Gone in 60 Seconds: One Minute of Activity to Avoid Storing Calories of a Meal as Body Fat.

December 21, 2010

“Why didn’t I think of that!” This is exactly what I thought when reading this “hack” in Tim Ferriss’s new book, The 4-Hour Body. Instead of a book review, I would rather talk about a clever strategy Tim talks about on page 105-107. This is by far my favorite part of the book, because it really makes a lot of sense. I could see how this little tweak could make a difference over time when it came to gaining muscle and losing body fat.

Gone in 60 Seconds

[What if a brief exercise of 60-90 seconds, made it less likely that this dessert would get stored as body fat? That is exactly one of the things Tim Ferriss explores in The 4-Hour Body].

Brief Muscular Contractions a Few Minutes Before You Eat?

So most of you probably know that after an intense workout, food calories are less likely to get stored as body fat. A simplistic explanation is that your muscles are depleted of glycogen and that a lot of the calories you eat at this time simply serve to refuel these depleted muscles. What I did not know was how little the stimulus needs to be in order for this to happen. Tim has found that this effect can happen in as little as 60-90 seconds. The proper activity done a few minutes before eating can encourage food calories to get shuttled into the muscle cells, before it has a chance to get stored as body fat.

Encouraging Insulin to Store Food Energy Into Muscle Cells

What exercise does is increase a substance in your body called GLUT-4 (glucose transporter type 4). Tim explains that exercise will encourage insulin to store calories in the muscle cells:

“The more muscular gates we have open before insulin triggers the same GLUT-4 on the surface of fat cells, the more we can put calories in muscle instead of fat”.

In The 4-Hour Body, Tim talks about a study which compares the effect of 280 seconds of intense exercise to a 6 hour low intensity exercise session. What the study found was that 280 seconds of intense exercise increased Glut-4 in the muscle by 83%…and 6 hours of lower intensity exercise increased it by 91%. So 280 seconds of exercise had almost the same effect as 6 hours when it comes to increasing GLUT-4 levels.

From 280 Seconds…Down to 60-90 Seconds

So Tim suggests that you keep the pre meal and post meal exercise down to 60-90 seconds. The GLUT-4 levels will increase with this amount of exercise, but it will drop down to normal levels after 1-4 hours. Tim recommends doing 60 seconds of exercise right before eating and 90 minutes after eating. Why 90 minutes? He has found that blood glucose levels to be the highest 90 minutes after eating.

The “Air Squat” is Tim’s Exercise of Choice

[The guys in this video do a great job of demonstrating Air Squats.]

“Killing Two Birds With One Stone”

If there was one weakness in my physique, it would be flexibility…particularly the lower back, hips, and hamstrings. As I’ve outlined in previous articles, actively stretching the muscles through a full range of motion is the key to flexibility. Doing traditional stretches has a much shorter lasting effect. Special Forces Trainer, Scott Sonnon explains this proper way to increase flexibility in an interview I did with him a while back. So these Air Squats will improve flexibility over time, especially if you are performing them a few times per day. For me this is almost as big of a benefit as the “calorie shuttling” effect.

Tim Also Recommends Two Other Exercises

Wall Presses & Chest Pulls are the other two exercise that Tim recommends. These are to be done for 30-50 reps. Even if you can do 30-50 push ups you will want to stick with wall presses, because you don’t want these pre and post meal exercises to interfere with your normal workouts. What Tim calls chest pulls in his book are more commonly known as “Band Pull Aparts”. Here is a video demonstrating that exercise.

[The closer your hands are together on the band, the more resistance this will provide. So in order to get 30-50 reps, you may have to begin with your hands wider than a shoulder width grip. The resistance also depends upon the band being used.]

No Need to Use These Exact Exercises

The main thing it looks like Tim is accomplishing with these three exercises is working the entire body. The air squats seem like a great idea, because these can be done anywhere. Then you would just chose some sort of pushing movement and a pulling movement and you would be good to go. Just make sure and do around 30-50 reps and don’t push so hard that this interferes with your normal workouts.

How I Plan on Using This Strategy

I’ll bring a pair of resistance bands to my work space and do these brief exercises for at least one meal per day. Once I develop this habit, I may apply it to two meals per day. Typically I eat 3 times per day when I’m not doing an ESE style fast. At least one of my meals is eaten an hour after intense training, so no need to add additional exercise before that meal.

Note: I highly recommend The 4-Hour Body, by the way. I don’t agree with everything Tim recommends, but there is easily enough helpful tweaks to make it worth your time and money. Tim’s Blog —> Four Hour Work Week Blog.

Important Message: Although this site has received 25+ million visitors, I am starting from scratch and abandoning it. This site is dated and old school looking, terrible to read on mobile, etc.

It's like a Ford Pinto compared to my new site...which is like a Ferrari. Click the link to head over to my new site.

Starting Over...R.I.P. Fitness Black Book!

Thanks for reading all these years!


----> (New) Facebook Comments..."Cause all the cool kids are doin' it!"

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

[email protected] escorts January 5, 2011 at 6:52 am

Wow this is ground breaking stuff – why is this not mainstream news? Just found this blog and already Ive found some great tips Im going to try out – I’ll come back in a couple of weeks and let you know the results!

Robin January 5, 2011 at 11:31 am

Interesting idea. We should all try it and do our own sort of “study” to see how it goes. 🙂

Gym January 6, 2011 at 10:23 am

Great post, now you encouraged me to read “The 4-Hour Body” especiallyif it is so interesting as your post is.

Sam Joseph January 6, 2011 at 11:18 am

This article is really informative. You can make the flat abs without any crunches with the training programme without going to gym. For more info visit http://www.squidoo.com/abs-uncrunched

Future Islander January 6, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Wow, what an interesting concept! I try to plan my workouts so that they fall right before meals when possible, but I never would have imagined that just one set before eating could make a difference.
On another note, I was hoping to ask for some advice. It’s off topic, but I wasn’t sure where else to post it. I’ve been reading your articles for a while and I really like your approach to fitness because you take it very seriously while still encouraging your readers to live their lives and enjoy relaxation and good food. I know you’ve written a few articles on how to deal with a vacation (tons of food, less exercise) but my situation is a little different…
I’m a 20-year-old female who has been a competitive swimmer for most of my life. I’d say that currently I’m in really good shape…my body fat percentage is usually in the 9-12% range and I’m really happy with the way my body looks right now. Problem is, I just “retired” from my university’s swim team to go study abroad on a Caribbean island for 4 months where I’ll be scuba diving and doing marine ecology research! My dream come true! My biggest (only) fear about this situation is that I won’t be able to maintain my current fitness level without the 2-a-day workouts that I’m used to. I love to run and hope to swim in the open water, but I don’t want to squander this great learning opportunity by spending 4 hours a day working out. Still, I don’t want to deteriorate into a pile of mush while I’m there!! Also I’m a bit of a foodie so I want to fully experience island cuisine…I just couldn’t bear to sacrifice good food.
No one else will take me seriously; they just say that I will probably never get fat. But I really want to continue to be an athlete even though I’m not competing at the moment. So any advice you have or any articles you could point me to that would help me plan a way to efficiently use my time there…so that I can stay in shape without being stressed or sacrificing fun…would be very, very much appreciated. (Thank you and sorry that was so long!!)

Janet January 6, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Hmmm. Imagine getting up from your table in a restaurant and doing a few quick squats before sitting down to eat!

Craig - Hollywood Body Fitness January 6, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Hey, by no means am I a science guy, but this is fascinating stuff! And thinking of my fitness habits, does make a lot of sense. The fact that a mere 60-90 seconds can do the trick is fantastic! Shoot, might make it a new habit to bust out a minute of burpees before every meal…. although I may get funny looks at restaurants if I do so 🙂

Nicole January 7, 2011 at 3:11 pm

I just whipped out my old biochemistry textbook to refresh my memory on insulin and GLUT4 transporters and this theory makes perfect sense, especially if you perform the exercise before a high carb meal. And even if timing around meals doesn’t make any real difference in your physique, I bet adding in bursts of squats and pushups throughout each day will! This might be just the mental trick to motivate me to move more during the day.

Nolan January 7, 2011 at 8:03 pm

It sounds like I’ve got the same issues with my lower back and hamstrings. No matter how much I stretch, I still can’t touch my toes. I can’t even remember being able to touch my toes. I’ll definitely give the Air Squats a try.

Dan January 11, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Has anyone ever heard of The Perfect Me Program? It claims to use hypnosis and exercise to train your mind and body. The website looks good but I’d like to know of anybody has actually tried it and if it works?


Joanne January 11, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Yes I’ve heard of it! I listen to The Perfect Me Program while I jog and when I lift weights. I’m surprised to find someone else that uses it. It’s kind of a secret underground weapon known to a few people who have been using it as a self help program. I found out about it from the YouTube video they posted. I guess word is starting to get out :). I recommend it though

Pauline January 12, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Thank you for sharing this. I have been doing burpees before every meal just because it fit well there and was habit-forming. Great blog!

Luke M-Davies January 14, 2011 at 4:46 pm

This is a fascinating article and fits well into the busy lifestyles of modern living – whilst it is no doubt a good habit to adopt, I wouldn’t be surprised if developing a personal selection of 90 second exercises and varying those will be the most effective way of utilising this tool as I like to keep my body guessing. Amazing how strong the neurological system really is…

It’s a bit like studies that have shown simply swilling energy drinks for exercise less than one hour has the same effect as actually consuming the energy drink (providing you are hydrated properly) – the taste buds trigger off that whole process to the brain and off you go…

Get A 6 Pac January 15, 2011 at 10:59 pm

Never thought about doing that but it makes sense.

Bo January 17, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Interesting. I’m a bit of a skeptic regarding this, though. Two things:

1. In all the comments people are talking about “intense exercise” just before eating. 60 seconds can hardly be defined as intense exercise, especially when the exercises are air squats and wall presses! Is 60 seconds really enough to deplete the glycogen stores regardless of exercise choice? I doubt it. How would we be able to sustain longer periods of exercise, if they are so easily depleted?

2. The glycogen stores get relatively depleted after an intense workout (intense as in more than 60-90 seconds and involves tougher exercises), thus activating GLUT-4 and making sure the stores get restored at the next meal. So after one (or a couple) of meals, the stores will be full again. 60-90 seconds won’t deplete the glycogen stores, thus nothing can be fueled into the glycogen stores because they’re already full, even though GLUT-4 might be activated.
Full glycogen stores => no room for more => no effect from GLUT-4, EVEN IF IT’S ACTIVATED.

Summary: I don’t think this is going to work.

What do you think?

Brett January 18, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Very great post. I haven’t heard of this strategy before. So if I do a few minutes of exercise before lunch it will be almost as good as working out during lunch like I wish I could do.
I try to entertain myself while I workout with music and videos on my iPod. I recently came across this video and song (watch the video to the end and get the url to get the song for free). Thought this might be the type of crowd that would enjoy this:

Always looking for more music to keep my focused and entertained. Feel free to share.


Edgar Marquez January 19, 2011 at 3:50 am

Music is always good when working out. My ipod is like my best friend when it comes to the gym. I’ve actually count the songs at times to make the time go faster. 🙂 lol

Coach Rollie January 19, 2011 at 1:35 pm

It’s important for people to understand that the human body is meant to move, and the more you move, the healthier and happier you’re likely to be.

JQuarta January 25, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Definitely worth the old college try. This may be an incentive to do more when I actually have more time to spend on exercise.

Kristjan Mar January 29, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Funnily enough this actually makes sense, I might just try it out.

Bryan January 31, 2011 at 6:05 am

Interesting info there. Never knew that a short burst of exercise works just as well as hours of low intensity exercise to get the right type of energy into your muscles.

Visan January 31, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Before you buy Tim Ferriss’ book (The 4-Hour Body) do some research on Ferriss and above all the negative reviews his book got! (Like on Amazon for instance).
Also, his book got an immediate HUGE positive feedback (like on here!) from dozen of affiliates almost the same very day it has been available… which has been obviously ‘noticed’ as a little bit… suspicious 😉
Apart that the book is good mostly for people who has never work out or cared about his diet before and not for ‘advanced’.
Also he contradicts himself constantly: Fruit is bad! Fruit is good… Almonds are bad! Almonds are good, etc..

Alvin @ Six Pack Training January 31, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Does anyone know anyone that can say that this has actually worked for them? The easy problem I see is finding a way to do this stuff before eating, especially for those of us that do a lot of traveling or take people out for lunch/dinner a lot. I guess I could go into the stall in the bathroom and get a quick workout in before stuffing my face LOL

Jean Luc January 31, 2011 at 7:43 pm

I use a similar principle when dieting for a bodybuilding show. I keep all my carbs pre workout in order to increase glycogen. Post workout I keep insulin low.

Andrew February 1, 2011 at 4:32 pm

I’m not a scientist but from what I could understand– eh, makes sense. I’m gonna try this out and see what happens.

Great blog btw.

MochaFrap February 7, 2011 at 12:22 pm

All I can say is what you have in there can work. There is nothing like healthy weight loss to take off weight safely.

Bryan February 19, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Tim Ferriss has so much good information. For anyone who hasn’t heard about or read his book “the 4 hour body”, Tim tried all sort of health and wellness treatments on his own body and recorded the results. Some to the things he did were considered “experimental”. In fact, he had to do some outside the US because they were not sanctioned by the FDA and such. So, from healthy ways to lose weight to injection of stem cells into his spine, it’s all in the 4 hour body book.

star777 March 1, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Could you do an entry on the fitness/weight loss books you recommend we read?


Tatianna March 15, 2011 at 9:13 pm

I loved this article so much. I want to get the 4 hour body book now.
Thanks Rusty

Steven Bancroft April 10, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Although I don’t agree with the purported effectiveness of the Low Carb Diet, this tidbit gem of advice makes perfect sense to me. I will give it a try. Tim certainly is a resourceful and thorough guy.

One problem with the 60 to 90 second workout before meals will arise in restaurants. I don’t see my self hitting the floor pounding out 50 pushups as my 12 oz. sirloin and baked potato hits the table. But then I don’t eat out for every meal so exceptions can be made. I wonder if Tim sticks to this regimen when dining out … probably not … but then he’s not afraid to pretty much try anything.

Tatianna May 21, 2011 at 8:12 am

Great Post Rusty! I love all the information you provide. The things that all the trainers should know. Thank you again

Daniel May 27, 2011 at 6:37 pm

I just discovered your blog through google, I like it a lot. I’ll be trying the air squats too. Thanks!

Mark's Fat Burning Food and Fitness Blog May 30, 2011 at 5:38 pm


that’s what I use on my Carb days since a goodly while, it’s basically the nutrient partitioning concept:

Muscular contractions will facilitate increased nutrient transport into the muscle s-cells for up to 4-6 hours afterwards!

The key is to just do a little pumping: nothing extreme as far as intensity or volume.
You don’t want to build strength here, nor deplete carb stores, rather you want to fill them up to the max!


Jeff June 29, 2011 at 10:33 am

This experiment would be easily conducted in studies all over the world. I’d be curious to read the sources. At first blush it sounds like pseudoscience.

Exercise On Abs November 8, 2011 at 10:22 am

4-hour body is one of my favorite books.. 4-GLUT part is really the best, because I never heard before for such an easy technique 🙂

[email protected] November 11, 2011 at 4:21 am

For all the advice that is out there, this would have to be one of the easiest to impliment. I’m willing to spend a few extra minutes a day to try out the theory, what have I got to lose.

David @ The Natural Health Service January 8, 2012 at 8:58 am

Really like the video on squat technique. And this seems an interesting idea. Might give it a go once per day on non training days.

Although I do take the point of others on here that it’s not likely to do much for anyone who is overweight. In fact any muscle building strategy will work much better once you get down to under 15% body fat.

David February 5, 2012 at 11:21 am

Hey Rusty,

Great post, I did not read the Four Hour Body, but I usually follow Tim’s Blog. He is really smart and original, so I’m going to give it a try with 60 secs of burpees before eating.


Julio February 19, 2012 at 7:53 am

I love Tim’s book, The Four Hour Week and I have also read Tim’s book The Four Hour Body and although there are interesting titbits of information, to me it is all about trying to sell you the magic pill, to wow you with his unusual ways of doing stuff, but most of it is NOT practical at all. This information on which your article is based is pretty good really and I have to admit that just this may justify buying the book. However, lots of the research in the book is flawed, like that guy that gained a bunch of mass in a month or so. It sounds like a smart snake oil salesman to me.

Ryan - Beyond Weight Loss Tips June 3, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Thanks for your recommendation Rusty, I do this tweak when people don’t see me. It might feel awkward seeing a guy doing squats, push and pull exercises before eating. 🙂

Rita March 12, 2013 at 10:43 am

Great advices! It is very important to set right goals and constantly move forward to them. This requires lots of energy and it is perfectly provided by military grade nutritionals. Their pre-workouts are awesome. They give me quick boost of energy and enhance my physical capacities. I am gaining muscle and strength and achieve all goals I have set.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: