People seeking quick fixes to achieve weight loss might be tempted by the Snake Diet.
It promotes prolonged fasts interrupted by a solitary meal. Like most fad diets, it promises quick and drastic results.
This article tells you everything you need to know about the Snake Diet, including its safety and whether it works for weight loss.
RATING SCORE BREAKDOWN
- Overall score: 1.5
- Fast weight loss: 4
- Long-term weight loss: 1
- Easy to follow: 0
- Nutrition quality: 1
BOTTOM LINE: Though it promotes rapid weight loss, the Snake Diet is based on a starvation model and has many adverse effects, including severe nutrient deficiencies. It cannot be sustained without posing a significant risk to your health.
The Snake Diet promotes itself not as a restrictive diet but rather a lifestyle centered around prolonged fasting.
Founded on the belief that humans historically endured periods of famine, it argues that the human body can sustain itself on just one meal a few times a week.
It was invented by Cole Robinson, who calls himself a fasting coach but has no qualifications or background in medicine, biology, or nutrition.
The diet involves an initial fast of 48 hours — or as long as possible — supplemented with Snake Juice, an electrolyte beverage. After this period, there’s a feeding window of 1–2 hours before the next fast begins.
Robinson claims that once you reach your goal weight, you can keep cycling in and out of fasts, surviving on one meal every 24–48 hours.
Keep in mind that many of these claims have not been tested and are scientifically suspect.
The Snake Diet was invented by a fasting coach and makes untenable health claims. It involves prolonged fasts interspersed by very brief eating periods.
Though the Snake Diet may superficially resemble intermittent fasting, it’s much more extreme, even reframing a standard meal pattern — breakfast, lunch, and dinner — as supplementary food.
Robinson sets several rules for the diet on his website but continually revises them via his YouTube channel. What results is a scattered set of guidelines.
The diet relies heavily on Snake Juice, which can either be purchased on Robinson’s website or made at home. The ingredients are:
- 8 cups (2 liters) of water
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 g) of Himalayan pink salt
- 1 teaspoon (5 g) of salt-free potassium chloride
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 g) of food-grade Epsom salts
Dosage guidelines don’t exist for the homemade version, but you’re limited to three packets of powdered electrolyte mix per day for the commercial product.
Robinson also makes sweeping calorie recommends, claiming that a newcomer to the diet needs no more than 3,500 calories per week.
For context, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends 1,600–2,400 daily calories for women and 2,000–3,000 for men — roughly 11,200–16,800 and 14,000–21,000 calories per week, respectively (3Trusted Source).
That’s significantly more than Robinson suggests, meaning that people on the Snake Diet run the risk of severe calorie deprivation.
Once you reach your goal weight, Robinson recommends 8,500 calories per week (distributed across 5 meals) for active women and 20,000 calories per week (across 3 total eating days) for active men.
Throughout the diet, you’re encouraged to measure ketones with a urine strip.
Ketosis is a metabolic state that results from starvation, prolonged fasting, or a low-carb, high-fat diet. During ketosis, your body burns fat for energy instead of glucose (blood sugar) (4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source).
The diet is divided into three phases.
Phase 1 is the initial fast for newcomers to the diet. In this phase, you’re meant to reach and maintain ketosis.
The initial fast should last at least 48 hours and is supplemented with unspecified amounts of an apple cider vinegar drink, as well as Snake Juice.
Then, you’re allowed to eat for 1–2 hours — though variety is deemed unimportant and there are no guidelines for what to eat or avoid — before jumping into a longer, 72-hour fast, followed by a second feeding window. The goal here is to “detoxify your liver.”
Yet, Robinson doesn’t say which toxins are targeted. What’s more, your liver and kidneys naturally rid your body of harmful compounds, which are expelled in urine, sweat, and feces (6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).
Furthermore, there is scant evidence that detox diets purge any contaminants from your body (8Trusted Source).
During the second phase, you cycle through long fasts of 48–96 hours, broken up by single meals. You’re encouraged to fast until you can no longer tolerate it — which may pose several health risks.
You’re meant to stay on this phase until you reach your desired weight.
Phase 3 is a maintenance phase involving 24–48-hour fast cycles interspersed by single meals. You’re told to listen to your body’s natural hunger cues during this phase.
As the diet focuses primarily on ignoring hunger cues, this shift in attention may be difficult to achieve and seems contradictory to the diet’s message.
Further, leptin and ghrelin, two hormones responsible for hunger and fullness, may be altered by prolonged fasting (9Trusted Source).
The Snake Diet is comprised of three phases meant to drastically lower your weight and acclimate your body to a continuous cycle of long-term — and potentially dangerous — fasts.
Fasting and restricting calories lead to weight loss because your body is forced to rely on its energy stores. Usually, your body burns both fat and lean muscle mass to keep your major organs nourished so that you survive.
Because the Snake Diet does not replenish these losses with food, it results in rapid, dangerous weight loss (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
On a fast, you generally lose about 2 pounds (0.9 kg) per day for the first week, then 0.7 pounds (0.3 kg) per day by the third week (10Trusted Source).
For reference, a safe weight loss range is about 1–2 pounds (0.5–0.9 kg) per week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Furthermore, research shows that following a healthy, well-rounded diet and getting plenty of physical activity are the most important determiners of health (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).
Because it relies primarily on prolonged starvation, the Snake Diet does little to promote healthy eating or to curb unhealthy behaviors that may have led to unwanted weight gain.
Plus, your body needs regular food intake to meet its nutrient and energy needs.
Essential nutrients, such as vitamins, protein, and fat, must come from food, as your body cannot produce them. As such, long-term fasting may endanger your health and increase your risk for a range of diseases (14Trusted Source).
Though the Snake Diet promotes weight loss, many other weight loss methods don’t involve starving yourself.
A diet primarily founded on starvation will lead to weight loss. However, it won’t meet your nutritional needs and may harm your health.
Robinson asserts that the Snake Diet cures type 2 diabetes, herpes, and inflammation. However, these claims are baseless.
While general weight loss is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes in people with obesity or excess weight, it’s an overstatement to claim that the Snake Diet cures diabetes (15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).
Moreover, research on prolonged fasting is mixed regarding inflammation and diabetes (17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).
That said, fasts of longer than 4 days are not frequently studied.
Though one recent study in 1,422 adults did note improved mood, better blood sugar regulation, and reduced blood pressure in prolonged fasts lasting 4–21 days, participants were allowed to eat 250 calories daily and were under constant medical supervision (19Trusted Source).
While the Snake Diet mimics some elements of intermittent fasting, it’s much stricter, with significantly shorter eating periods and longer fasts, making it unlikely you can meet your body’s nutritional needs (20Trusted Source).
Thus, it’s unclear whether the Snake Diet offers any benefits.
The Snake Diet is an extreme, starvation-based diet that offers few — if any — benefits.
The Snake Diet is associated with numerous downsides.
Promotes an unhealthy relationship with food
Robinson employs problematic and stigmatizing language, promoting an unhealthy relationship with food and body image.
His videos endorse fasting “until you feel like death” — which could be extremely dangerous, especially for people with disordered eating or conditions that affect blood sugar control, such as insulin resistance or diabetes.
Your body needs many kinds of nutrients to survive, even if you’re sedentary.
The Snake Diet devalues dietary variety and provides few food guidelines, even though variety helps ensure that you’re getting the nutrients you need.
In his YouTube videos, Robinson promotes occasional dry fasts, which completely restrict food and liquids, including water. It’s unclear at what point or for how long this method should be used.
Since the Snake Diet requires eating very little and irregularly, any limits on water intake raise your risk of dehydration and are extremely dangerous (21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source).
Like many restrictive diets, the Snake Diet is unsustainable.
Instead of encouraging healthy lifestyle changes, it demands prolonged food restriction that isn’t backed by scientific research.
Ultimately, your body cannot survive on a diet built around starvation.
May be dangerous
The Snake Diet is not backed by evidence and is incredibly unsafe.
While Robinson claims that Snake Juice meets all of your micronutrient needs, each 5-gram packet provides only 27% and 29% of the Daily Values (DVs) for sodium and potassium, respectively.
Notably, your body needs around 30 different vitamins and minerals from food. Long-term fasting can lead to electrolyte imbalances and nutritional deficiencies (23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source).
The Snake Diet poses extreme health risks, as it fails to meet your nutritional needs, may promote disordered eating, and is predicated on starvation.
The Snake Diet promotes rapid weight loss but comes with severe side effects.
Following this starvation-based diet leads to many risks, such as extreme nutrient deficiencies, dehydration, and disordered eating. As such, you should avoid it.
If you want to lose weight, you should pursue sustainable lifestyle changes, such as getting more exercise or focusing on whole foods.