Review of The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss, Part 1: Diet

January 15, 2011


Some of you may be familiar with Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek.  For those of you who aren’t, he’s quite an interesting character.  He’s constantly experimenting with life hacking techniques, or getting the maximum results with minimal effort.  That should not be confused with laziness, but achieving the desired effects without unnecessary expenditure of time and effort.  His new book , the 4-Hour Body, is an expansive 570 page book on achieving muscle gain, fat loss, rehabilitating and preventing injuries, improving sex, and a host of other topics that cannot all be covered in one blog post.  I will simply have to break my review down into a few parts.  In this post, I’ll talk about what he advocates in order to achieve the greatest amount of fat loss.

In his book, Tim promotes a diet called the Slow Carb Diet.  In essence, this is nothing new.  It is simply a variation of the Paleolithic Diet that I am a strong proponent of. The Paleolithic Diet is also known by other names such as the Primal Blueprint or the Cavemen Diet. The idea of Paleo is that our bodies are genetically conditioned to eat what our ancestors ate, a diet consisting of meats, vegetables, some fruit, and healthy fats. Specifically, Tim advocates the following rules:

1. Avoid “white” carbohydrates – No bread, rice, cereal, potatoes, pasta, tortillas, or food with breading. If you want to get technical, carbohydrates get converted to glucose by your body, which then has to produce insulin in order to get it out of your bloodstream and into your muscles and liver in the form of glycogen. Since your body can only hold a small amount of glycogen in proportion to the carbs consumed by the average American, the rest gets stored as fat.

2. Eat the same few meals over and over again –  Eerily, I talked about this in an earlier post and I swear I didn’t copy him.  He probably copied me 🙂  Anyways, this also makes sense.  In the Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz talks about how we are inundated by an unlimited amount of choices every day in today’s society.  Go into a typical supermarket and you have to make a decisions between dozens of brands in every imaginable category.  Limiting yourself to the same few meals not only makes your trip to the store shorter, but will also save you money and the mental energy of having to navigate this sea of possibilities.  It also makes it easier to stick with your lifestyle change (I don’t like using the word diet because it connotates a desire only to make a short-term change in your life, often for superficial reasons.)

3. Don’t drink calories – I would personally rank this one as high, if not higher than not eating grains.  In a world in which most of us are fueled by sodas and energy drinks, most people should be aware that replacing those calorie-laden drinks with water (or black coffee if you need a buzz) would dramatically improve their health.  In Tim’s Slow Carb Diet, milk and fruit juice are out as well.

4. Don’t eat fruit – Slightly different that Paleo here, which allows some fruit.  However, Tim suggests that the fructose in fruits can get converted to fat even more efficiently than carbohydrates.

One more rule, and one that most of you will love…

5. Take one day off per week – Use this “cheat day” to eat whatever the hell you want.  ANYTHING.  This can include pizza, ice cream, fries, or all the doughnuts you can stuff in your face. The idea behind this that “spiking your caloric intake in this way once per week increases fat-loss by ensuring that your metabolic rate doesn’t downshift from extended caloric restriction.” Keep in mind that making every day a cheat day doesn’t work.  Once a week.  This also helps you stay on track, in a way, because you have something to look forward to and not constantly in deprivation mode (Woe is me, I can’t eat that…). Tim suggests that you still eat a sensible breakfast high in protein and binge from lunch to dinner so that you don’t completely go off the deep end with this.

If you want the short version of this diet, it’s essentially Paleo with a cheat day. Easy. My own experiences with Paleo have been outstanding. Everyone knows I eat a shit-ton of food.  However, I still weigh 135 lbs because I also eat very clean.  As long as you eat the right things, I believe that there are no restrictions as to how much you can or should eat. So go out there, eat and be merry.

2 Comments on “Review of The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss, Part 1: Diet”

  1. Christopher Lee Says:

    Damn, 135 pounds? You’re skin and bones.

    I remember when I was a freshman in highschool, weighing 115 pounds, and after a year of gymnastics I was 135 pounds. Then 3 years later, I was 165 pounds. Back then it was so hard to put on weight.

    Now it’s so easy to put on weight. I find the best part about having a “diet plan” is knowing what to eat. Like you said, when inundated wich choices, it’s easy to start making bad ones.

    The part I struggle with, is which “diet” is correct. From my recollection, there are no beans in paleo because of the anti-nutrients.

    It’s so hard to know what a balanced diet is nowadays.


  2. raymondtung Says:

    It’s true. There’s a lot of information out there and it’s hard to know which is “right”. However, I believe that if it is effective for you and you are able to sustain it, then it’s right.


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