The Ultimate Quickstart Guide For The Slow-Carb Diet

The Ultimate Quickstart Guide For The Slow-Carb DietIt’s a common frustration. You’re about to start the 4-Hour Body diet, and you want to make sure it’s perfect. Even in your mind you know this is the thing that’s going to work for you, finally, once and for all. You just want to make sure you have all your Ts crossed and Is dotted.

But the book is so big.

Never fear. This is the only post you’ll need to read to get started immediately and with confidence. Bookmark it and come back to it as often as you need! Buy the book, but use this post in the meantime.

Note: this guide is for the slow-carb diet as it pertains to fat loss. If you’re looking to add muscle, that’s a different story and my friends Justin or Luke would be much more suited to help than I would.



The whole premise of the fat loss portion of the book is that you can do it without any exercise. So what’s left? Food.

The truth is nutrition is the 80% of fat loss’ “pareto principle”. Fix your nutrition, and you’ve fixed most of your issues with fat loss (note: I’m using the term “fat loss” as a distinction, because most “weight loss” plans also include a loss of muscle because of calorie restriction. This isn’t the case with a proper slow-carb diet).

I’ve covered this pretty extensively in other posts, so I’ll hit the highlights here.


The 5 Rules

There are only 5 rules in the slow-carb diet:

  1. Avoid “white” carbohydrates – This means anything made from grains, including corn, rice (brown and white), and quinoa, white potatoes, and breaded things (like fried chicken). White carbs that are not part of this include things like white beans and cauliflower. If it’s white and not a legume or (legit) vegetable, avoid it when fat loss is your goal.
  2. Eat the same few meals over and over again – It’s easier to plan, and planning always makes success more likely. It also helps you spend less time thinking about food, which for many of us is the reason we can’t stand “diets” in the first place.
  3. Don’t drink calories – There are plenty of reasons for this, but the most important one is that a ton of your calories have previously come through beverages, and they provide little to no nutritional value. You want your calories to be nutritious, so you want to keep the fluff out.Tim does make an exception for a glass red wine and one 16oz diet soda per day. Personally, I’d skip the diet soda because those fake sugars are doing more damage than they’re worth. As for wine, I prefer a nice Argentinian Malbec.
  4. Don’t eat fruit – If you’re like me, you might balk at that statement. Fruit is healthy, right? Yes, in a healthy person it’s great for you. For an overweight person looking to lose fat, it’s only going to make it more difficult. Same thing for super healthy foods like sweet potatoes. The carb content is high and easily digested, so it raises blood sugars and makes it harder to tell your body to get rid of fat. For now, just say now. You’ll get some later.
  5. Take one day off per week – Also known as “cheat day” or “faturday” or whatever name you want to give it. Take one day a week and throw the other 4 rules out the window. Do what you want without fear of gaining all the weight back. There’s good reason for it. When you have a craving during the week, save it for your cheat day.
  6. Bonus optional rule: Track and Tweak – following the above 5 rules will get you pretty far, but one of the things Tim always stressed in the book it was to test things out yourself. You’ll see provisions for things like Parmesan and cottage cheese. He even said once at a creativeLive event that sweet potatoes are a slowly-digested carbohydrate, but previously in his “extras and errata” blog post after the book launch, he said sweet potatoes are not allowed.

    The point is if you want to try cottage cheese, try it for a week and see what happens. If you get results, keep going. If you go backwards, stop eating cottage cheese. Embrace the experimental nature of this whole thing to figure out what your body needs.


The Food List

The food list in the book is pretty small. By sticking to these you’ll definitely see results:

If you want to be more adventurous, I did a ton of research, cross-referencing Tim’s blog with the book with the official 4-Hour Body Cookbook with Paleo food lists from Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson, and I believe I’ve come up with the most extensive, totally slow-carb food list that’s been published.

If you want to use that list to come up with your own meals, you can find it here:
Fairly Exhaustive Slow-Carb Food List


Meal Planning

Figuring out what to eat is quite simple. Regardless of the list you use, pick one thing from each column and create a meal out of it. It can be as simple or extravagant as you like, as long as it fully complies with the list.

Be sure to include a protein, legume, and vegetable in each meal. Good fats are also great to include.

I’ve actually created a service to plan slow-carb meals! I’ve got months worth of meal plans ready for you over in my slow-carb meal planner. Click here to read more!

Or if you want to try to go it yourself for a minute, I’ve got you covered there too.

Here’s a post I wrote with just about a month’s worth of meals if you need something to get going, and eating the same thing every day doesn’t sound appealing to you.
28 Days of Slow-Carb Meal Plans Just For You



A specific point Tim makes in the book is to make sure to get at least 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of being awake. You’ll find a lot of differing opinions on this, especially when you start getting into intermittent fasting.

For the beginner, your best bet is to eat breakfast within an hour of waking up, and make sure you load up on proteins and fats. It gets your fat-burning gears spinning. Consider eating an egg scramble with lentils and spinach with half an avocado.



As I said earlier, the whole premise in all of Tim’s pre-launch marketing was that you can lose fat without exercise. My friend Sergio lost over 100 pounds without doing any (he couldn’t; he had back surgery). He says it would be nearly impossible for someone to be less active than he was.

Exercise isn’t meant for fat loss. In my opinion, it’s meant for mobility. Our bodies are designed to move, and sure you’re burning some calories when you move. But you’d need to run at least 3 miles to burn off a grande – the 12oz – latte from Starbucks. That’s just silly. It’s not sustainable, and it’s bad for your health.

Instead, let exercise be you moving around in your daily life. Park farther away so you walk more. Walk to your coworker’s desk instead of calling them. As much as you can, walk or ride a bike to things around where you live.

There are a couple different exercises in the book that one of Tim’s clients used during her fat loss experience.



The Minimum Effective Dose is extremely important to understand in order to realize that you really can work out too much.

I like the example Tim uses in the book. If you went to the beach looking for a tan and were in the sun for an hour and a half, you’d burn. Your skin would turn red, eventually peel, and you’d be just where you were before you went.

However, if you instead broke that hour and a half into 6 chunks of 15 minutes each, by the end of the week you’d be mistaken for a hot South American. The key is in the dosing.

By overworking your body, you can actually do damage and negate or reverse any work you’re trying to accomplish.

10-15 minutes is all you need.

Start by following the workout Tim prescribed for Fleur in the book. It’s very simple:

  1. 1 set of 20 glute activation raises
  2. 1 set of 15 flying dogs
  3. 50 kettlebell swings

After that, you can try some other kettlebell workouts or perhaps a site I enjoy from time to time, Max Capacity Training. It’s quick but effective workouts.



I almost left this section out, on purpose.

You can do this without supplements. If you’re eating a proper diet, you’re getting the nutrients your body needs and you generally don’t need to take any supplements. Don’t feel like you must buy these supplements in order to do this right.

That said, Tim suggests supplementing potassium, magnesium, and calcium. You can get potassium through avocados. 500mg of magnesium before bed will help with your sleep (which actually should also improve because of your diet). Here are some (Amazon affiliate) links for you:

There’s one more set of supplements Tim talks about in the book, and he calls it the PAGG stack. You do not need the PAGG stack to see results, but some experience better results while taking it.

The one I prefer was the first one on the market after the book came out, and it was designed specifically to be the exact dosage recommended by the book AND to be as easy as pie to take. The company that makes it is called Pareto Nutrition, and here’s a link to their stack. (Disclosure: I do make a small commission if you purchase through my link, but it is the stack that I’ve taken, and I wouldn’t recommend something I haven’t tried.)



In the book, Tim tells us exactly what his cheat days look like, and he also gives some very specific tips to controlling the damage. There’s almost a science to it. It goes like this:

Lay the foundation

Eat a solid slow-carb breakfast first. This will help digestion and it will help hold things together. The increased carbohydrate, fat, and oil consumption you will likely experience on your cheat day could disrupt an otherwise-well-functioning internal plumbing system.

I’d wait at least 30 minutes to an hour after breakfast before getting started. You might even find you only want to cheat between lunch and dinner. However you feel comfortable.

Damage control exercises

There are three exercises you can to do help direct the extra calories to your muscles: squats, wall presses, and chest flies. I try to get about 30-40 of each in just before eating and then 90 minutes after.

Drink extra water

Much of the weight gain will be water weight. Drinking more than enough water will help your body get rid of it quicker.

Grapefruit juice and coffee

Tim says that grapefruit juice before meals helps keep the insulin spike lower, and lower insulin levels seems to be the key to fat loss. Caffeine, as I understand, helps increase metabolism.

Limit it to one waking day

My biggest problem at first was that my cheat “days” often started on Friday night and ended Sunday evening. You don’t want to give your body extra crap to work on for more than a day. Stick to one day between the time you wake up and the time you go to bed to maximize results. If you cheat for more than a day, don’t expect the weight to come off in 3 days.



Over the course of a couple years, I’ve put together a few extra posts that are designed to help you get on your way with the 4-Hour Body’s slow-carb diet. Here are the links you need to supplement the basics:

7 Secrets Every 4 Hour Body Newbie Should Know
20 Tools and Tips for 4HB Beginners
What to Eat: Slow-Carb Snacks on 4HB
More 4 Hour Body Than You Can Shake A Stick At

Still have questions?

Lay them out in the comments. Between me and the FMF community, they’ll all get answered.

Related Posts:


  1. Great article. I like the way you added the sixth rule. I’ve found tracking what I eat and monitoring weight change has been the key to my success on slow-carb.

    • I think that’s the key – track to monitor, not obsess. I’m measuring and weighing myself every two weeks this time only for reference. When I get down to 220, I’ll probably stop weighing. It’s a tough balance. On one hand, you just want to be healthy instead of obsessive, on the other hand the numbers help reaffirm your plan or tell you to course-correct.

  2. Great post, Jason! This is excellent for someone looking to get well acquainted with the slow carb diet.

    I agree with Steve about the tracking. Not only does it help your progress by tweaking what works and what doesn’t, but when you measure your success and SEE IT HAPPENING, it seriously skyrockets your motivation. My fiancee and I started the diet and every week when she measures and takes pictures, it’s amazing to see the differences broken down by week and compared from the beginning to three months in.

    What do you use for tracking? “We” (really her, she’s more committed than I am haha) use an iPhone app called Slow Carb (there are two, we use the one with the fork and knife icon and orange background) and it’s been pretty helpful for measuring progress.

    • I use a good ol’ pen and paper. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I used to use the 4 Hour Body App, which I still have, but I just find it easier to write it down in a notebook. But that’s me.


  3. How much amount I can eat legumes??
    In my house, soybean and blackbean are so much. My parents grow them for my family.

    But In my opinion, too much beans could ruin my slow-carb-diet because legume contents lots of carb….

    how much is proper?? what grams?..

    • Hi Abel,

      According to the book, you should be able to eat as many as you care for. They’re high in carb, but they’re also high in fiber so they fill you up with nutrition, and they digest slowly so they don’t impact your blood sugar as much as, say, a piece of bread or potato would that had the same grams of carbohydrates. Slow-carb isn’t a low-carb diet, it’s a “proper carb” diet, so don’t necessarily be afraid of them.

      That said, I try to keep it between 50 and 100g per day (I tracked for a bit and determined what got me that amount) because for my body, I need to go lowish carb in order to drop body fat.

      Does that answer your question at all?


  4. Thank you so much. In my country, South Korea, alpha lipoic acid is not permitted without doctor’s admit paper(for only desease cure)… so I can’t get this medicine…

    PAGG except A
    so PGG is still effective for diet??…

    Please understand my poor English. In fact, most people in my country are not good at English… But I really want to get slim body, So I can Endure difficulty from

    And… Whey protein Isolated is terrible for 4hourbody???
    I am a university student. so I have a trouble with Eat protein for Natural food at lunch and dinner. But I wrote some oppinions that says WPI is bad. It Increase My insuline. ….. I am very sad…

  5. Hi,

    Wondering if cheat day can change when needed, I have functions on Saturdays some weeks and Sundays other weeks..can I switch between these days sometimes for my cheat day? Would make life easier for

    Also I read cheat days are only good for people who are slightLy chubby, but not for obese people since their insulin resistance is too sensitive how does this diet work with obese people and their sensitivity to insulin shock? Please explain thanks.


    • Hi John,

      You can change your cheat day, but the recommendation is to keep at least 5 or 6 days between them (I can’t remember specifically). Sometimes I’ll skip a Saturday if I know I’ll have an opportunity mid-week.

      Cheat days work for obese people too. I talked to a guy named Sergio who lost 100 lbs while basically on bedrest, and he observes cheat day religiously. You can see how Leon did as well in this interview.

      You do bring up a good point that’s always had me thinking. If we’re trying to improve insulin resistance, shouldn’t we avoid things that will severly spike insulin? Think of your cheat day as a way to get more carbohydrates, but not necessarily an excuse to eat cake and icecream and candy. I’m of the opinion that it doesn’t have to be a “return to the way I ate before” day as much as a “I can eat fruit again!” type of day.


  6. I love working out in the mornings before breakfast. Sometimes I don’t get to eat within the hour of waking up. I want to follow the diet strictly, should I move my workouts for after I eat?

    • Hey Elena,

      No – in fact, there are some good benefits to working out in a fasted state. Tim Ferriss has said before that the “30 in 30” is one way to do it, but another way he endorses is intermittent fasting – effectively skipping breakfast and eating it later in the day.

      In the end, it’s what works for you. If you want to try it out both ways to see which gives you better results, go for it (and let me know if you do). But I think you’re just fine working out before you eat.


  7. Thanks Jason for this page. Firstly, I’m a gym freak. Love it, there all the time. How often do I need to workout ? Glute+Dogs+Bells, are we looking at once a day? What are your thoughts about 3 times a week?

    • Hey Rachel,

      3 times a week with as much walking the rest of the time as you can get in, sprints once or twice a week (30-60 seconds max effort, rest to recovery, x8 reps).


  8. Nils J Olsen II says

    How many times a day am I allowed to eat on the diet? Is 4 times to much? Or is 3 times too little?

  9. Hi Jason! Thanks for your amazing website. Iยดve read the book as well and still have some questions … I hope you can help!
    Im a vegetarian so the only source of protein from the diet i can get is eggs. Im used to eat lots of vegetables that i dont see in the veggie list of this diet. In the book, Tim says its ok to eat tomatoes, avocados, mixed salad in a restaurant, but still the list of veggies doesnt include cabbage, carrots, zuchinis, ETC ETC ETC.
    So, i really want to start the diet and do it exactly as it should be done, but if will be eating just eggs for protein, and spinach, or coliflour every meal of every day i dont think i can stick with it for a month…

    1) is it ok if instead of having a slow carb meal at breakfast i have a whey protein shake with the same amount of proteins (30grs) ?

    2) why does olive oil doesnt make the list? how am i supposed to dressing my salads or veggies?

    3) are we allowed to drink coffee? if so, when?

    Thank you in advance! Looking forward to your response so i can get started ASAP.

    • Hey Lucia,

      Yes to all of your questions. His list is small on purpose, because he found that most people did best with just a few options to pick from. The simpler the better. You’re like me, though, and I like to have a variety. I have a bigger list, so maybe you’ll find more things there you like. Here’s a link.

      I’d still try to get a real breakfast when you can. Nothing beats real food, not even a shake.

      Not sure why olive oil isn’t on his list. It’s totally fine.

      Drink coffee whenever you want. 1-2 Tbsp full-fat cream if you need it, black otherwise.


  10. Hello Jason,
    I m from India.firstly, many thanks for writing this article secondly, I am doing Ketogenic diet & has had fair success however I m getting tired of same food & moreover it’s getting difficult to attend social event with such restrictive diet.I find slow carb diet more doable & sustainable …coz legumes & lentils are so much part of our daily meals.somehow I can’t buy the book , so I hope I’ll get my queries answered here.

    1. Is there a fixed amount of carbs in take in a day?
    2. Proteins need to be only 30 g??
    3. We get chikpea flour called besan ..can I make pan cake our of that flour?

    4. Any restriction on onions,tomatoes & cucumbers & lemon
    5. Sweetener like stevia can be used??
    6. How do I ensure the amount of calories intake I need while following this diet.
    7. How much of fat can be eaten..cheese & butter allowed?
    Wud love to hear from you soon,

    • Hey Teena,

      Thanks for reading! I love Indian food, so I’ll be asking for some recipes once you get the hang of it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      1. Not really, but there’s wisdom in keeping it lower instead of using it as your primary food. The idea is to start with veggies, add protein and fat, and then round it out with carbs if you need more calories.

      2. The 30g protein rule was for breakfast. Tim Ferriss found that if his test folks got 30g protein first thing in the morning, their fat loss results were better.

      3. I’ve toyed with using besan before, but the concern I have for it is it’d be too easy to eat way too much of it. Try it out once in a while, but if you don’t see results and that’s the only thing that’s not on plan, try taking it out.

      4. Nope, those are all good. Lemon would be the only one people might question, but you’re using it as a condiment rather than a food.

      5. Stevia is OK, but you would be wise to stay away from sweets in general except on your cheat day.

      6. If you’re worried about overeating, if you follow what I mentioned in #1, you shouldn’t have to worry. If you’re worried about undereating, it’s a good idea to track a few days a week at first just to make sure. You can use something like myfitnesspal to track calories. I don’t know what the right amount for you would be, but under 1400 daily is probably too few. That’s about the only guideline I can provide there.

      7. Ghee is all good, stay away from cheese except parmesan if you want to follow the diet strictly. Fat isn’t a problem.


  11. I can attest that FOOD is the biggest change you can make for weight loss. After being diagnosed with celiac disease, I was no longer able to frequent fast food restraunts. My meals are now all home cooked with a lot of ingredients from our small farm and the change has been amazing. I have lost nearly 30 lbs just by changing what I eat.

  12. Richard Silvester says

    So good to know I’m not the only one to have a cheat weekend rather than cheat day! ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Hi Jason,
    What is the opinion on tofu? I try to stay mostly vegan, although I occasionally do eggs. It seems like too much to do 6-8 eggs every day.. Would you recommend tofu or a protein powder?
    Thanks in advance!

  14. What would be the round about number of carbs when doing the slow carb diet for one day…a woman

    • Hi F – there isn’t a round about number of carbs. You’re not targeting macronutrients (in other words, you’re not counting grams of fat, protein, and carbohydrates), you’re just eating from the list. If you do that you should be fine. Doesn’t have to be more complicated! General rule – half of your plate veggies and the rest protein and optionally legumes, but that’s my own approach. Fats are good and can be used to fill you up and make sure you get enough calories.


  15. Mariajose says

    Thank you very much, Jason, for putting this together. Awesome work.

  16. Dave Hollis says

    Peas and green bean are legumes.

  17. Karen Bertram says

    why is it bad to eat mayonaise on the 4 hour body diet? I like to make chicken or tuna salad for lunch with mayonaise

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