Table of Contents
Thinner, Bigger, Faster, Stronger? How to Use This Book
Fundamentals – First and Foremost
The Minimum Effective Dose: From Microwaves to Fat-loss
Rules That Change the Rules: Everything Popular Is Wrong
Ground Zero-Getting Started and Swaraj
The Harajuku Moment: The Decision to Become a Complete Human
Elusive Bodyfat: Where Are You Really?
From Photos to Fear: Making Failure Impossible
- The Slow- Carb Diet I: How to Lose 20 Pounds in 30 Days Without Exercise
The Slow-Carb Diet II: The Finer Points and Common Questions
Damage Control: Preventing Fat Gain When You Binge
The Four Horsemen of Fat-Loss
- Ice Age: Mastering Temperature to Manipulate Weight
The Glucose Switch: Beautiful Number 100
The Last Mile: Losing the Final 5-10 Pounds
Building the Perfect Posterior (or Losing 100+ Pounds)
Six-Minute Abs: Two Exercises That Actually Work
From Geek to Freak: How to Gain 34 Pounds in 28 Days
Occam’s Protocol I: A Minimalist Approach to Mass
Occam’s Protocol II: The Finer Points
The 15-Minute Female Orgasm-Part Un
The 15-Minute Female Orgasm-Part Deux
Sex Machine I: Adventures in Tripling Testosterone
Happy Endings and Doubling Sperm Count
Engineering the Perfect Night’s Sleep
Becoming Uberman: Sleeping Less with Polyphasic Sleep
Reversing “Permanent” Injuries
How to Pay for a Beach Vacation with One Hospital Visit
Pre-Hab: Injury-Proofing the Body
Running Faster and Farther
Hacking the NFL Combine I: Preliminaries—Jumping Higher
Hacking the NFL Combine II: Running Faster
Ultraendurance I: Going from 5K to 50K in 12 Weeks—Phase I
Ultraendurance II: Going from 5K to 50K in 12 Weeks—Phase II
Effortless Superhuman: Breaking World Records with Barry Ross
Eating the Elephant: How to Add 100 Pounds to Your Bench Press
From Swimming to Swinging
On Longer and Better Life
Living Forever: Vaccines, Bleeding, and Other Fun
Closing Thoughts: The Trojan Horse
Appendices and Extras
Helpful Measurements and Conversions
Getting Tested—From Nutrients to Muscle Fibers
Muscles of the Body
The Value of Self-Experimentation
Spotting Bad Science 101: How Not to Trick Yourself
Spotting Bad Science 102: So You Have a Pill . . .
The Slow-Carb Diet—194 People
Sex Machine II: Details and Dangers
The Meatless Machine I: Reasons to Try a Plant-Based Diet for Two Weeks
The Meatless Machine II: A 28-Day Experiment
Spot Reduction Revisited: Removing Stubborn Thigh Fat
Becoming Brad Pitt: Uses and Abuses of DNA
The China Study: A Well-Intentioned Critique
Heavy Metal: Your Personal Toxin Map
The Top 10 Reasons Why BMI Is Bogus
Hyperclocking and Related Mischief: How to Increase Strength 10% in One Workout
Creativity on Demand: The Promises and Dangers of Smart Drugs
An Alternative to Dieting: The Bodyfat Set Point and Tricking the Hypothalamus
Back to Top
THINNER, BIGGER, FASTER, STRONGER?
How to Use This Book
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA, 10 P.M., FRIDAY
Shoreline Amphitheater was rocking. More than 20,000 people had turned out at northern California’s largest music venue to hear Nine Inch Nails, loud and in charge, on what was expected to be their last tour.
Backstage, there was more unusual entertainment.
“Dude, I go into the stall to take care of business, and I look over and see the top of Tim’s head popping above the divider. He was doing f*cking air squats in the men’s room in complete silence.”
Glenn, a videographer and friend, burst out laughing as he reenacted my technique. To be honest, he needed to get his thighs closer to parallel.
“Forty air squats, to be exact,” I offered.
Kevin Rose, founder of Digg, one of the top-500 most popular websites in the world, joined in the laughter and raised a beer to toast the incident. I, on the other hand, was eager to move on to the main event.
In the next 45 minutes, I consumed almost two full-size barbecue chicken pizzas and three handfuls of mixed nuts, for a cumulative total of about 4,400 calories. It was my fourth meal of the day, breakfast having consisted of two glasses of grapefruit juice, a large cup of coffee with cinnamon, two chocolate croissants, and two bear claws.
The more interesting portion of the story started well after Trent Reznor left the stage.
Roughly 72 hours later, I tested my bodyfat percentage with an ultrasound analyzer designed by a physicist out of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Charting the progress on my latest experiment, I’d dropped from 11.9% to 10.2% bodyfat, a 14% reduction of the total fat on my body, in 14 days.
How? Timed doses of garlic, sugar cane, and tea extracts, among other things.
The process wasn’t punishing. It wasn’t hard. Tiny changes were all it took. Tiny changes that, while small in isolation, produced enormous changes when used in combination.
Want to extend the fat-burning half-life of caffeine? Naringenin, a useful little molecule in grapefruit juice, does just the trick.
Need to increase insulin sensitivity before bingeing once per week? Just add some cinnamon to your pastries on Saturday morning, and you can get the job done.
Want to blunt your blood glucose for 60 minutes while you eat a high-carb meal guilt-free? There are a half-dozen options.
But 2% bodyfat in two weeks? How can that be possible if many general practitioners claim that it’s impossible to lose more than two pounds of fat per week? Here’s the sad truth: most of the one-size-fits-all rules, this being one example, haven’t been field-tested for exceptions.
You can’t change your muscle fiber type? Sure you can. Genetics be damned.
Calories in and calories out? It’s incomplete at best. I’ve lost fat while grossly overfeeding. Cheesecake be praised.
The list goes on and on.
It’s obvious that the rules require some rewriting.
That’s what this book is for.
Diary of a Madman
The spring of 2007 was an exciting time for me.
My first book, after being turned down by 26 out of 27 publishers, had just hit the New York Times bestseller list and seemed headed for #1 on the business list, where it landed several months later. No one was more dumbfounded than me.
One particularly beautiful morning in San Jose, I had my first major media phone interview with Clive Thompson of Wired magazine. During our pre-interview small chat, I apologized if I sounded buzzed. I was. I had just finished a 10-minute workout following a double espresso on an empty stomach. It was a new experiment that would take me to single-digit body-fat with two such sessions per week.
Clive wanted to talk to me about e-mail and websites like Twitter. Before we got started, and as a segue from the workout comment, I joked that the major fears of modern man could be boiled down to two things: too much e-mail and getting fat. Clive laughed and agreed. Then we moved on.
The interview went well, but it was this offhand joke that stuck with me. I retold it to dozens of people over the subsequent month, and the response was always the same: agreement and nodding.
This book, it seemed, had to be written.
The wider world thinks I’m obsessed with time management, but they haven’t seen the other—much more legitimate, much more ridiculous—obsession.
I’ve recorded almost every workout I’ve done since age 18. I’ve had more than 1,000 blood tests1 performed since 2004, sometimes as often as every two weeks, tracking everything from complete lipid panels, insulin, and hemoglobin A1c, to IGF-1 and free testosterone. I’ve had stem cell growth factors imported from Israel to reverse “permanent” injuries, and I’ve flown to rural tea farmers in China to discuss Pu-Erh tea’s effects on fat-loss. All said and done, I’ve spent more than $250,000 on testing and tweaking over the last decade.
Just as some people have avant-garde furniture or artwork to decorate their homes, I have pulse oximeters, ultrasound machines, and medical devices for measuring everything from galvanic skin response to REM sleep.
The kitchen and bathroom look like an ER.
If you think that’s craziness, you’re right. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a guinea pig to benefit from one.
Hundreds of men and women have tested the techniques in The 4-Hour Body (4HB) over the last two years, and I’ve tracked and graphed hundreds of their results (194 people in this book). Many have lost more than 20 pounds of fat in the first month of experimentation, and for the vast majority, it’s the first time they’ve ever been able to do so.
Why do 4HB approaches work where others fail?
Because the changes are either small or simple, and often both. There is zero room for misunderstanding, and visible results compel you to continue. If results are fast and measurable,2 self-discipline isn’t needed.
I can give you every popular diet in four lines. Ready?
- Eat more greens.
- Eat less saturated fat.
- Exercise more and burn more calories.
- Eat more omega-3 fatty acids.
We won’t be covering any of this. Not because it doesn’t work—it does . . . up to a point. But it’s not the type of advice that will make friends greet you with “What the #$%& have you been doing?!”, whether in the dressing room or on the playing field.
That requires an altogether different approach.
The Unintentional Dark Horse
Let’s be clear: I’m neither a doctor nor a PhD. I am a meticulous data cruncher with access to many of the world’s best athletes and scientists.
This puts me in a rather unusual position.
I’m able to pull from disciplines and subcultures that rarely touch one another, and I’m able to test hypotheses using the kind of self-experimentation mainstream practitioners can’t condone (though their help behind the scenes is critical). By challenging basic assumptions, it’s possible to stumble upon simple and unusual solutions to long-standing problems.
Overfat? Try timed protein and pre-meal lemon juice.
Undermuscled? Try ginger and sauerkraut.
Can’t sleep? Try upping your saturated fat or using cold exposure.
This book includes the findings of more than 100 PhDs, NASA scientists, medical doctors, Olympic athletes, professional sports trainers (from the NFL to MLB), world-record holders, Super Bowl rehabilitation specialists, and even former Eastern Bloc coaches. You’ll meet some of the most incredible specimens, including before- and- after transformations, you’ve ever seen.
I don’t have a publish- or- perish academic career to preserve, and this is a good thing. As one MD from a well-known Ivy League university said to me over lunch:
We’re trained for 20 years to be risk-averse. I’d like to do the experimentation, but I’d risk everything I’ve built over two decades of schooling and training by doing so. I’d need an immunity necklace. The university would never tolerate it.
He then added: “You can be the dark horse.”
It’s a strange label, but he was right. Not just because I have no prestige to lose. I’m also a former industry insider.
From 2001 to 2009, I was CEO of a sports nutrition company with distribution in more than a dozen countries, and while we followed the rules, it became clear that many others didn’t. It wasn’t the most profitable option. I have witnessed blatant lies on nutritional fact panels, marketing executives budgeting for FTC fines in anticipation of lawsuits, and much worse from some of the best-known brands in the business.3 I understand how and where consumers are deceived. The darker tricks of the trade in supplements and sports nutrition—clouding results of “clinical trials” and creative labeling as just two examples—are nearly the same as in biotech and Big Pharma.
I will teach you to spot bad science, and therefore bad advice and bad products.4
Late one evening in the fall of 2009, I sat eating cassoulet and duck legs with Dr. Lee Wolfer in the clouds of fog known as San Francisco. The wine was flowing, and I told her of my fantasies to return to a Berkeley or Stanford and pursue a doctorate in the biological sciences. I was briefly a neuroscience major at Princeton University and dreamed of a PhD at the end of my name. Lee is regularly published in peer-reviewed journals and has been trained at some of the finest programs in the world, including the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) (MD), Berkeley (MS), Harvard Medical School (residency), the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (fellowship), and Spinal Diagnostics in Daly City, California (fellowship).
She just smiled and raised a glass of wine before responding:
“You—Tim Ferriss—can do more outside the system than inside it.”
A Laboratory of One
“Many of these theories have been killed off only when some decisive experiment exposed their incorrectness . . . thus the yeoman work in any science . . . is done by the experimentalist, who must keep the theoreticians honest.”—Michio Kaku (Hyperspace)
Theoretical physicist and co-creator of string field theory
Most breakthroughs in performance (and appearance) enhancement start with animals and go through the following adoption curve:
Racehorses → AIDS patients (because of muscle wasting) and bodybuilders → elite athletes → rich people → the rest of us
The last jump from the rich to the general public can take 10–20 years, if it happens at all. It often doesn’t.
I’m not suggesting that you start injecting yourself with odd substances never before tested on humans. I am suggesting, however, that government agencies (the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration) are at least 10 years behind current research, and at least 20 years behind compelling evidence in the field.
More than a decade ago, a close friend named Paul was in a car accident and suffered brain damage that lowered his testosterone production. Even with supplemental testosterone treatments (creams, gels, short-acting injectables) and after visiting scores of top endocrinologists, he still suffered from the symptoms of low testosterone. Everything changed— literally overnight—once he switched to testosterone enanthate, a variation seldom seen in the medical profession in the United States. Who made the suggestion? An advanced bodybuilder who knew his biochemistry. It shouldn’t have made a difference, yet it did.
Do doctors normally take advantage of the 50+ years of experience that professional bodybuilders have testing, even synthesizing, esters of testosterone? No. Most doctors view bodybuilders as cavalier amateurs, and bodybuilders view doctors as too risk-averse to do anything innovative.
This separation of the expertise means both sides suffer suboptimal results.
Handing your medical care over to the biggest man-gorilla in your gym is a bad idea, but it’s important to look for discoveries outside of the usual suspects. Those closest to a problem are often the least capable of seeing it with fresh eyes.
Despite the incredible progress in some areas of medicine in the last 100 years, a 60-year-old in 2009 can expect to live an average of only 6 years longer than a 60-year-old in 1900.
Me? I plan on living to 120 while eating the best rib-eye cuts I can find.
More on that later.
Suffice to say: for uncommon solutions, you have to look in uncommon places.
The Future’s Already Here
In our current world, even if proper trials are funded for obesity studies as just one example, it might take 10–20 years for the results. Are you prepared to wait?
I hope not.
“Kaiser can’t talk to UCSF, who can’t talk to Blue Shield. You are the arbiter of your health information.” Those are the words of a leading surgeon at UCSF, who encouraged me to take my papers with me before hospital records claimed them as their property.
Now the good news: with a little help, it’s never been easier to collect a few data points (at little cost), track them (without training), and make small changes that produce incredible results.
Type 2 diabetics going off of medication 48 hours after starting a dietary intervention? Wheelchair-bound seniors walking again after 14 weeks of training? This is not science fiction. It’s being done today. As William Gibson, who coined the term “cyberspace,” has said:
“The future is already here—it is just unevenly distributed.”
The 80/20 Principle: From Wall Street to the Human Machine
This book is designed to give you the most important 2.5% of the tools you need for body recomposition and increased performance. Some short history can explain this odd 2.5%.
Vilfredo Pareto was a controversial economist-cum-sociologist who lived from 1848 to 1923. His seminal work, Cours d’économie politique, included a then little explored “law” of income distribution that would later bear his name: “Pareto’s Law,” or “the Pareto Distribution.” It is more popularly known as “the 80/20 Principle.”
Pareto demonstrated a grossly uneven but predictable distribution of wealth in society—80 percent of the wealth and income is produced and possessed by 20 percent of the population. He also showed that this 80/20 principle could be found almost everywhere, not just in economics. Eighty percent of Pareto’s garden peas were produced by 20% of the pea-pods he had planted, for example.
In practice, the 80/20 principle is often much more disproportionate.
To be perceived as fluent in conversational Spanish, for example, you need an active vocabulary of approximately 2,500 high-frequency words. This will allow you to comprehend more than 95% of all conversation. To get to 98% comprehension would require at least five years of practice instead of five months. Doing the math, 2,500 words is a mere 2.5% of the estimated 100,000 words in the Spanish language.
- 2.5% of the total subject matter provides 95% of the desired results.
- This same 2.5% provides just 3% less benefit than putting in 12 times as much effort.
This incredibly valuable 2.5% is the key, the Archimedes lever, for those who want the best results in the least time. The trick is finding that 2.5%.5
This book is not intended as a comprehensive treatise on all things related to the human body. My goal is to share what I have found to be the 2.5% that delivers 95% of the results in rapid body redesign and performance enhancement. If you are already at 5% bodyfat or bench-pressing 400 pounds, you are in the top 1% of humans and now in the world of incremental gains. This book is for the other 99% who can experience near-unbelievable gains in short periods of time.
How to Use This Book—Five Rules
It is important that you follow five rules with this book. Ignore them at your peril.
RULE #1. THINK OF THIS BOOK AS A BUFFET.
Do not read this book from start to finish.
Most people won’t need more than 150 pages to reinvent themselves. Browse the table of contents, pick the chapters that are most relevant, and discard the rest . . . for now. Pick one appearance goal and one performance goal to start.
The only mandatory sections are “Fundamentals” and “Ground Zero.” Here are some popular goals, along with the corresponding chapters to read in the order listed:
- All chapters in “Fundamentals”
- All chapters in “Ground Zero”
- “The Slow-Carb Diet I and II”
- “Building the Perfect Posterior”
- Total page count: 98
RAPID MUSCLE GAIN
- All chapters in “Fundamentals”
- All chapters in “Ground Zero”
- “From Geek to Freak”
- “Occam’s Protocol I and II”
- Total page count: 97
RAPID STRENGTH GAIN
- All chapters in “Fundamentals”
- All chapters in “Ground Zero”
- “Effortless Superhuman” (pure strength, little mass gain)
- “Pre-Hab: Injury-Proofing the Body”
- Total page count: 92
RAPID SENSE OF TOTAL WELL-BEING
- All chapters in “Fundamentals”
- All chapters in “Ground Zero”
- All chapters in “Improving Sex”
- All chapters in “Perfecting Sleep”
- “Reversing ‘Permanent’ Injuries”
- Total page count: 143
Once you’ve selected the bare minimum to get started, get started.
Then, once you’ve committed to a plan of action, dip back into the book at your leisure and explore. Immediately practical advice is contained in every chapter, so don’t discount something based on the title. Even if you are a meat-eater (as I am), for example, you will benefit from “The Meatless Machine.”
Just don’t read it all at once.
RULE #2. SKIP THE SCIENCE IF IT’S TOO DENSE.
You do not need to be a scientist to read this book.
For the geeks and the curious, however, I’ve included a lot of cool details. These details can often enhance your results but are not required reading. Such sections are boxed and labeled “Geek’s Advantage” with a “GA” symbol.
Even if you’ve been intimidated by science in the past, I encourage you to browse some of these GA sections—at least a few will offer some fun “holy sh*t!” moments and improve results 10% or so.
If you ever feel overwhelmed, though, skip them, as they’re not mandatory for the results you’re after.
RULE #3. PLEASE BE SKEPTICAL.
Don’t assume something is true because I say it is.
As the legendary Timothy Noakes PhD, author or co-author of more than 400 published research papers, is fond of saying: “Fifty percent of what we know is wrong. The problem is that we do not know which 50% it is.” Everything in this book works, but I have surely gotten some of the mechanisms completely wrong. In other words, I believe the how-to is 100% reliable, but some of the why-to will end up on the chopping block as we learn more.
RULE #4. DON’T USE SKEPTICISM AS AN EXCUSE FOR INACTION.
As the good Dr. Noakes also said to me about one Olympic training regimen: “This [approach] could be totally wrong, but it’s a hypothesis worth disproving.”
It’s important to look for hypotheses worth disproving.
Science starts with educated (read: wild-ass) guesses. Then it’s all trial and error. Sometimes you predict correctly from the outset. More often, you make mistakes and stumble across unexpected findings, which lead to new questions. If you want to sit on the sidelines and play full-time skeptic, suspending action until a scientific consensus is reached, that’s your choice. Just realize that science is, alas, often as political as a dinner party with die-hard Democrats and Republicans. Consensus comes late at best.
Don’t use skepticism as a thinly veiled excuse for inaction or remaining in your comfort zone. Be skeptical, but for the right reason: because you’re looking for the most promising option to test in real life.
Be proactively skeptical, not defensively skeptical.
Let me know if you make a cool discovery or prove me wrong. This book will evolve through your feedback and help.
RULE #5. ENJOY IT.
I’ve included a lot of odd experiences and screwups just for simple entertainment value. All fact and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
Much of the content is intended to be read as the diary of a madman. Enjoy it. More than anything, I’d like to impart the joy of exploration and discovery. Remember: this isn’t a homework assignment. Take it at your own pace.
The Billionaire Productivity Secret and the Experimental Lifestyle
“How do you become more productive?”
Richard Branson leaned back and thought for a second. The tropical sounds of his private oasis, Necker Island, murmured in the background. Twenty people sat around him at rapt attention, wondering what a billionaire’s answer would be to one of the big questions—perhaps the biggest question—of business. The group had been assembled by marketing impresario Joe Polish to brainstorm growth options for Richard’s philanthropic Virgin Unite. It was one of his many new ambitious projects. Virgin Group already had more than 300 companies, more than 50,000 employees, and $25 billion per year in revenue. In other words, Branson had personally built an empire larger than the GDP of some developing countries.
Then he broke the silence:
He was serious and elaborated: working out gave him at least four additional hours of productive time every day.
The cool breeze punctuated his answer like an exclamation point.
4HB is intended to be much more than a book.
I view 4HB as a manifesto, a call to arms for a new mental model of living: the experimental lifestyle. It’s up to you—not your doctor, not the newspaper—to learn what you best respond to. The benefits go far beyond the physical.
If you understand politics well enough to vote for a president, or if you have ever filed taxes, you can learn the few most important scientific rules for redesigning your body. These rules will become your friends, 100% reliable and trusted.
This changes everything.
It is my sincere hope, if you’ve suffered from dissatisfaction with your body, or confusion regarding diet and exercise, that your life will be divided into before-4HB and after-4HB. It can help you do what most people would consider superhuman, whether losing 100 pounds of fat or running 100 miles. It all works.
There is no high priesthood—there is cause and effect.
Welcome to the director’s chair.
Alles mit Maß und Ziel,
San Francisco, California
June 10, 2010
- Multiple tests are often performed from single blood draws of 10–12 vials. Back to Text
- Not just noticeable. Back to Text
- There are, of course, some outstanding companies with solid R&D and uncompromising ethics, but they are few and far between. Back to Text
- I have absolutely no financial interest in any of the supplements I recommend in this book. If you purchase any supplement from a link in this book, an affiliate commission is sent directly to the nonprofit DonorsChoose.org, which helps public schools in the United States. Back to Text
- Philosopher Nassim N. Taleb noted an important difference between language and biology that I’d like to underscore: the former is largely known and the latter is largely unknown. Thus, our 2.5% is not 2.5% of a perfect finite body of knowledge, but the most empirically valuable 2.5% of what we know now. Back to Text