Odds are, you’re a man who doesn’t want to be known for having the world record in a keg toss. (Unless you are, in which case…good luck.)
Most males have simpler goals: A solid physique, being attractive to potential mates, feeling and looking great.
This is why we go to the gym/track/field/court: We lift, we exercise, we play sports to establish dominance and improve our standing in life.
This is also why we look at our ballooning waistlines and say to ourselves, “Eat some broccoli, fatty.” Negative self-talk aside, our diet plays an important role in these seemingly small yet actually huge ambitions of six-packs and big biceps.
It’s a worthy goal. Having an impressive physique, with minimal body fat and decent strength won’t just make every mirror look awesome, it spills over into other areas of life as well. Your career, your relationships with other people, your sex life, your overall health will be enhanced from your muscles being lean and mean.
And while all of this is fine and dandy, the problem always arises: How the f*ck can I dedicate time to my nutrition and fitness?
You’re a busy gentleman. It’s impossible to spend two hours in a gym daily and your entire Sunday prepping Tupperware meals. How do you get the physique you’re after without having the time to properly nurture it?
Enter Timothy Ferriss. Professional biohacker – known as “The Human Guinea Pig” – Tim has built a brand around getting optimal results from minimal effort or application. He is the author of five books and counting
One of them is The 4-Hour Body. This is Tim’s attempt at being a superhuman without killing his social life or business time. From this awesome manual, you can create an amazingly simple, straightforward bulk and cut regimen that takes less than four hours per month (hence The 4-Hour Body).
In this guide, I’ll be explaining how to eat, how to cut, and how to bulk to create the physique of your dreams.
How to Eat: The Slow-Carb Diet™
The beauty in Tim’s diet – which he’s used for decades now and attributes as the reason for his continued leanness – is how pathetically simple it is. Five rules in the original protocol, the new and improved diet has six:
- Avoid “white” starchy carbs. These are all the delicious trouble foods, like pasta, bread, rice (brown, white, etc.), tortillas, potatoes (cries quietly), cereal, corn, and all fried foods with breading. Multi-grain versions are out, too.
- Eat the same few meals again and again. Do this for breakfast and lunch, because you are probably already doing this. Split your plate into three sections: Protein, legumes, and vegetables. Anything else either complicates the diet or adds unnecessary sugar.
- Don’t drink calories. This is the silent killer of most diets. You never count what you’re investing in the form of liquids. Water, coffee, tea, zero-calorie drinks sweetened with stevia. This should be enough for any human being.
- Don’t eat fruit. Fruit = fructose = higher triglyceride synthesis = faster fat storage. It isn’t a requirement to have a “balanced” diet unless you’re trying to cleanse your body in 24 hours.
- Go nuts one day a week. Known as “Faturday,” establish one day in the week when all of these rules fly out the window. Keep a list throughout the week of foods you’ve been craving, then get ‘em all knocked out on your cheat day. You can even fry your favorite steak on a wood-burning grill or charcoal offset smoker, but don’t lose your head and eat calories for the whole week ahead.
- Measure progress in body fat percentage. Avoid the scale. Either calipers or a simple measurement of different areas of your body – waist at navel, hips at widest, thighs, biceps – will show you the real difference.
All of these rules have their purpose.
White carbohydrates are normally high on the glycemic index, which means eating pasta, bread, or potatoes causes severe insulin spikes. Insulin is what transports the sugars you get from carbs and uses them as energy. This energy – glycogen – is the easiest form your body can use, which shuts down other processes, like mobilizing stored fat for energy (i.e. burning fat).
However, if you stick with carbs that are low on the GI spectrum, your blood sugar stays level, insulin doesn’t spike, and you won’t experience that crash you feel after eating a bunch of white carbs or sugar.
Ferris has long been a public user of pre-workout stimulants ranging from simple coffee to turmeric and ginger Pu-erh tea. But when he really needs it he’ll opt for something stronger. If you choose to take a stimulant before working out, remember not to break your diet rules in the process. This means you’ll need to find a clean product without unnatural additives.
Eating the same few meals consistently helps you avoid decision fatigue. Keep the variance small:
- Protein = poultry, fish, tofu/tempeh, eggs, beef, lamb
- Legumes = lentils, black beans, pinto beans
- Vegetables = spinach, bok choy, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, mixed veggies
Use a combination of all three. Make stir-fries, low-carb sauces, and the whole array of spices to make them taste amazing.
This is essentially a ketogenic diet with the addition of legumes for caloric load. The reason for this is people who go keto complain of low energy and quit quickly. With legumes – beans and lentils – you get the calories from carbs that make your brain and body feel energized without the giant insulin spike.
As far as how often you eat, this is up to you. Psycho bodybuilders eat 5-6 times daily. Others do a traditional breakfast-lunch-dinner regimen. Personally, I use intermittent fasting (not consuming calories in the morning) to give my digestive system a break and up fat-burning by entering ketosis for short periods of time.
It’s up to you, but if you’re a busy gentleman, perhaps intermittent fasting paired with the Slow Carb Diet™ is ideal.
Milk, soft drinks, foo-foo coffee drinks, and fruit juice are wild. They pack in tons of sugar and calories that are essentially empty. Not drinking calories allows for your diet to include more satisfying, filling foods. Water should be number one regardless, but coffee without cream, unsweetened tea, and non-calorie soft drinks are great.
The one exception Tim gives is red wine. He also at one point mentions “all dry wines are okay.” (Paraphrasing.) I translate this to “chardonnay is the way.” So I’ll have a glass of my favorite dry white wine after dinner. You’re open to doing this as well; feel like a sophisticated gentleman and only drink wine, water, coffee, and tea.
As explained, fruits are the quickest to become fat. Unless you workout immediately after eating fruit, it’s going to become body fat. Gentlemen from earlier centuries never had access to Florida oranges, in or out of season. Do you need this luxury?
The go-nuts rule is everyone’s favorite and with good reason. It aids in adherence to the diet, keeping more people on the routine. You only restrict yourself to six of the seven days. On your cheat day, make sure to have a protein-rich breakfast before drinking a little bit of fructose – fruit sugar – to prime your insulin for the incoming onslaught.
Lastly, measuring body fat is better than overall weight, because you could also be gaining muscle weight while losing body fat weight. If the scale doesn’t move, we get discouraged. But if we measure how our body composition is improving, this will provide motivation to continue.
To recap, here’s the last diet you ever need to read about:
- Don’t eat white carbs
- Eat the same meals over and over
- Don’t drink calories
- Don’t eat fruit
- Go nuts one day per week
- Measure progress in body fat percentage
How to Cut: The Minimalist Workout
As a gentleman who wants a solid, lean physique, the above diet will provide you with 60-70% of the results. For the rest, it’s best to get strong efficiently. You might also want to check out best pre-workout supplements before we start.
The following workout is insanely, stupidly simple. That does not mean it should be easy. Seeing as it takes a total of an hour per week, make it a hard-working hour.
Cutting Workout Routine:
- Monday: 75 kettlebell swings (or more in one set) + 10 myotatic crunches + 10 cat vomits
- Wednesday: 3×5 as a superset – incline dumbbell bench press & bent over row + 2×6 drag curls
- Friday: 75 kettlebell swings (or more in one set) + 10 myotatic crunches + 10 cat vomits
…I should probably explain…
Let’s start with the Monday/Friday workouts. A total of 10-15 minutes, 3 sets, roughly 100 reps (or more), this workout is simplicity at its finest. The kettlebell swing is amazing for your entire body, so do ‘em. Find a weight that you can easily do 20 reps but can’t make 30. Work up to getting 75 reps without breaking. Keep going; try to get 150 reps in one go.
As for the other two exercises, they’re for your budding six-pack, buddy! The myotatic crunch is a slow variation of the traditional crunch, holding at the top and bottom of the movement, while sitting on a Bosu ball. Two seconds at the bottom, two seconds at the top, slow in between. Put your arms up over your head, hands overlapping and biceps near your ears. Add a dumbbell in your hands when you can.
The last exercise targets your transverse abdominis, or the deepest of your abs that provide stability and spinal support (as well as popping out your other abdominal muscles). Rather than explain this weird-ass movement, I’ll let someone else show you:
Doing this twice a week will help you get your leanest, most cut physique you’ve ever had.
The Wednesday workout is for strength training. All reps have a 5/5 cadence: Five seconds to the bottom, five seconds to the top, no pause at the top or bottom. Do your bench press reps, rest for two minutes, do your row reps, rest for two minutes. Repeat three times. This will get you fatigued, I promise you.
The drag curls are for those thick arms all gentlemen should have. If possible, use a thick bar and perform a standing EZ-bar curl like you normally would, except keep the bar close to your torso. Rep them in a 5/5 cadence as well.
Of course, you can do sports and other workouts if you so desire, but it isn’t necessary and shouldn’t be factored into your resistance training or diet. Do sports and other exercise for the fun of it.
The Wednesday workout takes roughly half an hour. One hour per week, four per month, and the Slow Carb Diet™ will get you absolutely lean and chiseled with minimal effort.
How to Bulk: Occam’s Protocol + Protein Shake
But what if you want to add size to your gentleman’s body? Fear not: I have the solution, and it still takes no time at all.
The cool aspect of the bulk, in terms of diet, is that you still use the Slow Carb™ approach. However, you have to add in calories that can be converted into muscle growth (hypertrophy). This is where including a protein shake to your breakfast or daily eating will give you the appropriate amount of calories and protein to stimulate growing muscles and repair.
Here is a solid, delicious protein shake recipe you can use once daily:
- Blend together 2 scoops of chocolate protein powder, 1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 2 tbsp chopped almonds, 2 tbsp shredded coconut, and ice.
- Top with sliced almonds and shredded coconut.
This should net you an additional 60 grams of protein and an extra 600+ calories, which should be enough for your bulking regimen.
As for the workout, here it is:
- Bent over row with EZ-bar (30% bent over) x7
- Shoulder-width barbell overhead press x7
- Optional: Ab exercises from cutting protocol
- Slight incline bench with shoulder-width grip x7 (use Power Rack or dumbbells)
- Squat x10
- Optional: Kettlebell swings x50
- Stationary bike x3 minutes (to minimize leg soreness)
If you complete the minimum amount for each exercise, increase the weight by 10 pounds or 10% of the total weight, whichever is greater. While there’s a minimum target amount, you will go to failure for each of the first two exercises. Failure means that, on the last rep you cannot complete, move it millimeter by millimeter, hold at the limit for five seconds, and then slowly lower the weight.
Rest three minutes between each exercise. It’s only one set per exercise, so no more extra sets and hogging up a portion of the gym. See? You really are a gentleman!
You will alternate workouts, A then B. For the first four total workouts, space them out for every three days. So, for example, if you do Workout A on Monday, then you’ll do Workout B on Thursday, then Workout A again on Sunday, then Workout B on the next Wednesday. After the first four, go to every four days. Do this until you plateau in one or more of the lifts, then go to five day splits.
The reason behind further splitting up your workouts is to give your body ample rest. The more you progress in terms of load (how much weight you put on the bar), the more your body needs to recover to keep progressing.
Do this bulking regimen for as long as you want, but it’s ideal to do this for at least a few months to see tangible results. When you want to lean back down (because some fat could show from the extra calories), switch back to the cutting protocol.
Continue this cycle, and you’ll turn into a real-life Hulk. (A gentlemanly Hulk.)
Diet and Exercise Don’t Have to be Time-Consuming
As you can see, it doesn’t take much to be a gentlemen with a superhero, athletic physique. Do your health, career, relationships, and mirror a favor and implement these simple, effective protocols immediately. By going Slow Carb™, doing a minimal workout routine, and bulking for two to three months with Occam’s Protocol, you can become the fit gentleman you’ve always wanted to be.
For in-depth analysis and Q&A about all of these protocols, I implore you to check out The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss. It’s definitely a worthy investment for your health, which is super important.
Keep it locked in on Aspiring Gentleman for more lifestyle advice for the modern-day man!
Jake Lyda is an Aspiring Gentleman with a passion for fitness, travel, writing, and lifestyle. Check out his blog on Medium or his day-to-day life on the ‘Gram.