How To Improve Upon Tim Ferris’ Slow Carb Diet (aka My New Diet Regime)

How To Improve Upon Tim Ferris' Slow Carb Diet (aka My New Diet Regime)

Just a moment, I’ll get to it…

I nearly called this article ‘Crazy April’ because this month I’m trying 3 new ‘experiments’:

  1. Begin my new improved version of the slow-carb diet (this one intended to last more than 1 month but the experiment part is a month with an option to change to something different if I don’t feel it’s going in the right direction – pretty sure it will though)
  2. New exercise regime
  3. April the month of French speaking – no English allowed in our household – we’re all going to speak French only (unless we have visitors (unless they’re French))

It’s manic because I have been sleeping in a house we’re renovating for most of the end of last month – this because we’re in a desperate attempt to get that place finished – which was meant to be by the end of the month. I’ve been working like a crazy fool on it all hours early morning until late at night.

The thing about building, old houses and renovation projects: you get plenty of surprises. Particularly towards the end – big ones, just when you think you should be finished. Some of them you maybe should have noticed earlier but you’re just too tired to know what the hell is going on anymore.

So how about we just stick to me telling you about the first of these to try and get some focus, eh?

The New Improved Slow-Carb Diet

Overall I like the slow-carb diet, despite writing this controversial article about it a while back: 3 Reasons To Try Tim Ferris’ 4-Hour Body (Slow-Carb) Diet – And 10 Reasons Not To…. That article got plenty of comments, some good, some bad but mostly due to the fact that I deliberately titled it provocatively.

It was all true though and I stand by that article and my right to have an opinion.

Overall though, because of the way I structured the article, my overriding opinion was mis-read – hardly any surprise there and that’s my own damned fault. Anyways, my overriding opinion is this:

I like the slow-carb diet, it works (even if not as well as claimed in the book – at least not for me) and above all has taught me plenty.

On the basis of it being one of the very few diets I could actually see as sustainable (most of them are fads which work for a while, plateau, then get dropped in favor of the next best thing – perhaps only after some form of dire regression) and being a very good ‘base’ I am still striving to find the perfect approach (diet) for me and I am pretty sure the end result will have been influenced by my slow-carb and Paleo experiences, definitely the diet in April will be because it is essentially ‘modified slow-carb’.

What I Struggled With on the Slow Carb Diet

So, even though I wrote 10 reasons not to try the slow carb diet, actually only a few of them really bothered me at all.

The things I really struggled with on the slow carb diet were at the boundaries – i.e. it’s not really well explained in the book exactly what is allowed and what isn’t. For someone who likes rules (and therefore likely to make bad choices when there is no rules to stop me) this made some decisions a little tricky. Here are just 2 examples:

Peanuts: apparently peanuts are allowed on the slow-carb diet (interestingly, when I did the 30 day paleo challenge, I discovered that peanuts are not allowed on the Paleo diet (all other nuts are) because a peanut is not technically a nut, but a legume & legumes are not allowed on Paleo). Tim Ferris is very clear in his book that no measuring is required on the slow carb diet, but you have to dig pretty deep to find warnings about snacking on peanuts (which is precisely what I did first time round) or to find that the amount of peanuts actually should be restricted to a cupful per day (according to

Pizzas: In his book, Tim Ferris mentioned having a pizza on a non-cheat day. How does that work? This confused me for a while and I figured it must just be a non-carb version of pizza made with almond flour or chick-peas or something.

What I Like About The Slow-Carb Diet

That article sparked a few angry comments – even though it was my experiment, my feedback and my opinion which I believe I’m entitled to, people got pretty angry – I was even accused of not having read the book!

All comments were well received (yes, even the angry ones) and taken in total, there’s some good info in the comments – e.g. the site is a good resource as shared by my friend Darren.

So despite the admittedly antagonistic headline, the 10 reasons not to and the angry comments, I do actually quite like the slow-carb diet – particularly because I like rules – particularly simple ones that are easy to follow, and having no calorie counting is a definite bonus in my book. Here’s what I particularly liked:

  • On the face of it, the diet is relatively easy to follow, with few, easy to understand rules (though for things like peanuts, there are more ‘advanced’ warnings and guidelines beyond the 4 simple rules which will advise quantities and dangers to avoid).
  • The diet does actually also work pretty well – I only said I didn’t get results quite as amazing as the book suggests (I still got – and still get results though).
  • As I said earlier, it has taught me plenty, and provided an opportunity and a moment to pause for thought which led me to this idea: A Very Simple Thought That’s Helping Me To Be More Healthy, something which will features heavily and actually forms the basis for my new modified version of the diet which I will describe below.

What I Still Don’t Like About The Slow-Carb Diet

So the 10 3 article was deliberately a little bit controversial and as I said, of the 10 reasons I gave ‘not to try it’, most of these didn’t bother me – what I really don’t like about the diet is it’s a little extreme and maybe 2 other little niggles but even in my new modified version I’m still going to live with one of these. I don’t like:

  • That I can’t drink cups of tea (with milk – because no milk allowed) – which is difficult for me because I love tea. Otherwise I can completely do without milk, no cereals, no milk, no hot chocolate or any other form of milk, but I just need a bit for cups of tea. I know it’s not allowed, but like Tim with his red wine, I like my cups of tea.
  • No fruit – though I can completely see the point of this. For me, organic fruits have always been really healthy and a good source of essential nutrients and vitamins, so to have no fruit at all (except on cheat days) is hard. As I said, I do see the point though – basically fruit=sugar and this is a low sugar (low carb) diet for 6 days of the week. I get it. Doesn’t mean I have to like it though, does it?
  • It’s extreme. Not too extreme but still extreme. I mean, eat as much as you like, no moderation needed – it’s actually perfect for an ‘abstainer’ like me, but still… to cap it off on binge day, this diet has us stuffing our faces with the worst kinds of crap just because it;s our only chance to do so and absolutely everything is allowed. So yeah, I find it a little extreme. But you can’t have it both ways, can you? Either learn some moderation or follow some extreme rules.


Come up with a better idea (which I think I may have done by basically combining the simple healthy thought with not liking how ‘extreme’ this diet is – I’ll explain below). Who knows, it might just work really well – at least for me.

The Premise & Promise of This Diet

I wanted to create a diet for myself that:

  • Suits me and my lifestyle
  • Is as healthy as possible whilst being sustainable
  • Is easy to follow
  • Doesn’t take all of the fun out of eating
  • Gets me all of the nutrients I need
  • Helps me to avoid diseases associated with bad diets or lack of any particular nutrients
  • Is kind(er) to my teeth as well as to my body

and it seemed like the slow carb diet was a pretty good basic structure to start with – i.e. the 6 days on, 1 day off concept coupled with the idea of keeping carbs low (but not too low which can be bad for your health).

The three drivers of this diet are in essence the thoughts from the following 3 articles on this website:

1. A Very Simple Thought Which Is Helping me to be More Healthy leads to Principle #1: If you’re going to follow a healthy diet and be healthy, you might as well be as healthy as possible (which translates to eating the healthiest foods possible).
2. Why Can’t we Just Eat Grass Like A Sheep? Because we can’t. As Isabelle explains in that article, as human beings we need a complex array of nutrients which are best sourced from a varied diet. Having said that, we can simplify our diets and ensure that we get the best selection of nutrients leading us to Principle #2: Focus on a small subset of foods which give us all the nutrients we need (I researched foods which give us the best nutrients and vitamins and came up with 10 being the optimal number to get everything we need whilst keeping the list small and easy to remember and work with): then we are more likely to eat very healthily and less likely to eat ‘fillers’ which perhaps match the rules of the slow carb diet but aren’t the most healthy thing we could be eating.
3. 3 Reasons To Try The Slow-Carb Diet and 10 Reasons Not To leads to Principle #3: Cheat day doesn’t have to mean cheat with food that’s really bad for you. There are plenty of foods which are only allowed on cheat days because of the sugar they contain, but are fairly healthy foods (e.g. fruits).

A quick word on sugar: It’s mainly the combination of sugar and fat that gets us into trouble, not one or the other. We eat far too much sugar in general, but sugar on it’s own, particularly in natural form, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Nor is it particularly addictive. More on this in this article: Sugar vs Fat: Which Is Worse For Our Health?.

Cheat day doesn’t have to be over-binge day, healthy choices can still be made on this day such as brown pasta, rice, bread instead of white versions.

Upon these 3 principles, my modified slow-carb diet is formed. I’ll describe it in a little more detail below:

My Modified Slow-Carb Diet

Follow the rules of the slow-carb diet with the following modifications for non-cheat days and cheat days:

Non-Cheat Days

Major on the following 10 foods:

  1. Spinach
  2. Tomatoes
  3. Celery
  4. Carrots
  5. Salmon
  6. Lentils
  7. Beets
  8. Eggs
  9. Avocado
  10. Chicken
  11. Lamb

These are roughly in order of their nutritional value for the following nutrients: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B6, Folate, Pantothenic Acid, Vitamin B12, Choline, Betaine, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Selenium (obviously non of these foods gives us all of these but most give several and between the 10 food types above, all of these nutrients are covered well).

As we’re trying to avoid extreme, I’m not going to restrict myself to only being able to eat these foods, I will occasionally eat other foods within the rules of slow-carb but I’m stocking up on the above and reckon I’ll be eating something from this list at least 80% of the time.


Pine Nuts, Peanuts, Pistachios, Almonds all allowed in moderation.


Tea with milk (my minor exception to the slow-carb rules), green tea, liquorice tea, water).

Cheat Days

Just because it’s a cheat day that doesn’t mean I have to binge on crap. The principle here is to make healthy choices even though it’s cheat day. This means major on healthy foods such as fruit.

  • Whole foods which have only 1 ingredient are a good way to go
  • Eat little to no bread products/wheat and choose brown over white
  • Eat as much fruit as possible
  • Avoid/limit processed food

Final Thought

That’s it. I reckon it’s pretty simple and makes a lot of sense. I love experimenting and finding out how I respond to things, often getting surprised by what I learn. In this case, I’m really excited to see how it goes. If you have any comments at all or questions, I’d love to hear them.


How To Improve Upon Tim Ferris’ Slow Carb Diet (aka My New Diet Regime) — 12 Comments

  1. Hi Alan , the 4 HB diet turned my life around and i was able to redesign my body even tough i am only a couple of months on it now, but it definitely suits me and i feel great.
    Then i digged a little bit further and found that Eric Bravermann book “the edge effect” was a good addon to th 4HB mainly because of its reviewing of the main amino acids and what they do to the mind-body connection.
    Anyway, i now put my focus on the true paleo diet and such diet as the bulletpreoof diet.

    • Hi Laurent,

      that’s great to hear & I know a lot of people have had great results with this diet (in my case the results were more about learning than weight-loss – as I said, it did have some effect but nothing revolutionary – maybe partly because I wasn’t too overweight in the first place). Paleo was even more eye-opening from a learning perspective when I tried the 30-Day Challenge, though raised more questions for me which I told Alison Golden from PaleoNonPaleo about afterwards here: The main thing that puzzles me is the argument between potatoes (not allowed) and sweet potatoes (allowed) and the reasoning for this – they both grow in the same way. In any case, I’d recommend Alison, her site and her book if you want to learn more about Paleo.

      Thanks also for the book tip – I’ll check that out.

      What do you think of my choice of foods above?

      in any case thanks for taking the time to leave a comment & for your feedback,

      best wishes,

  2. The new and improved slow carb diet. If there’s one thing I don’t like about signing up to a diet, it’s that they’re inflexible. They have so many rules and often, they don’t apply to my lifestyle. In the end, I’ve had to just build my own from scratch. It’s actually quite similar to the paleo diet from what I can tell, but I eat more than they do.

    I don’t understand how a pizza would work as a cheat day. Maybe he explains it better, but it just doesn’t seem like it fits. Anyway, I probably would stay away from it and maybe make pizza something I do once a month or two.

    • Well, as Alex explains above it was on a non-cheat day but because Tim was doing some kind of GLUT-4 experiment at the time – he does make some caveats about eating carbs before and after exercise in the book but to keep things simple I have just stuck to no carbs 6 days per week (or more precisely the very limited carbs/foods prescribed by the diet) and then carbs allowed on cheat day (Saturdays for me).

      I hear what you’re saying about the inflexibility of diets though – like anything when you’re following someone else’s rules. I think the thing to do is to understand it and how it works then you are able to adapt – and dare I say even improve – on what you’ve learned.
      Alan recently posted..How To Improve Upon Tim Ferris’ Slow Carb Diet (aka My New Diet Regime)My Profile

  3. Good luck with your new and improved slow carb diet. The best diet is one that is both healthy and works for you. I recently started the diet outlined in T4HB and have experienced success.

    Also, you mentioned the pizza he ate on a non-cheat day. That was NOT any sort of non-carb health food. In fact, I’m pretty sure he says it was a BBQ chicken pizza. However, the reason he was eating it was to help advocate those GLUT-4 exercises before/after meals, and to show how they helped him lose weight even when eating the unhealthy pizza. I’m not entirely sure I believe it, but maybe that clears up your confusion.
    Alex recently posted..Retail Arbitrage: My Next ExperimentMy Profile

    • Ah, thanks for letting me know that Alex, I did wonder about that and didn’t want to re-read the whole book just to try and find the reference again.

      I’m really pleased to hear that you have experienced success with the 4HB diet as I know many people have – how much success are we talking about – has it had a profound effect in your case?

      I definitely felt healthier the first time I did the slow carb diet but just didn’t lose anything like as much weight as expected (not that I was too overweight in the first place which may be why). Though now it looks like I’m getting slightly better results on both.
      Alan recently posted..The Gentle Art of Pushing Our BoundariesMy Profile

  4. Food for your non-cheat days – I know that if I had a list of food that I’d stick to 80% of the time, I’d get bored very quickly (even though it’s a damn fine list of food). I’m curious to see how you feel about it at the end of the month.

    The Tim Ferris Slow-Carb diet definitely didn’t work for me. The focus on beans left me bloated and I actually put ON weight after a month. Not exactly the result I was looking for…..
    Razwana recently posted..Treating marketing as a nice-to-have is for your competitionMy Profile

    • Well, so far, so good.

      I’m feeling very healthy at the moment – for me it makes sense that if you’re going to choose to restrict the food you eat, you may as well make it a really good restriction. There is little difference between spinach and any other salad leaf for me for example (in fact I prefer spinach) and spinach is MUCH healthier.

      Of course what I really want to eat is the stuff I can’t, but when that’s out of the window, everything else has little difference in terms of effort to consume – so may as well make it the very best stuff.

      It’s been working really well so far. Couldn’t have done it if 100% – and I still eat crap on cheat days, just nowhere near as much crap.

      Also, to your point about beans – I eat far less beans with this approach – lentils, yes, but far fewer beans – just because I have stocked up on my ‘Super 10’ food types mentioned above.

      What kind of diet are you following these days?

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