The Raw Till 4 diet is vegan, and includes a lot of raw foods, but for many, even those who were once dedicated followers, that's where the good points end.
RT4 has come under increasing fire in the last year or two, not just from frustrated fans who haven't gotten the results they were promised, but from prominent health experts like Dr Gregor who, with a confused look, questioned the science of only eating raw before 4.
In its defence, the Raw Till 4 diet claims to be a lifestyle and not a diet fad – because it recommends high-energy exercise too. But let's be clear about this: Raw Till 4 is a diet fad by definition, because it recommends an unsustainable (for the majority) way of eating that isn't supported by science. And in this post, I'll explain why…
Who Created Raw Till 4?
RT4 was created by Freelee the Banana Girl: a YouTube celebrity and brand in her own right. Her boyfriend, who makes up the second half of the brand, is the controversial Durian Rider.
Together, they promote an extremely high carb diet, thus his “Carb the Fu** Up” book. Freelee, as her name suggests, also really likes bananas. So much so that she has a 30bananasaday website which promotes, well, 30 bananas a day.
Okay, so they're vegans and they dig raw food and carbs, but being vegan doesn't by default make you an ethical person, or an authority on nutrition. But, like all humans, vegans do still have to earn money to survive. Freelee and Durian Rider do this by promoting their brand, their ebooks and Raw Till 4 diet.
No big deal, right? We all gotta earn a living. There are thousands of “fitness gurus” selling weight loss and muscle building products, so why shouldn't they?
And this is about choice. I mean, a light should come on in the brain of any remotely intelligent person when it is suggested that they eat 30 bananas a day. Before following such advice, you'd surely do some research, right?
I guess not. And this is why the health and fitness industry is one of the most lucrative.
The bottom line, however, is that people have a choice as to whether or not they buy into the ideology of Raw Till 4.
However, I do take issue with Freelee and Durian Rider on Raw Til 4. The reason being that he, in particular, is always calling out “meat/steroid heads” who sell dreams of big muscles on the back of Whey Protein shakes and supplements. Okay, so advocating the eating of plants isn't harming animals, but fad diets are always lies, period. You can't call out others for doing pretty much what you are too.
Perhaps Raw Till 4 diet was/is effective for its creator, but there's no doubt that it is a cleverly branded, cleverly orchestrated, cult-like movement designed as a platform to promote Freelee and Durian Rider and make them money.
That said, please note that I have nothing against Freelee. I don't know her personally and I wish her well. But what I do know is that a Raw Till 4 diet has no scientific basis in helping people lose or sustain weight and, apart from getting lots of fruit and vegetables in your diet, RT4 unnecessarily complicates the vegan diet and causes a lot of confusion.
As for Durian Rider, he's a shrewd dude. No one can deny that the reverse psychology he uses to keep his fans engaged is genius. He's also an accomplished bike rider who many would struggle to challenge on his favoured hill ride up Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai, Thailand. And this is a casing point: he probably can get away with eating bucket loads of fruit, quite simply because his body is a finely-tuned, calorie burning machine.
Anyway, let's get into the diet…
The One Basic Flaw of Raw Till 4
Since its inception, there has been a lot of backlash from followers who haven't gotten the results they expected from RT4.
Freelee’s boyfriend, Durian Rider, claims this is because people don't follow the exercise advice that is suggested along with the diet. I quote, “They don't f**king ride up a mountain every day”…something, something, “lazy c***s”.
I do get his point here: When I tell people what I eat and they say, “If I ate that much I'd put on weight!” I do often think, yea, but you do sit in front of the TV a lot; while I train a lot.
All the same, it's ridiculous to expect your own diet and fitness regime to work for others as it does for you.
As Corey McCarthy pointed out when assessing so-called natural body builder Simeon Panda's workout product, to sell people a one-size-fits all, “here's what I eat and lift, you go do the same and you can look like me” ideology is deceitful and misleading.
This is the job of personal trainers, or at least it should be: to assess a client's age, weight, height, body type and capabilities before advising them on portions, calorific intake, eating habits and an exercise plan to reach their goals. Strangely though, even fitness “professionals” are falling for the RT4 movement:
I gained 20lbs over an 8 month period on Raw Till 4 and I am a Fitness Professional. I was exercising A LOT and still gained weight. I do better on a starch-based diet too. I still eat a lot of fruit, but more starch. – Yogi Lifter Nef
Of course, when it comes to weight loss, there are general guidelines one can offer, such as eating fewer processed foods, fewer sugary foods, doing the recommended 300 minutes a week of strenuous exercise, stopping eating at least 2-3 hours before bed, sleeping for 7-8 hours a night, and quite simply burning less calories than you eat.
The question anyone considering RT4 should ask is: do you really think the average person, doing an average amount of exercise, is going to lose weight eating the 90% carbs, 5% protein, 5% fat diet, 2,000 calories (for women) by end of lunchtime recommended by Raw Till 4?
Seriously. You can't just tell the world to follow that and expect it to work!
No Calorie Restriction? No Wonder People Are Putting On Weight
This deserves a section of its own. One of the most ludicrous things I've heard Durian and Freelee say is that you don't need to calorie restrict on RT4, but at the same time RT4 advises no less than 2,000 calories (mainly in fruit) by lunchtime (includes your lunch, I think!).
Okay, so I do not advise that anyone undertakes a diet whereby they count calories/restrict calories; it's not a healthy way to live. But telling people who want to lose weight that they can eat as much as they want is irresponsible.
It goes against basic science. Just ask yourself the question: What will happen to my body if I eat more calories than I burn?
Vegan or non vegan, the answer is the same.
In the video below, Freelee goes on to make some wild claims to those that aren't seeing results. She uses the excuse that it will take longer for your body to react to RT4 because it's down to your past, down to “what your body is used to”. There is no regard given for metabolism or exercise capability.
Again, no disrespect Freelee: If this works for you, great. But where is the science, the data, to back up all these claims. Why not just advise people to go on a healthy vegan diet and provide a list of highly nutritious foods. Coupled with regular exercise, people will see sustainable results in just a couple of weeks.
Why You Don't Need to Over Complicate the Vegan Diet
Eating vegan is effortless. Moreover, it's so easy to lose weight and obtain a sustainable weight eating a plant-based diet. There's just no need for Raw Till 4, 80-10-10, or any other weight loss fad diet.
The simple fact is that vegetables and fruit (most) contain far less calories than meat and eggs, which means you have to eat a hell of a lot to put on weight.
People who put on weight on a vegan diet do so because they eat processed foods, sugary foods and vegan junk foods in general. Or, because they're stuffing tons of fruit in the daytime and eating a really high carb dinner on RT4, and not burning it off.
It's no coincidence that every one of my vegan friends stays at the same weight, or thereabouts — perhaps a bit heavier at Christmas.
But diets like Raw Till 4 confuse people as to what a healthy, sustainable vegan diet looks like. They obsess over times to eat, calories to intake, food types to separate, etc. It's wholly unnecessary. Damn, eat as much kale and broccoli as you like for dinner — you won't get fat, trust me!
Anyone Can Make Up a Diet..Watch Me!
Anyone can make up a diet, and people do all the time. The easiest thing to do is make money off of people's desperation to change the way they look.
But the thing that particularly jars me about the Raw Till 4 diet is that it doesn’t even attempt to use science to back it up.
I can make up a diet right now. I’ll call it the ‘Porridge ‘Till 1' diet. I’ve been doing this for years and maintaining a lean 83 kgs of muscle. No, really, I have.
Here’s what to do: Eat a large bowl of porridge filled with almonds, sunflower seeds, flax seed, pumpkin seeds, raisins, a banana (just for you Freelee) and some other fruit if you like. This complex carb and quality protein mix will get you through until lunchtime with maximum energy and super brainpower. Hell, you can even skip lunch for extra weight loss!
But here’s the problem. No doubt someone will email me within a week and say they feel hungry before 10 am. Some people will complain about getting fatter, others will lose weight, some might even get sick.
But then I’ll just say they aren’t doing it right. And the truth is, they probably aren’t doing it exactly like me.
So I'd have to ask, how big is the serving of porridge? Is it whole grain? Are your raisins coated in palm oil or other glazing agents? Are your seeds salted and causing you to drink more fruit juice? Are you over doing the nuts? Do grains bloat you? Do you exercise at all? Any pre-existing conditions? Are you cheating? You must be!
The reality is, if you have specific weight loss or muscle building goals, do not buy into an extreme one-size-fits all diet. Follow the basic science behind weight loss using vegan foods, and then learn about your body and how it responds to different foods. Find your balance.
But people do like to buy into the extreme for fast results. Hell, I just watched a YouTube video of a couple who started eating 30 bananas a day based on Freelee’s banana madness!
Are you kidding me?
No wonder these followers start feeling like crap; they probably aren't far off developing hyperkalemia, a condition of having too much potassium in your blood that can cause kidney failure .
For the record, your blood potassium level is normally 3.6 to 5.2 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). Having a blood potassium level higher than 7.0 mmol/L can be dangerous and requires immediate treatment.
Talking of banana obsessions and potassium levels: In a study on hyperkalemia and hyperdopaminemia induced by an obsessive eating of bananas in an anorexia nervosa adolescent, it was found that:
During the period of this banana eating habit, she showed an increase of serum potassium (from 4.7 mEq/l to 6.1 mEq/l) and whole blood dopamine (from 11 ng/ml to 210 ng/ml; normal range 0.5-6.2 ng/ml). When the patient resumed other food ingestion after 26 months of obsessive and restricted eating of banana, the abnormalities in her blood data and her psychological state were all corrected toward normal. We conclude that in this case, the obsessive and restricted habit of banana ingestion resulted in hyperkalemia.
Okay, so this patient had anorexia, but so does one of Freelee’s followers, who commented on one of her YouTube videos:
I am currently recovering from anorexia and it's really, REALLY hard, but I think i'll be willing to try this to get back to HEALTH. 🙂 thank you freelee
Damn! This vulnerable girl is choosing to follow Raw Till 4 over the advice of a doctor, dietician and qualified nutritionist.
And this is the danger of fad diets. Do yourself a favour, if you really want to understand how the body responds to specific foods and what it requires, base your diet on reliable scientific data, preferably not funded by the dairy and meat industries.
30 bananas for Freelee might work out well, but personally I'd rather follow this advice:
Adults should consume about 3,500mg of potassium per day, according to the UK's National Health Service. The average banana, weighing 125g, contains 450mg of potassium, meaning a healthy person can consume at least seven-and-half bananas before reaching the recommended level.
So keep it lower than 8 ‘nanas a day Freelee fans!
Oh, but hang on. What about those with kidney problems?
There are some people who should steer clear of foods that are high in potassium, warns Catherine Collins, a dietitian at St George's Hospital in London – those with kidney disease.
“These patients have a very low kidney function which can potentially see a build-up of harmful potassium levels in their blood stream because they can't get rid of the mineral when they pass urine,” she says.
“So in theory it is possible for someone with kidney disease to die of a high blood potassium level if they decided to consume lots of different food types rich in the mineral.”
Again, can you see how such recommendations can be dangerous without giving out proper nutritional advice with the right information for those with pre-existing conditions.
It is often said that a vegan diet does not mean a healthy diet, and it’s so very true. Vegans should be promoting a healthy, balanced diet of fruit, vegetables, beans, pluses, seeds, nuts, etc., not a contest to see who can “carb up” on the most bananas.
Why Raw Till 4 May Rot Your Teeth & Make You Gassy
The majority of complaints I came across online were from those doing Raw Till 4 who found it difficult to meet the pre 4pm calorie requirements. The diet promotes a no calorie restriction diet, with the advice given to achieve a minimum 2,000 calories by the time you’ve finished lunch.
This is a bad place to be for someone struggling with weight loss and history of emotional or obsessive eating problems.
Therefore, most find themselves stuffing fruit throughout the morning and afternoon to stave off hunger and maximise calories to burn from the advised exercise regime. This in itself is a completely unnatural way to eat. You aren't supposed to be eating all the time, because as science tells us, this will rot your teeth.
In fact, this frequency of eating, particularly fruit, means your mouth will be almost permanently acidic and awash with sugars. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that we leave 3.5 to 4 hours between sweet foods consumption, including fruits, and stick to a maximum of 4-5 times a day so that the teeth have time to recover from the effects of acid produced by the sugars.
Now consider digestion. It is not healthy for the body to be in a constant state of digestion. Moreover, in terms of spreading calories between multiple smaller meals…
A study from the University of Ottawa found that on a low-calorie diet, there was no weight loss advantage to splitting calories among 6 meals rather than 3. A second study found that switching from 3 daily meals to 6 did not boost calorie-burning or fat loss. In fact, the researchers concluded that eating 6 meals a day actually made people want to eat more.
No wonder all these Raw Till 4 followers complain of being hungry all the time.
And, even if you eat all those calories in one or two sittings, imaging how this will impact your digestive system. Fruit is very high in fibre, and while I may be able to eat 3 or 4 bananas and not pass wind, others may find, as did one of Freelee’s fans (see below), that eating so much fruit can result in bloating, nausea and gas.
Tried it and I was starving all day and found it super hard to stay full at work etc. My stomach can't handle a lot of fruits too so I felt nauseated and gassy all the time on top of it. Packing oatmeal, vegan toast and protein shakes helped so much. Thanks for the video!
RT4 is certainly not for anyone with IBS, IBD or related problems. In fact, this whole “carb up” with huge amounts of fruit approach is tainting the normal vegan diet. A friend of mine recently expressed to me that having watched a number of these raw food type YouTube videos there was no way he could go vegan because of his IBD. I had to explain that a completely raw diet, or a RT4 / 30 bananas a day diet, was not representative of the average vegan diet.
Is there Any Science Behind 4PM & Separating Raw & Cooked?
RT4 Principle: Eat raw fruits & greens, but ONLY until 4 pm.
I really did try to find some science to support this 4pm thing, but there isn't any. I dig the eat greens and fruit advice, I really do, but the logic behind the separating of foods is misleading.
The given reason for separating cooked and raw food in this way is supposedly because fruit ferments in your body if mixed with other foods and, if eaten at night, ferments while you sleep and releases toxins into the body.
But this is complete rubbish. In fact, nighttime may even be the best time to eat fruit loaded with vitamins and anti-oxidants, because your digestion slows down and the small intestine has more time to absorb the nutrients.
For your cooked dinner, the Raw Till 4 diet suggests you eat high carb (again!). On the menu are foods like potatoes, root veggies, rice and gluten-free pasta.
I don’t have too much of a problem with this. My body type is such that I can pretty much eat what I want, when I want and as long as I exercise regularly I don’t put on weight.
However, I know people who exercise regularly like me, but as soon as they introduce pasta and rice into their evening meals they start putting on weight. For most, “carbing up” in the evening is a no-no, and it's preferable to follow the big breakfast, filling lunch, moderate dinner approach to sustain a healthy weight.
And I'm not even recommending going high protein for your evening meal, because for me personally that affects my sleep. But I’m certainly not going to recommend high carb meals for those who want to lose weight, or lots of boiled starchy foods that will sit on your stomach as you try to sleep.
WTF! Avoid Chickpeas, Beans and Lentils?
Is there anything scientific about RT4? Absolutely! There are some great principles, such as avoiding cooking oils and processed foods, and eating vegan!
But then there’s weird, random stuff like, “Avoid Chickpeas, beans and lentils”.
Try telling that to Dr Greger. I quote:
We’ve known for decades that beans have an exceptionally low glycemic index. You give someone cooked beans, peas, or lentils and they don’t even get half the blood sugar spike that they would get with the same amount of carbs in the form of bread, pasta, or potatoes. So if you’re going to eat some high glycemic food like white rice, consider having some beans with it, and the more beans the better. Substituting one serving of beans for one serving of white rice is associated with a 35 percent lower risk of metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes).
Eat beans and lentils. Lots of them!
In Conclusion of RT4
How one pretty, slim woman manage to convince hundreds of thousands of people into believing that a 90%+ carb, mainly fruit diet, eaten only until 4pm, followed by a heavy starch-based dinner will help solve the world's “fat” problem, I shall never know. Maybe “pretty and slim” had something to do with it.
One thing’s for sure though, much of it is pseudo-science — apart from the advice to eat fruit and vegetables. In fact, hell, add beans, lentils, seeds, nuts and some other vegan foods to that part and it's all you need to do.
Having researched this diet, I began to wonder: is Freelee even following this diet herself?
This line of enquiry led me to find a fair few comments about Freelee previously boasting of doing very little exercise. I quote:
I remember those old Freelee videos! She used to constantly say that she exercised at most twice a week and she would sit around all day long apart from that. I couldn't understand how I was gaining so much weight and she was so skinny. ~ Vegan Medhead
All I know is this, if you eat 1,000+ calories from fruit for breakfast, and 1,000+ calories from fruit for lunch, you sure as hell better exercise hard, like an athlete — like Durian Rider hard! And make sure you carry air freshener with you when you go out into public places, ‘cos that fibre is gonna super-charge your farts.
I wan't to end on a serious note though.
Veganism is about ethics: what's right and wrong. Veganism exposes the truth about animal cruelty and nutrition. It isn't about egos and profit over people. We put windows on slaughter houses and reveal the lobbying of the meat and dairy industries that leads to the lies that make their way into food and drink recommendations for our kids.
What we shouldn't do is lie to each other. If we start repackaging a plant-based diet into fad-based commodities for personal gain we become liars and cheats. Sure, we aren’t exploiting animals, but instead we're exploiting each other. We give meat-eaters ammo to fire at us — because believe me it doesn’t take a genius to expose the flaws in Raw Till 4.
RT4 is a fad. It is part of the brand of two popular YouTubers who happen to be vegan. But its basis is unfounded by science, and a lot of people are gaining weight and not maximising their health potential because of it.
It is also confusing and unnecessarily complicating the vegan message. It distracts from the focus of activism: the promotion of animal rights and ecological welfare.
All over YouTube, egos are fighting for page views to promote or diss RT4 or the Starch Solution. Aside from that, there's the soap opera around Freelee and Durian themselves, those they fat shame, sleep with, call out for being fake vegans, etc.
Because of this, I'm hearing less about science-based nutrition, helping animals have a voice and saving the planet.
The vegan message is not a complicated one, and neither is the way we eat.
Simply follow science's easy, tried and tested, sustainable, healthy diet: a diet that consists of plenty of fruit and vegetables (loads of greens and berries), beans, lentils, seeds, nuts, etc, and minimal processed foods. Exercise each day for at least an hour, and try standing up to work for some of the day instead of sitting down all day too.
You're far more likely to have success losing excess weight on this type of diet than eating 30 bananas a day / Raw Till 4 and heavy carbing at dinner time with starchy foods. Oh, and you won't rot your teeth snacking away all day while trying to hit those calorie targets.
I’ll finish with a quote on Raw Till 4 from the popular Unnatural Vegan:
It didn’t work so well for me, not only did I gain weight and body fat, but more importantly my digestion was very poor, my energy was low and my blood pressure went up to pre- hypertension stage.
What has been your experience with RT4? Leave it in the comments section.