Perspectives on The Four Hour Body and The Paleo Diet for Athletes

Over the holidays I read The Four Hour Body by Tim Ferriss and The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Loren Cordain.  Here’s some impressions, some common themes, and some inconsistencies.  I’ve been slowly trying to navigate the various philosophies and nutritional advice that in some way intersect with the CrossFit movement, and these two books put together are something of a magnum opus.

The Four Hour Body is a sweeping manifesto, covering a wide range of topics from fat loss to strength gain to swimming and bedroom skills.  I enjoyed his interview with Brian MacKenzie and the million links to useful info.

Loren Cordain’s book is a good introduction to the paleo philosophy, tempered with the needs of a competitive athlete.

Here are some things I’m going to try:

1.  Total Immersion swimming and Aqua Sphere goggles.  Tim’s right on this one…these are the only goggles I’ve ever owned that don’t leak, not ever.  It’s been a while since I’ve been in the pool, but I’ve been trying the Crossfit Endurance WODs in the pool and they are extremely challenging when you are forced to breathe on a limited cadence!

2.  The “Effortless Superhuman” protocol…very similar to what Crossfit Ignite’s programming has been during the strength phases of our programming.  Now I am starting to understand why we do a lot of work at 75%-95% of max but seldom lift at 100%.

3.  Vitamin D in the winter.

4.  I’ve hated butter for years but I might wrap my mind around trying Kerrygold as it’s easy to get at Trader Joe’s.

5.  I will try to have a no-grains breakfast at least 2 days per week.

6.  I will not feel guilty about having a carb shot after a workout.


Inconsistencies I noticed:

1.  Milk is panned by both authors for its insulin effects, but Ferriss talks about a muscle gain protocol calling for up to a gallon a day.

2.  Ferriss paints fruit in a poor light, but also talks about a glass of fruit juice having insulin-regulating effects.  Cordain recommends all the fruit you care to eat.

3.  Ferriss is OK with legumes, Cordain is not except for green beans.

4.  Both advocate some form of workout to prime the muscles to receive foods, however Ferriss contends that food is not absorbed quickly enough to really fit into the 30-minute post-workout window prescribed by Cordain.

5.  Nobody seems to mention the coconut thing, which seems to be a favorite in the CrossFit community.

6.  I think each chapter of The Four Hour Body has to be taken individually depending on its specific purpose.  For example, things that work for fat loss conflict with things that work for muscle gain or for superhuman endurance – it cannot all be taken in total, but rather depends on what you are trying to achieve.


At any rate, The Four Hour Body is so full of detail that it more like a reference book, and I had to download it onto my Kindle for Windows Phone 7.


So I will try a few new things, especially at breakfast, and not feel guilty about my “Four Fingers WOD” as Kelly Starrett terms it, especially if the four fingers pour is a nice glass of Clos Pegase Syrah 🙂

4 thoughts on “Perspectives on The Four Hour Body and The Paleo Diet for Athletes

  1. Your inconsistency #1:

    Milk is largely shunned by both in regards to a healthy, weight-controlling diet. Tim’s “slow-carbing” diet is an easy way to put people on a cheap, no frills, insulin regulating diet. As insulin is an anabolic hormone, it encourages the body to gain muscle mass in the presence of good nutrition and a sufficient balance of exercise to rest. Anabolic hormones ALSO promote tissue growth through fat gain, with or without exercise. It is the latter consequence of insulin that both programs wish to eliminate, hence the anti-milk bias.

    However, in his muscle building chapter, milk (whole and raw if possible) is encouraged because of it’s insulin encouraging properties. Of note is Tim’s recommendation of high fat consumption with the milk. This is to ensure that the milk doesn’t produce an insulin “spike”, but more of a sustained insulin rush that lasts for days.

    Different goals have different methods, and if food is truly a drug, you wouldn’t prescribe the same medication for weight loss AND weight gain. You hit on this later in your article.

  2. Hey I’m Tim, I do crossfit and run a lot of the CFE rowing seminars in NYC

    I read the paleo diet for athletes last year and have been Paleo for almost a year now. About 1/3 of the way through 4HB now. Thinking of trying Ferris’ protocols in Feb (less fat, more beans, and a binge)

    I did a muscle gain last March using milk and was highly successful. I did the whole9 PTP program and had about 1.5-2 gallons of milk a week (usually a glass about 45 mins after a workout when I got to work and then again in the afternoon as a snack) went up 11 pounds in bodyweight and 80 pounds on my deadlift so that was cool

    actually going to be at ignite in March for yoga, looking forward to it

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