If you are not familiar with Tim Ferriss and his work, you should be. He has written books that have changed lives—particularly “The 4-Hour Workweek,” and has—in our opinion—one of the best podcasts around. His stated goal is to deconstruct world class performers, which make his podcasts fascinating and enlightening.
A few years ago, he published a book called “ The 4-Hour Body,” which among other topics offers practical advice on just about everything including subtracting fat, adding muscle, perfecting sleep, and reversing injuries. For NFL football fans, he also has a couple chapters called “Hacking the NFL Combine,” that offer some inside football for sports-obsessed fans.
The book is a sort of “choose-your-own adventure,” that Ferriss intends you will read out of order, as you educate yourself and work on different areas of your body (and life).
In that spirit, we will focus here on subtracting fat. That doesn’t necessarily mean losing weight, as Ferriss explains repeatedly in the book that sometimes you will start the program and find your weight loss decelerating because you are, in fact, gaining some muscle. So the focus is on losing fat (not weight), which is usually the goal anyway.
You may weigh more, but feel and look better. Beginning weightlifters definitely notice this.
Update: Tim Ferriss has another book out called Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers. In this book, Ferriss breaks down advice from the "Titans," organized into healthy, wealthy, and wise sections. You can purchase it here and read our review of Tools of Titans here.
Update 2: Tim Ferriss' new book is called Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World.
My Own Experience with Fat Loss
There have been at least two instances where I have lost fat relatively quickly: The first time was several years ago, during the early days of Fitbit. I carried the device around with me, entered activities other than walking, and it calculated the calories I burned, using some algorithm based upon my weight, activity level, steps, stairs, etc. I knew that it probably wasn’t precise, but in relative terms it was useful as I could compare activity one day with another and with my typical baseline.
At the same time, I entered the food I ate into my online portal with Fitbit and it calculated the calories I was consuming. Again, it probably wasn’t entirely accurate, but I could tell—relative to other days—roughly whether my calories were high or low.
So each day, I knew, very roughly, my calories in and calories out.
I didn’t necessarily set out to lose weight, but I did and quickly. Other than entering my food and activities into the computer (now an app) it was mostly effortless weight loss.
This is the power of measurement. By keeping track, I was more conscious of both my movement during the day and, more importantly, my food intake. Naturally, I began to increase my movement and decrease my food intake so my calories burned were greater than my calories consumed.
Of course, calories in/calories out is simplistic and the body doesn’t really work like that because your metabolism and body will adjust to both what you are eating and how much. But if you move more and eat less, in the short term you are likely, in most cases, to lose weight. And I did.
Interestingly, I noticed that the variance of my reported calories burned was much less than my food intake. What that taught me is that weight gain or loss may be more related to what I am eating than what I am doing. But I tend to be pretty active, so results may vary. In addition, the Fitbit algorithm likely didn’t incorporate the greater fat-burning benefits of weight training or interval training in the period following the exercise. That can be significant. This is one reason why people will typically lose fact after they start CrossFit.
The second time I lost significant fat over a short period of time was when I cut out wheat. I was experimenting with a Paleo-like diet and began by cutting wheat (and gluten) out of my diet, which naturally dropped by carb levels as well. Not only did I lose fat, but heartburn disappeared, my energy levels stabilized, and I noticed that my mind felt much clearer. It was remarkable. The weight loss part, in fact, was the least significant aspect to the change. To this day, I rarely eat wheat, except the occasional chocolate chip cookie, which I can’t resist.
Fat-Loss Tips from Tim Ferriss’ “The 4-Hour Body”
Below is a mere summary of his tips. I highly recommend that you read his book, as it provides interesting and useful detail and many more actionable steps you can take to reach your fat-loss goals.
Please remember that I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. Nor is Tim Ferriss a doctor and he is clear in his book that he is not giving medical advice. If you have any health conditions, consult your physician. These are just ideas for debate and consideration.
If you are interested in reviewing our book recommendations on health, fitness, diet & nutrition, click here.
If you want an inexpensive device that can measure your body-fat relatively accurately, consider trying the Omron Fat Loss Monitor. There are more advanced and more accurate methods of measuring body-fat, but if you want to compare relative levels over time, the Omron Fat Loss Monitor should do.
1.The Slow-Carb Diet
The Slow-Carb diet is the primary approach that Ferriss advocates for weight loss. It is not the Paleo diet, but there are some similarities in that you will dramatically reduce your carbohydrate intake. This diet itself has five separate rules. The first rule is to avoid “white” carbohydrates. These include, for example, bread, rice, cereal, potatoes, pasta, tortillas, and breading on fried food. If you have tried the paleo diet or any of its cousins, this will sound familiar and probably won’t be difficult for you. If you haven’t and just eat the standard American diet, this will be an adjustment—though one that is worth making. For the Paleo eaters out there, you should note that beans are okay and encouraged in the slow-carb diet.
The second rule is to eat the same few meals over and over again. This will help you keep the diet going. Ferriss also points out that the problem many people have on this diet is that they don’t eat enough calories (it isn’t all about calories in/calories out).
The third rule is to not drink calories.
The fourth rule is to not eat fruit, except tomatoes and avocados. Fruit has a lot of sugar (Fructose), of course. Many people might disagree with no-eating-fruit rule.
The fifth and final rule is the most interesting: Take one day off per week and go wild. Pig out and eat whatever you want. Why? By spiking your caloric intake once a week, you can limit your body from reducing its metabolic rate because of calories restriction (another reason why fat loss is about more than calories in/calories out—despite my positive Fitbit experience). And for some people, having a day to go wild with food might make it easier to stay on this diet. This is called the cheat day.
2.When You Do Eat Poorly, You Can Minimize the Harm
Ferriss suggests several ideas to minimize harm from your cheat day—you should really read the book—including, for example by minimizing the release of insulin by incorporating protein and insoluble fiber into the first meal of the day and engaging in brief muscular contraction throughout the day. Consult the book to learn more tips and the rationale behind these approaches.
3.Cold Temperature for Fat Loss
The chapter entitled “Ice Age: Mastering Temperature to Manipulate Weight,” is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting in the book. The idea is that when you are in water (or an ice bath), your body loses heat much faster than when it is merely surrounded by air. So your metabolism increases and you burn more calories to maintain your body temperature. The difference, especially over time, is measurable.
So if you want to turbo-charge your fat loss, experiment with ice baths and water immersion. Or just take a swim. As Ferriss points out at the start of the chapter, apparently at one point, celebrated Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps ate 12,000 calories a day.
We highly recommend that you read “ The 4-Hour Body.” This brief discussion doesn’t do it justice and merely hits just the tip of the iceberg of the book, which goes deep into many other interesting topics.
If you are interested in diet and nutrition, you might also enjoy our articles about Robb Wolf's "The Paleo Solution, the Original Human Diet", "Perfect Health Diet" by Jaminet and Jaminet, and Brain Maker by David Perlmutter. You can purchase any of these nutrition books by clicking on them below.
Let us know in the comments below what approaches to fat loss have worked and haven't worked for you.