The 4-Hour Body Book Review: Why Tim Ferriss’s Book Could Be A Huge Waste Of Your Time, But Might Change Your Life.

The 4 Hour Body by Tim Ferriss
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Ever since the book was released in December of 2010, I’ve received several dozen e-mails from listeners and readers asking me “what I think of” Tim Ferriss’s book, The 4-Hour Body. Frankly, this book is compelling and popular enough to where you should probably have a good idea of what it’s all about before you rush to grab it for yourself or as a special birthday gift your pimpled nephew.

Maybe you’ve never heard of The 4 Hour Body. So let’s start with this book trailer video…

10 years of experiments…100+ scientists consulted…1 human guinea pig…hold your breath for 5 minutes…lift 500 pounds…run 100 miles…lose 100 pounds…

From the very start, the trailer hints at what this book attempts to be: a how-to manual for just about every feat of physical stamina, strength, sexual endeavor and even sleep. And as such, the book cannot possibly be reviewed as a whole. Because so many topics are covered in The 4-Hour Body it reads more like an encyclopedia or a cookbook, hopping from topic to topic depending on what the reader’s fancy may be.

The 4 Hour Body by Tim FerrissTo his credit, Tim Ferriss acknowledges in his introduction that The 4-Hour Body shouldn’t be attempted as one long read, but rather as a series of mini-books, broken into each respective chapter. But unfortunately, this does mean that Tim’s book could be a huge waste of your time (or money) if you just want to, say, get to the “lose 100 pounds” part. Sure, if you’re a female who wants a flat stomach, you’ll get 100+ pages of fat-loss tips, but you’ll also get slammed with a few hundred more pages on topics like how to make your biceps really big or how to engage in a search-and-attack mission on the pleasurable parts of your female anatomy. But if you don’t mind thumbing through a very big book to find the tips that meet your specific needs, The 4 Hour Body could be worth checking out.

The biggest barrier for you to overcome while reading this book, and the biggest problem with the book, is that it is one giant case study of what worked for Timothy Ferriss, one of his friends, and/or a small band of his followers.

In other words, large scale epidemiological or controlled research data is almost completely missing from the book, which means that when Tim tells you “how to sleep 2 hours a day and feel fully rest”, “how to add 50+ pounds to your lifts in 6 months”, or “how to increase fat-loss 300% with a few bags of ice”, he is relying on evidence  from stuff he tried on himself, or something somebody he knows says works.

So…if you’re anticipating that by using the tips in The 4-Hour Body to get the results attained by a  30-something year old male, but instead you’re a post-menopausal female, 15 year old boy, or weekend warrior baby boomer, you may find yourself sorely disappointed. Once again, to his credit, Tim does acknowledge this fact in his book.

So, since The 4 Hour Body is basically a series of mini-books, I’m going to split this into a series of mini-reviews. Here we go.

Part 1: Subtracting Fat

In this section of the book, Tim begins with the “Slow Carb” diet – which is basically a recycled high-protein diet. While the “20 pounds in 30 days” promised by this diet is entirely possible, the reader needs to beware that storage carbohydrate carries about 4 times it’s weight in water (meaning much of the initial weight loss is water weight), and that once 6 months has been exceed, there is absolutely no difference in weight loss observed between Atkins, Zone, Ornish, or LEARN diets (if you’re a geek, check out the 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association for the data). So high protein diets are wonderful for shedding weight quickly, but good luck holding onto success for life with that one, especially in light of Tim’s rule “No Fruit Allowed”.

Tim moves on to strategies that have been common knowledge among fitness professionals for years, but which he graciously brings to the spotlight based on his incredible ability to sell books and get publicity. Strategies such as: if you’re going to binge, then exercise first; keeping yourself warm burns more calories; don’t let your blood sugar wildly fluctuate.

Despite the “Subtracting Fat” section being pretty much a yawner for any exercise professional or anyone who keeps themselves up-to-date on a website like this one, Tim does have a pretty interesting “PAGG fat loss supplement stack“, which I liked, especially because it 1) has decent research behind it; 2) is cheap; and 3) won’t drive your adrenal glands to fatigue.

Overall Grade: 7 of 10

Part 2: Adding Muscle

In the next section of The 4-Hour Body, Tim pulls a complete 180 and turns to teaching you how to eat until you vomit and lift heavy stuff so that you can put on tons of muscle. This entire section read like page-after-page of Flex magazine (a popular bodybuilding rag), with supplement regimens such as NO-Xplode with casein protein and ChromeMate, mixed with everything from kettlebell swings to “five seconds up, five seconds down” lifting to attempting to get 80-120 seconds of “time under tension” for each exercise.

Again, I was perhaps jaded as a fitness professional and ex-bodybuilder as I thumbed through this section, but it was primarily information that has been recycled literally for decades among muscle-heads, and read like a random hodge-podge of muscle building strategies that are not remotely new. However, if you’re a dude who wants to get big, and you feel like using about 50 pages of content sandwiched in between 550 other pages, then knock yourself out.

Overall Grade: 3 of 10

Part 3: Improving Sex

I have to admit, I jumped straight to this chapter first. Like many men who have probably picked up The 4-Hour Body while standing in the bookstore for this very reason, I wanted to find out about the “15 Minute Female Orgasm”. In my mind’s eye, I could picture romping like a rabbit for hours in bed, until my wife collapsed in one exhausted, incredibly satisfied heap of happiness. But I quickly learned that the entire magic secret primarily involved hand pleasuring, which I personally find a bit dull and impersonal (and so does she, incidentally).

But Tim goes on to present a pretty entertaining “triple your testosterone” chapter. Since I doubled my testosterone in Podcast #81 from this website, I was curious to see how he one-upped me. While I used Bioletics Optimale, magnesium, vitamin D, fish oil and amino acids, he sprung for cold showers, almond and brazil nuts, cod liver oil, butter fat and grass fed steak. I immediately committed to adding in more cold showers, butter and steak.

Overall Grade: 7 of 10

Part 4: Perfecting Sleep

If you have difficulty sleeping, this is a must-read part of The 4 Hour Body, and probably one of the more comprehensive treatises on tricks and tools to help you get to sleep faster and sleep better. I breezed through this section quickly, since I’m usually out like a rock as soon as my head hits the pillow, but actually garnered advice from this section that I’ve dished out to my clients, like using a Zeo Personal Sleep Coach system or travel humidifier, or sleeping in a “half military crawl position”.

Some sections are a bit unreal, such as “becoming uberman”, in which you learn how you can sleep as little as 2 hours, as long as you take 6 extremely precisely timed 20 minute naps through the day. Some of you may remember me talking about that strategy in Podcast #110, and I think the same think about it now as I did then: a bit unrealistic for the average person. Tim also mentions some common sleep supplements such as melatonin, and some less common supplements, such as California poppy extract (the latter of which I tried after reading the book and experienced some pretty vivid dreaming cycles).

Overall Grade: 8 of 10

Part 5: Reversing Injuries

In “How To Recover Like Wolverine From X-Men” and “Ironman Lightning Speed Recovery Secrets” I thought I’d cover this topic extensively, but Tim Ferriss took it one step further in The 4-Hour Body. Tim, who is apparently one chronically injured guy, did platelet rich plasma injections, stem cell injections, then moved on to functional movement screens, Feldenkrais, Pilates, Tai Chi, Yoga, Egoscue, Acupuncture, Active-release Technique, topical testosterone patches, DMSO, Arnica, intramuscular and subcutaneous injections. Some of this stuff you probably know about, but some you almost surely don’t.

If you’re into traditional and fringe recovery techniques, this part of the chapter is a pretty entertaining read, but remember that this is the stuff that worked for Tim and his specific injuries, and may not necessarily work for you. Regardless, I’m a recovery hacking junkie, so I dug the read.

Overall Grade: 8 of 10

Part 6: Running Faster and Farther

For this section of The 4-Hour Body, Tim taps into some very respectable fitness and human performance professionals such as Charlie Francis and Joe DeFranco to find out how to improve his vertical jump and 40 yard dash, then goes after some more endurance related endeavours, such as making grand plans to run a 50K (although I’m not sure if he ever actually did that). For the latter, he taps into Brian MacKenzie of Crossfit Endurance fame, and comes out with more of a high-intensity interval training program, which I really enjoyed seeing, and which would be beneficial for any of you wanting to run really far but not spend a lot of time preparing to do it.

As an endurance and triathlon coach, I approached the “run farther” section of this chapter with a great deal of criticism, but came out the other side agreeing with 99% of what was written, from injury prevention to training protocols. It was nice to see Tim going outside the norm of simply approaching things from a traditional aerobic standpoint.

Overall Grade: 9 of 10

Part 7: Getting Stronger

Although it is true that there is a distinct difference between “adding muscle” and “getting stronger”, I felt that these two sections of The 4-Hour Body could have easily been combined. This very short section basically covers heavy deadlifts, sprinting and bench pressing techniques, and the only earth-shattering element is the fact that a champion sprint coach trains his athletes with a ton of underdistance at race speed, and it’s very surprising how fast a sprinter can be trained to go with a very limited amount of training.

Overall Grade: 4 of 10

Part 8: From Swimming to Swinging

If you are A) someone who is just getting into swimming or B) you want to hit a baseball farther, then this section of The 4 Hour Body is probably for you. The swimming section is basically a commercial for Total Immersion style swimming and how it changed Tim’s life, and the swinging section is a demonstration of some mildy interested baseball hitting tips.

But just when I thought the final section of the book was going to end with a disappointing thud, Tim threw in a couple extra chapters (in the Swimming to Swinging?) section, entitled “How To Hold Your Breath Longer Than Houdini” and “Living Forever”. If you are someone who likes to see how far you can swim underwater in a pool, then the former has some neat tricks in it, but if you want to live a really long time, most of the tips in the latter seem to suggest that you’ll need to be miserable if you want to do (very low calorie diet, anyone?).

Overall Grade: 5 of 10

But that ain’t all, folks. With almost 100 pages of Appendices & Extras, there’s a few goodies thrown in at the end, such as slow carb diet recipes and stuff you could eat the day before having sex to increase your performance (I suggest you think twice about implementing these protocols if you have genetic cardiovascular disease, or don’t like steak and eggs).

Final note: many of the “bonus” links at the end of each chapter of The 4-Hour Body simply didn’t seem to work or went to the wrong websites. I didn’t mind this too much, although it was slightly bothersome to click on a link for a motivational speech and get a baseball hitting instructional video instead.

So ultimately, is Tim Ferriss’s The 4 Hour Body worth reading? Yes. Will it change your life in the way that the video trailer suggests? Probably not. But it packs a good punch of entertainment, with some very cool snippets and personal anecdotes from Tim thrown it. Frankly, I’d buy any book from Tim, just for the ride.

Ben Greenfield’s Final Grade for Tim Ferris’s 4-Hour Body: 7 of 10

Of course, if you’ve read the 4-Hour Body, then you’ve probably got some 4 Hour Body reviews of your own! If you want to see what others think of your opinions, then leave your comments or thoughts below. And feel free to leave questions about anything I didn’t address. Finally, Tim Ferriss *did* come on for a special cold and fat loss interview on Podcast #130: Tim Ferriss and Ray Cronise Explain How To Manipulate Your Body’s Temperature To Burn More Fat.” , so you can learn more there.

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40 thoughts on “The 4-Hour Body Book Review: Why Tim Ferriss’s Book Could Be A Huge Waste Of Your Time, But Might Change Your Life.

  1. We got the book out of curiosity and upon recommendation of our Egoscue contact. Definitely not been able to put it down. I find it very interesting and think the Slow carb diet is worth a try. If you can ask him his opinion about losing intial weight on this diet and THEN adding in small amounts of fruit etc after 30 days to maintain I would appreciate it. I do recall your mentioning in a podcast I recently listened to that if you are trying to lose weight to back off the fruit (or something along those lines)…not a direct quote but I recalled your comment bc I had just read Tims book on the Slow carb diet and the lack of fruit except on cheat days. Although there is a ton of information in here and a lot of it may not apply to everyone i venture a guess that most people that would actually pick up that book and buy it are probably going to look at the rest of the content out of pure interest in the human body and it's potential….regardless of whether you're a 39 year old female (like me) or a 36 year old male triathlete (like my husband).

  2. finishing up from prior comment: Everything in it is pretty interesting and the way he writes is hysterical. "Drink a keg if the spirit so moves you?" on cheat day?
    and "I hate f*ing beans" gave me little giggle…especially when it was followed up with a comment about farting. Entertaining and interesting I have enjoyed it thus far.
    I look forward to hearing what he says about maintenance after loss on the slow carb diet.
    Thanks for all of your useful information….keeps my walks entertaining and I always get home with useful information.
    Carmen Hunter
    Clarksville TN

    1. he never gets to maintence! it's a question i've been thinking on extensively… does he mean the last 4% to be the maintence factor or is he somehow losing an infinite amount of weight? :)

  3. A little typo: In part one, it should be "four time its weight" rather than "four time it's weight". No apostrophe.
    The trainers at my gym all seem to despise this book without having read it. Thanks for the honest review!

    1. Wow. Someone writes an entire book and you're proud to find a typo. You're a genius! …and a little annoying, but you probably know that.

  4. I just got the book and have lost 7 lbs in 6 days. It's early yet, so I'm not raving or dismissing the book; I'm just giving it a fair shake to see what happens if I follow his plan.

    My main complaint so far is this – Ferriss makes it a little difficult to get started. Would it have killed him to create a grocery list, a few sample menus and a supplement list? It makes me a little nervous picking though the index to find out what supplements I should use and what concentrations.

  5. Well said, Ben.

    The book was a bit confusing to me, jumping all around like that. However, it did motivate me to change some of my habits.

    As a professional Chef and cooking instructor, I especially hooked onto the slow-carbs and cooking section. I've changed my diet and started filming all my meal preparations.

    I'll keep you posted on how it goes. For now, I'd give the advice that should be behind any "how-to" or advice book — use the elements that are right for YOU. And, you are not Tim Ferriss.

    Chef Todd Mohr

  6. It all sounds really great, but when it comes to fat loss no one thing is going to work for everyone – especially women. I could never lose fat like Tim, not for the diet part of it, because there is just simply not enough activity. I love kb swings just as much as the next guy, but I need high intensity cardio in intervals of 2 minutes for at least 30 minutes most days of the week (in addition to the diet) to see results like him.

  7. I’d appreciate it, if you’d ask him how you come off the fat loss regimen. I’ve been doing it for less than a week, even though I am an avid exerciser and I’m looking to lose body fat % more so than actually “weight”, but I have noticed in just these few days alone, a change in my physique already! I’ve been doing a Paleo-ish type regimen, with the advise of my crossfit coach. I only do crossfit 3 days a week, and do other exercises (cardio & weights etc) on my days I don’t do crossfit. So mainly I’ve been doing a lot of fruits (berries and grapefruit) for carbs on crossfit days. I’ve noticed WAY better results on this 4 Hour Body regimen. So with that being said, what would his (Tim’s) and yours, be for coming off this and maintaining a low body fat %.

    1. Why would you need to come off of it? I have been on it for 60 days stared at 271 lbs. currently at 227 lbs. I am a 52 year old male and see no reason to eat any other way. I lostb the first 18 lbs. recovery from a knee injury playing hockey so I could barely walk.

  8. I would appreciate if you could ask him if he has experienced polyphasic sleep. If that is the case, could he describe it ?
    Many thanks
    Virginie

  9. Read the book and just finished one month on the diet. Followed it to the letter and did not binge on the allowed foods. Total weight loss close to 10lbs. I call bullshit to loosing 20lbs in 30 days. The book is entertaining, Ferriss believes he truly is the man. What does he really know about female orgasm?

  10. Thanks to everyone who is posting. I love the idea of this book, and I've read through most of it. If anyone has created a nice step by step plan from this I would love to see it! Maybe Tim will create one now that he knows we need it, but I can't wait! :-) Just a clear, one week menu and shopping list is all I need. How did you who have worked the plan for a month figure all this out? You are much smarter than me, I bet!!
    Thanks a ton!

  11. I sent the book back. Between body for life, atkins and Power of Ten workout. I didn't get much new info for a better routine.

  12. My son and me are doing this diet together. On second day and have lost 4 lbs. (my son has lost 2) I drink lots of water, he doesn't. He is wondering if the diet is safe? I think it is very difficult to not eat fresh fruit, as I always have. How safe is it to eat this way and for how long?

    1. It's fine to eat that way, as long as you're not exercising so much that you're depleting all your body's carbohydrate stores, which can be tough on your immune system and organs. if you're working out for 1+ hours per day, include fruits.

    2. Ferriss makes the point in the book that not all people were meant to have to eat fruit everyday. He points out that hundreds of years ago in say Denmark, people wouldn't have had access to fresh oranges or bananas. They'r not a neccesity, I wouldn't worry about it. If you're concerned about the vitamins people get from eating fruits, you can always get that in pill form.

  13. I don't understand all the foods that are allowed. Can we eat nuts? avacado? tomato?
    Olives? seasoned rice vinager? so many items and don't have answers. Is there a list of ok foods and not ok foods?
    thanks. please e-mail me.

  14. I found your review very helpful, thank you. You saved me some money and reminded me that I already know what I need to know to lose weight.

  15. I found it awful really, filled with so much confusing science without going more into detail. I dont have much time to read a book much less a magazine article so bought the audio CDs, which I wish i bought the book so i could return it! Completely disappointing! So surprised Dr Oz would have him on his show!

  16. I was interested in this book. Until I read this review. Then this reviews terrible attention to grammar and spelling turned me off entirely. I won't be reading a book nor following its' advice when it receives a 7/10 and Greenfield can't even be bothered to proof his own writing. Meanwhile, Greenfield coaches people? Shame on him.

    1. Do you realize that your third sentence ("Then this reviews terrible attention . . .") doesn't make any sense? Maybe you should proof your own writing!

  17. What a troll comment. You won't read a book because a reviewer made grammatical mistakes? Good for you, no one cares.

    Thanks for the article, I have just read 4hb and i'm starting the diet, it's good to know these things (like the workout wisdom being common and conventional) now I feel more comfortable with it. I won't recommend it until I see my results but it is actually the first book that motivated me to change my diet significantly.

  18. I've just started reading it, and I find it entertaining. Many of these types of books go off the 'deep end' quickly and lose me from the start. My sister has been following Tim's diet, and I have to say that while she's not losing weight (post-menopausal, diabetic) she has gotten her blood sugar low enough to go off of a lot of her meds AND her fast-acting insulin, and she's only been doing this for about 2 months. Her doctor has told her to keep doing whatever she's doing!

  19. For adding muscle, 4HB recommends doing two different workouts, one set of 3 exercises each at a very slow tempo to failure, as little as once a week. Is this really enough to gain muscle? Is this really better than working out more often and doing more exercises? I see you mentioned that most of his suggestions aren't anything new, but are you saying that they work? Would you do something like this now if you went back to body building? Thanks!!

    1. If you lifted very heavy, you would gain strength with this, and SOME muscle, but not as much muscle as the time under tension and higher damage that 10-12 reps will give you. I wouldn't go near any program that went as low as 3-6 reps if I were bodybuilding OTHER than the initial strength building phase.

  20. I have tried countless times to search and find an answer to a simple question. Has Tim Ferriss ran a 50k? He obviously has got a lot of good advice but if he doesn't walk the talk then I'm very dissappointed. Since reading his book I have done 3 endurance runs in 5 months from scratch (doing a mixture of training) and I'm 57 yrs old. I would love to read a full analysis of what he did….if he did it as it would be incredibly useful. Does anybody know????

  21. Hi Ben,
    Quick question on following the slow carb diet. Tim says post workout fueling can break the rules, but what about fueling during training. I am currently training for an ironman. Not going to stay on this diet forever but want to drop about 20 over the next 30 days or so to get closer to my ideal weight earlier in the season this year.

    Thanks!

  22. I read this book of Tim Ferris and I have to say that I have enjoyed it a lot. Yet it a large and long book, but it is worth your time reading it especially who wants to have a good body spending little energy , time and money.

  23. I have been following Tim's slow carb diet for about 2 months. I have decreased my body fat by 8%, and have gained about 5lbs of muscle. Pretty impressive results given that I have made no other lifestyle changes. I know first hand that this works! I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a relatively easy diet to shed fat.

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