The Slow-Carb Diet need not be boring.
Moreover, it doesn’t take much to jump from repetitive to inventive. In my case, even as a grass-fed beef aficionado, I grew weary of flank with nothing more than salt and pepper. Game meats made things more interesting, but the real gold was struck when I began experimenting with Montreal steak rub and, separately, a mixture I remembered as “CPR”: cumin, paprika, and rosemary.
Delicious, not to mention biochemically kick-ass for your heart and anti-inflammation.
The point being: for many people (in particular, cooking-inept bachelors like myself), Slow-Carb meals sometimes become an exercise in culinary déjà vu. This is often paired with common beginner frustrations:
– How do I drink coffee without milk?!? (Answer: cinnamon and/or vanilla extract)
– What can I put on my eggs? (Answer: read this post)
The solutions need not be complicated. In this post, Jules Clancy will focus on primarily spices and include: beginner tips, a starter recipe experiment, and a shopping list for the fundamentals.
Jules is a qualified food scientist who was introduced to me by the minimalist maestro himself, Leo Babauta…
As you’d expect from someone who blogs about food for a living, I dove straight into the Slow-Carb Diet chapter after picking up my copy of The 4-Hour Body. (Actually, it was right after checking out the chapter on 15-minute female orgasms. What’s a girl to do?)
The one thing that bothered me about the Slow-Carb Diet, though, was the assumption that it would be boring for most people. Simplicity does not have to equal boredom. The Slow-Carb Diet can, and should, be both fun and delicious.
If you are willing to learn the basics of seasoning, a world of variety and amazing food can be yours with minimal effort.
5 Tips for Overcoming Boredom on the Slow-Carb Diet
1. Lay the foundation with salt & pepper
One of the oldest but best tricks in the book. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get your basic seasoning right to maximize flavor. Forget what you’ve been told about the perils of a high sodium diet; the amount you’ll be adding will be minuscule compared to what’s put in by food manufacturers. For slow-cooked dishes, it’s a good idea to add some salt in early so it can spread through the whole dish over time. For other dishes, seasoning at the end is the best way to go.
2. Harness the power of acid
While the warm and wonderful Thai people mastered the balance between sweet, sour, salty, and heat ages ago, it’s actually something I learned to appreciate during my wayward years as a winemaker.
At winemaking school, we did many experiments where we would ‘doctor’ a wine with different types and amounts of acid. We’d then taste the different samples to see which ones were best. It was incredibly enlightening to see the difference that sourness played in the wine. At the optimal acid level, the wine would be more bright and alive on the taste buds. It would sing.
I’ve since learned to apply this to my cooking. When something doesn’t taste as fresh as I’d like and I’ve already given it a bit of salt, my next step is to add a little vinegar or a squeeze of lemon. Test this on some steamed veg or wilted spinach, and you’ll see how dramatic the difference can be.
3. Unleash umami (a flavor explosion) with humble soy sauce
The Japanese were the first to recognize the fifth taste, umami (also called “savoriness”). Foods that are high in umami components are delicious tasting things like beef, tomatoes, mushrooms, and Parmesan cheese.
It is said that soy sauce was invented by Buddhist monks to make vegetarian food taste more like meat. Soy is all about the umami, and a little bit can turn almost any food (not just Asian dishes) into a flavor explosion.
4. Add depth with chili
It’s hard to beat the wonderful warming feeling you get from a bit of chili. While I like it hot, it’s more about feeling the warmth and still being able to taste what you’re eating, rather than having your mouth burst into flame. For one suggested brand, check out Dave’s 6-chili pepper flakes shaker for a variety of heat levels.
5. Spice & herbs – the accessories of the kitchen
Using herbs and spices is where you can really start to have fun breathing variety into an old faithful dish. A little curry powder can have your taste buds on a passage to India, whereas the same dish treated to some chili, lime, and fresh cilantro will transport you to Acapulco. See the suggested variations on the recipe below for more ideas on how herbs and spices can work for you.
Suggested Starter Experiments to Try
Beef & broccoli stir-fry with beans
[5 ingredients | 10 minutes]
Feel free to play around with the seasoning on this one. I like to use dried chili flakes because they look nice, but by all means use whole dried chilies or chili powder.
If you’d prefer to use fresh broccoli, substitute in 1 or 2 heads chopped into florettes. I used white cannellini beans but black beans, pinto, etc. are all equally delicious.
1lb (450g) ground beef, preferably grass-fed
1lb (450g) bag frozen broccoli
1-2 teaspoons dried chili flakes
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 can beans (14oz / 400g), well drained
- Preheat a large frying pan or wok over high heat. Add a few tablespoons of macadamia or peanut oil, then add the beef.
- Fry the beef for a few minutes, stirring constantly to break up the chunks and to get the beef browned evenly all over.
- When the beef is no longer pink, add in the broccoli. Cover with a lid, baking sheet, or foil, and cook for 2 – 3 minutes, still on high heat.
- Stir and test broccoli. It should be bright green and no longer frozen in the middle. If it’s still cold, continue cooking with the lid on for another minute or so.
- Add chili and soy sauce. Stir and taste. If you think it needs a flavor boost, add more soy or some salt. Likewise with the heat level and the chili.
- Add drained beans. Stir until beans are warm.
Here is a video version of the above recipe to guide you through the steps:
Alternate Serving Suggestions:
Once you’ve mastered the basic version above, you can really mix things up by modifying the way you prepare the meal. It’s amazing how different this dish can taste with a few simple tweaks.
Option #1: Beef & broccoli on a bed of mashed beans
Instead of adding the beans at step 6, crush the drained beans with a fork and stir in a little olive oil. Serve beef and broccoli on top of the mash. The heat from the stir-fry will warm up the beans.
Option #2: Beef & beans with steamed broccoli on the side
This is a good option for people who are a bit shy when it comes to eating greens. Just nuke the broccoli for 4-5 minutes on high, or boil for 3 minutes and drain. Cook the beef and beans as per the recipe above, skipping steps 4 and 5.
Option #3: Beef on a bed of mashed beans with steamed broccoli on the side
Crush the drained beans with a fork and stir in a little olive oil. Microwave the broccoli separately for 4-5 minutes on high or boil for 3 minutes. Cook beef as directions state above, skipping steps 4 & 5. Serve beef on a bed of mash with broccoli on the side.
Bonus: Essentials for the Perfect Pantry
If you’re just getting started with building out your pantry, the below list will give you a solid foundation of seasonings you can use for any occasion.
Salt. I prefer salt flakes (such as Maldon) that have a nice large flake structure, making them perfect for crushing over meals at the last minute. Iodized salt is great for people who don’t get any seafood in their diet and can help combat hypothyroidism. Plain kosher salt is also an excellent, tasty option.
Pepper. If you don’t own a pepper grinder, a disposable bottle of peppercorns from the supermarket will suffice. However, there truly is no substitute for the fragrance of freshly ground pepper. I prefer black peppercorns because I find that white pepper has a nasty odor.
Sauces. I highly recommend starting out with a bottle of soy sauce. Don’t only have it with Asian-inspired dishes; use it instead of salt whenever you crave a more intense, savory flavor. If you like spicy foods, a bottle of Cholula or Sriracha will be indispensable. Oyster sauce is great for lovers of Thai food.
Spices. Take it slow. Start with dried chili flakes, chili powder, or whole chilies, then add 1-2 of the following to your pantry at a time:
– Ground cumin. Combine a tablespoon of this with an equal amount of olive oil, then use it to marinate your steak before cooking. A pinch of cumin will also add a new dimension of flavor to a tub of hummus.
– Ground coriander. Sprinkle some over cooked fish or pork. It’s also brilliant when added to your spinach before microwaving.
– Curry powder. Add a few teaspoons to your lentils before heating them for lunch. I love to add a little to my scrambled eggs.
– Smoked paprika. Use as a dry rub on chicken before grilling. It’s also wonderful with tomato-based dishes.
Acids. Vinegar is easiest because it lasts for ages. Go for either balsamic, red wine, or sherry vinegar. Try combining 1 part vinegar with 2 parts olive oil for an instant sugar-free salad dressing. Also, a tablespoon of vinegar stirred through warm canned lentils really brings them to life.
It’s hard to beat the freshening flavor properties of citrus juice and, as Tim’s experiments showed, lemon juice helps to lower glycemic response. I always keep a few lemons in the fridge for drizzling over cooked spinach. Limes can be lovely as well for creating a more Mexican feel.
Herbs. Dried herbs tend to just make everything taste like stale weed. Stay away from herbs until you’re ready to either handle them fresh or start growing your own in a window box. When you are ready to give them a shot, start with basil (great with anything tomato-based) or cilantro (coriander) for its wonderful freshness.
Anything else? I always have some canned tomatoes or tomato paste in my pantry, along with a jar of roasted red peppers. While not strictly seasonings, they are great for adding variety and a bit of instant veg. A jar of pesto can be a great flavor hit, as well.
Jules Clancy is a qualified food scientist. She blogs about her commitment to cooking recipes with only five ingredients at Stonesoup.com. She also runs an online cooking class, Reclaim Your Waistline, featuring recipes that take 10 minutes or less to cook.
Question of the Day (QOD): Do you have an awesome, non-boring Slow-Carb recipe you want others to try? Submit it here to potentially have it featured in the next version of the Slow-Carb Diet Cookbook!
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.
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602 Replies to “How to Master the Art of Seasoning: 5 Tips for Reinventing the Slow-Carb Diet”
I ate according to the diet three days, and when I woke up today, I found my belly hurting me, and now in the evening I feel very tired, I tried to sleep and felt cold, when I woke up I was feeling very hot. It’s certainly a fever.
I have had the exact same experience. I started feeling weak from Day 3 onwards but was persistent on the diet as I was told by a few friends that that feeling subsides. On Day 5 of diet, I started feeling stomach cramps, chills, and a fever.
I am not sure if its because of the diet but I dont think I can afford to take that chance.
OK I stand corrected. Here are all the symptoms that I have experienced in the past 2-3 days: fever, chills, headache, minor nose bleed, stomach cramp, constipation, decreased urine output (I know I have been urinating less).
As it turns out, all these symptoms can be explained by dehydration. I was drinking the standard 6-8 glasses per day which did not seem to suffice. I guess I made the rookie mistake of not drinking enough water.
Given how I felt today, I am not sure if I can afford to try out the diet again for a while, since I will be extremely busy for the next few weeks and cannot afford to lose days of productivity as I had today. But hopefully, others can benefit from my experience and my mistakes.
I am just starting out on my journey with the 4HB and wanted some useful and helpful hints for adding flavor. I can’t wait to try the suggestions. More recipes would be appreciated.
I had a question about the beans. Tim recommends canned beans to start out with and I was wondering if the Progresso High Fiber Three bean chili with beef soup is good to eat. I mean would this be part of the plan? Thanks.
Anyone else experience constipation on this diet?? If so, what did you do about it?
1) Are onions OK? I ask because they are white.
2) Any special considerations for men over 40% body fat? I mean, as far as circumference measuring, bioimpedance, supplement dosages, special supplements, exercise, etc. I am a 45-year-old man, 6’2″, over 360 lbs. I’m pretty sure I’m over 40%, judging by the pictures in the book, but I won’t have a more accurate number until my monitor arrives.
Hi Avery, I hope these answers will help:
1) Onions are totally fine, as is cauliflower.
2) Stay on the Slow-Carb Diet for at least 8 weeks before making any other big behavioral changes, such as kettlebell swings or working out regularly (And yes, I am advocating that you DON’T exercise for two months). The foods you eat will have the biggest impact on your body’s transformation, and making more than one big change at the same time reduces the likelihood that you’ll be able to adhere to the diet’s protocol.
Best of luck!
Thank you, Charlie! I love onions.Also, you make a great point about not trying to change too many things at once.
On constipation, whenever you’re eating a ton of fiber (which, if you’re following this diet, you most certainly are), you need to follow it up with a ton of water to keep things “moving”. Otherwise the fiber can actually make things worse for some people. I’ve also personally found that upping my fats helps quite a bit.
Just started the slow-carb diet about a week ago. Already love the results. I have hummus & I would like to eat it, but I like it with some kind of chips or crackers (ie something salty). Is there an alternative out there?
Chickpeas/hummus are more of a Saturday cheat meal. I would recommend making a hummus lookalike using some beans and tahini…..pinto beans work pretty well for that.
Hey, will a smart person please tell me why tim said that the china study- in linking animal protein to cancer- was not quite right?
I’ve been doing 4HB since January. Pretty happy with it. Have lost ~19 lbs. BF has lost 35.
It’s warmed up here in the last 2 weeks and I suddenly have NO appetite. I am barely able to make it through breakfast. I get up at 8am, and I usually am finishing my breakfast beans at about 2pm. I don’t want to eat lunch at all. I have an appetite for dinner, at least.
Am I going to screw up everything and stop losing fat completely? Should I force myself to eat, or should i just listen to my body and start eating again when I’m hungry?
If one can’t eat much, is it better to just eat the beans, or the meat, or what?
I plan to start the slow carb diet next week (on vacation this week and I don’t have control of the food). I have two questions.
1. I have had gastic bypass surgery (life saver!) and am struggling with the last 20 pounds. This diet is right up my alley. However, I am not able to eat large amounts at one sitting. I know the book says if you are hungry, you aren’t eating enough but you should only eat the 4 meals per day. Is it okay to space it different and eat every 3 hours, but smaller amounts at each sitting?
2. I’m confused by the “no dairy” but then it mentions cottage cheese. Isn’t that considered dairy?
Thanks for any help.
There are a few things in the book that I really don’t get, regarding diet.
Apparently coffee should have NO MILK. But it’s OK to use a little bit of cream? Does anyone know why?
Legumes/beans are so highly regarded in the book, but in a couple of places it mentions that chickpeas can be bad in large quantities without any further explanation. Why is this? And how much is too much? As someone who really loves to cook, chickpeas are much more interesting than black beans.
Thanks for being the guinea pig. Your info is beyond good.
I’m both a wild food nut and a bean/legume lover, so I am really enjoying this 4HB eating method. Here are some of the things I gather from my yard to enhance my meals:
Sumac- wicked good as a roast pork rub- (I pick the red “fuzzy berries” and grind)- lemony
Sorrels and Docks- Dandelion-like greens with great bitter qualities (I happen to think that bitter greens are one of those things we have “lost” that our ancestors used regularly)
Milkweed flower buds- looks very much like broccoli, only sweeter
Spruce tips- those bright green, tender tips that form in late spring- very citrusy
Stinging Nettles- I make a cheeseless pesto out of them which has been great on the veg
I could go on, but I’ll spare you. Please, please start a FLAVOUR FORUM! I’ve been reading such great ideas from posters in this thread.
I’m confused. I read a blog about the Paleo Diet and not eating legumes, and now here I am reading about eating them. Which do I do?
Quick questions: I truly hate beans of any sort. Is it absolutely necessary to eat beans? Are prawns or shrimp acceptable?
Can someone please help me! I have bought the 4HB audio book which I absolutely loved and I want to start immediately on my post 4HB life. However I am completely lost trying to find the info i need on this site ie the PDF that Tim says he will refer the reader to at a later time during the book. Im just going in circles here reading more blog posts. I want info on excercises and shopping lists and…do these things actually exist or must i listen again (for the 3rd time) to my 3 disc set and write everything down? And if so what about everything that he says he will ‘discuss later’ and doesnt seem to? I find this website/blog vortex to be quite confusing.
is tofu allowed? i read through hundreds of post and can’t find a definitive answer. tofu doesn’t have many calories- 60 per serving. 7 g protein per serving & if i eat the whole box in for two meals, its only 300 calories & 32 protein.
is TOFU allowed on this diet? thanks!
no, neither tofu nor any other soy products are allowed on this diet. I BELIEVE Edamame is okay but anything else is off limits.
I’m on day 3 of the 4HBD and wondering if coconut milk is allowed on the diet?
Honestly, the whole thing that bothers me about the diet is that i lose the appetite to eat the same thing over and over again hence my meals get smaller and smaller making me hungry for other foods other than what’s prescribed for the diet.
you need to switch up your proteins. Try and have chicken, steak, fish, or different types of burgers.
sides are easy because they are veggies – broccili, spinach, mushrooms, string beans, are all great with garlic and olive oil.
for the beans roasting them with rosemary and thyme or making a tomato based sauce sauce with white beans is great. another awesome item is red lentil soup and its easy to make.
read the blog there a lot of idea here. switching the proteins is key.
I just finished my third week. No weight loss BUT… my body fat has gone down about 2-3%! I see this as being more significant than weight and my clothes are more loose.
There is something TO this.
Now, does anyone have any recommendations for “cheat day”? I often feel sick on it. I think it’s gluten and sugar that are killing me at these times.
So who has some good ideas for great calories without gluten or sugar (or let’s say LOW gluten and sugar)?
hi cherie! im also on my 3rd week & could tell my body looks different but no weight loss! its a little discouraging because you read about all the people who are losing a few pounds each week! but im not going to give up just yet….
Love the idea of the slow carb diet but there are so many unanswered questions about what you can and cant eat. I think its important for readers to be 100% clear on this. Is there a comprehensive list, that would save about a million emails being sent all the time. I think the information in the book about what you can and cant eat is inadequate considering the in depth technical information about the other stuff that I’m not even going to read until I have the low carb diet sorted . Tim mentions that it’s not meant to be fun but I think most people interested in the book will be looking at changing their lifes by starting with the low carb diet and considering you will be thinking about doing this for the rest of your life, shouldn’t it be fun and comprehensive?. Love the eat what you want days that’s easy but if we are eating food we shouldn’t on the other days then we need to know about it. For example can we have the following:
– Baby coconut water? (full of potassium and great for re-hydration) If we could then that would be a great alternative to fruit juice
– Sweet corn?
– Sun dried tomato (im assuming you can have this)
– Pop corn?
– All white beans, harricot, butter beans etc are they all allowed?
– Can you eat the beef fat or does it have to be lean?
– Sweet potato? slow carb is this allowed?
– What about grass fed lamb?
– Ok so no fruit juice but you talk about grapefruit juice alot, can we have this or not dude?
– Is red water melon allowed?
That’s it for now, i’m sure others have their questions so please please please put up a list of what you can and can’t eat.
Good luck everyone or if you know anything about it please reply.
can anyone tell me where the forum for “How to Lose 20 lbs. of Fat in 30 Days… Without Doing Any Exercise” went? It used to be at the bottom of the page, like this page, but for the last two days it has been missing.
I would like to know, on the slow carb diet do I need to take all the supplements Tim talks about in the damage control chapter. You know the garlic extract, green tea extract alpha-lipoic acid ect.. to get results? also I don’t eat meat, is it alright to drink a protien shake for breakfast made fromwhey protien? I’m sure I have other questions I can’t think of right now. Any help is appreciated. Thanks, Joyce
Paleo was the next logical step for me. I do thank Tim for triggering all of this in me, I was someone who thought he was healthy but since losing so much fat I’ve realised I was getting more and more unhealthy as the years went on.
Rob Wolf’s blog and podcast are fantastic.
Thanks for the inspiration! I’ve been posting my recipe inventions as I make them up on my blog at http://bdweber.net/category/recipes/ – As of today, there are only two solid recipes up there, but I’ll keep adding on as I come up with more.
One of my favorite hobbies is cooking. I love to get in the kitchen, slap a bunch of goodies together, and stuff myself till I’m big in the middle. Now that I’m in the process of changing all that, my creativeness in the kitchen has to change. I’m down from about 245lb to 232lb after 3.5 weeks Thanks again!
Hi, I just started the 4HB diet this week. It’s been a challenge, because I LOVE carbs, particularly bread and pasta. I’ve read through this whole blog and noticed that back in May someone asked about non-soy Shirataki noodles, but no one seemed to answer. Traditional shirataki noodles have zero net carbohydrates, no food energy, and no gluten, and they are useful for those on low-carbohydrate diets. I was wondering if anyone knew anything about them, because I would love to be able to add these to my diet.
are lactose-free protein shakes ok in the morning? I really can’t stand the taste of eggs let alone egg-whites
Just thought I’d share a quick and easy recipe for chicken that tastes great and doesn’t compromise the diet! I usually cook at least a couple of pounds of chicken breast, so that I have easy meals on the go.
Cilantro Lime Chicken
3 lbs boneless/skinless chicken breasts
3-4 Limes, halved (depends on how citrusy you like it)
Handful of fresh cilantro (approx .5 cups), chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
.5-2 tsp chopped garlic (depends on how garlicy you like it!)
Dash of salt and pepper to taste
Place chicken breasts into 1 gallon ziplo-style plastic bag with chopped cilantro. Squeeze halved limes into bag, expelling all juice that you can and then leaving lime skin in bag. Add other ingredients. Seal bag and shake well, making sure to coat chicken breasts in seasonings. Let marinate 1-3 hours in refrigerator. Grill or broil approximately 6-7 minutes on each side, or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.
If I have time, I like to make fresh pico with chopped tomato, cilantro, onion, jalepeno, and lime juice, which I like to mix in with about a 1/2 cup of black beans and 1/2 chopped avocado. If I’m in a hurry, the chicken breast on a bed of black beans with a squeeze of lime is awesome! Add a salad and you have a perfectly balanced 4HB meal!
I was just wondering if there is any place where I could still possibly find a copy of The Slow-Carb Diet Cookbook Vol. 2 since I would really like to have it. I think it would greatly help my wife and I with the diet. We are starting it but keep running into the whole “Is it okay to eat this, or do we have to wait until our cheat day?” Also, any help with tricks to not let the diet be boring will be greatly appreciated. We really want to do this we just feel like we don’t know what we can eat during the 6 days.
@Robert: Simple, really. I keep my diet down to lean meats (although sometimes I have bacon with breakfast), lots of vegetables, eggs, beans, and the occasional handful of almonds or beef jerky. I don’t know if that helps, so consider that these are okay:
Eggs are always ok
Any beans or legumes are ok
Skinless chicken is ok (I’m sure some skin is acceptable in moderation, experiment with it!)
Pork is ok
Lean beef is ok
Any vegetables are ok (cruciferous are better – broccoli, bitter greens, etc)
Tomatoes are ok (yes, tomatoes are a fruit)
Lemons and limes are OK
Sauces with little to no sugars are ok (sriracha has sugar, but not enough to make a difference)
Seasonings – salt & pepper – are ok
Any spices are ok
Garlic is always ok
Cottage cheese is ok
Peanut butter or almond butter is ok, but not a ton of it (too many carbs)
Cucumbers and bell peppers are not directly addressed as savory fruits, but I’ve been eating them and losing weight, so I’d say they’re OK
And just to cover the other half
Any other dairy is out
Anything deep fried is out
Any grains are out – including whole grains like oats
Sugars are out
Fruits are out
Honey is out
Bread is out
Jelly/Jam is out
Donuts are out (had to put that one in here. they bring donuts in the office on Thursdays and I had to remind myself)
If you’re not sure where something goes on the list, it’s probably not okay and should be reserved for cheat day.
I’ve been posting my own recipes on my blog and are open to your comments. Please check them out at http://bdweber.net/category/recipes/
Best of luck!
Other than cottage cheese, no other cheese is allowed on this diet? Not even sharp chedder cheese which has zero carbs and sugar???
Check the book! It comments not on carbs or sugar as being a problem with dairy. It does comment on *lactose* being a problem… additionally, the book comments on experiments done by TF and test subjects, which show cottage cheese as having significantly different impacts than other forms of dairy.
Thank you for your reply. I just ordered the book last night off of amazon. Will I be safe with whole eggs instead of just egg whites. Regular beef instead of grass fed organic? Bacon?
Hi, I just wanted clarification on why only one cup of avocados are allowed per day?
My wife and I are larger than most and we have been doing the 4HB plan for nearly 6 weeks. We are starting to lose faith because our weight loss started out great, then tapered and now last week we lost nothing – help! Lost 5 lbs first week, 3 the second, 1.2 the 3rd, 1 the 4th and nothing last week. We’re only looking for 2 lbs a week loss not miracles. We are very strict with the diet plan, exercise with kettle bells and elliptical 3x a week for 20-30 min each time, and don’t go too overboard on cheat days (2-4 lbs gained the next day after). Also we track water intake and are drinking 80-100 oz per day. I am 6 foot 3 inches and 210 lbs and am in shape/good strength – 52 yrs old (40 pushups and 210 bench press). My wife is a few years older, 5 foot 11, can leg press over 270lbs x 10 – strong for a woman, but she is 200 lbs – about 30 lbs overweight. We eat what seems like a lot and are full, but this week I counted what calories we are eating. She eats about 1,800 calories and I eat about 2,000, which is ridiculously low or so I think. Is it that we are not eating enough and how is the best way to get out of the downward spiral? Recently I we both increased calories another 200-300 per day and are not losing at all during this week. I even take cold showers 3 x a week and stack regularly (3xAGG & PAG at night). She doesn’t stack, except on cheat day, but exercises the same as me. We keep reading the book to find out what we’re doing wrong, but just can’t see it – please help! We’re getting a bit discouraged. We’re doing the morning meal right, even with eggs and spinach. Chili stew and a homemade type of burrito bowl for lunches & dinners — only the foods on the list. We have 4-8 oz of Chianti at night sometimes – not all nights. We have nuts on occasion, but not to excess (100 calorie pack of almonds, etc.). Is there a way we can get some help from Tim on this one or is it obvious to one of you as to how we can progress?
Ken, I am no expert but 6′ 3″ and 210 sounds pretty lean to me! Do you have anymore fat to lose??? What is your body fat percentage?
I think that somewhere Tim says not all women can get away with cheat days.
Thanks Johnny, but that 210 is not all muscle – lol. I’m close to where I want to be, likely 195 or a bit less. I was at 219 and that was with a 40 inch waist, which is not healthy. We’ve increased our calories by about 500 per day (increased mine from 2000 and hers from 1800) and are doing better. We gained a couple of pounds at first but now are losing. I think if one can take a respectable underwear picture, then that’s great. Like Tim says, 20 lbs of body recomposition makes a big difference. I think the biggest trick is to know where you need to be so that your metabolic rate doesn’t shut down. That’s what my data is telling me.
I recently discovered Rawmesan – nutritional yeast and Brazil nuts. I know, doesn’t sound great but I can’t seem to get enough! Maybe it’s the salt? Seems like it would fit with the slow carb diet but wondering if anyone has comments?
Hi, I am following the diet and doing well, however i have really bad gas. i have been switching between beans and lentins but im wondering what causes the gas because i can see it will become a real problem!
has anyone else experienced this?
I have been dieting since Nov 1, 2010. Back then I cut out all my carbs, coffee, pop, etc..and stuck to protein and veggies. I went from 210 pounds to 175 by January 2011. This was all before even reading this book. Right now I am 180 and 5’9 in height. I still have stomach fat etc…so im not sure which diet might be the best for me. Am I in the still gotta lose a bit more weight zone and therefore use slow-carb diet or am I in the last ten pounds zone and use strictly protein and veggies?? Not really sure what to do. I want to get down to -12% body fat. My waist is 35 inches. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks
1. Athletic Greens every day or only on binge day?
2. Can’t have grapefruit juice because of a medication. Any other suggestion?
Can I use a dish with buckwheat in Slow-carb diet?
Buckwheat is very populyayarna in my country, unlike lentils … I can’t found information acordind Buckwheat in paragrafs of your book wich talk about Slow-carb diet, only in the charapter about Sexmachine… The lentils is exotic in my country. I can got only old product and it is coast 10$ per kg.
Tim (or readers),
After looking through the mass gain and fat loss portions of the book, I have a question about your adding 34 lbs in 28 days experience. What maintenance is required to keep that physique, or will it inevitably fade if you stop the “bulking phase” as you put it? Will the simpler regime of kettlebell swings and uncommon ab exercises be enough, or will I see a rapid decrease in size?
I’m a newbie, just getting started with 4HB but I have a few questions which I was hoping you might be able to answer.
The book notes that one of the biggest missteps in weight loss is that people often don’t eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking up, so I’m doing my best to eat as soon as I get out of bed. Monday’s and Friday’s seem to be where I’m having trouble. It seems that you also recommend that you do your workouts before breakfast. How do you get a workout in (plus transportation time to the gym seeing as I don’t currently own kettlebells yet) and still get breakfast in time?
I’ve been using Macadamia Oil for years now, but not until now did I realize how truly awesome it is from a health standpoint. I first found it in Hawaii from a company called Oils of Aloha. They have a bunch of awesome flavored oils and just plain, pure macadamia nut oil. I read that Tim Ferris gets his from South America, but maybe he didn’t realize that you can get it fresh from here in the U.S.
I’m so glad I found this book! My mother is overweight and for years doctors simply told her to eat less. However, she eats very little, excercises constantly and continues to gain weight. She’s tried several diets and the results have always been minimal. Finally, one doctor said she might be insulin resistant. This book clearly details how your body’s metabolic system can function more effectively by linking protein with carbohydrates at every meal. Unlike other diets that ask you to eliminate carbohydrates, which is unhealthy, this book tells you how to effectively keep carbohydrates in your diet. Some great recipes are also included. This book is better than a diet! It tells you how to successfully boost your metabolism with the foods that you eat!
Tim (or anyone else who has knowledge) – I have taken to drinking a protein shake for breakfast every day as part of my adventures on the slow-carb diet. The question is do you have any recommendations on the best powder for the job, so to speak? I have tried various different brands and try to stick to those lowest in sugars and highest in protein. Is this the right way to go? Would I be better served actually eating protein instead? Maybe some other slow-carbers have some experience with this that they’d like to share with me. Much appreciated!!
Jo, I have also done the same and you are on the right path to stay away from high sugars and go for high protien. If you are looking for creative ways to mix things up just search 4HB protien shakes into youtube and you will find some amazing ideas. Hope this helps.
Tim, Up here in Alberta Canada I am on y second day of the slow carb diet… is fun and really easy however I hope I am following the diet correctly. I have a question that has bothered me for quite a bit…. coffee and cinnamon, do you add the cinnamon to the coffee before brewing?? or to your cup and if it is to your cup how much do you put in each cup??
I will have to re-examine your example of your low carb diet you give in your book to ensure everything else is being followed properly.
Thank you for your self experimentation!
In the book it mentions that Thai food is option. Is it okay to have coconut milk/cream which is common inmuch Thai food? I guess because its white I’ve steered clear of it, but do love Thai food.
Yes, maybe next time I’ll try this, its seems great…
-I don’t eat eggs and bacon, so what should I eat for breakfast?
Try sauerkraut, refried beans, and any kind of lean meat you like better.
Ham is great or chicken of turkey sausage.
Has anyone been following the diet portion of this book for a length of time and found success? Just curios. Most of the posts above follow the same path wight loss for the first couple weeks but no follow up. I would like to hear some success stories from people who had a significant amt of weight to loose.
i lost about 20lbs and stopped. I was also doing some cycling. the diet works. i am actually going to start up again and try and lose another 5-10lbs. i was at 190 when i started and now i am at 170. i hover around that weight because i have not been so strict. i think you will also notice a difference in the way your body feels. more firm and less fatty.
it is not a difficult diet to keep because you are always eating and always full. the beans fill you up a lot and there are so many different ways to have them, i was only eating three meals a day and not the four it calculated out to be.
I lost about 40 lbs. in five months on the diet. (240 -200) I am very happy. I had my blood tested before and after and got body composition testing (bodpod) before, during and after. My blood numbers are much better – cholestoral dropped 40 points from 200 t0 160 and body fat went down from 28% to 19%.
Thoroughly enjoying the 4-hour body book and diet. Original from New Mexico and now in Austin, TX getting it shipped to me, a staple food for me has been Green Chile. I’ve been researching your site, but have not been able to determine if green chile is a match to your ‘vegetable’ category. I’ve made a killer very simple chili that maps to the 4-hour body diet provided green chile qualifies. Can you provide clarity here?
Did the almond milk question get answered?
I just bought the book and am loving it! It’s says no soy milk, what about almond milk?
Hi, Where do I find what quantities to eat? Im not sure how many eggs in the morn and how much veges and beans and meat so i just need some measurments. Thanks heaps
Depends on a couple of variables:
1. Eat 30g protein within 1/2 hour of waking up – I can eat something like 1/2 block of tofu, 2 whole eggs and a few pieces of meat to make up any differences. Or go just with the eggs and have 5 whole eggs (based on 6g protein/egg). Or something to that effect. I usually stir-fry those items with a mix totalling 1 cup of cabbage (red or green – both are good stir-fried), broccoli, and cauliflower OR 1 cup frozen veggies (preferably the slower carb versions – ie no peas or carrots or corn though I’ve done it if I’m desperate for veggies. Then I also have 1/2 cup beans – whatever kind you choose to have. I do find that I can skip the extra pieces of meat mentioned above if I’m having beans since I’m only losing 1-3g protein from animals and gaining sometimes more than that from beans. Typically, though I try to get my protein from animal sources and just use the beans as a filler for carbs.
*If I eat this amount of protein within 1/2 hour of waking then I rarely get hungry for at least 6-7 hours – though I only found that out by accident… I follow eating 3-4 times per day depending on when I wake up and how long I stay awake.
*If you find yourself tiring within 2-3 hours of eating up your carb intake a bit at a time until you find yourself energetic through ’til lunch.
2. Lunch and supper tend to be smaller portions (I go with the palm-sized/thickness portion version) for protein and the same amounts as breakfast for the veggies and beans.
3. Despite being a woman I can generally eat 2-3x the average male and this is one of the few meal plans I can follow without getting hungry on the portion sizes – God bless the beans.
4. I took 6 months easing myself into eating the beans and paid close attention to which bothered me despite the careful adding and simply eliminated those from my diet – no sense in suffering when lentils and other types of beans don’t bother my system.
5. REMEMBER… you should NOT be hungry on this diet. If you are, you aren’t eating enough protein and, possibly, enough beans. Start at the above levels and increase as needed (except for breakfast – Tim recommended that amount himself – though all humans are different and you may find that a few grams less or more works better for you).
6. Try to eat every 4-5 hours to keep your energy up and your hunger pains away.
Thanks for the info K-Lea! What portions to eat, was one of the questions I had. I have read the book, and enjoyed it, and I have been following the plan for about 6 weeks. I must admit that there is no way I could eat 5 eggs in the morning so I substitute 3 or 4 slices of turkey bacon for additional protein. I also prepare a variety of lentil dishes and keep them in the fridge. My current favorites are curried lentils or lentil soup, both of which I make from scratch… adds a little more variety to the meals.
The only issue I have with the diet is that I can’t eat 4 meals in a day… I am fine with three… I don’t know if this impacts the effectiveness of the diet or not. Perhaps someone can help me there.
BTW, I have not lost a lot of weight (maybe 10 pounds) but I can see that I am dropping inches (fitting easily into pants that previously were only on my wish list!)
Hey John V,
I truly believe 3 meals is fine so long as you don’t get hungry; honestly, never feeling hungry can go a ridiculously long way to losing weight. I try to make sure I never get hungry which is why I have 4 meals on the days that I’m awake longer and only 3 when my day is shorter.
Don’t forget to drink plenty of water or you won’t lose much water weight (that’s generally the largest/fastest weight loss when starting a diet); keeping hydrated will help immensely.
Also, forget the scale and pay attention to fat to lean body muscle percentages – the scale won’t record much accurately because it doesn’t take into account lean muscle gain and I cannot stress enough muscle weighs WAY MORE than fat! Or use the scale to supplement the body fat percentage measurements.
Love the book and the recipes/tips. Anyone have specific advice for transitioning from the Slow Carb to weight gain “Geek to Freak” program? There is a lot of detail in the book about both, but I’ve lost a ton of weight and am getting ready to switch to adding more muscle … and I’d love to hear any tips for the 1-3 weeks between the two? Slow adjustment? Fast? Add milk into 6 non-cheat days gradually? etc.
That´s right eating vegetables is a great way to have a healthy diet with a lot of fibre, interesting blog.
I ended up on this page in the hopes that somewhere on the site Tim had expanded his position on fruit since under the “Don’t Eat Fruit” rule he says, “There are a few biochemical exceptions to this, but avoiding fruit six days per week is the most reliable policy.” I don’t want to avoid fruit six days a week, even if it means my weight loss will slow down.
I’ve made an expanded list of allowed foods based on their glycemic load because unlike Tim, I find the extreme limitations undermine my ability to stick to the larger plan. I’d like to add fruit and have found that the following fruits have a zero on the glycemic load index:
• Black Currants
I’m wondering if these are the exceptions to the rule he referred to? Also, there seems to be a lot of confusion about grapefruit. I believe grapefruit juice is only recommended for your *cheat* days.
I’m also confused about nuts. Brazil nuts seem to be recommended, as well as almond butter (on celery at bed time), and nuts as emergency travel meals, but they’re not on the allowed list. I’m perfectly capable of limiting how many I’d eat ~ I’d just like to know what a healthy limit is.
P.S. Bananas and other tropical fruits tend to have the the highest GL. Apples are considered low but they’re a 6 vs. the zeros I’ve listed above.
I have been on the Slow-Carb diet for almost a year and have lost about 35 lbs (28% to 20% body fat as measured by bodpod) My biggest problem has always been the fruit restriction.After reading your post, I bought a half a pint of blueberries and rasberries and ate them in about 90 seconds. I will try the zero glycemic load fruits you mentioned and see how it goes.Thanks!
I’ve been seeing a lot of debate and such with cheeses, and I’m still a bit confused. I like to have a big salad with a can of tuna for one of my meals, and a Caesar or Ranch type of creamy dressing goes best on it. I found a delicious one with 0 carbs or sugars, but “parmesan and romano cheeses” is the 7th ingredient. There is also cultured whey far down the list.
Nutrition info of the dressing: http://www.fatsecret.com/Diary.aspx?pa=fjrd&rid=1991305
If someone has tips for a better no-carb/no-sugar creamy dressing, I’m all ears (or eyes heh). Thanks.
1st let me say the diet has changed my life and my whole way of eating… I do see above that you spoke about Siracha Chilli sauce and Oyster sauce, both of those sauces have sugar listed in the ingredients (Which has been MUCH to my dismay) You would make my month if you told me these sauces are 100% okay on the slow carb diet…
If you ate drinking 6-8 8 or more ounce glasses of water, and are experiencing dehydration, please go to a doctor. Unless you’re working hard physical labor in dry, hot conditions.
There is no way the diet is causing those symptoms itself. It may be that you got some kind of stomach ailment at the same time you started the diet, or there may be something else wrong.
This diet is so much easier to do than others I’ve tried. Having a limited selection to choose from makes it much easier to plan, and beans are so inexpensive that it keeps the cost down.
Also, the diet is working for me. I lost 9 lbs. the first week, and expect to lose a couple more this week.
I just started this diet. I’m very young (still in high school) and aiming to lose 50 pounds! I dislike eating boring meals and have come up with a couple recipes that I test on myself and my dad (who introduced me to the book, which I promptly read almost cover to cover, in under a day).
One of my recent creations is the Black Bean Chicken Burger, which I think is really freaking good. I brought it to school one day and my friend tried it and loved it, so it’s not just “diet food” its just good food! Each burger is 15 grams of protein, with some beans to keep you fuller longer.
If you want to try it (and I suggest you do if you find yourself in a diet rut) here’s the recipe:
-24oz chicken, shredded (I use canned breast meat and shred it because I’m lazy)
-1 can black beans (I toss them in a colander and rinse them, as Tim suggests)
-4 eggs (egg whites are acceptable too)
-3 stalks celery, finely chopped
-1/2 onion, finely chopped
-old bay seasoning
Super simple: Mix the above ingredients together. I suggest using your hands as it works the best for me. Depending on how much flavor you want depends on how much of each spice you use. I use: 2 pinches parsley flakes, about 1tsp curry powder, and 1tsp old bay seasoning, with a couple cracks of salt and pepper.
On a heated skillet add a bit of olive oil and form a patty with your hands, add to the skillet. Flatten with spatula. Cook for 3-5 minutes and flip (this is really tricky cause if you aren’t careful they will fall apart!), and cook another 3-5 minutes. Recipe makes about 8 burgers.
Top a burger with a chopped hard-boiled egg or two and a bit of salsa for a kick of heat and even more protein.
I eat them cold sometimes and they’re yummy. Good for a snack or meal, just pair with a veggie. You can make all of them in about half an hour and eat for the rest of the week!
I feel very proud to have created the above recipe, so please don’t steal my thunder =/ If you try this and like, it let me know! =]
Quick check-in here: 48 years old, exactly 3 months on the 4HB, have lost 34lbs,over two full pant and jacket sizes, and doubled my strength as per measure using HCB for kettle bell swings. My wife is 47 and has lost 25lbs. 4HB is like magic (can you spell DGW?) – HOWEVER, I have stalled two separate ways, in interesting fashions: (1) simply overdoing beef has caused me to stall twice (no weight loss in a week) and (2) I’ve been using 1tbsp heavy whipping cream in my coffee with great results – one week I outsmarted myself and switched to lactose-free whole milk and STALLED – turns out that lactose-free milk is created by converting the lactose into SUGAR (12g!) and it was enough to throw me off. Apart from that this has been a dream, with so many positives in my life, and really only one down side – a bit more gas beyond what I had – but I feel like a million bucks. And I travel – this is THE eating travel solution. THANK YOU TIM – game changer, life saver.
Did the almond milk question get answer? I am a huge fan of homemade nut milks and was thinking of giving a try to this diet. I am vegan but thought that for 1 month could stand with free range eggs and pea protein on almond milk to boost the protein intake.
So I would appreciate a lot some light on this forgotten milk…after all almond milk is only almonds and water if you dont want to put anything else on it
Out of curiosity, if the only dairy and sugar I consume in a day is 1tsp Maple and 1tbs of Whole Milk with black tea, would that ruin the effects of the slow carb diet?
Do I absolutely need to cut that out???
If you can recall from the “4 hour body” book, Mr. Feiress talks about how changing only one of your regular meals to a slow carb diet meal will help you see results. However, the more adherence you have to the diet, the more drastic your results will be.
So to answer your question, 1tbsp of maple and 1 tbsp of whole milk should not hinder your progress significantly, especially if you follow the other aspects of the diet.
thanks for the reply. I see what you’re saying. I suppose it can be any worse than the allowance of a couple of glasses of wine a night.
Breads that are made of just millet and flax? Or chickpea flour?
Any chance one can get away with enjoying something like that while on the SlowCarb Diet?
My wife is on slow-carb diet for the last 3 months, and I make bread of flax flour for her. She has it every day and it looks like it’s ok for the diet.
I’m not sure where you are getting your info, but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more. Thanks for excellent information I was looking for this information for my mission.
Can you do this diet as a vegetarian with eggs and a vegan protein powder such as sunwarrior brown rice protein mixed with unsweetened almond milk??
Advice would be greatly appreciated!!
Just started the slow carb diet this week and already seeing results on the scale and on my body! Just a couple things I wanted to check on if are ok to eat: chick peas, sweet potatoes and honey?
Also, I do play sports, so was wondering on those days should I eat some carbs before?
PS: Love your books Tim, read them all!
i’ve seen others post versions of this question, but no answers. Are the following allowed (yes / in moderation / no) 6-days/week on the slow-carb diet?
* unsweetened almond milk
* coconut water
* low-fat coconut milk
* celery root (celeriac)
* winter squash (butternut, spaghetti, pumpkin, acorn, etc.)
Is organic tofu and almond milk ok on this plan? I don’t see anything in the book about either. Thanks!
can you have cheese while doing this?
I am new to the slow-carb diet but have long been dairy free. I drink unsweetened almond milk (or the unsweetened vanilla flavor) and am hoping it is allowed on the slow-carb diet?
I was just wondering about dairy products. I’ve never been much of a cow milk drinker, but I’m a big fan of Almond milk. Is this allowed on the slow carb diet?
so now what do we do about red wine ??
I found the following in the above thread and thought it might be helpful:
Tim Ferriss — April 19th, 2007, 2:20 am
Wow! This post is getting out of control. I’ll do my best to answer a few of these, but with the book launch (www.fourhourworkweek.com) coming up next Tuesday, I won’t be able to give specific diet recommendations to each person. Grab the books I recommended, and you’ll be set.
A few things:
1. Cody, excellent observations. I use vinegar on salads, cinnamon, and even lemon in drinks to lower collective meal GI. Smart lad, you are.
2. I never said you need to limit veggies to those I listed, but I’ve found that the more variety you try and build in, the less you stick to your diet. My diet is not designed to be fun — it’s designed to be effective. Those four are the four I’ve found to be most tolerable when eating again and again. Feel free to substitute whichever you want, but some legumes are a good ideas for sufficient calories.
3. On MY diet (this is not to say it’s for everyone), brown rice is not OK unless within an hour after exercise. Too calorically dense and still normally high GI. Some will disagree, but here’s the thing. I’m not trying to get to 12% bodyfat (bf), I’m trying to get to 5-6%. This is HARD and requires that I be more strict that the average person.
4. This diet is great for gaining muscle. Just up volume and ensure you get a good amount of low-GI starches (organic whole-grain brown rice or quinoa; the latter is my favorite) after training sessions. Macaroni mixed with tuna is also a great bulking meal.
5. None of the supplements I recommended generally cause anxiety or insomnia. None are stimulants.
6. Fruit, and fructose, are not good for fat-loss diets — period. Fructose is easily converted into fat after it spills over from the liver. I eat one organic orange before sleep to increase HDL cholesterol, but this is not for fat loss.
7. Cheese (ideally low-fat), nuts, and occassional fried food (ideally without a ton of breading) are fine on this diet. Notice that all are protein-rich and low GI.
Buy the books! They’re more comprehensive than I can hope to be on this post, and I apologize in advance if I can respond to more personalized requests.
Please help each other if you can, and thanks for the discussion!
Of course it was in 2007 so who knows, some things may have changed…
Can we use plant protein powder with the slow carb diet?
Did I miss the eggs part? What can i put on eggs?
I am an ovo-lacto vegetarian and I really want to stick to the slow carb diet but there are not many protein options for me. Other than beans, eggs, unflavored whey protein isolate, and lentils I don’t know how else to get enough protein. Do you have any suggestions for meat alternatives?
I have followed Tim’s plan to the tee for two and a half weeks…I can’t say if I have gained weight, but my waist has INCREASED two whole inches (not cool), LOL! Previously, I was following my own low-carb plan and intermittent fasting with no problems but just wanted to get a little leaner. I am willing to try a little longer but it is def a LOT more calories than I am used to and I feel extremely bloated.
I do 3-4 thirty minute strength training days and 3-4 twenty to thirty minute cardio sessions/week.
Any suggestions, Peeps?
Just wondering if you or someone could make a post about the differences and comparisons that an individual, with no troubles in fat loss and a low body fat percentage, would do for lean muscle gain and nutrition optimisation that still incorporates the slow carb basics? (eg can maybe eat fruit and some otherthings)
I’ve been confused about the use of lemon juice in the slow carb diet forever. In the book, I believe the low glycemic profile is noted, but lemon juice is also listed as containing fructose, correct? which is a strict no-no from what I understand, except for cheat day. Can someone clarify?
I have 3 full grown sons, plus my girlfriend, so 5 adults. I doubled the hamburger, and increased the broccoli and chili red pepper flakes proportionally.
I did “cheat” with starting with 2 strips of bacon in the wok pan – cut up. Fried those up then followed her recipe to the T. No leftovers.
Sweet list yes, with umami I’d add miso, and for coffee sans milk I’d say add a raw egg and blend that good 💩👌🏻
hello Timothy, I’m reading your books. In regards to the slow-carb diet, I have problems especially with breakfast: in my country, having an “American” salty breakfast is almost impossible! I live in the country of “cappuccino and brioches”. tips? Food alternatives? thank you so much
Ps: sorry for my english