“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.
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
“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.
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.