I learned of the Potato Hack in my health coach course. Apparently it’s been around for a long time: 1849 to be exact! Read more about its origins and its simple nature at Potatohack.com. I also bought the book, The Potato Hack: Weight Loss Simplified by Tim Steele, which helped explain a lot of things.
The diet is pretty simple. The basic diet is to eat nothing but potatoes for 3-5 days straight. That’s it!
Many theories exist on how it works. There could be compounds in potatoes that reduce inflammation, improve the immune system and insulin response, improve sleep and hunger patterns. The resistant starch in potatoes feeds good gut bacteria and thus improves the makeup of your gut flora. Removal of bad foods starves bad bacteria and helps you wean off them, since you’re not eating them for 3-5 days. There are reports of being able to lose 1 pound per day on this diet.
Variations exist in what kinds of potatoes to eat, like sweet potatoes, and only eating potatoes for one meal per day but not the whole day.
I decided I had to try this for 5 days and see for myself what happens. I prepared my glucose and ketone meter as well as uBiome sampling kits, to be sampled before, during, and after the diet week.
First I went out and bought a lot of potatoes. This was a good idea. It was recommended to cook a batch and keep them on hand to make eating easier, and to avoid running out by accident.
Note that you are supposed to just eat plain potatoes. Putting butter or other fixings on top would defeat the purpose of eating only potatoes! So the options are to boil, microwave, or bake them. First, I’d peel them all to make sure the potentially toxic skin was gone:
Then I’d boil them. Russet potatoes and red potatoes were my go-to staples for the week.
I’d end up with these big boils of boiled potatoes, which I’d transfer into the refrigerator:
The book recommends that you boil and then cool them, which apparently increases the content of the resistant starch in the potatoes. Resistant starch is not digestible by humans, but gut bacteria love the stuff. So more can be better assuming you don’t have some sort of gut bacteria problem, in which case you might develop gas or bloating. Thankfully I had neither.
Daily, my typical meal looked like this – pretty boring!
I began by maintaining my daily intermittent fasting of 16 hours fasting and 8 hours of eating. I’d basically only eat 2 meals of potatoes and as much as I could stuff into my mouth. Occasionally I’d get hungry mid afternoon and I would grab a boiled cool potato and munch that down.
Some interesting results and observations:
As time wore on, my bowel movements grew less and less until literally I could not have a bowel movement by the last day. That was a bit unexpected; I would have thought the fibers of the potato would have produced some small amount. I am guessing that whatever bowel movements I had were simply emptying out of previous meals. This did make sampling for uBiome very challenging at the end. It took about 2-3 days of eating normally to bring back my bowel movements.
Here are my uBiome results. Interestingly, my gut flora did change in the middle and got more diverse but then some bacteria dropped in number towards the end. I am not sure if I can trust the last day’s sample at the end of the hack as I could barely take a sample due to my inability to have any meaningful bowel movement.:
I did see a drop in blood sugar and a rise in ketones in the mornings. See these graphs below:
I’m not sure what to make of these results just yet as I was not totally out of range before. It was nice to see ketones go up so much but it also started to return back to lower by end of the 5 days. Next time I’ll probably want to establish a better baseline before I start the 5 day hack.
My body composition did move. Weight dropped down to my usual level of mid-142 lbs during an intervention (see my Fasting Mimicking Diet post) where it leveled off. True to reports, I did drop about a pound a day. Given that I was not overweight before I started, I leveled off before hitting a full 5 pounds lost. Fat and muscle % remained about the same, as did visceral fat (no graph, measured value stayed the same) which I was hoping would have dropped lower. One thing to note: was my weight loss due to water loss or perhaps even the emptying of my bowels completely? At least one source from Quora says that there could be 1 oz per 12 pounds of body weight, so that would mean 146/12 = 12.2 oz of fecal matter, so maybe I did lose more than just could be accounted for by fecal matter alone.
Eating potatoes all week wasn’t the worst thing I could have done. I didn’t crave anything else, although I did observe my habits in action as I would reach for foods that I would have normally eaten. Also, it seems as though my body processed potatoes quite quickly, so while I would get full from eating a lot of potatoes, I felt like I could have eaten more in a fairly short amount of time.
After the 5 days, my appetite was very suppressed. This was unexpected. After the FMD, my appetite returned in 2-3 days. Even now, almost 1 month later I find that my appetite is still suppressed from what it was before I started the hack.
Overall, the Potato Hack worked well, and I liked the appetite suppressive result. At some point I may dig further into whether the gut flora changes were positive or not. I would also like to try this successively to see if any other results could be observed, but not having much body fat could make observable results on my body more difficult than with someone who had more body fat, and potentially with blood glucose handling issues.