Monday, March 16, 2015

The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss (Book Review #23 of 2015)

The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman
While this book is more informative, and better, than the 4-Hour Workweek (my review) it's not as easy to read. It's like reading a cookbook, especially one where several recipes are similar but slightly different. You like the idea of trying each recipe but acknowledge you'll never be able to, so just knowing that recipe exists and you won't enjoy it brings you down a bit. Ferriss lets the reader know up front that it's not to be read in order, but the reader should skim for chapters applicable to himself and then dive in. But where to begin, as it's mostly loosely connected? Even then, each chapter contains links to videos and more material elsewhere. Some people have devoted their lives to trying all of it piecemeal. (Follow the link, the guy has made some handy PDFs of the major stuff.)

The value of this book comes from the fact that Ferriss has harnessed his OCD to getting his bloodwork taken multiple times a week, even buying a real-time glucose-tracker he's constantly connected to, and recording every workout he's ever done since age 18 in order to meticulously analyze everything he does. He has broken, torn, bruised, and damaged just about everything. He is a "human guinea pig," from which the reader reaps the benefit. Better yet, he's reading scientific studies and cold-calling the researchers for the inside scoop, sometimes hanging out with them or recording in-depth interviews. It's not just doctors and scientists but body builders and professional athletes.

The goal is to get the minimum effective dose (MED) in all you do so you can maximize productivity and minimize time. But to do so requires a large amount of up-front cost in examining the methods Ferriss presents, trying them for yourself over a long period of time (to be certain of the result), and tweaking them. So, in a goal to increase our output and happiness, I find Ferriss has rather decreased mine. If you're familiar with Seth Godin's The Dip, these are the activities you can do in relatively little time that help you scale your skill or attribute rapidly but not to a meticulously elite level. So, Ferriss increases his vertical jump dramatically in a couple days.

Want to quickly become a decent baseball hitter? Swim faster, hold your breath longer? Increase your testosterone? Your sexual prowess? Build muscle mass and increase your strength with little more than 30 minutes in the gym? Up your bench press by 100 pounds in a few months? Get six-pack abs without crunches and Ab Ripper X? Run faster and with less injury? Run a mountain marathon while running more more than a 5K in training? Sleep less, but more effectively? Lose weight without working out? Heal your back and other seemingly irreversible injuries? This book is for you.

I recommend skimming the book's website, the book itself has links to many hidden items on the website.

From 4-Hour Body, I have basically modified my previous diet to more of a "slow-carb diet." But while it sounds like Ferriss stays on the diet during his travels around the world, it's not clear whether he recommends it when trying out the various chapters. For example, if you're working on increasing your strength and running speed ("geek to freak"), do you add a starch or not? Do you lift three times a week or five? Do Occom's Protocol I or II? Or do the weightlifting regime used to boost the runners' time?

I've made dozens of highlights that I will have to study (29 pages pasted into a Google Doc at 11 point font). In the meantime, I'd already adopted a weight-lifting routine (the Faleev method) Ferriss featured on his blog but not exactly in the book. I've started consuming his PAGG supplement stack ("The Four Horsemen") while modifying my diet to more slow-carb. (Note: My wife was a bit surprised by these changes as I'm usually quite skeptical. Ferriss' self-experimentation and track-down-the-experts style are quite convincing.) I consider it my own experiment, and I'm skeptical of the results.

I'm a little apprehensive to see the results over the next month. I'm not going to spend the money on bloodwork every month, I'm content with my annual insurance-funded blood tests. That said, the book has given me a lot (too much, really) to think about.

Four stars out of 5.

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