The Truth: Low Carb vs Slow Carb

I write to you today at the end of an experiment.

Ready to present the results. However, I’m a little worried about what it might do.

You see, for the last 2 weeks, I have been experimenting, and yes, some of that has been in forms other than slow carb, or even Four Hour Body recommendations.

I have strayed away, in the pursuit of more knowledge, and more results!

So, it’s today, that I solemnly declare that I have ‘cheated’ on the Four Hour Body.. with a mistress know to many: low carb. But why?

Why would I do something so stupid, so crazy, and yet seemingly so intriguing and new at the same time? Simple. I started getting a little ache in my stomach a few weeks back, and then it became a bigger ache. It came with a lot of meals, and then I started really feeling averse to beans, then it was chicken. I couldn’t even buy them in the grocery store. Weird! But it sounded very familiar to other stories I’ve read. So I decided it was time for a change. Time for something different. I have been reading a lot lately, about some of the more impressive physiques that are seen around Hollywood, around the movies, and TV shows, and also reading on other websites that feature oodles of nutrition and training advice. It’s a big wide world out there, let me tell you. And so, to my experiment, my stray off the slow carb path.

Here goes…. It all started out simply enough – dropping a bean meal here and there, and then within a few days, I was totally involved in the low carb mentality. I was using a modified version, that sees carbs added in pre-workout, and post workout, to replenish stores. As I was training with 2 rest days in between (with my as-yet-unrevealed-mystery-taining-regime), this meant 1 carby afternoon, and 2.5 low carb days on a cycle. Seemed to make sense. On the low carb days, I would add gobs of peanut butter, nuts and leave in some animal fats (like no draining ground beef), and sticking with my 8 eggs a day routine. Add to that the addition of much more salad, in the form of greens, peppers and most things water based (avoiding starchy and sweet vegetables), and I thought I had a solid plan.

Things seemed to go really well at first. I had been a little frustrated with a weight plateau that was lasting into it’s 2nd week, so I really wanted to try to shake things up a little. I kept a careful eye on things, and paid very close attention to a number of factors:

  • Energy level
  • Weight
  • Fat level
  • Sleep quality
  • Sleep duration
  • Muscle soreness/stiffness
  • Performance at the gym
  • Mood and attitude
  • Clarity and focus

And let’s remember, this is fresh off the calendar.. I was doing this last week, and the week before that. So, to the results:

  • Energy level – first week really good. Second week, definitely started feeling a little less like doing a lot, however I found burst of energy came from nowhere.
  • Weight – didn’t change ( a good thing, as I was dreading a reduction) – so no gains.
  • Fat level – Little appreciable difference. Went up a little.
  • Sleep quality – Very good, as on slow carb and variations.
  • Sleep duration – Long sleeps, feeling lethargic getting up. *Midnight snacks required often at 4am.
  • Muscle soreness/stiffness – Progressively not fading away like it should. Later last week had a sensation of a ‘deep ache’ that isn’t like a rebuilding, it’s like a
  • Performance at the gym – As of today, almost managed less reps on same weights as last week.
  • Mood and attitude – Somewhat depressed at times. A little less than eager to take initiative.
  • Clarity and focus – Some things just seemed to take a long time. I felt quite scattered at times.

There are some keys that stand out to me:

  1. I was getting more sleep than usual, yet felt more tired.
  2. My muscles, considering the amount of sleep I was getting, didn’t seem to be recovering as fast as usual.
  3. I had to eat much more often and it was harder to stick to a routine.
  4. It became more and more inconvenient to get in enough calories over the day, and enough protein.
  5. With lethargy, came all sorts of wasted pieces of time where I didn’t know whether to eat more, or just take a rest.
  6. I didn’t lose any fat in 2 weeks, where I had plenty of sleep (more than usual), did my regular workouts, and had a couple of other moderate activities (but nothing close to overtraining).
  7. Whether by coincidence, or by cause, my hayfever was actually quite a bit worse across this time period, but the seasonality of my part of the world really hasn’t changed significantly in the last 2 weeks (we’re still dragging through a late spring most days).

So, it’s done. As of tonight, it is finished. I did a workout today, felt muscles that I didn’t like, and made my decision.

As if they were conspiring to come and find me, I have seen no less than 2 photographic documentaries of individual progress on slow carb, over a number of months in the last 24 hours. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I am a believe in universal energy, and the law of attraction, and though this may a little on the light hearted side.. slow carb has come and found me, right when I was asking ‘what regime should I use to cut my body fat lower, over the next 100 days?’ I have also seen the photos Tim posted about the lady who went from 155lbs to 155lbs, and was eating over 3000 calories a day.. and its quite a transformation.

Again, this has convinced me of two things:

  1. Slow carb, with it’s beans and protein is a really solid base to continual body development, whereas I felt like my body was breaking down on low carb
  2. Calories really aren’t the big factor everyone thinks they are. Think about thermogenics, think about muscle, quality of food, health, less stress, and everything else, and then you have an accurate picture – the human body is complex.

So this time, I have a different approach. Though Occam’s Protocol is focussed on gaining muscle as fast as possible, I have also read plenty on slow carb and see 12% bodyfat being quoted for post-workout carbs. That is, if you are above that mark (for a man), then don’t have any. This suggests to me that there are some variations, or a grey area in between pure slow carb, and Occam’s (with its rice and quinoa), which I think I will aim for. I didn’t like the rice every day, and didn’t feel it was doing good things for me.

So I plan to attack slow carb again, maintaining gym workouts not unlike Occam’s Protocol, and only include protein shakes made with milk around workouts. Other than that, I will look at snacks in between meals, so I don’t have to consume massive quantities of food to bring in my target of 2800 -3200 calories per day.

Last but not least, it pains me, but, I think to make further progress I will be logging food into DailyBurn, at least for a week, as I reset all of my ‘gut vibes’ on food, and what and how much looks right, as this low carb thing has really fiddled with my eyes and my ability to gauge what’s a good-sized meal.

Have you experimented away from the Four Hour Body? Maybe in workouts, not in diet? Share your ideas and results below in a comment! I read every one of them.

You might be interested in reading these too:

  1. Anti-4HB Advice: Count Calories on Slow Carb Maybe it's your dirty little secret, or maybe you share it with everyone? Maybe you're wondering if it would help your fat loss go faster? The truth is, for all the comments in...
  2. Slow carb warning – stalled fat loss We work with many people each week who have challenges with stalled fat loss, and many of them have a common problem with the slow carb diet that is the cause of their...
  3. Relax and lose fat on slow carb? Have you been feeling a little on edge lately? Perhaps just a little overwhelmed? Or maybe there's a couple of things in your otherwise great world that are eating away at you, that...

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23 Responses to The Truth: Low Carb vs Slow Carb

  • Justin says:

    Here is a good article on Post Workout Nutrition

  • Chris says:

    Interesting, I found pretty much the same thing and switched to low carb / primal (from marks daily apple).

    I have not had any problems with energy aside from a small blip when i switched over, it sounds like you might have hit that.

    The strange thing i found with low carb was the increased focus on fats – you are not just cutting beans – you have to add something else for the energy.

    I am still in a weight loss stage with only training for a short-ish race 14km – with loads of sprints etc as well as some bodyweight stuff.

    • Luke says:

      Hey Chris, thanks for sharing your thoughts.
      Sounds like you’re on a good track! It could have been the switching over that was a problem with energy, though I replaced all bean calories with nuts, nut butters, etc.. for fat intake, so I thought I was covering my bases there. Primarily though, I just didn’t have the time and attention to be able to track it all, vs slow carb which I find very easy to follow. That doesn’t mean I think one is better than the other though! Whatever works well for your training and body goals is the ‘right’ way to eat!

      All the best,

  • Glenn says:

    Hey Luke,

    Great post. I was actually considering this. I am on week 4 of Insanity and I have continued adding quinoa to my meals. I have determine that for the next 30 days, I will eliminate quinoa and see what happens. The reason I’m doing this is because I have not drop any weight since I’ve started. I’m assuming it’s the quinoa. Although quinoa is good for you, it’s not good for weight loss in the way that I’m consuming it. The reason I left in the quinoa for my meals is to avoid being too skinny LOL But I will experiment by leaving the quinoa out.

    I considered omitting the beans, but with the workout that I’m following, wouldn’t suffice because of the energy levels that I have to maintain. I’ve also considered consuming quinoa INSTEAD of the beans. First I will experiment with eliminating quinoa for a month, then depending on the results, I may eliminate the beans and go with just quinoa.

    I’ll keep you posted

    • Luke says:

      Hey Glenn, sounds like a great experiment, thanks for noting the details here, and we look forward to your results! I agree on quinoa- it’s very healthy, and an excellent starch source when wanting to add mass, but some will come on in fat, so it’s less likely you’ll lose.

      You may also want to experiment with your slow carb meals, and rather than needing to increase plate quantities per meal, think about having a mini meal with that extra food, if you feel you need to. Your body will need a decent amount of calories and protein with the workouts you’re doing, and slow carb might not cut it. Currently I’m sticking with a 4 meal per day pure slow carb, plus 2/3 protein shakes in between meals – most made with lactose free milk, using natural whey protein and cinnamon.

      All the best!

  • Alexander says:

    The “low carb flu” disappears after a couple weeks. It doesn’t sound like you gave it a shot for long enough to transition. It’s a complex process of changing your body chemistry, it’s going to take a while. Don’t give up!

    Slow Carb was really the only thing about 4-Hour Body that I disagreed with Tim about. It fits with the theme of the book in getting the maximum results from minimum effort, in the sense that most people just aren’t willing to cut carbs heavily out of their diet and doing so for them would be a huge effort, but if you do it for the long term, and replace the carbs with healthy, saturated fats, you’ll see tremendous results. In fact, I hardly saw any results until I started eating a borderline ketogenic diet (which I should point out, isn’t as hard or as monotonous as is sounds).

    Slow carb is really just a compromise between an actually healthy diet and what regular people eat; which, again was kind of the point of the book, but if you’re really serious about leaning out, building muscle and staying disease-free, then you’ve gotta go all the way. I think on general principle, if someone encourages you to eat rice and legumes, then you should run the other direction. The costs of those foods far, FAR outweigh the benefits.

    That’s my $1.25 (2 cents adjusted for inflation).

    • Luke says:

      Hey Alexander,

      Thanks for your comment!

      Very interesting thoughts, and I know there’s a lot of thought and research around paleo, low carb, and some other variants out there too, with some people with amazing results. I will say that I’ve also seen stunning results with slow carb, and I think the secret key is that for anyone who wants it enough, they’ll make it happen with whatever regime they pick. My honest take on low carb was that I was need to count calories and I was eating very often; both of which I found mentally draining and at the time I just didn’t have the attention or time for that. I understand that low carb works very well for a lot of people, as long as there’s enough calories coming in of course.

      All the best,

      • Alexander says:

        That’s kind of curious. I’ve never bothered to count calories, I just stuff my face with animal products and it all works out on its own. For me anyway that’s way easier to do, since I’m not really keeping track of anything except filling my stomach when I get hungry.

        I think the thing that’s important to realize too is that while pretty much everyone is bound to get great fat loss and energy results from slow-carb, there’s still more toxins building up than on a very low-carb diet. Obviously nowhere near the level that you’d get from eating a regular diet, of course. So for me, I still see slow-carb as kind of a half-assed, cheating (in the nicest sense possible) approach, rather than an all around solution for things.

        Everyone can eat the way they want, I guess I’m just willing to go the ‘extreme’ route. I think in that respect, maybe 4 Hour Body wasn’t for me — I needed something more. Diabetes, cancer and heart disease run in my family so I’m inclined to be extra cautious, on top of my desire to just live long enough to take advantage of the radical (healthy) life-extension technologies that are being developed.

        Probably wouldn’t hurt to try a low-carb diet again someday if you stop getting as good results (which aging will cause for probably all of us) and ramp up the fatty meat intake. Keep up the great work though, love the site!

        • Luke says:

          Hey Alexander, thanks for your comment!

          I get where you’re coming from, and really respect people, like yourself, who have the commitment to focus their attention on creating the most healthy body-environment possible, which comes from very sensible and good food choices and preparation. Of course, there are different schools of thought on these things, but I think you’re taking an approach that works for you and your concerns about heriditary diseases.

          As you understand already, a lot of people don’t have the time or are concerned to this level, however I feel many people stand to be in a better position than where they currently are – and this is one great example of where slow carb can do a lot of good. Likewise for people who are looking to better their health and move away from a life of common food allergies, slow carb is a great, effective way to address this, and of course losing weight is a very nice side-effect.

          Thanks for reading, and all the best.

          • Alexander says:

            What I think I object to though is that you didn’t really do low-carb properly, failed, and then titled the article “The Truth: Low Carb vs. Slow Carb” rather than “This Was My (Bad) Experience With Low Carb”. It’s kind of a sensational blanket statement that isn’t really true and could perhaps turn people away from going beyond Slow Carb if they were willing and wanted to get more results (which they can if they do low carb the right way). In that respect, I just find it somewhat irresponsible, which is I think the point I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to make.

          • Luke says:

            Thanks for your response Alexander, I appreciate where you’re coming from. In fact, the ‘truth’ that I was talking about was that I had been off slow carb for weeks, and felt that it was a good idea to share what I had been through with my readers. Some people who are really dedicated most likely will start looking at low carb, paleo, etc.. but for most I truly believe slow carb is a much more practical means to be mostly healthy, and certainly much more so that a regular western diet, and for that reason I still recommend slow carb to people who are considering a lifestyle change, because the barrier to entry is much lower with regards to energy changes, counting/measuring food, etc.
            I will reiterate though that for amazing results, I know a lot of people find low carb to be the best option, and that it can be an incredibly healthy way of eating, for those who see this as a very high priority in their lives. I could go on, and we could debate that everyone should see eating as a top priority, but the reality is that most people don’t, as they focus on other things like work, sports, money, bills, and the list goes on. For people already tied up with things, slow carb can help one aspect, without too much involvement once the routines have been learned.
            Thanks again for your thoughts.

  • Kathy says:

    Very interesting read! I was pretty much primal before I heard about 4HB. I was not able to get my husband to go primal but he liked the 4HB so away we went. I started eating the beans and talk about gut problems! I’ve eliminated them almost entirely (have them occasionally when I have yummy carnitas) but am low carb otherwise. I do participate in the “cheat day” and so far (4 weeks) I have lost 11 pounds and 5.75″.

    I might add I have incredible energy with no highs and lows, I sleep great and my workouts have not suffered at all.

    We shall see. I still have a way to go but for me, the beans just made me uncomfortable!

    • Luke says:

      Hey Kathy, thanks for leaving your experiences!

      That’s interesting to hear the beans didn’t work for you – you’re not the only one! And I think I had a bit of bean overload, and the 2 weeks off them was actually really great. I’m being careful now not to overdo them, or any kind of food now.

      Congratulations on your results! That’s really great :) And I think doing a cheat day with low carb is smart as well.

      All the best for your continued success!

  • Karen O says:

    I was following a not dissimilar version of this diet (the Harcombe diet) for about 10 months – it has similar rules to 4 hour, but is strict around not mixing carbs and fats so the body has to burn off fat. It does allow more dairy (so long as you aren’t intolerant) and fruit, but essentially I found myself following it and eating in a low carb way just like your experiment, because just eating carbs on their own wasn’t filling enough. I found similar issues with lack of energy and no get up and go. I am also struggling with acute carb sensitivity whenever I eat any carbs now – the usual bloating and water retention problems, which I think because I had very limited amounts of carbs using this regime.

    4 hour has some leeway in it with its cheat day, which is great (and I’m really looking forward to my cheat day tomorrow). It also encourages protein, fat and slow carb mixing which seems to help with energy. I am a bit dissapointed that this week my weight had plateaued on this plan (lost 5lbs so far and 1.5lb of body fat, also gained a little muscle this week) but am trying not to let the lack of weight loss make me give up. I know it’s more than just weight loss but inches lost and muscle gained, but having weight ingrained as the thing to lose for decades means that obsession can take a while to shake off!

    • Luke says:

      Hey Karen,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences! Really appreciate hearing from you.

      I think you will find 4 hour body’s slow carb a more lenient, and more simple and straightforward way of doing things. It has the potential to yield excellent results, and is also more liveable day to day, I think. Keep focused not just on weight and inches, but in how you’re feeling, and other signs, like mood, energy levels, sleep quality, and general sense of wellness. Some coaching clients also experienced reduction or complete loss of previous ongoing health complaints like Plantar fasciitis and fibromyalgia, so there’s a lot of healthy things going on under the surface that you can’t see.

      All the best!

  • Britt says:

    Just a quick note about the “bean problem.” I have found that rinsing the beans cuts down on the tummy and intestinal discomfort. It seems the gas-producing part of the bean is primarily in the liquid it is cooked in. Rinsing them has made eating beans a much more pleasurable experience for me. I’ve been doing the Tim Ferriss slow-carb diet for a month and I’ve lost 22 pounds! Works for me. ;-)

    • Luke says:

      Hey Britt!
      Great tip!! I definitely agree that rinsing off all the ‘juice’ from cans of beans, with cold water, makes them very digestible. Also, cooking for at least 10 minutes I find makes a big difference.
      All the best,

  • jamie steele says:

    I did low carb for a year and i love 4hr body. It has helped me a lot more than low carb ever did. Plus cheat days are awesome. Feel great look great and may never go off this way of eating.. Gonna run a half marathon in Feb..

    • Luke says:

      Congrats Jamie! Sounds like slow carb really suits you! I know what you mean about never changing this way of eating.. seems like all the bases are covered :)
      All the best with you half marathon training! Luke

  • Tanya says:

    I’m worried. And I think I’ve been straying as a result but I’m not sure. I’ve been on 4-H for 6 weeks and have lost about 17 pounds (I don’t honestly know the inches but let’s say 2 pant sizes). I want to lose another 12. I’m stuck here at 17 pounds (week 2+) and in between pant sizes and I’m getting worried that I’ll never break that plateau.

    I follow all the rules – I think. Perhaps a very tiny bit of dairy gets through and I do put splenda in my coffee in the morning. But otherwise I’m 99% clean. More water? Eat more? I too find myself wondering if I should pop off and do low carb, cheat an extra day, have a cheat meal instead of a cheat day, go liquid for a few days – something, anything to shock my system.

    I have stopped working out which I did tons before – I will admit that it’s nice to get 12 hours back in my week! Maybe I could do more of that. This is the first time I’ve ever had success of any kind and I’m worried that I’ve spent it at this point. Help!

    • Luke says:

      Hey Tanya,

      Plateaus are very common as people progress, and congratulations on your result so far. If you stick with slow carb, and having a usual 4 meals per day, with 1/2 to 1 cup of beans each meal, following the other guidelines about food types, and amounts of protein, the odds that you’ll put any weight back on are very slim. The odds that you’ll continue to lose are very good. Making bigger changes switches up those odds, perhaps to a 50/50 shot at whether another tactic will help. Tim’s advice for a plateau was to go off all supplements for one week, eliminate protein powders and bars of any kind, cut dairy, and cottage cheese, and do some kettlebell workouts. That’s a general indication that really, these aren’t big changes, but just a slight variation in routine.
      Some light exercise is the best, a few times a week, but don’t think you need to get back to 12 hours a week of workouts!
      Keep at the core principles, don’t worry too much about changing things at the moment. It’s a workable and easy lifestyle to follow, so nothing is lost in waiting out a few more weeks and seeing where it goes. Consider if you have any particular stresses in your life you could help minimize, and if you’re getting enough sleep – both of these things are hidden fat-loss-slowers.
      All the best,

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