We live in a world full of contraindications and conflicting principles. For instance, you have probably heard an opinion that we are stuck in the era of instant gratification, or a desire to experience results, pleasure and fulfillment without any delay or deferment whatsoever.
It seems quite sensible and seemingly fuelled by modern devices, social media and such. Packed a healthy snack? Upload a photo on Facebook and get a praise or two. Went to the gym? Make sure to post it on Instagram for a like or a hundred, depending on how relevant your hashtags are. Speaking of hashtags, aren’t they convenient to only see the information you’re after, and avoid all that other stuff you have to scroll through?
At the same time, especially when it comes to health and fitness, the old mantra “good things come to those who wait” is still going strong. Again, seems logical at a glance, and we pretty much take the fact that bodies take forever to build, melt and re-shape for granted.
How awesome would it be if the two concepts could meet halfway, creating a space where it’s possible to achieve great results within an adequate timeframe. Like, how nice a middle ground between “magic belly shredding” wraps and pills (spoiler: those don’t work!) and “you need to spend 3 hours every day at the gym lifting four times your weight to get a nicer booty” would be?
Fortunately, looks like there is a middle ground now. There is a not-so-new but still overwhelmingly relevant book on the block called “The 4-Hour Body” which may save you a lot of trial and error and protect you from ongoing frustration, should you decide to read it.
This review will guide you through the main features of the book and why it’s awesome, and then it is completely up to you to decide. Chances are, you’ll love the approach, but if for some reason you won’t…well, that’s what reviews are for.
Let’s get started!
About the author
Timothy “Tim” Ferriss is a public speaker, entrepreneur and, of course, an American author.
In case you aren’t familiar with his writing efforts, he has produced a number of the “4-hour” themed books which were exceptionally well-received. The absolute bestseller “The 4-Hour Workweek” has appeared on the New York times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller lists.
Another milestone on Tim’s bucket list is the fact that he’s an an informal investor and/or and advisor to huge establishments such as Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, StumbleUpon, Uber and other successful startups.
So as you’ve probably guessed, “The 4-Hour Body” was pretty much destined to succeed…and so it did.
Let’s talk more about the book itself, shall we?
Overview of the book
This is Ferriss’s second book, and it was published by Crown in December 2010. The full title is actually “he 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman” – sounds quite promising and catchy. Ferriss definitely knows how to capture attention, and it shows right from the start.
The book, which is more of a reference guide, covers over 50 unique topics, including but not limited to strength training, fat loss, the theory of polyphasic sleep and endurance workouts. There is also a bit of dietary advice inside, as Ferriss introduces his own version of the famous Slow-Carb Diet. Think no starches or sweets (fruit and artificial sweeteners are also out) and plenty of lean proteins, vegetables, beans and legumes.
It’s also important to consider that the book touches on the use of anabolic steroids, including “ “a number of low-dose therapies, including testosterone cypionate”. It is emphasised that these programs were conducted under strict medical supervision following the author’s shoulder surgery. Specific substances mentioned that Ferriss used in training include testosterone enanthate, Sustanon 250, HGH, Deca-Durabolin, Cytomel, and other unnamed ingredients.
Another aspect worth mentioning is that Ferriss is very straightforward and honest when it comes to identifying his role as an author of the book. He straight away – in the intro, actually – points out that he is no expert, but there is a team of expert behind the project to back up and strengthen his research findings. To be exact, over 200 experts were crafting the book over about three years, so rest assured it’s not just some run off the mill health and fitness piece the sole aim of which is to collect your hard earned money. No, here you have an entire project, a complex puzzle of evidence pieces, if you will.
This is not to say Ferriss simply stayed back and enjoyed other people doing the work for him while typing the notes on his laptop. Instead, the writer recorded every single one of his workouts since the age of 18 to try different concepts for himself and see what works and what doesn’t. He also tracked his blood markers for about 6 years, such as insulin levels, haemoglobin and free testosterone. Now that’s dedication!
As mentioned above, the book was a huge hit and still hits high sales. It actually debuted as a number one New York Times Bestseller, as well as landed number 4 on both USA Today and the Wall Street Journal’s lists. If that’s not enough, it was also one of the Amazon’s top 5 bestselling books for December 2010 and January 2011. Ferriss also promoted the book on famous TV shows including The Dr. Oz Show and ABC’s The View, and got great reception from the audience.
Sounds like a pretty exciting list of achievements for a book, doesn’t it? Rest assured it’s not some kind of a gimmick, and the fact that the book is still popular proves that it contains valuable information that’s still relevant.
It feels like it’s time to actually review the book’s contents! This material will touch on a couple of the most remarkable chapters and concepts introduced in “The 4-Hour Body” – just enough to give you a good feel, but still quite limited – to find out the rest, you’ll still need to read the book yourself.
True to its time saving approach, the book has quite an interesting concept at it’s core. That is – you don’t need to read this book from start to finish – that’s right. In fact, it’s highly discouraged.
You will only need to read certain chapters that resonate with your personal goals (although “Fundamentals” and “Ground Zero” chapters are included in every program).
For instance, if your goal is rapid weight loss, you only go through “Fundamentals”, “Ground Zero”, “The Slow- Carb Diet I and II” and “Building the Perfect Posterior”, whereas someone who simply wants to get a general sense of well-being will receive a totally different set of chapters to go through. As Ferriss puts it, “Most people won’t need more than 150 pages to reinvent themselves. Browse the table of contents, pick the chapters that are most relevant, and discard the rest . . . for now. Pick one appearance goal and one performance goal to start. (…) Once you’ve selected the bare minimum to get started, get started. (…) Just don’t read it all at once.”
This is such a brilliant approach, which also makes the book oh-so-versatile. If your goals ever change, you don’t need to hit the bookshop again – don’t waste precious time and pick a different set of chapters instead. At the same time, those distinct sets of information are not rushed and overly schematic either – for instance, the “Rapid Weight Loss” plan suggests you read 98 pages from the book, which is still a substantial proportion. Once again, it’s all about balance between setting long term goals without making them too long term.
Other suggested “rules” for reading the book include:
- Skipping anything you’re too overwhelmed by – e.g. some concepts include the description of scientific reasoning behind them, but feel free to skip it if it’s not something you’re interested in as you don’t need to be into science to enjoy the benefits.
- Being skeptical and double-checking every piece of information you’re unsure about…
- …but at the same time “don’t use skepticism as an excuse for inaction”, which means being “proactively skeptical, nit defensively skeptical”
- And last but not least, just enjoy the ride.
Now that you know what to expect from “The 4-Hour Body”, why don’t we have a closer look at a few chapters and concepts that seem the most interesting?
A sneak pick into the “Fundamentals”
In the chapter that, as mentioned before, is included in every “reading plan” regardless of your goals. In line with the overall idea behind the book, the author is exploring the concept of the Minimum Effective Dose, or “ the smallest dose that will produce a desired outcome.”
A simple example to grasp the theory behind the concept is boiling water. See, water boils at 100 degrees, and it doesn’t get any “more boiled” no matter how much more heat you add – instead, it will evaporate quicker and likely ruin your pasta. Imagine how much money you would save on your gas and electricity if you could turn up the heat precisely to 100 degrees without wasting any more resources! You could use this energy (and the money you’ve saved) for something much more productive.
With weight loss, it’s much the same.
And the best thing is, it doesn’t only work for the weight loss clientele – it’s equally relevant for elite athletes looking to get leaner without sacrificing their regime and overloading their training program. No matter who you are and what you’re doing, according to Ferriss, “More is not better. Indeed, your greatest challenge will be resisting the temptation to do more”.
So the author’s approach can be summarised as working smarter, and not necessarily harder.
People who followed the program for a while indicate that this approach is really effective and saves a lot of frustration. Some individuals lose over 50 pounds in relatively short periods of time without sacrificing what they love (maybe only a little).
Now that’s the results everyone is after!
Rules that change the rules?
Straight after defining the basics, the author dives into explaining why pretty much every popular approach there is wrong. He even quotes Charles Darwin to add to the point, who pointed out that “Even people who aren’t geniuses can outthink the rest of mankind if they develop certain thinking habits.” In other words – be proactively skeptical, and you’ll likely do much better than the stubborn geniuses.
The following mind blowing concepts are explored here:
- Calories are not the enemy, and the “calories in, calories out” concept is oversimplified. Science actually agrees with that. Indeed, food fuels various metabolic pathways within our bodies, and there may be days when you’re not physically active at all but still burning a lot (e.g. high mental workload requires the brain to use more fuel, which calories essentially are). In addition, the foods we eat can directly influence the hormones that regulate when we eat and how much, which means what you eat may be more important than exact amounts and calorie equivalents.
- Labels don’t mean anything – it’s much more important to know the science behind safety and effectiveness of concoctions such as “drugs” or “nutritional supplements”. It also doesn’t mean anything if something is “synthetic” instead of “natural”. Effectiveness is the key.
- Weight loss as such is not a great goal – focusing on body recomposition is much more sustainable.
- Genetic predisposition is a poor excuse to sit on the couch and do nothing, as it only works to a certain extent.
- Yo-yo dieting is not all that bad, provided you use it wisely instead of leaping between various fad diets. Indeed, diet cycling, which has a much better reputation, is basically yo-yo at its core – and it still works and doesn’t ruin your health.
- Lastly, one should keep an eye out for scientific-sounding words such as “health”, “fitness” and “optimal” as those are vague and don’t really mean anything in particular. Focus on measurable goals instead, and you’ll be much more satisfied on your journey.
Just going through those points is incredibly eye-opening and inspiring – and it’s only a start!
The Slow Carb diet concept
Another interesting concept mentioned within the book is a so-called Slow Carb diet.
The diet claims to help you burn fat rapidly by avoiding certain foods that promote fat storage – yes, those do exist.
The diet also incorporates a myriad of “metabolism hacking” techniques such as ingesting food immediately upon awakening and having full on “cheat days” once weekly. The diet was trialled scientifically on 3500 people, with 84% finishers losing weight – 8.6 pounds on average. Moreover, 14% of the participants lost more than 14 pounds!
In a nutshell, the rules of the diet are the following:
- Stick to it 6 days a week
- Eat the same meals over and over again (it’s not actually that bad considering you most likely have default meals in your diet anyway – most people do!)
- Be aware of liquid calories – water is a drink of choice (1-2 glasses of red wine are not too bad also, but don’t overdo it)
- Start your day with at least 30 grams of protein, try to consume it within 30 minutes of waking up
- No fruit – tomatoes and avocados, which are technically fruit, are allowed in moderation
- One cheat day is a must to boost your metabolism
The book will also take you through many helpful tips, such as eating out or picking the right foods when travelling.
It’s actually easier to stick to this plan than it may seem at a glance. Best of all – see the study above! – it does work, so there is no reason to not give it a go. And that cheat day also makes things much easier, so don’t worry, you won’t feel too deprived.
Ice age for your body
Now, the things discussed before, although presented differently, can perhaps be found in other literature. But how about some truly unique concepts that rarely get discussed outside of professional sports and science?
In “The 4-Hour Body”, the author discusses the power of ice therapy to boost weight loss.
Ice therapy may sound a bit scary, but in fact it’s simple things like ice packs and cold showers – and several tips on how and when those are supposed to be used.
The basics of ice therapy are actually pretty simple – apparently, the body needs to mobilise its energy resources to keep the body temperature’s up. This leads to burning more energy – effortlessly! Therefore, if you’re following the rest of the plan religiously, including diet and exercise, using ice therapy will help lose additional fat.
The theory also relies on differences between types of fat in the body and how these types respond to diet, exercise and cold therapy.
Some studies show that these little tricks are much more effective than one might think. Apparently, the potential of fat burning activities can be increased by 300% by adding cold therapy to the picture. In addition, there are studies showing that decreasing room temperature by a couple degrees burns fat, increases insulin sensitivity and melts calories. No magic, just science!
It’s worth mentioning before you get too excited that people who use beta-blockers, have certain conditions and lower blood flow, as well as smokers, should be careful with cold therapy – but consulting a health practitioner is a good idea before starting any exercise regime anyway.
So does “The 4-Hour Body” really work? Yes, it has great potential and contains valuable advice, whilst also combining recent scientific findings into a very convenient, versatile, easy to use resource that can help you plan your routine.
You also can’t underestimate almost 100 (!) pages of appendices and extras, including slow carb recipes and more tips and tricks that don’t really fit into the main chapters.
Are there any people who can’t follow this approach? Well, it’s a good idea to at least consult your doctor before starting that if you have certain conditions such as cardiovascular disease. The Slow Carb, in addition, may be a bit difficult to follow for those with many allergies and intolerances, as it’s quite limiting in nature.
Will the book change your life completely? Probably not.
But will it give you a great motivating punch to get started? Hell yes. A great combination of valuable advice and entertaining passages from Tim, it’s a great read, regardless of the fact if you’ll really stick to it.
Hope you enjoyed this book review and it was informative enough to give you a good impression of what you’re getting into without giving out too much! Enjoy your health journey and see you next time.