It’s been a bit of a long run, but here is my final post on the Slow-Carb Diet as detailed in Timothy Ferriss’s The 4-hour Body. I know a few other people who’ve tried it with good success. Here is one account that shows how well the diet works, by Anthony Butler of Executive Jiu-Jitsu.
My results were a bit different. Ferriss also writes a lot about how to gain weight. I think his lessons might have been absorbed by my subconscious, as that’s what ended up happening to me. I’ve noticed some positive gains in strength and muscle density as a result.
As I mentioned in the last post in the series, I don’t feel comfortable following this diet to the letter. I’d like to rename it “How to Live with the Western Diet” because that’s what it teaches you. Ferriss explains how easy it is to obtain and prepare cheap animal protein, canned beans, prepackaged legumes, and how to build from those staples. He takes supplements and binges once a week to induce fat loss. He doesn’t restrict portions or count calories. It’s perfect if you don’t want to think much about what you’re eating.
It is an easy diet to follow. It does produce good results. Ferriss himself explains the importance of eating grass-fed beef and fresh, organic vegetables so as to reduce reduce his carbon footprint. I agree. It should help shield you from some of the worst side-effects of the sugars, salts, and fats that glut most Americans each day–if you’re careful.
However, what this diet lacks is a sense of moderation. In The Blue Zones, Dan Buettner explains that the healthiest, longest-lived people in places like Sardinia, Okinawa, Costa Rica, and parts of United States eat mostly a plant-based diet in a reasonable portions. They eat meat maybe once or twice per week, and only indulge on special occasions. I can’t shake the feeling that their wisdom is worth following. It seems like common sense.
Many of the centenarians Buettner interviews live active lives of gardening, shepherding, hiking, and even martial arts. However, they are not undergoing demanding training regimens either. Clearly higher calories–specifically from protein–are needed for many of us.
But I noticed that the Slow-Carb diet loses effectiveness when paired with a high training volume, too. I felt sluggish during at the beginning of workouts and felt some of the “bonk” experienced by endurance athletes when their glycogen stores are depleted during long training sessions and races.
As someone who might be on to a compromise, I’ll cite Jon Fitch. He recently joined a growing list of vegan fighters which include the likes of Mac Danzig and Jake Shields. Here’s what he has to say about it (from Bloody Elbow).I’ve basically tried to eat as cleanly as possible and take in as many whole foods and raw foods as I can. I also minimize my meat intake to at least five percent or less of my overall calories. As far as improvements go, my recovery is now a lot quicker than it was before the diet and I’m able to work-out a lot more as a result. My energy levels have also gone through the roof. I’ve never felt this energized in my life before. I never even had this amount of energy when I was 20-years-old.
My body fat has also reduced significantly, and I don’t really store any food after consumption. Everything I put into my body is burnt off pretty quickly and that is one of the reasons why I need to eat a lot during the day.
Personally, I wasn’t quite as lean prior to the Slow-Carb diet, but I felt better during training thanks to the simple carbs I allowed myself. After watching Fitch’s food blog, I see that he is following many Slow-Carb tenets. He eats complex carbs, beans, legumes, and soy protein while only eating fruit solo to limit its insulin response. He eats a clean, low GI diet that clearly allows him to train at a top level.
So the choices are yours. I’ve been working on my diet since January, and I still don’t think I have it down. Bingeing is kinda fun, but I’m getting by on cheat meals rather than whole cheat days. I hope I can continue to use what I’ve learned. March is about the time most people give up their New Year’s resolutions. I find myself sniffing around for stray cookies and loose candy again . . .