I first came across this book a few months ago, and I must say straight up, it is unique, but I absolutely love its unconventional approach and the idea of ‘body hacking’. The book is commonly referred to as just “The 4-Hour Body” but the part that drew me in was the subsequent subtitle: “An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman”. I will say one thing – Tim Ferriss sure knows how to write a captivating headline.
An Introduction to The 4-Hour Body…
What is The 4-Hour Body book all about? The name itself is derived from results that Tim details in his chapter “From Geek to Freak“, where he puts on 34lb of muscle in just 28 days, with only 4 hours per week of gym time.
Sound impossible? Maybe, but this type of rapid body remodelling is what Tim focuses on explaining in his book.
Want to completely change the way your body looks in just a few short weeks? Then you’ll need to learn how to leverage so that you can produce maximum results from investing minimal time. The 4-Hour Body can show you how.
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Name: The 4-Hour Body
Author: Tim Ferriss
Website: Available through Amazon.com
Jolie’s Overall Rank: 4.2 out of 5
People Who Will Enjoy Reading This Book
If you’re at all interested in the way your body looks and are into health and fitness, then I think you’ll really like this book. Especially if you enjoy knowing how things work and are willing to experiment with new ideas to create drastic change in your body.
Those who come from a nutritional or human movement/personal training background may think differently as there is undoubtedly a bit of hype in the book as well as some parts that are probably not in agreement with mainstream science, but if you have an open mind, you will probably still enjoy it.
If you’re more into just being given an all-in-one plan that you can start following straight away to get a result, and don’t really care about the specifics behind it, then you may still benefit from the content in The 4-Hour Body, but you probably won’t appreciate the lengthy discussion about the intricacies and experimentation behind some of the plans in this book. You might be better off checking out a summary instead.
What’s in This Book?
With over 500+ pages of material, the book is supposed to be read as more of an encyclopedia-style reference book rather than a novel, and readers are advised to refer to sections that suit their interests/goals rather than attempt to read the book sequentially from cover to cover.
Make no mistake though, Tim has a very engaging writing style and tells a lot of entertaining stories to keep the reader interested. More than a few times I had a bit of a chuckle at some of his quips, which I’d rather take over being bored to death by some dryly presented academic masterpiece.
The content covered is quite diverse, so I’ll outline the main sections and what you can expect to find in each part.
How to Use this Book, Fundamentals, and Ground Zero
These 3 sections are very much an introduction to the rest of the material in the book. The fundamentals that Tim covers introduces the “Minimum Effective Dose” – the idea that you only need to do a certain amount of anything in order to see a result, and any extra effort put on top of this may be being wasted in some cases.
He goes on to say that popular notions related to dieting, weightloss and muscle building may be wrong, in particular one that is mentioned is that the whole idea of calorie counting may be incorrect. Give his arguments I must say I am prone to agree, or at least start questioning everything I thought I knew.
The importance of determining a starting point and tracking your progress, defining your goals and setting yourself up so that you can’t fail, is all covered in this section as well. Tim is a total freak when it comes to tracking, taking it to absolutely the next level with full-body composition scans to compare before-and-after results. If you follow that or not is up to you, but either way, after reading this chapter you’ll see the benefits of tracking with more than just the bathroom scales.
I really liked Tim’s approach here, as all-too-often you pick up a new diet plan book or something similar and there is no introduction as to what to realistically expect. It’s really important to know straight away if what you intend to do is sustainable and able to actually become a part of your lifestyle. If it’s too time or resource hungry, then let’s face it: sooner or later you’ll probably quit.
The ‘Slow-Carb’ diet is introduced in this section – designed to allow you to lose body fat fast, through diet alone (no exercise required!). If you want to gain a bit more insight about the diet, you can find it in another post I made here. Unfortunately the book does not explain in great detail why or how the slow-carb diet works, but we are given a few different case studies of people who have had great success on this diet. A piece in here on how to undo or reduce the damage from binge eating was an interesting read.
If you’re not too savvy with the basics of fat storage and loss and how it relates to blood glucose and insulin levels, then you may get a little lost at all the scientific references to this mechanism which are throughout this section.
I think that this section could have been improved if it included a bit of background information on the biochemistry that drives fat storage. For those of us who aren’t a walking encyclopedia, we are left to take the information at face value.
Supplements and cold-therapy to induce particular metabolic pathways supposedly linked to fat loss are discussed, but again, there’s a lot of long chemical-sounding names in there and not much explanation of how they work. I read through these with mild interest but the difficulty of implementing them made me more inclined to pass on these few.
Heads up, the first chapter in this section is titled “Building the Perfect Posterior” 🙂 Doesn’t this sound like my kind of chapter…. Hello buttocks! The secret to a great butt, it turns out, is Kettlebell Swings. I really enjoyed this reading this chapter as it put the idea of Minimum Effective Dose into action, and provided a simple A/B split workout which I trialed for a while.
For the guys (or girls) who want to seriously bulk up, there’s Occam’s protocol – on which Tim gains 34lbs of muscle in 28 days. Okay, so you may not have as drastic results as this, but anything that is capable of producing results like this is worth trying right? And amazingly, you’ll only need 4 hours a week at the gym . After trying this, I can tell you that it is actually quite difficult to resist the temptation to do more gym work when following this program, and I found myself deviating quite often!
In summary, I found this chapter to be a good read, though lacking detail when it comes to the correct form needed to carry out the exercises recommended. However, most of these are standard exercises that can be researched independently to find out how to perform them with correct form, so no massive issues there.
Warning, parts this section can be quite graphic, as I discovered when attempting to read this chapter during a recent trip on public transport.
(HINT: Don’t do this if you might be worried about what people sitting next to you will think when you turn over the page and WHAMMO! suddenly a depiction of the new-improved reverse cowgirl sex position and a half-page sized picture of female anatomy is staring back at you.)
It makes for interesting reading, with chapter headings promising a 15 minute orgasm for the ladies, and how to triple your testosterone for the guys. Don’t get too excited though, personally I found that the content doesn’t deliver as much as you would expect from the over-hyped headings. Nonetheless, it was an entertaining read.
This chapter will suit any insomniacs or anyone else having trouble with sleep. Again there are some bold claims in here, one being that it is possible to get by on just 2 hours of sleep per day by adopting ‘polyphasic’ sleeping habits – six 20 minute naps correctly timed every 4 hours. I would love to try this out, but unfortunately, it is not really that practical for anyone with a job…
Other products are introduced in here that can help with (normal) sleep patterns, getting to sleep and getting good quality sleep. Again, I found it to be interesting yet not totally applicable to my own situation.
This section provides some insight into a few options for reversing injuries to the body, some of which Tim has tried himself. I had already heard of a few of these, including the Egoscue method that is used to realign the body, others I had not. While the section makes for interesting reading, the reader is left to do follow-up research by him or herself into any particular method.
Injury proofing the body is covered next, a topic of great interest to me, as there’s nothing worse than starting an exercise program or routine, and then ‘falling of the wagon’ because you hurt yourself and have to take time out for your body to recover. The idea presented here is that by correcting muscular imbalances in the body, we can make it more resistant to injury (I wouldn’t be so bold as to claim it’s completely inujry-proofed though!). There is a detailed plan in here for the particular exercises you should be doing to address imbalances and how to improve them – I haven’t tried this yet but most definitely will in the future, as I visibly suffer from imbalances that affect my posture.
Running Faster and Farther
In my opinion, this is where the book starts to get a bit random, going from general topics which are useful to almost everyone to one that only suits people who would want to learn how to run faster (or farther). Kind of got me asking why? but I stuck with it to see what this was all about. I have to say, it’s not a bad read. Considering how to run faster is something I’d like to incorporate into my own training (when I finally get around to working out a sprint training program – I’m sure this would be excellent for developing a killer butt), I will be back to re-read and implement some of this section.
Running farther talks about how to go from 5km to 50km in 12 weeks – I imagine this would be extremely useful if you were training for a marathon or similar. There is a 12 week plan which, contrary to most running training programs I’ve seen, is heavy on weightlifting exercises over just plain running longer or faster.
One of the things I like about Tim is that he seems pedantic, and is a self-proclaimed obsessive-compulsive when it comes to ‘hacking’ the human body. The fact that he splits gaining muscle and getting stronger into two different sections highlights that he is particular enough to recognize these as two different goals and thus approach attaining them differently. Again, there is some good information in this section that is a good introduction to training for strength, but by no means will reading this book in isolation make you anywhere near an expert on the topic.
From Swimming to Swinging
Now this is where I really thought it was getting a bit into some random topics, as Tim expands out into topics like how to swim effortlessly in 10 days, how to hit a baseball, and how to hold your breath underwater. The topic choice is bit haphazard in my opinion, and I did find myself wondering why this particular specialist information was included in the book. I mostly glossed over this section.
On Longer and Better Life
This was a short section which I think didn’t give all that much information in the way of life extension given that I know there is a fair bit about it out there. To his credit, Tim is clear on the fact that he doesn’t cover it all. Nonetheless, it was an interesting read, with options like giving blood, taking creatine supplements, and calorie restricting mentioned as ways to increase your life span. To be honest though, I was expecting a bit more here from a ‘hacker’ like Tim.
Closing Thoughts, Appendices and Extras and Bonus Material
Just as you think the book is drawing to a close, the appendices are packed with loads of additional information, including revisiting some of the topics previously discussed in the book. A chapter in here called ‘The Meatless Machine’ on vegetarianism was much appreciated by myself, so props to Tim for including it in the book for all the vegos out there :), as all too often it can be difficult to adapt a diet or program to a vegetarian lifestyle without also nixing the expected results of the program.
Bonus material is accessible via Tim’s blog online at www.timferriss.com, which I suspect is a way to keep readers on his site, but hey… I don’t mind hearing what Tim Ferriss has to muse about when it comes to all this kind of stuff.
- The book has a load of information covering a vast range of topics (most being relevant to anyone) and some of it in a really novel way
- It is all about achieving maximum body recomposition, so there’s no more dieting/exercising just to see no results
- It’s an entertaining read, and Tim backs himself up with references to scientific literature, even going so far as to help the reader to recognize ‘bad science’ when looking at research studies
- The book does lend itself to a fair amount of hype and while following the plans will produce results, they may not be as drastic as those mentioned in the book
- The various sections can be somewhat contradictory – where one type of workout or eating style is recommended in one part of the book, a different one is recommended in a different section, which could make it difficult for the reader to choose a single plan and stick to it
- While he appears to take a scientific approach with the information that is presented, I can’t help but take it with a grain of salt, given his tendency to hype things up for public appeal. It is not always easy to guess how much of what is presented has been scientifically proven through studies, or is just concluded based on Tim’s random experimentation
I definitely enjoyed this book, I found it to be really up my alleyway as I love the idea of being able to naturally redefine your body composition through diet and exercise. I would say that it absolutely needs to be taken with a grain (or two) of salt – but I really enjoyed not only the quirky stories and experiments that Tim details in the books, but also putting some of these into practice.
Will it change your life? Well if you do have weight issues and are unhappy with how your body looks then it very well could, if you put the information into practice and it works for you. It certainly expanded my horizons on how I think about diet and exercise after reading it.
If you have any questions or comments about my review, or have read The 4-Hour Body yourself, I’d love to hear what you thought about it! Drop me a comment below and I will be sure to get back to you.