauvignon Blanc (max 2 glasses per day)
- Unsweetened black breakfast, green, white tea/coffee
Oils and Seasonings:
- Sea salt
- Herbs & spices
- Olive oil
- Macadamia oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Avocado oil
- Mayonnaise (maximum 2 tbsp per day)
- Avocado (no more than 1 cup per day/250ml)
- Tomato (no more than 1 cup per day/250ml)
Surprisingly, you can get fat eating too much fruit. A lot of fruit is high in fructose, which is converted into triglycerides (fat) via the liver very easily. For simplicity, fruit is only allowed on cheat day (see more below).
- Unsalted, plain nuts are permitted including macadamia, cashew, pistachio, walnut, etc (eat in moderation, no more than one handful per day).
One of your favourite “healthy” foods isn’t listed? Try this Slow Carb Diet food directory.
Eat as much as you like of the above food items (unless otherwise stated). If it’s not on a list above, chances are you can’t eat it. 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.
Most people who go on “low” carbohydrate diets complain of low energy and quit, not because such diets can’t work, but because they consume insufficient calories. A 1/2 cup of rice is 300 calories, whereas a 1/2 cup of spinach is 15 calories! Vegetables are not calorically dense, so it is critical that you add legumes for caloric load.
– Tim Ferriss
Some of my meals that recur again and again:
- Scrambled eggs and bacon fried in coconut oil and seasoned with Maldon Sea Salt and organic pepper.
- Mexican salad bowl: chicken, fajita vegetables, lettuce, mild salsa, sour cream and guacamole.
- Steak, butter bean mash, and vegetables smothered in grass-fed unsalted Kerry Gold butter.
Rule #4: Don’t drink calories
Drink plenty of water (ideally filtered) and as much unsweetened iced tea, tea, coffee, or other no-calorie/low-calorie beverages as you like. Do not drink milk, soft drinks, or fruit juice.
Rule #5: Take one day off per week
Schedule a cheat day once per week. Saturday’s tend to work well. On this day, eat and drink as much as anything as you want. Sounds too good to be true, right?
Leptin (anti-starvation hormone) controls your rate of fat loss. When leptin production is high you lose fat quickly. When it is low, fat loss slows. Leptin drops when you diet. This is why losing the last 5 pounds is harder than losing the first 50. By having a cheat day once per week, you increase leptin and up-regulate metabolism to resume fat loss and it makes the diet easier to sustain in the long term.
One of my favourite cheat days included a visit to a popular Indian restaurant in Hammersmith in London called Potli Indian Kitchen. They serve awesome curry and Estrella Inedit beer. They claim it’s the only beer you should drink with Indian food, and I have to agree – it’s delicious.
Cheat day tips:
- Make sure you bin all of your cheat day leftovers. This will help reduce any post cheat day cravings.
- Start the Slow Carb diet at least 5 days before your designated cheat day. Saturday is always a good bet for cheat day, but you can change it to suit your schedule week on week.
- If you go nuts on cheat day, it is likely you will feel sluggish, and you will get and feel bloated for a day or two. One way to prevent this is to drink grapefruit juice before you start your sugar binge. This will minimise the secretion of insulin and reduce the conversion of glucose into fat. This will not inhibit the fat loss effects induced by the cheat day in any way.
- Start your cheat day with a Slow Carb diet breakfast (30g of protein). Your cheat day meals will help up-regulate metabolism, which would have slowed from the dieting, and a Slow Carb diet breakfast will help contribute to this end.
- Aim for 3+ litres of water on cheat day. The carb overload will pull water to your digestive tract and muscle glycogen. This will cause headaches if you’re dehydrated.
Slow Carb Diet Hacks
- You shouldn’t feel the need to snack. The high fat and protein content should keep you satiated. However, if you absolutely must snack, peanut/almond butter works really well (max 2 tbsp per day). I’ll sometimes have 1 or 2 tbsp between meals. Another good snack is carrot sticks dipped in hummus (Don’t go crazy on the carrots, and 2 tbsp of hummus maximum per day).
- I’m going to repeat it here because it is really important. You must ensure that you eat 30g of protein within 30-minutes of waking. Figure out a method that works best for you. If you have the time, cook some eggs with bacon. If you don’t have the time, make a protein shake with water (no milk) and try and use grass-fed whey protein. There is no excuse.
- Consider an all day fast following your cheat day for short-term damage prevention. This isn’t essential, but should reduce the short-term weight gain. For a case study see Cheat Day Sat, Fasting Sun – First Time New Hack.
- Mexican food is your friend. If you’re out and about and struggling for Slow Carb options, Mexican restaurants are your best option. They typically serve very tasty meals that are totally Slow Carb compliant, just pass on the rice or wrap! When working in the city (London), I have a Chipotle salad bowl for lunch almost every single day.
- At some point, you may find yourself in a difficult position with no access to Slow Carb compliant food for an extended period – such as when you’re travelling. In this instance you have 2 options. Ether fast until Slow Carb food becomes accessible or eat nuts to satiate you and stop you from eating junk.
What if I want to eat out?
Try and get hold of the menu ahead of time. This buys you some time to decide what food you will have, and reduces the impact that peer pressure may have on you. Almost all restaurants can replace chips, rice, and potato with a salad or extra Slow Carb compliant food. In some cases, you might need to spend more than normal to substitute non-Slow Carb foods – consider this your 6 pack tax.
Why no dairy except cottage cheese?
Although diary has a low GI (Glycemic Index) and GL (Glycemic Load) it paradoxically has a high insulinemic response (spikes insulin) on the insulinemic scale similar to bread. However, Cottage Cheese has a high casein content that appears to facilitate fat loss. Don’t over do it – just half a cup per day maximum.
I mention cottage cheese at one point as a last resort. It is low in lactose, which is what you need to avoid. Ghee and cream (for coffee) should contain little or no lactose, hence you can use them. The same goes for effectively lactose-free, unflavoured whey protein, etc..
– Tim Ferriss
Is the Slow Carb diet healthy?
The low GI (low-carb) and high-density of nutritional content in the diet mitigates fat gain and stimulates fat loss. Obesity and high visceral body fat is the main cause of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes among many other diseases. Discouraging fat gain and stimulating fat loss will help prevent these problems.
In general, the more food items you buy that are organic/natural/high-quality, the better your overall results will be in terms of fat loss, muscle gain, and holistic health. It’s understandable if, due to budgetary constraints, its difficult for you to invest in the highest quality e.g. grass-fed beef, organic eggs, and macadamia nut oil, etc. If that is the case, just do the best you can, you’ll still be able to get great results compared to a conventional western diet.
Can I lose weight by just reducing calories?
You will lose weight when you reduce calories. This is partially because you will eat less carbohydrate. Invariably, you won’t lose fat because you cut calories; you’ll lose fat because you cut out the foods that make you fat. Whole food sources of protein and fat do not make you fat. Most diets fail over time because they substitute fat for carbohydrate. The hope is that this will help shed fat but it’s more likely to increase fat storage. Furthermore, a diet lacking in protein and fat will put your body into a state of semi-starvation and it will try to maintain body fat.
Weight loss regimens win when they reduce carbohydrate. The regimen must re-regulate fat tissue to release the calories it has accumulated to excess. Any changes we make that don’t contribute to this goal could starve the body of energy and protein to build muscle, and the resultant hunger will lead to failure.
There is a lot of meat on this diet, is it healthy?
Communities that were exclusive meat and fish eaters (ate virtually no fruit or veg) include the Inuits, Maasai, and Native Americans of the Great Plains, suffered little or no cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or obesity. 
Animal proteins are a rich source of vitamin A, E, B, and D. Conversely, the more carbs we consume the more vitamins we require, this is because the impact a carb-rich intake has on glucose metabolism inhibits vitamin absorption.
In 1928, a team of anthropologists and nutritionists put two veteran arctic explorers on an all meat diet for a year, and found that both men were in good physical condition at the end of the study. In 1 of 9 articles on the study, Eugene Du Bois, the most respected nutrition and metabolism authority at the time, reported “there were no subjective or objective evidence of any loss of physical or mental vigour”. In fact, prior to the experiment, one subject had mild gingivitis that had “cleared up entirely” during the diet.
Is saturated fat unhealthy?
TheWorld Health Organization, researchers from the Childrens Hospital Oakland Research Institute, and Harvard School of Public Health reviewed evidence and concluded that it is not sufficient to claim that saturated fat is unhealthy.
Clinical trials comparing high saturated fat such as the Atkins diet vs fat restricted and calorie restricted diets (those recommended by the American Heart Association) found that the high saturated fat diets were better at reducing heart disease and diabetes.
What about fiber?
Whilst there is some evidence that fiber helps with constipation, it does not seem to be an important food. The evidence that vegetables are required for a healthy diet is surprisingly weak. Inuits, Native Americans, and pastoral populations like reindeer herders in Siberia, or Maasai cattle herders in East Africa, survived and thrived on virtually no veg or fiber prior to the introduction of western processed food into their diet.
Can’t I just starve (semi-starve) to lose fat?
The body is very adaptable and will adjust to the caloric deficit by expending less energy. Such a poor strategy will result in hunger spikes, depression, irritability, and tiredness. Fasting is effective for triggering autophagy (shown to increase longevity) but should not play a role in the beginning of your Slow Carb journey.
Is a high fat and high protein diet healthy?
In 2007, researchers at Stanford University published a study comparing 4 diets in the Journal of the American Medical Association. They compared the Atkins, traditional, Ornish, and Zone diets:
Those on the red meat and high saturated fat Atkins diet lost more weight, decreased triglycerides, increased HDL (Good cholesterol) and decreased blood pressure more effectively than the other diets.
For a better view on this watch the YouTube video The battle of weight loss diets: Is anyone winning (at losing)? Christopher Gardner, the 25 year vegetarian who led this study, said “it was a bitter pill to swallow”.
Can I re-introduce food?
Once you reach your desired weight, it may be ok to re-introduce certain foods that you miss. You will need to adjust based on how your body responds. Unless you are a genetic freak, you can’t maintain a ripped six pack if you plan on significantly increasing your carb intake. The Slow Carb diet can be a diet for life or it can be the start of your effort to improve your relationship with food and drink. Overtime, you will learn what works best for you and adapt your diet accordingly.
Why is grain-based food bad for me?
Most grains have a low-nutrient density and are high in carbohydrate, omega 6 and 9, among other unhealthy fatty acid content causing increased insulin and other negative side effects in terms of systemic inflammation. 
What are the essential proteins, fats, and carbs that must come from diet?
The essential amino acids that we must derive from diet include leucine, lysine, threonine, tryptophan, insoleucne, histidine, and methionine. The essential fats that must come from diet include linoleic acid and arachidonic acid.
There are no essential carbohydrates that must come from diet. This is because carbohydrates can be synthesised from other foodstuffs such as proteins. If you look at hunter-gatherer societies that still exist today and the anthropological data surrounding the nutritional consumption of our ancestors, you will find that carbohydrate is the least abundant foodstuff that can/could be acquired.
Have some unanswered questions? Check out the Slow-Carb Clarifications section here.
For the more advanced dieter
I’ve used the Slow Carb diet for a couple of years to maintain 10-12% body fat. It is one of the most successful diets I have seen in terms of compliance and effectiveness. But it is only one way. As part of my own learning, I like to experiment with different diets. I currently eat something very similar to the Bulletproof Diet for most of the year, which has more emphasis on high quality fat and starch, and intermittent fasting. There is no cheat day. If you’re new to dieting and have a lot of weight to lose, I would suggest that this diet might be too challenging to begin with.
This is not a massive change from the slow carb diet. There are a few food stuffs swapped out and that is all:
- Bulletproof Coffee or 3/4 raw eggs (including whites) or a 3/4 egg omelette.
- Chipotle salad bowl – steak, fajita vegetables, lettuce, mild salsa, sour cream and guacamole.
- Steak or lamb chops or salmon, sweet potato or white rice, and vegetables smothered in grass-fed unsalted Kerry Gold.
If you would like to learn about the most effective and efficient way to exercise for muscle gain, fat loss and overall health, check out this post.
High intensity strength training is the perfect exercise companion to the Slow Carb Diet. Build maximum muscle and improve your health with HITuni’s HIT at Home Course
For more highly effective life hacks, check out my top 10 list for a healthier and more productive 2017.
-  Gary Taubes, Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About it, Meat or Plants?
-  Gary Taubes, Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It, The Nature of a Healthy Diet
-  Dr Doug McGuff and John Little, The Body by Science: Question and Answer Book, A Well Balanced Diet
What do you think about the Slow Carb diet? Let me know below. Criticism welcome. This is a place of learning for everyone, including me.