The 4-Hour Body: Experts' Reviews

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on February 28, 2013
From the WebMD Archives

Lose 20 pounds of fat in 30 days (without exercise)? Achieve a 15-minute orgasm?

All this and more is not just possible, it’s probable, says Tim Ferriss, author of the best-selling book, 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman.

cottage cheese

In his book, Ferriss covers diet, sleep (suggesting six 20-minute naps a day as opposed to 8 straight hours of sleep), exercise, sex, and the perks of medical tourism or undergoing tests or treatment outside the U.S.

Is there any scientific evidence to support some of the outlandish, outrageous claims in Ferriss’s 500-plus page book?

Tim Ferriss is not a doctor, nutritionist, or scientist. He is a 33-year-old author and blogger. He has served as his own guinea pig since high school to develop the program he details in his new book. He did run many of his ideas by a panel of experts, including athletes and scientists, and urges people to see their doctor before following any of his advice.

The book's premise is simple: Less is more, and small, simple changes produce long-lasting effects. “There is zero room for misunderstanding and visible results compel you to continue,” Ferriss writes in his book. “If results are fast and measurable, self-discipline isn't needed.”

Ferriss's Slow-Carb Diet

How fast and measurable? How about 20 pounds in 30 days without exercise? Ferriss’s "slow-carb" diet promises just that.

The rules are simple (and likely familiar to anyone who has tried a low-carb diet): Avoid white bread, white rice, potatoes, and other white carbs.

Ferriss also says no to whole grains and steel-cut oats, which are often touted as healthy carbs due to their high fiber content. His rapid weight loss plan outlaws all fruit and dairy (except cottage cheese) and involves one “all-you-can-eat day” each week. Cottage cheese speeds fat loss, unlike other dairy products, which slow it, Ferriss writes.

Ferriss suggests eating the same small meals over and over and over again.

He cautions against drinking your calories but allows two glasses of red wine each night (preferably a dry Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Merlot). “Red wine is by no means required for this diet to work, but it’s 100% allowed (unlike white wines and beer, both which should be avoided),” he writes.

Pros and Cons of Ferriss's Slow-Carb Diet

Does this diet make sense?

“The whole notion of avoiding white carbs that turn quickly into sugar is a good thing to do,” says James P. Nicolai, MD, medical director of the Andrew Weil, M.D. Integrative Wellness Program at Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa in Tucson, Ariz.

Also, “it can be helpful to eat the same meals each day because you don’t think about food, as opposed to ‘I am really hungry and don’t have food to eat,” Nicolai says. The latter can set you up for making unhealthy food choices.

But "rapid fat loss is not possible,” says Barry Sears, PhD, president of Zone Labs Inc. and the Inflammation Research Foundation in Marblehead, Mass. “You can lose a lot of water weight or muscle mass quickly, but fat loss is a slow process and hard work.”

Sears, who developed the Zone diet, says there is no such thing as a 4-hour body. “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,” Sears says.

“It’s a spinoff of a low-carb diet with alcohol,” says Michael Aziz, MD, of New York's Lenox Hill Hospital and author of The Perfect 10 Diet.

The amount of vegetables is limited in Ferriss’s slow-carb diet. Ferriss offers a list of approved veggies -- including spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, peas, and green beans. But “we need all kinds of vegetables in all kinds of colors and sizes,” Aziz says. "If you restrict vegetables, there can be long-term vitamin and mineral deficiencies."

Aziz also takes issue with weekly binge days. “This is not responsible and can be very dangerous,” he says.

Ferriss' fondness for cottage cheese for weight loss and ban on other dairy products is one of the many contradictions in his book. It has zero scientific proof, but he claims it worked for him.

Ferriss is a big fan of ice baths or very cold showers. He writes that cold triggers hormones that aid and speed fat loss. “Cooling can burn calories,” Aziz says. “A glass of cold water before a meal can do the same thing.”

As for the book's claims of a 15-minute orgasm, Pepper Schwartz, PhD, a sociologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, says that's mainly hype.

“[Ferriss] defines orgasm in such a way that he can make the claim,” she says. “Orgasm is a very specific biological reaction that cannot possibly last for 15 minutes,” she says. “He was trying to be outrageous and he covers his tracks in defining orgasm in a way that suits his claim.”

Show Sources


Ferriss, T. The 4-Hour Body, Crown Archetype, 2010.

James P. Nicolai, MD, medical director, Andrew Weil, M.D. Integrative Wellness Program, Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa, Tucson, Ariz.

Michael Aziz, MD, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York.

Barry Sears, PhD, president, Zone Labs Inc., Marblehead, Mass.

Stephen Barrett, MD, president,, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Tracy Reifkind, Palo Alto, Calif.

Brianna Chamberlain, Irvine, Calif.

Pepper Schwartz, PhD, sociologist, University of Washington, Seattle.

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