The highly controversial Silicon Valley diet claims to offer incredible weight loss results, without giving up foods you love, and by fasting from 36 hours to one week. Sounds too good to be true? Our Konscious Keto staffers have researched the facts for you; let's dig in.
Well, there is some science to say that these so-called body-hackers are on to something profound. However, some foreshadowing; the uncertainty in how to do it and how everyone does it differently, and extremely, can be cause for alarm.
These proud human optimizers have been searching for scientifically-backed ways to improve every aspect of their lives; from how long they live, to their body fat percent, to even growing their IQ, and according to them, this Silicon Valley Diet is gold dust!
Hollywood might know how to put on a glitzy show, but their nutritional goals leave a lot to the imagination. From the cabbage soup diet to the smaller plate diet, it seems like celebs are only focused on one thing - getting slim for the red carpet.
Just a few hours up the California coastline, Silicon Valley is home to the dreamers and people who make technology happen. Let’s take a look at the Silicon Valley diet and why this might be the greatest and truly healthy way of eating every created.
Digg founder Kevin Rose and Tim Ferriss – investor and author of The 4-hour body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman – swear by the keto diet, a high-fat plan that encourages cheeseburgers and guac, but no more than 50 grams a day of carbs, equivalent to a cup of white rice.
“Silicon Valley is a group of highly motivated and entitled people who think anything can be reverse engineered,” explains longtime Valley resident observer and former Rabin client Josh Quittner. “These diet fads say to them what they want to hear – you can be as strong or smart as you want to be and go on to live forever. There’s a belief in pseudo-science out there which is fertile ground for biohacking.”
Anecdotally, intermittent fasters report that their diets have helped them become more productive, build muscle faster, and sleep better. Members of a Silicon Valley startup called HVMN skip eating on Tuesdays and claim they get more work done on that day than any other.
Varady said hundreds of people in her studies had reported similar benefits. "But we haven't studied or quantified any of that yet," she said.
So while all this sounds new and exciting, and you may even be skeptical, the truth is the Silicon Valley Diet is just a trendy new name for something humans have been doing for hundreds, if not thousands of years - fasting.
What is the Silicon Valley Diet?
The Silicon Valley Diet is a take on intermittent fasting; when you cycle between periods of eating and not eating. In the Silicon Valley Diet, you are encouraged to eat within an 8 hour or less window.
Many people quickly advance to 36-hour or 72-hour fasts. And from there, it’s not uncommon for people to go seven days without eating. However, at Konscious Keto, we rarely, if ever recommend fasting longer than 24 hours.
In most cases, it simply isn’t necessary for weight loss and optimal health. And after 24 hours, the risks of other medical problems arising do begin to increase, as well as your discomfort. Even people experience in fasting will struggle with their first seven days fast.
Binge eating, starving yourself and feeling full after no food is not a diet, Mr. Libin, that’s Eating Disorder 3.0. King of them all is the suitably-named purveyor of woo-woo science Geoff Woo.
Woo leads a WeFast group, fasts for up to 18 hours a day and drinks his company’s Ketone drink, which is supposed to mimic the fat burning effects of fasting. So, he’s imitating fasting, but he’s still fasting? Yep. Still fasting.
Phil Libin – the former CEO of Evernote and current CEO of AI studio All Turtle – is a case in point. He chairs an intermittent fasting WhatsApp group of two dozen Valley grandees including Y Combinator’s Daniel Gross and LeWeb co-founder Loic Le Meur.
Participants stop eating for between two and eight days in a row. Libin insists it gives him focus. If he goes out to dinner during a fast, he only sips water. “People think it’s torture, but it’s really pleasant. I get social interaction. I can see the food and smell it.
All of those things are pleasant,” he said. “I usually leave a dinner where I eat nothing feeling full.”
Failed startup Juicero’s co-founder Doug Evans, meanwhile, went to Burning Man on a ten day fast using only ‘raw water’ supplied by Live Water directly from springs and streams without any intervening treatment despite the outcry from nutritionists who point out unfiltered, untreated water can contain animal faeces, E.coli, parasites like giardia and cryptosporidium, Hepatitis A and cholera.
All of this, according to psychologist Deanne Jade – who runs the National Centre for Eating Disorders in the UK and has a daughter who’s just returned from working in marketing in Silicon Valley – is a cry for help.
“We’ve all lost the affiliations of a family, church, and village that bonded us – but in Silicon Valley, which has people from all over the world working in intense pressured environments, the loss of the old support systems is destabilizing,” she explains.
“Human beings are social animals. Sharing common cultural currency helps people decide if they’re in or out of a group, so microworlds – where people share values and behaviors – are becoming our way of belonging.
Food has always been the crucible of relationships, and Silicon Valley people want to be in the loop – so no matter how bizarre the pseudo-science behind a diet they become attached to it like a religion.”
You may have heard the term keto-evangelists? These are people who have taken keto to the extreme and given it a bad name. They exist in all walks of life. And the Silicon Valley Diet is no different.
If you change the name back to intermittent fasting and follow a standard protocol, you may find it to be an excellent boost for your health.
Should You Do the Silicon Valley Diet?
All in all, there is some merit to the Silicon Valley Diet; it appears to be reaching the most extreme, and pure version of existence possible, and while we commend people for wanting to set their own goals, we do think a dose of reality is essential when considering a new plan of weight loss.
The Silicon Valley Diet is too focused on long-term fasting, which is not beneficial for women; or most men, and on extremes such as water, restriction to encourage feelings of euphoria.
This is downright dangerous, and while it may give some expected benefits, or at least, the illusion of some benefits, the truth is, the Silicon Valley Diet is not a viable weight loss method.
All that is likely to happen is you will get hangry, and wind up binging on junk foods in a few days or weeks once your fast falls through.
But there is somewhere the Silicon Valley Diet holds up; we encourage you to check out the keto diet, which is founded in science and is a therapeutic diet that can aid in accelerated weight loss and apply a more reasonable and moderate 18:6 fasting plan.
This method of fasting is incredibly popular and very attainable for most people. You relax overnight and go without food for 18 hours of any 24 hours, and eat for the remaining 6-hour window.
You still want to eat your macros for each day. You should also eat if you feel hungry or faint, and chat with your doctor before making any dietary changes.
You can also read our tips on how to get into fasting, in a healthy, moderate way. Women who do aggressive fasting can cause harm to their thyroid and ruin their metabolism, so while you might lose a few pounds at the start (likely water weight), it won’t last.
It’s important to understand that fasting is not purposefully to lose weight but to return to the body to its natural status.
This is called autophagy, and when your hormones and responses align, your body will naturally wish to lose anything extra or unnecessary it is holding onto.
Therefore, a longer-term, more sustainable approach to fasting is recommended (you can read our plan here on how to get started).
Silicon Valley Diet Or Keto Diet?
This is a bit of misnomer; actually, as in most cases, the Silicon Valley Diet depends on a ketogenic diet to be able to make fasting effective and enjoyable.
They're very complimentary when you do not take them to the extreme. Both moderate plans have incredible health benefits like prolonging your life, improving your quality of life, reducing brain fog and improving cognitive abilities.
The ketogenic, or "keto," diet — which first became popular in the 1920s as a treatment for epilepsy and diabetes — limits carbohydrates to no more than 50 grams a day, which is the rough equivalent of a plain bagel or a cup of white rice.
By comparison, dietary guidelines from the US Department of Agriculture recommend from 225 to 325 grams of carbs a day.
On the keto diet, the body goes into starvation mode and taps its fat stores for fuel. Studies suggest the low-carb, high-fat diet may promote weight loss, improve focus, and stave off age-related diseases.
A small study recently published in the journal Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome found that adults who had been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome (a precursor of diabetes) and ate a ketogenic diet had resting metabolic rates (a measure of how much energy your body burns when at rest) more than 10 times as high as people who ate a standard diet.