Do you want to lose a lot of weight very fast without feeling hungry?
Sounds too good to be true?
In some ways it is and some ways it is not, that is if you are doing the potato diet.
The potato diet plan is exactly what the name implies.
It is a diet consisting of only potatoes which should make you lose weight very fast.
I first heard about the potato diet when I watched the famous magician Penn Jillette share his story about how he “kick-started” his weight loss by eating nothing but potatoes for the first 2 weeks.
He lost over 100 lbs in 4-5 months.
There are a lot of crazy diets with obscure rules (a.k.a. fad diets) and I am normally very skeptic towards these, which I think everyone should be.
However, after having researched the potato diet a bit it stood out to me because honestly, it didn’t seem like complete BS as other seemingly similar diets.
By the way here is the YouTube video I watched shortly after it was published.
There are different variations of the potato diet and some even include other food than potato.
But in this situation, I think you are much better off eating only potato, since you otherwise would be losing out on some of the benefits i.e. improved gut health and the exceptional monotonous flavor of eating only potatoes which in this case is a good thing.
The very bland taste of potato will very likely affect the total number of calories you consume and as Penn Jillette explains it will “reset” your taste buds.
The Potato Hack
Before you object to this diet due to the lack of protein and fat, there is a special approach that is less extreme.
It is this approach that I in particular believe could be useful to you, at least that is if you are also interested in maintaining as much strength and muscle mass as possible.
This approach has been dubbed “the potato hack” by Tim Steele who also wrote a book on the subject with the same name.
The potato hack only lasts for 3-5 days but can be repeated until you have achieved your weight loss goals.
You can then repeat it once every week and the days when you are not on the “potato hack” you would eat normally.
To avoid muscle loss, you would want to cram in a lot of protein both before and after doing a potato hack.
Due to the huge calorie deficit, I would also recommend adjusting your workout routine.
If you do a 3-day potato hack, your best option would probably be to do a brief full body workout using weights before and after.
If you do more than 3 days I would do one brief full-body workout during that period.
Intense cardio should be completely avoided during the potato hack.
What Kinds Of Potatoes?
First of all, I believe it is important to note that we are not talking about potato chips or French fries here.
You can eat different kinds of potatoes but they should be cooked in a way where no additional calories are added e.g. boiled or baked.
After being cooked the potatoes have to be cooled down for many hours so the resistant starch can reform.
The ideal time is 12 hours.
Basically, a raw potato contains a lot of the resistant starch, but in the cooking process, this is almost entirely destroyed (I explain more about resistant starch below).
When cooled for many hours parts of the resistant starch reform.
To maximize the boringness of the taste you can eat them cold and without any seasoning.
However, I believe this is unnecessarily “hardcore”.
You can season the cold potatoes with spices and even warm them in the oven, but try to avoid any sauces or condiments.
Trust me, after doing a 3-day potato hack myself I can attest to that even heavy amounts of seasoning do not make up for the incredibly boring taste.
For drinks, you should stick with just water, black coffee or tea. You don’t want anything that adds calories or is sweet.
What Is So Special About Potatoes?
Potatoes are as you might know very high in carbs but they also contain some protein and fiber. Perhaps more interesting is the fact that potatoes are also rated as one of the most filling foods.
Boiled potatoes rank number 1 in the satiety index which is based on a study done in 1995.
Other than that potatoes are incredibly nutritious and history has taught us that we humans can survive on eating only potatoes for a considerable time.
So if you were to choose only one food potatoes are probably a good choice.
Cooked then cooled potatoes have a decent amount of something called resistant starch.
This is not unique to potatoes and a lot of starchy vegetables and fruit contain it.
It is also found in beans, legumes, and whole grains.
It has the name resistant starch because it is resistant to being digested and in this way it is similar to fiber.
Similarly to fiber, we can’t absorb all the energy from the resistant starch so it helps you feel full while accounting for fewer calories.
Resistant starch has also been called a colon superfood because of how it is able to pass through our stomach undigested and instead be digested by bacteria in our intestine.
The resistant starch feeds a large number of very beneficial bacteria in our intestine which in turn improves our digestion and general gut health which has the potential of greatly reducing inflammation.
Additionally, when the bacteria digest the resistant starch they turn it into some special short-chain fatty acids. The fatty acids that are not used by the bacteria for energy are transferred to our bloodstream where it helps improve insulin sensitivity and lowers blood sugar.
You can find out more about resistant starch here on healthline.com and precisionnutrition.com.
Resets Your Taste Buds
Potatoes have a bland taste.
In all honesty, even if you are a person that likes eating potatoes (like me), you will very quickly be bored with eating potatoes alone.
If you are used to eating a lot of very tasty fatty and salty food or sweet stuff then your taste buds are being highly stimulated most of the time.
Not to mention all the food engineering that takes place in the processing to increase “tastiness” to an unnaturally high level.
When you eat only potatoes you are essentially starving your taste buds for any stimulus and when you eat other normal food again you will be able to appreciate their taste better.
Why It Works
Gaining or losing weight is essentially a question of energy balance.
In order to gain weight you need a surplus of calories and in order to lose weight, you need a deficit.
The fiber and resistant starch in the potato fill you up quickly and when boring potatoes are the only thing on the menu you simply end up eating less.
And by less, I mean MUCH LESS and also without really feeling hungry.
If you are truly hungry you can just have another potato, but what most people experience is that after eating a few cold potatoes they aren’t really hungry anymore.
This proves that most of the “hunger” we feel are either because of habit or because we are eating to stimulate our taste buds.
Think about the last time you suddenly become hungry again when offered a dessert after having a big meal.
But Potato Has No Protein And What About Fats?
Potatoes do actually have a moderate amount of protein for a plant, but you would have to eat crazy amounts of potatoes to get within the range of what could be defined as optimal protein intake while in a calorie deficit.
So yes, during the potato hack you are getting very little protein.
That is a sacrifice you have to make, but on the other hand, you also get a very big calorie deficit and can potentially speed up the weight loss process.
But let us say you do a 3-day potato and eat a good amount of protein before and after the hack.
Under such circumstances, I wouldn’t worry about muscle loss.
Regarding the fats, I would also say you shouldn’t worry as long as good fats are a part of your normal diet which you continue after the hack.
Dear Marcus, yesterday I’ve cooked the potatoes and following I baked it into an air fryer, without fat, salt or sauces until golden the potatoes. I left it to be cooled in a refrigerator. Is this process right to gain resistant starch ? Is there any problem in let the potatoes golden, almost toasted before cool it? excuse me by my english. tks in advance!
As long as the potatoes get plenty of time to cool down, it does not matter whether you cooked or baked them or both :). It is the during the long cooling period that the resistant starch can reform, and you can even reheat them after. That actually helps a little bit with the resistant starch. I am pretty sure it does not make any significant difference that the potatoes are golden and almost toasted before being cooled. At worst, it might reduce the reformation of the resistant starch a little bit.
I think the way you prepared your potatoes sounds good, but actually, a lot of people do it in another order. First, they cook a whole bunch of potatoes and put them in the frigde. Then next day take some of those, cut them up, and bake them.
Hope that helps and good luck on the potato diet 🙂
Hi my husband and I are started this tomorrow. Regarding the seasoning, is it ok to add everything but the bagel seasoning as well as garlic salt to give it some flavor? I also wanted to know if I can add lemon to my water.
I think it is alright to add a little bit of seasoning including garlic salt, but I would stay away from bagel seasoning (had to check what it was). Also, don’t use any kind of sauces.
Lemon water should be fine. Coffee and tea are also ok (without sugar or milk).
Eating nothing but potatoes is going to be an extremely bland experience, which is the point 🙂
How many potatoes or calories /day
The idea is you don’t count the number of potatoes or calories, but you instead eat until you are full. I would recommend you try first eating until you are full and see for yourself how much that is.
I have been on this diet for a week now, strictly cooked potatoes, no seasoning or adding flavor to the food. I love it. I always loved potatoes, but before starting it I worried that eating only potatoes will bother me, and it does not. The first day you eat more (three meals). Your taste buds change and I do not feel hungry (but I force myself to eat). Drink A LOT of water
daily! Starting the second week I will add a salad at my dinner (consisting of lettuce, a spoon of olive oil and maybe a pinch of salt.
Question – can you do the same with sweet potatoes? Is it safe?
Very happy to hear you are doing well on the potato diet:)
People have been doing this diet with many different kinds of potatoes, including sweet potatoes. Like other potatoes, sweet potatoes are also very nutritious so it should be perfectly fine to eat. However, I would suggest a health check if you want to do this for more than 30 days.
How many days are you planning to continue? And if you don’t mind me asking, how much weight did you lose already? Also, did you feel any improvement to your gut?
I have been on this diet for 3 weeks now. I lost 12 lbs (I always lose very slow).
Since I added the dinner salad with the greens, it slowed my weight loss, but I don’t mind. I also added this week 14 halves of raw walnuts for my protein
consumption. I also vary the kind of potatoes (always plain cooked, no seasoning. The small ones I eat with the skin). I drink a lot of water, always.
I want to continue it as long as possible. What other proteins can I add, so I won’t loose my hair or damage my nails. Can you suggest?
I feel absolutely wonderful. I never felt like this with any diet in the past.
I exercise every day, walking in the pool for over an hour.
(I just went through blood test, and everything seems to be fine).
Thanks for any input regarding healthy proteins I can add. Any other suggestions are welcome, so I don’t damage my health.
Thanks for your update Ilana. You are making great progress and I am so happy to hear it!
It is always good to be thinking about being healthy, but I don’t think you have to worry about damaging your health (or losing your hair) due to low protein intake with this kind of time frame. You say that you are feeling great on this diet, so why change it now, did the doctor tell you to eat more protein 🙂 ?
Anyway, if you want to increase your protein intake without adding a lot of calories, you should consider adding white fish or lean chicken. If animal protein is out of the question, I would go with tofu.
great article ! Thanks for this awesome potato diet summary.
I started the potato diet 2 weeks ago but I’m loosing very few kilos (first week: 2,5 kg and the second week just 1 kg) .
My problem is that on some days I only manage to eat 0,5 kg potatoes. While trying to force myself to eat more it caused a gag reflex. My assumption is that I’m not loosing that much weight (like others) because I have a huge caloric defizit, one that causes my metabolism to slow down too much.
Do you have any recommendations?
Regarding your weight loss, it is very normal that it slows down after 1-2 weeks. What you are interested in is fat loss which is not the same as weight loss. E.g. under normal conditions it is impossible to lose 2.5 kg of fat in one week, the reason why your weight dropped 2.5 kg is besides losing body fat you also lost weight due to other things like less food in your gut and less water bound in your body. If your weight loss the second week is mostly fat loss, it is actually impressive and you should be happy! I explain this more in-depth here.
Eating just 0.5 kg of potatoes is very little, and if you have problems eating more I would highly recommend that you take a small break and eat normally again (be careful of overeating). How long did you plan to follow the diet? Perhaps you can try periodizing your potato diet just like the “Potato hack” recommends. Do 3-5 days of eating nothing but potatoes and then eat normally again. Rinse and repeat.