The 4 Hour Body: Summary & Review

the 4 hour body book cover

The 4 Hour Body (2010) is a guide to “rapid weight loss” (not good) and optimized nutrition based on Tim Ferris’ opinions and personal experience.

Bullet Summary

  • No white carbs
  • No sugars
  • Use cold to shed calories faster

Summary

About The Author: Tim Ferris says first and foremost in his own introduction that he is not a doctor and you should consult your doctor for any doubts, issues, and pre-existing conditions.
Tim Ferris indeed is an American entrepreneur and “hack-seeker” who became famous after his first book “The 4 Hour Work Week“.

Foods To Avoid

Avoid white carbohydrates, which are:

  • White bread
  • Pasta
  • Cereals
  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Crackers

And also avoid:

  • Cream-based sauces (herbs and spices are fine)
  • No deep-fried (stir-fried is OK)
  • No whole grains or steel cut oats

Beverages: Mostly Stick to Water

Drink plenty of water.

No juices, milk and limit soft drinks to 500ml max and only diet versions.
If you like coffee and tea, drink them without sugar.

Note:
The diet version of soft drinks often contains “hidden sugars”, some of which are even worse than sucrose.

Alcohol: Dry Wines, Without Sugar

If you like wines, the best ones are dry and red (no more than 1.4% of sugar content).
Avoid champagne.

Note:
1.4% feels quite a random number to me.
But here are my favorite low-sugar wines:

  • Rosso di Montalcino DOC 2020 – Caparzo.
    Residual sugar: 1.3
  • Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Riserva
    Residual sugar: 1.6
  • Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2015
    Residual sugar: 1

No Fruits

Most doctors and nutritionists do recommend lots of fruits.

Not Tim Ferris.

Tim Ferris recommends no fruits for your diet.
He says that in the research literature, there is no consensus on the benefits of eating lots of fruits.

The only exceptions are tomatoes and avocado -but not too much of it-.

My Note:
Ferris talks about the benefits of “lots of fruits”, which is generic and specific at the same time.
What does he mean by “lots”? And who says that “some” fruits per day are not good?

Allowed Food

These are the food you can eat and enjoy:

  • Eggs (organic)
  • Fish: such as tuna and salmon
  • Meat types: chicken, beef, pork
  • Legumes such as: lentils, black beans, pinto beans, red beans, soy beans
  • Most vegetables such as: spinach, asparagus, broccoli, peas, beans
  • Nuts: almonds, walnuts etc.
  • Tomatoes
  • Yogurt

Repeat The Same Meals

Tim Ferris suggests you repeat the same meals over and over.

He says that the research literature shows no consensus on the merits of a balanced and diversified diet.

But if you still crave variety, then you can mix the allowed foods above.

My Note:
Again Ferris mentions “no consensus”.
But consensus is almost never reached: one single small study proving Y against a thousand proving X would still mean no consensus. Yet you’re far better off with X.

Cheat DayL One day a Week Binge

The concept of “cheat day” has become very popular in dieting.

In short, it means:

Pick a single day in a week in which you can eat as much as you want of whatever you want.

I personally disagree with cheat days.
And not because I’m a nutritionist expert, but because logically -and psychologically- they make little sense.
For the logic, Sean explains far better than I ever could:

Use Thermal Dieting For Faster Weight Loss

And now we finally get into Ferris’ penchant for hacks :).

When we are in cold environment we lose calories due to heat loss.
So you can accelerate your weight loss with “cold treatment”.

Tim recommends cold showers and ice packs on the back of the neck and upper back for 30 minutes (you can also do it while watching a movie).

And drink half a liter of icy water when you wake up.

Avoid These Common Mistakes

Tim Ferris lists a few of the common mistakes people make.

I will pick the best ones and transform them from the negative form (not eating.. ) to the positive form (make sure you do.. ).

Make sure you:

  • Eat within half an hour after waking up
  • Eat enough proteins (at least 20 grams per meal)
  • Drink lots of water, especially on the binge days
  • Avoid too much sweeteners, whether artificial or natural
  • Avoid lifting and going to the gym too much (2-3 times a week is enough)

The 15 Minutes Orgasms 

Tim Ferris also has some tips on how to reach orgasms.

Here’s the gist (for men):

  • In missionary shift weight on the hips and grind her clitoris
  • When at the bottom, rise up so that your torso is at 160 degrees (lean back 20 degrees)

For the improved angle missionary and the pictures, you must get the book.
Or read:

the 4 hour body book cover

CONS

  • Outdated

Nutrition evolves quickly, and you’re probably better off with newer content

  • NOT Good for Binge Eaters

This diet is not good for people who have food addiction (ie.: binge eating, huge cravings, often thinking about food).

People high on the food addiction scale must skip the binge days (also read “Bright Line Eating“)

  • Over-analyses & Obsession Make For Poor Quality Life

Tim Ferris is a “hacks” guy with a geek approach to nutrition

“x grams of this a day”, “a capsule of that at this time”, “percentage variation of Y” etc.

That’s what also makes him a great writer and what makes the 4-hour body great.

On the other hand, though, there are so many factors influencing whatever we measure in our body, than one has really to wonder: what about fooled by randomness?

And if you pick up the same attitude, you will be spending most of your time measuring instead of living.

  • Health as Mathematical Obsession

In general, being data-driven is good.

But not all realms of life can be exactly measured.

And I find Tim Ferris in general to be too numbers-driven in realms that are difficult to reduce to simple equations.

It feels like the author feels he can measure anything and find a direct correlation to body size, shape and energy levels.
But there are plenty more variables that can make these too-detailed measures not only a fool’s errand, but actually misleading.

Campbell in Whole refers to it as a mathematical equation approach to nutrition, and he says it’s wrong. I agree with Campbell.

  • Heavy Cognitive Load

Following Tim’s full list of advice, your diet can become a big heavy cognitive load in measuring amounts and applying ice packs.

What I’d wonder is: are you living for your diet, or is your diet that should be serving your life?

  • Too Many Topics?

From weight loss to exercise, it makes sense.

But diet, orgasms, testosterone, sperm banks and “engineering sleep” might be a lot for someone who’s looking for an answer to a specific question.
(that being said, it’s all interesting and important stuff Tim writes about).

PROS

  • He Worked On It

Tim Ferris did research hard for The 4-Hour Body, and I appreciate that a lot.

Review

I find The 4-Hour Body to be dated and a purveyor of many debunked myths.

And back when it first came out, it might have been one of the first fore-runners -and myth inflaters- of the low-carb diet.

It’s also counterproductive to approach food with the “geek mindset”.

This is something that Michael Pollan calls “nutritionism” in In Defense of Food and he explains very well all the drawbacks of looking at the single nutrients instead of the whole food.

I prefer a more holistic, whole-food approach. Which is also simpler to live with.

Disagree on Binge Days

Tim says a binge day a week is actually helpful to lose fat.

And I have no reason to doubt it may have been helpful for Tim Ferris.
But I just didn’t like the idea. For sugar lovers “eating whatever you want” could easily mean kilos of pies, desserts, and ice creams.

I don’t think that’s good. Plus there is food that should be off-limits at any time, like industrial trans fats.

Addendum: after reading books such as Hunger by Roxane Gay I understand that binge days are not just a real issue, but completely a bad idea for people with food addictions. Also check out Bright Line Eating.

Get the book on Amazon

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