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levi reading four hour body

No other book in my life has kept me in such suspense waiting for the release as The Four Hour Body by Tim Ferriss.

If you’ve never heard of Tim Ferriss, think of him as a lifehacking sports and fitness enthusiast/athlete who is also a kick ass serial entrepreneur.

If you haven’t heard of The Four Hour Body, this behemoth of a book can be considered lifestyle hacking for the human body. It is 500+ pages of Tim’s personal experiments in health, diet, fat loss, muscle gain, sports performance, injury fixes, and more. (Thank you Tim for being a human guinea pig!)

Not only does it cover just about everything, it shows you the nitty gritty on how to get the most results with the least amount of effort. You know Pareto’s Law, the 80/20 principle? Think of this book as the 20% of your training that brings 80% of your results.

Just look at some of the chapter names in the Table of Contents:

  • The Slow- Carb Diet: How to Lose 20 Pounds in 30 Days Without Exercise
  • Ice Age: Mastering Temperature to Manipulate Weight
  • The Last Mile: Losing the Final 5-10 Pounds
  • Building the Perfect Posterior (or Losing 100+ Pounds)
  • Six-Minute Abs: Two Exercises That Actually Work
  • From Geek to Freak: How to Gain 34 Pounds in 28 Days
  • Reversing “Permanent” Injuries
  • Pre-Hab: Injury-Proofing the Body
  • Ultraendurance: Going from 5K to 50K in 12 Weeks
  • How I Learned to Swim Effortlessly in 10 Days

If you’re not familiar with Tim’s work, you’re probably extremely skeptical of all this stuff. Heck, I’ve read everything from Tim that I could find, and I was still a bit skeptical when I read the sensationalist chapter names!

But after reading the whole thing in less than a week, let’s just say I’m impressed! Once I got started, it was nearly impossible to put down!

The book starts with a basic introduction and some info that everyone should read, then the rest is compiled of various stories. You can pick and choose whatever chapters interest you at any time. No need to read the book cover to cover (although it was fun to do just that!)

Each chapter is like a diary entry from Tim. Each is a fun adventure to read, but contains real useful advice and some technical info on how it all works. Let’s just say it is way, way better than slogging through a research study presented in a sports science journal!

If you’re already excited, save yourself the trouble and scroll down to “My final verdict” and get yourself a copy of this book.

If you want to know more, here are my thoughts on the sections of the book that would best apply to endurance athletes like us cyclists, runners, and triathletes:

Getting Started.

This is the first part of the book that everyone needs to read. It’s helpful to set-up the whole premise of the book.

It’s especially important because it gives you “5 rules” for using the book and explains how to choose what sections to read and whatnot. The key is to use the book as a “buffet” and pick and choose which sections to read. You can come back at your leisure for second and third helpings.

I started out by reading the book cover to cover for fun. Then, for the topics I really wanted to focus on, I re-read them and took notes. If you’re short on time, just pick a couple chapters and put the info to use.


This introduces you to the concept of the “Minimum effective dose.” While some of this info is typically considered “too good to be true,” Tim puts things in perspective with a great anecdote I’d like to share:

“It takes 212 degrees F to boil water. Higher temperatures don’t make water ‘more boiled.'” It’s the same with exercise routines.

Rules That Change The Rules.

This reveals why most conventional wisdom and other junk about diet/exercise is all BS. Causality and correlation, and why you can’t switch them around, is explained. This section talks about when it’s good to be skeptical, complete with more worthwhile examples and anecdotes.

Ground Zero.

Don’t skip page 35. This is how to change your desired goal from a “kinda want to” to a “need to,” which is vitally important is you want to achieve it.

Elusive Bodyfat.

Talks about measuring bodyfat. Great info on what methods to use!

From Photos to Fear.

Here are tips on taking action. You’ve probably heard some of these ideas and stories (like tracking your weight, before and after photos, taking pictures of your food, betting friends you can gain muscle, etc.), but they are tried and true.

Now moving into the good stuff…

How to Lose 20 Pounds in 30 Days Without Exercise. Page 70.

This is the Slow Carb Diet, a bare bones diet designed to have you dropping body fat super fast. All you have to do is follow five rules. Yes, it’s easier said than done, but it’s not really that bad. And based on some of my diet experience, I believe this can work wonders for most people.

After nine pages about the diet, you get 20 pages in the follow-up section that is basically a FAQ for the slow carb diet. It covers spices, supplements, more food choices, cheat day ideas, eating beans without farting, whole grains and steel-cut oats, water intake, breakfast timing, etc. A very very important chapter!

While not a whole lot different than The Primal Blueprint diet, there are key differences in this diet. There are also similarities to the Precision Nutrition program, which may come in handy if you need more hand-holding on the diet. (You shouldn’t though because this slow carb diet is almost too simple.)

Damage Control. Page 100.

This is all about preventing fat gain, especially with the binge eating on cheat days. This is the stuff that is vital to understand before doing a diet that includes cheat days. Just living in Dunkin Donuts on a cheat day doesn’t suffice. You need the proper preparation!

This is one of those sections that is worth more than the entire cost of the book. The info here is not readily available elsewhere, at least to my knowledge.

The Four Horsemen of Fat Loss. Page 114.

This is the fat loss “stack” to take. It’s four compounds you can take as pills throughout the day. They work synergisticly to promote fat loss. You may have heard of these before, but Tim gives you past results and dosage instructions you probably haven’t seen.

Ice Age. Page 120.

All about cold exposure (think ice baths) for fat loss. Reveals how to do it successfully and with as little pain as possible.

The Glucose Switch. Page 133.

All about insulin and monitoring your blood glucose… and how to prevent it from spiking. All of this is for increasing fat loss. Some complex info, but also simple takeaways you can put into practice.

The Last Mile. Page 149.

An example of an even more strict diet if you’re up to it. Plus a sample routine bodybuilders follow to get to ~ 2-4% bodyfat for a competition. And steroid info. Completely impractical for us, but useful for informational purposes.

Now moving on to the muscle building sections…

four hour body pages

Building The Perfect Posterior. Page 158.

This is how a woman lost 100+ pounds. This chapter seems a little crazy – it’s basically someone who did a few kettlebell swings each week and made miniscule diet changes, then lost 100 pounds.

The results are so impressive though, it’s worth a try!

Six Minute Abs. Page 174.

Shows two main exercises you can use to get a six pack. While seeing your abs is 80% diet, 20% is muscle size, and this is very useful if you are at 12% or less bodyfat and your abs don’t have much definition.

four hour body pages

From Geek to Freak. Page 181.

An experiment where Tim gained lots of muscle and lost fat at the same time. It required just four hours in the gym over one month.

Note that this is only useful to get big. It’s not for athletic performance! I don’t suggest trying it, although reading the chapter is informative.

Moving on to more goodies throughout the book…

Reversing Permanent Injuries. Page 294.

I was very excited for this one! I spent the past two years researching various treatments, from yoga and massage to Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) and Prolotherapy to arthroscopic surgery. Luckily I heard about this book and waited to read it before making any big decisions!

This chapter is amazing and gives Tim’s personal experiences with everything I have researched plus stuff I never heard of. You get the risk vs reward advice and tips on where to find good doctors.

I probably saved thousands of dollars by reading this chapter!!

Pre-hab. Page 324.

A routine of exercises to prevent injury from training. Very important. I’ve never seen this stuff before in this sense.

This must be the most boring part of the book, and that’s typical for anything pre-hab. Just remember, rehab is far, far worse! Good advice here so make sure you use it.

four hour body pages

Ultra Endurance I. Page 367.

For the hard core endurance athlete not concerned with low-carb diets and gaining muscle, this is probably just the chapter you’ve been waiting for! Going from 5k to 50k in 12 weeks. Impossible?

To start with, you get some stretches to use to get your body ready for training. Like a pre-training period. Great stuff, I’ve done some of these or at least variations of them before. Love it.

Then proper running form must be learned. No big surprise here, it’s the Pose method. I recommend this as well, although I also like Chi Running, which shares many traits of Pose running. I like how Tim adds his own tips for learning in here, although I think you still want to buy a separate training video or attend a class on running form.

But I’m actually still really excited about this, because even though I have studied the Chi Running books and DVD, Tim’s tips on what helped him learn instantly made a difference in my learning!

There’s also a very important word of advice at the end, which basically says that Pose running is not a miracle and can’t rewrite physics – running still has lots of impact on the body. So take caution with any running technique.

Ultra Endurance II. Page 386.

More tips on running workouts. Then a 12 week schedule that Tim used to prepare for an ultra race. If this sounds easy now, that’s ok. Just bear in mind, putting it in practice will hurt like hell! Also, it’s the most unorthodox run training plan I’ve ever seen! You will not see this plan in the pages of Runner’s World (at least, I highly doubt it).

Then some FAQ with Brian MacKenzie to finish up. Brian gives you good tips on footwear, diet, etc. Also some good tips from ultramarathoner Scott Jurek in there as well.

Effortless Superhuman. Page 406.

Here we go, the info on getting stronger!! Great insider advice on strength training programs for elite sprinters. It’s all about maximum strength with minimal weight gain – ideal for endurance athletes, as well as wrestlers, fighters, etc.

Great tips here. A must read before planning your off-season training!

Learn to Swim Effortlessly. Page 434.

Basically these are some tips to go along with your Total Immersion (TI) training, using the Total Immersion DVD from Terry Laughlin. With a good goggle recommendation thrown in to make your time in the water more enjoyable.

A quick read, but this is what motivated me to get the TI stuff and start practicing my worst skill, swimming.

four hour body pages

There’s much more in the book, but I can only write so much! So let’s finish up with a few closing thoughts of mine to make sure Tim’s book doesn’t sound like a scam…

Always remember, even though a lot of this stuff sounds simple, it’s not all easy. Putting it into practice takes hard work and dedication. There’s nothing easy about running a 50k mile race!

And if you have a bum knee or shoulder trouble, just reading this book won’t fix them. You still have to actually go out and spend money on treatment.

If you keep that in mind, I think you will thoroughly enjoy the book.

My final verdict is…

Every athlete should own this book. I can’t imagine you wouldn’t pick up at least one extremely useful, possibly life-changing tip! Choosing not to spend a measly $15 on this book would be one of the stupidest decisions you could make.

Official website: www.FourHourBody.com

Buy online: www.Amazon.com

Product Review Details
Company: Tim Ferriss
Product: The Four Hour Body
Reviewed by: Coach Levi
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Date last updated: 2010-12-14
Obtained Product: Purchased at retailer.
CoachLevi.com Advertiser: No.

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  1. Thanks for the book review! I ordered the book and plan on putting it to the test. I will be vlogging about my results! Does it really work? We will see!

  2. I glance over this book at Border’s last night. I am skeptical to say the least as it sounds too good to be true. Also, is there anything in there for cyclists?

  3. @Jim

    There is nothing specific for cyclists when it relates to cycling. However, the fat loss and strength gaining chapters have bits that are useful for cyclists. And some of the training info for running can be applied to cycling training in the same manner.

    Also, the Pre-hab and Injury Reversal chapters are great for cyclists because we set ourselves up for overuse injuries.

    The book doesn’t contain miracle cures or anything, but it’s chock full of valuable information. To me, each little bit of info I picked up is worth more than the $15 price tag for the whole book, so I’m extremely happy with it.

  4. You can lose weight on the slow carb diet. Beans, lean meat and veggies will fill you up. There are already plenty of Four Hour Body recipes on the internet. As the author says, try it for one week. Because the weight loss is quick, you may be hooked. The diet seems bland as described in the book but it can be every bit as “exciting” as what you typically eat during your week. Plus you get a “cheat” day every week. The book is also worth reading because I think the author may be just a little bit crazy.

  5. @John S

    You could definitely say the author is a little bit crazy. Just watch the video of him [Tim Ferriss] getting a muscle biopsy done!

  6. I have bought the book. I am gonna start monday 2/7/2011. I must say I am very nervous. I guess it is alot of information. I am focusing on the slow carb diet & building the perfect posterior. I am not a very good cook or know much about cooking. I am not gonna take all the supplements either for fear. I must say the diet is the most over whelming. I like the book very informative. I love all the exercises. I just wish the diet part was not so over whelming. However if i just focus on protien & legumes I shouldn”t be to bad off.

  7. @Tina B

    Yes, definitely take it one step at a time. Focus on one thing at a time until you make it a habit, then add one more, and so on.

  8. I’ve tried this diet for about 2 weeks and I have not had any success. I’m wondering what I’m doing wrong. I drink from 90-100 oz of water every day,I have almost totally eliminated salt, I only eat the foods that are listed on page 72. I have used a small amount of mayo in a bean salad which is made up of celery onion,red kidney beans I also put salsa in my black beans along with cumin that’s it also I drink wine at night the types listed on page 87.( How many oz of wine is ok? I love the foods I just need to know why this is not working? Please help!!!

  9. @Kay

    I’m sorry to hear you’re not having any success. Unfortunately, every person is so different, there’s no way for me to give specific diet advice.

    The best I can say is to track everything you do and change one thing at at a time until you get the desired results.

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