What To Know About the Snake Diet, an Extreme Fasting Plan for Weight Loss

Here's what a nutritionist thinks about the intermittent fasting diet.

The Snake Diet is a new diet with a twist on popularity of fasting, and its extreme nature is raising a lot of red flags for healthcare providers. Here's the lowdown on what the plan entails and why it's strongly discouraged.

What Is the Snake Diet?

While the Snake Diet is marketed as a lifestyle, it's not at all optimal or sustainable. It's founded on the idea of eating a single large meal and fasting for as long as possible until the next meal.

The program promotes what the creator, Cole Robinson (who is admittedly not a healthcare provider), refers to as "proactive eating." Robinson defines this as narrowing your eating to an "intentional and deliberate" window of time, which in this case is one to two hours, according to the plan's website.

It's unclear if this is one to two hours per day total, as the protocol advises followers to stop eating, drink "Snake Juice" (more on this below), and continue to fast for as long as they feel good.

To initiate the Snake Diet, you begin by eating dinner before your first fast. The Snake Diet then falls into a routine of fasting and re-feeding in a cycle.

Fasting Periods

The initial fast is supposed to last for 48 hours. Subsequent fasting times may vary afterward, with a minimum of 24 hours. Additionally, during any fasting time—regardless of the length of time spent fasting—dieters are only to drink Snake Juice.

According to the Snake Diet website, Snake Juice is an electrolyte drink. It consists of water, salt-free potassium chloride, Himalayan pink salt, baking soda, and food-grade Epsom salt. The drink also comes in a prepackaged version: Up to three packets per day are recommended.

Of note, the Snake Juice hasn't been researched for safety.

Re-Feeding Periods

Whenever you decide to end your fast, you can resume eating. Exactly what to eat when you restart eating isn't laid out, but followers are encouraged to keep meals simple, be consistent, and not gorge—which may be difficult to do after not eating anything for two to three days at a time.

Ultimately, the website says that when you've reached your weight goal, you should start maintenance by alternating fasting (for 24 to 48 hours) and re-feeding periods.

Other Components

Testing your urine via keto strips is also recommended, as the program is designed to trigger ketosis (the goal of the super popular keto diet). Furthermore, dieters are encouraged to weigh themselves at the same time every day, record the results, and post photos in the Snake Diet Motivation group for accountability purposes.

Physical Health Risks of the Snake Diet

Because there is no clinical research on the Snake Diet, there is very little to go on regarding its actual effectiveness and safety. An extreme diet such as this can be risky for anyone, but particularly for those with pre-existing medical conditions that need to be carefully managed, such as diabetes, heart disease, or digestive and kidney issues.

The obvious goal of this plan is fast weight loss, but it's also important to consider how this method could affect physical and emotional health short-term, and if any weight loss this way can be maintained.

  • You deprive your body of vital nutrients. This includes nutrients that influence your health, including the health of your immune system when you do extreme fasting. While it is true that when you eat more food than your body can readily burn or use, the excess is stored away, you do not need to starve yourself to this extreme to prevent a calorie surplus.
  • You can become malnourished. The program incorrectly states that obese people only need saltwater to meet their needs because fat stores provide all the nutrition required. The fact is, anyone can become malnourished if they're missing an adequate amount of vital nutrients day after day because not all nutrients are stored in body fat. So it is possible to be simultaneously nutrient-deprived and obese.
  • You increase your risk for ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis happens when ketosis goes too far. When excess ketones build up in the body, the blood becomes acidic. Severe ketoacidosis can lead to coma or even death. Acidosis, in general, can trigger bad breath, headaches, dizziness, muscle cramps, constipation, and bone density loss.
  • You increase your risk of gallstones. Your liver produces extra cholesterol into the bile, which leads to gallstones when you lose weight rapidly or don't eat for a long period of time. Your body may also prevent the gallbladder from emptying correctly when you lose weight quickly.
  • You lose lean weight in addition to body fat while fasting. Within a day or two of not eating, your body will deplete its glycogen, which is the carbohydrate reserve socked away in muscle and liver. At this point, your energy needs will be met by breaking down stored fat, but your body will also break down lean tissue, which includes both muscle mass and organ cells. Even if you have lots of body fat left to burn, you can still harm your body and health, as muscles and organs are weakened.

Psychological and Emotional Health Risks

Robinson, the diet's creator, is critical of what he calls mainstream health professionals and is as extreme as the plan itself. In Robinson's loud, profane-riddled YouTube videos, viewers are referred to as "fatties" and a lot of unconventional and sometimes flat-out incorrect or dangerous advice is given.

Much of what Robinson advocates is based on oversimplifications and a lack of understanding of how the human body works. While Robinson may wholeheartedly believe what he's saying, Robinson doesn't have the proper training to understand why much of what he advises isn't accurate.

There could be psychological ramifications of the Snake Diet. Apart from the bullying language Robinson uses, his approach may result in eating phobias that can progress to serious, disordered eating patterns.

General Considerations for Fasting and Rapid Weight Loss

Humans are not snakes, and we shouldn't be mimicking their eating patterns. It's true that there are some benefits to time-restricted eating and certain methods of fasting.

Intermittent fasting is among the dieting methods that could be a starting point for losing weight. However, the Snake Diet's non-research-based approach takes it too far, and extreme weight-loss methods rarely result in sustained results.

Research shows that within two years, more than half of the weight lost is regained, and by five years, more than 80% is regained. Weight loss that lasts requires a lifestyle that can be maintained—one that supports physical, emotional, and social well-being. That's not impossible, and it most definitely does not call for such an extreme approach.

Additionally, losing too much weight too fast could result in the loss of muscle, water, and bone density in your body. Other than the effects and concerns mentioned above, there are health-related side effects that come with rapid weight loss. These side effects can include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Gallstones
  • Gout
  • Nausea

Thus, when it comes to losing weight at a rapid pace, fasting and other methods of rapid weight loss should be done in consultation with a healthcare professional.

A Quick Review

The Snake Diet is marketed as a fasting diet plan, but it's an extreme program that may be dangerous because it isn't backed by any research. There are many physical health risks to extreme fasting and rapid weight loss. In addition, the diet's creator doesn't seem to support psychological and emotional well-being.

This plan has a lot of fans and defenders, with rhetoric that feeds the distrust of science and healthcare providers. But healthcare providers truly want to help people lose weight safely and successfully, and this diet is not the way to accomplish either.

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Sources
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