Review: The 4-Hour Body

Back in the summer of 2007 I was in a rut. Work was just a job, and at night I’d watch TV or spend time online in various internet forums. Then I stumbled across the book The 4-Hour Workweek.

If you haven’t heard of it, it’s about “lifestyle design”. Most people see it as a manual for starting an online business. What I took from it was the idea that your time is a more important measure of independence than money. And I realized that all the time I spent online wasn’t building any equity. If I took all the posts I’d made to various forums over a year, I probably had enough material for a book. So I decided to write one. That was the start of How To Cook Like Your Grandmother.

The author of 4HWW, Tim Ferris, now has come out with a book about bodystyle design (Did I just coin that phrase? I think I might have.) — The 4-Hour Body I don’t know yet if it’s going to have the same effect on me as the first one, but so far it looks promising.

Choose your own adventure

Just like Ferris’ last book, there’s way more information in 4HB than you can use at one time. But this time he provides a roadmap for four different ways you can read it. You can read the eight chapters about weight loss; eight chapters on muscle gain; seven chapters on strength gain; or twelve chapters on sense of total well-being, which includes improving sex and sleep.

Of course I started with … weight loss. (What did you think I was going to say?) And pretty much everything he says lines up with what I’ve been reading for the past couple of years. The short version is that most of the conventional wisdom is wrong:

  • It’s not just about calories in vs. calories out.
  • Eating fat doesn’t make you fat, eating carbs makes you fat.
  • Working out will build your muscles, but won’t eliminate fat.

Science isn’t just for scientists

Ferris gets into lots of detail about the why behind each of his recommendations. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, he went into lots of detail on lots of things. But more importantly, he’s actually tested everything in the book … on himself. Sure, that means he has a sample size of one, but everything he tried is based on the work of experts in various fields: bodybuilders, powerlifters, Olympians, trainers, dietitians and PhD’s.

The scientific method is about experimentation. Whether you support their activities or not, you have to admit bodybuilders (for instance) are willing to conduct experiments on muscular development and weight loss.

That doesn’t mean Ferris is saying you should take steroids, or even supplements. In fact, the basic weight loss diet doesn’t call for any supplements. If you want to go from 15% body fat to 8% though … yeah, you’ll need something more than diet and exercise.

So does it work?

I don’t know if it will work on me yet. I’ll be trying it out starting next month. There’s no way I’m starting a new diet before the holidays. Stay tuned.