4 Reasons You Shouldn't Try the Snake Diet — and What to Do Instead

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The Snake Diet encourages followers to eat as little as possible while drinking a salt-and-water concoction dubbed "snake juice."
Image Credit: manusapon kasosod/Moment/GettyImages

To be completely honest, when we first heard about this one, we were a little hesitant to Google "Snake Diet" for fear of what we'd find. Fortunately, this diet doesn't involve actually eating snakes, but instead, eating like a snake.

Without giving it all away, that's where the good news ends when it comes to this diet. If you've heard about this trending diet and have wondered if it's legit, here's what you need to know (hint: you'll most likely want to give it a hard pass).

So, What Is the Snake Diet?

The Snake Diet was created by "fasting coach" Cole Robinson, who has amassed a large social media following — about 145,000 YouTube subscribers and more than 50,000 Facebook followers as of this writing. It's on these channels, as well as the website SnakeDiet.com, where Robinson promotes his "prolonged fasting focused lifestyle," which essentially means going as long as you can without eating — that might mean eating once a day or once every couple of days.

"I promote fasts that aren't hours but days, weeks and months," he shouts (literally) in one of his YouTube videos.

During these periods, Robinson encourages followers to subsist solely on snake juice, which is made up of water, potassium chloride ("no salt"), baking soda, Himalayan pink salt and food-grade Epsom salts.

Robinson appeared on the TV show The Doctors, where he reported one of his clients lost 50 pounds in one month by eating just one meal a week, and still managed to practice martial arts every day. Other success stories on his site show a woman losing 100 pounds in five months and a man losing 25 pounds in just two months.

Aside from the weight-loss benefits, Robinson claims that the Snake Diet "melted a tumor down in two months" and cured his own herpes.

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What Can You Eat on the Snake Diet?

The Snake Diet protocol is simple. Stop eating, and drink only snake juice. Continue this as long as you can. When you have to eat, keep it to a tight one- to two-hour window. It's also suggested that you don't vary the types of foods you eat; try to eat the same foods during your refeeding window. (We said it was simple, not easy.)

The Snake Diet is similar to the OMAD Diet or the 16:8 Fast Diet in that you have a specific window of time that you eat. The theory behind this diet, though, is that the fasting period varies for each person. The more body fat you carry, the more excess energy you have to live off of (Robinson's words, not ours) and therefore, the longer you can go between meals.

4 Reasons to Avoid the Snake Diet

We don't recommend this diet for anyone. Here's why:

1. No Clinical Trials or Scientific Evidence

There is no credible, evidenced-based research to support this diet. When challenged about this, Robinson goes back to the anecdotal results he sees in the Snake Diet Facebook group. Anecdotal results are no replacement for scientific evidence for many reasons, not least of which being that there's no way to know if they're true.

It's been reported by other outlets that Robinson has no medical or nutrition background, and we were hard-pressed to find a bio or any credentials to give him any credibility. (He is a self-proclaimed fitness trainer).

2. Promotes Nutritional Deficiencies

If you were able to maintain this diet for an extended period of time, it would be an absolute miracle if you did not develop some sort of nutritional deficiency. It's virtually impossible to meet all of your needs eating one meal a day let alone once every few days or even once a week or longer.

3. Can Create a Food Obsession

This diet is not appropriate for anyone with disordered eating tendencies or a history of an eating disorder. In fact, this diet checks many of the symptoms defining disordered eating, as described by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, including:

  • Frequent dieting, anxiety associated with specific foods or meal skipping;
  • Rigid rituals and routines surrounding food and exercise
  • Feelings of guilt and shame associated with eating
  • Preoccupation with food, weight and body image that negatively impacts quality of life
  • A feeling of loss of control around food, including compulsive eating habits
  • Chronic weight fluctuations
  • Using exercise, food restriction, fasting or purging to "make up for bad foods" consumed

4. Not Sustainable

You certainly can lose weight on this diet and that may motivate you temporarily, but this diet is not sustainable. Once you begin eating normally again, you'll gain the weight back, and maybe more than you started with.

But Are the Results on Instagram for Real?

Maybe, maybe not. But does it really matter? These are snapshots in time. Any diet can work in the short term.

What you don't see is the long-term effects of this diet. The pictures don't show this person one, two or even three years from now. They also don't show what's happening on the inside physically (let alone mentally) as these people subsist on just water, salt and minimal eating.

As we know, social media is a highlight reel. It doesn't show real life and what someone is truly going through or experiencing. Take everything you see with a grain of salt (no pun intended), especially when you're being sold a product.

A Healthier Approach to Weight Loss

The Snake Diet is an extreme form of fasting. A healthier approach may be a less-stringent form of fasting, like the 16:8 fast diet. This type of intermittent fasting involves an eight-hour eating window and 16-hour fasting window each day.

There is a growing body of research supporting intermittent fasting, including the 16:8 fast, and you don't have to go to the extremes of eating just once a day or every few days. Research shows intermittent fasting supports weight loss, reduced inflammation and improved blood glucose control, among other potential benefits.

Intermittent fasting is not appropriate for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding or those who struggle with hypoglycemia, have a history of disordered eating or an eating disorder, are taking certain prescription or have a chronic condition. It's always best to talk to your doctor before starting any new diet plan to make sure it's a healthy approach for you.

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