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

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

I thought I'd heard it all, but the Snake Diet is a new one on me. The diet is a twist on the current popularity of fasting, and its extreme nature is raising a lot of red flags for health professionals like me. Here's the lowdown on what the plan entails, and why I strongly recommend skipping it.

What Is the Snake Diet?

While the Snake Diet is marketed as a lifestyle, it's not at all optimal or sustainable, in my opinion: It's founded on the idea of eating a singular 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 health professional), refers to as "proactive eating." He 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 you feel good.

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

During Fasting Periods

The initial fast is supposed to last for 48 hours. Subsequent fasting times may vary afterward, with a minimum of 24 hours noted. 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 has a homemade recipe consisting 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 allowed during the fasting period is an electrolyte drink that hasn't been researched for safety.

During 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.

Health Risks of the Snake Diet

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 lost this way can be maintained.

The diet's creator correctly states that when you eat more food than your body can readily burn or use, the excess is stored away. That's true, but you do not need to starve yourself to this extreme to prevent a calorie surplus. Doing so deprives your body of vital nutrients that influence your health, including the health of your immune system.

He also 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, which is not all found in stored body fat. So it is possible to be simultaneously nutrient-deprived and obese.

As far as ketosis, it's also important not to push the limits. The biggest risk is the potential for ketoacidosis, a state when ketosis goes too far. When excess ketones build up in the body, blood becomes acidic. Severe ketoacidosis can lead to coma or even death, and acidosis, in general, can trigger bad breath, headaches, dizziness, muscle cramps, constipation, and bone-density loss. Rapid weight loss can also increase the risk of gallstones.

Finally, you will lose lean weight in addition to body fat while fasting. Within one or two days 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 that's not all. 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.

The Snake Diet May Be Dangerous

Because there is no clinical research on the Snake Diet, there is very little to go on in terms of its true effectiveness and safety. Also, 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 and heart disease, or digestive, and kidney issues.

Robinson is critical of what he calls mainstream health professionals, and he is as extreme as the plan itself. In his loud, profane-riddled YouTube videos, he refers to viewers as "fatties" and spouts a lot of unconventional and sometimes flat-out incorrect or dangerous advice. Much of what the diet's creator advocates is based on oversimplifications and a lack of understanding of how the human body works. While he may wholeheartedly believe what he's saying, he doesn't have the proper training to understand why much of what he advises isn't accurate.

I also worry about the 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. For example, the author of a January 2020 article published in Nutrition noted that intermittent fasting is among 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 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 (more than two pounds per week) too fast, according to MedlinePlus, 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. Per MedlinePlus, 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 consist of healthcare professional consultation and be medically supervised.

Bottom Line

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

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