Thursday, April 21, 2016

Help Contribute to Findings About Intermittent Fasting


Undergraduate and graduate students in NYC needed for a research study. Participate in a brief research study (approximately 45 mins) at The New School for Social Research (located in Greenwich Village, 1 block from USQ). 

Participants must have actively participated in an intermittent fasting pattern of eating for at least 1 month prior to taking the study. All participants will receive a $10 Amazon gift card. Contact Alisha Rana at for more information.


P.S. I'm (Martin) not involved in this study. Just helping out with the recruitment process.

P.S.S. At the end of my last post, I announced that I’m accepting new clients again. Due to overwhelming demand, I won’t be able to accommodate everyone in a timely fashion. To make it fair to those who has expressed interest, I’m extending the $50 discount to everyone who sends in their application during March/April, and not just those who sign up during these months. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Intermittent Fasting: Where Are We Now?


It's been a good while since I last wrote about intermittent fasting. I guess largely because there's only so much to say about the topic and because I feel like I've said most of it. Unless you're going to make inferences based on animal studies, there's only so much you can extrapolate from the human experience and write about.

Another part of it is that I've lost interest. Once your understanding of nutrition is complete, more or less, you reach a point of radically diminishing returns - at this point, expanding your knowledge further in this realm, won't make an iota of difference for your level of fitness. It's much more fruitful to improve your training regimen and understanding thereof. That's my experience.

So for these reasons, I am thankful to Alan Aragon for the aptly titled 'Intermittent fasting: After over a decade of research, where are we today?' in which he writes about the current state of affairs of intermittent fasting. The article appeared in the December edition of the Alan Aragon's Research Review (AARR) which I have been a subscriber of since the first issue.

I asked Alan for permission to publish the article on my site, as I had a few comments on the content therein, and housed no doubts that our readership would be interested in taking part of it all. You'll find that most of my thoughts doesn't have to do with the article itself, but rather with some of the statements and issues raised.

Alan has previously published A Critique of the ISSN Position Stand on Meal Frequency on this site. If you enjoy reading about nutrition and exercise with a scientific twist, check out Alan Aragon's Research Review.

Now enjoy this article, folks. You will find my comments prefixed with MB after the relevant paragraphs below.

Intermittent fasting and body composition: After over a decade of research, where are we today?

By Alan Aragon

Speaking of decades...

The last time I wrote an article about intermittent fasting (IF) was almost a decade ago. A rich body of research on the topic has been published since then. The ongoing interest in IF is not surprising, given its mystique that’s wrapped in ancient spiritual origins, all the way to its modern applications to clinical and aesthetic goals. The aim of this article is to bring the reader up- to-date on the scientific findings, with a particular focus on comparing IF regimes with conventional/linear dieting. After all, the question is not whether IF works – it obviously does, as does any mode of caloric restriction. The question is whether it works better than conventional dieting for improving body composition, and if so, to which contexts can we apply it.

Variations on a theme

Let’s get some labeling/classification aspects out of the way. In the literature, the broad categories that I call linear and non- linear dieting have been called daily caloric restriction and intermittent caloric restriction, respectively. They have also been called continuous energy restriction and intermittent energy restriction. The intermittent category (what we call IF) can be further divided into three subclasses (1):  alternate-day fasting (ADF), whole-day fasting (WDF), and time-restricted feeding (TRF).

Alternate-day fasting

The most extensively studied IF variant is ADF, which typically involves a 24-hour fasting period alternated with a 24-hour feeding period. Complete compensatory intake on the feeding days (to offset the fasting days’ deficit) does not occur, and thus total weight loss and fat loss occurs on ADF. Lean mass- retention has been an intriguing effect of ADF reported by Varady et al (2-4). Lean mass loss in ADF conditions has also been observed by other investigators (5-7). However, the latter effect might be attributable to more severe energy deficits. The more lean mass-friendly The ‘fasting’ period in the Varady model is actually an energy-restricted period (~25% of maintenance requirements, typically in the form of a single meal at lunchtime) alternated with a 24-hour ad libitum (as desired) feeding period.

On the note of alternating fasting and feeding periods of the same length, alternate-week energy restriction (one week on ~1300 kcal/day, one week on the usual diet) has only a single study to-date, but is worth mentioning since it was as effective as continuous energy restriction for reducing body weight and waist girth at 8 weeks and 1 year. (8)

Whole-day fasting

WDF involves one to two 24-hour fasting periods through the week of otherwise maintenance intake in order to achieve the deficit. Of note, not all WDF studies involve zero energy intake in the ‘fasting’ days. Although WDF has been consistently effective for weight loss, Harvie et al saw no difference in bodyweight or body fat reduction between the WDF (2 ‘fasting’ days of ~647 kcal) group and controls when the weekly energy deficit was equated over a 6-month period (9).

A subsequent study by Harvie et al (10) compared two WDF diets (one with 2 structured energy-restricted ‘fasting’ days and one whose 2 ‘fasting’ days consisted of ad libitum protein and unsaturated fat) with daily energy restriction (DER). Both WDF diets caused greater 3-month fat loss than daily energy restriction. An important detail here is that at 3 months, the 70% of the fasting days were completed in the WDF groups while the DER group achieved their targeted caloric deficit only 39% of the trial.

Time-restricted feeding

TRF typically involves a fasting period of 16-20 hours and a feeding period of 4-8 hours daily. The most studied form of TRF is Ramadan fasting, which involves approximately 1 month of complete fasting (both food and fluid) from sunrise to sunset. Unsurprisingly, significant weight loss occurs, and this includes a reduction in lean mass as well as fat mass (11-12). 

Aside from Ramadan fasting studies, there’s a scarcity of human TRF research in the peer-reviewed literature. Stote et al (13) compared 1 versus 3 meals per day in eucaloric (weight–maintenance) conditions for 8 weeks and surprisingly found 1 meal resulted in fat loss and lean mass gain, while no significant improvements were detected in the 3-meal group. Unfortunately, the use of bioelectrical impedance (BIA) keeps these results questionable. Perhaps the only other longitudinal TRF study was done back in 1971 by Young et al, (14) who found no significant differences in weight loss and body composition change between 1, 3, or 6 meals per day

As for TRF programs in the lay press, Hofmekler’s Warrior Diet (15) published in 2002, was perhaps the first popular diet book to expose the general audience to TRF for weight loss. It involves a 4-6 hour feeding period at night, and an 18-hour “under-feeding” period during the day. The diet draws inspiration and justification from the purported habits of our Stone Age ancestors, as well as other leaps of faith involving the sympathetic and autonomic nervous systems. 

Berkhan’s Leangains system of TRF has a 16-hour ‘fasting’ period and an 8 hour feeding period (16). What separates this protocol from others is its attention to macronutrition, and its administration of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) during the fasting period. As a matter of trivia that you might enjoy, Hofmekler and Berkhan’s were recently referenced in the peer-reviewed literature (17).

MB: Let me translate that. What Alan means to say is that Hofmekler's Warrior Diet is full of pseudoscientific nonsense and I agree wholeheartedly. 

Article continues...

The most comprehensive systematic review on IF to-date

Seimon et al (18) recently published the largest systematic review of IF research to-date. Importantly, they compared the effects of intermittent energy restriction (IER) to continuous energy restriction (CER) on bodyweight, body composition, and other clinical parameters. Their review included 40 studies in total, 12 of which directly compared an IER with a CER condition.

They found that overall, the two diet types resulted in “apparently equivalent outcomes” in terms of bodyweight reduction and body composition change. In addition, neither IER or CER was superior to the other at improving glucose control/insulin sensitivity. No different effects on thyroid, cortisol, and sex hormones were seen between IER and CER, though the authors concede that there’s insufficient research comparing neuroendocrine effects of the two diet types to draw definitive conclusions in this area.

Interestingly, IER was superior at suppressing hunger. The authors speculated that this might be attributable to ketone production in the fasting phases. However, this effect was somewhat immaterial since it failed to translate into superior improvements in body composition or greater weight loss.

MB: Well, that's not quite true. These studies didn't have a suitable control group, as the participants served as their own controls. Thus, you can't say that it didn't translate into "superior improvements in body composition or greater weight loss" - it might have done so for that that group, even if that conclusion can't be drawn from the collected brunt of data. That's the problem with these systematic reviews Like it says in the paper:

Only 12 of the 40 publications included in this review directly compared IER with CER: the lack of direct comparison makes it difficult to determine whether IER is superior to CER, or for whom.

Seimon, et al. (2015)

Article continues...

Limitations of the review included the standard ones – relatively small sample sizes, relatively short trial durations, and heterogeneous study designs making comparisons outside of the same study difficult. An acknowledged limitation worth highlighting was that 14 of the 40 studies were by the same research group (Varady et al, University of Illinois at Chicago). Ideally, a more diversified and less concentrated set of labs is less likely to repeat the same errors or preserve the same biases.

Speaking of the potential for bias, Varady has published a lay- directed book titled, The Every-Other-Day Diet (19). I’m not claiming that Varady is destined to make sure her ADF study results will always square up with her book, but it’s one of the potential caveats nevertheless. I would add to these limitations that there’s a severe lack of IER (and IER vs CER) studies that include a structured training component.

MB: I agree wholeheartedly. I'm glad Alan brought this up. The opportunities for fuckery in the scientific literature are endless. Usually, industry is the culprit - you know, studies praising the benefits of snacks or breakfast (sponsored by Kellogg's or General Mills) or studies on the tremendous muscle-building effects of protein powders (sponsored by supplement companies) and the like.

These studies can't fully be trusted and needs to be scrutinised more than the rest. They're suspect, because their funding comes from a source that would benefit from a positive result, and the results should always be taken with a grain of salt. And very often, almost always in fact, these studies arrive at a positive result.

Studies sponsored by the food industry were far more likely to reach conclusions that favored the industry. They seemed more like marketing than science.
Of the 152 industry-funded studies she has examined, 140 boast results that favor the funder. That's more than 90 percent.

Food companies distort nutrition science. Here's how to stop them.

If you want to read more about this topic as it pertains to nutritional science, check out Marion Nestle and her writings. She's quite brilliant.

Why Calories Count by Marion Nestle. I found this book in a large box of bullshit that I ordered from Amazon two years ago. It was the only thing worth scavenging and I intend to read it after I'm done with a few horror novels. I figure that I'd be properly warmed up by then. A book about food politics and marketing shenanigans can get quite dark and depressing no doubt.

But food companies are as unlikely to fund research on intermittent fasting, as Coca Cola is unlikely to fund research on ketogenic diets. What Alan brings up is the potential for bias on the researcher's part, Krista Varady to be specific. Aside from researching intermittent fasting, she is also involved in selling books, namely books based off of the research she is doing. What gives?

Well. While I haven't read The Every-Other-Day Diet, but I have mixed feelings about Krista Varady. She does try a bit too hard for my liking. I covered her work* before in "Intermittent Fasting For Weight Loss Preserves Muscle Mass?" back in the days and found several problems. Note that I'm wrongfully referring to Varady as "he" in that article. In short, she published a pretty shitty review of the subject, but then again, there weren't that many data points around in 2011. Five years later, it's gotten a little better, but there's still not enough good data around to draw any definitive conclusions - and like Alan says, a lot of that data comes from the same lab (Varady's).

It's worth mentioning that Varady appeared in a laughable infomercial documentary called "Eat, Fast and Live Longer" on BBC Horizon. In it, Michael Mosley - the show host and soon-to-be-author, interviews researchers working in the field of intermittent fasting and Varady is one of them. After rewatching the segment she appeared in, I found her to be matter of fact and professional even though she dutifully suffered through all the TV show gimmicks thrown at her - they gorged on hamburgers and fries to show that you could stuff your face and still lose weight on ADF, for example.

By the way, this "documentary" served as a launching pad for Michael Mosley's worthless book The FastDiet. Seems like there was some kind of falling out between Varady and Mosley after that. Anyway. Don't waste your money. If you want a book on intermittent fasting, pick up Eat Stop Eat.

Now, speaking of Varady, there's nothing wrong with pushing your agenda, but don't shove it down peoples throats by publishing bad research and doing shady shit like failing to disclose your conflicts of interest, because that makes you suspect in my eyes.

That said, there's nothing fishy about her recent work, as far as I can tell. It's entirely possible that Varady and her colleagues got together one night and decided amongst themselves to doctor the results, but I find that very unlikely.

It's kind of spooky, but a client just sent me this two minutes ago. I'm mentioned on the same page as Mosley and Varady, and I'm reading it just as I finish up this paragraph. I believe he was reading a book by his doctor, Robin Willcourt. I'll have to ask about the title, so I'll add it here later for those interested. Update: Name of the book is  Chasing Antelopes: Why All This Caused All That

When fuckery strikes in science, it's usually a lot more subtle and sinister. I would know, because years ago, I approached Alan with this subject. See, I had uncovered some sophisticated tampering with the results of a study that received a lot of spin on social media and the mainstream news. I was slightly distressed over the fact that he had missed it - the studies appeared in the AARR, not only once, but twice - and presented my findings. I needed a second opinion, because maybe I was making a hen out of a feather.

Nope. Alan agreed, it was some shady shit. In fact, it was a case study in deceit. Career-ending, if you ask me. But to this day, no one has debunked the findings, and the researcher is still active; polluting the journals with more bullshit for every new study that gets published. Who knows, maybe one day I'll put an end to it.

The key point of all this, is that science can't be trusted for shit, unless you do your due diligence and read the fine print. But in this particular case, concerning Krista Varady, I'm not worried.

Article continues below...

This limitation also plagues the body of research comparing various within-day meal frequencies. Readers familiar with my work know that Brad Schoenfeld, James Krieger, and I did a meta-analysis on the effect of meal frequency on body composition, and found that higher meal frequencies were associated with greater losses of fat mass and greater retention of lean mass (20). However, sensitivity analysis revealed that the removal of a single study (21) completely eliminated the significant effect of meal frequency on changes in body composition.

It’s worth noting that the studies in our analysis (and in this entire body of literature) lacked sufficient protein. An exception was Arciero et al (22) who found that 6 meals per day at 35% of total kcal as protein was superior to 3 meals per day for reducing total body fat and abdominal fat. Furthermore, 6 meals per day increased lean mass despite hypocaloric conditions.

MB: Sure thing. Something like that only happens in a study sponsored by EAS, Alan.

Article continues below...

What about muscle gain? 

The retention of lean mass in IF studies has been seen repeatedly. However, the question of muscle gain via IF remains unanswered since the investigative focus of IF research has been on weight/fat loss and accompanying clinical effects. No IF studies in the current literature have focused on the goal of gains in muscle size and/or strength. As such, No IF studies to-date (at least none that have passed peer review) have included a structured, progressive resistance training program.

This is untreaded ground fresh for the taking by researchers with the desire to do so. With that said, a poster presentation by Tinsley et al (23) at the The 12th ISSN Conference and Expo provided a summary of their study that compared the effects of TRF (on non-training days, all calories consumed in a 4-hour period) and progressive esistance training (RT) 3 days a week for 8 weeks – versus an RT group presumably on their usual diet. No between-group differences were seen in body composition, but interestingly, TRT+RT outperformed the RT in leg press maximal strength and in bench press endurance. The full text of this will be interesting to dig into if/when this study makes it into publication.

MB: Very interesting indeed. Reading the paper behind this presentation, the sentence "Noticeable differences in individual responses to the programs were noted." caught my eye. I spoke to the lead author, Grant Tinsley, and here's what he had to say about that.


Care to elaborate on this part? 
"Noticeable differences in individual responses to the programs were noted."

How did this present itself? In what group did these high/low-responders reside?


Thanks for the email. I’m familiar with your work online, and I read a good number of your articles as my interest in intermittent fasting developed a few years ago. In regards to the abstract, that individual variability data wasn’t the focus, but I did want to mention it. That data is the focus of an abstract we wrote which will be presented at the Texas chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine in early March (and at the national conference in Boston this summer). Although we had a statistician look at the data a few different ways, I think that the descriptive information about percent changes seen during the study were most interesting.

Here are some of the major ones which we included in the upcoming abstract: For the TRF + RT group, percent changes ranged from -5.5 to +2.6% for body weight, -22.1 to +9.4% for fat mass, -7.7 to +4.6% for lean body mass, +3.4 to +30.4% for bench press 1-RM, and +10.1 to +67.6% for leg press 1-RM. 

For RT alone group, percent changes ranged from -6.6 to +2.1% for body weight, -14.4 to +12.6% for fat mass, -4.1 to +3.9% for lean body mass, +4.9 to +12.9% for bench press 1-RM, and +14.3 to +37.7% for leg press 1-RM. 

There were individuals who responded favorably and unfavorably in both groups. Based on our interviews of subjects (discussed more in the full manuscript, which should be submitted this week), I believe that the intermittent fasting positively influenced some individuals food choices, but negatively influenced others (i.e. some individuals “felt healthier” and thus made better food choices, which likely improved their body composition results, while others felt that they would eat anything and everything in sight whenever they were allowed to eat).

I hope that information is somewhat helpful.


Article continues...

The Editor’s Cut of the May 2012 issue of AARR pondered the question of what might be the lower threshold of meal frequency for optimizing muscle gain. I concluded that this threshold, based on what we knew at the time, was probably 3 protein-rich meals. I contended that a lower daily meal frequency than that would compromise maximal rates of muscle gain. Since that time, a replication of well-controlled studies has shown the superiority of 4 doses of 20 g whey eliciting a stronger anabolic response during a 12-hour period than 2 doses of 40 g or 8 doses of 10 g (24, 25). These findings made me re-think my position of a 3- meal minimum. It’s plausible that folks with the goal of maximizing rates of muscle gain should look to a minimum of 4 daily doses of protein at of at least 20-40 g (older subjects require 35-40 g to maximize the anabolic response). (26-28)

MB: This is all nice and dandy in theory, if it weren't for the fact that...

1. The studies that made Alan "re-think" his position of a 3-meal minimum are all funded by Néstle - a controversial company who likes to be addressed as the “world’s leading nutrition, health and wellness company.” The former Néstle-owned supplement company Musashi supplied the whey protein used in at least one of the two studies Alan cites.

Remember the quote from Marion Nestle - no relation to the company Nestlé - earlier in the article? Here it is again:

Studies sponsored by the food industry were far more likely to reach conclusions that favored the industry. They seemed more like marketing than science.
Of the 152 industry-funded studies she has examined, 140 boast results that favor the funder. That's more than 90 percent.

If you think the supplement industry is any different, you're batshit crazy. I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that it's closer to a 100% when it comes to the supplement industry.

2. The results obtained in these studies are unlikely to be relevant for real-world eating habits and real-world results.

However, it is important to note that this response was characterised when protein was ingested alone, and as the authors acknowledge, this finding cannot be evaluated in the context of a mixed meal. Indeed, it is commonplace to consume protein in the form of a mixed-macronutrient meal. Therefore, it is reasonable to postulate that macronutrient co-ingestion could alter intestinal transit, thus influencing amino acid absorption kinetics () and perhaps MPS. Moreover, this study used high-quality whey protein
With regard to the notion of applicability to the ‘real-world’ setting, it also may be significant that the participants entered the experimental trial in the fasted state. As a result the authors are unable to identify whether a pre-exercise meal would influence the MPS response to RE and various feeding strategies. This point becomes more relevant when considering the impact of insulin on MPB with regard to the true growth response and therefore the long-term applicability of the findings.

Pattern of protein ingestion to maximise muscle protein synthesis after resistance exercise. Commentary by McGlory, Wardle & Macnaughton (2013).

3. Grant Tinsley, previously mentioned, showed that there were no major differences in lean body mass gain between one group maintaining a standard meal frequency and one group adhering to a 4-hour feeding window while performing weight training thrice a week for 8 weeks. In fact, less frequent eating lead to superior results overall, as the intermittent fasting group outperformed the other group in measures of leg press strength and bench press endurance.

How is that possible? Well, perhaps it's only possible without a supplement company as your funding source, as you're not dependent on delivering results that favour an approach which entails gobbling down protein shakes between your meals. Because that's what this is really about in the end - supplement companies fund studies that will tell people to eat more frequently to maximise muscle growth, because that means they profit. No one really eats more than three cooked meals a day - so if you can throw out some gobbledygook about how you must spike muscle protein synthesis every few hours, in comes the protein shakes = profit.

Article continues....

Of course, the big limitation is that acute studies can measure protein synthesis but they can’t measure changes in body composition. Recent work by MacKenzie-Shalders found no significant difference in lean mass increase between a high protein intake (2.6-2.7 g/kg) spread across 4 vs 6 meals in elite rugby players. This findings are interesting, but once again, 3 meals per day remains a gray area in the question of a minimum for maximizing muscle growth. Perhaps future studies will compare 3 meals versus 5 or 6 for this purpose – while imposing an energy surplus and a progressive resistance training program. Seems like just a matter of time before someone in the current or newer generation of researchers attacks this gap in the literature.

MB: Yes, and preferably someone without ties to a supplement company.

Article continues....

Concluding perspectives & applications 

IF has proven itself to be an effective approach to dieting, and has outperformed conventional dieting in some cases. In the interest of cohesion to the topic, this article didn’t delve into IF’s effect on athletic performance. However, it’s important to keep in mind that IF protocols can compromise performance goals if careful modifications are not made. In general, IF is best applied to goals oriented toward altering body composition and clinical markers that occur alongside body fat reduction. This is not to say that muscle gain cannot occur with IF – it’s just that the rates of gain will not likely be maximised.

As for which IF variant to chose (ADF, WDF, TRF, etc) if one decides to try IF, the good news is that they all have demonstrated effectiveness in the literature, and therefore can be chosen on the basis of personal preference. Just remember that there is no special metabolic magic in IF, just like there’s no stoking the metabolic furnace with 6 meals a day.

Article ends.

Alan ends by reminding the audience that there is no special metabolic magic in IF, just like there's no stoking the metabolic furnace with 6 meals a day. He's right on both accounts, but loses credibility by pushing for something that seems equally ludicrous; the assumed fact that a higher meal frequency, specifically "a minimum of 4 daily doses of protein", is superior for muscle gain. There is not one good independent study in support of this claim - the ones he cites are either sponsored by Nestlé or EAS, and most of them doesn't measure real-world results.

It's unfortunate to see that Alan has fallen for this. At the very least, I would like him to exercise his critical thinking skill and question the validity of the studies he forms his opinion on.

Meanwhile, he discounts the studies not backed by supplement companies that does measure real world results - and these all show that there's either no difference between between low or high meal frequencies when weight training is involved, or a slight edge to be obtained by a lower meal frequency.

I don't think Alan is in cahoots with the supplement industry nor do I think he's wilfully misleading his audience. What I do think, is that he doesn't see all cards on the table, and that he would do well to reflect more on possible conflicts of interests in the papers that he reads and presents in Alan Aragon's Research Review.

That's all folk. Thank you all for reading. Special thanks to Alan Aragon for a large part of the content and for the willingness to participate in this open "peer review" of his article.

P.S. For those of you who aren't aware, I am no longer on hiatus. I am actively working with and accepting new clients. People who sign up during the month of March or April get a $50 discount. If you're looking to get beach ready, get in touch.

P.S.S. I will be competing at Eleiko Sportscenter in Halmstad on March 20th and starting 11.30-12.00 GMT, you will be able to livestream the event on YouTube. The link will be up on, so stay tuned for that. Don't hesitate to swing by and say hi if you're in the vicinity. 

P.S.S.S. One last thing, I've fixed the PayPal donation button at the bottom of my page. It was broken for the longest amount of time. :( If anyone wants to donate, I highly appreciate it.


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19. Varady KA, Gottlieb B. The Every-Other-Day Diet. Hyperion, Hatchette Book Group. New York, 2013.

20. Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA, Krieger JW. Effects of meal frequency on weight loss and body composition: a meta- analysis. Nutr Rev. 2015 Feb;73(2):69-82. [PubMed]

21. Iwao S, Mori K, Sato Y. Effects of meal frequency on body composition during weight control in boxers. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 1996 Oct;6(5):265-72.

22. Arciero PJ, Ormsbee MJ, Gentile CL, Nindl BC, Brestoff JR, Ruby M. Increased protein intake and meal frequency reduces abdominal fat during energy balance and energy deficit. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013 Jul;21(7):1357-66.

23. Tinsley GM, et al. Intermittent fasting combined with resistance training: effects on body composition, muscular performance, and dietary intake (poster presentation). J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015; 12(Suppl 1): P38.

24. Moore DR, Areta J, Coffey VG, Stellingwerff T, Phillips SM, Burke LM, Cleroux M, Godin JP, Hawley JA: Daytime pattern of post-exercise protein intake affects whole-body protein turnover in resistance-trained males. Nutr Metab (Lond) 2012, 9:91.

25. Areta JL, Burke LM, Ross ML, Camera DM, West DW, Broad EM, Jeacocke NA, Moore DR, Stellingwerff T, Phillips SM, et al: Timing and distribution of protein ingestion during prolonged recovery from resistance exercise alters myofibrillar protein synthesis. J Physiol 2013, 591:2319-2331.

26. Yang Y, Breen L, Burd NA, Hector AJ, Churchward-Venne TA, Josse AR, Tarnopolsky MA, Phillips SM. Resistance exercise enhances myofibrillar protein synthesis with graded intakes of whey protein in older men. Br J Nutr. 2012 Nov 28;108(10):1780-8.

27. Pennings B, Groen B, de Lange A, et al. Amino acid absorption and subsequent muscle protein accretion following graded intakes of whey protein in elderly men. Am. J. Physiol. 2012; 302:E992–9.

28. Kim IY, Schutzler S, Schrader A, Spencer H, Kortebein P2, Deutz NE, Wolfe RR, Ferrando AA. Quantity of dietary protein intake, but not pattern of intake, affects net protein balance primarily through differences in protein synthesis in older adults. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Jan 1;308(1):E21-8.

29. MacKenzie-Shalders KL, King NA, Byrne NM, Slater GJ. Increasing Protein Distribution has no Effect on Changes in Lean Mass During a Rugby Preseason. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2015 Jul 1. [Epub ahead of print]

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Deadlifting Update and Competition Live Stream


Since the last post I wrote, I’ve acquired a much better understanding of barbells and their impact on lifting performance. For the advanced lifter, the barbell will either make or break your deadlifting experience, as I found out in my case.

About a month ago, my gym obtained two Eleiko barbells; one standard training bar and one competition bar. Both of them stiffer than the Olympic bars I’ve been using up to that point, but more importantly, their knurling is excellent (the competition bar especially). This small detail has virtually eliminated my deadlifting woes - I now have zero grip issues. 

Now using a proper bar, I hope to take my deadlift to the next level. I’ve also changed my training setup for this lift; the flip side of using a competition bar in training, is that the knurling will really mess up your hands beyond 4 reps or so at max effort. Rather than having to terminate a set due to fatigue, you terminate it because of the pain, and it’s not really the calluses near your fingers that take the beating, but more so the inside of your palms.*

* This might have something to do with my gripping technique which is a bit unusual; I dip, grip and enclose the bar with my hands right before I start pulling, which puts the bar in the middle of my palm, and below the "callus area" - if that makes sense. I call it the dip’n’squeeze. Here's a video.

Speaking of good bars, here's me outside the Eleiko headquarters in Halmstad, Sweden, where I was invited to discuss a co-op of sorts. More on that in the future.

Using the Olympic bars with shitty knurling, I was training in the 6-8 rep range, and increasing the load when I hit 8 reps. This was necessary, because I saw a big drop-off in reps whenever I increased the load, reason being the poor knurling, and the resulting grip issues that I discussed in my last post. The scenario now is the opposite; with the competition bar, gripping is a non-issue, but you're limited to low reps if you value the integrity of your skin.

So what I do now, is a warm-up with the competition bar, followed by 4 reps at 85-90% of my estimated 1RM. Heavy enough, but without any real grinders so far, and aiming to increase this by 2.5 kg (5 lbs) ‘till I hit a true 4RM.  Here’s an exact breakdown of my last deadlift session. All numbers are in kilos.

Warm up: 150 x 3, 170 x 2, 220 x 1, 220 x 1.

Set 1: 300 x 4 - mixed grip, chalk, no belt. Easy and fast, relatively speaking. This goes up 2.5 kg next time. I’ll try my damnedest to get 4 reps, and will increase the intra-rep rest to accommodate for it.

10 minutes of rest

Set 2: 210 x 12 - double overhand grip, straps, no belt. I use straps to spare my hands, and a double overhand grip as there's no point in using a mixed grip with straps.

Furthermore, I believe the double overhand grip will serve to smooth out any muscle imbalance that I've acquired by training with a mixed grip all my life, and gotten quite strong doing so. Since I haven’t trained with double overhand before, I’m starting light and high. Pacing myself here is key, as the potential for injury is there, given my strength with a mixed grip. Indeed, pulling with a double overhand grip, I have to be mindful of keeping my left arm “tight” throughout the set. Otherwise, it feels like the damn thing will pop out of the socket.

Yes, so rather than risking to fuck myself by tweaking my left side, which I’ve trained with an underhand grip, I’m allowing for several months of training before I start pushing the limits in a low rep range here. For the second set, I started doing 170 x 12 the first week, 200 x 12 the second week, now 210 x 12, and intend to increase 10 kg per week as long as I don’t lose more than 1 rep per jump (if so, I will decrease it to 5 kg per week).

Prior to this sequence, I did a few weeks of singles for shits and giggles. 300 kg the first week, 310, 320, and finally 325 kg - check ‘em out on Instagram if you want to. When I hit 310 x 4, I might try a round of singles again. 

By the way, the straps I’m using are called Figure of 8 Straps by Giants Pro. Can’t go wrong with something used by Benni Magnusson, arguably the worlds strongest deadlifter. Easy to wrap on and doesn't come off. No fuss, no bullshit.

Alright, enough of that. The take away point of all this is get yourself a proper bar with good knurling, and you won’t be limited by your grip, as long as you use a mixed grip and chalk for your heavy deadlifts. At some point, consider using straps and a double overhand grip for your back-off set(s); however, use straps sparingly, and don’t rely on them to improve your poundages.

RGA Barbell Challenge Live Stream

This Sunday on November 1st, I will be competing in the RGA Barbell Challenge, where you can watch me squat, press, pull and row big weights live via the stream below.

A great way to round off your drunken Halloween night or hangover, depending on where you're located. Can't watch it live? Don't worry, the videos will be up later.

I've gotten stronger since I last competed here six months ago, even though I'll be entering at the same body weight more or less (105 kg), so there's been some recomp action going on. After the competition, I will probably start writing more about how my views and perspectives on diet and training have evolved in recent years. There's also a major update to The Leangains Guide coming in the foreseeable future.

Anyway, wish me luck! :)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Deadlift Hot Fixes


Long time, no see. I’ve been putting a lot of effort into my training in the last year, trying to make something of it. In most cases, my training had shortcomings that were easily identifiable and fixed. While there’s nothing easy about training hard and consistently, there’s usually a reassurance present throughout the process; what you put in, you get back, and that alone makes it endurable, and sometimes even enjoyable.

For squats, I discovered that my reoccurring knee troubles were related to an inadequate warm-up routine, were I would do only two light warm-up sets and ramp up the weight way too fast. Contrary to all other movements, I found out that I needed 3-4 sets with a heavy enough load (50-60% of my first work set) before I was ready to squat heavy; otherwise, I’d get a dull ache in my right knee that would make squatting uncomfortable and impede my progress.

For bench, I concluded that bench pressing once a week wasn’t cutting it, if I was intent on bringing up my weakness, balancing my strength and win a competition here or there. The solution was to bench twice a week and incorporate paused bench pressing. 

Contrary to squats and deadlifts, where I was and still am making good progress on 1-2 work sets a week, I’ve found a much higher volume and frequency to be beneficial for pressing movements. I’d probably generalise that to the entire upper body, as I also train the bench press antagonists twice weekly.

These changes has added an easy 60-70 lbs on my squat and bench, and brought my work sets up to 450 and 315 respectively. But during the time when most this progress was made, my deadlift remained at a relative standstill; I did 585 x 10 in May, and then got stuck at 595 x 6-7 for the longest time. This was vexing to me, because I couldn’t make sense of it at first. Upon closer reflection, I eventually identified the issues, and pulled 605 x 11 a few days ago. 


After I pulled 585 x 10 in May, I wrongfully concluded that my performance was limited by the bar I was using, potentially combined with a weak grip. It was always my grip (left side, underhand) that gave out, not my back, and I blamed it on the worn-out Olympic barbell that I always used. It’s a solid piece of work, but the  knurling has been faded by the tides of time, sweat and chalk. 

It stands to reason that I would benefit from a newer bar with better knurling, I reasoned, and was ecstatic to see my prayers answered when the gym brought in a new set of bars. Even better, these ones seemed to have a clear and sharp kind of knurling that really allowed the bar to dig into your hands.

Many shitty sessions and torn calluses later, I concluded that I was wrong. Not only did this new bar aggravate the underlying issue with my grip giving out, it also tore up my hands to the point that I could only deadlift every other week, because the skin didn’t heal fast enough.

Back the old bar I went. 

Bad bar/good bar.


Clearly, my issues weren’t resolved by switching bars, and I started to look elsewhere. Namely, at chalk. There’s three things you need to know about chalk, both of which I’ve been ignorant of as of recently. 

Firstly, your chalk should be as dry as possible. There seems to be a difference between brands, with some chalk powders being harder and grainier than others, and that’s the ones you want to use. I couldn’t tell you which brands are better than others, but I know the difference when I feel it, and there was a marked difference between the stuff I’m using now, to the stuff I was using back then.

Secondly, bring your own chalk to the gym and keep it in a sealed plastic box or something similar. Minimise exposure to the air and don’t leave the box open longer than necessary. Under hot and humid conditions, such as the summer months, the powder will soak up humidity, turn “wetter” or softer, and gradually deteriorate in effectiveness. We have a chalk bowl at my gym and there’s a night and day difference between it and the one I keep in my box.

Thirdly, don’t overdo it with the chalk. Too much chalk will cover up the creases on your palms and fingers, and have the opposite effect, in my experience. If you ask me, the ideal way to apply chalk, is to rub it all around the part of the bar where you place your hands - all around it, not just on top. Then you apply it on your hands, carefully creating a thin and even film of chalk, reaching in between your fingers and across the whole of your palm. 

When deadlifting in the 8-10 rep range, I usually stop mid-set to re-chalk, and I sometimes do it between every third or fourth rep if needed. What I used to do, was to sloppily jam my hands into the chalk box and/or slather the bar with it - not good. What I do now, is a brief pause to apply it correctly.

This bit about chalk is a true case of the saying that “The devil is in the details.” In this game of diet and fitness, it rarely is, but sometimes, just sometimes, it truly is.


Finally, I wanted to touch on the last piece of the puzzle, which is directly related to the grip, rather than the type of externalities covered before. Having done no grip training whatsoever, it would be easy to presume that it’d be beneficial to add it in. While I don’t dispute that, I’ve seen tremendous benefits from the following mode of gripping the bar.  

It applies exclusively to the underhand grip, which is engaged by your weaker side (left hand for most folks). Hold your arm out and your palm up. Now, relax your arm, and you’ll find that the hand will rotate to the side. Keeping your palm up, requires a conscious effort on your part; it doesn’t just stay that way by itself, so you need to bend it to the left. 

By the same token, I’ve found that “bending” the bar to the left with my underhand grip, really helps keeping the bar in position. I’ve had no grip issues since adopting this mode of gripping, and applying the other “hotfixes” covered earlier.

That's all for now. Talk soon. (Serious)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Dirty Secrets of Intermittent Fasting Exposed


I don't know about you, but I can't stand the low-rent fitness schlock that keeps clogging up the Internet. What you get is a cheeky headline and a re-hash of yesterday's news, optimized for page views, retweets and an indiscriminate Facebook crowd.

Remember when people actually wrote articles and shared their real thoughts, their own ideas and their actual experiences? That time is long gone. Personally, I don't think anyone should be wasting their time in the fitnessphere. You will not find '7 Surprising Secrets to Fat Burning' or 'Top 13 Back Exercises' in this oozing pit of attention starved bullshittery, so please stop looking, unless you want to be dragged down with the rest of them.

Suffice to say, I'm not really keen on the writing scene around here - but every now and then, I come across something that might be worth your while. Not through the usual channels. Not even on a related subject. But you might be surprised about how much they relate to you when I'm through.

I thought I'd share the pleasure with you today. Here's three a good read that I hope you enjoy, fellas.

P.S. I had to cut it down from three reads to one read, guys. First of all, I think the article in focus today, deserves to have its own post. Second, I had to finish this post in the narrow window of opportunity between recovery from stomach pain (the bad kind), and the unexpected trip to a dying relative...So maybe I'll see you another day with the rest of those reads, eh?

The Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Human and Animal Health

I think Bojan Kostevski understands my dystopic view of science and fitness more than anyone else, given our long nightly talks. You're lucky we met 3 years ago, when I had a more positive and constrained view of how things worked in the scientific field and the fitness industry*. Otherwise, he might not have gotten started on this project in the first place, and that would've been our loss.

*They are more alike than you'd expect, but that's a story for another time.

Kostevski's literature review of intermittent fasting and its potential health effects in human and animals, gives a complete picture of the research up to 2012, when he presented these findings for the first time.

The paper is now freely available for everyone who wants to deepen their knowledge on intermittent fasting. It's been a few years since I looked at it, but it's still a great overview of the subject matter. There's no time to waste, if you've been fiending for some real intermittent fasting science.

The Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Human and Animal Health

As for my involvement, I didn't need do much, aside from a nudge or two in the right direction. He's definitely made it his own thing and I co-sign on pretty much everything. We've had many interesting evenings together, Bojan and I, and he's a straight up guy with a touch of my no-bullshit style, that's for sure.

Let the good times roll...

Monday, March 25, 2013

Another Letter


It was another letter you didn't understand. So let's start at the end, instead of wasting time.

At the end, you just don't give a ---k. But the point got through to everyone.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Leangains Letter


Come closer. I have something to tell you.

The Leangains Letter

I put it in my letter. I think you may want to read it.

My name is Martin Berkhan and I work as a nutritional consultant, magazine writer and personal trainer.

Welcome to the Internet's leading resource on intermittent fasting and all things related.

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