By Cyrus Peikari, M.D.
A question I get often is this: Do I have to give up the foods that I love, to lose body fat? The answer is, “No!” For those of you who have been following me, you know that I’m currently eating chocolate and potato chips every day, while still shedding body fat and getting stronger…all without doing any cardio whatsoever.
Your next question might be, will this work for me? Yes, if you follow the correct plan for your body, the results should come fast. The trick is answering, “What is the best plan for me right now?” With my patients, the answer takes a little testing and tweaking. Before the more advanced “Netflix and potato chips diet”, I teach patients about other diets, such as the slow carb diet, or a vegan diet. And as we will see, using Chipotle Mexican Grill, you can do both slow carb and vegan at the same time, on the run.
The first diet, and one of the best, is the “slow carb” diet, popularized by Tim Ferris’ on his 4 hour body (4HB) blog. If Mr. Ferris ever wins the Nobel Prize, I suspect it will be for his efforts in promoting this diet. Of Tim’s accomplishments, his diet has the potential to do the greatest good.
Why does the slow carb diet work? Perhaps because Tim designed it for fallibility. Knowing that we humans will cheat on any diet, he built in a mandatory cheat day…a day of reckoning where you can (and should) eat as many donuts, Snicker’s bars, and pizzas as you want.
With this hedonistic cheat day, Mr. Ferris lets us think that we’re getting away with murder. However, he has a secret agenda: there are several hidden benefits to this day of carb reckoning. For one thing, it makes dietary adherence skyrocket. Because you know you can eat that chocolate cake on Saturday, you endure the other 6 days (which as we will see, really aren’t bad at all).
For another benefit, the cheat day helps to keep your metabolism from down-regulating. For example, most of you have tried a diet and lost weight for the first few months; however, you then reach a plateau, and the weight starts to creep back on, even if you eat less and exercise more. However, by using Tim’s method of carb overload to strategically spike insulin levels one per week, you can help keep up your metabolic hormone levels, particularly thyroid and sex hormones.
A third benefit of the cheat day is that eventually you start to get sick of it. After a few weeks or months, you notice that you feel mentally alert and energetic on regular days. However, cheat days are the opposite: you feel bloated, mentally foggy and tired. You even start dreading cheat days, which causes you to start cheating in moderation: for example, for just one meal. Because this is a natural weaning process, it works long term. Eventually, you may go a month between cheat days; although that’s the maximum gap, to avoid slowing your metabolism.
Having helped many patients shed many pounds over many years, I would make a few humble suggestions to Tim’s 4HB slow carb diet. For one thing, in his book, the Four Hour Body, Tim optionally recommends taking 4 supplements, known as a “PAGG” stack. “PAGG” is an acronym for the combination of the following four supplements: Policosanol, Alpha-lipoic acid, Green Tea Flavanols, and Garlic extract. Tim even suggests that these 4 supplements are the “four horsemen” of fat loss, which to him seem to work synergistically.
I disagree with Tim on this. (I think Tim himself might disagree now, since in later years he seems to recommend less supplements). In my experience, patients who took the PAGG stack lost a little bit extra fat initially, but the weight came back after a few months when their bodies adapted to the medication. Worse, it is a brutal schedule of four times per day dosing of drugs not studied extensively in humans. So it seems like much potential toxicity, with little long term benefit.
Another tweak to the 4HB slow carb diet that I would suggest to Tim is this: eliminate alcohol, even on the cheat day. I like to avoid conflict, yet this is the most controversial statement I’ve made to date. It gets some people angry to hear this; but I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you. For many reasons, I feel that eliminating alcohol altogether is the single best move you can make for your long term health and success, exceeding the vast benefit, for example, of quitting smoking. I won’t belabor this point, but please take the time to think it over and arrive at your own decision.
The slow carb diet can be a bit challenging to follow at first, especially when you are traveling or on the run. That’s because fast food restaurants are based around high carbs. Now, let’s make it more difficult: is it possible to eat BOTH slow carb AND vegan at the same time?
Before my current “Netflix and potato chips diet”, I followed both a slow carb and vegan diet…at the same time! Talk about brutal! However, it is quite easy now, thanks to improving commercial menus. One of the best options is Chipotle Mexican Grill.
Several years ago, when I started with the combined slob carb/vegan diet, Chipotle didn’t have much in the way of vegan options. That’s because their beans, which are a slow carb mainstay, were made with pork. However, in late 2013, Chipotle converted all of their beans to vegan.
Let’s look at a sample from Chipotle’s menu, available in a convenient calculator on their website. In the first example we are eating slow carb, but not vegan. Our ingredients are a basic burrito bowl with black beans, chicken, salsa, guacamole, and lettuce. That equates to 555 total calories, with 30 fat grams, 36 carbohydrate grams, and 42 protein grams. By eliminating the tortilla and rice, we’ve made it slow carb, while retaining a lot of protein. The carbohydrates come from the beans, but luckily beans are “slow” carbs, so you’re fine.
Now for the vegan option: simply remove the chicken, and add extra black beans or pinto beans. For example, a burrito bowl with black beans, pinto beans, salsa, guacamole, and lettuce comes to 490 calories, with 24 fat grams, 37 carbohydrate grams, and 16 protein grams.
It’s delicious! So you can eat both slow carb and vegan, with friends, on the run: Chipotle makes it easy. But all this talk of slow carb and vegan is making me hungry, so I’m going to eat some potato chips and chocolate.
What do you think? Please take a moment to comment right now. Your responses make me so happy!