Customizing your Slow Carb Diet

Is the slow carb diet a one-size-fits-all, or is it a good starting point? Whether you’re getting started, or if you’ve been going for months, the question of tailoring the meals, and the routine, to your schedule and preferences is an important one. If you’re worried that you’re never going to get relief from the black beans you’ve had for every meal lately, or if the chicken breast isn’t giving you enough protein to recover and build more muscle, then we have the answers right here.

We need to start with a quick look at the basics of the slow carb diet – beans, lean protein, and vegetables, 4 times per day. No snacks, no dressings, no condiments, etc. Everything else is fine tuning, adjusting and looking for better results, but this is the basis for everyone.

From here, we need to look at a few factors:

  • Additional nutrition
  • Convenience requirements
  • Avoiding specific foods for health (allergies/intolerances) or choice (vegetarians/vegans/other)
  • Interest

Step 1. Start with the basics

Let’s build on 4 basic slow carb meals per day. You know how much you eat, roughly, so let’s use that as a base.

Step 2. Consider changes

Firstly, let’s think about if you’re changing your routine at all. Adding workouts? Adding in some cardio, kettlebells, or some heavy lifting at the gym?

You’ll need to increase your protein marginally, and perhaps your beans too.

For moderate workouts, consider adding another half serve of protein to 2 of your daily meals.

For those lifting heavy, consider increasing your protein 1.5x at each meal, and consider either adding more beans, or including some brown rice or quinoa at 2 meals per day.

Step 3. Look at your life routines

Do you work late regularly? Do you get up early? Perhaps you don’t have a chance to cook? Or maybe there’s a microwave at work?

All of these factors come in to play when you start considering how to make meals portable and yet keep them nutritious.

For those on the road, I suggest going out with a day’s worth of canned tuna, pre-drained canned beans, and some fresh raw spinach in a sealed (hard) container. It will all keep during the day, and is perfectly convenient and fast. Keep some spices in your car for maximum flavor. If you want to go for a home run, pack along some boiled eggs.

For those studying, think about portable foods that you can keep as back ups in case your plans change, or you get stuck somewhere. Also remember that lunch doesn’t have to be hot, but if there’s a microwave on campus, then think about what you can quickly pack into 1 zip lock container. Think frozen beans, sliced ham or turkey, and some drained black beans. Cooks up quick and is very tasty.

For those working at the office, think about batch-prepping lots of zip lock containers on the weekend, and taking them in to work to heat up. If you don’t have a microwave on hand, then check out your local take-out food options online before you go anywhere near them when you’re hungry – Check their menus and come up with a plan of what to order. Either option will help with the morning time crunch before your commute.

For those working physical jobs, check out the road warrior suggestions above, and pack a bit extra. If you’re doing physical work it’s likely your nutrition needs are higher than those who don’t move around as much during the day. Even consider adding an extra meal, and spacing things out 3 hours apart, instead of 4. If you’re limited to timed breaks, go ahead and increase your portions if you need to. It’s unlikely that larger meals will curb your fat loss.

Step 4. Adjust to your personal circumstances

If you’re allergic to certain things, like fish, then obviously switching up your menu is understandable. For those who don’t eat meat, things can be challenging, so it’s in this step that you need to now consider the base, plus any changes due to lifestyle, and then look at how you can substitute in alternatives that nutritionally are comparable to the basics of slow carb – beans, meat and vegetables. Think about unflavored protein powders with water as a ‘meat’ portion replacement.

For anyone who’s looking to adjust their menu, do so at this last stage, and no earlier. It’s important to first establish your requirements, and then look at substitutions once you’re clear on your specific needs.

Step 5. Readjust when necessary

Things change. Preferences change and so do lifestyles. Whether it’s because the season’s changing, or because you’ve picked up a new exercise habit, be prepared to adjust your established routines to make sure they match your current situation. You might just be bored with what you’ve been eating – and that’s a good time to change things, because you’ll have good motivation to make things interesting again.

When’s the last time you adjusted your slow carb diet to really suit your needs? Do you have to make many compromises regularly? This is a great sign that there’s probably something you could plan around, and enjoy an easier time of it.

You might be interested in reading these too:

  1. The definitive answer on nuts and the slow carb diet It's a question that gets asked from time to time - if we are avoiding 'white' carbohydrates, and eating protein and some fat.. then why no nuts? Maybe some are ok, and some...
  2. Cottage Cheese on Slow Carb – The Low Down It's a question that goes through the mind of every slow carber when they start looking beyond the usual options for protein - bored with beef, sick of chicken, fed up with fish,...
  3. Four Hour Body Gift List for the Holidays – ideas for Slow Carb Dieters and others Before the panic sets in, and the shops are full to overflowing, have a browse through this gift list, that includes some great ideas for someone who's read the Four Hour Body, or...

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13 Responses to Customizing your Slow Carb Diet

  • Hector says:

    It seems that I’m having to constantly readjust and I’m not entirely sure. I’ve started a new 3 month commitment to the diet as of yesterday…I’m sure if I look really hard, there are a couple of things that I’m doing incorrectly. Got rid of the almond butter, and started doing the ice pack on the back of the neck. At any rate, this post was more to address a flaw that I see in the advocacy of canned food. Can linings contain BPA,, if you choose to do a little bit of homework. I’ve stopped using canned food for quite some time, this diet however, I’ve had to buy some canned beans in a pinch. Compared to cooking fresh, they taste terrible. Eden Organics appears to have everything but canned tomato products in BPA free cans., this is another listing of food producers who have made the switch to bpa free cans. I’d recommend tossing the ziplock containers, etc. Get glass Pyrex containers. Just a bit of soapboxing on a sunday morning. Peace.


    • Luke says:

      Hi Hector, thanks so much for your comment.
      I’m very interested in the information you posted, and really appreciate you sharing that with our readers – I know BPA is a concern, as water bottles are now produced without it. It’s unfortunate that fresh beans tend to be much less convenient than canned ones – and hopefully more companies will move to BPA-free cans soon. Likewise the containers you mentioned – I’ll be reading up more about them.
      On a side note, you mentioned canned tomato products – in general, it’s best to leave large amounts of tomato for cheat days, though a couple of tablespoons of no added sugar/no corn tomato salsa is ok once or twice a day.

      All the best! And thanks again,

    • Sean says:

      Hector’s point is more than valid. To affirm what Hector is saying about the consumption of canned foods, the Harvard School of Public Health reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that volunteers who had once can of soup (same types of cans used for beans) per day for five days had urine BPA (bisphenol A) levels rise by over 1,221% compared to people who consumed fresh soup over the same period of time. That’s 5 cans of soup… BPA has been proven to cause issues such as different types of cancer, including breast cancer and neurological disorders. I love much of what Tim Ferris shares in the 4 Hour Body but there are some huge health holes that need to be considered. Hector’s point is one of them.

      • Luke says:

        Hi Sean, thanks for your comment.
        I absolutely agree with you – which is why I wrote a follow up article on this topic ( I think the recommendation to use canned beans was an ’80/20′ decision – basically that the slow carb diet fails pretty miserably if everyone has to soak and boil their own beans.. most people couldn’t be bothered. I suspect that because reports show acidic and fatty foods fare the worst in cans, and with beans being neither acidic or fatty, some people might consider this a more minor risk. However, I really think people deserve to know about the dangers.
        Thanks for sharing those figures – staggering. A good enough reason to do more home cooking!

        All the best,

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  • Paul Jensen says:

    First, very nice site. Very helpful and informative.

    I’m glad you have Step 4 and 5 in there. My only concern is that many of the new “revised” changes for the slow-carb that seem to be coming out now seem to be going for the optimum slow-carb, which is fine. However, I would strongly urge not to forget about sustainability.

    It’s great that I can loose weight more quickly if I completely give up nuts, but if that 10% or 20% gain if efficacy (pulling numbers from nowhere here just to make a point), leads to a 50% greater chance of dropping out ’cause I just can’t take the diet with no nuts, that’s a net loss to me.

    Thanks again, for a great site guys.


    • Luke says:

      Hey Paul, you make a very good point – the book’s slow carb version is quite limited, in terms of selection of foods, though this makes for a simple prescription, it also means over the long-term people may lose interest. It is possible to fine-tune, once someone understands the basics (such as being able to add a small amount of nuts and not reduce fat loss by a lot), though I recommend everyone starts with the simplest version, to get some baseline numbers and a feel for what the food is like.
      And we’re glad you like the site! Let us know if there’s anything else we can offer that would help you.
      All the best,

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  • dawn says:

    Been using and loosing- but want to know about pumpkins, squash and quinoa- cant find out anywhere if these foods are ok on a slow carb eating plan. Thoughts

    • Luke says:

      Hi Dawn,

      Sounds like good progress! In theory, pumpkins, squash and quinoa all aren’t allowed on slow carb. Some people experiment to check their results, as everyone’s different, but as a guideline, keep these 3 for cheat days.

      All the best,

  • tiffany says:

    I thought i came across something about putting lemon juice in water, but now im curious if i am sabatouging my diet. are lemons allowed?

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