It’s a common frustration. You’re about to start the 4-Hour Body diet, and you want to make sure it’s perfect. Even in your mind you know this is the thing that’s going to work for you, finally, once and for all. You just want to make sure you have all your Ts crossed and Is dotted.
But the book is so big.
Never fear. This is the only post you’ll need to read to get started immediately and with confidence. Bookmark it and come back to it as often as you need! Buy the book, but use this post in the meantime.
Note: this guide is for the slow-carb diet as it pertains to fat loss. If you’re looking to add muscle, that’s a different story and my friends Justin or Luke would be much more suited to help than I would.
The whole premise of the fat loss portion of the book is that you can do it without any exercise. So what’s left? Food.
The truth is nutrition is the 80% of fat loss’ “pareto principle”. Fix your nutrition, and you’ve fixed most of your issues with fat loss (note: I’m using the term “fat loss” as a distinction, because most “weight loss” plans also include a loss of muscle because of calorie restriction. This isn’t the case with a proper slow-carb diet).
I’ve covered this pretty extensively in other posts, so I’ll hit the highlights here.
The 5 Rules
There are only 5 rules in the slow-carb diet:
- Avoid “white” carbohydrates – This means anything made from grains, including corn, rice (brown and white), and quinoa, white potatoes, and breaded things (like fried chicken). White carbs that are not part of this include things like white beans and cauliflower. If it’s white and not a legume or (legit) vegetable, avoid it when fat loss is your goal.
- Eat the same few meals over and over again – It’s easier to plan, and planning always makes success more likely. It also helps you spend less time thinking about food, which for many of us is the reason we can’t stand “diets” in the first place.
- Don’t drink calories – There are plenty of reasons for this, but the most important one is that a ton of your calories have previously come through beverages, and they provide little to no nutritional value. You want your calories to be nutritious, so you want to keep the fluff out.
Tim does make an exception for a glass red wine and one 16oz diet soda per day. Personally, I’d skip the diet soda because those fake sugars are doing more damage than they’re worth. As for wine, I prefer a nice Argentinian Malbec.
- Don’t eat fruit – If you’re like me, you might balk at that statement. Fruit is healthy, right? Yes, in a healthy person it’s great for you. For an overweight person looking to lose fat, it’s only going to make it more difficult. Same thing for super healthy foods like sweet potatoes. The carb content is high and easily digested, so it raises blood sugars and makes it harder to tell your body to get rid of fat. For now, just say now. You’ll get some later.
- Take one day off per week – Also known as “cheat day” or “faturday” or whatever name you want to give it. Take one day a week and throw the other 4 rules out the window. Do what you want without fear of gaining all the weight back. There’s good reason for it. When you have a craving during the week, save it for your cheat day.
- Bonus optional rule: Track and Tweak – following the above 5 rules will get you pretty far, but one of the things Tim always stressed in the book it was to test things out yourself. You’ll see provisions for things like Parmesan and cottage cheese. He even said once at a creativeLive event that sweet potatoes are a slowly-digested carbohydrate, but previously in his “extras and errata” blog post after the book launch, he said sweet potatoes are not allowed.
The point is if you want to try cottage cheese, try it for a week and see what happens. If you get results, keep going. If you go backwards, stop eating cottage cheese. Embrace the experimental nature of this whole thing to figure out what your body needs.
The Food List
The food list in the book is pretty small. By sticking to these you’ll definitely see results:
- 1 or 2 eggs with egg whites
- chicken breast/thigh
- fish (tilapia, halibut, salmon)
- various kinds of bean (pinto, red, soy, black…)
- greens (spinach, chard, kale, collards)
- mixed vegetables
- cabbages (kimchi, saurkraut)
- cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower)
- green beans
If you want to be more adventurous, I did a ton of research, cross-referencing Tim’s blog with the book with the official 4-Hour Body Cookbook with Paleo food lists from Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson, and I believe I’ve come up with the most extensive, totally slow-carb food list that’s been published.
If you want to use that list to come up with your own meals, you can find it here:
Fairly Exhaustive Slow-Carb Food List
Figuring out what to eat is quite simple. Regardless of the list you use, pick one thing from each column and create a meal out of it. It can be as simple or extravagant as you like, as long as it fully complies with the list.
Be sure to include a protein, legume, and vegetable in each meal. Good fats are also great to include.
Here’s a post I wrote with just about a month’s worth of meals if you need something to get going, and eating the same thing every day doesn’t sound appealing to you.
28 Days of Slow-Carb Meal Plans Just For You
Foreshadowing: I’m finishing up a slow-carb meal planning service that will launch in a couple weeks. If you want to get on board, sign up for the newsletter. You’ll start getting a series of slow-carb recipes not offered freely on the blog, and there will also be incentives when it comes time to launch the meal planning service.
A specific point Tim makes in the book is to make sure to get at least 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of being awake. You’ll find a lot of differing opinions on this, especially when you start getting into intermittent fasting.
For the beginner, your best bet is to eat breakfast within an hour of waking up, and make sure you load up on proteins and fats. It gets your fat-burning gears spinning. Consider eating an egg scramble with lentils and spinach with half an avocado.
As I said earlier, the whole premise in all of Tim’s pre-launch marketing was that you can lose fat without exercise. My friend Sergio lost over 100 pounds without doing any (he couldn’t; he had back surgery). He says it would be nearly impossible for someone to be less active than he was.
Exercise isn’t meant for fat loss. In my opinion, it’s meant for mobility. Our bodies are designed to move, and sure you’re burning some calories when you move. But you’d need to run at least 3 miles to burn off a grande – the 12oz – latte from Starbucks. That’s just silly. It’s not sustainable, and it’s bad for your health.
Instead, let exercise be you moving around in your daily life. Park farther away so you walk more. Walk to your coworker’s desk instead of calling them. As much as you can, walk or ride a bike to things around where you live.
There are a couple different exercises in the book that one of Tim’s clients used during her fat loss experience.
The Minimum Effective Dose is extremely important to understand in order to realize that you really can work out too much.
I like the example Tim uses in the book. If you went to the beach looking for a tan and were in the sun for an hour and a half, you’d burn. Your skin would turn red, eventually peel, and you’d be just where you were before you went.
However, if you instead broke that hour and a half into 6 chunks of 15 minutes each, by the end of the week you’d be mistaken for a hot South American. The key is in the dosing.
By overworking your body, you can actually do damage and negate or reverse any work you’re trying to accomplish.
10-15 minutes is all you need.
Start by following the workout Tim prescribed for Fleur in the book. It’s very simple:
I almost left this section out, on purpose.
You can do this without supplements. If you’re eating a proper diet, you’re getting the nutrients your body needs and you generally don’t need to take any supplements. Don’t feel like you must buy these supplements in order to do this right.
That said, Tim suggests supplementing potassium, magnesium, and calcium. You can get potassium through avocados. 500mg of magnesium before bed will help with your sleep (which actually should also improve because of your diet). Here are some (Amazon affiliate) links for you:
There’s one more set of supplements Tim talks about in the book, and he calls it the PAGG stack. You do not need the PAGG stack to see results, but some experience better results while taking it.
The one I prefer was the first one on the market after the book came out, and it was designed specifically to be the exact dosage recommended by the book AND to be as easy as pie to take. The company that makes it is called Pareto Nutrition, and here’s a link to their stack. (Disclosure: I do make a small commission if you purchase through my link, but it is the stack that I’ve taken, and I wouldn’t recommend something I haven’t tried.)
In the book, Tim tells us exactly what his cheat days look like, and he also gives some very specific tips to controlling the damage. There’s almost a science to it. It goes like this:
Lay the foundation
Eat a solid slow-carb breakfast first. This will help digestion and it will help hold things together. The increased carbohydrate, fat, and oil consumption you will likely experience on your cheat day could disrupt an otherwise-well-functioning internal plumbing system.
I’d wait at least 30 minutes to an hour after breakfast before getting started. You might even find you only want to cheat between lunch and dinner. However you feel comfortable.
Damage control exercises
There are three exercises you can to do help direct the extra calories to your muscles: squats, wall presses, and chest flies. I try to get about 30-40 of each in just before eating and then 90 minutes after.
Drink extra water
Much of the weight gain will be water weight. Drinking more than enough water will help your body get rid of it quicker.
Grapefruit juice and coffee
Tim says that grapefruit juice before meals helps keep the insulin spike lower, and lower insulin levels seems to be the key to fat loss. Caffeine, as I understand, helps increase metabolism.
Limit it to one waking day
My biggest problem at first was that my cheat “days” often started on Friday night and ended Sunday evening. You don’t want to give your body extra crap to work on for more than a day. Stick to one day between the time you wake up and the time you go to bed to maximize results. If you cheat for more than a day, don’t expect the weight to come off in 3 days.
Over the course of a couple years, I’ve put together a few extra posts that are designed to help you get on your way with the 4-Hour Body’s slow-carb diet. Here are the links you need to supplement the basics:
Still have questions?
Lay them out in the comments. Between me and the FMF community, they’ll all get answered.