As part of the Slow Carb Diet (SCD), you get one cheat day a week. You’re also encouraged to do a lot of tests (blood tests, fat measurements, etc.) and track these, not just weight.
As well as the diet aspects, there are a few other components to the full Four Hour Body (4HB) programme. You’re encouraged to do certain exercises, take cold showers, take a bunch of supplements, and there are a couple of odd chapters part way through the book about sex stuff.
One of the arguments for a diet-day-off is that you are less likely to become accustomed to your calorie intake if the calorie intake varies. On all diets people eventually plateau – our bodies are great machines for maintaining homeostasis. This has been known by dieters for decades (here’s an article on The Wendie Plan which is an old school WW based intake variation scheme, which could easily be decades old, based upon the website). In this sense, the cheat day in SCD is a built in means of avoiding plateau.
The other argument for cheat days is that you’re more likely to stick to a diet if you can have things that you want. If I find myself craving some cheese on toast, I can say “I’ll have that on Saturday”. Without that safety valve, the argument goes, I’d be more likely to break the diet during the week. I suspect that’s an argument that will work quite well, particularly if you’re looking to follow the diet long term.
So far, on my cheat days, I’ve had a decent (SCD style, high protein) breakfast, done some kind of walk/exercise, had a lunch involving cheese (cheese on toast, margarita pizza), had half a piece of cake with some coffee, and had a dinner also involving cheese (cauliflower cheese, mac & cheese). Cheese seems to be the thing I crave. But I’ve not gone mad over the top.
Don’t trust the scales
Ferriss, in the book, is very clear that he doesn’t believe in scales. Or at least, he doesn’t trust scales as a measure of progress. The diet is pretty high in protein (at least 20g each meal, 30g for breakfast) and “body recomposition” is the aim – less fat more muscle. So you can lose fat whilst at the same time gaining muscle, and the scales might not show a thing, but you’ll be fitter and look thinner. There are a bunch of fairly expensive looking measurements that you can make to work out your actual fat percentage, which he goes into in quite a bit of detail (DEXA X-ray stuff? Not sure that’s available in Aberystwyth). He also recommends measuring “total inches“: hips + waist + both biceps. Total inches is a big enough number that you’ll see change fairly quickly. I couldn’t be arsed with finding a fancy fat measurement thing but I did find a tape measure.
This is where the “4 hours” of the title comes in. Ferris says the best exercise for general fat loss is weights based, and that the most effective weights based stuff is the kettlebells. Core strength is also important and kettlebells are good for these, as are “Swiss Balls” which is what Americans seem to call fitballs. Work up to 75 reps of 2-handed kettlebell swings, with some situps on the ball and some one handed kettlebell stuff and you’ll lose fat and become superhuman. Or something.
Fortunately I already have a fitball, and kettlebells were on special in Lidl at the start of February, so I’m giving these a go (on top of my usual treadmill-plodding). Currently I’m on 22 reps – let’s see how this develops.
“The PAGG Stack” is a supplementation regime which supposedly speeds up fat burning. Green Tea extract, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Garlic Oil extract, and something beginning with P which I couldn’t find. I figure AGG will be enough. Reading up on it, Green Tea Extract could be a bit dodgy – there’s some evidence it can speed up fat loss a bit, but there’s also some evidence that long term high doses can cause liver damage. Garlic Oil is just a convenient way of taking more garlic (and garlic is clearly a good thing). Alpha Lipoic Acid is an interesting supplement which is an antioxidant and seems to be generally useful for metabolic stuff.
My scientific mind is concerned that I will never be able to know if these are working.
Burn more calories by taking cold showers, so you have to expend energy to warm yourself up. Ice baths too.
Ha ha ha. I live in Wales. That’s enough, I think.
The sex chapters
Ewww. To be honest, the book as a whole is quite blokey.
The “great sex” chapters manage to be entirely blokey. There’s a chapter or two on women’s genitalia and 15 minute orgasms which reads a like a cross between a pickup merchant and a Hanes manual. There’s A LOT about upping your testosterone levels. And one of the chapters has a sub-heading “The Death of the Metrosexual: Reclaiming Aggression”. Ewww.
Frankly… I didn’t finish this bit of the book.