The 4-Hour Body
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|Subject||Health & Fitness, Weight Loss, Diet, Self-help|
|Published||2010 (Crown Publishing Group)|
|Preceded by||The 4-Hour Workweek|
|Followed by||The 4-Hour Chef|
Ferriss's first book, and the one that made him well-known, was The 4-Hour Workweek. Two facts informed his choice for his new book's topic: Firstly, he felt he did not want to write another book on business, as "I've said what I have to say about business. [...] I don't want to be 'The 4-Hour Workweek' guy; I'd prefer to be known for the way I approach the craft of writing and storytelling." Secondly, of the top ten Google searches bringing visitors to his weblog, four searches were some variation on "lose weight". That, as he put it, left him with "no Option B. [...] my next book was going to be The 4-Hour Body, or I wasn’t going to write another book."
The author spent three years interviewing over 200 experts, from doctors to athletes to black-market drug salesmen. He claims to have recorded every workout he had done since the age of 18, and from 2004 (three years before his first book was published) he had tracked a variety of blood chemistry measurements, including insulin levels, hemoglobin A1c, and free testosterone.
The 4-Hour Body was published on December 14, 2010.
Ferriss describes The 4-Hour Body as "unlike any diet or fitness book...It's more like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book for the human body, full of ridiculous stories, practical philosophies, and larger-than-life characters." The book covers over 50 topics, including rapid fat loss, increasing strength, boosting endurance and polyphasic sleep.
There are five main food groups that are consumed on a slow carb diet: animal protein, vegetables, legumes, spices and fats/oils/nuts. A typical slow-carb meal will consist of one portion each of the first three groups and small amounts of the last two. Examples of foods in these groups are chicken, eggs, lamb, pork, fish and beef for protein, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, peas for vegetables, black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans and lentils for legumes, basil, garlic, ginger and salt for spices, coconut oil, macadamia nut oil, olive oil, almonds, brazil nuts, cashews for fats/oils/nuts.
One day per week is reserved as "cheat day" when all foods are allowed, similar to the carb-loading day in a cyclic ketogenic diet. As well as reducing the psychological stress of dieting, this serves to protect against the lowered metabolic rate that often accompanies dieting. To moderate the effects of binging, Ferriss recommends making breakfast a normal slow-carb meal, consuming a small amount of fructose just before the first "binge" meal, consuming liquids with caffeine and citric acid, and exercising with brief muscular contractions (e.g., air squats). The diet should not start on cheat day but 4–5 days before.
Ferriss recommends supplementing the diet with potassium, magnesium and calcium to make up for electrolytes lost as a result of general fluid loss. To speed up weight loss, he also suggests a combination of supplements he abbreviates as "PAGG": policosanol (20–25 mg), alpha-lipoic acid (100–300 mg), decaffeinated green tea flavanols (325 mg), garlic extract (200–650 mg). Policosanol is an extract of plant waxes which Ferris found lowered cholesterol and helped fat loss, though he admits there is little in the scientific literature to support this. Alpha-lipoic acid helps to store glucose as glycogen in muscles or the liver rather than as fat "by recruiting GLUT-3 glucose transporters to the muscular cell membrane. This both mimics insulin and increases insulin sensitivity ... it also demonstrates triglyceride inhibition."  Green tea flavanols (epigallocatechin gallate) are also thought to increase GLUT-4 recruitment to muscles cells and decrease GLUT-4 recruitment to fat cells. It may also increase apoptosis of fat cells. Finally, Ferriss recommends aged garlic extract containing allicin and S-Allyl cisteine, while expressing puzzlement at its apparent beneficial effects in fat loss, since bio-availability of allicin drops to near zero a few days after extraction from garlic cloves.
The stack is administered as follows:
- Before breakfast: AGG
- Before lunch: AGG
- Before dinner: AGG
- Before bed: PAG (no green tea).
PAGG is not recommended for pregnant or breast-feeding women, and dieters should consult a doctor if they have any medical condition, especially those involving taking blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin. An adequate supply of B vitamins is also strongly recommended.
Although The 4-Hour Body contains copious references to the scientific/medical literature, no controlled, peer-reviewed study of the slow-carb diet as such exists to date. However, since it is a low-glycemic diet, much of the literature on this type of diet would apply. Low-glycemic diets have been found to increase weight loss  and to help maintain it due to a lower reduction in base metabolic rate compared to low-fat diets. "A large body of evidence, which now comprises observational prospective cohort studies, randomized controlled trials, and mechanistic experiments in animal models, provides robust support for low GI carbohydrate diets in the prevention of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease." In contrast, 2010 U.S. government dietary guidelines do not consider glycemic index an important factor in weight loss, while the 2015 edition remains silent on the issue.
Ferriss has conducted his own informal study of the diet in conjunction with Lift Worldwide, using an app to track 3,500 people for four weeks. 84% of those who stuck to the diet lost weight, and average weight loss was 8.6 lb (3.9 kg). There was no control group for this experiment.
Largely due to the author's earlier success with The 4-Hour Workweek, the slow-carb diet provoked much comment in the blogosphere, both positive and negative. Responses in mainstream websites and print publications have been more muted.
A review of The 4-Hour Body in WebMD was skeptical of the diet, quoting Barry Sears (creator of the Zone diet): “Skip the 4-hour body and opt for a 24-hour-365-day-a-year [body, because you need a plan that makes sense that you can live with.” In the same article, Michael Aziz (creator of the Perfect 10 Diet) claims the cheat day is "dangerous". On the other hand, the review praises the avoidance of "white" carbohydrates and the recommendation to eat the same few meals repeatedly.
The Harvard Business Review quoted Dr. Tieraona Low Dog: "many people will lose weight if they follow it, though I don’t think that the diet is capable of all the claims in the book." Dr. Low Dog also warns about "the very limited number of vegetables to choose from," though in fact apart from starchy vegetables such as potatoes the slow-carb diet allows free choice in vegetables.
U.S. News quoted Scott Kahan (codirector of the George Washington University Weight Management Program) describing it "as another cockamamie fad diet" and expressing doubts about its sustainability.
The slow-carb diet has not been reviewed in any scientific or medical journals.
In The 4-Hour Body, Ferriss recommends eating the same few meals repeatedly so that the stress of cooking meals doesn't add to the stress of adopting a new diet. However, in its sequel, The 4-Hour Chef, he provides a large number of recipes for slow-carb meals, grouped and sequenced to provide instruction in basic cooking techniques. The Slow Carb Diet Cookbook: A Companion to the 4-Hour Body came out shortly after The 4-Hour Body but is now out of print.
For people whose aim is muscle gain rather than fat loss, Ferriss describes a variation on the slow-carb diet combined with a weight-training regime, naming it "Occam's Protocol" (named for its simplicity). This uses a standard slow-carb diet with three additions:
- protein shakes;
- small amounts of whole grains such as brown rice or quinoa in non-shake meals;
- lots of milk and milk products (up to a gallon of milk a day).
The weight training component emphasizes basic compound exercises in a split routine, one set to failure, and long breaks between sessions.
Primarily Plant-Based Version
In an appendix to The Four Hour Body entitled "The Meatless Machine", Ferriss sketches out "primarily plant-based versions" of the diet, from pescatarian to vegan. He does not recommend using soy products as a substitute for meat because of their phytoestrogen content, but does recommend vegetable-based protein powders.
The 4-Hour Body debuted at #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List and spent 3 weeks in the top 3. It peaked at #4 on both the Wall Street Journal and USA Today's lists, and was one of Amazon.com's top 5 bestselling books for December 2010 and January 2011.
Reviews for the book have been mostly positive. The New York Times review stated "it's among the craziest, most breathless things I’ve ever read, and I’ve read Klaus Kinski, Dan Brown and Snooki." The book has been profiled in publications including CNN, The Huffington Post, Wired, USA Today, TechCrunch, The New York Post and Forbes.
Marketing and release
The author's initial goal for The 4-Hour Body was to beat out the Guinness World Records for the #1 spot on The New York Times bestseller list for the third week of December, which Guinness traditionally dominated. Two weeks before the book's release, he released a 60-second trailer for The 4-Hour Body, which he credits with pushing the book's Amazon sales rank from #150 to #30. He focused much of his marketing plan on connecting with various bloggers within the fitness and exercise community, or as tech blogger Robert Scoble put it, "get drunk with bloggers." One week before the book's release, he announced "The Land Rush", a promotion where he awarded prizes to people that bought one of The 4-Hour Body package deals. His marketing efforts proved to be successful, as The 4-Hour Body beat out The Guinness World Records to debut at #1.
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