Today’s blog post is going to be a book review of the 4-Hour Body. The 4-Hour Body is the second part of a two book series by Timothy Ferris, the first one was the 4-Hour Workweek. This book is an in-depth guide to topics like improving our health, gaining strength, losing fat, improving sleep, preventing injuries, reversing ageing (or increasing lifespan) and improving our sex lives.
The author of the book, Timothy Ferris, has poured 10 years of anecdotal experience and expert knowlege into this book. Ferris has acted as somewhat of a self-professed guinea pig to hundreds of health and fitness experiments that he has compiled in this awesome book.
Finally, Ferris has spent over $250,000 on testing and tweaking the exercises, diets and experiments in this book over the last decade.
This blog post will cover why the 4-Hour Body is a good reference for expanding our knowledge of fitness and health, muscle gain (and correct techniques for optimizing our progress), fat loss, sleep and other areas of our lives.
I will omit Ferris’ tips for better sex, improving our swimming and running as these are not areas that my blog specializes in. Instead, I will share Ferris’ tips for muscle gain, fat loss, reverse ageing and improving sleep.
I hope that you enjoy this review of the 4-Hour Body tips, advice and my experience applying these tips so that you don’t have to!
Chapter 1: Start Here
In the first chapter of the 4-Hour Body, Ferris goes over how to read this book. If you plan on reading the 4-hour body, you should read based on your goals and not from the beginning until the end. It becomes more of a reference book in that sense. Pick your goal and read accordingly!
Ferris goes over one method of increasing insulin sensitivity (which is an important idea in the anti-ageing circles) and that is by mixing grapefruit with caffeine in the morning as well as adding cinnamon to his pastries.
I added cinnamon to my coffee in the morning and tried to consume a source of citrus and found that I did lose some weight. While I have not weighed myself (nor have I aimed to lose weight), I am receiving comments from friends and relatives about looking slimmer after doing this so I recommend trying it!
What is the science behind doing this?
“Cinnamon gives you an extra energy boost when combined with caffeinated coffee, according to the Huffington Post. While cinnamon works to keep blood sugar levels stable, it also helps to stabilize your energy levels, preventing the sugar spike and crash into fatigue that can happen thanks to meals and snacks (Huffpost, 2010).”
“All samples, coffee, cinnamon and a mixture of the two showed abilities to scavenge free radicals and to inhibit lipoxygenase (LOX) activity. Both activities increased after simulated gastrointestinal digestion. In the mixture antiradical phytochemicals acted antagonistically – isoboles adopted the convex form (Durak,2014).”
Ferris theorized that caffeine mixed with grapefruit would also boost caffeine’s fat burning half life. “Grapefruit juice consumption decreases caffeine clearance by 23% and prolongs half-life by 31% (Fuhr,1993).”
A study by Maish & Hampton & Whitsett & Shepard & Lovallo did, however, disprove the link between caffeine and grapefruit juice. “We conclude that grapefruit juice had no effect on caffeine pharmacokinetics or hemodynamic effects (Maish & Hampton & Whitsett & Shepard & Lovallo, 1996).”
“Grapefruit has a compound, naringin, that slows the effects of several enzymes. It can affect several medications, including but not limited to: birth control (estrogen), sedatives, calcium channel blockers, blood pressure medications, allergies, AIDS, and cholesterol drugs (Modernistpotions,2022).”
Ferris also goes over Pareto’s law or the 80/20 principle which stipulates that 80% of wealth and income is produced by 20% of the population. This principle can be applied to areas outside of economics. Timothy Ferris mentions this as a reference to his previous book the 4-hour work week and this can be applied to managing our own time and productivity.
Pareto’s law essentially states that “Roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes”.
“By applying Pareto’s Principle, most everything in life, be they about business or personal, can be streamlined to the more important few and make our lives simpler and thus giving us more time to enjoy it (Mr.Outsource, 2013).”
Finally, Ferris also discusses the productivity hack of Richard Berson, a billionaire. His hack is working out, Berson claims that working out gives him an extra four hours of productivity time every day. I can attest that this does work!
Chapter 2: Fundamentals (Fat loss & Everything that is popular is wrong)
The next chapter of this book focuses on going deeper into the fundamentals required for reaching any fitness goal. I like how Ferris starts every chapter with an intelligent and well-suited quote. He started this chapter with this quote:
“Mysteries are not necessarily miracles, to do the impossible (sail around the world, break the four-miracle rule, reach the moon), you need to ignore the popular (Ferris, 2010).”
I found this to be quite fitting towards the title of the second half of the chapter which is “rules that change the rules: everything popular is wrong (Ferriss, 2010).” I find Ferris’ writing style to be critical, simplistic (as in he simplifies difficult ideas) and as he develops his ideas, it reveals a level of skepticism that every genius I think needs to have.
I do consider Ferris to possess the curiosity and knowledge of a genius. It is at least revelatory of some brilliance he possesses and makes the rest of the book interesting.
Speaking of genius, Ferriss says the following in this chapter “even people who aren’t geniuses can out think the rest of mankind if they develop certain thinking skills.” I like this, it reminds me of something somebody once told me which was outthinking people is learning how other people think and getting to the conclusion before they do.
Watch out for pseudo-health language and messages
Going back to fitness, for any critical consumer of fitness content, Ferris goes over marketing speak and terms used by companies in order to sell us products and services that we may or may not need. “Many ‘new and improved’ recommendations are based on calculating profit first and then working backwards to justify the method. (Ferris, 2010).”
How to become critical consumers of fitness products/services
Another interesting idea is thinking about possible incentives for fitness company and sales/advertising pitches. Once again, we are thinking like them and reaching their conclusions before making impulse choices.
“One question you must learn to ask when faded with advice or sales pitch is “if this method, product, detail, etc.” didn’t work as advertised, what might their other incentives be for selling it (Ferris, 2010)?”
Here is a list of marketer’s speak terms (according to Ferris):
(He mentions that we ourselves should not use these):
Cellulite was made up, it first appeared in Vogue in 1968, we seemed to have survived fine without it before that. Hip dips are the new “problem area”, in reality, they are quite normal outlines of our hip bones and are anatomically normal.
These three words are also quite problematic as well (they are more scientific-sounding words):
Ferris recommends that we ask ourselves if we can measure any of these terms. This is the best way to gauge as to whether they are persuasive marketing terms or actual barometers of health. “I want to achieve optimal health”, is health measurable? No. Is Optimal health an objective standard that is measurable? No. These are therefore just marketing terms.
Improving our HDL levels or losing 5 pounds are measurable, if an advertisement or marketer uses these, then the product or service may have more credibility. Ferris calls these words “useless”, they are like fads and can change depending on what is popular on a given day.
Chapter 3: Ground Zero
In the next chapter, I found the segment on losing body fat to be the most interesting and useful to share with you. Ferris shares training tips and asks us to develop a habit of resting 3 minutes in between exercises for optimal fat loss. Futhermore, use a 5/5 rep cadence (5 seconds up and 5 seconds down) during the concentric and eccentric portion of a lift.
Controlling the tension in this manner will eliminate momentum and ensure instant load. I actually tried doing this on glutes exercise and I did feel that the tension was increased, I enjoyed getting more of a mind-muscle connection as well while doing this. I didn’t measure my glutes but I do recommend trying out this cadence as it does increase total muscular tension.
Next, you want to focus on 2-10 exercises per workout and not more. You want to include at least one multi-joint exercise for pressing, pulling and leg movements. If you are following a program that you enjoy, please don’t just switch for the sake of this review (or if you are planning on reading this book). If you are following a routine that you enjoy and works, then stick to it!
In the next chapter, Ferris introduces Occam’s protocol as well as ways to increase recovery time in order to increase size.
Click on this link to learn more Ferris’ training protocol for putting on muscle size.
Ferris recommends the following books to broaden our knowledge of hypertrophy:
1)The concise book of muscles by Chris Jarmuy
2)Strength training methods and the book or Arthur Jones, D.Smith, S., Bruce-Law, J.E P online
3) Journal of Exercise Physiology
4) ‘Cartma and Weight Crain 4000’
5) ‘Arthur Jones Collection’
A few words on body fat:
This chapter was quite interesting, Ferris went over his favorite machines for measuring body fat. He actually went over every single model as he has quite impressively tried them all! He measures the best body fat machines based on their efficacy, time using them (and efficiency), comfort and error in terms of measuring body fat percentage.
The body fat measuring machines:
-Bio electrical impedance
From these machines, Ferris rated the best one for different functions:
Least error in body fat percentage:
- Underwater (Weighing, Bodpod, Ultrasound, Skinfold, Bio electrical Impedance).
Less time consuming:
- Bio electrical impedance
- Underwater weighing
Underwater weighing also was rated at the lowest in comfort with skinfold and bod pod being moderately comfortable.
To sum it up, out of the 7 methods to measure body fat, Ferris recommends these 4:
- Dual energy
They cost within the range of: $50-$100
These tools give a crystal-clear picture of mass imbalances that even outstanding physical therapists can’t measure after months of observation.
Some more tips from Ferris on how to choose your body fat measurement mechanism:
-If you are over 30% body fat, avoid calipers and use DEXA, bodpod or ultrasound.
-If you are over 25%, still aim for DEXA, bodpod or ultrasound.
Review of Chapter 4: Subtracting Fat (Basics/Advanced)
Ferris’ next chapter is on reducing body fat. I recommend this chapter to all of my readers who want to expand their knowledge/efforts to lose fat. Below is a cheat sheet of the diet recommended in this book for fat loss:
Ferris recommends consuming 80 grams of l-glutamine during the first five days of Occam’s protocol. He also recommends consuming creatine monohydrate to increase strength, fat-free muscle mass and protein synthesis.
He recommends doses of 5-20 grams of creatine monohydrate per day. This is a safe dose that is also largely devoid of side effects. Ferris recommends taking a loading phase of 10-30 grams of creatine for 5-7 days.
‘Fat gain is not inevitable but it needs to be monitored (Ferris, 2010).’
Ferris recommends minimizing fat gain by supplementing with quadrangularis (2,400 mg, 3x per day). He also recommends taking alpha-lipoic acid (100-300 mg, 30 minutes before each whole-food meal), l-glutamine and creatine monohydrate.
The Lost Art of Bingeing:
I was not a huge fan of this chapter as I think it may unintentionally promote or trigger eating disorders. Regardless, cheat meals and allowing binge days can be mentally and physically quite relieving. Ferris recommends taking one cheat day per week.
Here are a few tips that Ferris recommends to minimize the damage that these days can have on our fat loss efforts. I have applied a few of these into my own daily routine and have noticed some fat loss around my stomach.
The benefits of binging, according to Ferris, can range from helping us improve our immune system, providing vitamins and preventing harmful bacteria from infecting us.
Ferris recommends using supplements that increase insulin sensitivity. Furthermore, he recommends consuming citric juices where lime juice is squeezed. He also recommends increasing the speed of gastric emptying or how quickly food exits the stomach by drinking coffee, green tea or Yerba mate after a heavy binge.
The third principle is to engage in brief muscular contractions throughout the binge. You can do this by performing air squats, bridges, lunges, pushups and/or wall presses (ie: triceps extensions against a wall, chest pulls with an elastic band).
Healing our gut:
95% of serotonin is found in the gut (hence its nickname the second brain). Only 5% of serotonin is found in the brain. Having a healthy gut can provide us with many physical, mental and aesthetic benefits. How can we cultivate more healthy vs. unhealthy bacteria?
“Studies indicate that there are 10 times more bacteria cells in the body than human cells: 100 million of them to 10 trillion of us (Ferris,2010).”
Here are 3 ways to cultivate healthy and fat reducing gut flora:
- Get off splenda/artificial sweeteners.
- Go fermented. Fermented foods contain high levels of healthy bacteria and should be viewed as a mandatory part of the dietary puzzle.
- Consider supplementing with probiotics (bacteria) and prebiotics (fermentable substrates that help bacteria grow and thrive).
How probiotics can save our mental and physical health:
Probiotics are often used as an alternative treatment for depression because of their power to inhibit inflammatory molecules called cytokines, decrease oxidative stress and correct the overgrowth of unintended bacteria that prevents optimal nutrient absorption in the intestines.
Review of Chapter 5: Adding muscle
This is the chapter that I mostly recommend to my readers. I will start with what I liked the most, which was a very in-depth and rich description of the internal processes that we undergo when lifting weights.
Gaining muscle, according to Ferris, comes down to understanding that “The mechanics of growth we want to stimulate are both local muscular, neural and systemic (hormonal).”
The longer the time under tension (TUT) for the lower body, the greater the full-body growth hormone regeneration. Longer time under tension helps form neuro capillaries and improves nutrient delivery.
Ferris’ Rules to lift by:
Rule #1: Increase 10 pounds per exercise.
Rule #2: Use challenging weights/perform sets until failure
What is training until failure?
Timothy Ferris emphasizes that “failure” is not dropping the weight after your last moderately strenuous rep. It is pushing every set like you have a gun to your head. “Remember that the last repetition, the point of failure, it is the rep that matters. The rest of the repetitions are just a warmup for that moment (Ferris,2010).”
Rule #3: Ferris suggests taking a 3 minute rest in between sets for optimal muscle growth
Rule #4: Do not pause at the top or bottom of any movement (except on the bench press)
Rule #5: All variables need to be identical from one workout to the next (rep speed, exercise form, rest intervals).
Rule #6: “The bigger and stronger you get, the less often you will go to the gym (Ferris, 2010).”
In order to gain muscle, Ferris recommends drinking a gallon of milk a day. “I suggest adding a single liter per day each week (often and the aforementioned shake) and keeping a close monitor on fat gain, which can accelerate (Ferris, 2010).”
Furthermore, Ferris’ recommendation does not safeguard from fat gain so make sure to monitor your weight using a scale, measuring tape or calipers: “Fat gain is not inevitable but it needs to be monitored (Ferris, 2010).”
You can minimize fat gain by supplementing with:
- Cissus Quadrangularis (take 2,400 mg three times per week).
- Alpha-lipoic acid (take 300 mg 30 minutes before each whole-food meal).
Here are the other two supplements for fat loss:
- L-Glutamine: This supplement helps with intestinal repair. It is also a post-workout supplement for tissue repair and is a primary treatment for leaky gut syndrome.
- Creatine monohydrate: It increases both maximal force production and protein synthesis. It speeds repair and helps prevent soreness.
Ferris recommends consuming 80 grams of l-glutamine during the first five days of Occam’s protocol. Take 10 grams every 2 hours until 80 grams is reached. After the first five days, resume the 10-30 grams post-workout.
Review of Chapter 7: Perfecting sleep
In this chapter, Ferris goes over the requirements for good sleep. He mentions that REM (Rapid Eye Movement) is the key indicator of good sleep and not duration (quality over quantity). Higher amounts of REM sleep also lead to better recall of skills or data that may have been acquired in the last 24 hours. Furthermore, increased REM leads to better physical performance.
You can increase REM by extending total sleep past 9 hours. Here are 8 ways to improve sleep:
- Testing 19-21 degree celcius as bedroom temperature
- Eating a large and protein-dominated meal within 3 hours
- Get enough light (using light cues) can be useful for winter months
- Add iso-lateral movements to your existing routine before bed
- Take a cold bath 1 hour prior to bed
- Use a humidifier
- Sleep in a military crawl position
- Use a pulse light
Review of Chapter 10: On longer and Better Life
The final chapter I am reviewing is on living a longer and better life. In this chapter, Ferris goes over tips on how to live longer and look younger.
His recommendations are:
- Take a reservatrol supplement (it may lower estrogen/prevent and slow down aging)
- Take 5-10 grams of creatine monohydrate per day for 2 consecutive weeks every 2 months (This may prevent development of alzheimer’s/parkinson’s diseases)
- Intermittent fasting (Check out my post on how to reverse ageing)
- Give blood
Do I recommend this book?
Yes, I highly recommend the 4 Hour Body by Timothy Ferris to any fitness lover. It is full of expert insights and knowledge that can definitely serve to improve our levels of fitness and health. While I do not recommend trying every method in this book, I do think learning from Ferris’ anecdotes and research allows us to think more critically about our own fitness journeys and make improvements where we see fit.
From improving our general health, increasing overall muscle and strength, fat loss, improving our sleep, injury prevention and reversing ageing (or increasing lifespan), this book has us covered!
I hope that you guys enjoyed this book review of the 4-hour body, please let me know what you thought about it in the comments section below!