If you’re looking for quick weight loss, the Snake Diet may seem appealing at first. It’s an intensely restrictive diet based around multiple-day fasts, occasionally punctuated by a single low-carb meal.
The Snake Diet aims to replicate the eating patterns of a snake — you eat a big meal, followed by prolonged fasting for one, two, or even three days. The Snake Diet’s creator, Cole Robinson, is a self-proclaimed fasting coach who claims that the diet is great for fat loss.
But is this eating pattern healthy? And is the Snake Diet good for weight loss, or is it an unsustainable fad diet? Here’s an in-depth look.
What is the Snake Diet?
The Snake Diet combines a keto diet with intense intermittent fasting. In a nutshell, it involves eating a low-carb meal once every two or three days, then fasting the rest of the time.
On fasting days, you drink Snake Juice, an electrolyte blend sold online by the diet’s creator, Cole Robinson. You can also make it at home using this Snake Juice recipe:
- 8 cups of water
- 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
- 1 teaspoon potassium chloride
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon Epsom salt (make sure it’s food-grade; the stuff you put in a bath is not fit for human consumption)
Robinson breaks the diet down into three phases.
Phase one of the Snake Diet is meant to get you into ketosis — the same fat-burning state you enter on a ketogenic diet.
On a standard keto diet, you get into ketosis by reducing your carb intake. With no access to carbs, your body switches from burning sugar to burning fat (ketones) as its main fuel source.
On the Snake Diet, you enter ketosis through simple starvation. Robinson recommends a 48-hour fast to start, during which you eat nothing and drink Snake Juice and apple cider vinegar in water.
After the initial two days of fasting, you’re allowed to eat for a 1-2 hour eating window (basically a single meal).
Then you do a longer, 72-hour fast, the goal of which is to “detox your liver,” according to Robinson.
By the end of phase one, you’ve fasted for five days, with a single meal about halfway through your fast.
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During phase two, you fast for anywhere from 48-96 hours. Robinson encourages you to fast as long as you possibly can.
Robinson also claims that overweight people need no more than 3,500 calories per week. For reference, a healthy diet is about 14,000 calories a week for women, or 21,000 calories a week for men.
Your goal is to stay in phase two until you reach your goal weight — which should happen pretty quickly, considering that on this diet plan, you’re only eating 1-3 meals a week and are in a near-constant, severe calorie deficit.
Once you reach your fat loss goal, Robinson suggests moving to phase three for maintenance.
In phase three, you eat one meal every 24-48 hours, and fast the rest of the time. You’re meant to eat this way indefinitely.
Is the Snake Diet Good for Weight Loss?
If you follow the Snake Diet as suggested — that is, eating only 1-3 meals each week — you’ll certainly lose weight.
But there are a few things to think about here. First of all, can you actually fast for up to four days at a time? Can you stop eating 90-95% of your meals? And can you do it for weeks on end?
The Snake Diet is the one of the most extreme diet plans we’ve come across. The odds of doing it successfully are very, very low. It’s unsustainable for the vast majority of people, and it promotes unhealthy eating habits and a relationship with food that borders on an eating disorder.
In addition, research shows that severe calorie restriction and prolonged fasting often lead people to regain weight once they return to eating normally[*] — and with such an extreme diet, it’s likely that you’ll return to a more moderate eating schedule eventually.
So while you may initially lose weight on the Snake Diet, at least as long as you can follow it, you’ll probably experience rebound weight gain.
Side Effects and Dangers of the Snake Diet
There are a few side effects and potential dangers associated with the Snake Diet.
#1: Extremely Restrictive
One of the biggest issues with the Snake Diet is how restrictive it is. You skip 90-95% of your meals and only eat once every few days.
As a result, you’re going to be in a severe calorie deficit. Robinson projects that people can lose up to 10 pounds in a week on the Snake Diet. For reference, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest losing 1-2 pounds per week for healthy, sustainable weight loss[*].
A diet this restrictive borders on starvation, and won’t be sustainable for most people.
#2: Malnutrition or Nutrient Deficiencies
When you’re only having one meal every few days, it’s difficult to get a nutritionally complete diet.
In order to survive, you need to eat essential nutrients — vitamins and minerals that the human body cannot produce on its own and must get from food.
Unless you plan your meals carefully and eat maximally nutrient-dense foods, you’re putting yourself at risk for malnutrition or nutrient deficiencies while on an extreme fasting protocol like the Snake Diet[*].
For your safety, if you do decide to do the Snake Diet (we certainly don’t recommend it), consider working with a nutritionist or registered dietitian to make sure you’re getting all the micronutrients you need.
#3: Promotes an Unhealthy Relationship with Food
In his YouTube videos, Robinson routinely suggests fasting “until you feel like death.”
He also encourages you to think of eating daily as “weakness,” and regularly mocks and berates people who break their fasts early or don’t fast as long as he thinks they should.
This kind of mental approach to food, coupled with a diet this extreme, can be profoundly damaging to your psychological well-being, and can ruin your relationship with food. It encourages disordered eating and obsessive behavior, and can develop into a severely unhealthy mental complex around food and eating.
From a psychological standpoint, there are many easier, more balanced approaches to weight loss and good health.
Healthy Alternatives to the Snake Diet
The Snake Diet takes two dietary approaches that work — a keto diet and intermittent fasting — and pushes them to an unhealthy extreme.
If you want to lose weight or improve your health, you’re far better off eating a sensible keto diet. You can also incorporate intermittent fasting, which pairs well with keto and may help you see results faster.
The bottom line is that there’s no reason to follow the Snake Diet. It’s unsustainable at best and dangerous at worst.
Instead, why not try a ketogenic diet? This beginner’s guide to keto has everything you need to get started today.