4-Hour Body - The Slow-Carb Diet

Tim Ferriss has tried a lot of diets. Here's one that he thinks is the best. And it is pretty easy to follow.

How to Lose 20 Pounds in 30 Days Without Exercise

Out of clutter, find simplicity.
-Albert Einstein


Text message from London, eight hours ahead, meant to impress:
This is my dinner. Happy times!
The accompanying photo: a pepperoni and sausage pizza so large it doesn't fit on the screen.
Chris A., a fellow experimenter, and I were having our weekly virtual date.

Text response from me:
This is my breakfast. BREAKFAST. Can you hear the insulin pouring out of my eyes? Woohoo! Ante up, fat boy.
My accompanying photo: two bear claws, two chocolate croissants, grapefruit juice, and a large


Response from Chris:
LOL . . . please don't make me do this . . .

And so it continued, a text-message eating contest. The truth is, I do some version of this every Saturday, and thousands of people over the last four years have joined me in doing the same. In between pizzas and bear claws, the net result is that the average follower has lost 19 pounds of fat, and a surprising number have lost more than 100 pounds total. This odd approach has produced something of a small revolution. Let me explain exactly how Chris and I reach and maintain sub-12% body fat, often sub-10%, by strategically eating like pigs.

The Slow-Carb Diet-Better Fat-Loss Through Simplicity

It is possible to lose 20 pounds of body fat in 30 days by optimizing any of three factors: exercise, diet, or a drug/supplement regimen. Twenty pounds for most people means moving down at least two clothing sizes, whether that's going from a size 14 dress to a size 10 or from an XXL shirt to a large. The waist and hips show an even more dramatic reduction in circumference.
By April 6, 2007, as an example, I had cut from nearly 180 pounds to 165 pounds in six weeks, while adding about 10 pounds of muscle, which means I lost approximately 25 pounds of fat. The changes aren't subtle.
The diet that I'll introduce in this chapter-the Slow-Carb Diet-is the only diet besides the rather extreme Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD) that has produced veins across my abdomen, which is the last place I lose fat. There are just five simple rules to follow:


Avoid any carbohydrate that is, or can be, white. The following foods are prohibited, except for within 30 minutes of finishing a resistance-training workout like those described in the "From Geek to Freak" or "Occam's Protocol" chapters: all bread, rice (including brown), cereal, potatoes, pasta, tortillas, and fried food with breading. If you avoid eating the aforementioned foods and anything else white, you'll be safe.
Just for fun, another reason to avoid the whities: chlorine dioxide, one of the chemicals used to bleach flour (even if later made brown again, a common trick), combines with residual protein in most of these foods to form alloxan. Researchers use alloxan in lab rats to induce diabetes. That's right-it's used to produce diabetes. This is bad news if you eat anything white or "enriched."
Don't eat white stuff unless you want to get fatter.


The most successful dieters, regardless of whether their goal is muscle gain or fat-loss, eat the same few meals over and over again. There are 47,000 products in the average U.S. grocery store, but only a handful of them won't make you fat.
Mix and match from the following list, constructing each meal with one pick from each of the three groups. I've starred the choices that produce the fastest fat-loss for me:

*Egg whites with 1–2 whole eggs for flavor (or, if organic, 2–5 whole eggs, including yolks)
*Chicken breast or thigh
*Black beans
*Beef (preferably grass-fed)

*Lentils (also called "dal" or "daal")
Pinto beans
Red beans

*Mixed vegetables (including broccoli, cauliflower, or any other cruciferous vegetables)
*Sauerkraut, kimchee (full explanation of these later in "Damage Control")
Green beans

Eat as much as you like of the above food items, but keep it simple. Pick three or four meals and repeat them. Almost all restaurants can give you a salad or vegetables in place of french fries, potatoes, or rice.
Surprisingly, I have found Mexican food (after swapping out rice for vegetables) to be one of the cuisines most conducive to the Slow-Carb Diet. If you have to pay an extra $1–3 to substitute at a restaurant, consider it your six-pack tax, the nominal fee you pay to be lean. Most people who go on "low"-carbohydrate diets complain of low energy and quit because they consume insufficient calories. A half-cup of rice is 300 calories, whereas a half-cup of spinach is 15 calories! Vegetables are not calorically dense, so it is critical that you add legumes for caloric load.
Eating more frequently than four times per day might be helpful on higher-carb diets to prevent gorging, but it's not necessary with the ingredients we're using. Eating more frequent meals also appears to have no enhancing effect on resting metabolic rate, despite claims to the contrary.
Frequent meals can be used in some circumstances (see "The Last Mile"), but not for this reason.
The following meal schedule is based on a late sleep schedule, as I'm a night owl who gives up the ghost at 2:00 a.m. at the earliest, usually with wineglass or book still in hand, à la heroin addict. Adjust your meals to fit your schedule, but make sure to have your first meal within an hour of waking. Meals are approximately four hours apart.

10:00 am - Breakfast
2:00 pm - Lunch
6:30 pm - Smaller second lunch
8:00–9:00 pm - Recreation or sports training, if scheduled.
10:00 pm - Dinner
12:00 am - Glass of red wine and Discovery Channel before bed

Here are some of my meals that recur again and again:

Breakfast (home): Scrambled Eggology® pourable egg whites with one whole egg, black beans, and mixed vegetables warmed up or cooked in a microwave using Pyrex® containers.
Lunch (Mexican restaurant): Grass-fed organic beef, pinto beans, mixed vegetables, and extra guacamole.
Dinner (home): Grass-fed organic beef (from Trader Joe's), lentils, and mixed vegetables.

Just remember: this diet is, first and foremost, intended to be effective, not fun. It can be fun with a few tweaks (the next chapter covers this), but that's not the goal.


Drink massive quantities of water and as much unsweetened tea, coffee (with no more than two tablespoons of cream; I suggest using cinnamon instead), or other no-calorie/low-calorie beverages as you like. Do not drink milk (including soy milk), normal soft drinks, or fruit juice. Limit diet soft drinks to no more than 16 ounces per day if you can, as the aspartame can stimulate weight gain.
I'm a wine fanatic and have one to two glasses of red wine almost every evening. It doesn't appear to have any negative impact on my rate of fat-loss. Red wine is by no means required for this diet to work, but it's 100% allowed (unlike white wines and beer, both of which should be avoided). Up to two glasses of red per night, no more.


Humans don't need fruit six days a week, and they certainly don't need it year-round. If your ancestors were from Europe, for example, how much fruit did they eat in the winter 500 years ago? Think they had Florida oranges in December? Not a chance. But you're still here, so the lineage somehow survived.
The only exceptions to the no-fruit rule are tomatoes and avocadoes, and the latter should be eaten in moderation (no more than one cup or one meal per day). Otherwise, just say no to fruit and its principal sugar, fructose, which is converted to glycerol phosphate more efficiently than almost all other carbohydrates. Glycerol phosphate p triglycerides (via the liver) p fat storage. There are a few biochemical exceptions to this, but avoiding fruit six days per week is the most reliable policy.
But what's this "six days a week" business? It's the seventh day that allows you, if you so desire, to eat peach crepes and banana bread until you go into a coma.


I recommend Saturdays as your Dieters Gone Wild (DGW) day. I am allowed to eat whatever I want on Saturdays, and I go out of my way to eat ice cream, Snickers, Take 5, and all of my other vices in excess. If I drank beer, I'd have a few pints of Paulaner Hefe-Weizen.
I make myself a little sick each Saturday and don't want to look at any junk for the rest of the week. Paradoxically, dramatically spiking caloric intake in this way once per week increases fat-loss by ensuring that your metabolic rate (thyroid function and conversion of T4 to T3, etc.) doesn't downshift from extended caloric restriction.
That's right: eating pure crap can help you lose fat. Welcome to Utopia. There are no limits or boundaries during this day of gluttonous enjoyment. There is absolutely no calorie counting on this diet, on this day or any other.
Start the diet at least five days before your designated cheat day. If you choose Saturday, for example, I would suggest starting your diet on a Monday.

That's All, Folks!

If the founding fathers could sum up our government in a six-page constitution, the above is all we need to summarize rapid fat-loss for 99.99% of the population. Followed to the letter, I've never seen it fail. Never. When you feel mired in details or confused by the latest-and-greatest
contradictory advice, return to this short chapter. All you need to remember is:

Rule 1: Avoid "white" carbohydrates (or anything that can be white).
Rule 2: Eat the same few meals over and over again.
Rule 3: Don't drink calories.
Rule 4: Don't eat fruit.
Rule 5: Take one day off per week and go nuts.

$1.34 PER MEAL?

Andrew Hyde is community director at TechStars, a well-known start-up incubator in Boulder,
Colorado. He is also an Internet-famous big bargain hunter. I use "big" in both the figurative and literal senses: Andrew is 6'5" and 245 pounds. I should say that he was 245 pounds. In his first two weeks on the Slow-Carb Diet, he lost 10 pounds and, perhaps more impressive, racked up incredibly unimpressive costs:

Total per-week food cost: $37.70
Average per-meal cost: $1.34

And this was including organic grass-fed beef! If he'd eaten a big salad three times a week instead of a few proteins, his weekly cost would have been $31.70. He repeated four meals:

BREAKFAST: Egg whites, one whole egg, mixed vegetables, chicken breast Mixed vegetables, peas, spinach (salad)
LUNCH: Mixed vegetables, peas, spinach (salad)
SECOND LUNCH: Chicken thigh, black beans, mixed vegtables
DINNER: Beef (or pork), asparagus, pinto beans

His exact shopping list was simplicity itself. The prices are the per line totals:

1x Eggs (12 pack) $1.20
4x Mixed vegetables (1-lb bags) $6
1x Chicken breast $2
1x Organic peas (2-lb bag) $2
2x Spinach (3-lb bags) $6
3x Chicken thigh $9
2x Grass-fed organic beef (0.5-lb cuts) $4
2x Pork (1-lb cuts) $3
2x Asparagus bundles $2
1x Pinto beans (1-lb bag) $1.50
1x Black beans (1-lb bag) $1

Getting these prices didn't require a degree in negotiation or dozens of hours of searching. Andrew looked for discounted items near expiration date and shopped at smaller stores, including a Mexican grocery store, where he bought all of his dried beans.
Just to restate an important point: Andrew is an active 6'5", 245-pound, 26-year-old male, and he exercised three times a week during his Slow-Carb Diet experiment. He's not a small organism to feed. He's also not unique in his experience.
Though you might not get to $1.34 per meal, his two-week experiment shows what thousands of others have been surprised to learn about the Slow-Carb Diet: it's damn cheap. The myth that eating right is expensive is exactly that: a myth.


Can fruit juice really screw up fat-loss?
Oh, yes. And it screws up much more. Not to speculate, I tested the effect of fructose in two tests, the first during a no-fructose diet (no juice, no fruit) and the second after one week of consuming 14 ounces-about 1.5 large glasses-of pulp-free orange juice upon waking and before bed. The orange juice was the only thing distinguishing diets A and B. The changes were incredible.

Before (10/16, no fructose) and after (10/23, orange juice):
Cholesterol: 203 -> 243 (out of "healthy" range)
LDL: 127 -> 165 (also out of range)

There were two other values that shot up unexpectedly:

Albumin: 4.3 -> 4.9 (out of range)
Iron: 71 -> 191 (!) (out of range aka into the stratosphere)

Albumin binds to testosterone and renders it inert, much like SHBG (discussed in "Sex Machine") but weaker. I don't want either to be out-of-range high. Bad for the manly arts. If you said "Holy sh*t!" when you saw the iron jump, we're in the same boat. This result was completely out of the blue and is not good, especially in men. It might come as a surprise, but men don't menstruate. This means that men lack a good method for clearing out excessive iron, which can be toxic. The increase in iron was far more alarming to me than the changes in cholesterol.
Here is just one of several explanations from the research literature:

In addition to contributing to metabolic abnormalities, the consumption of fructose has been reported to affect homeostasis of numerous trace elements. Fructose has been shown to increase iron absorption in humans and experimental animals. Fructose intake [also] decreases the activity of the copper enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD) and reduces the concentration of serum and hepatic copper.

The moral of the story? Don't drink fruit juice, and absolutely avoid a high-fructose diet. It doesn't do the body good.


The Three-Minute Slow-Carb Breakfast (www.fourhourbody.com/breakfast) Breakfast is a hassle. In this video, I'll show you how to make a high-protein slow-carb breakfast in three minutes that is perfect for fat-loss and starting the day at a sprint.

Still Tasty (www.stilltasty.com) Not sure if it's safe to eat those eggs or those Thai leftovers? Tired of calling your mom to ask? This site allows you to search the shelf life of thousands of cooked and uncooked foods.

Food Porn Daily (http://www.foodporndaily.com) Need some inspiration for your cheat day? Food
Porn Daily provides a delicious and artery-blocking cornucopia of bad (but tasty) eating. Save it for Saturday.

Gout: The Missing Chapter (http://www.fourhourbody.com/gout) Concerned about protein intake
and gout? Read this missing chapter from Good Calories, Bad Calories, graciously provided by stunning science writer Gary Taubes. It might change your mind.

We believe the body is a gadget. Here's how to hack it.

4-Hour Body - The Slow-Carb Diet

Timothy Ferriss, nominated as one of Fast Company's "Most Innovative Business People of 2007," is an angel investor (StumbleUpon, Digg, Twitter, etc.) and author of the #1 New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and BusinessWeek bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek, which has been sold into 35 languages. Tim has been featured by more than 100 media outlets–including The New York Times, The Economist, TIME, Forbes, Fortune, CNN, and CBS–and has been a popular guest lecturer at Princeton University since 2003, where he presents entrepreneurship as a tool for ideal lifestyle design and world change.

The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman is available from Amazon.com.