The Slow Carb Diet: Guidelines, Benefits + Complete Food List

There is an ever-growing list of popular weight loss diets, and the slow carb diet is yet another potential weight loss and health diet that might work for you.

But, what is a slow carb and a slow carb diet? What are slow acting carbs or slow carb foods and how can they you on your road to weight loss?

In this guide, we will discuss the Tim Ferriss slow carb diet, foods found on a slow carb diet meal plan, and a slow carb diet food list to help you put together slow carb recipes that may help you reach your weight loss and health goals.

We will look at: 

  • What Is the Slow Carb Diet?
  • How Do You Follow the Slow Carb Diet?
  • Can You Eat Carbs On the Slow Carb Diet?
  • Slow Carb Diet Food List
  • Does the Slow Carb Diet Work For Weight Loss?

Let’s get started!

A chalkboard that reads low carbs and low carb foods surrounding it.

What Is the Slow Carb Diet?

The slow carb diet is a low-carb, high-protein weight loss and health diet popularized by wellness and life guru Tim Ferriss, which is why it is sometimes called the Tim Ferriss slow carb diet.

After Tim Ferriss created the slow carb diet, he introduced slow carb eating and the slow carb principles to the public in his book The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman.

What distinguishes the slow carb diet meal plan from other popular low-carb diets like the Atkins diet or the keto diet is that the slow carb diet plan involves following a high protein, low-carb diet meal plan six days a week with four slow carb diet meals per day.

The seventh day of the week is a cheat day, which is not built into some of the other popular low-carb diet plans.

The other difference between the slow carb diet vs keto diet, in particular, is that you can eat “slow acting carbs, “so you do not have to eliminate carbohydrates altogether.

Note that the keto diet doesn’t unilaterally eliminate carbohydrates completely, but you can usually only have about 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates per day, which is next to nothing compared to the average carb intake on a more balanced macro diet.

Lean proteins.

How Do You Follow the Slow Carb Diet?

This low carb diet involves eating four “slow carbsmeals” per day six days a week and having one cheat day per week.

The slow carb food list includes foods from five main food groups: animal proteins, vegetables, legumes, healthy fats, and spices.

On the slow carb cheat day, you can eat anything you want, even if it involves meals and foods not found on the slow carb grocery list or slow carb meal plan.

There are five diet rules that you have to follow. Here is an overview of the rules of the slow carb diet plan for weight loss:

#1: Eliminate White Carbs

This meal plan eliminates all white carbs because these are processed carbohydrates.

You can have white carbs on the cheat day but not during the six-day slow carb meal plan.

“White carb foods“ include things like white bread, white pasta, breakfast cereal, baked goods with white flour, pancakes, tortillas, couscous, white rice, starchy white potatoes, etc.

Grilled chicken.

#2: Eat the Same Meals Every Day

To help make meal prep easy and remove a barrier that often gets in the way of sticking with a weight loss diet over time—the hassle, time commitment, and planning to come up with what you are going to eat—you are supposed to remake the same slow carb meals each day.

Plus, there are only five slow carb food groups, so your choices are inherently somewhat restrictive to begin with, which cuts down on decision paralysis.

#3: Don’t Drink Your Calories

Drink only unsweetened beverages like water, herbal or caffeinated tea, black coffee, or seltzer water.

Do not add empty calories and bad carbs to your diet by drinking soda, juice, alcohol, sweetened coffee beverages, energy drinks, sports drinks, etc.

#4: Avoid Fruit

While fresh fruit is considered a healthy food on many weight loss diets and nutritionally-balanced clean eating plans, the slow carb diet food list eliminates all fruits during the 6-day slow carb meal plan.

According to the slow carb diet rules, fruit contains too much sugar and is not considered a slow carb food.

A person taking a slice of pizze.

#5: Have a Cheat Day

One day per week, you should take a cheat day.

The slow carb diet cheat day is a truly free day, so you don’t have to eat according to the slow carb diet food list.

You can also break from the four meals a day schedule if a different meal timing works well.

Can You Eat Carbs On the Slow Carb Diet?

The slow carb diet food list does include certain low-glycemic carbs—carbs that do not cause a rapid increase in blood sugar.

Carbs you can have on the slow carb meal plan include certain non-starchy vegetables and legumes, such as lentils, soybeans, black beans, navy beans, and red beans.

In addition to not being able to have “white carbs” and fruit, you can’t have any form of sugar, fruit juice, corn, potatoes, quinoa, grains of any kind, cereal, pasta, dairy (milk, yogurt, ice cream, cheese), crackers, tortillas, etc.

However, the slow carb food list only pertains to the 6 days, not the cheat day. 

Green vegetables.

Slow Carb Diet Food List

Here is a slow carb diet grocery list to help you plan slow carb recipes:

ProteinsLegumesVegetablesNuts, Seeds, Healthy OilsOther
AnchoviesAdzuki beansArtichoke HeartsAvocadoAll fresh herbs
BassBlack beansArugulaClarified butter/gheeDried spices
BisonBlack-eyed peasAsparagusCoconut OilVinegar
BeefButter beansAvocadoMacadamia Nut OilMustard
ChickenCannellini beansBean sproutsOlive OilSalsa
CodChickpeasBeet GreensAlmondsPesto
CrabEdamameBell PeppersBrazil NutsHot Sauce
DuckGreat Northern BeansBok ChoyCashewsLime juice
EelKidney beansBroccoliChia seedsLemon Juice
EggsLima beansBroccoli RabeHazelnutsSoy Sauce
FlounderLentilsBrussels SproutsHemp seedsChicken Broth
GoatNavy BeansCabbageMacadamia nutsBone Broth
HaddockPinto beansCauliflowerPecansVegetable Broth
HalibutSoybeansCeleryPine NutsCoconut Milk
HerringSplit peasChardPistachiosWasabi
LambHummusCollard greensPumpkin seedsBeef Broth
Liver, kidneys, and organs meatsTempehCucumbersSesame SeedsSauerkraut and kimchi
MackerelDaikonSunflower SeedsPickles
Mahi MahiDandelion greensSquash seeds
MusselsEggplantWalnuts
PorkEndivePeanut butter
Red SnapperFennel RootAlmond Butter
RockfishGarlicCashew Butter
SalmonGreen BeansOther seed and nut butters
SardinesKale
ScallopsKohlrabi
Shrimp, lobster, other shellfishLettuces
TilapiaLeeks
TunaMushrooms
TroutMustard Greens
TurkeyOlives
VenisonOnions
Lactose-free, unflavored whey protein powderPeas
Peppers of any kind
Radish
Red cabbage
Romaine Lettuce
Sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickled veggies
Seaweed
Spinach
Tomatoes
Turnip Greens
Watercress
Yellow summer squash
Zucchini
But butters.

Note that in addition to the list of slow carb foods, you are supposed to supplement your slow carb diet meal plan with the supplements on the slow carb diet meal plan days.

Here is the slow carb diet supplements routine:

  • Before breakfast, lunch, and dinner: 99 mg of potassium, 100-300mg of Alpha-lipoic acid, green tea flavanols with at least 325 mg of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), and
    200mg of garlic extract
  • Before bed: 20-25 mg of Policosanol, and the alpha-lipoic acid and garlic extract, 500 mg of magnesium 
  • An additional 400 mg of magnesium and 1000 mg of calcium per day at any point in the day

Does the Slow Carb Diet Work For Weight Loss?

So, what are the benefits of the slow carb diet? Will you lose weight on this low-carb diet?

Weight loss on any diet is dependent upon how many calories you are eating relative to how many calories you are burning in a day; this low-carb diet can be effective for weight loss.

Brussels sprouts.

It focuses on nutrient-dense, satiating foods and illuminates foods that will cause significant spikes in blood sugar.

The slow carb diet is ultimately based on the research findings that a low-carb diet can support weight loss while also improving metabolic profile by limiting spikes in blood sugar and insulin, improving glycemic control, and lowering blood lipids.

Another slow carb diet benefit—both in terms of the slow carb diet for weight loss as well as mentally being content choosing the slow carb weight loss diet as a sustainable, appealing lifestyle healthy diet—is that the built-in cheat day may improve adherence.

Just knowing that you earn one day per week where you are totally allowed to enjoy whatever foods you would like with whatever meals and snack eating schedule you prefer can help you stay committed to the slow carb diet food list and regimen the other six days of the week.

Additionally, studies suggest that a “refeeding“ day with a higher caloric intake once a week may actually help keep your metabolic rate elevated and prevent your metabolism from slowing down with constant caloric restriction.

Research also has found that eating carbs on the refeeding day can help increase leptin levels—the hormone that increases satiety—by 28% and energy expenditure, or the number of calories burned, by 7%.

Learn more about the benefits of cheat days here.

A person dipping a french fry in suace.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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