Day 339 (M, 111205) — A Comparison of 4HB Slow Carb, Atkins, Paleo, and Primal Diets

A Comparison of the 4 Hour Body Slow Carb, Atkins, Paleo, and Primal Diets.  Because I am considering a switch to a different programs, I have spent the last few days investigating the different programs.

While there are several sites around the Internet which offer excellent, if brief, comparisons of two or three of these programs, I could not find any site which compares all four of these popular low-carb programs.

Broad Differences.  As I understand it, here are the broad differences between these programs are:

  • Atkins is all about lowering carbs.  It almost doesn’t matter how you do it or what you eat so long as you eat very few carbs.
  • The 4HB Slow Carb diet is similar to the Atkins diet except you subtract dairy and add beans.  Simplicity is encouraged.  Also, it includes a mandatory Free Day once per week. Personal experimentation is a fundamental key to the program and this idea is pushed over and over and over again in the book.
  • Paleo seeks to recreate the diet from 10,000 years ago by restricting pretty much all sweet things.  Depending on who you read, all non-Paleo eating, even a single bite, is condemned in the harshest possible terms.*
  • Primal is similar to Paleo but it takes the “ancestral diet” and allows for more recent things (e.g. dairy).  Starting from SCD, subtract beans/legumes and artificial sweeteners, add some fruit and a little dairy.  No Free Days involved, but an occasional Free Meal is not absolutely prohibited.

Atkins, Paleo, and Primal, since they have no (or very infrequent) Free Days, strongly curb cravings for carbs.  After a few days on the program, eating as little sugar and grain as possible, the desire to stuff yourself full of carbs wanes and can even disappear completely.

This happens to a degree on the 4HB Slow Carb diet but not as much as the others.  Because the mandatory weekly Free Days include sugars and grains, these binges sometimes reintroduce those feelings.

The Chart.  Without further ado, here is what you came here to see.

A Comparison of Atkins, 4HB Slow Carb, Paleo, and Primal Diets, v 1.0, 20111205

A Comparison of Atkins, 4HB Slow Carb, Paleo, and Primal Diets, v 1.0, 20111205

Sorry, but coding this into an HTML table would be a huge pain in the butt.  I am working on making the image better and easier to read.  If anyone knows how to embed a PDF in a WP post so it shows up as a clickable image, I’m all ears.

Here is the PDF of the Comparison Chart — A Comparison of Atkins, 4HB Slow Carb, Paleo, and Primal Diets, v 1.0, 20111205 — for download.  It has several links in it and will have more as I get the chance to updated it.  It is published under a Creative Commons License.  See below for details.

System. I’ve tried to keep it simple and list each category as emphasized, encouraged, allowed, discouraged, and off-limits for each program.

However, since these are complex programs that intelligent authors have taken hundreds of pages to explain completely, I wasn’t able to reduce every cell to a simple label.

Method. To fill out my chart, I used my personal experience with Atkins and 4HB SCD. I also used the programs’ main books: Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution and The 4 Hour Body. For Paleo, I used internet searches, information from Robb Wolf and Dr. Loren Cordain, and comments from people who follow the lifestyle. For Primal, I used Mark Sisson’s Daily Apple site and his book The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Total Body Transformation.

Errors and Improvements.  This is a work in progress and I want it to be right.  If you spot an error or have a comment on a way to improve this chart, please let me know.  If I make a change based on your comments, I’ll note that in the updated PDF and provide link to your site (if you have one).  Speaking of . . .

Credit Where Credit is Due.  Thanks goes to Jason Hook at CrossPoint Martial Arts who lives a Paleo lifestyle and helped me with that parts of this project.

Related Posts. Here are some other posts about the Primal Blueprint, 4HB, Atkins, Paleo, and other low-carb diets.


Exercise. Last week went really well.  Let’s keep it up this week, too!

Exercise Sets Reps Notes
1 Myotatic Crunches 2 25
2 Cat Vomit Exercises 2 20
3 Push-ups 2 50
4 Pull-ups 2 10 assisted
5 Squats 2 50
6 Dips 2 20 assisted

Review.  I accidentally skipped my squats in this workout.  I’ll do some extra on Wednesday and Friday and see if I can make up for it.


Plan for Week 48. Like last week, I am focusing on the basics with one exception: I’m having a Free Meal lunch  on Tuesday .

Day Fast? SCD? Run/Exer?
Sunday No No No
Monday Yes Yes Yes
Tuesday No No No
Wednesday Yes Yes Yes
Thursday Yes Yes No
Friday Yes Yes Yes
Saturday No No TBD
Red = a negative deviation | Green = a positive deviation | Blue = a note


* Yes, I’ve linked to this article before.  Dr. Harris’ screw-you-you’re-an-asshole-who-kills-children-if-you-take-even-one-bite-of-cake attitude bothers the everliving fuck out of me.   It makes my goddam teeth itch and I want to just punch him in the face every time I read it.  In fact, it’s probably one of the main reasons I am moving to Mark Sisson’s PRIMAL program on January 1 rather than anything labeled PALEO.


Creative Commons License A Comparison of Atkins, 4HB Slow Carb, Paleo, and Primal Diets by New John for a New Year is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

15 responses to “Day 339 (M, 111205) — A Comparison of 4HB Slow Carb, Atkins, Paleo, and Primal Diets

  1. Ditto with your asterisk comment. It’s Primal for me and mine starting in the New Year! Thanks for the post, enjoyed it.

    • Hey Mark, in your explorations through these different programs, if you spot anything that disagrees with what I put in my chart, I’d really appreciate a heads up.

      Thanks! =)

  2. I think the line for “Saturated fat” is incorrect in the chart. You probably mean “Poly-Unsaturated fat.” I say this because Coconut oil (2 lines below it) is 85% Saturated fat and is allowed/encouraged for several of the diets that discourage/disallow “Saturated fat.”

  3. Fantastic post. I definitely think that chart will serve as a go-to resource guide for me. I also like the collaborative effort on it. Bravo.

    I only really have experience with 4HB SCD and I read a little on primal/ paleo, but it seems pretty spot on to me. I will definitely dig into it a little more and let you know if I can think of any improvements!


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  5. I think you misunderstood that post by Kurt Harris. He is not saying that food that is not Paleo is condemned. All he is saying is don’t be a hypocrite and lead by example. This is my sole motivation for eating healthy.

    If you read his recent post you would see that even Harris is not ‘Paleo’ and says the same things about it that you do.
    “I agree with Cordain and DeVaney on very little, and especially not on the value of making ad hoc evolutionary arguments. I was debunking “paleo” reasoning when you were still Mr. Primal and firmly in the paleo camp.”
    “I eat potatoes and white rice and bananas, as well as plenty of ruminant fat. I don’t buy into binary macronutrient dichotomies.”

    And Mark Sisson is actually a fan of Dr. Harris. I think the two of them (along with Robb Wolf) share the most modern approach to “Paleo”
    “PaleoNu – An MD, and a practicing radiologist, Kurt Harris runs a fantastic no-nonsense blog exploring the evolutionary diet. What I like about PaleoNu is its insistence on corroborating the speculative nature of the Primal lifestyle with hard science. The two coincide more often than not, but Kurt is committed to making sure.”

    You can follow primal or paleo or the evolutionary diet it really doesn’t matter what you call it. It comes down to understanding the consequences of the shit that you put in your mouth. And the consequences sometimes involve the people around you as well.

    Because of this there is no one size fits all diet, primal or paleo does not try to be that, it only suggests avoiding foods that are high in ‘anti-nutriemts’ and using real whole foods to make up the macronutrients that are best suited of you and for your goals.

    • It’s quite possible I misunderstood his post; I misunderstand lots of things. And I never thought for a moment he wasn’t intelligent or honest, I just really disliked the message I read in that post.

      I’ll give him another look.

      Thanks for the thoughts.

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  7. Great post and chart! I noticed in the chart it says artificial sweeteners are discouraged under Atkins – I’m not sure that they’re ‘encouraged’, but it sure seems like every recipe calls for Splenda. The Atkins’ Diet followers seem to love Splenda.


    • Officially, I thought I saw that people should avoid them if possible. I’ll have to double check that to be sure.

      But I do agree with you that their recipes (and especially Atkins-branded items) seem to use them rather freely.

      I’ll dig some more and see if I can find an “official statement” to add as a footnote.


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  10. I love this chart. It’s really helpful. Just a note – Gluten is not allowed on 4HB, dairy (1T cream in coffee and cottage cheese) is allowed on 4HB.

    • Thanks for the note, Susan. Can you point me to the gluten reference in 4HB or where Tim made note of it? Thanks!

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