Tim Ferriss Talks 4 Hour-Body and Fat Sports Fans

RM Herold@@BR_RollinFeatured ColumnistJune 29, 2011

I won't pussyfoot around it.  I gotta lose some weight but I couldn't figure out how to tackle the issue, so I pondered my dilemma...over a double cheeseburger.

On my way back from lunch a week ago I saw a co-worker that I hadn't seen much of in a few weeks. Not that I was avoiding him, but the Bleacher Report offices are huge now so you can lose someone for a while even if you don't mean to. Anyway, Steve Paulo had lost a ton of weight, as in over thirty pounds, and I needed to know how he did it. He pointed me to the 4-Hour Body and it's bestselling author, Tim Ferriss.

Anyone who knows me knows I'm a skeptic. But seeing is believing and Steve was living proof that this thing was working. So I tracked Tim down to see if he could give you guys out there reading BR some advice on how to jump into a routine to help you see some real body changes before the summer ends.

Without further ado, the human guinea pig himself...

RM Herold: Alright Tim, let's get this party started. You probably get this question a lot, but if someone refused to read the 4HB but wanted to do one thing to get back in shape, what would you tell them?

Tim Ferriss: The first recommendation would be a very simple change, something that we tracked in hundreds of thousands of people making different types of changes and that is having thirty grams of protein within thirty minutes of waking up. My dad made this one change, and he started off at 5'6 250 lbs, and he had failed at diets before. And he went from an average weight loss of five pounds per month on his failed diets to over 19 pounds lost the first month.

RMH: Wow. Those are the numbers I'm looking for.

TF: You don't even have to start with any other part of your diet and breakfast could be as simple as a shake with unflavored whey protein, or if you are addicted to sweeteners, you can get an orange flavored whey protein. If you wanted a full breakfast: two whole eggs, lentils out of the can and spinach. My dad started with the myoplex protein shakes which have 42 grams of protein. And just this change will have other affects, the majority of people who make this change find that they aren't tired in the afternoons anymore and don't feel the need to binge on carbs late in the day either.

RMH: I'm liking this, something tangible for the folks keeping score at home to start with. Let's jump around a bit. I haven't gotten to the point when I'm ready to exercise on the diet yet, but Steve has and he wanted to know what is the most common exercise mistake people make when following the 4HB?

TF: The biggest mistake is that they try to do too much exercise off the bat. Fat loss in particular is going to be 90% diet. I suggest that if someone has more than 20 pounds of fat to lose that they just focus on the slow carb diet for the first four to eight weeks. The reason why is very typically people (both men and women) will plateau at about the eight week point. So if you focus on one behavioral change for the first two months, adding exercise (something like kettle bell swings) will more than likely push you through your plateau. I also like to fix the diets first because it's really the foundation for everything else.

RMH: Good to know. As far as exercise goes...

TF: When you are ready to exercise you want to treat it like a drug and look for the minimum effective dose. The amount of exercise stimulus that is needed for extremely dramatic results is much less than people expect, if it is done properly.

RMH: M-E-D, I remember that from the book.

TF: Yep, minimum effective dose. To give another example, my dad lost 90 pounds of fat and gained 20-30 pounds of muscle at age 65 doing two 30 minute work outs per week, for a total of four hours of working out for the month.

RMH:  I have to get my dad on it this summer. Which leads me to my next question, and this is for the BR readers and any couch potato sports fans who need to lose a few before they really pop a squat during football season. I know in the book you talk about a Harajuku Moment that spurs one man into action, what can be that catalyst for the average person out there to get off the couch?

TF: There are a few approaches that work. The first is the four pictures approach. Take four pictures of yourself in the mirror. Both sides and front and back. You can use different diets and different approaches but most people who succeed use "before" pictures effectively. Tip number two would be to create a betting pool with some friends. It doesn't have to be a lot, but wager a three month fat loss challenge. And the winner who loses the highest percentage of body fat, to keep it fair, wins the whole pot. That's how one young lady ended up losing 120 pounds.

RMH: Are you serious?

TF: Yep. With diets there are usually no consequences for failing, other than gaining back the weight. But at work if you don't do your job you get fired. So adding a negative consequence definitely helps, like losing money. Or you can even give your before pics to a friend and tell them that if you don't lose the weight by the end of the summer they can post them on twitter and facebook.

RMH: Now you're trying to get someone killed. But sports fans love to compete so that could be right up their alley.

TF: The third way is something called the "flash diet" which isn't really a diet at all, but what you do is you take a camera, one on your iPhone or where ever and you take a picture of every meal before you eat it. It makes you much less likely to binge... much less likely to eat that bag of M&M's.

RMH: Getting into the book a little more, once you are on the slow carb diet you talk about not needing snacks, but folks can get addicted to nuts, gum and diet soda. How bad are those?

TF: Some snacks are worse than others. Eventually the goal is to be off of artificial sweeteners, but in the beginning if you need chewing gum to get you through the day, that's fine. But nuts I would suggest knocking out at the beginning because a cup of almonds can be more than 500 calories. I know people who eat the equivalent of a Big Mac worth of almonds a day and they wonder why they don't lose fat.

RMH: Yikes.

TF: But the cool thing is and part of the reason the slow carb diet has such a high success rate is because you can keep a list of all the food you want to have for your "cheat day" that you can't have during the rest of the week. And on that seventh day you can eat anything you want. I know readers who keep a running log of foods they are going to eat on their cheat day. You aren't giving up your favorite foods forever, just for a handful of days before your cheat day.

RMH: Same thing goes for diet sodas?

TF: Any time you have more than 16 ounces of aspertame, you are inhibiting fat loss. Be conscious when you are using it and try to minimize it. Another simple change that people can make that produces surprisingly dramatic affects: switch to black coffee with cinnamon or vanilla extract. By removing dairy (lactose, specifically) from their coffee I have seen people lose an extra two to six pounds in a week. The enemy is not the fat in dairy. It's the lactose. There is probably no better way to get fat than drinking skim milk. It's right up there with drinking beer.

RMH: Ha! So Tim, obviously you can't mention names but have you had some pro athletes contact you about trying the 4HB diet?

TF: Absolutely, we have had recent Super Bowl players reach out to us who want to lean out, we have had defensive linemen who want to stay at the same weight but want to shift it around to say 20 pounds more muscle and 20 pounds less fat. We've had A-list actors and actresses and other celebs call us. It's been a lot of fun helping them achieve better results in less time so they can spend more time developing their skills and off a stationary bike. Some international soccer teams have their team nutritionists putting them all on slow carb diets.

RMH: Other than adding weights what is another way to battle the problem of reaching a plateau?

TF: Things to consider would be going to supplements like PAGG, from the book. But before you go through that, go through the troubleshooting checklist in the second chapter. Things like not consuming enough protein and drinking insufficient amounts of water. Putting extra burden on the liver stops fat burning. By the way, here's a quick tip for the drinkers out there on the slow carb diet. Anyone who knows me knows I love wine, but if you go to a bar and you don't want to feel self conscious ordering a merlot with your buds, go ahead and order the Nor Cal margarita. It's really easy to make.

RMH: Wow, Tim. There we go. This was great. You help me lose weight and get drunk at the same time. So I'll end with this last question, now that you have conquered the body, what's next for you?

TF: Well, I'll continue to do research in the nutrition and physical performance area. But I am also trying to focus on tackling education and literacy in the US and throughout the world.

RMH: No doubt you will figure that out as well. Thanks for the interview and thanks for writing the book!

TF: Great talking to you.



For more on Tim Ferriss, check out:
The 4-Hour Body (
The 4-Hour Workweek (

TIMOTHY FERRISS, nominated as one of Fast Company's "Most Innovative Business People of 2007," is author of the #1 New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and BusinessWeek bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek, which has been published in 35 languages.

WIRED magazine has called Tim "The Superman of Silicon Valley" for his manipulation of the human body. He is a tango world record holder, former national kickboxing champion (Sanshou), guest lecturer at Princeton University, and faculty member at Singularity University, based at NASA Ames Research Center.

When not acting as a human guinea pig, Tim enjoys speaking to organizations ranging from Nike to the Harvard School of Public Health.


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