Slow-carb & The 4 Hour Body


I’ve been away for the last couple of weeks, which has made eating healthily a challenge (willpower? what willpower?!).  Beer tastes good.  Gluten free brownies taste better.  And the carrot cake muffins were divine (if you’re ever in northern NSW, Brunswick Heads Health Foods has some very spectacular eats and treats, mostly gluten-free).

Before I went away I got myself a Google Nexus 7 tablet/e-reader.  I am totally in love with it for a variety of reasons, one of which is e-books (yes, sometimes it takes me a while to adopt new technology, I’ve only just caught on to e-books).  A book that has had a thorough going through (and with the ability to highlight, bookmark and search for text, the electronic version makes referencing SO much easier!) is Tim Ferriss’ The 4 Hour Body.  I was skeptical at first – I don’t like the idea of ‘quick’ fixes, which the “4 Hour” title implied.  I had read the 4 Hour Work Week though, and really liked Tim’s writing style (humourous, engaging) and advice (practical, unconventional) so thought I’d give The 4 Hour Body a go.  LOVE.  It’s very well written and researched (though a lot of research has been self experimentation by Tim and friends, which is still better than half the nutrition research that’s been done over the years i.e. ‘carbs good, fat bad’ – see ‘healthy’ diet pyramid) and his fat loss strategy is not too dissimilar to paleo, with the main exception being the addition of legumes.  There is still a hint of ‘quick fix’ solution (lose 20 pounds/9kg in 30 days) but it’s not so much about losing weight as reapportioning fat/muscle and I think it could be sustainable long-term as it’s not very different from paleo/primal (there’s actually more carbs due to legumes each meal) and I am curious to see the results (and whether I can stick with it!).

I’ll be using my tried and true method – the humble tape measure – to assess progress.  I have also taken a couple of ‘before’ pics.  My goal is to shift some fat cells and work on defining muscle.

General strategy: keep it simple – eat the same ‘slow carb’ meals repeatedly with one ‘cheat’/binge day – all you can eat of whatever you want.  I’ll see how I go – I’ve got no issues stuffing my face with buffalo mozzarella, ice cream and pain au chocolat (Tim’s highly recommended binge item and a personal fav of my own) but I don’t want to steer too far from the paleo/primal course, so I will still avoid processed crap (anything in a packet) and gluten (other than sprouted rye bread and the occasional plate of dumplings).  There are more than enough options to  consume on a cheat day without resorting to junk (which I don’t actually want to eat anyway – other than maybe a Bubble Cup here and there).

Unsurprisingly my ‘cheat’ list was really easy to come up with.  To minimise temptation throughout the rest of the week, Tim recommends that binge meals be eaten outside the home (I cannot keep chocolate or cheese in my house or it will be eaten).  The other option I suppose is to eat all of whatever you do buy for your binge day on the binge day (it is supposed to be a binge after all …)

  • pain au chocolat
  • ice cream
  • cheeeeese
  • dark chocolate
  • bubble cup (specifically, taro ice-blend).
  • Elana’s Pantry Cup Cakes (specifically, the cream cheese frosting).
  • fruit (dates!)
  • brown + wild rice (sounds too healthy for a cheat, but I love this with butter and salt, and if you add mushrooms, garlic and cheese you get risotto, and it’s definitely high carb) 🙂
  • g.f. donuts with date icing (see one of half a dozen recipes I’ve pinned on Pinterest)
  • Black Cake‘ (sprouted rye and date bread) with looooads of butter

My slow carb diet starts today (Weds 24th) – first cheat/binge day will be Monday 29th as I’m having dinner out with friends.  Thereafter cheat/binge day will be Saturday (which nicely coincides with Derby and Stakes Day!).

My foods for the remaining 6 days of the week will be:

Breakfast: 2 eggs, fried in ghee, with black bean + tomato ‘stew’ (I need to post this have posted this recipe – it’s very tasty), sautéed spinach with onions and garlic, 1/2 avocado.

Lunch: 1 Saudi Baharat BBQ chicken thigh (~120g), green lentil salad with capsicum, cucumber, coriander and mixed lettuce.  Olive oil or macadamia oil dressing.

Dinner: ~120g BBQ steak, broccoli and kale ‘slaw to which I will add some cannellini beans.  Glass (or two) (not three!) of Pinot Noir (dry reds are ok  – whites permitted on cheat days only).

Tim also advocates intermittent fasting (IF) to promote a caloric deficit (there’s some evidence to suggest a moderate improvement to lifespan from IF in addition to fat loss benefits) – he suggests IF overnight, prior to the cheat day.  I’ve not been interested in IF before because, well, it generally involves skipping breakfast and I don’t do well without breakfast (crap concentration/focus until I eat, then I tend to over eat for the rest of the day).  Tim’s strategy is eat an early dinner and the next day ensure the first meal is a) not a binge meal, b) high protein (at least 30g), c) high in insoluble fibre and d) contains some fructose.  So if he has dinner the night before at 6pm, at 10 am (16 hours later) the first meal he has is 190g spinach with vinegar and spices (especially cinnamon – see below), 1 piece sourdough (I’m going to have sprouted rye + date, because I can) lots of butter and a large glass of grapefruit juice.  Then from noon, the chocolate croissant binge commences.  The fructose can be anything, but grapefruit juice is particularly helpful if you drink coffee.  A component of grapefruit (Naringenin) enhances the effects of caffeine (and caffeine is good for fat burning) as well as having a number of positive effects itself on the body (see wikipedia).

Adding cinnamon to foods (and coffee) helps with fat loss as cinnamon helps increase insulin sensitivity (good to have before binging).

I don’t plan to adopt the supplements Tim recommends right away – they’re a bit outside my budget for the moment but I’ll look into AGG in the next couple of weeks (Alpha-lipoic acid, Green tea flavanols and Garlic extract).  Not convinced by the Policosanol he also recommends.

And last, but not least, exercise.  Tim’s highly recommended exercise is also a favourite of mine – kettlebell swings.  There’s a lot of detail in the book about why he (and others) recommend what many would consider a limited number of reps/sets. My game plan to do one set of the following on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Other exercise will include walking the cog and two sessions a week of either stretch class or gymnastics.

I’ll let you know how I go.