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

The Snake Diet is an extreme fasting diet with a one to two-hour eating window. It is not a good way to lose weight or improve your health.

The Snake Diet is a plan that adds a twist to popular fasting diets. Its extreme requirements, which include eating only for a couple of hours a day and starting with two days without food, have raised red flags for healthcare providers.

Here's the lowdown on the plan and why it's strongly discouraged.

What Is the Snake Diet?

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

The program promotes what the creator, Cole Robinson (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, dieters are only to drink Snake Juice during any fasting time—regardless of the time spent fasting.

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 daily packets are recommended.

Of note: 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 days at a time.

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

Other Components

The diet creators recommend testing your urine via keto strips because the program is designed to trigger ketosis (the goal of the super popular keto diet). Nutritional ketosis is when your body burns dietary and body fat for fuel instead of glucose from other sources, such as carbohydrates.

The diet website also encourages dieters 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 effectiveness and safety. An extreme diet like this can be risky for anyone, but particularly for those with pre-existing medical conditions that must be carefully managed, such as diabetes, heart disease, or digestive and kidney issues.

The apparent 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.

Here are some other risks to consider.

Increased Risk of Malnourishment

The program incorrectly states that people with obesity only need saltwater to meet their needs because fat stores provide all the nutrition required.

Anyone can become malnourished if they don't get enough vital nutrients daily. Because not all nutrients are stored in body fat, it is possible to be simultaneously nutrient-deprived and have obesity. There are many vitamins your body can't store that everyone must consume daily to stay healthy.

While it is true that food your body doesn't need for energy is stored away as fat, you do not need to deprive yourself to this extreme to reduce fat stores or prevent a calorie surplus.

Increased Risk of 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.

Increased Risk of Gallstones

When you go without food for an extended period, your liver responds by releasing extra cholesterol into your bile. Your liver makes the bile, which is stored in your gallbladder, a hollow sac attached to the liver. Your body may prevent the gallbladder from emptying correctly when you lose weight quickly, leading to gallstones.

Loss of Lean Body Mass

Within a day or two of not eating, your body will deplete its glycogen, the carbohydrate reserve socked away in your muscle and liver. As you continue to fast, your body meets its energy needs by breaking down stored fat and small amounts of lean tissue, including muscle mass and organ cells.

Even if you have lots of body fat left to burn, your muscles and organs can still be weakened over long periods.

Psychological and Emotional Health Risks

Robinson, the diet's creator, is critical of what he called "mainstream" health providers. In Robinson's loud, profane-riddled YouTube videos, he calls viewers "fatty" and gives unconventional and sometimes flat-out incorrect or dangerous advice.

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, he doesn't have the proper training to understand why much of his advice isn't accurate.

There could be psychological ramifications of the Snake Diet. Besides the bullying language Robinson uses, his approach may result in eating phobias or food guilt that could progress to severe and disordered eating patterns.

Rapid Weight Loss Drawbacks

Humans are not snakes, and we shouldn't mimic 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 many dieters regain half the weight they lose within two years and more than 80% in five years. Weight loss requires a lifestyle that can be maintained—one that supports physical, emotional, and social well-being. That's not impossible and 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

When it comes to losing weight at a rapid pace, fasting and other rapid weight loss methods should be done in consultation with a healthcare provider.

A Quick Review

The Snake Diet is marketed as a fasting diet plan, but it's an extreme program that may be dangerous because little research backs it. 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 on the distrust of science and healthcare providers. But healthcare providers genuinely want to help people lose weight safely and successfully, and this diet is not the way to accomplish either.

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