Losing weight is hard. It's so tempting to look for short cuts to weight loss through diet plans that promise quick and easy results. While some of those diets may offer some benefit, at least in the short term, there are some fad diets that are so restrictive that the only result is likely to be long-term health problems. If you haven't heard of the Snake Diet, get ready for a wild ride on the dieting train (and if you want to skip to the bottom line on if you should try this diet, here you go: No.)
The first thing that must be noted when talking about the Snake Diet is that there is absolutely no medical or scientific support for this fad diet and no research that indicates it works. The person who created it, Cole Robinson, is not a nutritionist, a registered dietitian, or a doctor. With no background in biology or medicine, he calls himself a "fasting coach."
It's called the Snake Diet because it encourages you to eat like a snake, which means you have one meal a day. Snakes eat one high-fat, high-protein meal each day; Robinson claims that because humans have, in the past, survived on one or two meals a week, one only needs to eat around 3,500 calories a week.
The USDA recommends a healthy diet of 11,200 to 16,800 calories per week for adult women and 14,000 to 21,000 calories a week for adult men.
Basically, the Snake Diet goes like this: During the first week, fast for 48 hours, only drinking Snake Juice, which is just water, sea salt, and potassium chloride (a kind of salt), then you can eat for a short eating window of 1-2 hours. Then you fast for 72 hours, then eat another meal. That's Phase One. It's followed by Phase Two, which is more fasting for windows of 48-96 hours, with more Snake Juice that adds apple cider vinegar, ending with one meal. You're supposed to follow this cycle until you reach your desired weight, then you maintain that weight by eating once one meal a day or eating on alternate days.
This diet cycle is supposed to do a few things for your body. First, calorie restriction. We know that if you burn more calories than you take in, you will lose weight. So, yes, on the Snake Diet you will lose weight. However, this level of calorie intake is basically starvation and it is not healthy. Your brain, heart, muscles, and other organs need micronutrients to function and you don't get those nutrients if you're not eating enough.
Second, it's supposed to detox your liver. There is no evidence that a detox diet does anything of the sort. Your liver, if it's working correctly, handles detox on its own through its regular function; if it's not working correctly, a detox diet is not something that will fix the problem.
Third, it's supposed to induce ketosis, which is a metabolic state that results from prolonged fasting or a low-carb, high-fat diet. Ketosis also results from starvation, which is what the Snake Diet is. And yes, when your body enters ketosis, it burns fat instead of blood sugar, meaning you tend to lose weight. However, a good keto diet plan focuses on getting sufficient, essential nutrients, and not simply not eating.
There is some research that supports intermittent fasting or eating within a restricted window. It's less about what you eat and more about when you eat; there is scientifically-backed evidence that timing your meals a certain way can make a positive difference in your metabolism. But again, while intermittent fasting can help you restrict calories, it won't ever ask you to simply not eat.
Robinson claims that the Snake Diet can cure Type 2 diabetes and other health problems. In fact, because diabetics need to maintain stable blood sugar levels, this kind of eating schedule could be risky for them.
There's also the so-called snake juice, which is just saltwater. Sure, the version you're supposed to drink has Himalayan pink salt, but that doesn't mean it's not just saltwater. Adding apple cider vinegar to it doesn't make it any less saltwater. In case it needs to be said clearly, drinking saltwater on a regular basis is not good for you, especially if you have high blood pressure.
There may be other side effects of the Snake Diet. If you don't get enough calories or the right kind of nutrients, you can lose muscle mass and develop digestive issues. You can also fall into unhealthy eating habits and experience other physical effects, not the least of which is mood swings and hanger (that terrible angry feeling you get when you haven't eaten).
And if you don't keep up the diet, and don't build a healthy lifestyle any other way, you're likely to experience weight gain again. For all these reasons, the Snake Diet is definitely an unhealthy diet.