What is MED? Plus MED references for exercise, food and more

It’s a concept that the book talks about, but doesn’t go into a lot of detail with. If you’re worried you might be doing more than enough exercise, but still seeing no results, or if you feel like you’re not doing enough, MED has the answer. Likewise, if you’re wondering about sleep, meals, protein, beans, and weights training they’re all covered here.

(A note on the photo – I couldn’t resist.. what’s the MED of ‘I love you’s'?)

The fact that the M.E.D. concept underpins the ideas the Four Hour Body, isn’t necessarily obvious, if just one or two chapters are read. Especially if the MED chapter is skipped, the other chapters could be read quite differently. That’s why it’s important to understand the MED concept, and how it applies to fat loss, muscle gain, exercise, food and more.

So what is MED?

M.E.D. standards for Minimum Effective Dose. It’s a term that medical science is familiar with, but it’s not something we use in day to day talking, so it sounds a little bit odd.

Let’s look at it a little differently.

If you were baking a cake, and you weren’t using a recipe, but knew the ingredients to include, how would you know how much sugar to add? The simple answer is that if you’re new to baking, you probably wouldn’t know, and you could do one of two things:

  1. You could add so much there’s going to be no doubt about the final result’s sweetness
  2. You might add a smaller amount, aiming to hit a balance between flavor and sweetness.

If you took the second option, you might end up with a cake that wasn’t sweet enough, so you would try again, this time adding half as much again, and so on, until you found the right amount.

That right amount would be the MED of sugar required to make that cake – that is, the minimum amount of sugar needed to make the cake ‘sweet’. Adding more after that may make it ‘sweeter’, but it’s not going to be the difference between someone tasting the difference between bitter and sweet.

So, back to slow carb and away from those delicious cheat day cakes for a minute: you can imagine that MED plays a very important part of many aspects of a Four Hour Body lifestyle.

To explain this a little further, it’s important to know that the Minimum Effective Dose isn’t just the most efficient, and therefore attractive option, but, in fact, sometimes going a long way beyond the MED can actually result in no effect being seen, or in a negative effect being seen. This would be true for our chocolate cake, if instead of 1/2 cup of sugar we added 4 cups of sugar – the result wouldn’t be 8 times better, in fact it would most likely be unappealing.

The MED concept is important, in many aspects of the Four Hour Body, including;

  • exercise
  • slow carb
  • protein
  • beans
  • sleep
  • water
  • weights training
  • cardio training
  • and many others

Let’s take a quick look at the MED for each:


If you have read our article ‘The Golden Rule of Slow Carb Fat Loss: The Right Amount of Exercise“, you’ll already be aware that there is definitely a ‘sweet spot’ of exercise to undertake, if fat loss is your goal. But here, MED extends beyond fat loss, through to muscle gain, and general wellbeing in the long-term. It is just as unhealthy to do too much exercise as it is to do too little. Too much can result in ‘overtraining’ – which is a state where your body is more prone to infection, disease and injury, and many systems are not working at their best.

Slow Carb

A minor detail in the book mentions that you should eat ‘enough’ food so you don’t feel hungry. Though it also cites not putting limits on how much you eat, and not worrying about counting calories, this comes with the underlying idea that you will be looking to eat ‘enough’ – that is, an amount just a little more than feeling a little bit hungry. Fine tuning this is easier if you start with undereating a little, and adding until you no longer feel hunger between meals. Imagine if you started eating much more than you needed to feel satisfied between meals, and you would have trouble knowing if you were eating ‘too much’ or ‘just enough’.

In the bigger picture, you want to find ‘just enough slow carb lifestyle’ to achieve fat loss you’re happy with. So for some people, this means ice baths, supplements and squats in bathrooms, for others it just means 4 meals a day of beans, protein and vegetables.


Each meal is designed to provide adequate protein, with a minimum amount cited in the book of 25 grams per meal. Assuming 4 meals per day, this means 100 grams of protein per day. Though protein is a healthy substance, nothing should be overdone, and protein, in the case of the slow carb diet, can not replace the complex carbohydrates that beans deliver, nor can it replace the nutrition and fibre gained from the vegetables, not even if you double your protein intake to 200 grams per day. For those who are training to gain muscle, the MED of protein comes in around 180-220 grams per day, depending on goal weight and current weight. The same applies though, to adding more protein than this – it will most likely just contribute to an aching stomach and no more benefits than that.


Many people ask about beans, and how much they ‘should’ be eating. This is a personal thing, as we are all different shapes and sizes. However, the MED reference point for beans is to be eating them with each meal, and in a good proportion to other food types. This generally means between 1/2 and 1 cup of beans per meal. Some big guys go higher than this, some smaller girls will include just 1/2 cup with each meal. How much is right depends on you. The minimum effective dose in this case is how much gives you the energy you need, to do what you’re doing, from one meal to the next. Pretty simple!


This is a common one that can be easily missed. The human body requires a certain amount of sleep to fully function. It also requires a certain amount to repair, rebuild, recover from injury and illness, and keep everything running well. The more stress on the body, the more it has to recover from. This includes exercise, work, emotional stress, and lack of sleep!

For sleep, the minimum effective dose is the amount that provides you with adequate energy for the whole day (no naps needed), as well as feeling like your body is able to recover from any weights training, gym classes, or cardio exercise you are doing. Most likely, the MED of sleep for each person is actually different from night to night. For example, after a weights workout, I can use up to an extra hour to wake up feeling just as refreshed as I do on other days. Factor this in when you’re planning your activities – as well as your work. If you stay back and work late, you’ll actually need more sleep, though this isn’t always the case.

Missing your mimimum effective dose of sleep can lead to a range of consequences – catching the flu more easily, not being able to focus, or not rebuilding muscle broken down in a workout. If this continues, you could in fact be going backwards in an effort to increase sleep, or productivity, as your body is broken down and doesn’t have time to recover. Consider taking a full week to discover what your sleep MED is – I’ll bet it will surprise you. Doing this recently, I gained 2 lbs of muscle after not moving the scales for 3 weeks.


Commonly, we talk about 8-10 glasses of water per day. But what is that really for? There is so much the body uses water for that it’s difficult to really say for certain what the MED of water is, however its obvious that if we workout, if we get hot, or if we’re drinking coffee, the minimum effective dose of water will increase for that day. Keep in mind the kinds of things that affect water needs, and aim to always satisfy the minimum effective dose. Going too far over can lead to other problems though, so it’s important to look to find that ‘balance point’.

Weights Training

As evidenced by the Occam’s Protocol workout schedule, doing weights everyday is certainly not the answer to gaining muscle. Doing weights once a month, however, will not get you as much gained as you could have had. So, there’s a point in between somewhere, which Tim describes as ‘having more rest as your muscles grow’. In other words, the more recovery you need, the more time between workouts. This makes so much sense, but there are so many training programs that recommend even rest between workouts, for 12 weeks, or longer.

The MED concept, in regards to weight training, goes beyond recovery time however. MED is the number one factor in the Occam’s Protocol workouts consisting of very few different lifts, and very few sets. In doing just a few compound exercises, and at one set per lift, the book explains that any more than this level of work is just burning energy. MED looks to find the minimum amount of activity that will prompt your body to grow more muscle. Doing a lot more could mean you’re breaking down muscles that could be repairing, as well as using up energy that could be going into recovery. So there are some very good reasons to look for the MED in any weights training you are doing.

It’s important to remember that just because the book suggests workouts of one set, that not all the other workouts out there are wrong. In fact, looking at the lifting cadence, or speed, shows that each repetition (‘rep’) is a full 10 seconds long. This means if you do 8 reps, you have worked that muscle group for 80 seconds. If you compare this to some other programs, where you might do 5 sets of 5 reps, if you complete these with a faster speed, you might only be working the muscle for a total of 50 seconds (5 reps at 1/1 cadence = 10 seconds per set x 5 = 50 seconds total). So the MED for lifting weights has a lot to do with ‘time under tension’ – that is, how long the muscle is under tension for. And the minimum effective dose, to grow muscle, is between 80 and 120 seconds.

Cardio Training

Cardio training is that kind of exercise that gets your heart going. This is particularly close to my heart, because I used to do a lot of running, and a lot of bike riding, looking to exhaust myself, and then some, to achieve what I perceived was a pinnacle of fitness. Sadly, I never actually felt that great, and never really saw the training pay off as extra energy, because I was always tired. I know much better now that in fact I was overtraining myself and my body had no time to recover.

The Minimum Effective Dose of Cardio exercise comes in two flavors – duration of the activity, and how often these activities are.

With regards to duration, unless you’re training for a specific endurance event (and even then you can do so with short training sessions), cardio training between 20 and 40 minutes is generally ideal. Check out our article “Learning Fast Effective Cardio from a Body Master” for a workout that can satisfy the fitness requirements of most people in 20 minutes. If you train longer, after a certain point you are no longer training those muscles, or training the cardiovascular system, but in fact challenging your body’s stress endurance systems, and the effect can last for days and days afterwards. It also doesn’t necessarily prompt the body to develop more cardiovascular endurance, stamina or strength, which is what training is all about: giving the body a reason to develop beyond it’s current state.

The MED of cardio exercise, and how often it comes, is similar to weights training – the body needs time to recover. Muscles need time to recover, but so does the body in general. If you are completing intense workouts every day, even if they’re only 20 minutes long, there isn’t much time to recover. You’d need to be getting a lot of sleep to give yourself the best chance (not likely for most of us), and even then, after a time you’d be risking overtraining injuries and other problems. The MED suggested online is 2-3 times per week, with at least 1 day of rest after any session. So this could be Sunday, Tuesday and Friday, or Monday, Thursday and Saturday, or another combination.

Finding your MED for exercise is critically important if you want to see results – many, many inquiries we get from people include reports of daily cardio sessions, plus weights sessions, or regular endurance sessions, plus shorter intense sessions, perhaps 6 days a week. Not seeing results, in this scenario, is the expected result. Finding the MED means less training and better results – and a faster path to your goals.

And what about all those other things?

MED as a concept can be applied to many other areas of life. What’s the MED of calling your mom? Of walking the dog, or feeding your cat? Of catching up with friends? The MED for cooking your steak? (That’s an important one.) All of these scenarios show that doing too much of one thing doesn’t make it better. The Minimum Effective Dose is about finding the point at which you don’t need any more to achieve the result you desire, but no more. This leaves you free for other things, other foods, other sports, other uses of your time.

Find your MEDs in a just a few areas of life and you will feel amazing benefits. I guarantee it.

Have an idea of your MEDs? Leave a comment below, especially if you’ve been surprised about one of them!

PS – the MED for your cat is enough to stop it meowing, but not so much that it turns into this.

You might be interested in reading these too:

  1. The Golden Rule of Slow Carb Fat Loss: The Right Amount of Exercise "Find 30 minutes a day", "raising our heart rate is healthy", "try to get 45 minutes in the fat burning zone", "make it a daily habit". Sound familiar? It should, as generally speaking,...
  2. 3 Reasons Before and After Photos can slow fat loss Here's a controversial question: If you took a 'before' photo, or if you have a good reference, and you are taking progress photos, or comparing your current state to your reference picture, is...
  3. Starting Occam’s Protocol workouts Well, the time has come for the next phase of our Four Hour Body experiment. Having gone through a fat loss phase, using the slow carb meals and nothing more, we're moving on...

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5 Responses to What is MED? Plus MED references for exercise, food and more

  • GymRatLabRat says:

    Well written article Luke.

    I agree with the MED principle completely. Correct me if I missed it, since I am at work and was interrupted 6 times so far during reading, but I think it’s also extremely important to consider the goal(s) before planning your Minimum Effective Dose.

    For instance, if you want to go from NY to Miami in the fastest way possible there’s one best available way to do so. But if you want to get there as fast as possible while also seeing the Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty, the Washington Monument and the East Coasts biggest ball of wax, the way to do it is completely different.

    As Bruce Lee said:
    In building a statue, a sculptor doesn’t keep adding clay to his subject. Actually, he keeps chiselling away at the inessentials until the truth of its creation is revealed without obstructions. Thus, contrary to other styles, being wise in Jeet Kune-Do doesn’t mean adding more; it means to minimize, in other words to hack away the unessential.
    It is not daily increase but daily decrease; hack away the unessential.

    While I agree with that, we also shouldn’t lose sight of the fact the sculptor may still need a tremendous amount of clay to implement the details he wants in his creation.

    Just food for thought. I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir.

    • Luke says:

      Thanks! I agree, you’re right about considering the goal(s) before planning the MED.

      As it can be said ‘perfection is when there is nothing more to take away (not nothing more to add’.

      Great thoughts, thanks.

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