Ending the Tim Ferriss 30 in 30 Experiment

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On Friday September 20th I began each morning by consuming 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking. This is a fat loss strategy Tim Ferriss explained in his book The 4 Hour Body. Less than 3 weeks after starting, I’ve decided to end this experiment.

It not only isn’t working, but I’ve actually gained 4 more pounds. It has been a disaster. My hunger levels are higher than before. I now think about eating all day long.

The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman
The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman by Timothy Ferriss

When I mentioned the experiment, I was concerned that it might not work as well for ectomorphs or those of us within 10 (now 14 ) pounds of our ideal weight. Some of the comments I received mirrored my experience.

From JM:

I tried that experiment 2 separate times. Each time, I put on weight. I rotated between canned fish, beef patties or chicken breast. It did not suppress my appetite and the additional calories added up over the month.

From Becky:

I never lose weight when I begin eating early in the day, no matter what I eat. Eating early in the day always gets my appetite going. If I eat breakfast first thing, I am hungry 3-4 hours later. If I wait until late morning or lunchtime to eat, I generally only eat two meals.

Based of my research and my N=1 test, I am going to speculate on why 30 in 30 works for some and not others. Again this is just speculation.

  1. 30 in 30 probably works better for those with slow metabolisms that have erratic eating patterns.
  2. 30 in 30 likely works better for those people consuming low amounts of protein and higher carbohydrates.
  3. For people like myself that already have healthy eating patterns and are getting plenty of protein, adding an additional meal upon waking doesn’t have the same day long appetite suppressing effect.
  4. I could see 30 in 30 working better for someone with a long history of dieting that had low energy.
  5. For people like me that need to eat before going to sleep or else I’ll wake hungry, 30 in 30 is probably a bad idea since our eating window is now 18 16 hours. That is a recipe for weight gain.

Starting tomorrow I am returning to 12-16 hour breaks between my last meal of the day and my first meal the next day. Looking back at my initial fat loss I experienced in 2008-2009, it did come as a result of reducing my eating window via Intermittent Fasting. The trick for me is learning how to do that without abusing caffeine. Which is a trick I have yet to figure out. 🙁

24 thoughts on “Ending the Tim Ferriss 30 in 30 Experiment

  1. I’m generally better off eating protein at breakfast, but I assume it’s because I’m a morning person who is more than happy to skip dinner instead. I guess everyone’s metabolism is different.

  2. Jeff

    The 12-16 hr fast works for me, I do get hungry though. If someone could come up with something to help that, it would be gold!
    I assume that is what you mean by working on the caffeine/coffee issue. That is what works best so far.

  3. Jim

    I think Tim’s trying reduce diabetes and obesity in the general populace. Many of his diet tips have results like “helped a guy lose 80 pounds in one year, and he only has 100 more to go.” I wouldn’t think the hacks would necessarily apply to you. Although I agree that they are fun to experiment with.

  4. Pauline

    I think caffeine is a natural appetite suppressant. I manage fine now that I have my first coffee always with breakfast of bacon/eggs, that seems to keep the early morning caffeine sensitivity after the overnight break (adrenal surge) much calmer. Usually my last coffee is before 3 or 4pm. Maybe if you have breakfast later (keeping that eating window you prefer) you need to have your first coffee hit closer to that meal? Lunch is more likely to be vegetable leftovers (with coffee) and then supper (protein/veggies) later in the day. I have been reading that caffeine does lower magnesium absorption so maybe trying some transdermal magnesium oil after your first coffee will keep the jittery-ness at bay. It works very well for me – applied on back or neck is very calming and reduces any stiffness.

  5. @Pauline – I will absolutely try the transdermal magnesium oil tip. I have noticed that coffee has been making me jittery lately.

  6. This experiment was powerful and weight losing for me (but alas not practical when eating with my family members – they love their meat at every meal…

    Vegan Before Six – The Paleo Version. (VB6 Paleo)

    Only eating strict Paleo-approved vegan food before 6pm.

    It’s the ancestral way! I was surprised that I didn’t want to gorge on meat in the evening – I ate my usual amounts.

    The trick is having *a lot* of frozen vegetables around to stick in the microwave…

  7. Erica

    Interesting… The part of Tim Ferris’ stuff that I had issue with was the “cheat” day. While restricting carbs that was horrible and made it like binging or something and I always had the hardest time going back to eating right the next day.

    Personally I am a breakfast person. Growing up I always woke up hungry and ate breakfast. That was at my healthiest. As I started messing with different diets .. especially trying intermittent fasting.. it really messed with my eating habits and cause weight issues. But, there has been much talk about how IF isn’t great for women it seems.

    Only part of your 5 points that confused me was #5…
    “For people like me that need to eat before going to sleep or else I’ll wake hungry, 30 in 30 is probably a bad idea since our eating window is now 18 hours. That is a recipe for weight gain.”
    I didn’t understand the thinking here. If you are going to be eating at least 30 grams of protein upon waking then why are you concerned about being hungry when you wake up? Isn’t that the point so that eating isn’t a chore in the morning for you…
    Also, in general, why do you think it’s bad to be hungry when you wake up?

  8. @Erica – I made an error in the post. 18 hours should have read 16 hours. I fixed it.

    I do think there are concerns about women and fasting. On my IF page, I link to an article on MDA about that topic.
    https://criticalmas.com/best-of/intermittent-fasting/

    As to your question, I am not hungry when I first wake up. Doing the 30 in 30 was forcing myself to eat at a time when I wasn’t hungry. I don’t think it is good or bad to be hungry first this in the morning.

    For me I’ve had the most success with appetite control when my eating window was reduced. Tim’s hack would have worked for me had my appetite throughout the day been lowered to not only reduce my normal caloric intake, but also offset the 30 gram meal upon waking. It didn’t.

  9. Pauline

    Might be a good idea to use the transdermal magnesium oil through out the day. I used to take magnesium as a capsule supplement in the evening but now find that its good to slowly build up the level in your body. Another way is to massage transdermal magnesium oil into the skin together with coconut oil (either before or after spraying the oil). It is very soothing and calming, bringing relaxation and healing to any part of the body that needs it. Soon I find your body begins to tell you how much is a good dose.

  10. Becky

    I am a postmenopausal woman, so I acknowledge that my results may not be applicable to premenopausal women, but IF has been a great tool for me. The studies that show IF to be a problem for women are not statistically significant in any way. EIGHT subjects?! Come on! Obviously more study needs to be done. Besides, the study was done using alternate day fasting, which I think is a totally different beast than prolonged fasting windows. I don’t like alternate day fasting as I have limited reserves. I am slim and very active for my age, so I find that my ideal fasting window is about 16-18 hours. I eat when I get hungry, sometimes after a workout, sometimes before. I also think there are individual differences that are more important that gender differences. If I had tried to eat this way when I was heavier and less active, I doubt it would have worked for me. I don’t deny myself, and I don’t suffer for my food. I eat this way because I feel better when I do. I think it’s a real hat trick to learn to listen to your body, and I have.

  11. @Becky
    I am perimemopausal and cannot remember a time when skipping meals was ever a problem for me, when I was engrossed in something. And I had to *avoid* eating when going on long hikes (I would eat a small snack before leaving and another after coming home, then fill up the next day), unlike many who would eat during their hikes, sometimes feasting on their lunch breaks. I nibble like anything when I’m bored but that is not a real need. I got cramps a few times when I postponed eating when I was in my 20s, but that may have been more about eating badly the previous day.

    I agree that there needs to be a lot more research on this. Obviously there are a lot of individual differences, and it would be nice to be able to predict them ahead of time, to help beginners make sense of what their bodies are telling them better.

    Or someone could set up an interactive database and people could enter their experiences, their body types, age, etc, in tabular format (as opposed to the usual comment sections) to see if there are any problems. (I could actually do that if there were a real demand – I love gathering data.)

  12. Jonathan

    Hello, Michael,
    So, in practice, do you postpone breakfast every day now? I´m been away from your blog for a few months, reviewing it now. I remember that a while back you had made a strong case for a more randomic approach to IF, fasting for example 3 times a week, so the body don’t become used to it and begin to save energy (and lowering the metabolism).
    What´s your approach regarding the subject now?
    Personnaly, I find difficult to convince myself to eat breakfast – besides the fact that is awesome don´t be concerned with eat in the time of the day I have more productivity, for me, like you, eating in the morning opens the door to hunger all day, and my appetite isn´t small.
    Anyway, the idea of not letting the body became used to it makes sense. Curious to know what you currently do. What type of breakfast do you eat now, if any?

  13. @Jonathan – I am sort of in between experiments now. I need to find an IF strategy that works for me during the very short days of winter. Last week I did one 18 hour fast. Maybe shoot for 2 next week. Daily fasting doesn’t work for me, especially not in the winter.

    I still agree with the random approach, but we all need to find what works best for us and change it when it stops working.

  14. Ben-Ro

    I noticed you said you gained four pounds during the first three weeks of the experiment. Are you measuring body fat percentage? You could be increasing muscle mass at a higher rate than the fat loss, explaining the weight gain. This could especially be true if you don’t have much fat to lose to begin with. Just a thought.

  15. cassi

    I thougt the 30gms of protein in the moring in 4hb as being your morning meal – not as ADDITION to your morning meal. Perhaps this was your issue ?

  16. John

    I had the same experience with 30/30. If you look in the appendix of his book, in his own study, those who ate 2 meals a day and skipped breakfast had the most weight loss. Of course, he tries to explain this away.

  17. TS

    I cam across your posts because I thought I would try the 30 in 30 myself. I’m still going to try it since I tend not eat lately in the morning and I want to see if doing this will change up my metabolism.

    HOWEVER, in general, Tim Ferriss’ advice has sucked for me. I’m recovering from a prolonged illness, still have intermittent fevers and joint pain (Ihad parvovirus and coxsackie together and both cause arthralgia for some time after the infections have cleared) and I thought slow-carb would work for me especially since I couldn’t exercise much. It didn’t. I ended up with severe gas, bloating, and constipation. And water retention. Frankly, I don’t which of those side effects was the most uncomfortable.

    Also, the supplements he suggests often caused water retention or acidity too. So, now I don’t trust them.

  18. cdh

    I heard the 30 under 30 thing on a podcast and started doing it on a whim. i drink 2 cups of milk for about ~16g of that, then fill in with other protein (2 eggs (~12g) and 2 slices of toast(~4g) is sufficient to surpass 30g)

    and literally without exercising or changing my eating habits i have lost a substantial amount of weight. probably about 40 pounds.

    i guess mileage may vary.

  19. I’ve found that following can reduce my hunger, they may work for you
    * eating sugar free cough drops
    * eating an apple
    * drinking cold water
    * Tea with cinamon

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