The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss

Summary & Highlights for Rapid Fat Loss


Tim Ferriss is a problem solver. And he loves sharing with the world how he does it.

We’re not talking about math problems, geopolitical crises or world hunger (at least not yet, anyway), but what one might call “life” problems: those times when you find yourself at point A, want to get to point B but don’t quite know how to get there.

That’s where Ferriss might be able to help.

The Princeton graduate first shared how to “Escape 9 to 5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich” back in 2007 with the 4-Hour Work Week. It quickly became a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller.

He most recently published the 4-Hour Chef to tackle issues of self-improvement and accelerated learning, and just prior to that, he released the 4-Hour Body to share his journey to answer questions, expose myths and, yes, solve more problems, related to health, nutrition and physical performance.

4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss
4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss

His method remains consistent: 1) seek out experts in a chosen field, 2) put those expert’s theories to the test using himself as a guinea pig, and 3) deconstruct each expert’s system into a set of simple, actionable rules that can easily be consumed by the masses. Yes, that means you. 

He interviews elite bodybuilders to delve into topics like fat loss and adding muscle, grills Olympic lifting coaches for insights on strength and explosiveness, shadows endurance athletes to learn how to swim for miles with minimal training, uncovers keys to slugging percentage with a celebrated MLB swing coach and optimizes his vertical jump and 40-yard dash time with a leading NFL combine instructor.

Ok, so sports performance isn’t your thing? What about injury prevention or rehab tips for common injuries? How about extending life or just improving overall health and wellness?

It’s all here.

The 4-Hour Body is a such long, wide-ranging read that Ferriss even implores the reader in the introduction to “not read this book from start to finish”.

Instead, he recommends to cover the first few sections for the basics, and then choose a single topic of interest to get started.

With his suggestion in mind, this blog covers 2 things:

  1. The Basics | Chapter I-III: Ferriss’ methodology used for goal-setting and goal achievement that applies to each topic in the book.
  2. Subtracting The Fat | Chapter IV-V: The first (and most extensive) topic in the book which outlines his solution for rapid fat loss.

Quick Overview

The Basics | Goal Achievement

Ferriss’ methodology for goal-achievement centers around small, simple changes that leave no room for misunderstanding. And he hates options.

He explains that it’s the infinite number of options that we’re daily presented with that too often result in over analysis which can be a recipe for inaction. For example, anyone can scour the web and collect a thousand different methods for losing fat but never take action trying to decide on the best one.

His approach also recognizes that there is a point of diminishing return when pursuing any goal and focuses on the smallest possible changes one can make to produce a desired outcome.

Subtracting The Fat | Rapid Fat Loss

Ferriss begins with the topic of fat loss, and his solution centers around the Slow-Carb Diet.

The diet provides a structured, decision-free eating system which effectively improves one’s macronutrient ratios, by reducing carbohydrates (which many may over consume) and replaces those carbohydrates with protein and fat with the goal of stabilizing blood sugar levels, increasing satiety and boosting metabolism due to the increased thermic effect of dietary protein.

One day per week, he says to “go nuts” and eat whatever you want. The goal of this required “binging” is two-fold: 1) to keep one’s metabolism for downshifting while eating a calorie restricted diet the other 6 days, and 2) to create a system that doesn’t ignore those times when every diet gets derailed, but instead, keeps them under control and at a minimum.

For those above 12% bodyfat (men) wanting to trim down, Ferriss’ Slow-Carb Diet system may be better than what you’re currently doing, but as he admits, it won’t be enough for reaching single-digit bodyfat levels. For that, a more rigid approach is outlined in the “The Last Mile” section


Chapter Highlights

In a rush? Select View Chapter Summaries to see a quick summary of each chapter:

[View Chapter Summaries] [View Everything]

I. Start Here | Chapter I

Summary: Ferriss details his methodology of utilizing small, simple lifestyle changes to produce dramatic results for goals like fat loss, muscle growth, strength gain, an improved sense of well being or something else.

Chapter Highlights...

What Makes the 4-Hour Body Unique and Effective

Ferriss’ Obsession & Freedom Is Your Gain

Fascinated with physical transformation and performance since childhood, Ferriss meticulously tracked workouts, monitored blood work and explored various unconventional methods to find out what worked, and maybe more importantly, what did not.

He’s not a member of the medical community, not a university researcher in academia, and therefore, not constrained by a professional reputation. This allows him the freedom to explore less conventional techniques and challenge basic assumptions.

Specific, Simple & Small

Like many goals in life, there can be a seemingly infinite number of options for getting the results that you’re after. Physical transformation is no different. But too many times, these options become impediments and their overanalysis becomes the perfect recipe for inaction.

The 4-Hour Body eliminates options and utilizes specific, simple and small changes that leave no room for misunderstanding.

The 2.5% That Works

A point of diminishing return is encountered when pursuing any goal. A good example is learning a foreign language.

To become 95% conversational (being able to comprehend 95% of conversations) in a language of 100,000 words, one would need to learn approximately 2,500 high-frequency words or 2.5% of the language. Most can do this in about 5 months.

However, to reach 98% conversational would require about 5 years of training – 12 times the effort of getting from 0% to 95%.

The lesson is that there is a substantial diminishing return after the initial 2.5% of work.

The goal here is to avoid this diminishing return by identifying and focusing on the 2.5% of work that will accomplish 95% of the desired result.

II. Fundamentals – First & Foremost | Chapter II

Summary: The 4-Hour Body rejects many popular ideas related to diet and exercise while focusing on proper goal-setting and the concept of the Minimum Effective Dose (MED) in an effort to produce measurable results in the least amount of time possible.

Chapter Highlights...

Minimum Effective Dose

The Minimum Effective Does (MED) is defined as “the smallest dose that will produced a desired outcome” which is a key concept in the 4-Hour Body. Anything beyond the MED is wasteful and often counterproductive to goals.

For example, boiling a cup of water requires that the water to be heated up to a certain temperature (approximately 100C). Anything beyond 100C is a waste of energy and time. It will not make the water more boiled. So, if the “goal” is boiling a cup of water, the temperature of the water, 100C, is the MED for that goal.

The 4-Hour Body utilizes this concept and applies it to body redesign goals like fat loss and muscle growth.

  • Fat Loss – the MED would be the least necessary to trigger fat loss.
  • Muscle Growth – the MED would be the least necessary to trigger the proper growth mechanisms.

Everything Popular Is Wrong

Ferriss challenges and rejects many popular concepts related to body redesign and urges the reader to be skeptical of sensationalists headlines and constantly on the look out for “junk science”. An example is the theory of “Calories In vs Calories Out”.

A Calorie Is Not A Calorie

Scientists and nutritionists harp on the calorie for studies because it’s simple – not because it’s an accurate, complete model for how the body works.

The concept of the calorie was introduced in the 19th century by a chemist that incinerated food to simulate digestion. Unfortunately, the method our bodies use to burn calories aren’t quite as simple as burning a log in a fireplace. There are other factors in play.

For example, it’s not what you put into your mouth, but what makes it into your bloodstream. If it passes through, those “calories” don’t count. And the body’s hormonal response, which plays an important role in metabolism, can be dramatically different depending on the ratios of fat, protein and carbohydrates consumed, regardless if the total amount of “calories” is the same.

A simple example can be seen in this study from Kekwick and Pawan (1956). Each participant was fed a diet of 1000 calories/day, but there were 3 groups: group 1 ate primarily fat,  group 2 ate primarily protein and group 3 ate primarily carbohydrate. The results:

  • Group 1: 90% of Calories from Fat – Lost .9lbs/day
  • Group 2: 90% of Calories from Protein – Lost .6lbs/day
  • Group 3: 90% of Calories from Carbohydrate – Gained .24lbs/day

Clearly, a calorie does not equal a calorie in this study.

Goal Setting 101

Ambiguous terms that cannot be easily defined or quantified are distraction to your goals and should be avoided. Phrases like “toning up”, “shaping abs” or “improving my fitness level” won’t be used here.

The 4-Hour Body approach simply requires that you define your desired outcome, set specific and measurable goals and consistently monitor each goal for progress.

If you’re going to commit to an ambitious goal like body redesign, proper goal-setting and the consistent monitoring of progress will be important tools to help ensure success.

III. Ground Zero – Getting Started| Chapter III

Summary: Accomplishing a meaningful goal like body redesign requires more than just an effective system. There are 3 other important elements: (1) a “Harajuku Moment” – something that alters one’s mindset and turns a goal from a nice-to-have into a must-have, (2) a method of consistently tracking progress that creates awareness that leads to behavioral change, and (3) a “failure proofing” system to guard against the weakness of human nature.

Chapter Highlights...

1. Harajuku Moment

Even the world’s most effective people fail at accomplishing certain goals. But, why?

Well, change is difficult – regardless if you’re highly effective in certain areas of life. When there are insufficient reasons for change, it often doesn’t happen.

The reasons are different for everyone, and the specifics aren’t important. But we all need them in some form to fuel us along the way. E

Everyone needs his own personal Harajuku Moment like Chad Fowler.

Story of Chad Fowler

Fowler (here on Twitter), a successful CTO of InfoEther, lost 70+ lbs in just 12 months and pointed to a specific time in Harajuku (Tokyo) that was the driving catalyst for his change.

It seemed like nothing at the time but looking back he realized how important it was. It was a simple conversation that got the ball rolling that led to his physical transformation.

After a night out in Harajuku, Fowler was sitting outside with a friend discussing how unfashionable he was while the rest of the group was still out shopping. Reflecting on the experience, he said to his friend, “For me, it doesn’t even matter what I wear; I’m not going to look good anyway.”

Chad Fowler, before and after his Harajuku Moment
Chad Fowler, before and after his Harajuku Moment

Hearing himself say these words led to more questions. He began analyzing how he could be successful in virtually every other area of life except for his own personal health. How could he view his body as something he had no control over?

This epiphany eventually brought him to the realization that there was no excuse for not taking ownership of his health and his body.

The moment in Harajuku provided Fowler with the motivation and the reasons that led him to simply do what led to success in other areas of his life: stop wishing and start doing.

2. Consistently Tracking Progress

If a Harajuku Moment provides the initial fuel for change, consistently tracking progress serves as the frequent stops necessary to keep the emotional gas tank full during the journey.

The first step for tracking progress for any goal is to get a baseline of your current state in relation to your target. If defining your goal answers the question, “Where do you want to be?”, your baseline answers the question, “Where are you now?”

For the goal of body redesign, there are 3 common metrics for establishing your baseline:

I. The Scale: Most Convenient, Least Valuable

Weighing in on a scale is easy and useful but can be misleading as the goal destination of body redesign is not simply your weight on a scale. The goal of body redesign is better body composition — an improved ratio of muscle-to-fat mass.

Periodic weigh-ins are fine, but the scale shouldn’t be the only metric of tracking progress.

II. Circumference: Medium Convenience, More Valuable

Body circumference measurements can be a valuable tool for assessing the progress of body redesign. When combined with weight on a scale, the measurements allow for a more accurate picture of changes to one’s muscle-to-fat ratio over time.

To get your “before” Total Inches (TI), calculate the sum of the following 4 circumference measurements:

  • Arms – Both upper arms at mid-bicep
  • Waist – Horizontal at navel
  • Hips – Widest point below waist
  • Legs – Both legs at mid-thigh

III. Bodyfat: Least Convenient, Most Valuable

If the goal of body redesign is an improved ratio of muscle-to-fat, can you guess what the most useful metric is for tracking this goal? Maybe a metric for tracking muscle-to-fat ratio?

You nailed it.

The top 4 recommendations starting with the best:

  1. DEXA Scan
    • Uses x-rays to highlight muscular imbalances and bone density.
    • Most accurate. May cost $50 to $500 per session and may be difficult to find in some areas.
  2. BodPod
    • Uses weight and air displacement.
    • Highly accurate, costs around $50 and may be easier to find than a DEXA machine.
  3. BodyMetrix
    • A hand-held ultrasound device that displays the exact thickness of fat wherever you place it.
    • Highly accurate and some gyms may even offer this testing. Units may be affordable enough to purchase for personal use — ranging from $500 to $2000.
  4. Calipers
    • Using hand-held skinfold calipers to estimate body fat.
    • Easiest to find, but greatest chance for inaccuracy. For consistency, always be sure to use the same qualified professional for each visit.

3. Failure Proofing

We are all weak at times.

Even the most successful among us commonly break commitments to goals. While the Harajuku Moment and Consistently Tracking Progress are the most vital elements for goal achievement, it never hurts to have a few more tools.

The following 4 principles of failure-proofing are designed to guard against the weakness of human nature and help ensure success.

1. Make it conscious

  • Idea: Real-time awareness is fastest way to correct behavior.
  • How?
    • Food Photos: Studies have shown that simply taking photos of each meal (and snacks) prior to consuming, results in greater diet compliance.
    • Before Photos: Individuals that accomplish the most dramatic physique transformations have often credited their success to simply taking a “before” photo and placing it in an unavoidable spot like the refrigerator.

2. Make it a game

  • Idea: Measurement equals motivation. Make it a habit.
    • Regardless of the metric you choose, seeing the progress in changing numbers over time makes us more engaged and increases the likelihood of success.
    • Tip: To form a habit, measure a goal-related metric at least 5 times.

3. Make it competitive

  • Idea: Competition works, and fear of loss is often a greater motivator than reward.
    • Competition can be a great motivator due to the subconscious fear of losing the competition, even if it’s for fun.
    • Comparing yourself to inferior performers makes you proud while comparing yourself to superior performers makes greater results seem possible.

4. Make it small and temporary

  • Idea: Start small, start now.
    • Take 2 of the following 4 actions immediately.
  1. Underwear Photos
    • Take photos of yourself from the front, back and side views.
    • Bonus: Place the least flattering photo where you will see it often.
  2. Food Diary
    • Take photos of everything you eat for the next 5 days including at least one weekend day.
    • Bonus: Place online for others to see.
  3. Find Competitor
    • Find a friend and engage in a friendly competition using total inches or body fat percentage.
  4. Buy Tape & Get Measurements
    • Purchase a tape measure. Something like this.
    • Measure arms, waist, hips and both legs.
    • Calculate your total inches (TI).

IV. Subtracting the Fat | The Slow-Carb Diet (Basics)

Summary: The prescribed solution for rapid fat loss is the Slow-Carb Diet which discourages sugars, starchy foods, liquid calories and fruit while emphasizing simple meals consisting of any of the non-discouraged foods. One day per week, the diet calls for a “Cheat Day” where anything goes.

Chapter Highlights...
Whether following doctor’s orders or simply wanting to get in shape for summer, the determined dieter’s mindset is often the same, “I want to shed some pounds, and do it fast!”

This common interest may be why the first major topic, and a large portion of the 4-Hour Body, is dedicated to fat loss.

Ferriss recommends what he calls the “Slow-Carb Diet”. It consists of 5 rules.

The Slow-Carb Diet – The 5 Rules

Rule #1: Avoid “white” carbohydrates

This includes eliminating sugars, starchy foods (breads, rice, oats, corn, other whole grains, potatoes, pastas, etc.) and most dairy (milk, cheese*, yogurt, etc.) Butter and sour cream are permitted as neither contains lactose – the primary sugar in dairy products.

*Cottage cheese shouldn’t be a first choice but is allowed due to its low lactose content.

Rule #2: Eat the Same Meals Over and Over Again

Keep it simple. The most successful dieters eat the same meals frequently and you should do the same. For each meal, you’ll simply pick an item from 3 categories: proteins, legumes and vegetables.

There’s no need to limit yourself. Eat until your satisfied.

Here are a few of Ferriss’ personal meals that he repeats often:

  • Breakfast – Eggs, black beans and vegetables: Egg whites, one whole egg, black beans and mixed vegetables. Heated up or microwaved in a Pyrex dish.
  • Lunch – Beef, pinto beans, mixed vegetables and guacamole often at a Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurant.
  • Dinner – Grass-fed beef, lintels and mixed vegetables.

The diet is not meant to fun, but simple and effective.

Rule #3: Don’t Drink Calories

Drink as much water, unsweetened tea and coffee as you like, but eliminate milk, soft drinks and fruit juices. And no more than one 16oz diet soda per day as aspartame can affect weight gain for some.

Also, one should have no more than 2 glasses of red wine daily and eliminate all other forms of alcohol except on the cheat day (see Rule#5).

Rule #4: Don’t Eat Fruit

Fructose, the primary sugar found in most fruit, is discouraged on the the Slow-Carb Diet. Ferriss has seen no evidence that fruit is necessary more than once per week which is permitted on the cheat day. More details on why below: The Slow-Carb Diet – Questions & Clarifications.

Rule #5: Take One Day Off Per Week & Go Nuts

Eat whatever you want one day per week. Ice cream, candy bars, beer, pizza. It’s all fair game on the cheat day.

Ferriss points out that, surprisingly, binging once per week can even accelerate fat loss as periodically spiking calories can ensure one’s metabolic rate doesn’t plummet from long-term calorie restriction.

The Slow-Carb Diet – Questions & Clarifications

Q: This Diet Is Strict & Boring! Advice?

If it’s too strict, try making a small change by simply adding in a high-protein breakfast.

Ferriss argues that increased protein for breakfast can reduce hunger cravings and overeating later in the day as well as speed up resting metabolism by as much as 20% if the meal is at least 30% protein. See more in 3 Biggest Mistakes below.

If you feel the diet is boring or too repetitive, try looking back at your past week of meals. Most will find they consume the same types of meals frequently. The only difference now is that your new frequent meals on the Slow-Carb Diet will avoid sugars, starchy foods, fruit, liquid calories and most dairy.

Q: Any Vitamins or Supplements?

The diet should cause most to lose excess water and electrolytes; therefore, Ferriss recommends the following daily intake (for a healthy 25-year old male). These levels can be reached through whole foods or by using supplements.

Potasssium: 4700mg per day, Calcium: 1000mg per day, Magnesium: 400mg per day

Q: No Fruit?!?! What about a Balanced Diet?

If your ancestors are from Europe, have you ever wondered how they could have possibly survived 500 years ago during the winter months with no access to a year-round supply of ginormous Florida peaches???

Simple. They didn’t need fruit. And you don’t either.

In fact fructose, the primary form of sugar found in fruit, is converted to fat more efficiently than most carbohydrate sources. Since we’re trying to promote (not inhibit) fat loss, it’s best to limit fructose consumption.

Q: Help! I Gained 5-10lbs on my Cheat Day!!!

Understand that temporary weight gains of 5 to 10 pounds is common after a cheat day. Expect these gains, and alsoe xpect them to disappear over 48 hours.

If you want more assurance, consistently take circumference measurements on weigh-in days to see if your gains are lean muscle or not. The scale can be deceiving; measurements can help.

Q: What types of Dressings & Seasonings can I use?

Seasonings – Montreal steak rub, salsa (w/ low sugar), garlic salt, sea salt and Sriracha are all good choices.

Dressings – A vinegar and mustard mixture works well for salad dressings, and try adding a dash of Stevia for sweetness. Olive oil w/ balsamic vinegar is a good option when dining out since many common salad dressings are loaded with sugar.

Q: Do I Have to Binge on my Cheat Day?

While it is important to spike calories periodically to prevent your metabolism from downshifting due to prolonged calorie restriction, the psychological benefits are even more important.

Everyone binges at one time or another. The Slow-Carb Diet just allows you to better manage those times and keep them under control.

If you absolutely cannot fathom binging for an entire day, try one meal (or a 4-hour window) each week.

Q: Easiest Types of Restaurants?

Mexican restaurants, or Thai restaurants with stir fry dishes, are generally both good options. However, just about any restaurant will do by making a simple request to substitute vegetables for starches or grains.

Eric, one example in the 4-Hour Body, lost 91 pounds in 10 months by eating primarily at Chipotle which is another easy option.

Caution: Beware of “Domino Foods”

There are certain foods permitted in the Slow-Carb Diet that some will find it best to avoid due to difficulty in controlling the portions.

Ferriss’ diet derailed 3 times in the past by overeating foods like almonds, chickpeas and hummus. These are what he calls his “domino foods”.

So if you find your fat loss progress stalling, identify your personal domino foods. If you find it near impossible to only eat a few, consider eliminating them temporarily to see if progress resumes.

The 3 Biggest Mistakes

These 3 mistakes cover 90% of the stalling problems seen on the Slow-Carb Diet.

  1. Not eating within 1 hour of waking
    • Skipping breakfast is strongly tied to overeating later in the day.
    • Rule-of-thumb: Have 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking.
    • Food options: Eggs, egg whites, turkey bacon, cottage cheese or a protein shake.
  2. Not eating enough protein
    • You’re goal should be to get a minimum of 20 grams of protein at every meal.
  3. Not enough water
    • To ensure optimal liver function for fat loss, you must increase water consumption.
    • Get in the habit of drinking more water.

V. Subtracting the Fat | The Slow-Carb Diet (Advanced)

Summary: A handful of “advanced” protocols are described for those trying to further optimize fat loss while on the Slow-Carb Diet. The 5 strategies include damage control strategies when binging, fat-loss supplements, cold exposure, tips for keeping blood glucose low, and for those wanting even more, a detailed diet and workout routine (complete with drug regimen) that has proven effective among the world’s most elite bodybuilders.

Chapter Highlights...
The basics of the Slow-Carb Diet are simple. Avoid certain foods, eat the approved foods until you’re satisfied, and once per week, forget the diet and “go nuts”.

While the simplicity of the Slow-Carb Diet might make it effective enough for most, you may be one of those who can’t accept the “simple version”.

You want details. You want to optimize. You want to make something that’s already pretty good, even better. You want the ADVANCED VERSION!

Well, if that’s the case, the 4-Hour Body has you covered.

Vi. Damage Control – Preventing Fat Gain When you Binge

Summary: Three “damage control” strategies are detailed to limit fat gain while binging: (1) Tips to minimize the release of insulin, (2) Supplements to increase gastric emptying, and (3) Brief muscular contractions around cheat meals.

Chapter Highlights...
The goal of damage control is two-fold: direct as much of the food you ingest as possible (1) into the muscle tissue, or (2) out of the body unabsorbed.

Damage Control Principle #1

Minimize the Release of Insulin (A Storage Hormone)

Binging typically results in high insulin levels which can contribute to increased fat storage. Here 4 recommended methods for minimizing insulin levels on the cheat day.

  1. High-Protein First Meal: The first meal on your cheat day shouldn’t be a cheat meal. Make it high in fiber and protein to reduce cravings later in the day.
  2. Fructose Before Cheat Meals: Flatline your blood glucose by having some fructose (grapefruit juice is recommended) just before your first cheat meal.
  3. Try Supplements: Use the AGG supplement stack to reduce the amount of insulin the pancreas releases despite the increase in blood glucose. See more details below: Supplements – The Four Horsemen of Fat-Loss
  4. Consume Citric Juices: Consume lemon juice, lime juice or kombucha throughout the cheat day.

Damage Control Principle #2

Increase Gastric Emptying (How Quickly Food Exits the Stomach)

Binging is the only time one wants to increase the rate of gastric emptying. The goal is that the food passes quickly through the gastrointestinal tract so that the calories aren’t absorbed well.

Consume coffee, teas or green supplements throughout the cheat day to speed up gastric emptying.

Damage Control Principle #3

Engage in Brief Muscle Contraction Throughout Binge

The aim here is to direct as much of the food you ingest as possible into the muscle tissue by bringing more GLUT-4 (Glucose Transporter Type 4) to the surface of muscle cells.

GLUT-4 is a protein responsible for transporting glucose into fat and muscle tissues. Bringing more to the surface of the muscle cell, essentially, opens more gates for the calories to flow into the muscle before insulin triggers the same GLUT-4 on the surface of fat cells.

So how do we do this?

Engage in 60-90 seconds of an exercise immediately before and 90 minutes after (when insulin levels often peak) all cheat meals. Bodyweight exercises like air squats or various forms of push-ups are the most convenient options.

Vii. Supplements – The Four Horsemen of Fat-Loss

Summary: A 4 supplement stack, referred to as PAGG, is recommended to optimize fat loss and consists of Policosanol, Alpha-lipoic Acid (ALA), Green Tea Flavonols (EGCG) and Garlic Extract.

Chapter Highlights...
The PAGG supplement “stack” (which means taken together) consists of 4 supplements: Policosanol, Alpha-lipoic Acid (ALA), Green Tea Flavonols (EGCG) and Garlic Extract.

AGG (mentioned in the Supplement Schedule below) is the PAGG stack w/ no Policosanol.

Supplement #1: Policosanol

A plant-based extract that has been found to reduce body fat.

Supplement #2: Alpha-lipoic Acid (ALA)

An antioxidant that helps the body store more of the carbohydrates you eat in the muscle or liver as opposed to body fat.

Supplement #3: Green Tea Flavanols (EGCG)

Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is a catechin and flavanol (a natural compound found in green teas and other plants) that inhibits the storage of excess carbohydrates as body fat by diverting those calories into the muscle cells.

ECGC may also contribute to reducing the actual number of mature fat cells and not just the size of fat cells which is normally what happens when dieting. A reduced number of fat cells could even lessen the rebound effect that is common for most dieters.

If you don’t want to be bouncing off the walls all day, green tea extract pills are encouraged. They are designed to have the same effect as green tea without the caffeine.

Supplement #4: Garlic Extract

Ferriss and his test subjects report the best fat loss results when using aged garlic extracts designed to deliver relatively high doses of allicin – a compound found in garlic that’s responsible for its unique smell.

Supplement Schedule

  • Before bed: PAGG
    • PAGG = All 4 supplements
  • Before all meals: AGG
    • AGG = ALA, EGCG and Garlic Extract

*Ferriss recommends consuming adequate B-complex vitamins while on PAGG, andf as always, consult your doctor.

Viii. Ice Age – Cold Therapy for Fat Loss

Summary: Ferriss explores the benefits of cold therapy: a method of exposing oneself to cold environments in an effort to stimulate the body’s natural response of increasing core temperature which is primarily done by burning lipids (fat).

Chapter Highlights...

The Story of Ray

Ray Cronise, a former NASA material scientist, became obsessed with cold therapy shortly after watching a documentary on Michael Phelps and his 12,000 calories-per-day diet.

Cronise speculated that Phelps’ high calorie tolerance couldn’t be explained away by his activity level or a high metabolism. The math didn’t work out.

Ray Cronise, before and after Cold Therapy
Ray Cronise, before and after Cold Therapy

He believed the Olympian was burning additional calories as a natural response to maintain his body’s core temperature due to spending hours a day immersed in the cooler water of a pool. Like any good scientist, Ray needed answers.

So he plunged in. Cronise began reviewing the existing research on energy expenditure and quickly identified what he felt was a consistent oversight.

The studies had oversimplified the common weight loss formula:

Weight Loss/Gain = caloriesIn – caloriesOut

The research model seemed to be fixated strictly on activity level for caloriesOut and had completely neglected heat as an option for energy expenditure.

But it was just a hypothesis; Cronise couldn’t know for sure without some experimentation.

The goal of his experiments wasn’t complicated. He wanted to employ various methods of reducing his core temperature in order to harness the body’s natural response. When his metabolism responded by raising his core temperature (by burning calories), it should increase his caloriesOut. So he began.

Ray drank gallons of ice water, slept with no covers, took cold showers and wore t-shirts on frequent mid-winter walks. And to make a long story short, his experiments worked.

He lost body fat, and surprisingly, noticed that he even retained more muscle that in previous weight loss efforts. More on Ray Cronise’s story can be found in this 2013 article by Steven Leckart of Wired Magazine: Hot Trend: Tapping the Power of Cold to Lose Weight

Ferris believes Ray’s increase in lean body mass may be related to 2 factors that he hopes to learn more about with new research.

1. Adiponectin – a hormone secreted by fat cells that can increase the burning of fatty acids and increase the uptake of glucose by muscle tissue.

2. Brown Adipose Tissue (BAT) – Unlike white adipose tissue, “white fat”, which strictly stores calories, “brown fat” burns calories (fat and glucose) to produce heat. When the body gets cold, BAT is triggered to warm you up. Ferriss believes that cold therapy might help increase the amount of this “fat-burning” fat.

4 Simple Options

For self-experimenters wanting to test the frigid waters of cold therapy for fat loss, Ferriss presents 4 options.

Ray Cronise, before and after body fat chart - Cold Therapy
Cold Therapy: Cronise’s before/after body fat chart
  1. Ice Water
    • Consume 500ml of ice water on an empty stomach immediately upon waking.
  2. Ice Pack
    • Place an ice pack on the back of your neck and upper traps from 30 minutes.
  3. Cold Showers
    • Take 5-10 minutes cold showers once or twice a day.
  4. Ice Baths
    • Take 20 minute ice baths 3 days/week.
    • Ferriss found this most effective provided you can endure the “grand mal-like shivering”.

Viv. The Glucose Switch – Tips for Managing Blood Sugar

Summary: Ferriss implants a 24/7 glucose monitoring device into his abdomen, draws conclusions and shares 4 tips to keep blood sugar levels stable: (1) eat a decent amount of fat with meals, (2) eat slower, (3) experiment with cinnamon and lemon juice and (4) minimize fat gain during binges with “damage control” techniques.

Chapter Highlights...
Curious to better understand the impact of the glycemic index (GI) and the glycemic load (GL), both of which relate to a food’s impact on blood sugar, Ferriss sought to clarify some of the popular long-held beliefs, common folk remedies, bodybuilding anecdotes and miscellaneous “theoretical bullsh*t” related to insulin levels and fat loss.

After implanting a 24/7 blood glucose monitoring device into his abdomen (video), he analyzes his results and provides some conclusions.

Results & Conclusions

Conclusion #1: It’s not when you eat it. It’s when it gets to the cells

Glucose levels for most foods and liquids peak between 1.5 and 2.5 hours after consuming. He recommends eating an hour or so pre-workout and immediately post-workout to ensure protein is available when your body needs it.

Conclusion #2: Increasing fat blunts glucose spikes much more than lean protein

The more fat you eat, and the earlier in the meal, the lower the glycemic response. He recommends having a high fat appetizer prior to an entree.

Conclusion #3: Fructose has a large and very extended glucose-lowering effect, but low blood glucose does not always = more fat loss

Ferriss found that a glass of orange juice first thing in the morning lowered his blood glucose throughout the day; however, his fat loss plateaued. See The Slow-Carb Diet – Questions & Clarifications for reasons why.

Conclusion #4: Vinegar didn’t lower glycemic response but lemon juice did

Counter to his expectations, vinegar has little impact on blood sugar levels; however, fresh squeezed lemons prior to a meal lowered glucose levels by 10%.

Conclusion #5: Cinnamon has a substantial effect on glucose levels

Cinnamon, even in small doses, can significantly reduce the glycemic response. He suggests using freshly ground cinnamon when possible as the active ingredients degrade over time. Saigon (Vietnamese) cinnamon was the most effective.

Conclusion #6: The size and speed of meals matter most

The quality of foods and their macronutrient ratios affect glucose levels much less than the size of meals and the speed of consumption.

Eating slowly and drinking more water are the easiest things you can do to keep glucose spikes down as both work to decrease the speed of digestion which largely determines the glucose arc.

Conclusion #7: For fastest fat loss, minimize your blood sugar bumps

He found that fat loss was directly related to lower blood sugar levels and suggests to avoid glucose spikes over 100 mg/dl to no more than twice per day.

His best results were achieved with levels below 90 mg/dl but had difficulty reaching that number without severely limiting carbohydrates resulting in a ketogenic diet that he found not very social long-term.

4 Simple Tips

Ferriss provides four tips for keeping blood glucose levels in check.

  • Tip #1: Eat more fat with meals
  • Tip #2: Eat slower and aim for 30 minute meals
  • Tip #3: Experiment with cinnamon and/or lemon juice
  • Tip #4: Use “Damage Control” techniques for binges. See Damage Control – Preventing Fat Gain When you Binge for more details.

Vv. The Last Mile

Summary:  For those with goals of 4-8% body fat, Ferriss explores the recommended nutrition plan, training schedule and drug regimen employed by some of the world’s most elite bodybuilders.

Chapter Highlights...
The Slow-Carb Diet alone should be sufficient enough to slim most of us down to a healthy 10-12% body fat, but going lower will generally require more effort.

Ferriss engages two veterans of the bodybuilding community for help.

Dave Palumbo and John Romano both recommended the same general protocols for shedding those final few pounds in a 24-week plan.

The first 12 weeks consists of a strict, low-carb diet and intense training plan designed to drop most into the 6-8% body fat range. This is before the drugs are introduced.

The last 12 weeks maintains the rigorous diet and training protocols while introducing a drug regimen ideally allowing the body to dip into the competition body fat levels of 4-6%.

The Diet

The prescribed nutrition plan consists of frequent and equally space out meals with each containing roughly the same macronutrients, i.e., each meal is high-protein, moderate fat and very low in carbohydrates.

Diet Principles

  • Eat 1 of the 5 Recommended Meals every 3 hours w/ unlimited amounts of high fiber cruciferous vegetables*
  • Eat your first meal within one hour after waking
  • Eat your last meal within one hour before bed
  • One high-carb cheat meal (not day) is recommended every 7 to 10 days

*Generally green, leafy, nutrient-dense vegetables that are high in soluble fiber: spinach, asparagus, brussels sprouts, kale, collard greens, broccoli, etc. Does not include: corn, beans, tomatoes or carrots.

5 Recommended Meals

The following meal guidelines are designed for a 200 pound male in the 10-12% body fat range and should be adjusted based on body weight. The protein intake should be adjusted up or down 1 ounce per 10 pounds of lean body weight.

  1. 50 grams of whey protein isolate + half a cup of nuts or 2 TB of peanut butter
  2. Eight ounces of lean fish, + 1/2 cup of nuts or 2TB of peanut butter
  3. Eight ounces of lean turkey or chicken + 1/2 cup of nuts or 2TB of peanut butter
  4. Eight ounces of fattier protein (red meat, salmon, etc.) + one TB of olive oil or macadamia oil
  5. Five Whole Eggs

The Workout

The training plan consists of 5 super-high intensity workout sessions per week (one body part per day) with each followed by 30-40 minutes of cardio.

The workout details aren’t as important as consistency and strict adherence to the schedule for the entirety of the 12 weeks.

The Drugs

The final 12 weeks requires a hyper-focused training schedule, precise nutrition plan and detailed drug regimen designed to enter into sub-6% body fat levels.

John Romano’s pre-competition schedule as outlined in the 4-Hour Body:

John Romano's Pre-competition Diet, Drug & Training Schedule from The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss
John Romano’s Pre-competition Diet, Drug & Training Schedule from The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss

Waffle Sandwich
Waffle Sandwich – photo credit

And… that’s a wrap.

If you’ve made it this far, you deserve a cheat meal.

Waffle sandwich, anyone?

Chapter Highlights [collapse all] [expand all]

You can see more from Tim Ferriss on his website, blog and podcast.


One thought on “The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss”

Leave a Reply