Tag Archives: The 4-Hour Body

My 60 days of ice baths: Experimenting with testosterone and vitamin D

Vitamin D

Photo: Colin Dunn (CC)

A few days ago, I took my first hot shower in 2 months. It was glorious.

Let me clarify: I spent the last 2 months in a self-imposed science experiment. It was 60 days of ice baths, Brazil nuts and megadoses of vitamin D.

Project Bulk has changed my life for the better, but I found a new challenge. I wanted to see if I could increase my body’s vitamin D and testosterone levels.

A blood test in late August revealed that my vitamin D level was below normal and my testosterone level was average. Reading “The 4-Hour Body” [Amazon | iTunes aff. links] had inspired me to check on both during a routine physical.

Vitamin D has become a routine part of blood work this year at my doctors’ practice, since more people are turning up deficient. I was a little surprised, since I’ve take a daily 400 IU capsule (the lowest dosage) for years. I don’t get a lot of sun on a regular basis.

I upped it to 5,000 IU capsules, one upon waking and another before bed. That’s 10,000 IU a day, or 70,000 per week.

It worked.

Vitamin D chart

Chart: Vitamin D levels over 60 days

I had started at 27 ng/ml and aimed for 55 ng/ml. After 2 months, I was at 92 ng/ml. Easy stuff.

I scaled back: I’m now taking one 5,000 IU capsule per day.

Testosterone would be trickier. Much trickier.

I didn’t want artificial supplements: A body that becomes dependent on testosterone boosters is less able to produce it naturally.

I’m producing an adequate level, but could I raise the bar?

“The Four-Hour Body” suggests this daily regimen:

  • 2 cod liver oil/butter oil capsules, one upon waking and one at bedtime;
  • 6 Brazil nuts, three upon waking and three at bedtime (though the author notes this was for his selenium deficiency);
  • 6,000 to 10,000 IU of vitamin D, half upon waking and half at bedtime;
  • ice baths or cold showers, 10 minutes upon waking and 10 minutes at bedtime.

I substituted cod liver capsules and Kerry Gold butter for the capsules.

Those ice baths felt great in September when the highs were in the 80s and 90s, less so in late October when the lows dropped into the 30s.

And Brazil nuts … wow, $7 to $12 a pound. Delicious, but pricey.

The results were disastrous.


Chart: Testosterone levels over 60 days

I had a 20 percent to 26 percent drop in testosterone levels. I would’ve been better off doing nothing!

I immediately stopped with the ice baths (yay!) and dropped the butter and nuts. I went back to my previous daily dosage of fish oil capsules (which I had been taking with a simple multivitamin).

I strongly encourage you to check your vitamin D level at your next physical. Ask your doctor to have it tested with your blood work. If you need more, you can eat vitamin D-rich foods such as salmon, mackerel or mushrooms; get more sun; or take vitamins.

Really easy stuff.

If you’re looking to boost testosterone, WebMD suggests more sleep, a healthy weight, more exercise and less stress.

I’m going to let my testosterone level return to its previous normal while digging deeper into the research. My experiment could resume in January with different dosages or new tactics.

This is why I measure, experiment, measure again and remain skeptical. It works in the long run, if not always in the short run.

And I learned that my toughness extends to creature comforts. Ice baths, while uncomfortable, aren’t that bad. Billions of people do it regularly.

But if I can raise my testosterone while enjoying hot water, I shall.

Day 344: Cheat day

Day 344 - front

Day 344 – front

  • Weight: 140.8 lbs.
  • Workout C: 25 minutes, 28 seconds; next: Workout C, Aug. 12
  • Total inches: 125.3
  • Protein: 133g (0g over target)
  • Calories: 2,560

Looking ahead to post-Project Bulk, I’m intrigued by the concept of “cheat day.”

I need to read up on this in “The 4-Hour Body” [Amazon | iTunes aff. links].

My days have been spent keeping on the straight and narrow of rigorous calorie counts and protein intake. Without it, I would’ve failed at gaining any weight.

But it can be tiring to monitor every bite, every meal nonstop.

In some of the weight loss chapters, I know author Tim Ferriss talks about cheat days, where once a week anything goes. I believe it’s to add some variety and fun to the diet, but for me, it could be a break from number crunching.

I have some reading to do on cheat days, as well as finding shortcuts to reducing fat. As I’ve mentioned before, while I’m satisfied with my muscular gain, I want to have a healthier body fat percentage. At last check in April, it was at a very unhealthy 26.7 percent.

While I’ve enjoyed the challenge of going a year straight in tracking my food consumption, I wouldn’t mind having Saturdays off in the near future.

Day 343 - side

Day 343 – side

Day 112: Beyond bulking

Day 112 - front

  • Weight: 133.6 lbs.
  • Workout C: 15 minutes, 15 seconds; next: Workout C, Dec. 24
  • Total inches: 123.1
  • Protein: 126 g (0 g over target)
  • Calories: 2,382

Don’t ask me about Project Bulk when you see me. Because it’s hard to get me to shut up.

I’ll talk your ear off about weighing food and learning how to lift watching YouTube. I really do enjoy talking about my body.

Of course, not everyone is interested in packing on the pounds. Some would rather drop pounds and inches.

I should point out that my manual, “The 4-Hour Body” [Amazon | iTunes aff. links], isn’t just about how to gain weight and muscle. It has a lot of information on losing weight, improving sex, sleeping less, healing faster and more. You can judge for yourself whether it works or not, as I am doing.

(As I mentioned earlier, two friends already decided to get their own copies.)

If anything, it’s a fun read, whether you jump in head first like me or are simply interested in modern science and the body.

I’ve included the Table of Contents below. You can read the opening chapter, “Thinner, Bigger, Faster, Stronger? How to Use This Book” on author Tim Ferriss’ site.

And if Santa brings you a new Kindle, iPad or other e-reader — or even an iTunes or Amazon gift card — please consider using my Amazon and iTunes affiliate links to grab “The 4-Hour Body.”

(Also, if you love reading on Kindle, all of my blogs, including this one, are now available on a subscription basis through Amazon for just 99 cents a month.)

Merry Christmas, and happy reading!

Full chapter list from the Table of Contents
for “The 4-Hour Body”

Start Here

  • Thinner, Bigger, Faster, Stronger? How to Use This Book

Fundamentals – First and Foremost

  • The Minimum Effective Dose: From Microwaves to Fat-loss
  • Rules That Change the Rules: Everything Popular Is Wrong

Ground Zero-Getting Started and Swaraj

  • The Harajuku Moment: The Decision to Become a Complete Human
  • Elusive Bodyfat: Where Are You Really?
  • From Photos to Fear: Making Failure Impossible

Subtracting Fat: Basics

  • The Slow-Carb Diet I: How to Lose 20 Pounds in 30 Days Without Exercise
  • The Slow-Carb Diet II: The Finer Points and Common Questions
  • Damage Control: Preventing Fat Gain When You Binge
  • The Four Horsemen of Fat-Loss

Subtracting Fat: Advanced

  • Ice Age: Mastering Temperature to Manipulate Weight
  • The Glucose Switch: Beautiful Number 100
  • The Last Mile: Losing the Final 5-10 Pounds

Adding Muscle

  • Building the Perfect Posterior (or Losing 100+ Pounds)
  • Six-Minute Abs: Two Exercises That Actually Work
  • From Geek to Freak: How to Gain 34 Pounds in 28 Days
  • Occam’s Protocol I: A Minimalist Approach to Mass
  • Occam’s Protocol II: The Finer Points

Improving Sex

  • The 15-Minute Female Orgasm-Part Un
  • The 15-Minute Female Orgasm-Part Deux
  • Sex Machine I: Adventures in Tripling Testosterone
  • Happy Endings and Doubling Sperm Count

Perfecting Sleep

  • Engineering the Perfect Night’s Sleep
  • Becoming Uberman: Sleeping Less with Polyphasic Sleep

Reversing Injuries

  • Reversing “Permanent” Injuries
  • How to Pay for a Beach Vacation with One Hospital Visit
  • Pre-Hab: Injury-Proofing the Body

Running Faster and Farther

  • Hacking the NFL Combine I: Preliminaries—Jumping Higher
  • Hacking the NFL Combine II: Running Faster
  • Ultraendurance I: Going from 5K to 50K in 12 Weeks—Phase I
  • Ultraendurance II: Going from 5K to 50K in 12 Weeks—Phase II

Getting Stronger

  • Effortless Superhuman: Breaking World Records with Barry Ross
  • Eating the Elephant: How to Add 100 Pounds to Your Bench Press

From Swimming to Swinging

  • How I Learned to Swim Effortlessly in 10 Days
  • The Architecture of Babe Ruth
  • How to Hold Your Breath Longer Than Houdini

On Longer and Better Life

  • Living Forever: Vaccines, Bleeding, and Other Fun

Closing Thoughts

  • Closing Thoughts: The Trojan Horse

Appendices and Extras

  • Helpful Measurements and Conversions
  • Getting Tested—From Nutrients to Muscle Fibers
  • Muscles of the Body
  • The Value of Self-Experimentation
  • Spotting Bad Science 101: How Not to Trick Yourself
  • Spotting Bad Science 102: So You Have a Pill …
  • The Slow-Carb Diet—194 People
  • Sex Machine II: Details and Dangers
  • The Meatless Machine I: Reasons to Try a Plant-Based Diet for Two Weeks
  • The Meatless Machine II: A 28-Day Experiment

Bonus Material

  • Spot Reduction Revisited: Removing Stubborn Thigh Fat
  • Becoming Brad Pitt: Uses and Abuses of DNA
  • The China Study: A Well-Intentioned Critique
  • Heavy Metal: Your Personal Toxin Map
  • The Top 10 Reasons Why BMI Is Bogus
  • Hyperclocking and Related Mischief: How to Increase Strength 10% in One Workout
  • Creativity on Demand: The Promises and Dangers of Smart Drugs
  • An Alternative to Dieting: The Bodyfat Set Point and Tricking the Hypothalamus

Day 112 - side

Day 58: Get on board

Day 58

Day 58
(See the gallery for more photos.)

  • Weight: 133.8 lbs.
  • Workout A: 16 minutes, 50 seconds. Next: Workout B on Sept. 3.
  • Total inches: 121.8
  • Protein: 131 g (6 g over target)
  • Calories: 2,516
  • See more measurements.

I’m excited, and not just for me.

Since starting Project Bulk some 2 months ago, I’ve received some kinds words of encouragement. What’s also interesting are the onlookers, the ones who want to see results first. Try before they buy.

One friend emailed …

“First of all, congrats on a very entertaining and enlightening subject. I am a little like you in that it is hard for me to put on bulk, and no one ever seems to understand that concept since everyone else is constantly trying to lose weight. It’s almost like my challenge is not as significant as theirs because most people don’t struggle to put on weight.

“Anyway, its been an entertaining process to watch the blog over the last 8 days. Keep it up.”

Another emailed …

“I’ve been reading your various blogs and other social networks for a while now and have really enjoyed them.

“I did want to give you some feedback on Project Bulk. Like yourself, I’m a skinny dude approaching middle age wanting to bulk up a bit as well as develop muscle and flexibility for better overall health for the coming years.

“Honestly, I haven’t had great success actually putting weight on, mostly due to real-life issues intruding, but I have developed more musculature and flexibility as a result of P90. I think it also provides a much better basis for actually joining a gym or moving a more advanced work out in the future.

“Anyway, good luck with Project Bulk. I am rooting for you!”

I even had an offer to train at a local gym for free! Very cool.

Two friends have bought used copies of “The 4-Hour Body” [Amazon | iTunes aff. links] to launch their own fitness projects. Rather than bulk up, I believe they are going to slim down and tone their bodies.

As much as I love getting encouraging comments and site traffic, I really love when people jump in to try it out for themselves. I hope they find great success through minimal sustained effort.