How did Timothy Ferriss add 34 pounds of muscle in 28 days, without steroids, and with 4 hours of total gym time?
After running intense tests on himself so he could learn how to control the human body the way a hacker does a computer, Tim noticed that small effort, applied at the right places will give you outsized results. To add muscle quickly, or make other rapid health gains, all he had to is put effort in those key places.
I invited him to Mixergy to talk about The 4-Hour Body, which has over 500 pages of practical advice based on his findings. But I also wanted to learn HOW he did his research, so you could take his methods and apply them to any goal were you want to find the critical small steps that generate outsized results.
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Here’s the program.
Andrew: Hey, everyone. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. Timothy Ferriss turned himself into a human guinea pig in an attempt to learn how to hack the body. His conclusions are that small effort applied at the right places will give you outsized results. You can get specific examples of how to do that in his new book, here it is “The 4-Hour Body”, a giant of a book. We’ll talk about the book. I invited him here to Mixergy to talk about how you can maximize your body with minimum effort. Tim, welcome to Mixergy again.
Timothy: Thank you for having me again.
Andrew: Hey, you know the first question I’ve got is this, I know my audience, they’re chomping at the bit to build incredible businesses. I bet my audience is willing to sacrifice their body and their health, to be honest with you I am too, so they’d be willing to sacrifice their health in order to build great companies. Why should we care about our body?
Timothy: The reason you should care is because even if you look at the clinical research or you talk to people like Richard Branson, it’s clear that improving your physical function, which includes the brain, is the easiest and fastest way to improve output. So, a friend of mine held a mastermind session on Necker Island with Richard Branson, that’s Richard Branson’s island. For those of you who don’t know, he’s the founder of the Virgin Empire. And one of the questions he was asked was, “How do I become more productive? What is the key to becoming more productive?”
And he said work out. He said by working out I get three to four additional hours of productive time per day. And he started every morning by swimming around Necker Island. You don’t have to swim around an island. You can actually do very, very small things. But I would say that if you look at academic performance, you can see that in Naperville, this is in Illinois, one school was taken to top in the world in science and a few other subjects and the only change they made was by implementing the most sophisticated P.E. system in the entire country.
So, focusing on the body, even if it means 20 minutes twice a week, can dramatically improve your output. And that was one of the reasons that I decided to jump to this book after “The 4-Hour Workweek,” which to a lot of people doesn’t seem to have any connection at all. But, in fact, there’s a huge connection between the two.
Andrew: You know what, I still don’t see how. That’s interesting that Richard Branson said that and it’s a good anecdote. But I take a look at myself. When I go running, I kill maybe at least an hour of my day. Then I have to shower before coming into work after my run, that kills another half hour. That’s an hour and a half of lost productivity. You’re telling me that going to the gym will give me maybe three to four extra hours? How?
Timothy: Part of it has to do with number one biochemical reasons for that. So the sequencing is important, whether you do it before or after. So that’s part of it. I think that exercise can be used in one of two ways, from a sheer time management or priority management standpoint. First is using it earlier in the day, specifically to increase the production of hormones and so forth that will help with mental function. That’s what they do in the case study that I gave just a bit earlier related to academic performance. So doing it first thing in the morning.
For me, I use it for bracketing. This is another reason why it’s helpful. And that means that I will exercise. So bracketing is meaning if you look at scheduling exercise between 7:00 and 9:0 p.m., which is when I have my highest pain tolerance, and you can figure that out for yourself, and that marks the end of my day. That marks the end of my business day and business activities. So as a shut off switch for people I think it’s also very valid to be dependent on your physical limits. So if you’re able to build in that recovery and increase your recovery time, you will improve productivity.
But needless to say, that’s one side of the equation. The other side of the equation is just realizing that you’re building your business for any number of reasons. Usually one of them is improving your quality of life. And if you let your health degrade, if you lose your health, you put on three pounds per year let’s say as many engineers or tech entrepreneurs will put on, then it is a high priority, should be a high priority to take that off. And it’s not that hard to do once you get a few principles right.
Andrew: All right. I’ll tell you what I find is I find that running is completely within my control. As long as I just keep pushing myself, I feel like I can accomplish it and then I come into work feeling incredible for having done something that I didn’t expect to be able to do, incredible for having that win early on. That’s why I was interested in the book. That’s why I wanted to know about “The 4-Hour Body” to see what else could I do.
Now I don’t do anything about muscle gain, and I noticed that you did something interesting. I think I see here 34 pounds of muscle in 28 days. How did you do that?
Timothy: So that was just so people know the circumstances. I was supervised by a Ph.D. at San Jose State University, and we used hydrostatic weighing, which is underwater weighing, for body composition. The way I did it was with two 30-minute workouts per week, which means it was literally four hours for the month. So in this case it is the 4-hour body. And there were a number of protocols that I followed.
The first was the exercise protocol, which was and we’ll talk about this I’m sure more, following the minimum effective dose. So how many seconds of tension with a specific weight or load do I need to trigger muscular growth in certain body parts? And you can figure this out. So I was using a very slow safe protocol to achieve that eliminating momentum to the extent possible, tracked everything like a scientific experiment.
And then the second protocol was the eating protocol. So you have to eat a lot to gain 34 pounds of muscle. I also lost three pounds of fat and lowered my cholesterol from 222 to 147. And that involved eating, but improving insulin sensitivity so that was preferentially put into muscle tissue as opposed to fat tissue. Then also taking supplementation to improve protein synthesis and things like that.
So at the end of the day it was a combination of very small things used together.
Andrew: Let’s talk about that concept that you mentioned earlier, minimum effective dose. Could you tell people what that is?
Timothy: So the minimum effective dose is treating diet and exercise like a prescription, like a medical prescription, like a drug. So what is the smallest dose that will achieve the outcome you want? Anything below that doesn’t work. Anything above that is going to increase the side effects. And by taking that approach you realize that it can be very, very precise. So just like you might have a microwave meal and you hit two minutes high, go, the example I gave before for muscular growth could be 80 seconds, 80 to 100 seconds with 20 pounds for the shoulder, go. And you do that once per week and you achieve a very specific outcome. So really getting precise. And if someone says hey, you should do 3 sets of 12 of this and 5 sets of 5 of this, really asking why and looking for the supporting data. And I spent three years making myself the guinea pig with the world’s best scientists, doctors and athletes and coaches so that other people don’t have to, so I could identify the few things that allow that type of precision, whether that’s for muscular gain or the ultra endurance. So you know the running chapters might be of interest to you, fat loss, whatever. So that was really the goal was to find the smallest possible change that produced the biggest possible outcome.
Andrew: All right. And you’re saying that when we’re at the gym, the smallest possible, or the smallest effort for the most outcome means doing one set, not multiple sets, and doing it how? How did you do it that you said you eliminated momentum?
Timothy: So in the case of the muscular gain, I was using the protocol that was based on Mike Mentzer, Arthur Johnson, Ken Hutchins and a few others and that involved lifting the weight five seconds up and lowering it over five seconds. In some cases, you could do it slower, ten seconds up, ten seconds down and doing one set to failure. So for muscular gain that’s very effective. You can, in some cases, use multiple sets, but in the instance of 90 plus percent of the population who wants to get into the gym, get out of the gym and get on with their lives, one set can be done effectively.
If you’re looking for maximal strength gains, so I became very fascinated by getting very, very, very strong, some guys want to be big but I think most guys want to be strong, and I put more than 150 pounds on my max dead lift in a matter of eight weeks or so. The way I did that was with multiple sets, following something similar to what’s the approach by Lee Simmons among other people. And the approach matches the outcome. So you need to be very clear on your outcome and what you want to achieve as well. I encourage, for most people who want to lose body fat or just look better, and I think vanity and performance are where you want to focus. You get health as a byproduct of those things, but health is a terrible motivator. It’s too long term. It’s too nebulous. So performance like running a faster 5K time [inaudible 10:28] a 20 pound a week [inaudible 10:34] 20 pound a week composition. And that means that you’re, let’s say, losing 5 pounds of fat, gaining 10 pounds of muscle or losing 15 pounds of fat, gaining 5 pounds of muscle. And for women that’s true too, but especially for guys. And I think that recomposition, keeping that in mind, helps you to avoid fixating on the scale, which is a really blunt instrument and doesn’t tell you very much.
Andrew: How do I know what the minimum effective dose is? If a topic isn’t covered in the book and I just want to figure it out for myself, how do I figure it out?
Timothy: I think the best way to find minimum effective dose is to look at outliers. So for me when I looked at, let’s say ultra endurance, these are people who are running 50 miles, 100 miles, things like that, I looked for the people who weren’t six-foot two and 120 pounds. I looked for the people who are 190 pounds and five-eight or 230 pounds and six-two, and looked at how they train because I recognized that they would not recover as quickly as others, they would have more muscle mass, and they would have to train differently. So I looked for the people who trained the least, and then I emulated those people. It doesn’t need to be difficult to do this. It’s actually very easy to get a hold of many coaches, and you could quite directly contact one of these people via e-mail. You could probably find them on a university website and drop them an e-mail. Give them a paragraph of background and give them an intelligent question that indicates you’ve tried to find the answer elsewhere but couldn’t, and very frequently, I mean in my case, or in my assistant’s case, who does not have my, he wasn’t throwing my name around all the time, eight times out of ten he would get a response within a few days. So you look for the anomalies is how you find the minimal effective dose.
Andrew: Wouldn’t you just expect that those people were biological freaks? That something in their system allowed them to run faster, bike longer, lift more and that they were the anomalies for a reason?
Timothy: You do find genetic freaks, and you can learn a lot from the freaks of nature, which I’ve tried to do. However, what you look at is you ask them a number of things. Who trained you? Did someone train you to behave in this way, to approach the methodology in this way? And then secondly, have you trained anyone else? And so you can see very quickly if they’ve been able to replicate their results, or if their coach has been able to do the same thing with other people. That’s an important second step because you don’t want to model your behavior off of let’s say someone like Lance Armstrong, who has a single lung capacity that most of us have in both lungs, if at best I would say. So that is important. You want to be able to separate out the genetic freaks, and that’s something that I also think teach people how to do in certain portions of the book.
Andrew: All right. You had a lot of examples in your book, but one of them that I was drawn to was Phil, the CEO of Evernote and how he lost weight. Can you tell people that story and then we’ll talk about how he did it?
Timothy: So Phil lost; I believe it was between 30 and 40 pounds without trying. He had done diets before. He had done exercise, and he wanted to take the laziest approach he could . . .
Andrew: By the way, when you talk like, this is what makes people just doubt the truth of your books, saying lost weight without trying, didn’t put in much effort.
Timothy: This is, and I have to run that risk. The benefit is I have 500 plus scientific references in the book. I have some of the best, I have NASA scientists, I have all these people who have lent their expertise to the book. But let me finish this story and then it’ll make more sense.
Timothy: What Phil did, and this is supported by the research also, he just set up an Excel spreadsheet with a graph and he had his ideal weight, so let’s see if I can get this right, nope, not that way. This way, going down to, from his present weight to his ideal weight, and he had a maximal allowable weight line above that and minimal allowable line below that. And he simply weighed himself every morning and looked at the graph. He made no conscience decision to change his behavior. He wanted to see if that awareness alone would impact the thousands of small changes or decisions rather that you make over the course of a day or a week. And it did. And that’s how he lost weight. The only time that he ever took action was when he dipped below the minimal allowable weight, and then he would have donuts or something like that. And I’m not saying that everybody should go out and do that, but it does work.
Another way that that principle can be applied, and this is supported by clinical trials, is that people take photographs of their food before they eat it. Just use an iPhone or any type of smart phone and take photographs of your food. And just that awareness of what you’re about to eat will oftentimes deliver better results in terms of fat loss for example than having a trainer. So the psychological set-up is really important.
Andrew: I see. All right. I could see how that works. I could also see how I might over think it, and that’s what you seem to go against. That we try to put in extra effort because we feel that we need to earn our results, whether it’s at work or in our health or anything, true?
Timothy: There is effort, and I don’t want to make it seem like there’s no effort involved whatsoever. But the effort that I recommend is set up in the beginning. It’s front loaded so that you failure proof your behavioral program so that you don’t quit after three weeks. And once you’ve set up the coordinates and the rules and the accountability and things like that, which doesn’t take very long. This could take a half an hour. But once you’ve done that, then you’re likelihood of success is multiples higher than if you were just going to say you know what, I need to work harder so instead of going to the gym one hour a day I’m going to go to the gym two hours a day. Those types of approaches that are based on increasing volume, continually increasing volume have a very high abandonment rate. They’re just not sustainable. Then what happens when you need to go on a trip for a week? Well, you just missed your program for a week. And then people say, “You know what, I’ll get back to it in a month. I’ll get back to it in two months.” And that’s how people fall off.
So in my particular case it’s using the psychological set-up in the beginning and then having a simple protocol that you can follow even if you’re at home for the holidays or traveling or in airports or whatever it might be. I think that the approach, the minimal effective dose, and this comes back to the pareto principle and the 80/20, that minimal effective dose that is 80 or 90 percent as effective as the perfect program that you’ll only follow for three weeks, that’s the approach you want to take. The one that will actually last and give you a high level of results but over a long period of time.
Andrew: You used the phrase earlier, failure proof. How do I failure proof my results? How do I failure proof myself before I get started?
Timothy: There are a few ways that you go about doing that. The first is getting a very clear picture of your baseline. So you need to know where you are and this isn’t any, that’s not new advice. The advice that is new would be, for example, using before photographs, which if you look at the transformational challenges in the last ten years or so the most successful winners use different diets, they use different workouts, they almost all had unflattering before photographs. And even if you think you only have five pounds to lose, trust me, you take a before photograph like this in unflattering lighting and you will want to change. And it will make you more likely to stick with things. A lot of them put it on their refrigerator, in their wallet, something like that.
But also just measuring the right things. And that could be as easy as going to a facility that has a bod pod for example. These are used for body fat composition in the NFL combine. They’re available in every state in the U.S. and you can go to a bod pod. Or you can have DEXA. These are tools that people haven’t heard of that are very effective for establishing that baseline.
Then secondly is accountability — finding a group or one person to hold you accountable. We spoke before we got started a little bit about Rameet, and we can talk about that more. But if you have something to lose, all right, loss aversion, use loss aversion. Rewards don’t work very well. But if you’re going to suffer somehow if you don’t fulfill your obligation to make this program work, that’s when things happen. So it could be as simple as finding a friend that you can bet $5 with. Every time you go to the gym, if the other person doesn’t show up, they pay you $5. Likewise, if you miss it, you pay them $5.
There’s a Trevor in the book who works for Google who did this with $1 and he makes plenty of money. It’s just that bet that allowed both of them to get started. He hadn’t run a mile since high school, and now he’s running marathons. So the accountability and the potential loss is very important. And that loss could be financial or it could be just open humiliation, which is what Rameet did. So Rameet Sethi, from icanteachyoutoberich.com, is a good friend of mine. He gained 15. He’s a thin guy and he had always had trouble gaining weight and he gained, I think it was 15 pounds in 5 weeks or 4 weeks. And the way he did it was by setting up a Wiki where he would announce his weight every week to his friends who followed the Wiki. He also bet so there was a financial component, but he did an amazing amount of trash talking. And other people were allowed to trash talk as well, so he had to make it happen or he was going to be humiliated. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s a useful thing.
There are very easy ways to do this. And even if you don’t have friends around you who can help with that or you don’t think you do, you can go to a site like DailyBurn.com or BodySpace.com and find people who will keep you accountable. So that’s a simple thing that takes next to no time that will make it likely you will succeed. It’s very important to have the psychological set-up.
Andrew: He put on not just 15 pounds, but 15 pounds of muscle in three months.
Andrew: I didn’t know that about him. That’s incredible.
Timothy: Yeah. Yeah, exactly and here’s the most important part of that is he has maintained that weight almost to the pound. He didn’t just gain it and then lose it. He gained that weight for the first time in his life and then kept it on. And that is the real test. So just because someone lost 50 pounds of body fat doesn’t mean anything if they gain it back plus interest two months later. That’s why the slow carb diet and these things that I arrived at by testing with hundreds or thousands of people over the last three years, they’re meant to have a high compliance rate.
And, you know, my dad was 250 at five foot six, and he lost 90 pounds of fat and gained 20, 30 pounds of muscle and he’s 65. This is with the same type of workout that I mentioned before that I used to gain 34 pounds of muscle, but it was in combination with a very, very simple diet. And I think that the simplicity is key because when you have a paradox of choice, when you have too many options, and that’s true for advertising, it’s true for call to action, it’s true for buttons on a website, but its’ also true for dietary changes or physical changes, too many choices, you will fail. It’s so clearly established in scientific literature and just in real life you see it all the time. So keeping things simple is critical.
Andrew: You even say I think eating relatively few foods over and over makes dieting easier. In fact, what is, I think that’s part of the slow carb diet that you mentioned a moment ago. What is this slow carb diet?
Timothy: So the slow carb diet is very simple. I’ll show you the slow carb diet actually. This is, let’s see if we can, this is an example of the slow carb diet. It’s pretty good. This is Mexican food, extra guacamole. The slow carb diet means six days a week you follow a diet. All right. One day a week you can binge, you can overeat, and in fact I recommend people take one day to do that. So that they binge on a scheduled time instead of doing it when they break down. So six days a week very simple, you don’t eat anything whites, that means you’re avoiding bread, pasta, grains, things like that. You’re not drinking calories. So you can have unsweetened iced tea, green tea, water. I will have some red wine. I like a glass or two of red wine per night. But otherwise you’re not drinking any calories. No milk, no juice, no nothing like that. And then you are repeating the same default meals, at least for breakfast and lunch, and then you can vary it for dinner. That’s what I would call the luxury of no choice. It allows you to go on autopilot. A lot of people say oh, but, you know, [inaudible 23:04] sounds so boring. Why would I want to rotate the same meals? And if I ask the same person what did you eat for breakfast the last week, you’ll find that they had the same one or two things every morning. So it’s just having new default meals that work. And they can be really, really delicious. It’s not that hard to follow after the first week.
Then the next rule is minimizing fruit, which is controversial, but there are a lot of reasons for it. I mean let’s just say in the 1700s in the middle of winter, how much fruit were you eating if you were in Russia or anywhere else for that matter? The answer is certainly not seven days a week; you were not having Florida oranges. So you can have that on your cheat day, but for the rest of the time, don’t have fruit. It will increase fat gain or at least eliminate fat loss.
And last rule is take one day off and binge, have the Twix bars, have the [inaudible 23:52], have the pizza, whatever you want for one day. And you don’t count calories on any of these days and that binge day has an important effect biochemically. It improves thyroid output, so conversion from T4 to T3. It affects leptin. All of these things actually increase fat loss over the long term.
And secondly, psychologically, you’re providing a release valve where you can have all the foods that you enjoy and you’re only foregoing them for six days at a time. So many people will actually keep a list of their impulses during those six days on the diet so that they can have a “to eat” list for the Saturday, let’s say. That’s my usual binge day. But 58 percent of the people of 194 that I tracked, at least in the Appendix of the book, said it was the first time they had ever been able to follow a diet. And many of them lost more than 100 pounds or there were people who just wanted to lose the last ten pounds. But that’s the diet. I mean you don’t have to read the book to get the bare bones of the diet. If you want the finer details, the magic is in a lot of the finer details. But that’s how it works and that is the slow carb diet.
Andrew: How much can I binge on this one day that I take? Can I have two, three pies of pizza from Papa John’s or Domino’s and then have three bags of potato chips, because I’m capable of doing that? Does that ruin the whole thing?
Timothy: No, it doesn’t at all. In fact . . .
Timothy: In fact one of the experiments that I did in the book, in the chapter Damage Control, to demonstrate this was I ate 6.8 times my resting metabolic rate on my binge day to show that the calories in/calories out model, as most nutritionists present it, is over simplified. I mean I know guys at NASA who are responsible for keeping space shuttles from incinerating when they reenter the atmosphere. These guys understand thermodynamics. There are a lot of ways to minimize the damage when you do that, number one. Number two is you’re not going to gain that much fat if it’s limited to let’s say a 12-hour period or 20-hour period that you’re awake on a Saturday. It just doesn’t happen, because you excrete a lot of those calories and you can use other ways to mitigate the damage.
For me personally, as an example, so Halloween, right? So Halloween comes around, I was so excited. I was very thrilled to have the opportunity to give candy to trick or treaters because I had moved into a new place. But only one family showed up, so I had three boxes of Twix bars and I ate all of them. I ate more than 3,000 calories of Twix bars, which is disgusting, but I like Twix bars and it was Halloween. So I ate 3,000 calories of Twix bars on top of all of my other food for the day. And it didn’t bother me at all. I mean it made me feel a little sick, which certainly helps me to follow the diet for the next few days. But what you’ll find is you’ll gain between I would say three to ten pounds of water weight. That will go away within the next 36 hours, and then you’ll continue to lose body fat over the subsequent few days. And I have thousands of data points for this because of the people who have tracked themselves.
So I can tell you very specifically exactly what your water weight fluctuation will look like, which is pretty fun.
Andrew: I want to come back to how you measured all this stuff. But what about friends? One of the problems that I have with good advice is it works great when I’m in my room and in my office and apartment by myself. Once I introduce friends, they screw up my schedule. I have to go out to dinner with them and they screw up my eating habits. How do you sit across from someone at a great restaurant and be the person who doesn’t touch the food but only has like a little salad instead of a steak?
Timothy: Yeah, you don’t have to have a little salad. So you can have everything except for, in most cases, the bread that they’ll bring you in the beginning. So if the options are, as an example, so at a Mexican restaurant usually you would have a side of rice or tortillas or something like that and you just get extra steamed vegetables. And that might cost you an extra $1 or $3, and that’s your six-pack tax. That’s your lean tax so to speak. And it’s actually . . .
Andrew: But Tim, you’re in these exotic places around the world with such interesting people. You want to be a part of life. You don’t want to just be on your schedule. You’re going to sit there and order the extra steamed vegetables? You do that?
Timothy: I will do that for the majority of the week, and then I can do whatever I want on my binge day. So I enjoy food from all over the world. I eat, trust me, man. I mean I live in San Francisco partially because I like to eat. So I’ll have a super quesadilla with extra cheese, a Super Swiss at the Tacqueria in the Mission. I will do that. And that thing, trust me, that wallops like 2,000 calories by itself. But I limit it to one day a week. And you find that you appreciate and enjoy your food more, the fun stuff, when you do it that way. Secondly, you can’t continue to do what you’ve always done and magically lose weight, unless you want to do methamphetamines or something, which I don’t recommend because it’s certainly not sustainable and in most cases not legal. But you do have to make some changes but it’s not nearly as painful as people think. The hardest part is the first week, determining what your default meals will be. Once you’ve done that, it’s really easy. If you go to a Thai place, Mexican place, French place, it’s really easy to get default meals. You go to a French restaurant you could have the most delicious cassoulet you want, you’re allowed to have beans, legumes, all that stuff. You’re just not allowed to have bread or pasta for six days a week basically. And it’s surprisingly easy to get past that first week and then it’s really easy.
I’ve been doing this for five plus years. My dad, keep in mind, this is, this is my dad, I love my dad but he got into the habit of overeating, like many people. He would have a full dinner and then he would eat sandwiches after dinner. He got into the diet and after a week, he said I don’t know why you said this was so hard. This is actually really, really easy. And, again, this is the first time that he’s, I’ve ever seen my dad weighing as much as me, which made the book certainly worth it by itself, all the experimentation. But it’s not as hard as people think once they try it.
Andrew: All right. I want to get into the experiments, because I really admire your work ethic and your attention to numbers. Tell us a little bit about how you did that. How did you experiment? How did you keep track of all the experiments that lead to this book?
Timothy: So I didn’t want to do guesswork, and there was some creativity or guesswork involved in coming up with the things to test. Yes, that is part of the scientific process. But I didn’t want to speculate. So when people said if you eat carbs and protein together, you will lose fat faster because of less of a glycemic effect. Or if you do this, you eat this before your meal, it will prevent your blood sugar from spiking; you’ll lose less or more body fat. Okay. So what I did was I contacted a cutting edge biomedical device company and implanted a sensor in my side, this is under my skin, that would measure my blood glucose 24/7. And I took detailed food logs, weighed my food, did all of that so that other people hopefully don’t have to. And I could say all right, here’s some very interesting findings based on what I did and based on what other people have done that show okay if you replace, let’s say the milk in your coffee with a little bit of cinnamon and that’s the only change you make is your two cups of coffee per day you replace the milk with cinnamon, you could lose an additional two to five pounds per week because of the combined insulinogenic effect of coffee with skim milk, let’s say.
Okay. Tiny change, big result. The only way I’m going to realize that is if I track things effectively. I was very, very meticulous. It doesn’t mean that people have to be the same way. They just have to take my conclusions, i.e. go to a bod pod or a DEXA or use A, B and C different devices to get one body fat measurement. Do that once every three months let’s say. That’s it.
But in my case, I got very OCD about it because I enjoy doing that, and I have to defend these findings. So whether it’s the scientists in the book, the references, or my data, I have to be in a position where I can say look, these are my data and the data doesn’t lie. So to be able to do that I really had to be more meticulous than in any other book that I’ve ever seen for self-experimentation, specifically for physical change.
Andrew: That chapter where you had the, I guess it’s called the Dexcom 7 put into your body, that was one of the most fun chapters because I could see myself in your shoes. I have this little device in my body that’s measuring what I eat and you were doing it. You were just tossing stuff in your body, seeing how the device changed, and what your numbers were like.
Timothy: Yeah, and there were a lot of very interesting findings that I think applied to many people. So if you’re going to a workout and you’re accustomed to doing your post workout shake after your workout because you’ve been told that there’s a window of 30 minutes after you workout where you’ll absorb it more effectively, in the testing I realized that that shake took 45 minutes to an hour to hit my bloodstream. So if you want that to hit your blood stream during that post workout window, you should have your post workout shake before your workout in many cases. And just with those types of shifts, tiny changes I was able to dramatically improve my results. Or if you’re going to take branched-chain amino acids, you should take them about 30 minutes prior to your workout, 20 to 30 minutes prior to your workout. These are simple changes that go quite contrary to what most people are told in the fitness magazines and so forth. But I have the data.
Andrew: Tim, you invest and advise Internet startups. Why did you decide to put your ideas into a book, an old fashioned piece of technology instead of coming out with a new web app or iPhone app or something that does a lot of this for us, kind of like Daily Burn that you invested in. Why do a book?
Timothy: Because I’ve realized, even though I forget this sometimes, that outside of San Francisco and New York and a few other places or a few niche communities I should say, the book is still actually the best technology for transmitting a lot of this information. And by controlling the form factor, and that’s also true on Kindle, I’m not saying that the book as a physical product, although that is extremely important for hitting most of the U.S., which is my first market. It’s very important. And most of the world for that matter. But by controlling the format, I can control the sequence. By controlling sequence, I can control, to some extent, how people implement the steps, which is very important. Sequence is key. And that is important, I think, for producing the highest number of success cases. But the book itself will evolve and I will evolve with it. But at this point in time, yes, you’ll be able to view it on Kindle. Yes, you’ll be able to see it through the Kindle app on the iPad, but I do think that there is actually a lot of advantage still at this point in time for the technology of the print book. I do think it works well for a number of different purposes, and in this particular case I do think it works. But that will change. That will change and that will evolve.
Andrew: What do you have in mind? Do you have a website where you’ll take me through the process? Do you have a service where maybe you’ll partner up with one of these health food places that deliver food and give me my meals so that I don’t have to figure out how to make them? What do you have in mind?
Timothy: What I have in mind is using the book as an entry point for communities that hold each other accountable online, and that could lead in any number of directions. But because the tracking is so important, the easiest way to do that is certainly with web based apps or using a handheld device like an iPhone, which of course ties into web based apps. The book is intended to provide people with everything that they need. But to get to the community, you can do that offline but the easiest way will be to go through links that are provided in the book to places like Daily Burn, which you mentioned or BodySpace.com or one of these and that is, I think, where people will really see the fastest rate of progress is when they join one or more of those communities.
Andrew: All right. You obviously know the term minimum viable product. I’ve done tons of interviews with Internet entrepreneurs who keep whipping that term out, but I was surprised to see that a lot of your, the early chapters of your book seem to have a similar concept where you talked about don’t try to exercise for an hour right off the bat. Try five minutes instead. Don’t diet for six months, test drive for one or two weeks and then maybe extend it. Can you talk about why that works more than going for a big life change?
Timothy: It’s the same reason that the waterfall approach to programming or project management fails oftentimes. People feel like they’ve been working on a project for, if someone’s been working on a project for six months they’ll want to have it perfect before it goes to market. They continue to postpone, continue to postpone, continue to postpone because it’s such a big investment, not only of time and capital but also their identity. It’s like, oh my God, if this thing fails, I’m a failure. So you have to lower the risk of failure, and the way you do that with behavioral change is you limit the duration. So the importance of five sessions, and I talk about this as it relates to the Nike ID, not Nike ID but whether the NikePlus running product is, they’ve logged millions of miles with millions of runners and have realized that five sessions, that’s the magical number. Once you have five sessions logged, then you’ve developed a new habit and that is something that you will follow.
So for me, I really make the point to the reader that it’s not about getting five sessions that are five hours long. It’s just getting those sessions in. If it applies to workouts, go in there for ten minutes. You know if you stay for an hour, that’s fine. But the only thing you’re committing to, the only thing you have to succeed at is getting in the gym for five to ten minutes and then leaving. If you go beyond that, extra credit, bonus, gold star. But everybody can go in for five to ten minutes, and you don’t want to set the expectation, the commitment so high that you feel like you failed if you don’t meet something that’s over ambitious. So starting small is very, very key.
Andrew: All right. One of the reasons I was excited to read the book is because I hate how I sleep, and I didn’t realize you also have insomnia. You had a couple of chapters on dealing with insomnia. One of them was about reducing, sleeping just two hours a night, hacking your sleep. Can you talk about how that happens?
Timothy: Sure. So the sleeping two hours per day is a reference to polyphasic sleep and there, I’m going to have some very interesting original studies coming out soon with some fascinating data relating to polyphasic sleep because it’s extremely controversial. Some people say it can’t be done. Other people say of course it can be done; I’ve been doing it for two years. You can sleep less than the usual prescribed eight hours if you break your sleep up into multiple sessions. So that could be something like the siesta approach, which is six hours of block sleep at night and then a nap in the afternoon, usually of 20 minutes. Or it can be broken up into every man and then uberman is the one that you were referring to, which is I believe it’s eight 20 minute naps per day. Now that is fascinating from the standpoint of demonstrating human potential, but it also extremely impractical for most people to take eight naps per day. And if you miss a nap, God forbid, or you’re an hour or two late taking your nap, you’re going to be worthless for several days. So that requires a very high level of attention to detail and discipline. But I do know people who’ve done that. Matt Mullenweg, who’s the lead developer of WordPress, now I think he’s the chairman or something of Automatic, I’m not sure what his exact role is, very productive guy but he produced the majority of his code for WordPress in one year during which he was following polyphasic sleep. But as he put it in the book, then he got a girlfriend and things got a little more complicated because it’s more fun to sleep through the night with someone than to have to get up after 20 minutes and go do something else.
There are many ways to tweak sleep. I think where people would get the most benefit generally is looking at how to improve time to sleep. So overcoming insomnia, which I did, which was just amazing. And I can give people a quick tip . . .
Andrew: Yeah, please, a quick tip for falling asleep sooner, no insomnia.
Timothy: So one would be using cold exposure. So if you take a cold shower, doesn’t have to be long, five minutes or take, I like ice baths but I’m crazy, about an hour before you want to go to bed that will increase time to sleep very, very effectively, very consistent. Second would be you could use something called the Phillips goLITE, I think it is. It’s a blue light device, it’s usually used for seasonal effective disorder and treating depression. I was experimenting with it initially to try to replace my cup of coffee in the morning.
Andrew: That’s the visor that shines a light in your eyes I think.
Timothy: Exactly. And what I realized is for whatever reason, and I looked at the mechanism later, when I positioned that for 15 minutes to the side of my newspaper or my laptop in the morning, I actually had less than 10 minutes time to sleep, which for me is amazing because it can usually take me or did usually take me an hour to two hours to get to sleep. And this is true for almost every male in my family. It just seems that we have unusual hardwiring. I think for many people the sleep and the sex will probably be the most impactful chapters. I know that we don’t have all too much time left, but I do think the sleep, without sleep nothing else matters. Certainly for those people who are trying to function at high capacity in business or in their startup, that’s the rate limiter right there, sleep, the quality of the sleep that you get.
Andrew: So you’re saying that visor, you’d have it just sitting there on the table so that it’s shining at you and that was enough to help you fall asleep sooner. You don’t even have to wear it?
Timothy: No, no, no. This is just, this is actually a, it’s a device that will rest on a table with a stand. It’s very small. You could take it in your carry on luggage. It would point at me off to the side for 15 minutes each morning, that’s it.
Andrew: And what about this? You put a couple of devices on your arm, you had something wrap around your head, you’re dating, you’re a single guy, what happens when you bring a girl home and she has to see you do these devices, maybe inject yourself and measure this and that? How does that work?
Timothy: Well, I would say a few things. It certainly acts as an additional filter for qualifier for girlfriend material. I’m an unusual guy. I mean I do a lot, in the sense that I do a lot of experiments, a lot of weird stuff, so if a girlfriend or a potential girlfriend is put off by that right in the beginning instead of being interested, then it’s probably not going to work long term. So I’d say . . .
Andrew: But there are girls who are into it, who say look at this, this guy’s trying new things. I love how open he is to new ideas.
Timothy: Yeah. What the hell, like that’s weird what the hell are you doing? And they might look at it as strange, which it is, but they’re also interested in learning what exactly I’m up to and why I’m doing it. I think that if they’re curious, that’s a good thing. If they’re really put off and they don’t ask any questions, then it’s probably not meant to be at all in the first place.
Andrew: I would imagine American and European girls are probably the most open to it. Am I right?
Timothy: Let’s see. Let me think about that. That’s a good question. I would have to look back in my experiences and reflect. But it doesn’t seem to be nationality or ethnicity specific. Some girls freak out and others don’t at all and actually want to participate somehow. So I think it depends a lot on upbringing more than anything else.
Andrew: All right. So the book is giant. Tell me how we’re supposed to go through this giant book?
Timothy: So the way you go through the book is by not going through it. So it’s intended to be a choose your own adventure book, much like let’s say a cookbook. So in the very beginning in the first chapter, it says don’t go through this book A to Z. It’s not intended to be read that way. Pick your objective. Here are the four chapters you should read. And they’re almost always between 100 and 150 pages. So effectively saying for any given reader, the first book that you read of mine in this will be 100 to 150 pages long. And I encourage people to pick one appearance goal and one performance goal, having those two it is very important. But that’s how I recommend people go through it, which is treating it more like a choose your own adventure book.
Andrew: I’ll tell you my experience with it. Amy, your assistant, asked me to send over questions beforehand, before this interview so you could be a little prepared to know and know where I’m going with it. I was so intimidated by the size of this book that I just didn’t crack it open. Then when I finally cracked it open too late to send her notes, I couldn’t put it down. It was just like flipping through your crazy experiment after crazy experiment. We didn’t even get into like the sex positions that are in there. We didn’t get into any of your sperm count. We didn’t get into the stuff you were injecting and stuff you were measuring. But I didn’t read every word of it, but I couldn’t put it down cover to cover. And then I figure there are a few things I want to go back and dive into and get more details, like you know what, maybe I should go to the gym. There are a couple chapters in here, especially the one with Neil Strauss, how you helped him improve his body, I want to go back in and maybe duplicate what you did for him.
Timothy: That’s exactly the hope and that is exactly what I dreamed readers would experience. So I’m glad to hear that that has been your experience. It’s a big book. It’s a big book, and one of the downsides to the physical format is it looks very intimidating. But if you think about it like the Joy of Cooking meets Diary of a Mad Man then it’s a lot easier to approach. And once you jump in, you realize it’s actually pretty quick read particularly if you follow the directions and do 100 to 150 pages.
Andrew: Plus I like your language. I like the way you talk in here. You don’t use the F-bomb as you call it in the book, but you do curse a little bit and I kind of like it.
Timothy: Yeah, I realized that that’s my personality. I’m from Long Island and really allowing my personality to come out on the page will either bother people who don’t like me to begin with, so they’re probably not going reading the book, or for people who’ve grown accustomed to “The 4-Hour Workweek” or my writing on the blog, it will be hopefully like a familiar friend. I mean it’s really intended to be amusing. There are some pretty funny stories and ridiculous stories in the book. So I didn’t want it to be dry. I didn’t want it to be a dry book of protocols and schedules. All that’s in there, but I wanted it to be fun to read. So that was . . .
Andrew: I see you drinking water as we’re doing the interview, and I noticed that that’s one of the tips that you have here in the book. You’re abs still ripped even while you’re promoting this book? Like if you lifted your shirt right now, would they be ripped abs?
Timothy: I have a couple of shirts on. It’s freezing here in New York City but I have to . . .
Andrew: You want to give me the money shot for my audience who . . .
Timothy: No, I’m good for the money shot.
Andrew: You’re not going to show them the abs?
Timothy: No, no money shot today, but . . .
Andrew: All right. Yes?
Timothy: But I will say that I have to walk the walk, absolutely. So I mean I am still in shape and certainly for a book launch, if it’s about the human body I better be in shape. I will be doing a money shot photo session for one of the big TV shows, so I’ll save my abs for those guys.
Andrew: You’re saving the abs for the big guys?
Timothy: No, not the big guys. When I have to do it. I’m doing it, I’m actually going to be filming [inaudible 47:14] of all things. But, yeah, I have to walk the walk, and I think that hopefully part of what will make this book more tangible for people is I’ve done, I tested everything on myself. If it worked on me, then I tested it on other people, like mothers and people over 60 and everything you can imagine. But I subjected myself to everything. So I certainly should be walking the walk and I intend to.
Andrew: If my audience sees you at a conference, can they ask you to lift of your shirt to see it in person, if it’s warm at the conference?
Timothy: They can ask, yes.
Andrew: They can ask.
Timothy: They’re welcome to ask.
Andrew: I like that. Hey, you wanted to tell people about how they could get three copies of the book. What do we do? How do we give them that? How do we get them to buy three copies?
Timothy: Yeah, one offer I wanted to make, it’s coming up on the holidays and this is, it’s not a book that people will be embarrassed to receive, that’s another reason why it isn’t how to lose 30 pounds in 30 days. I mean it really is a choose your own adventure guide for the human body. I had to cut a lot out of the book, so it’s a big book already and I had to cut out quite a few good chapters because the publisher didn’t want to pay for more printing costs. But if people buy three copies of the book on Amazon and send the receipt to email@example.com , all spelled out, F-O-U-R-H-O-U-RB-O-D-Y.com, so firstname.lastname@example.org, if you buy three books, send the Amazon receipt, I will send you a PDF of one of the lost chapters that you can’t get anywhere else and there’s some good stuff. I mean ranging from spot reduction, which actually ended up working amazingly, to genetics testing to using Resveratrol for ultra endurance, all sorts of crazy stuff. I will send one of the lost chapters if people want to take advantage of that. So an open offer.
Andrew: You just made me realize that there’s so much that we didn’t talk about, like how to do a marathon without ever training for a marathon really and about sperm count. All right, listen guys, I promise you guys are going to enjoy this book and so will your friends. Notice that I never say this whenever it’s a bad book, what I say is congratulations on writing the book or I skirt the whole issue of the book. I’m going to tell you, you’re going to love this freaking book. It’s really well written. It’s going to be fun read but also it’s pretty damn useful, very useful. How about that?
Timothy: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Andrew: Personal endorsement from Andrew Warner. Go out there, please, get this book and then send him the receipt, mixergy@fourhourworkweek.
Andrew: Fourhourbody. Oh, email@example.com. And if you see Tim in person, ask him to see his abs.
Timothy: Yeah, I’ll let you [inaudible 49:38].
Andrew: Or ask him to teach you this, ask him to give you the secret chapter on how to give a woman an orgasm. What’s that chapter called?
Timothy: The 15-minute Orgasm.
Andrew: 15-minute orgasm, I didn’t get into that here, I don’t know how to do that properly here.
Timothy: Yeah, some chapters were more fun to research than others.
Andrew: Yeah, I’m telling you it’s a fun book. Dude, thanks for doing the interview. I know you’ve got a lot of others to do. So thanks for coming to Mixergy.
Timothy: Yeah, my pleasure. Thanks for having me. It’s been a while, so it’s nice to revisit. So thanks for having me on.
Andrew: You were one of the first people to trust me and do an interview here. I appreciate it.
Timothy: My pleasure. Thanks for having me again.
Andrew: Thank you all for watching. Bye.
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