With so many new diets cropping up on a seemingly daily basis, how do you decipher the good from the bad and the safe from the stupid? Common sense is usually the best place to start, and will most likely filter out the rubbish along with those based on false claim. However, it's not always easy to know who to listen to, or how to differentiate fact from fiction when it comes to nutrition.
So where does the snake diet sit on the blurred line of good and bad diets?
What is the snake diet and Snake juice?
When I first heard about the snake diet a lot of questions started to arise from the title alone. Does the diet involve eating snakes? Eating live mice? Dislocating my jaw and swallowing without chewing, followed by some slow digestion and a sunbath to warm up?
After a few minutes of research, I found that it was luckily none of the above. Instead, the snake diet follows a stringent plan of a primary detoxification, followed by timed fasting and finally a maintenance phase. Sounds well thought out, scientific in approach and somewhat legit. I like it.
"The Snake Diet is a fasting focused lifestyle that promotes a proactive eating routine. Unlike many of the mainstream diets that are food-focused we focus on the benefits that you get in the time between feeds." Source: snakediet.com
There you have it, straight from the snake's mouth, per se. Basically, the fundamentals of the snake diet are heavily focused on not eating, in place of doing apparently less productive things, such as exercise... and actually eating.
This kind of diet is not to be mistaken for the likes of other fasting diets, such as the 5:2 method, where you only consume 500 calories on 2 consecutive days a week. Or 16/8 method where you have an 8-hour window in which to meet your daily calorific needs.
So the premise of the diet goes as follows:
Fast: For the first 48 hours consume nothing but "snake juice", a mix of water, sea salt and potassium chloride. Snake juice is there to replace lost electrolytes and keep you functioning. If you feel up for it, you can fast for longer than the initial 48 hours. In fact, the diet actually encourages you fast for as long as you can in this initial period.
Re-feed: Following the primary fast is the "Re-feed" stage. Time to eat, finally. Pick a small feeding window in which to consume mostly non-starchy vegetables, meat and fat, essentially a low carb high-fat diet. But please, keep within the guidelines of the diet, keep it simple and minimise variety.
Maintenance stage: "Repeat fasting periods followed by tight re-feeds until you are at your optimum weight" Okay so the 3 step plan is actually a 2 step plan, wearing a 3 step disguise. The diet does, however, say that if weight loss slows down or you find that you're not losing any weight at all, just fast for longer. Simple.
After a brief stint in the maintenance stage, it is also encouraged that you undergo a 72 hours fast, in which you only consume the electrolyte mix (snake juice). This fast is meant to help get you over the fear of prolonged fasting.
How the Snake Diet can help with weight loss?
Okay, so I've been giving the snake diet a hard time, but is there any method to the madness? Is there some snake diet for weight loss potential?
The way that the snake and other low carb/high fat/high protein fasting diets work, is by achieving a state of ketosis.
A ketogenic diet, Keto, Atkins, Snake, etc. focus on you getting your calories from fat and protein sources, reducing carbohydrate consumption to an absolute minimum. In doing this, over a period of a few days, your body will start to look for other sources of energy *cue protein and fat stores*, and use them as fuel instead of carbohydrates. When your body does this, you are in a state referred to as, ketosis.
Being in a state of ketosis leads to fairly rapid weight loss. Your body starts to literally mine away at your fat stores, turning those cells into ketones which the body can use as energy. This process is more taxing on the body than metabolising carbohydrates and as a result, the metabolic rate is subsequently increased. High protein high-fat diets are also said to keep you feeling fuller for longer, so you end up eating less retrospectively as well.
Staple foods when trying to achieve ketosis include meat, fish, high-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, avocados and low carb vegetables.
The snake diet does follow these principles, but can fasting in such an extreme way be sustainable long term? Besides the mental hammering you will most likely endure when convincing yourself, "fasting is good for me", the toll on your body can not be that of positivity.
Don't get me wrong, properly implemented intermittent fasting in coherence with a well-structured, balanced diet, ketogenic or otherwise can be both effective at reducing body fat and healthy. Or at the least not completely detrimental to your health. But regular stints of fasting with "small windows" of feeding on unvaried, simple meals up to and beyond 72 hours apart? I developed a heart palpitation, vitamin c deficiency and an anxiety complex just writing that.
Our bodies need a variety of vitamins and minerals on a regular basis in order to function. Period.
If you manage to stick with the snake diet for a just a short while, you will most likely see a degree of weight loss by way of ketosis or old-fashioned calorie deficit. As with most highly restrictive crash diets, the chances of picking back up the weight loss when returning to regular eating habits, are high.
Snake diet results.
If proper nutrition, organ health and general well-being just isn't getting you up in the morning and you really want to jump rattle first into this diet, put your fake fangs in and sink your teeth into the snake juice diet results.
Can you even call it a fad diet without some before and after pictures showing off some cultural diversity, and a message that beacons the call, "this diet is for everyone. If these people achieved such great results, you can too!"?
The pictures on the snake diet website of Claire, Sasha and Yaseen sure do look convincing, and who am I or anybody for that matter to say that they aren't real?
What I say for certain, regardless of the results, is that this diet does nothing for your health and well-being. Losing weight is the method by which people associate the achievement of health. Health, of course, can not be measured by number but Research does, however, show that following a well-rounded, balanced diet and participating in plenty of exercise are the most important assertions of health.
Following a snake diet plan may have you see short-term results, but the downsides and dangers of this "lifestyle" are no secret and can not be ignored.
The body requires a vast array of different nutrients, vitamins and minerals, and this fact doesn't change when fasting, or when in ketosis. Nutrient diversity and variety is devalued by the snake diet and shows only very basic guidelines for what kind of foods should be eaten, making it unclear what should or shouldn't be eaten.
Fasting in such an aggressive way for prolonged periods of time can not, and should not be sustained by anyone who wishes to maintain a level of health. Fasting in this manner is not only bad for your body, but can be detrimental to your mental health.
Promotes an unhealthy relationship with food.
Instead of educating you to make healthier, more conscious food choices in order to achieve a satisfactory level of health. The snake diet is built upon the principles of starvation and encourages the deprivation of essential nutrients in order to reach a specific weight goal that you set yourself. This can put a stigma on food and lead to eating disorders and an avoidance of consuming anything at all.
Most important to note, the snake diet may be dangerous and detrimental to your health. Consuming electrolyte drink can not sustain you over a period of days, regardless of what the diet says as fact.
Neglecting the bodies needs for essential nutrients can and will lead to health issues that may not be able to be reversed.
The reality of this diet is, results are strictly achieved out of putting your body into a state of starvation and ketosis. Ketosis whilst in starvation will lead quickly to the depletion of fat stores in the body. Weight will be lost, but totally at the cost of your health and well-being.