Is The 4-Hour Body a Scam? Tracking 3,500 People to Find Out


Ricardo Arias – 410 pounds to 211.6 pounds, for a loss of 198.4 pounds. But is he an anomaly? Sidenote: the black pants in the after pic (56 portly-long/60+ inch waist) fit him tightly at 410.

How many “how-to” books actually get read?

Historically, no one has known. Now, it’s possible to get an idea by looking at how many digital highlights a book has, and perhaps Amazon will someday provide data on how many people finish Kindle editions.

Taking it a step further: how many of the books actually get used?

This is tricky. Patients routinely ignore prescribed drugs, estimated to result in 125,000 deaths a year from cardiovascular disease alone, so it’s hard to imagine books are better followed. But how to know for sure?

The answer is: you have to track it.

When The 4-Hour Body (4HB) was published, it was met with sharp criticism, including:

- It’s impossible to lose more than 2 pounds of fat per week!
– It’s impossible to gain 20+ pounds of muscle in a month!
– It’s impossible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time!

Fortunately, the “impossible” (circling the globe, breaking the 4-minute mile, reaching the moon, etc.) needs just one exception to be proven possible.

Since late 2010, new research and publications have supported many of the 4HB chapters that started with self-experiments (e.g. The New York Times and “brown fat,” cold exposure for fat loss, etc.). For all chapters, readers have outpaced my successes with their own. Here are several 100+ pound case studies.

But, the skeptics will rightly ask: Does it work for the general public, not just a handful of standouts?

This post will cover the first wide-scale distributed studies of The 4-Hour Body, which involved 3,500 people over 4 weeks. I’ll also include a few individual examples and measurements.

Here’s our rough table of contents:

– Case Study: 200 Pounds Lost
– The 4-Hour Body – Summary of Results with 3,500 People
– The Winner of The 4-Week Challenge: Female Before-and-After
– An Opportunity: Win Money By Losing Weight

Case Study: 200 Pounds Lost

Ricardo Arias has gone from 410 pounds to 211.6 pounds with 4HB, for a loss of 198.4 pounds. Based on his rate of progress, he should pass 200 pounds lost within the next 10 days or so.

Why feature this first? I wanted to highlight the personal effects of radical physical change before we get to the numbers.

As I’ve said before, I find writing books hellishly painful. Every time I ask myself “Why the #$%& did I sign up for this?”, the answer is: letters like the below.

It might seem self-congratulatory to include it (with Ricardo’s permission, of course), but it serves a purpose:

- It can inspire others to take action for the first time.
– It illustrates long-term benefits of The Slow-Carb Diet that far transcend the body.

Tim, thank you.

You’ve changed my life. Let me count the ways;

1. Almost 200 Pounds Lost. Who knows how many years you’ve added to my life. You’ve been the catalyst for this new found lifestyle. I have come to embrace the fact that without a plan (the SCD) I will end up obese again. I know that while I cannot control a lot of things in my life, I CAN control what I eat and when I eat. I now feel comfortable eating out with friends and family at restaurants knowing any restaurant can make a SCD compliment meal. Always keeping in mind that if I have to pay a little extra for that double portion of protein or extra veggies its only a part of my anti-fat tax and given the price of healthcare I am actually saving money.

2. Positive Change I’ve Inspired in Others. I have a group of friends I’ve known since elementary school (one of them since pre-school) who keep in touch almost daily. Some of them I see more often than others, so when we got together for our yearly posada (Christmas party) all of them commented on my positive change. Most if not all of them are now applying the principles of the SCD to their diets. They’re actually getting an excel sheet together to keep track of all our weight, they are now on course to join the 4HB lifestyle.

3. I Can Shop at Regular People’s Stores. Clothing wise a whole new world opened up for me. Choices are limited when you’re a 60 inch waist and 4XL. So when I walked into Zara while doing some Christmas shopping and fit into a XL jacket (yes EUROPEAN XL not XXL but XL) I couldn’t believe it. I was so proud and happy, not because of the clothes per se, but because it was a culmination of the little victories I’ve had on the path I’ve chosen. All those sacrifices and all that effort reflected back at me in the mirror in the mold of a really cool jacket. I remember a couple of Christmas’ ago my sister gave me a 56PL suit as a gift (the “P” meaning Portly as in fat around the waist). At my worst point the suit fit me tighter than a glove. Yesterday, I picked up my new suit at the tailor a black 44L suit. Another victory. Another piece of motivation to keep on going.

4. Love and Life. On a very personal level, all this energy and new mentality and approach to life has made me feel open to building meaningful relationships. Whether it’s improving the relationships I already have or making new ones, I feel I now radiate this positive energy from within that other people can notice. Through this new body — this new mentality — I find myself opening up to some great possibilities. The change in me has not only been physical. This is something I never expected, but it has been a consequence of this lifestyle.

5. New Sense of Purpose. I no longer feel like I am entitled to something. I now want to work as hard as I can to apply my new-found discipline and purpose elsewhere. I now know I am capable of achieving anything I put my mind to. And I most want to help others find their paths to a similar lifestyle — one that has been so rewarding and enriching for me.

I know I am not out of the woods yet. I actually recognize that keeping tabs on my diet will be a life-long process. I know that if I want to keep living this fuller life, I have to be conscious of the decisions I’ve made, and learn to live with the consequences. They say nothing tastes better than the way thin feels, but that’s not true. I say nothing tastes better than a life well lived. And because of you I have wet my beak and found a lifestyle I can maintain and truly get the most out of life.

Thank you, Tim.

- Ricardo Arias

P.S. I just gotta send you this pic (attached). Not only does it show how happy I am, but come on, that’s a cool jacket.

IMG-20121230-WA0020 (1)

Summary of Results from 3,500 People

For the experiment, we used Lift.

Lift is a behavioral modification app. It was incubated by Obvious Corp., whose co-founders include Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone. After seeing Lift’s potential, I became one of the first (if not first) outside investors.

For the four-week experiment, people had to:

- Download Lift for free on iPhone, iPad, or iPod (Android coming).

- Search for “4HB” by clicking on the plus sign here:

- Next, sign up for whichever 4HB habits they wanted to follow. See the six below, The Slow-Carb Diet&#174 being the most important:

So, what happened with our eventual 3,500 people? The following is excerpted from the original post by Tony Stubblebine, the CEO of Lift:

84% of people who stuck to the program lost weight and the average weight loss was 8.6 pounds. These numbers are very strong.

The diet is based on developing a few key habits: Slow-carb diet (no processed carbs or dairy), taking cold showers, eating 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up, exercising, and measuring your weight, body fat and total inches.

[Note from Tim: "Total Inches" is explained in The 4-Hour Body as follows: "Get a simple tape measure and measure four locations: both upper arms (mid-bicep), waist (horizontal at navel), hips (at widest point below waist), and both legs (mid-thigh). Total these numbers to arrive at your Total Inches (TI). Changes in this total will be meaningful enough to track."]

The data we used comes from a large pool of Lift usage data (3,500 participants) and responses from a follow-up survey to Lift users in which 200 people participated.

Summary: 4-Hour Body Works

Not only did 84% of people who stuck to the diet for four weeks lose weight, 14% of people lost more than 15 pounds. That’s a lot of success for such a short amount of time.

Two habits correlated strongly with weight loss: eating a lot of eggs and eating veggies.

Two habits correlated with failure: heavy alcohol consumption and giving up on cold showers.

Defining Success: Lost Weight vs. Stasis

Across all our data, 16% of people didn’t lose weight. Let’s call this the baseline stasis rate. The margin of error on this survey is 5%. We can use this to claim a correlation between sub-behaviors on this diet and success.

Eat eggs and veggies.

People who reported either eating two dozen eggs per week or “too many!” eggs had a stasis rate of 10% and 11%. That correlates with greater success on the diet (i.e. the data suggests you should be aggressively eating eggs for the purposes of this diet).

We saw a much bigger signal from people who weren’t including veggies in their daily meals. Their stasis rate was 25%. Your mom was right: eat your veggies.

Be consistent.

We asked a couple of questions that touched upon how consistently people stuck to their diet habits.

28% of people scrambled to find acceptable meals each day (presumably meaning that many meals weren’t strictly appropriate for the diet).

21% of Lifters maintained their regular, social drinking habits on the diet. Tim recommends limiting alcohol and sticking to wine.

29% tried, but gave up on, cold showers.

You probably aren’t surprised that heavy drinking (25% stasis rate) didn’t help with weight loss. Haphazard eating also leaned that way (19% stasis). But what’s up with the cold showers?

Not taking cold showers and taking cold showers showed up evenly. It didn’t matter which one you chose as long as you stayed consistent.

But people who tried the cold showers and then gave up? They had a 29% stasis rate. This was the highest correlation of anything in the survey. Maybe it’s an indicator of weak wills or failure in other aspects of the diet. I’m one of them, although I managed to lose weight. I tried cold showers four times and then decided I didn’t have the heart to keep going.

Enjoy Cheat Day

I have good news: cheat day eating habits didn’t have any effect on success rate. It didn’t matter what you craved (61% of you crave sweets) or if you ate in excess (combining beer, cheese, frieds, and sugars). So keep eating whatever you’d like on your day off…

Here are more participant stories and tips from the 4-week experiment.

Some of them have kept weight off for several years since starting 4HB-based dieting, so there is evidence for persistence of effect. It is untrue that people who diet have to regain weight. It’s an old wives’ tale and totally avoidable.

The Winner of Another 4-Week Challenge: Before-and-After

Concurrently with the above tracking with Lift, I ran a 4-week competition on DietBet that became a 673-person experiment.

The premise is simple: studies have established that people work incredibly hard to avoid losing money. Much harder, in fact, than they will work to earn it. So, all you have to do is force people to put their money where their mouths are (“I want to lose weight”) and voila: better results.

On DietBet, players each add $50 to the pot, and the total is divided up among the “winners” at the end of the game. DietBetting is not winner-take-all like The Biggest Loser. Everyone who loses at least 4% of their starting weight will get an equal share of the pot. DietBet supplies referees to verify weights using a photo-based weigh-in process.

Here’s how the total pot breaks down:

- 85% of the total is divided among the winners
– 5% goes to DietBet itself for credit card fees, etc.
– 10% would have gone to me but was instead donated to The Gazzaley Lab, a cognitive neuroscience research lab at the University of California, San Francisco, where I’m helping fund studies on the neural mechanisms of memory and attention, as well as cognitive training.

DietBetting works. People, even wealthy people, keep their promises not to lose $50.

Here are some fun stats from the experiment:

• Total number of players — 673
• Total amount bet — $33,700
• Number of countries represented — 46
• Return you got for investing in yourself in the 4-Hour Body DietBet (if you won) — 58% in 4 weeks
• Return you would have gotten for investing in the S&P during the same period — negative 1.49%
• Average weight lost among everyone — 6.9 lbs
• Average weight lost among winners — 10.1 lbs
• Total weight lost cumulative — 4,673 lbs
• Percentage of players hitting 4% bodyweight loss goal (“winning”) — 53.8% (362 winners). This % win rate was significantly higher than the average across all games, which is 33%.
DietBet attributes this to the simplicity of The Slow-Carb Diet (SCD).
• Amount won per player — $79.13 (85% of the total pot divided evenly among the 362 winners. 10% of the pot went to the Gazzaley Lab, 5% went to credit card and Paypal processing, etc.)
• % men/women — 56.8% men, 43.2% women
• Amount donated to the Gazzaley Lab — $3370

As an added incentive, I offered a free trip to SF and day with me to the person who had the most impressive transformation, captured by both measurements and photos.

The winner was Linda M., age 46. Here is one of her before-and-after pics:

Note: I love the strategic newspaper headline.

STATS (beginning –> end):

Weight: 197.4 –> 175.5 Lost 21.9 total pounds, but…
Lbs of fat tissue: 74.22 –> 51.33 Lost 22.89 pounds of fat
Lbs of lean tissue: 123.2 –> 124.5 Gained 1.3 pounds lean tissue, which means…
Body-fat %: 37.6 –> 29.2 Lost 8.4% body-fat
Total Inches (TI): 150.2 –> 137.4 Lost 12.8 Total Inches


Waist – 43 –> 37 = -6 inches
Bicep- 13 –> 12.4 = -0.6 inches
Hips – 44.2 –> 41.1 = -3.1 inches
Left thigh – 25.1 –> 23.5 = -1.6 inches
Right thigh – 24.9 –> 23.4 = -1.5 inches

In her feedback email, Linda wrote:

… I had skimmed 4 Hr Body in the past and incorporated some of the practices, but this was done by the book, and I am astounded! I have lost fat in the past, along with hard earned muscle, but never came close to losing this much fat AND gaining muscle. I did not think this was possible.

I am so excited to have discovered Dietbet! Money is a huge motivator for me (as I do not have a lot of it) I was so impressed with the sense of camaraderie in the forums, it didn’t feel like a competition. We felt like a team. I went on a little holiday after this challenge, gained back a few pounds and signed up right away for another challenge upon my return. It works, and I will continue to join challenges until I reach my goal weight.

I am excited to continue my progress armed with The 4-Hour Body, Dietbet and now The 4-Hour Chef.

An Opportunity

I’m holding another 4-week DietBet competition, starting today, January 22 to February 18, 2013. Sign up here. If you have an iPhone, I recommend using Lift for extra support.

For the one person who loses the most bodyfat percentage points (not necessarily total weight) by February 18th, I have another prize: a $1,000 prize of my choosing and, if you like, an hour on the phone with me (or lunch in SF, if you can make it).

How to measure bodyfat?

I’d prefer that you use the most accurate tools, such as the below. Many of the above can be found at high-end gyms or nearby hospitals. No matter what, you must use the same tool (and ideally the same person) for your “before,” progress, and “after” measurements.

The most accurate tools:

BodPod (pay per session)
DEXA or DXA (pay per session)
Hydrostatic weighing (dunk tank) (pay per session)
Skin fold calipers – MUST use at least 7 points and ideally the Jackson-Pollock algorithm (pay per session)
BodyMetrix Personal (purchase) – This is the handheld ultrasound device that is used by the New York Yankees, AC Milan, and yours truly. It plugs into your laptop via USB. I’ve arranged for a $200 discount for readers of this blog; just use this link and code 4HOURSPECIAL at checkout.

If you can’t find or afford any of these, just do your best to capture progress. For instance:

- Take good “before” pics (front, side, back) and weekly progress pictures.
– Take tape measure measurements before starting, then each week, per The 4-Hour Body instructions:

Get a simple tape measure and measure four locations: both upper arms (mid-bicep), waist (horizontal at navel), hips (at widest point below waist), and both legs (mid-thigh). Total these numbers to arrive at your Total Inches (TI). Changes in this total will be meaningful enough to track.

Regardless, eat smart (90% of fat loss), train well (10% of fat loss), and be safe, of course.

Remember: You Are Not Alone

Use all the free tools and support at your disposal.

As a starting point, consider the forum 4HBTalk, which is extremely active with advice and community. Also be sure to read my previous posts on basics, like “How to Lose 100 Pounds on The Slow-Carb Diet” (features pics and case studies).

Of course, if you want to get uber-serious, I’d suggest reading The 4-Hour Body.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up here and let’s see what you can do among supportive competitors.

I’m betting… more than you think. See you in four weeks!


Posted on: January 22, 2013.

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178 comments on “Is The 4-Hour Body a Scam? Tracking 3,500 People to Find Out

  1. Great blog! Do you have any helpful hints for aspiring writers? I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely overwhelmed .. Any ideas? Bless you!


  2. Hi there this is kind of of off topic but I was wanting to know if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding knowledge so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!


  3. I was a skeptic…still am in a lot of ways…read 4-hour body and wasn’t impressed…but, I thought I would give the diet a go.

    I didn’t follow the diet exactly. I cannot eat within an hour of waking up. I would rather be fat than spend 15 minutes in the bathroom being sick every morning. I ate when I felt hungry, usually a couple of hours after waking.

    Every morning I have a cup of coffee with sweetened creamer. I eat ketchup, and I sprinkle cheese (about an ounce) on my eggs every morning.

    My goal was to keep my carbs to less than 100 per day…this I found I could do quite easily, and not feel hungry at all. The benefit of eating low carb yet high protein is that I simply cannot eat 2000 calories of protein in a day…that is far too much food. No sense in eating if you’re not hungry.

    The cravings for sweet stuff went away after about 3 days. By cheat day, I was hungry for my usual low-carb breakfast, but ate chips and chocolate instead, absolutely convinced that I had completely screwed up the diet and would burn in obesity hell for it.

    The result? I lost 40lbs in 5 months…without even trying.

    The weird part is this; my co-workers saw me eating scrambled eggs covered in tomatoes, bacon, a little cheese and avocados every morning and drooled over my breakfast…they saw me eating a 4oz Ribeye with broccoli for lunch…they saw me lose 40 lbs and go down 3 dress sizes…and they asked me what I was doing…I told them and yet they still don’t believe that this diet could work!

    I see them eating their bowls of fruit or their oatmeal for breakfast…refraining from chips, candy, bacon and other great foods for the duration of their diets, and failing miserably, losing a couple of pounds and then blowing their diets and giving up after a week or two.

    I have asked them,”which is harder; not having the food you want until you have lost 20lbs, or not having the food you want until Saturday?”.

    Still they don’t believe. I continue to lose weight (lost 5lbs in the last week), and continue to eat like a ravenous teenager with PMS every Saturday.

    I still don’t know if I could lose 20lbs of body fat in a month, but that’s okay…I have lost 40 lbs total in 5 months, and that’s good enough for me.


    • I also have to mention; I drink diet soda everyday. I am absolutely addicted to it. I refuse to take cold showers…no way, no how.

      But that is what is great about this diet; you can tailor it to fit YOUR lifestyle.

      If you blow it, you just pick right back up from where you left off. Unlike other low carb diets , you don’t have to re-start from point A.


  4. I thought this might interest Tim if he finds it. Im reading/experimenting with the four hour body. The section on the response to cold. I was very surprised this was not factored in to the calories in/out equation.
    On two occasions I have eaten a ludicrous amount of straight honey. Once in the mountains when I was literally starving, I ate 400g of honey from a jar. Better to starve. Then in 2012 I was working in the bush in Ethiopia (Im a geologist), and the boys bought in a whole beehive worth of honey comb. About 25kg. As the senior man and foreigner/guest everyone had to gift me a selected “choice piece”. I lost count of the number of fist sized pieces I ate. At least a Kg of straight honey. Not only did I feel like I was going to die, I was extremely hot. Even though I was immobile and the temperature was dropping my ‘felt heat’ went up 20 celsius. We were all sweating like mad. My Ethiopian friend said “I do not like, makes hot”. This would imply that not only do you chew through calories at lower temperatures (fairly obvious) but that the body is capable of a spontaneous exothermic reaction to dispose of a severe energy influx.
    How could you trigger that reaction without the horror of honey poisoning?


  5. I am a 46 year old women who has been yo-yo dieting most of her life. Diagnosed with an underactive thyroid 6 years ago it has been even harder to shed the weight. Tim your 4-hour body programme and the success of Briana and others has given me the inspiration to start. I am going to track my progress week by week, here goes to a new start to a new way of life!!


  6. I am highly impressed the way these people shed the weight but I want to gain the weight so is there any way for a lazy and bit sluggish man to get the weight


  7. Hi Tim,

    I am the regular reader of your writings and insights.

    There is tons of material how to lose weight and you surely have added in this .
    But what about those guys who wants to gain weight? not so much has been in around.
    I will appreciate if you refer some good stuff


    • Set a target, exercise to gain muscle mass. If you do not exercise regularly, begin now. It will also be advisable to consult your doctor to find out if it is safe for you to exercise, if you have never exercised before. The best way to exercise is to join a gym and follow the routine prescribed by the expert religiously. Actually, you should not worry about the weight, whatever it may be, go my the measurement. Keep a track of the BMI and BMR.


  8. The book was suggested to me by a friend recently. Being a fitness freak, I bought and read it immediately. I found that I follow most of Mr Tim Ferriss’ prescriptions, such as cold baths, eating legumes, lentils and green vegetables. I have exercised all my life, since I was 11 years old. I am 63 now. I rarely use dairy products. My BMI is around 23.4. As for sleep, Since the past few years, I have formed the habit of napping for about twenty minutes in the afternoon. I do not have to sleep for more than five hours at night. Probably, if I took six naps, I could make do with two hours of sleep at night.
    However, I have not dared to cut my weekly nine hours of gym schedule to four, because I am afraid of losing the benefits that I have derived, BP of 110/70, heart beat of 49 at rest. The best of all, despite the terribly polluted atmosphere in which I live, I do not fall ill, even for a single day in several years at a stretch. In fact, I do not catch even a cold. I easily drive 250 miles over rough Indian roads in a day without fatigue.
    I would swear by Mr. Ferriss’ regimen to anyone who desires to enjoy living.


  9. A 26yo guy here. When I first tried the 4 hour body plan I lost 8 lbs in 5 days. That’s right, not even a week. The only concern for me at the time was that I felt weak and thought I’m losing lean muscle too. In the mean time I gained a few pounds back and I’m gonna start the program again for sure. It’s easy to follow and I know it gave results.


  10. Hi, How much of each food do I eat at each meal. In other words, If I’m eating chicken, black beans and spinach for dinner, how many ounces of chicken do I eat? Do I eat 1/4, 1/2 or 1 cup of black beans? Thank you Ronni


  11. Great stuff again Tim! I’m inspired over and over again by your cool topics and personal drive to go to the limit. Question: how is your knowledge or experience with the use of Ormus, the so called “White powder Gold” or physically distinct atomic mineral substances. As I noticed you are experimenting with a lot of health products this also might be worth a “test”. I would love to send u some samples from our lab. Would be GREAT to see if you get good results too! And just between you and also makes your hair grow again! hahaha… Keep up the good stuff my friend!


  12. I am only 2 weeks into the program. And I have not lost any weight so far. I was down about 2-3 lbs but the cheat day jumped me back up and even a bit above my weight when i started. I am 219lbs today. I think i would be happy at 200lbs. So i’m not really one of the seriously overweight people that seem to be used as examples a lot. I am starting to wonder if all these great results are because of people that need to lose 60-100 lbs. Which I think is not that difficult to do when you are that far overweight. I haven’t given up yet but feel very skeptical of how effective this program is for people slightly overweight as opposed to obese.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Started last week down 5.5 pounds starting from 414. Thanx for the book. And that first example wow. I’ll be your next 200 case study good sir


  14. Just finished the book. Few questions if anyone can answer. Is almond milk ok to mix my protein shakes? Is cottage cheese ok? Is greek yogurt ok? Thanks.