Diets come and go — the years have seen different diets take the center stage as fitness enthusiasts and “health nuts” try all of them out. Recently, a new diet is under the spotlight with its shocking methods yet “promising results.” If you’re in tune with diet trends, you’ve probably heard about the snake diet.
The snake diet trend is everywhere — Instagram, Youtube and all the fitness blogs. Many people are interested in its premise: can you lose weight by eating everything you want once a day and fasting for 48 hours? Does following this meal plan help you “slither away the excess pounds?”
The snake diet adds a twist to currently popular fasting methods. Compared to other timed-fasting practices, this one is on the extreme side, which naturally raised a lot of red flags for health professionals.
So, before you try the snake diet and anticipate results, here’s what you need to know about this new diet trend.
What is the Snake Diet?
The snake diet program is not like any green detox diet. Aficionados and followers of this diet promote it as a lifestyle-centered type of prolonged fasting, not a restrictive diet. Established from a belief that people historically endured extended times of famine, the diet argues that the human body can sustain itself with just one meal a few times a week.
Fasting Cole Robinson created the intense weight loss program. In his 2016 YouTube video, Robinson said the main focus of the snake diet is fasting, calling fasting “the holy grail.” He added that fasting can speed up a person’s metabolism.
How Does the Snake Diet Work?
The snake diet program involves an initial fast of 48 hours or for as long as you can. Snake diet followers can supplement the diet by drinking Snake Juice, a beverage rich in electrolytes. After this fasting period, there’s a short feeding window of an hour or two before you start fasting again. Creator Robinson defined this type of fasting as “proactive eating,” defining the narrowing of feeding as deliberate and intentional.
It’s unclear if the program requires a one to two-hour feeding window per day since the snake diet protocol advises followers to stop eating and drink Snake Juice, as well as fasting as long as “you feel good.” According to the snake diet YouTube video, the initial phase involves eating dinner then going on a full 48-hour fast while consuming only the juice. Your next step is to go through a 72-hour fast. During this period, Robinson recommends testing your urine via keto strips since the diet aims to trigger ketosis (the goal of the popular keto diet).
The program does not detail what to consume when you restart eating, but followers of the snake diet are encouraged to eat simple meals consistently and refrain from gorging, which proves a challenge, especially if you have not eaten anything for two to three days. Robinson recommends focusing on a low-carb, high-fat diet with meals filled mostly with vegetables, a little meat and less fat.
During the fasting, you’re allowed to drink the Snake Juice, which is still up for safety research. Along with the Snake Juice, you may also drink a tonic of apple cider vinegar and lemon juice.
Robinson concluded his spiel of the snake diet on YouTube with a piece of “sketchy” advice: if you’re not losing any weight, fast longer.
The Snake Diet Claims
The snake diet’s creator made plenty of claims that alarmed health care experts. For example, he believes that if a person is overweight, they don’t have to eat. He insists that overweight people don’t need food since they have all the calories they need in their guts, stating that “fat people” cannot starve. In an interview on the TV show “The Doctors,” Robinson compares them to grizzly bears that eat all summer and hibernate after.
Another claim made by Robinson is that he developed abs after doing the snake diet fast for ten days straight. To the extremes, he also claimed that the diet “melted” down a snake diet follower’s brain tumor and that his diet also helped resolved his herpes.
“The Doctors’” Dr. Landry asked Robinson if he had done studies to support his claims. The snake diet creator said that his Facebook group, composed of more than 200,000 followers, serves as a good study. He considers his followers, who claim to lose 30 to 50 pounds per month, are enough proof of the snake diet’s effect.
Can The Snake Diet Help You Lose Weight?
Does the snake diet yield results? In the short run, yes. You’ll lose weight because you’re depriving the body of calories by going through ketosis. But similar to other restrictive diets, the risk of regaining the weight is high when you return to your old habits.
Intermittent fasting is a difficult habit for most people. Apart from interrupting your normal metabolism, depriving yourself of important calories can be dangerous, especially if you’re often lightheaded. Plus, hunger-related irritability and fasting-induced mood swings can derail your day.
Because the snake diet relies heavily on prolonged starvation, it does little to curb unhealthy behaviors or promote healthy eating. You may end up going back to old habits, gaining back the weight you lose. Plus, the body needs regular consumption of food to meet its energy and nutrient needs.
What are the Health Risks of Following the Snake Diet?
The primary goal of the snake diet is to help you lose weight, but it’s also important to consider how this weight loss program can affect you emotionally and physically in the long run. Plus, consider the weight loss maintenance it requires.
Robinson correctly states that when you eat more food than what your body can use or burn, the body stores the fat away. But you don’t have to starve yourself to prevent gaining a calorie surplus. Starvation, as mentioned above, deprives your body of important nutrients that impact your health, including your immune system.
The snake diet creator incorrectly stated that obese individuals only need saltwater to meet their dietary needs, attributing their nutrients to their stored fat. On the contrary, anyone can become malnourished if they don’t get enough nutrients.
So it’s possible to still be obese and nutrient-deprived at the same time.
In terms of ketosis, pushing the limits is not an option. Your biggest risk is ketoacidosis, which is the state when ketosis goes too far. When your body has excess ketones, your blood will become acidic. Severe ketoacidosis can trigger minor issues like dizziness, headache, bad breath, constipation, muscle cramps and bone-density loss. More serious issues are coma and death.
Finally, fasting causes your body to also lose lean weight apart from your body fat. Within a day or two days of fasting, your body depletes its source of glycogen, aka the carbohydrate reserve stocked away in your liver and muscle. At this point, your body will meet its energy needs by breaking down stored fat and lean tissue, the latter including both organ cells and muscle mass. Even if your body has plenty of fat to burn, fasting may weaken your organs and muscles.
Other downsides of the snake diet include the following:
- Unsustainable diet plan. Similar to other diets, the snake diet is not sustainable. Instead of promoting a healthier lifestyle, this diet demands extended periods of fasting that are not supported by scientific research.
- Promotes an unhealthy relationship with good. Robinson employs stigmatizing and problematic language, “encouraging” you to maintain an unhealthy relationship with food and low self-esteem. His videos encourage viewers to fast until “you feel like death,” which can be dangerous, especially for people experiencing eating disorders or conditions that affect blood sugar, such as diabetes or insulin resistance.
The Bottom Line
Following the snake diet is not without serious consequences. Yes, it can help you lose weight but the side effects can be severe. Following this starvation-based diet can cause dehydration, nutrient deficiencies and eating disorders. Instead of focusing on the snake diet’s weight loss promises, remember the consequences.
If you want to lose weight, pursue a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. Get more exercise and eat healthy and whole foods instead of “eating like a snake.”