The 4 Hour Body – Drop 20 Pounds in 30 Days
Andreea Macoveiciuc | On 21, Jan 2014
Long story short: a guy who’s not a nutritionist, nor a scientist or fitness professional, wrote a book called “The 4-Hour Body”, which promises to help one drop 20 pounds in 30 days, with minimum to no exercise required.
Tim Ferriss’ book quickly generated excitement and hysteria among full-time dieters, and it’s not hard to understand why: the bestselling author and self-improvement guru filled his guide with tips and secrets meant to help people get ripped and improve their overall health by binging on a weekly basis, skipping sleep hours and doing 15 minutes of pre-breakfast exercises.
Targeted toward an internet-obsessed generation, who’d rather remain glued to the screen than go outside for a run or hit the gym to work their muscles, this book was perceived as the Holy Grail of weight loss.
Surely, Ferriss’ intentions were admirable: the “4-Hour Guy” (he’s the author of two other books, “The 4-Hour Workweek” and “The 4-Hour Chef”) wanted to convince or at least encourage the couch potatoes all over the world to improve their eating habits, start exercising a little and enhance their overall health by getting more restful sleep and learning how to cope with their unhealthy habits.
However, his recommendations are a bit extreme, so even if some people (or lots of people) will see results, will get slimmer, stronger and more organized by following his pieces of advice, it still doesn’t mean that Ferriss’ approach is a healthy one, and here’s why.
Ferriss’ diet guidelines
The 4-Hour Body provides an eating plan that’s basically a slow-carb diet, consisting mostly in protein-rich foods and veggies.
General guidelines are as follows:
- Prepare all your meals from eggs, meat, green veggies, beans and lentils.
- White carbs, grains, multi-grain products, potatoes, rice, corn are all forbidden.
- Fruits and dairy products are not allowed either, except for cottage cheese, which can be consumed during the 6 days of dieting.
- Fruit juices, milk and any other drink that adds calories to your menu is forbidden. Red wine is allowed, as long as the daily dose doesn’t exceed two glasses.
- Hot sauces, salsa without sugar, butter, olive oil, spices and herbs, mustard and non-creamy low-sugar dressings are allowed.
- Brown rice protein, hemp, pea protein or unflavored whey protein are allowed.
- Vanilla extract, cinnamon and unsweetened cocoa are allowed.
- Tomatoes, avocado, peas, mayonnaise, peanut butter, nuts, hummus, unsweetened almond milk and aspartame should be consumed in moderation.
To help your body metabolize foods easier, you should stick with the same small meals, and eat them routinely. The 4-Hour diet involves no calorie counting, and to make sure your metabolic rate doesn’t drop under its optimal level, you should have a binge day or cheat day every week. According to Ferriss, this will cause a metabolic spike and reset your metabolism to an artificially high rate.
During the binge day your meals should be composed of white carbs, cheese, fruits or whatever cheat food you might want. As for the other 6 days, your meals should consist of:
- Proteins: chicken breast or thigh, beef, fish, pork, egg whites or whole eggs, black beans
- Legumes: lentils, red beans, pinto beans and other beans
- Veggies: broccoli, green beans, spinach, asparagus, peas, cauliflower, sauerkraut
These are pretty much the diet rules promoted by Ferriss, so let’s analyze them before jumping to sleep and workouts.
Why the 4-Hour diet is not a doable long-term strategy
There’s nothing new or wrong in limiting the intake of white carbs, as it’s widely accepted that these nutrients cause blood sugar spikes and favor weight gain. So this is a good recommendation, but if you check the list of allowed foods again, you’ll see options are pretty limited for someone who wants to follow this diet for more than a couple of weeks.
The high intake of protein might keep hunger pangs under control, but it’s very unlikely for one who’s used with carb-rich meals to suddenly feel energized and satisfied with a plate of broccoli, lentils and eggs. So chances are for one to feel tired, moody and energy deprived at the beginning.
Yes, the idea of eating more protein, more veggies and nuts is a great one! But there are at least two serious reasons for which this strategy is not a healthy long term solution:
- binging is an out of control act, but I’m pretty sure it takes a lot of self-control and discipline to throw away all the junk food you bought for your cheat days, once the weekend madness is over. So is it possible to stick with this routine? Probably, for a couple of weeks, until you start asking yourself why on earth are you removing berries or bananas from your menu, while indulging in junk foods on a weekly basis?!
- it encourages eating disorders;
The 4-Hour Body workout & sleep schedule
Ferriss is a fan of kettlebell workouts and this is pretty cool, as these fitness tools are effective when used for strength and HIIT routines.
However, the 4-Hour guy says it’s not really worth wasting precious time with long and exhausting workouts: 15 minutes a day and some kettlebells, that’s all you need for getting slimmer, losing fat and putting on muscle mass – or at least that’s what Ferriss says in his book.
Although the exercises recommended by this guy do work the major muscles groups and can strengthen the entire body when performed correctly, and with heavier weights, it’s quite unlikely for an internet geek who never saw a kettlebell before to suddenly do those movements with perfect form, and quickly enough to get his heart pumping faster.
Also, it’s very probable for new dieters to lack the energy for doing HIIT kettlebell workouts daily, and this is probably why Ferriss says exercising isn’t a must for individuals following the 4-Hour diet.
As for the sleep schedule, this is the most questionable recommendation in the book: according to the bestselling author, one only needs 2 hours of sleep per day, split into six rigorously-scheduled 20-minute naps. Ferriss’ theory is based on the polyphasic sleep principle, and might be doable, but is it healthy in the long run?
The human body needs sleep to fully recover, replenish its energy reservoirs and repair its damaged tissues. Skipping sleep hours on a regular basis affects not only one’s energy levels but also the metabolic rate, mood and hormone levels. So is this 2-hour of sleep theory really compatible with a regular lifestyle, involving 8 hours of work per day?
The 4-Hour guy tested his ideas on himself, and apparently the diet, workout and sleep program did provide impressive results for him. Yet, this guy is not a health professional: he’s a bestselling author, so it’s more than logical for an author to claim that his theory worked for him, if he wants to sell his book.
However, for regular people, this weight loss strategy isn’t the healthiest one, for 3 simple reasons:
- it’s not a realistic long-term solution, and it’s very likely for one to gain the lost weight back once they start eating grains and fruits again;
- it doesn’t encourage an active lifestyle, so it deprives the body from the numerous health benefits provided by daily exercises;
- it encourages sleep deprivation and binging;
Conclusion: Losing weight doesn’t necessarily make you healthier. Before starting this diet, ask yourself if it’s something you’re willing to do over and over again, and whether this strategy is compatible with your daily schedule.