A Simple 2021 Reboot — My Short Letter to a Friend Who Wants to Get In Shape

Photo by Todd White

Happy New Year, all! 

A close friend of mine recently asked me for a cheat sheet for getting into better shape in 2021. He specifically asked about supplements and abs several times. He’s looking for a rapid reboot.

The below is what I sent him, along with a copy of The 4-Hour Body, which was recently featured in a USA Today list of the top-10 most popular diet books of the last decade.

This blog post is minimally edited. I’m not trying to be Tolstoy; rather, I wanted to share a quick and dirty email of tactical advice to a friend who has limited time, a bunch of kids, no ability to go to a public gym during COVID, etc.  

I’m also simplifying a lot to get my point across quickly, so read it with that in mind. Needless to say, I’m not a doctor and none of this is medical advice. Chat with your MD and do your homework on supplements before consuming anything new.

My friend is also a roughly 200-pound male, so adjust kettlebell weights accordingly. Pavel Tsatsouline has excellent further resources.



Ahoy, Santiago!

If you follow the directions in the below links for four weeks, you should see some significant changes.

First, just a few basics:

– Weight training will help with fat loss and appearance more than cardio, as it helps to build muscle, which then changes your metabolism.

– As they say, “Abs are made in the kitchen.” We all have abs, and it’s diet that will make them visible or invisible, so diet is 90%-plus of seeing abs.

– Supplements can be helpful, but they are called “supplements” for a reason. They should supplement other more important changes to diet and exercise.

OK, here are my suggestions for the next 4–6 weeks, listed from most important to least important:


Focus on the Slow-Carb Diet. You get one “cheat day” per week to go crazy and eat whatever you want, so you’re not giving up your favorite foods for more than 6 days at a time. It really, really works.

These two articles are good starting points: 

How to Lose 100 Pounds on the Slow-Carb Diet – Real Pics and Stories

Everything You Need to Know About the Slow-Carb Diet™

Also feel free to print this Slow-Carb diet one-pager from The 4-Hour Chef, which encapsulates nearly all the main points.


Focus on kettlebell swings. Do these 2x per week and see these, in this order:


2. The Perfect Posterior: Kettlebell Swings and Cheap Alternatives

Here’s an excerpt from the above blog post:

In 2005, my interest in kettlebells reinvigorated, I returned to the United States from Argentina and purchased one 53-pound kettlebell. I did nothing more than one set of 75 swings one hour after a light, protein-rich breakfast, twice a week on Mondays and Fridays. In the beginning, I couldn’t complete 75 consecutive repetitions, so I did multiple sets with 60 seconds between until I totaled 75. Total swing time for the entire week was 10–20 minutes.

I wasn’t trying to balance tequila shots on my butt cheeks. I wanted clear six-pack abs. In six weeks, I was at my lowest bodyfat percentage since 1999, and l’d reached my goal. I’ve since worked up to 50+ reps with the 106-lb. “beast,” which has directly transferred to 100-lb.+ gains in the deadlift.

The king of exercises—the two-handed kettlebell swing—is all you need for dramatic changes.


Get a 35-lb kettlebell and a ~53-lb kettlebell to start. Do one week of the lighter then move up to the 53. After the 4–6 week experiment, you might buy one that is heavier. Good idea to use chalk on your hands.


– Eat 30 grams (30g) of protein within 30 minutes of waking up. I know this isn’t a supplement, but it’s important, so I’m putting it here, since I think you might skip to this section. 🙂

– Consider 1000mg of cissus quadrangularis before lunch.

– Take 100–300mg of alpha-lipoic acid 30 min before dinner.

– Take 3,000–5,000iu of vitamin D before bed.

For now, that’s PLENTY! 

The 4-Hour Body will have much more to explore, if you like. Hardcover will be on its way to you.

Un abrazo!



P.S. To bring some optimism into 2021, I’d like to quote from an email I received at the end of 2008 from a mentor of more than two decades:

While many are wringing their hands, I recall the 1970s when we were suffering from an oil shock causing long lines at gas stations, rationing, and 55 MPH speed limits on Federal highways, a recession, very little venture capital ($50 million per year into VC firms), and, what President Jimmy Carter (wearing a sweater while addressing the Nation on TV because he had turned down the heat in the White House) called a “malaise.” It was during those times that two kids without any real college education, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, started companies that did pretty well. Opportunities abound in bad times as well as good times. In fact, the opportunities are often greater when the conventional wisdom is that everything is going into the toilet.

Well…we’re nearing the end of another great year, and, despite what we read about the outlook for 2009, we can look forward to a New Year filled with opportunities as well as stimulating challenges.

Once again, Happy New Year, everyone! 

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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38 Replies to “A Simple 2021 Reboot — My Short Letter to a Friend Who Wants to Get In Shape”

  1. Tim, what do you think about Topo Chico having one of the highest PFAS count? Still drinking it given that shocking revelation this year?

  2. The Four Hour Body is amazing – everyone should read it. I consider it transformational and as relevant today as when I first read it 5yrs ago. It was the catalyst that started a journey into improving diet, fitness and overall health that I maintain today. Although I still haven’t mastered the muscle gain part (mostly due to lack of discipline) – perhaps I’ll accept your 6wk kettlebell challenge and see if that sticks. It’s interesting you’ve highlighted the cissus quadrangularis and ALA – I’ve always wondered if you had changed your position on any of the supplements originally suggested in the FHB. Thanks for the ongoing inspiration.

  3. Why Vit D before bed? I heard to take in the morning (similar to getting bright light in the morning). Is there a specific reason for Vit D at night?

    1. I was also confused by this timing recommendation. I think Vit D should always be taken in the morning & to be avoided taken at night.

    1. I have the same question. Also, any suggestions for alternatives to eggs? I’m allergic, and I’m also not wild about protein shakes, which seriously complicates breakfast.

      1. Try JUST egg … it’s a vegan egg made from mung bean protein. Tastes good and similar nutrients

  4. Pavel would approve! 😉

    Swings rock.

    Talking of Pavel, any plans to get him back for a 2021 interview? One of my favourite guests ever (along with Seth Godin).

    Keep up the amazing work Tim.

  5. Hi Tim, thanks for this but one question re: suppliments

    What are “cissus quadrangularis” and “alpha-lipoic acid” good for? And why do you suggest taking them when you do?

    Cheers 🙂

  6. Hey I wanted to say THANK YOU for profound podcast on Internal Family Systems. I’m a family therapist in the Australian child protection system and it was very helpful to my professional and personal work. More so, however, I deeply admired Tim’s ability to be vulnerable and very much in the here and now. I am surrounded by domestic violence and listening to this podcast reminded me that men (the majority of the perpetrators we see) can transform through their trauma. Not pass it on.

  7. I love this format of offering advice to a friend and sharing it with others ..

    What I’m about to say may be premature, as I haven’t tested it out for myself yet, but -please hear me out- I feel confident has the potential to replace weight training as we know it…


    Here’s the short version of why I’m making this comment: I recently discovered variable resistance training, more specifically, the X3 Bar by Jaquish Biomedical.

    Long version:
    Interestingly, I found about this product indirectly through Tim, who recommended the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown (fantastic book, but I digress!). On the Amazon sales page of Essentialism, it showed me another book recommendation, seemingly unrelated, with the highly provocative title Weight Lifting Is a Waste of Time and a picture of a ripped, bodybuilder looking guy on the cover.

    I was highly skeptical (as you probably are now), yet highly intrigued, especially after seeing Dave Asprey’s testimonial (Bulletproof coffee, anyone?). Tucker Max and Ben Greenfield are also in the mix, if those names ring a bell for anyone.

    I will leave it at that, but I have a feeling you will probably thank me if you actually end up using X3. Usually, my approach is to wait and test things out before recommending something (especially a product that costs hundreds of dollars). This case is an exception.

    P.S. I’m a long-term (10+ years) follower of Tim and am not getting paid to say any of this. Tim, if you decide this comment should not be published, I totally respect and understand that. Regardless, I hope that you look into this product. 🙂

    1. I’m reading the weightlifting book by Dr. Jaquish now and just ordered the X3 system for myself today (have not yet received or used it). One of the testimonials in the book is from someone who contracted Lyme disease in his 20’s and it had a significant negative effect on his training. He is using the X3 system and is having great results. Thought of you, Tim, because of the Lyme disease connection.

      1. Nice. It’s been nearly 2 years and I still recommend X3. They also have an app that makes it easy to track your workouts. What I would say now to anyone who wants to try it:

        -Only do slow and controlled movements with proper form. I once tried to rush through the front squat exercise and nearly threw out my back.

        -Keep in mind that connective tissue doesn’t grow as quickly as muscle tissue and imbalances could lead to injury. So I would proceed with caution in the beginning and not necessarily go for maximum muscle growth. On the other hand, variable resistance training might affect connective tissue differently than conventional weight training, so it’s possible you can get away with more here. But better to be safe than sorry.

  8. Once again I find the perfect Tim Ferriss blog post for the right moment. I’ve gained a few COVID pounds and I’m not going to a gym for the time being. Time to buy a kettleball.

  9. Hi. Thanks for your advice. The only thing I think should be altered in this text is the amount of Vitamin D supplements. Unlike many other vitamins it stores in the body so be careful to not take vitamin D supplies if you don’t need it. How much time you spend inside, where in the world you live, what time of year it is and skincolor are just some of the factors that can indicate if you need it and how much. Be very aware that it’s fat sulible so taking too much can have negative effects on the body. Also note that the recommended dose in this blog post is 3000-5000 IU whilst the National Health Services (NHS) in the United Kingdom advice you not taking more than 4000 IU as it can lead to too much calcium in the body. Only a blodtest and a vist to your doctors office will give an answer to what you as an individual need.

    “What happens if I take too much vitamin D?

    Taking too many vitamin D supplements over a long period of time can cause too much calcium to build up in the body (hypercalcaemia). This can weaken the bones and damage the kidneys and the heart.

    If you choose to take vitamin D supplements, 10 micrograms a day will be enough for most people.

    Do not take more than 100 micrograms (4,000 IU) of vitamin D a day as it could be harmful.”


    Take care.

  10. Tim – For the Kettlebell work, do you complete 75 of each of the different variants you demonstrate in the video OR just the final exercise? Appreciate the feedback and input – Love the show and your books!

  11. Thanks for the reminders. However…last year, I traveled in Italy, and I had never seen so many healthy looking, energetic, and slender people in one place at the same time. And that is my genetic heritage. So I am, once again, suspicious of this diet—and all diets based on science. Nobody in Italy eats like this.
    However, I am going to try, once again, to up my protein at breakfast. I would throw up if I tried to eat the kind of breakfast you do (maybe it’s Continental genetics), so I am combining cheese and almonds with bone broth, to which I am adding collagen. If your mother can eat cottage cheese, and most Italians aren’t dying of diabetes, then i suspect there’s something wrong with the study you cited on dairy.
    i used to be able to just do the bone broth plus, but now that I’m 72, I get nauseous if I don’t eat solid food with my caffeine. Oh for the days when I didn’t eat until brunch—just a latte… A whole lot cheaper than bone broth. And I was thin back then, too.

    PS: Too bad you aren’t responding to people who post. Some of us loathe Twitter.

  12. I noticed that vitamin D was recommended as an evening supplement before bed. Can someone explain why that is? I always thought, and take, Vitamin D as a morning supplement seen as you would naturally get Vitamin D from sunlight during the day?

  13. This is a great post! And thanks! But finding it for a friend took some time and scrolling. Maybe I was doing it wrong, but scrolling to older posts is tedious.

  14. What is better:

    First 6-8 hours eat nothing (IF16/8 works well for me),


    “Eat 30g of protein within 30 minutes of waking up”

    ? And why?

    Thanks, Tim. Great book, the “4-hour-body”!

  15. Hi Tim. I have been on the Slow-Carb Diet for two weeks now and am having major digestive issues with legumes and beans. I get uncomfortably bloated and gassy. Can you suggest a way to go forward with the SCD without legumes and beans? I have tried organic. When cooking from dried ingredients, I have tried soaking overnight before cooking thoroughly. Canned items are no better either. None of these options seems to change anything. Any advice would be much appreciated. What do I replace legumes and beans with?

    Additional info if needed: Through much self-experimentation I have found that I am sensitive to legumes, beans, nuts, lactose, wheat. I have tried elimination diets, banting and carnivore for more that two months each at minimum. On carnivore I found my gut to be perfectly quiet and comfortable. Banting was perhaps second best.

    Kind regards and thanks in advance.

  16. Thanks for sharing this info, Tim!! What kettlebell weight do you recommend for a (average height/weight) woman to start out with?

  17. If I want to experiment with this for a month or two, what would be the best way to start eating ‘regularly’ after this?