PAGG Stack Supplement or ‘Four Hour Body’ Stack

In the Four Hour Body, Tim Ferriss mentions a whole range of supplements in addition to the PAGG stack – Policosanol, Alpha-lipoic acid, aged Garlic extract and Green tea flavanols, as designed to work directly on ingested food metabolism. Certainly when following any weight loss diet – even one as well-rounded as the slow carb diet – it is possible to wind up deficient in specific minerals, if you do not plan extremely carefully.

For example, the slow carb diet omits nearly all dairy produce, which for many people is a main source of calcium – if you are eating lots of pulses and spinach you’ll be fine, but if you are not you might need a top-up.

So, Ferriss advises that you should consider mineral supplementation in addition to your regular balanced slow-carb meals, to redress any potential deficiencies. This is entirely separate from, and for completely different purposes to, the metabolic pagg stack supplement – though it is easy to see why it’s tempting to bundle them up together from both a compliance and a manufacturing point of view, to create a single ‘Four Hour Body’ supplement. Indeed a company called Kirkland Science appears to have done just that (it is not clear whether this is anything to do with the Costco Kirkland brand)

So, let’s take a look at the science going on here – does it work, to combine mineral food supplements with the pagg stack?

One of the first things that leapt out as bizzare, the separation of calcium and magnesium, into separate doses. The reasoning behind this is very unclear, because the two need to be taken simultaneously, the body needs to ingest and metabolise the two in balance. In fact taking magnesium on its own, without the offsetting calcium, can actually trigger excretion of and overall net LOSS in magnesium in the body! Perhaps the Kirkland supplement just wanted to mirror the separation of policosanol in the PAGG stack, by having a different formulation for the night-time tablet. But all the scientific evidence points to the counter-productivity of this regime – calcium and magnesium must be taken at the same time to ensure both are correctly absorbed. There is certainly no benefit to taking magnesium at bed-time, in the way that there is specific evidence for policosanol acting on cholesterol production.

In fact 400mg of magnesium is the recommended daily intake – a very high dose to be taken in a single supplement: the rda is about total intake over the day, and reflects absorption levels in relation to simultaneous calcium intake. It’s not meant to be taken in one go, and because the body will reject what it cannot absorb, some people will actually suffer diarrhoea as a result – not your ideal restful bedtime scenario. Potassium too is included in the supplement in amounts that will approach the RDA for many users, before dietary intake is considered (and many of the slow carb diet constituents such as leafy greens and beans are very high in potassium already). Excess potassium has significant risks including arrythmia and metabolic acidosis.

So, on balance we think that taking a specifically-designed multimineral and vitamin supplement once a day not directly before meals could support and enhance your four hour body program. This will probably also include a dose of vitamin D, without which few of these minerals are going to be correctly absorbed anyway – reputable manufacturers know this and include the necessary components for a balanced supplement.

Anyway if the minerals aren’t likely to be sufficiently well-absorbed to harm you, does the Kirkland ‘Four Hour Body’ supplement still contain a good PAGG stack? In our opinion, the answer is no. Why? Some reasons include…

  • It contains the racemic mix of ALA, which is less bioavailable and absorbed than the R-ALA contained in better-engineered pagg stacks such as that by Pareto Nutrition
  • It appears to be using garlic root, not aged garlic
  • It doesn’t list the concentration of ECGC in the green tea flavanols – this can be as low as 30% and is obviously a good way to cut costs
  • Worst of all, it’s a tablet, and a tablet with a heck of a lot of ingredients combined and compressed. The ALA will be a reacted to a gluey lump, in addition to the impact on the minerals discussed above.

So, we will be sticking to a higher-quality and better-designed pagg stack to enhance food metabolism, along with a once-a-day multi vitamin and mineral capsule supplement to redress any potential dietary imbalances – recognising that these two important aspects of the four hour body program do not combine effectively in a single bottle.

Incidentally the over-absorption of calcium is perhaps less of a risk, given that the Kirkland supplement comes in a highly compressed tablet form. Repeated studies have demonstrated that this makes for very poor overall absorption – you typically just end up with a high concentration of calcium ions in the urine instead, in fact you might as well throw it straight down the pan to start with. Also, calcium absorption is significantly affected by dietary fiber, so taking it right before a slow carb meal is even more of a waste.