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The Slow Carb Diet (And The PAGG Stack) – Are The Fat Loss Claims For Real?

pagg stack lineup

Remember The Four Hour Body by Tim Ferriss? It’s a great book, and I recently took the opportunity to test out the Slow Carb Diet and PAGG stack for a second time. (My first test got cut short, which I’ll explain later…)

“Slow Carb” is Tim’s preferred diet that he mentioned on his blog many years ago, but really became popular with the release of the book.

“PAGG” is a supplement stack comprised of four basic supplements that work synergistically (i.e. 1+1+1+1=6) when combined.

Put the diet and supplements together and the promise is slightly better fat loss than using just one or the other!

If you’re not familiar with Slow Carb, go to the link above and read up on it. Then come back for my testing…

My Slow Carb Diet Meal Plan

Before beginning, I made sure my kitchen was well-stocked with slow carb foods. And that anything else was packed away out of sight and out of mind!

My meals were shaping up to look like this:

Breakfast:
Coffee (with a little unsweetened almond milk)
Scrambled eggs or omelet with veggies (broccoli, spinach, red peppers, etc.)
Turkey bacon

Lunch:
Salad with mixed greens and black beans
Sliced chicken or turkey

Dinner:
Steak or burgers
Sauteed veggies with lentils and olive oil

Snacks:
Mixed nuts
Roasted chickpeas
Raw veggies

But I didn’t even make it a full day before screwing up!

My first mistake was a veggie stir fry I made. It wasn’t until it was cooking in the pan I realized it contained carrots and corn, two starchy veggies that probably don’t really fit the “slow carb” model. (Carrots might be allowed in moderation, but corn is definitely not allowed!)

The next day, I had a Crystal Light lemonade in the evening. This had no sugar, and just a few calories, BUT it contained artificial sweeteners. Though technically allowed in moderation, I don’t think these should be included at all. Obviously for health reasons, but also because they go against the whole idea. I mean, if the sweetness makes my body think and react like I just ate sweets anyway, that ruins everything the slow carb idea stands for.

The next day was no better. I had to slice up a half-rotten banana; I couldn’t bear to throw away a perfectly good chunk of banana, nor was it worth freezing… so I ate it.

Then I realized I was getting plenty of fat, but not quite enough protein. So I started digging into some ways to get more protein, only to find out that my peanut butter, mixed nuts, Greek yogurt, and flavored protein powders were not allowed!

At that moment, I realized why I hated testing this diet out last year!

So, I stuck with my own, slightly altered version of the Slow Carb diet, since I was mainly interested in PAGG anyway…

What Is In The PAGG Stack?

The PAGG stack consists of these four supplements in these doses:

  • Policosanol (20 mg)
  • Alpha-lipoic acid (300 mg)
  • Green tea flavanols (325 mg)
  • Garlic extract (200+ mg)

Each was included for a specific reason:

Alpha-lipoic acid
This is a powerful antioxidant that also aids in fat loss by delivering more carbs from the foods you eat to your muscles and liver, rather than to your fat cells. (Yep, ALA is great for endurance athletes whether you care about fat loss or not!)

Green Tea Flavanols
This has been shown to decrease carbohydrate storage in fat cells and even to increase chances of fat cells dying (rather than shrinking up and lying in wait to expand again sometime in the future.) That’s a big deal and likely why there are so many fat burners based on green tea.

Garlic extract
This helps prevent you from regaining fat after you lost it.

Policosanol
This is one that, for whatever reason, improved fat loss for Tim Ferriss and some of his test subjects. So, it was added onto AGG to form what’s now the PAGG stack. (The normal use is for lowering LDL cholesterol and raising HDL cholesterol.)


The Pills I Used

Here’s what I used in my test:

  • Vitacost B-100 Complex – $15.49
  • NSI Policosanol BioCosanol – $13.49
  • NSI Alpha Lipoic Acid – $5.99
  • Nature’s Way Garlicin – $9.60
  • Life Extension Decaffeinated Mega Green Tea Extract – $21

So the total came to $50.08 for the necessary PAGG pills ($65.57 if you include the suggested B vitamins.) Though some of the pill bottles won’t be empty in 30 days, that was the minimum I had to spend to get a month’s supply.

Here are some direct links to Amazon.com (with today’s pricing) if you’re interested in any of these:

It’s not cheap!

Keep reading to see if it’s worth it…

How to Take PAGG

PAGG is taken four times per day – before each meal and before bed. But you never actually take all four pills at once!

The daily agenda looks like this:

Prior to breakfast: BAGG
Prior to lunch: BAGG
Prior to dinner: AGG
Prior to bed: PAG

The main points are as follows:

  1. The first two times include the B-Complex and AGG stack.
  2. You only take Policosanol once, and that’s before bed.
  3. Omit the green tea extract before bed as it may cause trouble sleeping.

Also, take a day off!

PAGG should only be taken six days per week. You take one day off, with the caveat that your day off should not coincide with your cheat day! (My cheat day is generally Saturday, and I always use Wednesday as my day free of coffee, stimulants, and fat burners.)

If you do this long term, take one full week off PAGG every eight weeks.

My PAGG Testing In 2012

I originally tested PAGG for about 12 days back in February 2012. It didn’t go so well. Why?

1. The Slow Carb Diet Was Too Slow.

The foods I ate were apparently too slow. My body was either too accustomed to getting plenty of carbs, or I wasn’t getting enough beans and lentils to give me energy. Or I was doing way too much endurance training on my XC skis. Whatever it was, my workouts suffered, and I was not a happy camper.

2. I Was Too Stressed.

I was really stressed for personal reasons, and adding the pills was enough to drive me crazy. If I’m stressed out and add stimulants of any type, it just amplifies that stress. I probably would have had a heart attack had I continued, so the test was cut short.

Any results?

My weight (and appearance) remained the same the whole time, around 164-165lb, despite having lost 7-10lb in the month beforehand. I’m happy with that! Considering my stress levels, I was in no condition to be losing fat anyway.

Testing In 2013

It’s now Spring of 2013 – time for an even more abbreviated test than last year!

On 4/2/2013, I began eating Slow Carb seven days per week and using PAGG six days per week. I had one cheat day on 4/6/2013 (a Saturday) and there were two Wednesdays in there where I skipped the pills.

I first weighed in on 4/5/2013 at 155lb.*

And here are my corresponding girth measurements:

Neck 13.75
Waist 30.25
Hips 36.75
Calf 14.75
Bicep 12.0
Thigh 21.25
Chest 36.25
Shoulders 43.75

Those are fairly common measurements for me if I’m not working out much. When working out moderately, my calves and neck grow slightly, while my arms, chest, and shoulders get 1-5″ bigger.

*I actually didn’t have a scale on 4/2/2013 to weigh in. And now I’m on a Sunbeam analog scale rather than my Taylor digital scale I was using during my recently completed AcaiBerry Diet testing, hence the big “drop” in weight between 3/27/2013 and 4/5/2013. Just different calibrations between the scales.

My final weigh-in was one week later, on 4/13/2013, at 155lb (again.)

And my corresponding girth measurements:

Neck 14.0
Waist 30.125
Hips 36.0
Calf 14.5625
Bicep 11.875
Thigh 21.125
Chest 35.9375
Shoulders 44.5

Unsurprisingly, my weight remained the same for the week, with my girth measurements virtually identical as well. I saw some 1/8″ fluctuations in there, mostly down, but that could always be attributed to human error. Notably, my shoulders went up 3/4″, which is cool, although that’s the hardest measurement for me to take with the MyoTape, so it could have been way off in either the before or after measurement.

Summary and Conclusion

The short testing period wasn’t enough that I can speak to results that well. However, the point of doing the test was to see how everything works and what the experience is like, so I can share that with you. Individual results vary anyway – if you want success stories, there are plenty out there – and I’m sure the diet works for some people.

Would I recommend this for you?

Well, I’ve already discussed my feelings on cyclists going slow carb, so it’s no surprise I’m not dedicating six months of my life to testing this protocol! It’s not that slow carb can’t work for cyclists, it’s just that there are much better options – the Endurance Athlete Plate method or the PN system, to name a couple.

Plus, it’s just a pain the butt! Unless you live down the street from a butcher with low-priced, organic meat, and love to cook and eat that everyday, it’s tough to follow exactly. Really, it’s just organic meat, organic eggs, and beans, then some veggies. So many foods are actually off limits, and many are only allowed in tiny quantities.

PAGG is probably only worth the money if you’re getting close to 6-pack abs, but having a hard time, and need a little push. If you’re overweight, the slow carb diet itself will be enough to produce the initial weight loss. You’re better off spending the $50+/month on higher quality meats, eggs, fresh garlic, green tea leaves, and fish oil.

(Alpha Lipoic Acid is very interesting on its own, though, so stay tuned for a post about ALA for endurance athletes!)

What would I do differently?

If I were doing it all over again, I’d consider the special PAGG supplement from Pareto Nutrition for convenience. It’s not that much higher in price than buying everything from VitaCost, but it’s way more convenient.

Pre-mixed PAGG didn’t exist when I first went PAGG shopping, and I can’t speak to the quality of any of the all-in-one PAGG pills, but I can tell the convenience factor is huge.

Also, if I really wanted to test the Slow Carb Diet results, I’d plan to stick with it for eight strict weeks. (Tim says the biggest results generally occur after a solid 6-8 weeks on SCD.) It doesn’t suit my lifestyle for two weeks though, so there’s no way I’m doing eight!

 

Now you know, for most endurance athletes, the Slow Carb Diet isn’t ideal, and PAGG is expensive, annoying, and likely not all that helpful.

 

If you have any other PAGG questions, post in the comments below. What I’d like to know is, are you planning to test out the PAGG stack yourself?

 

A Different Approach to Fat Loss!

I highly recommend watching this totally FREE 5-part video series from Dr. John Berardi, one of the sharpest minds in sports nutrition and fat loss.

pn fat loss video

Just click play!

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6 Comments
  1. What was your modified SCD diet like?

  2. @Linda

    Basically I allowed myself certain “not allowed” foods, like the ones I listed. I’d say the worst offender was the Greek yogurt, since no dairy is allowed.

    I tracked it all in my MyFitnessPal log.

  3. I’m on my last week of PAGG (ordered from Pxxxxx Nutrition) and my weight has not changed a bit and my measurements are just the same. I admit i am not on a strict slow carb diet but I have been exercising more and eating smaller portions than before i started taking PAGG. Now I’m very sceptical with all the success stories out there…

  4. I was 288 pounds when I started dieting and exercising in December, 3 months ago. I shred weight like and got down to 261 in two months. I plateaued at 261 dieting and working out 4 to 5 times a week doing circuit training and cardio. I started the Slow Carb Diet and PAGG on 2/15/17 and I am about to hit my three week mark. During this time I have strictly adhered to the diet and workout regimen suggested by Tim in his book. He only recommends working out twice a week. I have dropped from 261 to 247 in less than 3 weeks. I am the biggest skeptic out there but believe me, it works if you do it right. I was eating string cheese for breakfast and I love dairy but I dont touch it anymore. I also suggest the ice shower/baths if you can withstand it.

    • @David

      Thanks for sharing your experience. Good job sticking with it and adapting as necessary! Wishing you continued success!

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coach levi
Hi, I'm Coach Levi. I'm a USA Cycling Certified Level 3 Coach as well as Level 1 Certified with Precision Nutrition. Want to feel better, ride faster, and look great? Let's work together!

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