Today, I spoke to Timothy Ferriss, who is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek, which has been published in 35 languages. His latest bestseller is called The 4-Hour Body. In this interview, Tim talks about the connection between health and career success, how to build a healthier body, and more.
What is the connection between having a healthy body and a healthy career?
The physical machine — your body — can be either the ultimate handicap or the ultimate performance enhancer. Here’s an anecdote from the beginning of The 4-Hour Body related to an icon: Richard Branson. It starts with a question: “How do you become more productive?”
Richard Branson leaned back and thought for a second. The tropical sounds of his private oasis, Necker Island, murmured in the background. Twenty people sat around him at rapt attention, wondering what a billionaire’s answer would be to one of the big questions—perhaps the biggest question—of business.
The group had been assembled by marketing impresario Joe Polish to brainstorm growth options for Richard’s philanthropic Virgin Unite. It was one of his many new ambitious projects. Virgin Group already had more than 300 companies, more than 50,000 employees, and $25 billion per year in revenue. In other words, Branson had personally built an empire larger than the GDP of some developing countries.
Then he broke the silence: “Work out.”
He was serious and elaborated: working out gave him at least four additional hours of productive time every day. Those hours add up.
If someone is working a full-time job, how do they make time to also be healthy using the advice in your book?
My approach is quite different from anything else people have seen in the genre. Rather than a single “one-size-fits-all” program, it’s a collection of tiny tweaks that, cumulatively, have huge effects.
One female test subject, Fleur, had been running a few hours a week and was losing no fat. She felt overwhelmed, to be expected, as she was working two jobs. The biggest change we made was her breakfast. That’s it. The result: she lost more than 3% bodyfat in just four weeks. It doesn’t need to be hard.
Here’s another quick tip: replace milk in your coffee with either 1-2 tablespoons of cream or, ideally, some Saigon cinnamon. Don’t be surprised if you lose 2-4 pounds of fat within 10 days.
What impact does an unbalanced diet have over your productivity at work?
It depends what we mean by “balanced”, but let’s look at one common mistake: not consuming protein within an hour of waking. This can increase your appetite 20-30% and contributes to the common post-lunch crash.
Simple fix: consume 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking. Make it a water-based whey protein shake if need be. There are other benefits. One 65-year old male subject made this single change and went from 5.5 lbs. of fat-loss per month to 18.75 lbs. of fat-loss per month! The changes aren’t subtle.
Do you think that healthier workers, who have lost weight, have more career opportunities or are perceived to be higher value at work?
I think they end up advancing at a faster rate because they overcome a small part of themselves limited by what’s called “learned helplessness.” In other words, a lot of employees and entrepreneurs who are kick-ass in every other respect accept that being fat, thin, slow etc is genetically fixed. Once this “impossible” is changed, their ambition and drive elsewhere multiplies.
If you lose 50 pounds, or run 100 miles, or lift 400 pounds, or hold your breath for 4 minutes, you view the world very differently afterward. The possibilities become infinite, and that changes everything.
Your two books are completely different. How will this change impact your personal brand?
I’ve been obsessed with tracking physical data and experiments for far longer than time management. The 4-Hour Body will give me a chance to showcase this OCD (I’ve recorded almost every workout since age 18 or so), and showcase the unusual results with more than 200 people.
I’ve said what I have to say about business, at least at this point, and I don’t want to rehash the same material. That’s boring for me to write and a disservice to the readers. This is an entirely new phase, one that I think will impact far more people. It’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun.
Timothy Ferriss, nominated as one of Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Business People of 2007,” is author of the #1 New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and BusinessWeek bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek, which has been published in 35 languages. His latest bestseller is called The 4-Hour Body. WIRED magazine has called Tim “The Superman of Silicon Valley” for his manipulation of the human body. He is a tango world record holder, former national kickboxing champion (Sanshou), guest lecturer at Princeton University, and faculty member at Singularity University, based at NASA Ames Research Center. When not acting as a human guinea pig, Tim enjoys speaking to organizations ranging from Nike to the Harvard School of Public Health.