The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman by Tim Ferriss
October 28, 2016
The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferris is a MASSIVE 600 page book that covers a wide range of topics aimed at hacking the human body. All of the tips, tricks and hacks are backed by trial and error science experiments (some extensive, and some just based on Timmy Tim Tim using himself as a lab rat).
This books is a great read. Tim is both witty and entertaining. In this book summary I will only cover 4 of the sections listed in the book. All 4 sections are dedicated to weight loss; these are:
Ground Zero-Getting Started
Subtracting Fat: The Basics
Subtracting Fat: Advanced
There are many other sections covering a wide range of topics, check them out if you’re so inclined. My husband and I followed the 4 hour body diet for 9 months with great results. Since then we have moved onto the Ketogenic diet (I will share more on that later). Before getting into the summary, this is a great info graph that captures the key points in the 4 Hour Body Diet:
The 4-Hour Body is the result of an obsessive quest, spanning more than a decade, to hack the human body. It contains the collective wisdom of hundreds of elite athletes, dozens of MDs, and thousands of hours of jaw-dropping personal experimentation. From Olympic training centers to black-market laboratories, from Silicon Valley to South Africa the book fixates on one simple question:
For all things physical, what are the tiniest changes that produce the biggest results?
Thousands of tests later, this book contains the answers.
Ground Zero-Getting Started: Elusive Bodyfat: Where Are You Really?
“The future is already here—it is just unevenly distributed.
Be proactively skeptical, not defensively skeptical.
Cellulite is fat. Nothing special, neither a disease nor a unique female problem without solutions. It can be removed.
Different sources of calories = different results. Not all calories are created equal.
“For a long time, I’ve known that the key to getting started down the path of being remarkable in anything is to simply act with the intention of being remarkable.”
If they would just do something most people would find that they get some version of the outcome they’re looking for. That’s been my secret. Stop wishing and start doing.
Initial Body Fat Goals: If obese, aim for 20%. If you have just a bit of extra padding, aim for 12%. For women: If obese, aim for 25%. If you have just a bit of extra padding, aim for 18%.
Four principles of failure-proofing behavior.
1. Make it conscious.
2. Make it a game.
3. Make it competitive.
4. Make it small and temporary.
Get an accurate picture of your baseline. It will look worse than you expect. This need not be bad news. Ignoring it won’t fix it, so capture it and use it.
If someone uploads only a couple of runs to the site, they might just be trying it out. But once they hit five runs, they’re massively more likely to keep running and uploading data. At five runs, they’ve gotten hooked on what their data tells them about themselves
Subtracting Fat: Basics
There are just five simple rules to follow for the 4 hour body diet:
RULE #1: AVOID “WHITE” CARBOHYDRATES. The following foods are prohibited, except for within 30 minutes of finishing a resistance-training workout: bread, rice (including brown), cereal, potatoes, pasta, tortillas, and fried food with breading.
RULE #2: EAT THE SAME FEW MEALS OVER AND OVER AGAIN. Mix and match from the following list, constructing each meal with one pick from each of the three groups. I’ve starred the choices that produce the fastest fat-loss for me: Proteins *Egg whites with 1–2 whole eggs for flavor (or, if organic, 2–5 whole eggs, including yolks) *Chicken breast or thigh *Beef (preferably grass-fed) *Fish Pork Legumes *Lentils (also called “dal” or “daal”) *Black beans Pinto beans Red beans Soybeans Vegetables *Spinach *Mixed vegetables (including broccoli, cauliflower, or any other cruciferous vegetables) *Sauerkraut, kimchee (full explanation of these later in “Damage Control”) Asparagus Peas Broccoli Green beans Eat as much as you like of the above food items, but keep it simple.
Here are some of my meals that recur again and again:
Breakfast (home): Scrambled Eggology® pourable egg whites with one whole egg, black beans, and mixed vegetables warmed up or cooked in a microwave using Pyrex® containers
Lunch (Mexican restaurant): Grass-fed organic beef, pinto beans, mixed vegetables, and extra guacamole.
Eating more frequent meals also appears to have no enhancing effect on resting metabolic rate
Make sure to have your first meal within an hour of waking.
Meals are approximately four hours apart.
One of these meals has to be eaten every four hours while you’re awake, and you must eat within one hour of waking and one hour of bed. Hunger is no longer the driver for food intake. Tupperware is your friend, and the clock is your drill sergeant. Skipping meals is not permitted, so purchase in bulk and prep food in advance if needed
RULE #3: DON’T DRINK CALORIES.
Drink massive quantities of water and as much unsweetened tea, coffee beverages as you like.
Need something to flavor your coffee? If you must, use cream (not milk), but no more than two tablespoons. I opt for a few dashes of cinnamon and the occasional drops of vanilla extract.
Red wine is 100% allowed (unlike white wines and beer, both of which should be avoided). Up to two glasses of red per night, no more.
RULE #4: DON’T EAT FRUIT.
The only exceptions to the no-fruit rule are tomatoes and avocadoes, and the latter should be eaten in moderation (no more than one cup or one meal per day).
RULE #5: TAKE ONE DAY OFF PER WEEK.
I make myself a little sick each Saturday and don’t want to look at any junk for the rest of the week. Paradoxically, dramatically spiking caloric intake in this way once per week increases fat-loss by ensuring that your metabolic rate (thyroid function and conversion of T4 to T3, etc.) doesn’t downshift from extended caloric restriction.
SHOULD I TAKE ANY SUPPLEMENTS?
Many people on this diet take: potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
Avocadoes, the main ingredient in guacamole, contain 60% more potassium than bananas.
Kathy Note: when deciding what (if any) supplements to take, I recommend getting a blood nutriet panel done. Everyone absorbs food differently. A good nutrient panel I’ve used is called SpectraCell. Ask your doctor about it.
Expect MASSIVE weight fluctuations after cheat day. Relax. It will disappear over the next 48 hours.
Spices and herbs, but not cream-based sauces, are your friends .
Montreal steak rub, thick salsa without sugar added, garlic salt, white truffle sea salt (combine this with tarragon on eggs), Thai chili paste (srichacha)—this is just about all you need to start.
Butter is fine
For cooking, you can use olive oil for low heat and either grapeseed oil or macadamia oil for high-temperature cooking.
Use butter from grass-fed cows, ghee, and macadamia oil exclusively for all stove-top action. Add a note
Stick to dry wines. The driest red varietals are Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, Champagne.
Spinach is incredible for body recomposition.
There’s no need to limit veggies to those I listed, but I’ve found that the more variety you attempt, the more likely you are to quit,
Eat all the cauliflower you like.
Canned foods are absolutely fine. No problem. Almost all of my vegetables are either frozen (80%) or canned (20%).
For dairy, Cottage cheese is an exception. It doesn’t interrupt things, and the high casein content appears to facilitate fat-loss
Deep-frying should be avoided
Refried beans work just fine
If it comes down to it, choose mild hunger instead of deviation from the things you’re allowed to eat.
WHAT SHOULD I EAT FOR SNACKS?
If you are hungry, you’re not eating enough protein and legumes at each meal. This is an uber-common novice screwup. I’ve been there too. Eat more.
If you’re really starving, just eat another slow-carb meal. It won’t do any harm. Expect that you can eat two to three times as much volume, and assume that you should.
DO I REALLY HAVE TO BINGE ONCE A WEEK? It is important to spike caloric intake once per week. This causes a host of hormonal changes that improve fat-loss,
The first three mistakes on this diet are: eating too late, not eating enough protein, drinking too little water
MISTAKE #1: NOT EATING WITHIN ONE HOUR OF WAKING, PREFERABLY WITHIN 30 MINUTES. Skipping breakfast is also closely associated with overeating in the evening. Don’t skip. Have no appetite in the morning? No problem. Keep it small and protein-rich, then: two to three hard-boiled eggs
MISTAKE #2: NOT EATING ENOUGH PROTEIN. Get at least 20 grams of protein per meal. This is absolutely most critical at breakfast. Do NOT try to restrict portions or calories. Eat until you are full, and eat as much as you like of the approved foods. daily total protein is more important than per-meal protein. 100 lbs of lean mass = 125 grams of protein
MISTAKE #3: NOT DRINKING ENOUGH WATER. Make a special effort to drink more water on your cheat day.
MISTAKE #4: BELIEVING YOU’LL COOK. If you aren’t already into cooking, don’t think this new diet will get you there. Buy canned and frozen foods.
MISTAKE #5: MISTIMING WEIGHINGS WITH YOUR MENSTRUAL CYCLE. Women tend to retain much more water just before their periods. Ignore scale readings in the 10 days before menstruation.
MISTAKE #6: OVEREATING “DOMINO FOODS”: NUTS, CHICKPEAS (GARBANZO BEANS), HUMMUS, PEANUTS, MACADAMIAS. My fat-loss has plateaued three times due to almonds, which are easy to consume by the handful and simple to excuse as nutritious. Unfortunately, they also contain 824 calories per cup, 146 calories more than a Whopper from Burger King (678 kilocalories). A few almonds is just fine. Don’t eat anything that requires portion control. Get domino foods out of the house and out of reach.
MISTAKE #7: OVERCONSUMING ARTIFICIAL (OR “ALL-NATURAL”) SWEETENERS, INCLUDING AGAVE NECTAR.
MISTAKE #8: HITTING THE GYM TOO OFTEN. Try the diet with no more than 2–3 short weight training workouts per week
In basic terms our goal is simple: to have as much of the crap ingested either go into muscle tissue or out of the body unabsorbed. I do this by focusing on three principles :
PRINCIPLE #1: MINIMIZE THE RELEASE OF INSULIN, A STORAGE HORMONE. 1. Ensure that your first meal of the day is not a binge meal. Make it high in protein (at least 30 grams) and insoluble fiber (legumes will handle this). The protein will decrease your appetite for the remainder of the binge. grapefruit juice before the second meal. Use supplements that increase insulin sensitivity: AGG (part of PAGG) and PAGG (covered in the next chapter). Consume citric juices, whether lime juice squeezed into water, lemon juice on food, or a beverage like the citrus kombucha I had.
PRINCIPLE #2: INCREASE THE SPEED OF GASTRIC EMPTYING, OR HOW QUICKLY FOOD EXITS THE STOMACH. I accomplish this primarily through caffeine and yerba mate tea, consume 100–200 milligrams of caffeine, or 16 ounces of cooled yerba mate, at the most crap-laden meals. My favorite greens supplement, “Athletic Greens” (mentioned in the schedule) doesn’t contain caffeine but will also help.
PRINCIPLE #3: ENGAGE IN BRIEF MUSCULAR CONTRACTION THROUGHOUT THE BINGE. Exercises a few minutes before you eat and, ideally, again about 90 minutes afterward? If you do 60–90 seconds of contraction after each meal (and a bit before, ideally), you might live to see your abs. I aim for 30–50 repetitions of each: air squats and wall pushups.
Benefit of Fermented Foods: Fermented foods contain high levels of healthy bacteria and should be viewed as a mandatory piece of your dietary puzzle. I consume five forkfuls of sauerkraut each morning before breakfast and also add kimchi to almost all home-cooked meals. Prebiotics are fermentable substrates that help bacteria grow and thrive
Subtracting Fat: Advanced
Benefits of Cold: For Fat Loss and Happiness
Short-term cold exposure (30 minutes) in humans leads to fatty acid release to provide fuel for heat production through shivering.
Even at shorter durations, cold exposure with shivering could increase adiponectin levels and glucose uptake by muscle tissue
Cold water improves immunity.
Cold showers are an effective treatment for depression.
Ways to reduce spikes in glucose: Eat decent quantities of fat at each larger meal. Saturated fat is fine if meat is untreated with antibiotics and hormones. Spend at least 30 minutes eating lunch and dinner. Breakfasts can be smaller and thus consumed more quickly. Experiment with cinnamon and lemon juice just prior to or during meals.
INCREASING FAT CONTENT IN MEALS BLUNTS JUMPS IN GLUCOSE MUCH MORE THAN LEAN PROTEIN. Eat good fat, preferably as an appetizer before the entrée. I now eat four Brazil nuts and one tablespoon of almond butter first thing upon waking.
In my personal trials, three tablespoons of fresh-squeezed lemon juice just prior to eating (not store-bought with preservatives and artificial additives) appeared to lower blood sugar peaks by approximately 10
Eating cinnamon. Saigon cinnamon to be most effective, with Cassia in close second place. Don’t use too much. It’s easy to get overambitious with cinnamon, but there are active substances that can hurt you if consumed in excess. Use no more than four grams per day. I use a few dashes in coffee and limit myself to two to three cups of coffee throughout the day.
The easiest thing you can do to decrease glucose spikes is slow down. It also helps to drink more water to dilute digestion (I’m fantastic at this), eat smaller portions (not so good at this), and chew more. Make 30 minutes the minimum for a meal.
FOR FASTEST FAT-LOSS, MINIMIZE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR BUMPS ABOVE 100 TO NO MORE THAN TWO PER DAY. The 100-mg/dL rule excludes binge day, where all is allowed.
Russian kettlebell swing, twice a week for an average of 15–20 minutes. The two-handed swing is the jewel. If you could only do one movement for the rest of your life, do the kettlebell swing. The two-arm kettlebell swing—is all you need for dramatic changes. Here are a few guidelines (more later):
Stand with your feet 6–12 inches outside of shoulder width on either side, each foot pointed outward about 30 degrees. If toes pointed straight ahead were 12:00 on a clock face, your left foot would point at 10:00 or 11:00, and your right would point at 1:00 or 2:00.
Keep your shoulders pulled back (retracted) and down to avoid rounding your back.
The lowering movement (backswing) is a sitting-back-on-a-chair movement, not a squatting-down movement.
Do not let your shoulders go in front of your knees at any point.
Imagine pinching a penny between your butt cheeks when you pop your hips forward. This should be a forceful pop, and it should be impossible to contract your ass more. If your dog’s head gets in the way, it should be lights out for Fido.
Example Weekly Workout – 3 days in the week
DAY 1 (MONDAY)
High-rep kettlebell (53 pounds) swings to at least 75 reps (ultimately, I got to 150+ reps in a single set)
Slow myotatic crunch (next chapter) with max weight x 10–15 slow reps
DAY 2 (WEDNESDAY) I alternated these two exercises for a total of 3 sets × 5 reps for each. I took two minutes between all sets and therefore had at least four minutes between the same exercise (e.g., dumbbell [DB] press, wait two minutes, row, wait two minutes, DB press, etc.):
Iso-lateral dumbbell incline bench press
“Yates” bent rows with EZ bar (palms-up grip and bent at the waist about 20–30 degrees)
Reverse “drag” curls using a thick bar twice the diameter of a standard Olympic bar
DAY 3 (FRIDAY)
High-rep kettlebell (53 pounds) swings to 75-rep minimum
Slow myotatic crunch (next chapter) with max weight x 12–15 reps
Every other week: single-arm kettlebell swings to 25 minimum reps each side I should add that I was negligent, often adding one to three additional rest days between sessions. It didn’t matter. The training volume needed for head-turning changes was lower than even I thought possible
Experiment Example: I proposed a four-week test focusing on the swing and minuscule dietary changes, which Fleur agreed to: 1. She switched her breakfast to a high-protein meal (at least 30% protein) à la the Slow-Carb Diet. Her favorite: spinach, black beans, and egg whites (one-third of a carton of Eggology liquid egg whites) with cayenne pepper flakes. 2. Three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday), she performed a simple sequence of three exercises prior to breakfast, all of which are illustrated in the next few pages: One set: 20 two-legged glute activation raises from the floor One set: 15 flying dogs, one set each side One set: 50 kettlebell swings (For you: start with a weight that allows you to do 20 perfect repetitions but no more than 30. In other words, start with a weight, no less than 20 pounds, that you can “grow into.”) That’s it. Total prescribed exercise: about 5 minutes per session × 3 sessions = 15 minutes per week. One hour over the course of a month. Fleur’s before-and-after measurements were separated by five weeks because she was traveling. Even if we increase the estimated exercise time to 75 minutes total, the results are impressive. BEFORE AND AFTER Total weight: 139 lbs. → 136 lbs. Bodyfat %: 21.1% (29.33 lbs.) → 18% (24.48 lbs.—almost 1 pound of fat lost per week) Thigh fat thickness: 10.4 mm → 10.2 mm Tricep fat thickness: 9.7 mm → 7.7 mm Waist fat thickness: 7.0 mm → 4.1 mm
Movement #1: The Myotatic Crunch: Using a BOSU or Swiss ball, ensure your ass is close to the floor, usually no more than 6″ off the ground. Then follow these steps: 1. Start with arms stretched overhead as high as possible (I overlap my extended hands as if in a diving position). Keep your arms behind or next to your ears for the entire exercise. 2. Lower under control for 4 seconds until your fingers touch the floor, the entire time attempting to extend your hands further away from the ball. 3. Pause at the bottom for 2 seconds, aiming for maximum elongation (picture 3). 4. Rise under control and pause in the upper, fully contracted position for 2 seconds. The arms should not pass perpendicular with the ground. 5. Repeat for a total of 10 repetitions. Once you can complete 10 repetitions, add weight to your hands. I tend to use books of different sizes. If female, I don’t suggest exceeding 10 pounds in added weight (see “Hourglass” sidebar on this page).
Movement #2: The Cat Vomit Exercise:1. Get on all fours and keep your gaze focused either directly under your head or slightly in front of you. Don’t arch your back or strain your neck. 2. Forcefully exhale from your mouth until all air is fully expelled. Your abs should be contracted from this forceful exhale. Full exhalation is necessary to contract the transverse abdominals, and you’ll use gravity to provide resistance. 3. Hold your breath and pull your belly button upward toward your spine as hard as you can for a target of 8–12 seconds. 4. Inhale fully through the nose after the 8–12 second hold. 5. Take one breath cycle of rest (exhale slowly out the mouth, inhale slowly through the nose), then repeat the above for a total of 10 repetitions.